BOSTON — The inability to reach a “consensus” among House and Senate budget negotiators over immigration enforcement doomed a controversial budget measure that would have restricted local police from acting as immigration agents, the House’s lead negotiator and supporter of immigration reform Jeffrey Sanchez said.
The exclusion of the Senate-backed immigration proposal from the budget deal struck Wednesday in the Legislature drew swift and harsh criticism from supporters, including immigrant rights advocates, the sponsor of the amendment and the Democrats running for governor.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a sponsor of the Safe Communities Act and the author of the budget language, called it “inexcusable and shameful” that the policy was dropped from the budget, while the ACLU of Massachusetts accused the House of caving to pressure from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
“We just did not find consensus on those provisions,” Sanchez told reporters, calling the budget accord “a balance” that required trade-offs. Sanchez was a co-sponsor of the Safe Communities Act in the House, and a supporter of the Senate budget language together with his vice-chairman and fellow budget conferee Rep. Stephen Kulik. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, however, had repeatedly raised doubts about the level of interest in taking on immigration among the full House members.
Sanchez is facing a primary challenge from another Jamaica Plain Democrat – Nika Elugardo – who has gone so far as to stage a rally outside his office pressuring the incumbent to deliver on immigration reform, but the chairman said his campaign did not factor into his thinking of budget negotiations and he trusts that his constituents know where he stands personally on the issues.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy, but who the hell cares about a politician complaining,” Sanchez said.
By Matt Murphy for LOWELLSUN.COM
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