In the dead of night, a Senate surprise
How the tide turned on illegal immigrants
By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / May 29, 2010
It was late Wednesday night, hour 11 of a grueling state budget debate, and senators were arguing over another contentious amendment on illegal immigration. Republicans were hammering Democrats for going too soft. Leading Democrats were quietly pushing to make a deal to quell the criticism.
That’s when Senate President Therese Murray banged her gavel — temporarily freezing action on the floor and effectively changing the course of the immigration debate in Massachusetts.
Murray, who had shown little appetite for a headline-grabbing crackdown on illegal immigrants, wanted a new strategy. In the end, the Republicans, who make up just five of the Senate’s 40 members, got more than they wanted, just hours after the Senate appeared to have killed, or at least slowed down, their own plan to tighten immigration laws.
And with a 28-to-10 vote, the Senate came back Thursday and passed a sweeping measure that would toughen or expand rules that bar illegal immigrants from obtaining public health care, housing, and higher education benefits. It would set up hot lines for anonymous tips about illegal immigrants holding jobs and encourage the state attorney general to consult with the US Justice Department to enlist more state resources to halt illegal immigration.
Supporters said the measure reflected broad public consensus on reserving state services for legal residents; liberal members of the Senate said they felt blindsided and ashamed that the body had passed such a strict measure so abruptly…
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