This is the text of a letter signed by Sylvia Szulkin as Steering Committee Chair and Judy Ziss as Legislative Chair and emailed to David Vieira who is the ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and to the two Committee chairs with copies to all Committee members.
The League of Women Voters of Falmouth strongly supports enactment of the Safe Communities Act (H3573/S1401) and urges you to report the bill out favorably.
A major aim of this bill is to encourage individuals to communicate with state and local police without fear of being questioned about their immigration status. For example, immigrants who have been abused in their homes or have had wages withheld illegally would feel free to report these crimes to the police. Similarly, witnesses of crimes would be able to work with law enforcement without endangering themselves. This provision would send a strong message that here in Massachusetts our police protect us all.
Other sections of the bill apply only to individuals who are in state or local police custody. The aim is to ensure that such individuals are accorded due process. For example, individuals in custody would be notified of their rights if federal immigration law enforcement officials, familiarly known as ICE, seek to question them. The bill also would specifically prohibit contracts with ICE whereby state and county personnel act as federal immigration agents, such as the agreement currently in effect between the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office and ICE.
In sum, under the Safe Communities Act individuals would be more likely to seek help from and cooperate with local authorities regardless of their immigration status. In addition, under the Safe Communities Act, undocumented individuals who have been arrested for suspected state law violations would not lose due process protections enjoyed by the rest of us
Again, the League of Women Voters of Falmouth strongly supports this bill and hopes you act favorably on it. Thank you for your consideration.