BOSTON -- Senate Democrats, who have been beleaguered by scandals and corruption in recent months, are now facing a new challenge as budget season gets underway: dangerous and irresponsible proposals by some of their most extreme members. A new column by Hillary Chabot in today's Boston Herald covers Sen. Jamie Eldridge's attempt to hijack the budget process with a radical sanctuary state amendment that threatens to plunge Senate Democrats back into chaos.
Sen. Eldridge sanctuary budget add-on try a bad move
By Hillary Chabot
The beleaguered state Senate — already reeling from a series of scandals — could be plunging into yet another minefield as one lawmaker seeks to use the budget as a backdoor resuscitation for the explosive sanctuary state issue.
The issue comes as many senators are scrambling to conduct basic constituent business after a tumultuous year full of distractions. Those include the disgraced departure of former Senate President Stan Rosenberg and exposure of tawdry details about his estranged spouse, corruption charges against former Assistant Majority Leader Brian Joyce, and a senator’s drunken driving arrest.
Those bombshells haven’t deterred Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
“I think the real controversy is how many hardworking immigrants are arrested and detained unfairly,” said Eldridge, who spearheaded the push to have Massachusetts designated a sanctuary state and defy federal authorities amid President Trump’s push for an immigration crackdown.
“For a Legislature with a majority of Democrats who talk a lot about opposing President Trump’s policies, this is where the rubber meets the road,” Eldridge said.
His budget amendment would bar state and local officials from asking immigrants about their legal status and ensure illegal immigrants detained by federal officials have access to an attorney. The Secure Communities Act filed earlier by Eldridge went farther, barring local police authorities from detaining illegal immigrants for federal officials, which was left to die in committee.
“I believe a majority of my colleagues want to take action on this issue,” Eldridge insisted. “My hope is, if accepted in the Senate, there will be advocacy in the conference committee and it will reach the governor’s desk.”
Lawmakers often attempt to make sweeping policy changes via budget amendments, and indeed Republicans in both the House and Senate filed their own budget amendments to give local police the authority to enforce immigration laws.
But just because pols can — and often have — sidestepped the normal legislative process using last minute budget amendments doesn’t mean they should. Especially if the bill has already been reviewed and dismissed by their peers.
Eldridge’s quixotic devotion to the cause could lead battle-scarred senators through yet another round of public scrutiny and outcry. That’s what they signed on for. I just hope they’ve kept their armor on.