… and Massachusetts politicians would be well-advised to sit up and take note.
I went to the #KeepFamiliesTogether rally last Wednesday, partly in protest of the Trump administration’s searingly cruel family separation policy at the border, and on behalf of the Safe Communities Act. I wasn’t expecting a large crowd, since a few other previous rallies had been small. I was wrong: This filled up Beacon Street in front of the State House. The crowd was multi-ethnic, multi-class; there were plenty of moms with young children in strollers. (Dear Beacon Hill: Beware. The Moms.) There was a contingent of MGH staff, witnessing on behalf of their patients. The energy was raw, intense, and impatient with the we’ll-get-around-to-it-maybe flow of work at the State House. They poured into the State House itself, gathering outside the Governor’s office, singing and loudly chanting: “Governor Baker, COME OUT NOW”; Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo: WE WANT YOU NOW”.
These were not requests; these were demands. This was not the tone of people resigned to indignity, because they know the devastation and misery that ICE is wreaking, even right here in Massachusetts. Like California’s Prop 182, the excesses and gleeful bigotry of the anti-immigrant right may have awakened a new coalition. Those who live in and cherish a multi-cultural America that values human rights, are now being called to defend it.
The Safe Communities Act was included and passed in the Senate’s budget. I’m not sure what the House Speaker or Ways and Means chair Jeffrey Sanchez hold in their hearts, but Speaker DeLeo has previously referred to a lack of consensus in the House on SCA. In other words, he doesn’t want to force his members to take a “tough vote” — particularly if there aren’t the numbers to override a promised veto from Governor Baker, who continues to peddle a soft-Trump, hear-no-evil/see-no-evil line on immigrants’ rights.
More tenuous is the position of Sanchez, who does face a credible primary challenger in Nika Elugardo. I’m guessing that his JP district, with significant immigrant and progressive constituencies, is considerably more enthusiastic about the SCA than the median House district, or, say, Speaker DeLeo’s Winthrop. It wouldn’t be crazy to imagine him as the next Speaker, on whatever time frame that may be; and a markedly more progressive one at that. But given the human rights crisis precipitated by Trump’s ICE, he may not be able to placate both DeLeo and his district. Can he really just wait this one out?
… Relatedly, Ayanna Pressley has taken this issue to the next level, calling for the defunding of ICE. For the moment, this does indeed create some daylight in her race against the incumbent Michael Capuano. We’ll see if Capuano follows up. In any event the consensus seems to be growing on the left that ICE is a corrupt, thuggish, rogue organization, whose functions would be better served by government agencies with a more professional, humane, and lawful culture.
ICE was created less than 20 years ago, and it is clear now that the agency is irrevocably broken,” Pressley said in a statement. “If elected I will work with federal leaders to rehouse the non-immigration enforcement functions of ICE — including human trafficking and money laundering investigations — elsewhere in the US Department of Homeland Security, while immediately eliminating funding for enforcement and removal functions.”
Good on Pressley for seizing the initiative. It may be awkward at this point for Capuano to follow suit, but it’s probably preferable to doing nothing, or stopping short of calling for something radical.
Times are changing.