Charlie Baker has now rescinded his offer of a couple of helicopters to assist in Donald Trump’s/Stephen Miller’s torment of immigrants and asylum seekers. The Boston Globe refers to his “change of heart” after hearing of the tearing away of children from their mommies and daddies. How inspiring! Like the Grinch, doubtless his heart grew three sizes that day.
Nonsense. The thing that brought Charlie Baker to cancel the helicopters-to-Trump lend-lease was sheer political pressure and shaming. That he ever approved it in the first place was a moral scandal. He knows that the internet has blown up over this. Even though Baker exhibits scant introspection himself on this, he knows that we recognize the pure evil and sadism at the heart of Trump’s immigration regime.
Baker’s initial decision to send the helicopters was morally obtuse. But this fits a pattern: As we’ve been saying, Baker has been using immigrants as a political punching bag and literal applause line since he took office. He heartlessly resisted taking in Syrian refugees (with the craven assistance of Mayor Walsh); he introduced legislation that would have allowed cops to hold on to people otherwise free to go, to give ICE a shot at them; he consistently tries to restrict eligibility for health benefits to immigrants — and so on. (Why is it good to have people go without health care?).
Xenophobia and racism are the animating principles of the Republican Party today. (As the kids say, don’t @ me; it is obvious as the sun rising in the east.) Charlie Baker polishes the fruit of the poison tree and gives it a wonky, “moderate” shine, hoping that his right flank still recognizes it as tempting.
What is courageous leadership in the face of inhuman police action against the most vulnerable? Let’s remember Deval Patrick’s actions after the New Beford raid in 2007:
Amid the cascade of sickening headlines about the inhumane treatment of immigrant families at our borders, my mind keeps coming back to this moment & these words, in 2014 when @DevalPatrick stood up as one of only a few Governors willing to shelter undocumented children in MA. pic.twitter.com/8poNfFT78B
— Alex Goldstein (@alexjgoldstein) May 26, 2018
It was not politically easy. But morally, it was clearly, bracingly right. It was leadership, and I’d hold that Governor Patrick helped mold an ideological consensus in Massachusetts that we still share, and to which Governor Baker has mostly acceded.
Baker, too, has a bully pulpit; his decision to withhold the helicopters was inconveniently mentioned to Sarah Huckabee Sanders just today. People notice. He could be a leader. He has a role to play, but he won’t take the stage. This is the fellow who didn’t recognize himself when he ran for governor in 2010, so maybe he’s just lost himself to ambition, again. Maybe.
But I do believe in repentance, and redemption. I believe in “hero moments.” People change their minds. Charlie Baker can fix this. He can pledge to sign the Safe Communities Act, which, stopping short of making Massachusetts a “sanctuary state”, will simply prevent police resources in Massachusetts from acting as ICE proxies:
- Focuses resources on local needs, not deportation
State and local police should use their limited resources to fight crime, not immigrant community members and their families. The bill would bar police from arresting or detaining a person solely for federal immigration enforcement purposes, or participating in U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations or raids based solely on immigration status. It would also prohibit agreements to deputize state and local officers as federal immigration agents, co-opting and taking away resources from local communities. When police act as ICE agents, victims and witnesses of crime are afraid to call for help, which makes us all less safe.*
You can do it, Governor. You’ll have to be willing to disappoint those folks who cheered you at the MassGOP convention. But this is a moment where you can’t straddle; you’ve got to choose. Ya gotta have heart — all the time.