on August 04, 2015 at 6:41 PM, updated August 04, 2015 at 6:46 PM
Matt Murphy

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's immigration broadside against Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone on Monday was "an act of desperation," Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said, before blasting the feds for failing to reform the nation's immigration system.

Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said states and cities such as Somerville are in a "real tough spot" when determining how to deal with undocumented immigrants who may have been living and working in the United States for decades with no path to pursue citizenship.

"The whole system is a mess because the federal system doesn't work," Rosenberg said during his monthly appearance on Boston Herald Radio on Tuesday morning.

Jindal, the southern governor running for the Republican nomination for president, appeared on Herald Radio a day earlier when he suggested that mayors of so-called "sanctuary cities" - a group that includes Curtatone - should be held criminally liable as an accessory to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Curtatone fired back, challenging Jindal to a debate and calling the governor "Deputy Barney Fife." "Come and get me," Curtatone was quoted saying in the Herald.

Rosenberg said Jindal was trying to score points to pump up his flagging presidential campaign ahead of the first GOP presidential debate in Cleveland on Thursday where Jindal likely won't be participating in the main event because only the top 10 polling contenders will appear on stage.

"An act of desperation in a desperate campaign. Pick on our friend," Rosenberg said.

Sanctuary cities, while not a legal designation, are those where policies exist to prevent police and other officials from asking about immigration status or to use municipal resources to enforce federal immigration law.

Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat, has filed legislation on Beacon Hill (H 125) to guarantee certain protections and access to state services to all residents of Massachusetts, regardless of their immigration status. The bill would prevent state agencies from writing a rule or regulation that "denies any assistance, benefit, payment, service, or participation in any program or activity on the basis of alienage or immigration status, except as required by federal law, state statute or court decision."

Rosenberg suggested that he supported the spirit of Rushing's legislation, though he cast serious doubt about the initiative gaining any traction on Beacon Hill this session.

"We want to encourage people to pursue citizenship and it's challenging when you come without documentation, but we need to find a way to do that," Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said many immigrants without documentation have lived in "the shadows" in Massachusetts for decades where they've worked and raised their children, often doing jobs others don't want. He went on to say it would be wrong to "have a situation where people are stopped on the streets just because of the way they look."

"The Rushing bill raises a lot of good points, but it's going to be very challenging for him to get the attention of the Legislature with so many issues on the platter," Rosenberg said.

As for Jindal's comments about arresting mayors in sanctuary cities, Rosenberg chalked it up to the Louisiana governor employing a campaign strategy of "do anything, say anything to get another point on the meter."

"He's not registering so far and I don't know that these particular ideas are going to get him much traction," Rosenberg said.

While Rosenberg waded into the Jindal feud with Curtatone, the self-described "policy wonk" resisted the bait to offer his opinions on the rest of the Republican presidential field or the campaign forum in Manchester, N.H. on Monday night.

"As a loyal Democrat my thoughts on the Republicans are useless to everybody," he said.