UPDATED: A better solution (now with video and audio)

UPDATE:You can listen to Sen. Kennedy respond to your questions on Evoca.

Cross posted at Daily Kos

There are those who think that the problem of immigration can easily be solved by walls on our borders and strict law enforcement in our country. I wish they could have joined me last Sunday afternoon at St. James Church in New Bedford. I saw first-hand the pain and suffering of the families and community ripped apart by the recent enforcement raid by the Department of Homeland Security.

The reality of illegal immigration is anything but simple and the solutions are difficult. The Department of Homeland Security was ready with hundreds of officers to subdue a group of frightened workers, but they were totally unprepared to deal with the aftermath of their raid. DHS knew that it would be detaining young parents, and yet it had no effective plan to identify and help the children who would be left alone. The photographs of bewildered, desperate, crying children brought home the full horror of the government raid distinguished by its callousness.

The resulting situation has been described as a “humanitarian crisis” by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and the raid has received national attention.

Community activists scrambled to locate the children, offer infant-care tips to parents unfamiliar with warming a formula or changing a diaper. One baby who was breast-feeding had to be hospitalized for dehydration because her mother remained in detention. Child-care arrangements had to be made for at least 35 children.

No statistic or government report could have made clearer the need for immigration reform.

Gridlock in the last Congress stalled bipartisan efforts to solve the nations immigration crisis. But we will try again soon. The challenge is to combine increased enforcement and tougher penalties on employers who hire the undocumented with a way for the millions of undocumented workers already here to earn citizenship by working hard and paying taxes.

The fact is, immigration is about more than numbers. The story of Lilo Mancia, whose wife remains in custody, after the New Bedford raid, is common but something we are rarely able to see.

Without her, I am dead,” said Lilo, breaking into tears. His boys are suffering, too. “They ask for her,” he said. Jeffery, who has an ear infection, cried in his father”s arms. His brother kept running around the church basement with his new friend, a green Incredible Hulk doll.

We must find a better solution to our immigration crisis than raids that rip families apart.

I look forward to hearing from you about this post, as well as my recent op-ed article in the Boston Herald.

My staff members will be available to answer some of your questions in the comments. I will also monitor your questions, and personally respond to some of your questions tomorrow.

Photo of Lilo Mancia provided courtesy of the photographer.

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38 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Senator,

    Many times people have said I have a tendency to miss the forest for the trees.  I think that perhaps this debate is one that misses the trees for the forest.  By viewing the millions of illegal immigrants as one cohesive unit, we are doing an injustice to our people as well as theirs. 

    Here in New Bedford, the illegal immigrants were workers, hard ones at that.  While breaking the law, their existence within our borders was benign, at best.  However, as I'm sure you know, the border states have to deal with illegal immigration through the lens of violent drug runners, coyotes who have no respect for human life, and people like you and me who are forced to watch illegals run through the desert, through their property, with little recourse. 

    If we try to come up with a solution to the illegal immigration problem that is best for Massachusetts, we could be doing harm to people who live in Texas.  If we apply a solution that best suits residents of California, we could be harming decent people living illegally in Colorado. 

    The conclusion that I have come to, especially with recent events surrounding the New Bedford raid, is that may haps this is not a realm for the Federal Government to play a strong role in.  I have full confidence that Deval Patrick could have handled this situation, given the chance, in a exponentially better fashion that the government did with it's raid by the ICE.  He would have been better prepared to cater to the needs of these families and would have ensured that loved ones didn't end up thousands of miles from their families while still enforcing the law and punishing the people who employed them.

    What I would like to see is the Federal Government delegating more money and power to the individual States for them to come up with a solution that is best suited for them.  It is the responsibility of you and the other Congressman to come up with a plan to either give these people a path to citizenship or ultimately decide that they are all to a T be deported; I see nothing but tragedies to follow if the ICE conducts operations like this in the future with minimal input and participation from the States.  Only with this cooperation and proper delegation of power will we see a solution that works for everyone

    • Solution

      There is no solution. That nitwit in the White House has put the last nail in our coffin regarding his turning a blind eye to this rampant invasion on our southern borders. As we speak, Germans, Canadians, Scandanavians et al are put back on the next plane going to Europe at Logan Airport because they do not have enough money or a two way ticket yet tens of thousands of god only knows who are crossing our southern borders. Fifty five of those apprehended in NB had been previously deported,. They are looking at ten years in federal prison.

      We should do what Jimmy Carter did with the Mariel Boat Lift. Fidel emptied all his asylums, and prisons. We could just ask Central and South America and Mexico to start emptying all of their undesirables into USA. We have room for everyone. Considering that thirty percent of the federal prisons are filled with illegal aliens we'll just be continuing the present trend.

  2. There are those who think that the problem of immigration can easily be solved by walls on our borders and strict law enforcement in our country.

    I agree.

    • That's one problem with certain conservatives...

      ...they live under the delusion that our nation's complex problems have easy solutions.

      Nothing is ever as easy as it seems. (See: Reumsfled, Donald H. and the War in Iraq)

  3. Fair compromise


  4. Before we got to this point what was going on?

    The New Bedford company had at least $147 million in government contracts for clothing and as early as last September 2006, Sen Kennedy and others were calling for an investigation of sweatshop treatment of these workers.

    Isn't this the consequence of NAFTA that everyone, dem and rep, signed onto in 1992 or so.  What preparation was made then?

    These people are not making union wages, they are imported precisely so the employer can pay under union wage and as low a wage as he can get away with. 

    what am I missing about this?

    • Justice

      Any business owner who hires illegal aliens should get twenty years. If they had no jobs for the slave wages they are paid they wouldn't be here.

    • Econ 101

      The amount of jobs in America is not some finite resource like once we have X number of people, that's it, no more jobs are available.

      Avoiding competition in any field isn't really an option - at this point the rest of the world can trade without us even if we completely wall ourselves off, and then we lose.  Our capabilities as a people are expanding hugely as we do this, living standards will continue to rise on average. 

      Issues of income disparity aren't really trade or immigration issues - they're tax and budget issues.  Let's not confuse the two, and remember the unions are a business too.

  5. I disagree with this.

    There are those who think that the problem of immigration can easily be solved by walls on our borders and strict law enforcement in our country. I wish they could have joined me last Sunday afternoon at St. James Church in New Bedford. I saw first-hand the pain and suffering of the families and community ripped apart by the recent enforcement raid by the Department of Homeland Security.

    So can any crime be forgiven if the criminal has family at home? Would a white collar criminal be forgiven if he has a wife and six kids? What about a violent felon with children?

    These folks, hard-working they may be, were here in this country illegally. They broke the law to come here and continued to flaunt their disregard by staying here.

    And while their employer should be held responsible for hiring them it should in no way free them from punishment for violating the laws of the United States.

    There are certainly ways to emigrate legally, they should have done so.

    • Again...

      Do you think that hospitalized, dehydrated 7-month old nursing babies are an acceptable by-product of such raids? I don't. I call that a human rights abuse.

      • Yes, a shame

        While the raid could have been handled better I applaud the ICE for doing it. Unfortunately, those calling for legalization of these law-breakers will use it as a reason for not enforcing our laws in the future.

      • But Charley

        I'm sure there are other circumstances-- mother arrested for marijuana possession or DUI-- in which there is a young infant at home. 

        • And they

          Would have been granted full due process, kept within state borders and likely given bail. If it was pot, they probably wouldn't have gone to jail at all.

          That's not a very good argument you make at all.

          • Not to mention

            that DSS would almost certainly work to prohibit the mother from breastfeeding her baby while still had drugs in her system.

        • Bad Example

          These parents are breaking a law for the purpose of giving their kids a better future. This is very different from parents who break laws that harm their children.

          To make the distinction very clear the immigration raids are harming their children very badly, but the act of working... and even the act of immigrating do not. This in unlike the example of drug use, where the act itself is harmful.

          But since you brought up drug use-- let's consider the effecitveness of strict enforcement of questionable laws.

          We now have millions of young men and women in jail-- and children are suffering much more because their parents are locked up then they would because of the drug use.

          Most progressives agree that a compassionate drug policy instead of harsh law enforcement is a better solution. In fact most of us would agree that harsh law enforcement benefits absolutely nobody-- it doesn't even solve the problem it is supposed to solve.

          It seems to me that harsh law enforcement as a solution to immigration is the same thing. It hurts men and women and families and community, without helping one bit the "problem" it is supposed to address.

          • The end justifies the means?

            The road to hell is also paved with good intention.

            My son in law (who is a lawfull immigrant) is about to lose his business because illegal aliens who have set up shop as masons, roofers etc, who pay no taxes, no health insurance, no workmans comp are undercutting his legitimate bids! My daughter, who is about to give birth to #1, is having a meltdown because they may lose their home. This is when reality comes real close to home.My family is being destroyed by these people who you are wringing your hands about. My son in law who did it the "right" way is getting it tucked up his keester. WELCOME TO AMERICA

            • They just don't get it

              MC - they just don't get it.  Your argument was obviously:

              a) too simple

              b) too narrowly focused, after all one family's experience can't be used to make policy.  We must think about all of us, together we can and all.

              c) oh and when all else fails.  What you've said is also racist, you're just afraid of "brown people".

            • a chicken & egg question?

              who is at fault in all this?  from your family's point of view, the conclusion is probably the illegal worker.  from my point of view, the employers hiring the illegal workers are at least as much at fault.  make it impossible for them to get away with this, and the problem is solved.  much like getting someone to stop using coke, and the trade in that substance will disappear.  unfortunately we seem to have an administration (and there have been others) that is all for this system, at the expense of people like your family.  why?  because someone, somewhere is making a lot of money off of it.  so how do we get the administration to slap their own hands here?  i surely don't have the answer to that (maybe sen. Kennedy will come up with something).  but i can guarantee you that it doesn't matter who is deported in which direction and how much they look like the aryan brotherhood - more people will just keep coming because some of our business "leaders", even ones contracting with the federal government, are inviting them in with open arms, and the president is greeting them at the gate.

            • Apparently, you are unaware of another alternative...

              ...make them all legal, and require them to pay taxes, workman's comp, health insurance, etc..

              It really is that simple, isn't it?

              You're complaining that "illegals/undocumenteds/whatever" don't pay their "fair share".  Employers hire them, pay them under the table, and don't submit what they might have to to the IRS because there's no Social Security number to attach the payments to.  Is that the fault of the illegals, etc?


              One thing that you people seem to miss out on is the fact that employers are willing to pay illegals, etc., at a lower rate, in cash, because they can.  And why can they?  Because there is a large supply of illegals coming in from south of the border.  (They don't seem to be coming in from Canada.)  Why?  To some extent it is because of earlier American banana republic policies that benefited American corporate interests.  To another extent it is because of America's dumping of its agricultural surpluses, paid for by American taxpayers' subsidies to agribusiness, onto central and south america, which has largely destroyed local farming.

              What you're seeing in "illegal immigration" is the reaping of what was sowed by American government policies, by destroying local economies in central and south america.  The attempts to immigrate aren't going to stop until the USofA tries to build up local economies in central and south america, but there is no obvious indication that there is any evidence that the USofA is interested in doing so.

    • You are completely off base...

      ...with your characterization of the detainees as criminals.  People who are here in this country without documentation are not criminals, they are not "punished" fore being here.  They are detained, given a hearing, sometimes gosh forbid, allowed to stay, and other times sent home.  This is a civil, not a punative process.  So, respectfully, your entire assertion and your conflation of undocumented immigrants with criminals, regardless of the color or their color, is false on its face. 

  6. I have a radical approach:

    How about accountability?

    Accountability for the government of Mexico, which consistently toadies to powerful business interests while outsourcing its social welfare responsibilities to its neighbor up North. It's one thing to emigrate because you want to try something new or do even better; but many Mexicans have experienced a sharp downturn in their work prospects and standard of living over the past decade, and they have little choice but to leave. Yes, we have many other immigrants too, as we saw in New Bedford, but Mexico is a major contributor to the problem nationwide.

    Accountability for NAFTA and other "free trade" agreements, implemented in a way that depresses labor markets on both sides of the border.

    Accountability for employers in the U.S., large and small, who base their entire business models on a poorly-paid, exploitable workforce hired illegally.

    Accountability for our own chaotic immigration system, which leaves hardworking people who play by the rules waiting years to become citizens in a land where they have already proven themselves, and makes cheating a more appealing alternative.

    Just for starters.

    • Bianco owner allowed to fly off to Puerto Rico

      Francesco Insolia, owner of Bianco, is a criminal.  How many times over?  At least as many times as the number of illegal workers he hired.  At least as many times as the dollars he made by underpaying them in a no-union shop.  Dollars his still-operating company is still raking in from ongoing US Govt contracts.

      Yet Insolia is ALLOWED TO FLY TO P.R. FOR BUSINESS while the laborers he hired were hustled onto planes and sent to holding pens in TX and beyond.

      Any talk of immigration reform is a farce if it doesn't go to the source of the problem: unethical employers and the system of laws and selective/lack of enforcement that encourages them to abuse labor.

      • No love lost for Mr. Bianco

        Mr. Bianco belongs in jail.  You should not hear any conservative not say that.  However I take exception to your characterization of non-union workplaces as criminal.

  7. How did you feel about Elian Gonzales?

    Elian Gonzales was here legally, after his mother died trying to save him from the oppression of Communism.  Yet he was ripped from his loving family's home in the manner shown below.  What was your reaction to that?

    • Elian

      Elian was going back to his dad, as the result of a lengthy legal process. As horrible as that situation was, it just doesn't compare in details or in general to the situation in New Bedford. A total red herring.

      But you knew that. You simply upchucked the most inflammatory thing you could, right?

      • No I think it proves a point

        That the left is up in arms about a raid sent to protect and uphold the law.  The left was cheering when this happened.  Jack Booted thugs invaded a home. 

        To keep it going what about the children at Waco? 

        The Clinton's and Janet Reno knew how to screw up a raid as well as anybody. 

      • I was never more ashamed to be an American

        than on that day.  I even made up T-shirts with "Are you next" on them. 

        The Bush administration doesn't hold a monopoly on allegedly overstepping civil liberties.  Bush can't even hold a candle to the Clintons'

        • This sentence is...

          ....completely ridculous.

          Bush can't even hold a candle to the Clintons'

          Elian's father had every right to reclaim his son.  The manner in which it happened was atrocious.

          Waco was messy and horific, but so was David Koresh and he needed to be dealt with.  Could things have gone better.  Of course.  When innocent children die it is inconceivable not to conteplate things having gone differently.  But let us not forget that an anti-govt. mad-man with an arsenal was living outside the law in our own borders.  If you even for a moment thought that going to Iraq to fight the terrorists there rather than here was a good idea how do you rationalize not taking drastic military action here at home when faced with a terrorist threat?

          You seem to think that democrats regard Clinton as some sort of sacred idol above criticism.  We don't.  He made lots of mistakes.  Besides which the "one of your guys did this or something like it in the past so my guy gets a pass" argument could not be more specious. 

          • You're exactly correct...

            ...see my comment below.  The lawbreakers were Elian's "Miami relatives" to whom he was paroled by the INS.  The INS always had jurisdiction over him.  It was when the Miami relatives refused to return physical custody of Elian to the INS that the INS moved in to obtain physical custody of him.

            That picture is oftentimes used by right wingnuts to villify the Clinton administration.  What they want to avoid is the fact that the Miami relatives were the criminals.

    • Angel liberates child

      From thugs who have in effect kidnapped him from his own family and are holding him for political purposes rather than any genuine care for the child. That's what that picture shows.

    • Liar...

      Elian Gonzales was not admitted to the USofA legally.

      He was held in the US pending an INS (predecessor of ICE) proceeding to determine whether he was entitled to legally enter the USofA.  The INS (then part of the Justice department), instead of incarcerating him in a detention facility, it would be in the best interest of the child to parole him to relatives that he had in the USofA--the so-called "Miami relatives."  The legal custody of the child was still in the INS, even though the physical custody was not.

      It was when the INS determined that the physical custody of the child was to be in the father, and they revoked the parole, and Miami relatives refused to return the child notwithstanding the revocation of the parole that the INS moved in to obtain physical custody of the child.

      Let's understand something.  The Miami relatives were law-breakers.  Your implication to the contrary notwithstanding.

      Some of us actually do know what's going on.  You don't.

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