Immigration is primarily governed and enforced through federal law and federal agencies. The League of Women Voters position on immigration was developed after a national study in 2006-2008, and was adopted by the LWVUS Education Fund board in April, 2008.
Summary of the LWV Immigration Position
The League position on immigration is detailed in the Immigration section of Impact on Issues and is summarized below.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and the League of Women Voters has a long history of encouraging their participation in American society. Immigrants have helped weave the fabric and identity of our nation, and we believe that it is critical for the U.S. to encourage their participation in our democracy. Our work around comprehensive immigration reform largely falls into the following categories:
Working for a path to citizenship
Rooted in the belief that our democracy is enhanced by a diversity of voices, the League believes that a path to citizenship, or provisions for unauthorized immigrants already living in the U.S. to earn legal status, will strengthen our nation and society. We believe that in order to become citizens, immigrants must learn about our system of government, understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and swear allegiance to the United States of America. These are basic steps to integration in American society, and it is in the interests of current citizens, immigrants and future generations that we build one nation. We have lobbied both the House and Senate for a path to citizenship, and we have lobbied in support of the DREAM Act, critical legislation that would enable immigrant youth to become fully productive members of American society.
Helping immigrants become active participants in our democracy
Voter education and voter registration are the foundation of the League’s work. We believe that the strongest democracy is one in which the voices of all participants are heard. As such, the League is committed to helping new citizens become active in American political life. We do this by providing civic education and registering tens of thousands of new voters at naturalization ceremonies in communities across the country.
LWV National Position Statements
In 2017 the national League issued a “Statement on Immigration” and joined a letter supporting DACA.
January 31, 2017 League Statement on Immigration
In a press release, the League of Women Voters stated it:
• Opposes deportation of non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
• Supports cities, towns, counties and states that make a decision not to cooperate with federal deportation and enforcement actions that include non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
• Opposes discrimination in immigration based on religion, such as Muslims and immigrants from majority-Muslim nations.
January 18, 2017 Support for DACA
The League joined a letter with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and other groups in support of the Obama Administration’s 2012 executive action on “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).”
Massachusetts Immigration Bills and Law
For bills language, summaries, and testimony go to the Immigration Section of the LWVMA legislation webpage.
Safe Communities Act
In January 2017 the “Safe Communities Act” (S1305/H3269) was filed with the Massachusetts legislature. LWVMA supports this bill, testified at its hearing on June 9, 2017, and has issued Action Alerts to encourage its implementation.
Also in January 2017 the “Education Equity Act” was filed, and the five similar bills were the subject of a hearing on July 15. LWVMA testified in support of H644, and the concept behind all the bills. The bills would allow students who are not citizens and not legal permanent residents to pay in-state tuition and receive state-funded financial assistance at all public institutions of higher education if they otherwise qualify.
The Lunn v. Commonwealth Supreme Judicial Court Decision
The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts publically applauded the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court landmark ruling that provides clear and consistent guidance for law enforcement across the state with regard to ICE detainer requests.
Massachusetts’ highest court ruled that local law enforcement officials do not have the authority, under state law, to detain a person based solely on a request from federal immigration authorities. The high court concluded that state law “provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody.”
NOTE: A detainer is a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold a person for up to 48 hours in order for ICE to investigate and possibly begin deportation proceedings.
H3870 Governor Baker’s Bill
In response to the Lunn decision, on August 1 Governor Baker filed a bill, H3870. Under the proposed legislation, Massachusetts law enforcement could honor a request by ICE to detain a suspect if the person poses a threat to public safety and has been previously convicted of one or more serious crimes. The League has not taken a position on this bill and, as of November 1, 2017, a hearing date has not been set.
Local League Action on Immigration
Registering New Citizens to Vote
Throughout the state Local Leagues are involved in registering new citizens to vote at naturalization ceremonies.
City and Town Resolutions for “Safe Communities,” “Welcoming Cities,” etc.
Local Leagues may advocate in favor of resolutions that state a municipality will not cooperate with federal deportation and enforcement actions that include non-criminal undocumented immigrants (sometimes called “sanctuary cities”).
Community and regional forums on immigration topics can help citizens and non-citizens understand the myriad of issues relating to immigration. Consider partnering with other groups or Leagues.
Resources and Websites
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) brings advocacy and support groups in Massachusetts together.
Centro Presente mainly represent Latin American/Caribbean immigrants.
National Immigration Law Center provides accurate and up-to-date information on current events, lawsuits, laws, executive orders, etc.
The US Executive Orders aimed at deportation and banning immigrants can be found under Executive Orders on Protecting the Homeland
Karen Price, the LWVMA Legislative Specialist for Immigration, prepared this summary and can be contacted with questions, ideas, or advice.