The state legislature gaveled out just after 10am Monday, effectively ending the two-year session. While we’re disappointed with legislative inaction on key bills, we celebrate the major victories that demonstrate the growing political power of immigrant communities on Beacon Hill.
Here’s a roundup of this session’s legislative advances for the Commonwealth’s immigrants and refugees, brought to you by immigrant rights organizations and legislative allies across the state.
Driving Families Forward Coalition leaders with legislative champions at historic signing ceremony for the Work and Family Mobility Act on June 13, 2022.
Passage of the Work and Family Mobility Act, a historic victory delivered by the Driving Families Forward Coalition, under the decisive leadership of the Brazilian Worker Center and SEIU 32BJ. Easily surviving Governor Baker’s veto, the new law opens the standard Massachusetts driver’s license to all qualified drivers regardless of immigration status, and will take effect in July 2023. The coalition victory also opens the door to state action on a range of legislative initiatives benefiting those most impacted by our unjust immigration system.
Safety for Victims of Crime and Human Trafficking legislation, which streamlines the U-visa process for immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other crimes, adopted in FY22 budget. The campaign was led by the Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program at BU Law School, Justice Center of Southeast Mass, and Mass Law Reform Institute.
$30 million in first-time ever state resettlement funding, including $8 million for Haitian resettlement and $20 million to resettle Afghans, Ukrainians and other new arrivals, won in the FY22 supplementary budget in December. Led by MIRA, International Institute of New England, and Ascentria Care Alliance.
$1 million for the New American Voters Grant Program, a new program to support language access and outreach for municipal elections, adopted in the FY23 budget. Led by Mass Voter Table with MIRA support.
Legislative victories are achieved in increments, and this session also saw a number of pro-immigrant bills referred to Ways and Means—a sign of growing support in the legislature.
These advances include the Language Access and Inclusion Act, reported out in its first session, led by MIRA, Mass. Law Reform Institute, Mass. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, the Justice Center of Southeast Mass; the Safe Communities Act, with first-ever endorsements from law enforcement leaders; the Cover All Kids bill, led by Health Care for All, and An Act to Prevent Wage Theft, led by the Mass. AFL-CIO and supported by immigrant worker centers statewide.
This November we’ll have the opportunity to elect a governor who is more supportive of pro-immigrant legislation, eliminating the veto threat and the need for supermajority support in the legislature.
With an eye toward the future, MIRA has already begun consulting our member organizations to determine our priorities for the new session. Please save the date for our all-member virtual meeting on November 16th!
MIRA is incredibly grateful for the work of all our member and partner organizations, and the many coalitions that made these successes possible.
Deep thanks also to the legislative sponsors who championed these initiatives, and to our many legislative allies for your continued support, including Senate and House leadership. We look forward to working with you next session!
—Amy Grunder, Director of State Policy and Legislative Affairs