On November 18th, a virtual Town Hall was held for the Safe Communities Act (SCA) by a coalition of eigthteen co-hosts including the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the Metrowest Worker Center, and REACH. The purpose of the Town Hall was to build enthusiasm for the Safe Communities Act and to educate legislators on the importance of the bill. Immigrant workers from the Metrowest Worker Center and immigrant survivors of domestic violence from REACH’s Latinas Know Your Rights (LKYR) program, as well as advocates from both organizations, presented their testimony in front of legislators and the public.
Legislators in attendance included the lead sponsors of the bill Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Ruth Balser, and Representative Liz Miranda. Also, in attendance were members from participating organizations and more than one hundred members of the community. The event was live streamed on the MIRA Coalition Facebook page with Spanish and Portuguese translation.
The MC for the event was Laura Rotolo, a lawyer from the ACLU and advocate for human and civil rights. In the words of Laura Rotolo, “the purpose of the Safe Communities Act is to draw a clear line between local actors and federal immigration agents and allow immigrants who call Massachusetts home to be able to seek protection from abuse and exploitation without fear of deportation.” Specifically, the Safe Communities Act will end the longstanding involvement of local police, courts, and correctional facilities in civil immigration matters, and create a uniform standard guiding their interactions with ICE.
Gladys Ortiz, the Bilingual Court Advocacy Manager and Outreach Specialist at REACH, shared how immigration status is often used as a tool by abusers to manipulate their victims, saying “as an advocate it’s very difficult to safety plan with victims and survivors of domestic violence when you hear that the perpetrators are threatening them with law enforcement.” The SCA would bring added protection for victims by ensuring that police and court officials do not inquire about immigration status unless required to do so by law.
During the event, Rep. Balser shared the exciting news that the Safe Communities Act is awaiting a hearing date on December 1st. The hashtag #MASafeCommunitiesAct is being used to amplify the message behind the SCA.
To learn more about how you can support the Safe Communities Act, visit https://bit.ly/scaaction