Murray to fight bill barring benefits for undocumented

By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / May 26, 2010

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Senate President Therese Murray said yesterday that she would oppose an attempt by Senate Republicans to pass a controversial measure this week that would bar illegal immigrants from receiving state and federal benefits in Massachusetts.

Murray, a Plymouth Democrat, said Republicans are targeting a problem that does not exist, because the state already checks applicants for public benefits using the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, or SAVE.

“I think they know the SAVE program is already done in almost every one of our agencies, so it’s kind of a little smoke and mirrors here,’’ Murray told reporters during an impromptu interview in a State House hallway. “We already do this stuff.’’

Just steps away from Murray, the Senate’s five Republicans held their own press conference to advocate for the measure, which failed narrowly in the House a few weeks ago and is scheduled for debate as part of the Senate’s budget this week.

Republicans predicted the amendment would pass because the Senate has in past years approved similar measures that would have screened public housing applicants to ensure they are in the country legally. Those measures have subsequently died in House-Senate conference committees.

“The United States has immigration laws in place that deserve to be enforced, and it’s about whether we’re going to do our part to say we respect those laws and we respect the people who come to this country legally,’’ said Senator Bruce E. Tarr, a Gloucester Republican. “They are not the same as people who come to this country and make their first act an illegal one.’’

Levenson can be reached at

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