Keller @ Large: Local Activists Hopeful For Immigration Reform

Gov. Baker's openness to welcoming immigrants and a new president pressing the case for sweeping reforms has given local activists hope.

Video Transcript

PAULA EBBEN: [INAUDIBLE] will increase the refugee admissions cap to $62,500 for the fiscal year. Now, this is a change, of course, for the president, who had previously said that number would not change. Immigration has caused some early problems in the Biden Administration, and as WBZ's Jon Keller shows us, some refugees and people seized at the border could soon be coming to Massachusetts.

[CHILDREN TALKING]

JON KELLER: In March, over 5,700 unaccompanied migrant children were in US Border Patrol custody.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: As of yesterday, we had under 700. It's an extraordinary achievement.

JON KELLER: And some of those minors are headed to Massachusetts, along with an estimated 1,900 refugees from around the world by the fall of next year.

JEFF GOLDMAN: The Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants has been so busy working to get ready for the governor's announcement of hopefully increasing what we're going to see in Massachusetts.

JON KELLER: Backlash against immigrants is a major political force in America and hardly unknown here in our relatively liberal state. But while Governor Baker opposes sanctuary policies that block local cooperation with federal immigration police,

[APPLAUSE]

A new president pressing the case for sweeping reforms has given local activists hope that other changes, like allowing the undocumented to get driver's licenses, might have new life.

JEFF GOLDMAN: I'm hopeful that we will get to the point where the public also supports this and that the governor will, too.

JON KELLER: Could this be a moment when saner heads turn down the voltage on one of the most volatile political issues of our time?

JEFF GOLDMAN: It would be a tragedy if the situation at the southern border derails the conversation we're trying to have about immigration within our country.

PAULA EBBEN: This is so complex, this issue with both parties, Jon, but we know you're always looking at the numbers. Where does public opinion stand on some of these issues right now?

JON KELLER: Well, Paula, it's kind of a mixed bag. You've got overwhelming support for legal immigration, but not for increase in current levels of immigration. You've got majority support for letting the dreamers stay, but still, not so much support for broader amnesty for the undocumented, although that's been growing lately. And on the two hot button issues now facing Beacon Hill, there's been modest support for the sanctuary city concept nationally, but the last poll I could find about driver's licenses for the undocumented here in Massachusetts, that was a total route, 70% opposed. So frankly, Paula, I think what we need here is smart, honest, courageous, political leadership. Don't hold your breath.

PAULA EBBEN: I was going to say, do you see that on the horizon? We'll get back to you. Jon Keller, thank you so much.