Baker makes confusing promise about immigrants and benefits
BOSTON -- This morning, Charlie Baker announced five executive orders he would issue to cap state spending, including one to limit state benefits to "legal Massachusetts citizens," as an official press statement puts it. Since Massachusetts is not an independent nation with its own citizens, many immigrants and advocates were confused by the Republican gubernatorial candidate's intentions.
Within a few hours, an Associated Press story appeared in the Boston Herald , reporting that Baker would "ensure state benefits only go to legal citizens." This would mean the denial of benefits to hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants in Massachusetts, including Legal Permanent Residents ("green card" holders), asylum seekers,
refugees, certified victims of domestic violence, and those with Temporary Protected Status, including Haitians left homeless after January's earthquake. This group of legal, taxpaying immigrants also includes many who have risked their lives overseas while serving in the U.S. military.
Later, a press spokesperson unofficially clarified Baker's statement, noting that the candidate would limit benefits to legal residents, not just citizens.
"We're somewhat relieved with this clarification, but the statement is still troubling for two reasons," said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).
"It demonstrates how ill-informed so much rhetoric has become around immigration in the current election season. Unfortunately, we have even seen this kind of quick and sloppy language make its way into legislation that affects the lives of thousands upon thousands of hard-working Massachusetts tax payers."
"It also shows how zealous the current attempt to limit benefits has become," Millona continued. "Independent studies in Colorado and Pennsylvania have shown that the attempt to cleanse the undocumented from state benefits ends up costing taxpayers millions of dollars while saving them practically nothing. Charlie Baker may want to spend those millions, but he should not pretend that it will reap any economic benefit. We are disappointed that this former MIRA supporter and sensible businessman would chose to waste taxpayers' money for such a flagrant political goose chase."
MIRA works to advocate for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through education, training, leadership development, organizing, policy analysis and advocacy.