Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker said today that he didn't blame Arizona for enacting a law cracking down on illegal immigrants that has sparked heated controversy nationwide.
"Arizona is a border state, living with the failure of the federal government to do the job of securing their border. I don't blame them for taking this issue on directly. I don't feel the federal government left them with much choice," Baker said in a live chat on boston.com.
He also expressed support for a crackdown on illegal immigration passed by the Massachusetts Senate as part of the state budget. Tougher provisions in the Senate bill were eventually left out in the version approved by a House-Senate conference committee and then signed into law by Democratic Governor Deval Patrick.
"The Senate passed common sense immigration reforms as part of the most recent state budget - led by, among others, my running mate, Senator Richard Tisei. I was very sorry the governor didn't support these reforms, but I'm not surprised. They didn't survive the legislative conference committee, and we are now back to Square One on this issue. That's a shame," he said.
"These kinds of reforms are common sense for the vast majority of MA residents, voters and taxpayers. On this one, they deserve better," he said in the chat.
The Arizona law, passed in April, is the nation's toughest crackdown on illegal immigrants. It requires police to ask people for proof of their legal immigration status in cases where police have stopped people for another reason and have a "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally. The US Justice Department is challenging the law in court, but other states are considering similar legislation.
The Massachusetts state budget that was enacted into law in June did not include stricter immigration measures that were passed by the Senate in May, including the establishment of a 24-hour hot line to report companies that hire illegal immigrants and a requirement that the attorney general begin discussions with federal officials to offer help in enforcing immigration laws. Lawmakers instead decided to make official current practices that bar illegal immigrants from receiving state services, the Globe reported.
The chat touched on everything from Baker's position on taxes, pensions for elected officials, and health care to whether he felt excesses by GOP candidates elsewhere would reflect negatively on him.
One reader pointed out Baker's differences on a transgender rights bill with his running mate, Senate minority leader Richard Tisei, who is openly gay. "Richard and I don't agree on everything - neither did my mom and dad. I think that's a good thing," Baker said.
"I believe everyone in Massachusetts should be treated fairly under the law, but the transgender bill you reference is a flawed bill, and I would veto it," he said.
Another reader asked the Harvard-educated former health care executive, "Have you ever had to struggle? Have you ever been unemployed?"
"Anybody wanna ask me about Lebron James?" Baker responded at first. But then he elaborated further, saying he had been working "since I was a kid ... paper routes, gas station attendant (those were the days), landscaping, loading dock, sports reporter (!), movie theater usher, bouncer/bartender, and the like."
"I've had times in my life when I was younger where I haven't been doing what I wanted to be doing for work - but I always managed to find something to do to pay the bills. And I sure struggled to turn around Harvard Pilgrim. At the time, most people thought we would fail, and the jobs and livelihoods of my employees and their families were very much on the line, and I felt the pressure of that - big-time. I'm glad we found a way to make it work," he said.
Baker is vying to unseat Patrick in the November election. Treasurer Tim Cahill is running as an independent. Jill Stein is running as the Green-Rainbow Party candidate.
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