John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Several dozen activists gathered on Boston Common today to protest a crackdown on illegal immigrants passed this week by the state Senate.
Calling the intiative "discriminatory" and "shameful," leaders of several immigrant organizations urged Beacon Hill to reject the measure, which still must pass the House and be signed by the governor to become law.
The Senate measure, an amendment approved Thursday to the proposed state budget, would bar the state from doing business with companies found hiring illegal immigrants, toughen penalties for creating or using fake identification documents, and explicitly deny in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants. In addition, it would require the state to give legal residents priority for subsidized housing and mandate that the state's public health insurance program verify legal residency through the Department of Homeland Security.
"Will you stand on the side of racism, hatred and fear? Or will you stand on the side of truth, justice, passion and love?" said Elena Letona, associate director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities.
The question was met with cries of "Justicia!" from the roughly 70 people milling in front of a fresh fruit stand and listening to the rally outside the Park Street T station. Some held signs with slogans such as "The Pilgrims were illegal immigrants." Others had painted American flags on their faces.
Attendees represented several community organizations, including Agencia ALPHA, Everett-based La Comunidad, the Brazilian Immigrant Center and the Dominican Development Center. At one point, a heckler in the crowd yelled, "Go back where you came from!" Otherwise, the protest was peaceful.
Supporters said the amendment, which passed on a 28-10 vote, reflected broad public consensus on reserving state services for legal residents; liberal members said they felt blindsided and ashamed that the body had passed such a strict measure so abruptly, the Globe reports today.
The Boston rally came the same day as a protest in Phoenix against a controversial law affecting illegal immigrants there. Thousands attended the rally protesting the measure, which requires police conducting traffic stops or questioning people about possible legal violations to ask them about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they're in the country illegally, the Associated Press reported.
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