Baker creates state’s first Latino Advisory Commission; not all praise it

Boston Globe
Catie Edmondson
Publication Date: 
July 11, 2017

A commission was created this week by Governor Charlie Baker to address issues that affect the state’s growing Latino community.

More than two dozen Latino activists and leaders in education and business have been appointed to the Latino Advisory Commission, created by an executive order Baker, a Republican, signed Monday. Over 11 percent of Massachusetts residents identify as Latino or Hispanic, the 2016 Census shows.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, a Democrat and a member of the new commission, emphasized its significance in the context of the nation’s current divisive political climate.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Rivera said. “I commend the governor for looking across the aisle, looking across races for insight into policy, given how rough the climate is in Washington. We’ll be able to inform policy makers about what is going on on the ground and relay the real concerns of communities. I’m very hopeful.”

Rivera hopes the commission will tackle issues such as improving job growth, education, and public safety for Latino communities. He added that he’d be shocked if the advisory group did not discuss how the state should respond to federal immigration policies.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition lauded the commission, saying it will help foster understanding of the issues that affect Latinos.

“We have the federal administration focusing on a vision of America without Latinos, so I commend the governor,” Millona said. “It’s a huge opportunity for the governor to show that Massachusetts leads by example and doesn’t buy into the political theater coming from Washington.”

Millona cited issues she hopes the panel will focus on, but emphasized the importance of adopting the Safe Communities Act, which some refer to as the “sanctuary state” bill.

“We hope that the governor and the commission will look into the impact that bill could have and see the importance of the act,” she said. “There are fears in the community that are real and present.”

That bill, currently before the Legislature, would bar local and state police from arresting someone solely because of immigration status. Baker has opposed the bill, but on Monday said he’d keep an open mind.

Some groups criticized Baker and the commission. Centro Presente, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging Latino self-sufficiency, said it saw a “cynical electioneering ploy.”

“In light of his failure to address the aggressively adversarial and negative attitude of both the federal government and state leadership toward the Latino immigrant community,” the commission should be carefully measured to see if it produces any tangible benefits for Latinos, the statement said.

The group criticized Baker’s administration for “abdicating its responsibilities” by saying municipalities should decide on their own whether to become “sanctuary cities.”

The Massachusetts Minority Republican Coalition also offered a rebuke.

“It took this governor two and a half years since he was sworn in to figure out Hispanics live in Massachusetts,” the group said in a statement.

Rivera acknowledged the critiques, but said that both Baker and the group should be given the benefit of the doubt.

“Everything is a step forward,” he said. “The question is, what will he do with the commission’s work? We should wait and see.”


Catie Edmondson
can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @CatieEdmondson.

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