Executive Action Should Scrap Secure Communities

Joe Kennedy represents the 4th congressional district. He served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic from 2004 to 2006 and is fluent in Spanish. He was also a student of Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law School. Charley and I recently had lunch with him and invited him to join the discussion here. Thanks for your post, Rep. Kennedy! - promoted by Bob_Neer

Hi all, I wanted to share a piece I posted today on Huffington Post’s Latino Voices.  Would love to get your thoughts.  And for those of you who want to read it in Spanish, click here.  — Joe

Ignoring the demands of the American public, House Republicans have spent years standing squarely in the way of comprehensive immigration reform. After countless attempts to negotiate and find a way forward, the president appears poised to use his executive authority to fix our backwards, broken system.

Proposals emerging from the White House so far are heartening; from overhauling a deportation system that has torn thousands of families apart to expanding essential visas for businesses and innovators.

As the president continues to determine what shape any final executive action will take, the impact of his decision on local neighborhoods, cities, towns and law enforcement officials should be front and center. To that end, I believe our country must finally do away with Secure Communities, a deeply flawed immigration enforcement program.

My experience as an Assistant District Attorney originally encouraged me to keep an open mind about Secure Communities. There was no question the program needed improvement. But as a former prosecutor, I believe information sharing amongst law enforcement is critical to reducing crime, allowing us to get a holistic picture of any defendant and ensure we keep dangerous offenders off the streets.

After two years in Congress, it’s clear to me that when it comes to federal immigration policy, “information-sharing” is a good phrase being used to mask bad policy. In the face of a broken immigration system and a Republican Party that has stood in the way of meaningful reform, Secure Communities has become cover for a deportation approach that fails to target real threats, tears families apart, degrades trust in local officials and places the burden of immigration enforcement on the shoulders of our cities and towns.

Serious criminals who are in this country illegally must be tracked down and sent home. Often, that requires cooperation between local and federal officials. But rather than serve as a dependable channel of communication to help law enforcement target real threats, Secure Communities has become an indiscriminate dragnet.

By the end of 2013 only half of the 1,400 deportees via Secure Communities in Massachusetts had criminal records and only one-third had been convicted of a serious crime. Nationally, at least a quarter of those deported under Secure Communities had no criminal record at all.

As a result, the program has systemically eroded community trust in local law enforcement – a concern I hear across Massachusetts, where mayors in Boston, Somerville and Northampton have said their cities will no longer comply with the program. These local leaders have seen the fear of being fingerprinted drive issues like domestic violence and gang activity into the dark, undermining the community policing high-risk neighborhoods depend on to keep their streets safe. On top of that, fingerprints are shared with ICE at the point of an arrest – not a conviction – meaning that innocent people get caught up in the system with no avenue to appeal or challenge the outcome.

Across the country, Secure Communities has diverted critical law enforcement resources that could and should be used elsewhere. In 2012, California estimated its taxpayers paid over $65 million a year to comply with ICE detainers, or the equivalent of over 700 state trooper salaries. In Cook County, Illinois, that price tag was around $15 million a year, or the cost of nearly 200 public school teachers in Chicago.

From California to Connecticut, states have been forced to take the matter in to their own hands, passing versions of the TRUST Act, a commendable piece of legislation that actually limits ICE detainers to the serious criminals they are supposed to target. After passing the TRUST Act, monthly detainers in Connecticut went down by nearly 75 percent – and of those, 90 percent had either a felony conviction or prior deportation order.

Towns, cities and states have taken action because our country has left them on the front lines of this fight. Local cops and municipal budgets have been forced to pick up the slack of our federal government’s failure to set consistent and coherent immigration policy.

Now let me be clear: this failure lies at the feet of House Republicans, who have refused to let us cast a vote on bipartisan legislation that the majority of Americans say they want and our country urgently needs.

In the face of Congressional inaction, President Obama has rightly shown a willingness to assert his executive authority to fix a badly broken system. Secure Communities demands a piece of that attention. Over the past few years, the Administration has undertaken review after review of the program. They have examined, they have analyzed, and they have studied.

Now it’s time to act. For all of that research and review, the story of Secure Communities is pretty simple at this point. The program isn’t doing what it promised. By crippling community policing, strapping local law enforcement and diverting resources away from real threats, it’s making us less secure.

So whatever action the president takes in the weeks ahead, Secure Communities in its current form must be scrapped and replaced with an immigration enforcement policy that targets those who truly pose a threat.


Ten years of Blue Mass Group

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Ten years ago today, a short post appeared on a new Typepad blog announcing a new venture: a website devoted to “commentary on politics and policy,” mostly on Massachusetts topics.  Improbably, we’re still here – and so are you.

Blue Mass Group was one of the first blogs in the country (possibly the first, though that’s hard to prove) to be devoted specifically to a single state’s politics.  And it is, as far as I know, the one that’s been around the longest; a few others may have been started before BMG (though I don’t actually know of any), but they’ve long since vanished into the cyber-ether.  We’re pretty proud of that, and you should be too.

A lot has happened in the ten years we’ve been blogging here.  Here are a few numbers that tell a small part of the story.  Please add your own numbers, thoughts, reflections, etc. in the comments.  And thank you, as always, for being part of this community.  It wouldn’t exist without you.

Posts published: 29,111
Comments published: 350,834
Registered users: 8,163
Unique visitors: almost 8 million
Page views: over 17 million
Software platforms utilized: 3
Children born to BMG editors: 4

Politics (NB: we are counting reelections as a separate election, i.e., Deval Patrick’s 2 terms count as 2 Democratic Governors elected)
Democratic Governors elected: 2
Republican Governors elected: 1
Democratic Presidents elected: 2
Republican Presidents elected: 0
Democratic US Senators elected: 5 (plus two short-term appointees, Paul Kirk and Mo Cowan)
Republican US Senators elected: 1

Delusional, Climate-Killing Keystone XL "Centrism"

History suggests the only way to stop global warming will be to find a nonpolluting energy source that is less expensive than carbon. We should be trying much harder to find one. - promoted by Bob_Neer
Oiled Marsh

Oiled marsh after tar sands pipeline rupture in Mayflower, AR (April 2013)

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a bill that would short-circuit the safety and environmental review for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, overruling sound science with polluter politics. The Boston Globe editorial board has a three-part plan to approve Keystone XL:

  1. Obama approves Keystone XL
  2. yadda yadda other emissions cuts hand-waving something something
  3. Climate crisis solved!

Here’s today’s editorial:

So a veto now shouldn’t mean that Obama ought to reject Keystone categorically — just that approval ought to be predicated on bigger concessions by Congress on another part of the president’s environmental agenda. The goal should be to reduce emissions and boost energy efficiency, rather than block pipelines per se. [...]

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new rules on ozone standards and toxic coal ash as well as restrict greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants. There is little Congress can do to stop these regulations, but simply dropping threats to undercut them through the appropriations process — as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has vowed — could be key. Indeed, securing a promise of inaction from legislators determined to hobble the EPA could alone be a victory worth allowing Keystone XL to go forward.

The House has already voted nine times to send the pipeline project to the president’s desk for approval. The Senate, once it’s under Republican control come January, will surely pass another measure to that effect. The president would be wisest to bide his time. If the new GOP Congress wants Keystone so badly, it should be willing to negotiate a comprehensive climate deal.

This is delusional for two reasons. 

Retrospect: We should have targeted “Big Business” Baker

An idea. I wonder if Coakley would have raised more money with a more Warren-like campaign. Warren certainly did. - promoted by Bob_Neer

As I see Baker’s transition team start to come together, it is striking to me how many business executives he is filling his inner circle with. We all knew that Baker is in the pocket of big business. Why didn’t we run on it?

The Massachusetts Democratic Party ran a huge campaign about “Big Dig Baker”. Frankley, voters don’t give a crap about that. They care about the issues, particularly the economy. Elizabeth Warren ran and won on a message of economic populism. Coakley and the Massachusetts Democratic Party? Not so much. By turning Baker’s business credentials into a negative, we could have pushed the fact that Baker is beholden to corporate interests at the expense of the little guy. We could have tied Charlie to the failed policies of Trickle-down economics. Why was both the Party and the Coakley Campaign so focused on trivial attacks?

Going forward we have a chance to right this wrong. We need broader issue based messaging that paints a whole picture about the differences between Democrats and Republican policies. That didn’t happen this time around, and the blame doesn’t just lie with Coakley. Let’s figure out what went wrong so we can improve our ground game and fight for a progressive vision of the future.

"No one is proposing to abandon the homeless."

That reassuring line appears in a Globe op-ed by Lawrence Harmon that ran a few days ago.  In Harmon’s view, the sudden closure of the Long Island shelter, at which hundreds of homeless people and recovering drug addicts found refuge and treatment, was actually a good thing, because it created “an opportunity to integrate Long Island into the national recreation area without giving short shrift to the homeless.”  Long Island, one of the Boston Harbor islands, has long been closed to the general public.  And that’s a darn shame, says Harmon.  Wouldn’t it be great, Harmon asks, if Long Island were “to be integrated fully into the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area”?

The National Park Service, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the US Coast Guard, and the nonprofit Boston Harbor Island Alliance are among the dozen or so managing partners responsible for providing better access to the historic sites, scenic walking trails, and beaches in the 34-island recreation area. And Long Island is rich in such amenities.

But wait, I hear you cry.  A lot of people without other options found shelter on Long Island before the bridge was shut down.  Where will they go if the shelter never reopens?  A raucous public meeting last week made pretty clear that the homeless, and those who advocate for them, were not happy about the abrupt closure, and even less so about the apparently inadequate measures that have been put in place since then.

No worries, Harmon reassures us.  ”No one is proposing to abandon the homeless.”  After all, he says,

[t]he Walsh administration has offered a thoughtful plan to build a large, temporary shelter along the Southeast Expressway at the edge of the South End. The location has several advantages, including proximity to social services. But why stop at building a temporary shelter from prefabricated materials? The construction of a permanent shelter capable of accommodating 400 to 500 homeless people on the site would offer a long-term solution without the need to return to Long Island.

Hmmm … that site description rings a bell … didn’t I just see something …?  Oh yeah.  Today’s Globe:

Planning is quietly underway for construction of a soccer stadium in Boston, one that would bring the resurgent New England Revolution closer to their urban fan base, according to people familiar with the Kraft family’s search for a site.

Among the sites under consideration is a strip of city-owned land off Interstate 93 on Frontage Road, where Boston has a large yard for towed cars and public works. The South Boston property offers easy access from major highways and is near the MBTA’s Red Line as well as rail lines at nearby South Station.

Numerous sources said the Kraft family has been meeting with state and city officials to discuss the stadium and possible locations over the past several months, with the team focusing on Frontage Road….

The Frontage Road location is adjacent to an industrial area that the group organizing Boston’s efforts to host the 2024 Summer Olympics had identified as a potential location for the main Olympics stadium. Kraft is also a member of the Olympics group….

The city yard is also a candidate for a new homeless shelter to replace a facility on Long Island that was abruptly shuttered last month after the harbor bridge was condemned.

Yeah.  A bunch of homeless people and recovering drug addicts vs. Bob Kraft and the Boston 2024 Olympics crowd.  Who do you think is going to win that one?

I really don’t know whether having major shelter and rehab facilities on a remote, difficult-to-access island in Boston Harbor is a good idea; I will leave it to others with far more knowledge and experience in such matters to sort that out.  What I am pretty sure of is that having such facilities available somewhere is better than having them available nowhere.

If it’s really true, as many have said, that we should judge societies on how they treat their most vulnerable members, then the resolution of this crisis is a moral test of Mayor Walsh’s new administration, as well as Boston as a whole.  Let’s try to get it right.

Joke Revue: Republicans Demand Return of Passive Obama


Republicans Demand Return of Passive Obama

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Borowitz Report)—Congressional Republicans on Friday expressed outrage at the new leadership style that President Obama has demonstrated in the aftermath of the midterm elections, and demanded a return of the “passive and unassertive Obama to which we have grown accustomed.”

In a joint statement, House Speaker John Boehner and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accused Obama of “engaging in a flagrant display of leadership that we find deeply offensive.”

“For the past six years, we have enjoyed a President who has been conciliatory and acquiescent to the point of emasculation,” Boehner said. “We want that President back.”

McConnell threatened that if Obama does not return to his weak and ineffectual ways at once, “he will face the prospect of being a two-term President.” …

Nation of Three Hundred Million Understands President Can Only Come From Two Families

[I]n interviews conducted across the country, Americans acknowledged that, while the United States boasts many exceptional people in the fields of technology, business, public policy, and government, none will be offered to voters as candidates because they do not come from one of the two families deemed eligible. …

The fact that the current President, Barack Obama, belonged to neither of the families “always felt kind of weird to me,” said Halynn Cross, of Knoxville. “He tried really hard and all, but, after eight years, it’ll be nice to get back to someone from the two families.”

In one of the strongest endorsements of America’s two-family system, Rick Keelins of Albany said that he is “sick and tired” of people complaining about it. “At least we have two families to choose from,” he said. “A lot of countries, like North Korea, just have one.”

Country on Wrong Track, Say People Who Did Not Vote

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The United States of America is on the wrong track and no one is taking action to fix it, says a broad majority of registered voters who did not vote last Tuesday.

According to a new survey, anger, frustration, and a pervasive view that the nation is moving in a fatal direction dominated the mood of those who were doing something other than voting on Election Day.

Exit polls involving election non-participants took place as they left malls, nail salons, gyms, and other locations where no voting occurred on Tuesday.

“The system is broken,” said Carol Foyler, thirty-one, a democracy abstainer from Akron, Ohio. “We need to come up with some way that ordinary citizens can make their voices heard and have some impact on who is running things in Washington.” …

Daniel Kurtzman:

“The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet 317 million miles from Earth. When you get discouraged by how much attention people pay to Kim Kardashian’s buttocks, remember that there are also people out there that know how to land a spacecraft on a moving comet 317 million miles away. They’re out there.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama is in China. Also in China is evil Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. They’re both in China at the same time. It’s like running into your ex-girlfriend on vacation.” –David Letterman

“This weekend George W. Bush said it’s a toss-up whether his brother Jeb will run for president in 2016. Bush said there’s a 40-40 chance.” –Seth Meyers

“New York City has 2 million rats. We used to have 8 million rats. Now we’re down to 2 million. You know what that means? We lose four electoral votes.” –David Letterman

Comment of the week

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by Bob_Neer

From esteemed BMGer JohnTMay:

Let me tell you about Elizabeth Warren(5+ / 0-) View voters
My wife and I had been though a lot. I lost faith in myself. I was trying to get back on my feet and it was tough. I saw myself as a failure. My sister kept telling me about this “Elizabeth Warren” and one day I searched the Internet and found this video. It’s an hour long, but worth your time.

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class with Elizabeth Warren

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A (wish I knew how to format this better) [Embedded - Ed. (to embed click on Share then Embed, and paste the text into your post or comment)]

I watched it three times in a row. It explained what had happened to me, to us, to my family. It gave me hope and more so, it gave me something to fight for. I emailed Elizabeth Warren explaining my family situation and thanked her for her work and the video I had watched . A week or so later, I received an email from her assistant explaining that Elizabeth reads all her emails but cannot reply them all, but rest assured she has read mine and appreciated our story, my unemployment, my wife’s illness, and our near bankruptcy. She was glad that we were getting back on our feet.

About a mouth later, I received another email from her office but it was not from her assistant, it was from Elizabeth herself, thanking me once again for my story and how much she is working to improve things for all of us.

Fast forward a few years and my wife and I are in line at Framingham State College for the first meeting of volunteers for Elizabeth Warren’s senate bid. Elizabeth is personally greeting each one of us. I wonder if I should mention the emails from a few years ago and decide this may be my only chance to show my gratitude.

As I shaker her hand, I quickly blurt out “I wrote you an email a few years ago about my unemployment and how much we were struggling…” and before I could go any further, Elizabeth said, “Yes, I remember that, is your wife okay? Is she here?”

My wife was there and Elizabeth gave her a hug. Of course there were a few tears.

I’ve told this story countless times when I was canvassing for Elizabeth and when anyone dares to challenge her character or question her motives.

I hope she runs for president.

johntmay @ Sat 15 Nov 7:43 PM :: Edit

Waking Up In Vegas: A True Story

Citizen activism! - promoted by Bob_Neer

Dear fellow BMG’ers, as someone who has been fighting the casino battle locally and statewide for seven and a half years, I’d like to thank so many of you for your support and activism on this issue. I had created a short (36 minutes total) web documentary based on my experiences, but unfortunately wasn’t able to finish it until a few days after election day. Still, I thought some of you might be interested in viewing it, as it follows the political process toward legislation and repeal.

I’m not a film maker, but I really think the story deserves telling. I also hope to publish a book about it next year. Because fighting casinos is so overwhelmingly depressing, I tried to inject as much humor into the project as possible. I hope you’ll watch. Don’t miss the credits. (Sorry, couldn’t embed the videos)

Waking Up In Vegas – Part One (approx. 18 minutes) focuses on how it all began in 2007, and some of the impacts and casino business practices I learned about along the way – things that turned me from a NIMBY into a statewide grassroots activist.

Waking Up In Vegas – Part Two (approx. 18 minutes) follows the dark comedy of the legalization process and it’s aftermath.

Elizabeth Warren is still the best Senator

Were you worried that, having been given a position in the Senate leadership, Elizabeth Warren would be coopted by the party establishment?  That she’d stop directing her criticism wherever it needed to go, regardless of party affiliation?

Early indications are that your fears might have been misplaced.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren plans to oppose President Obama’s pick for a top Treasury post, a move that signals a disconnection with party establishment even as she takes a role within Democratic leadership.

A Warren aide said Friday the senator will not support Antonio Weiss, a Harvard-educated Wall Street investment banker the president nominated earlier this week for Treasury undersecretary of domestic finance….

Her opposition puts her at odds with the White House, which defended Weiss and other nominees as “hard-working individuals [who] will help us tackle the important challenge facing America.” …

“We really do have this knee-jerk reaction where, when we have to have Treasury officials, where do we go but Wall Street,” [Mark Calabria , director of financial regulation at the Cato Institute] said. “These are very legitimate concerns she is raising.” …

Weiss, who earned a master of business administration at Harvard University, has been a prominent donor for the president and Democrats such as Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Weiss worked with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, on a 2012 report that examined ways to reform the tax system and bolster the middle class.

American Progress president Neera Tanden, in a statement after his nomination, said Weiss brought “expertise in financial markets” and a “deep commitment to the goals of this administration, including smart policies that spur economic growth and support the middle class.”

It’s really just fantastic.  Solid Dems like Obama and Schumer, and respectable “liberal” operations like the Center for American Progress, love the guy; the Cato Institute hates him; and there’s Warren, no doubt royally pissing off Schumer (who just welcomed her into Senate leadership), Obama, and the rest of the establishment Dems who have gotten far too cozy with Wall Street over the last several years.

I’ve been extremely skeptical of the talk of a Warren presidential run, and I believe her when she says no.  But I will say this: at the moment, I can think of no other person with any substantial national profile who can both rally Dems and at least get a hearing with independent-thinking libertarian/conservative types like Cato.  And that is a very big deal.

Sentencing in on Probation Department

Kudos to Carmen Ortiz for prosecuting these criminals. Lets hope it is not the last prosecution for corrupt patronage schemes. Should DeLeo have been indicted, rather than named as an unindicted co-conspirator, or left out of the case, do you think? - promoted by Bob_Neer

We’ll it ain’t 20 years, like the rumblings we had to read repeatedly here for a very long time, heck it’s isn’t even 20 months.

Convicted felon Jack O’Brien was given an 18 month prison sentence today along with a 1 year supervised release.

Former Massachusetts Probation Department chief John O’Brien was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for creating a hiring scheme in which he gave jobs to politically powerful employees in exchange for favors. He also was fined $25,000 and was sentenced to one year of supervised release.

Elizabeth Tavares received a 3 month sentence and William Burke got probation.

Tavares was sentenced to 3 months in prison, and Burke was given probation on Thursday. Each was also fined $10,000.

A far cry from the hyperventilating we had to endure. Were they guilty, YES. Did they betray the public trust, YES. The sentences today will hopefully make a statement that rampant fraud will no longer be tolerated in the commonwealth, because let’s be truthful here, it was tolerated. Many people felt squeamish on long term sentences and add me to that list, the punishment needed to fit the crime.

There was no doubt that this was criminal and we needed to clean up our act, this is not business as usual. I applaud the work done by the prosecutor and the judge.

Your new Senate Democratic leadership team


Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Democratic Leader

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Assistant Democratic Leader

Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Conference Vice Chair and DPCC Chair

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Democratic Conference Secretary

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), DPCC Vice Chair

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee Chair

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Strategic Policy Advisor to the DPCC

“I’m grateful to Leader Reid and Senator Schumer for offering me a seat at the table in leadership,” said Senator Warren. “While the stock market rises and CEOs rake in millions more each year, working families keep getting left behind as they struggle to pay the bills and build economic security. We need to make government work for all of our families, and I’m glad to join my colleagues in that fight.”

This is good news any way you slice it.  As a member of the leadership team, Senator Warren will have inside-the-building clout to go along with the outside-the-building clout she’s been developing ever since she announced she was running for Senate.  The Globe elaborates:

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Thursday was given a new role in Senate Democratic leadership, elevating her profile inside the Senate with a newly-created position as liaison to liberal groups.

The new position — strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee — cements her role as the most prominent conduit to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It’s not exactly a new role for the Massachusetts Democrat, but it means that she will now do officially what she has done unofficially over the past two years….

“Being part of leadership means I’ve got a seat at the table,” Warren said in a brief interview. It “creates an opportunity to talk, to persuade and sometimes to lead.”

Warren’s selection is an indication that Senate Democrats want to give more weight to the liberal portions of the party — rather than elevating moderates — just after they experienced a drubbing in the midterm elections.

For Warren — someone who has always cast herself as an outsider willing to shake up the political establishment — it means she will take on an insider position just two years after being elected.

Warren will now attend weekly Tuesday morning leadership meetings with a handful of other senators, where they will make strategy decisions and discuss policy proposals.

“She’ll be involved in many more leadership discussions and meetings, so it is a significant role,” said one top Democratic Senate aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “She of course reaches out to the groups and connects with them, but now she’ll be plugged directly in with the leadership.”

Brava, Senator.  Here’s to continued success in defining what the conversation should actually be about.

Time for New Blood in the U.S. Senate Leadership ...

Reports are that this very thing is indeed under discussion. - promoted by david

… and that means our own Elizabeth Warren should be given new authority to steer the party.  Clearly, current leadership has failed mightily:  a) in pushing a Democratic agenda in the Congress; b) recruiting top-notch candidates; and c) developing effective messaging for those candidates.  Elizabeth can certainly help in both areas. If fact, she is about the only member of the U.S. Senate with the right message and the stature to make it heard. People listen to her.

We took a beating at the polls earlier this month, often with lame candidates who ran on a Republican-Lite platform. And crazy as it sounds in a number of very Red States went for hikes in the minimum wage at the same time they elected candidates who are dead-set against it! As Harry Truman said a long time ago:

“If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.”

Can we re-learn this lesson in time for 2016? I don’t know, but I do know it won’t happen without Liz in a leadership role.