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Legislators must protect local resources and
preserve willingness of all community residents
to report crimes and seek help from police

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     Ira Arlook c: 202-258-5437
FRIDAY, JUNE 9, 2017                                                                                                                 ira@fenton.com

BOSTON, Mass: Citing the need to prevent Massachusetts law enforcement agencies from shouldering additional, federally imposed burdens that would undermine their ability to protect the people of the Commonwealth, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) President and CEO Tom Andrews testified on Beacon Hill today before the Public Safety and Homeland Security Joint Committee in support of the Safe Communities Act.

Joining a panel organized by the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), Andrews reminded legislators that their responsibility is to all state residents regardless of immigration status. The Safe Communities Act aims to cultivate community confidence in local law enforcement by ensuring that Massachusetts residents know local law enforcement officers are there to protect them, not serve Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest warrants for the federal government.

“Supporting those who protect us from the demands of a shortsighted, ideologically driven federal policy is the right thing to do. Our police have more than enough to do protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth – they do not also need to be ICE agents,” said Andrews, adding, “Police need the confidence of all who they protect that they will not be turned in for reporting a crime or seeking help.”

UUSC has joined the UUA to mobilize our members and congregations across the country to advocate for inclusive communities and rise against increased “criminalization” of members of our community and support measures like the Safe Communities Act which provide security and protection to communities at risk. Learn more at loveresists.org. 

Below is the full text of Andrews’ testimony:

I support the Safe Communities Act because it advances public safety, common sense, and common decency.

As you will hear today, the fear that is being relentlessly driven by the current federal administration in Washington and its immigration enforcement policy is a threat to untold numbers of people, driving them away from vitally important services, including those that protect and save lives. It threatens all of us by putting unwarranted burdens on our public safety and law enforcement agencies, making it even more difficult to do the job that we need them to do – protect the health and safety of the people of Massachusetts.

This is not the first time that states have been confronted with shortsighted, ideologically driven policies being fueled by the politics of Washington, D.C.—when narrow but powerful political interests in the nation’s capital, trump the public interest of the rest of us.

It is precisely under these circumstances when representative bodies like this one need to step up and draw the line of common sense and public safety at the state border. You, after all, are much closer to citizens and communities than the White House and have greater insight into the impact that shortsighted federal policies will actually have on real people.

I know, because while I was born and raised in the Commonwealth and reside here now, I lived for a number of years in the Great State of Maine and served as the Senate Chair of a Joint Standing Committee of the Maine Legislature that was, like you, also responsible for public safety.

Back then we were confronted with a very shortsighted federal policy that served the political and ideological interests of the White House in the cold-war era while undermining Maine’s ability to protect our citizens.

At issue was the demand by the White House that states only use Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to prepare for a full-scale nuclear attack. Many Mainers thought that this was absurdity in the extreme and appealed to the Maine Legislature to intervene.

After creating a commission to investigate further, the Maine Legislature concluded that, notwithstanding the demands of Washington, the only way to protect Mainers from a nuclear attack was to prevent one and that instead spending government funds to plan escape routes and the locations of nuclear bomb shelters, we would instead focus our emergency management dollars on preparing for hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. We told the federal government that, notwithstanding their mandate, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Protecting those who protect us from the demands of a shortsighted, ideologically driven federal policy was the right thing to do then in Maine and is the right thing to do now in Massachusetts. Our police have more than enough to do protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth – they do not also need to be ICE agents. And, they need the confidence of all who they protect that they will not be turned in for reporting crime or seeking help – that our law enforcement officers are there to serve and protect them, not serve ICE arrest warrants for the federal government.

I appreciate your careful consideration of this important and timely legislation and urge your strong support

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