On Beacon Hill, a Reaction to Arizona

By Sarah Birnbaum

June 25, 2012

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — who has advocated for immigrant needs in the past — praised the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down key provisions of Arizona's crackdown on immigrants on June 25. But Patrick wasn't entirely satisfied. He called the Supreme Court ruling a mixed bag.
“Most of the provisions of the Arizona law have been ruled unconstitutional. That sounds right," he said. However, "some of the things that were preserved having to do with the ability to stop and ask questions, you know, you can see how that creates a climate of fear, especially if the Supreme Court has said you can’t actually do anything with that information.”
Patrick has favored expanding immigrant health care options, allowing in-state UMass tuition rates and providing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. But some advocates said he has failed to push immigration issues strongly enough on Beacon Hill.
As he was leaving his office, Patrick got into a heated exchange with students demanding a stronger stance.
“You know you said you were going to do something for us — at least give us licenses. I’m undocumented and I've been here for 8 years, I'm putting myself through school right now, I'm paying out-of-state [tuition]," one woman said.
"And I can’t do what the federal government won’t let me do," Patrick responded. "I tried to do that. But there's a federal law that prohibits it."
"We can’t just live in the shadows!" she said.
"I understand that! I’m on your side," Patrick said. "I’ve said that a million times. These provisions aren’t before me yet. I’ve been as clear as possible, not just with you but with the legislature, that if they come to me, it’s over,“
There are measures pending in the legislature that would require new immigration status checks for employment, state housing and driver's licenses. Patrick said if they get to his desk he’ll oppose them, though he didn’t explicitly promise a veto.

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