Numerous questions remain locally after a Beacon Hill vote nearly two weeks ago that called for state agencies to check the immigration status (i.e., illegal or not) of those over 18 who apply for public benefits or public housing.
Many were shocked to find out that illegal immigrants can and do get these services.
Others were shocked that the state doesn’t already perform such checks.
And certainly, the Journal received a fair amount of calls on the issue.
On Beacon Hill, the matter was not allowed a true up or down vote in the House of Representatives. Instead, legislators conducted a vote on whether to send the issue to committee for study.
The same thing was done last year when the same measure came before the House. So far, it hasn’t been studied.
Many supporters said that a ‘yes’ vote to send it to committee was actually a vote to kill the measure. The matter was just narrowly defeated by those wishing to study it.
Locally, both Revere representatives voted to send the bill to committee, perhaps helping to kill it.
House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) outlined his position in last week’s Journal.
Though he voted to send it to committee, he said that another separate bill requesting the same changes has been filed and will be considered.
“I voted to study this amendment’s proposal because the financial implications of its implementation remain unclear … Such requirements would likely prove costly for our state at a time when we can ill-afford additional spending,” he wrote, citing that a similar measure in Colorado did not save any money.
State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) was not available for comment to explain her vote to send the matter for study.
Locally, those at the Revere Housing Authority said they might have illegal immigrants in their units, but it isn’t an overwhelming problem.
Executive Director Linda Shaw said that they perform rigorous checks on those applying for housing.
She said they must produce positive U.S. identification (such as a driver’s license), they must produce documents proving they are U.S. Citizens or permanent residents, and they must produce income/family size information.
She said the only way for an illegal immigrant to get public housing in Revere is to produce fake documentation or to move in with family members living there legitimately.
“I can’t tell you I have no illegal aliens in here,” she said. “Others bringing in family members, that’s how it would happen. We inspect a couple times a year and if we find several families living at one of our scattered sites, for example, then we actually question them and call them in right away for a hearing and let them know they are risking eviction.”
Meanwhile, in the schools, Superintendent Paul Dakin said they had no mechanism to bar illegal immigrants from the schools.
He said he had no idea how many illegal immigrants were in the schools, but even if he knew, he said, the state requires that they be educated.
“The way we’re instructed by [the state is that if they’re children of school age and residents of the city – meaning that they sleep here – then they must be educated,” he said. “I don’t know of any mechanism for us to do anything else but to follow the regulations. The things we can influence have nothing to do with these matters.”
He said that he didn’t believe the problem to be catastrophically expensive here.
“If we have 100 kids, we would probably not be saving any money because they would be spread out across the district,” he said. “If it’s 1,000 kids, then it would certainly affect staffing and teaching positions. Really, I don’t see it as a problem. We educate if they’re here.”
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said that Revere probably has its share of illegal immigrants, but he doesn’t see it as a city issue.
“I certainly don’t ask people to show me their papers when they show up here looking for me to help them,” he said. “We treat everyone with respect in Revere – legal or illegal. That’s a problem for the federal government to deal with.”