Mass. Senate Passes Crackdown on Illegal Immigrants

Noah Bierman and Maria Sacchetti, Boston Globe, May 27, 2010

With one lawmaker citing President Lincoln’s respect for the rule of law, the Massachusetts Senate passed a far-reaching crackdown this afternoon on illegal immigrants and those who would hire them, going further, senators said, than any immigration bill proposed over the past five years.

In a surprising turn of events, the legislation replaced a narrower bill that was passed Wednesday over the objections of Republicans.

The measure, which passed on a 28-10 vote as an amendment to the budget, would bar the state from doing business with any company found to break federal laws barring illegal immigrant hiring. It would also toughen penalties for creating or using fake identification documents, and explicitly deny in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.

The amendment would also require the state’s public health insurance program to verify residency through the Department of Homeland Security, and would require the state to give legal residents priority for subsidized housing.

The amendment will now be part of negotiations with the House as part of the entire state budget.

{snip}

Democrats had resisted such a sweeping proposal, but spent last evening negotiating today’s measure, shortly after a new polled showed 84 percent of the liberal-leaning state’s voters supported tough immigration rules barring state services to illegal immigrants.

{snip}

The measure comes weeks after immigration measures failed in the House, and amid heightened debate over illegal immigration fueled by the state’s election season and Arizona’s passage in April of the toughest immigration law in the nation.

Recent polls have found that, while voters supported blocking illegal immigrants’ access to public benefits, they were split over whether the Bay State should have a law such as Arizona’s.

Thursday’s Senate amendment would also authorize the state attorney general’s office to broker an agreement with federal authorities to help enforce immigration law. {snip}

The legislation also would increase penalties for driving without a license, one of the main problems facing illegal immigrants in Massachusetts. {snip}

Most immigrants in Massachusetts are here legally, but an estimated 190,000, or 20 percent, are here illegally, according to the census.

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