On January 24, REACH staff, volunteers, and several survivors who have worked in our programs, joined advocates from across the state at the Safe Communities Act Hearing. The Safe Communities Act recognizes the barriers that have been built between immigrant communities and their trust in law enforcement, and seeks to eliminate some of these barriers. The Safe Communities Act would do four key things:
- Ensure police and court officials do not ask about immigration status
- Protect basic rights, just like a “Miranda” warning
- Create standards for law enforcement interactions with ICE
- End 287(g) contracts that deputize officers as ICE agents.
Testimony was given throughout the day recognizing the impact that the Safe Communities Act would have on immigrant communities. There is currently a high level of fear, from those with and without documentation, that calling the police will lead to deportation for themselves or those they care about. Simply put, the Safe Communities Act would increase public safety through bridging public trust. One of the most compelling moments of the day was hearing from Somerville’s Mayor, Police, and Fire Chiefs. Somerville has already enacted a version of this law, and in doing so, has seen significant increases in trust amongst immigrants and law enforcement.
We were inspired by the testimony given from survivors, advocates, and the Executive Director of Jane Doe, Inc. the Massachusetts State Coalition on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Debra Robbins. According to Robbin’s written testimony, “Policies that blur the lines between federal immigration enforcement and community law enforcement endanger the safety of victims of sexual and domestic violence, their families, and all communities. Immigrant survivors’ access to justice is blocked when they cannot safely contact community law enforcement without fear of deportation—and thus separation from their families and communities—because of their immigration status. These policies embolden abusers to use documentation status and deportation as a threat and tactic of abuse to maintain power and control. Policies and practices that do not center the realities of immigrants consequently create risks and dire consequences for immigrants.” Her full testimony can be read here.
The fate of the Safe Communities Act will be decided on Wednesday February 5th when the committee decides whether to consider continuation or end the process for each bill before it. Please reach out to your local representatives, and the Public Safety Committee today to ask them to express your support of this important piece of legislation.