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Last month, the state of Massachusetts was petitioning to join Arizona in the dark ages when the state Senate approved crackdowns against undocumented immigrants as part of the budget. It decided to wake up this month and come to its senses, but now the state is depriving legal immigrants of critical health care services.
The final $27.6 billion compromised budget does not establish a 24-hour hot line to snitch on employers who hire undocumented workers and no longer includes a provision that forces the state attorney general to enforce federal immigration laws. It also does not ban in-state tuition for undocumented students, a move that would be quite unnecessary given that undocumented students do not get residency benefits.
However, lawmakers in Massachusetts still decided to codify existing regulations to make a point regarding illegal immigration. The state Medicaid and unemployment programs would require citizenship verification for all applicants. State education officials would need to verify citizenship for students seeking need-based aid. And the approved budget bars undocumented contractors from receiving public contracts.
Considering undocumented immigrants neither qualify for nor access Medicaid, unemployment, or need-based financial aid in colleges, the verification measures just add millions more in new spending for Massachusetts for no reason. In order to appear tough on “illegal immigration,” the legislature is banning undocumented immigrants from benefits that they do not get. It makes little sense to spend money codifying legislation that already exists.
Still, legal immigrants in Massachusetts are catching the short end of the stick. More than 20,000 immigrants in the state may lose health care benefits after being relegated to a provisional part of the budget, which may not receive any funding.
While more states are likely to consider crackdowns against undocumented immigrants, few are likely follow Arizona due to fear of repercussions. Whether the federal government tries to impose uniformity in state immigration laws by taking up broad sweeping immigration legislation in the new year remains to be seen.
Photo Credit: Tony the Misfit