Press Release: 2019-06-24
Domestic violence survivors speak out for Safe Communities Act
Domestic violence survivors come to the State House to advocate for the Safe Communities Act
40+ domestic violence survivors, accompanied by family members, advocates and allies, organized by REACH Beyond Domestic Violence in partnership with Jane Doe Inc., Greater Boston Legal Services, and MIRA Coalition, with legislative sponsors and staff
THIS WEDNESDAY, June 24, 11 am–1 pm; press conference at 11 am
Domestic Violence Survivors’ Day of Action for the Safe Communities Act
Massachusetts State House; press conference in the House Members Lounge, 3rd floor
BOSTON – More than 40 domestic violence survivors, accompanied by family members, advocates and allies, will come together at the State House on Wednesday, June 26, to speak out about the need for the Safe Communities Act and visit legislators’ offices.
Sponsored by Reps. Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda in the House, and Sen. James Eldridge in the Senate, the Safe Communities Act is designed to address a crisis of fear in immigrant communities that is keeping many from calling 911 in emergencies, reporting crimes to police, or seeking medical help when needed. In particular, the bill would:
- Bar police and court officials from asking people about their immigration status unless required by law.
- Protect due process by ensuring that people in police custody are made aware of their rights and consent to questioning before Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) interviews them.
- Limit when law enforcement and court officials can notify ICE of someone’s impending release from custody, such as when a charge is dismissed or a person is released on bail.
- End so-called 287(g) agreements that allow county sheriffs and correctional officers to act as federal immigration agents, at state taxpayers’ expense.
Advocates who work with immigrants enduring domestic abuse have pushed for passage of the Safe Communities Act for more than two years, noting that many victims don’t dare report abuse for fear of deportation and family separation. Moreover, because often abusers lodge counter-charges, victims may be arrested as well – and if they’re turned over to ICE before their case is adjudicated, they may be put in removal proceedings without a chance to prove their innocence.
REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, which serves more than 7,000 people each year in 27 communities west of Boston, is bringing dozens of clients to the State House for a lobby day focused on the needs of domestic violence survivors. The event will start with an 11 a.m. press conference, followed by a conversation with the Safe Communities Act sponsors and visits to legislative offices.
“I endured verbal and physical abuse in silence for years, never daring to call the police because my partner said I’d be deported and lose my children,” said Maria Teresa, who will speak at the press conference with her teenaged daughter. “I don’t want anyone else to live through what we experienced.”
“My partner beat me so severely that I fell unconscious, yet I didn’t dare to the hospital because we were both undocumented, and I had to be there for my baby daughter,” said Zoila, who will also tell her story. “I eventually found the courage to seek help, and the police didn’t ask me about my status. If they had, I wouldn’t have dared to report the abuse.”
After the press conference, participants will meet with the Safe Communities Act legislative sponsors, then fan out across the State House to visit legislators and staff in their offices.
Note: Some of the survivors participating in this event are willing to speak to journalists and be photographed, but for others, appearing in the media would pose serious safety risks. We ask that video footage and photos be focused on the women who choose to stand at the front of the room during the press conference. For any additional images afterward, please ask advocates before photographing.