Call your state senator

The strength of a society lies not in its military or in the wealth that accumulates at the very top of the economic food chain. It is in the kindness a society shows toward its most vulnerable citizens and the refugees who arrive at its borders.

To their shame, the Safe Communities Act went nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House. But there are now 15 Senate co-sponsors for Senator Jamie Eldridge’s amendment #1147 which places key protections for immigrant families in the FY2019 budget — Senators Barrett, Boncore, Brownsberger, Chang-Diaz, Creem, Crighton, Cyr, DiDomenico, Eldridge, Friedman, Hinds, Lewis, L’Italien, Jehlen and Welsh.

But we need at least 5 more co-sponsors. We are asking you to flood Senators with emails this weekend, and make a lot more calls on Monday and Tuesday. We particularly need to target Senators outside the Boston area, keeping up the pressure on Senate Ways & Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka.

If your Senator has already co-sponsored, please call/email to thank them and let them know they have your full support. Monday and Tuesday next week are particularly important, so please mobilize your networks to make as many calls as possible:

First, find your Massachusetts state Senator.

Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city or town]. I am calling to urge Senator [name] to take a stand for immigrant families by co-sponsoring Senator Eldridge’s amendment #1147. I urge the Senator to advocate with Senate leadership, and vote for the amendment when it comes to the floor. I also support amendment #176 to boost funding for ESL programs, and amendment #658 to boost funding for the CNAP program. In addition, the Senator should OPPOSE Sen. Fattman’s amendment #1136, which would end protections gained under the Lunn decision. Massachusetts should be taking the lead in protecting immigrant families. Anything less in the Trump era is unacceptable. Thank you for taking my call!

Then call the Senate Leadership:

You can reach Senate President Harriette Chandler at 617-722-1500 and Senate Ways & Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka at 617-722-1640. The message for them:

Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city or town]. I am calling to urge President Chandler / Chairwoman Spilka to take a stand for immigrant families by supporting Senator Eldridge’s amendment #1147 and OPPOSING Sen. Fattman’s amendment #1136, which would end the protections we won under the Lunn decision. I also urge support for amendment #176 to boost funding for ESL programs, and amendment #658 to boost funding for the CNAP program. Massachusetts should be taking the lead in protecting immigrant families. Anything less in the Trump era is unacceptable. Thank you for taking my call!

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Protect immigrant families!

As promised, I’m sending you the Action Alert I promised last week.

With hope fading for protections for our immigrant neighbors, sitting around doing nothing is not an option. There are several key pieces of Safe Communities legislation that can still make it into the 2019 state budget as amendments. These provisions have broad public support and give critical protections to all immigrants, regardless of status.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, sponsor of the Safe Communities Act, has filed an amendment advancing four key protections from the bill. His amendment has a good chance of succeeding but we need to get as many Senators as possible to endorse it — and be ready to fight for it.

The “ask” from Senators is simple — take a stand for immigrant families in the Commonwealth by co-sponsoring Senator Eldridge’s Amendment-1147. We also want Senators to oppose Senator Fattman’s Amendment-1136, which would allow police to detain people for federal immigration authorities.

We are also asking for support for Senator Eldridge’s Amendment-176, to boost funding for adult basic education and English classes from $31 million to $34.5 million, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr’s Amendment-658, to boost funding for the Citizenship for New Americans (CNAP) program from $400,000 to $500,000. Not only should we encourage eligible immigrants to become U.S. citizens — we should provide adequate program funding.

Call your Senator:

First, find your Massachusetts state Senator.

Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city or town]. I am calling to urge Senator [name] to take a stand for immigrant families by co-sponsoring Senator Eldridge’s amendment #1147. I urge the Senator to advocate with Senate leadership, and vote for the amendment when it comes to the floor. I also support amendment #176 to boost funding for ESL programs, and amendment #658 to boost funding for the CNAP program. In addition, the Senator should OPPOSE Sen. Fattman’s amendment #1136, which would end protections gained under the Lunn decision. Massachusetts should be taking the lead in protecting immigrant families. Anything less in the Trump era is unacceptable. Thank you for taking my call!

Call the Senate Leadership:

You can reach Senate President Harriette Chandler at 617-722-1500 and Senate Ways & Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka at 617-722-1640. The message for them:

Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city or town]. I am calling to urge President Chandler / Chairwoman Spilka to take a stand for immigrant families by supporting Senator Eldridge’s amendment #1147 and OPPOSING Sen. Fattman’s amendment #1136, which would end the protections we won under the Lunn decision. I also urge support for amendment #176 to boost funding for ESL programs, and amendment #658 to boost funding for the CNAP program. Massachusetts should be taking the lead in protecting immigrant families. Anything less in the Trump era is unacceptable. Thank you for taking my call!

Want to make things really easy? Use MIRA’s Phone2Action tool, which automatically connects you — no need to look up names or phone numbers! Keep your call short and sweet. Call volume matters: we want to demonstrate overwhelming support for Senator Eldridge’s amendment. If you get a voicemail, make sure to leave your name, address and phone number!

What else can I do?

Call your Senator and Senate leaders today! Then forward this message to everyone you know. And for the greatest impact, sign up to phone bank with the ACLU on May 17, 22 and/or 23!

Affirming multiculturalism and human decency

Donald Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” has little to do with greatness — and his supporters damn well know it. In word and deed the GOP has become the party of white racism and xenophobia. You’d think Democrats would want to do a better job of standing up for multiculturalism and human decency.

That’s what you’d think.

So it’s difficult to understand why, nationally, so little has been done to help DACA recipients as they twist in the wind. Or why Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo has done everything he can to shelve the Safe Communities Act (SCA) — not to mention most progressive pieces of legislation. Even a compromise SCA bill, which gave assurances to law enforcement, has gone nowhere.

With hope fading for protections for our immigrant neighbors, sitting around doing nothing is not an option. There are several key pieces of Safe Communities legislation that can still make it into the state budget as amendments. These provisions have broad public support and give critical protections to all immigrants, regardless of status.

Stay tuned. Next week the Massachusetts Safe Communities Coalition will be calling upon everyone to take to the phone banks and call up state legislators to approve these amendments. I will be forwarding details.

Say yes to multiculturalism. Say yes to human decency.

This could have been predicted

This is a story that could have been predicted in 2010.

On April 4th, Diante Yarber was gunned down in a hail of bullets in a Wal*Mart parking lot by four Barstow policemen. Yarber was killed and two others who were sitting in the car were seriously injured. The Washington Post added Diante to its growing list of police victims for 2018, noting that we are already ahead of last year’s figures by 26 fatalities.

Police claimed Yarber had stolen the car he was driving; it turned out to be his cousin’s. Police claimed he rammed two of their cruisers; but Yarber’s car was not found to have been in a collision, though it was destroyed by a fusillade of bullets. Police offered no reason for trying to kill four black passengers for a supposed property crime. But then nothing about the police account of the story makes much sense.

I’m asking you to sign a petition to demand District Attorney Michael Ramos charge the four Barstow police officers with murder.

As an elected official with the sworn duty to pursue justice, DA Ramos must indict Jose Barrientos, Vincent Carrillo, Matthew Allen Helms — and Jimmie Alfred Walker, who screamed racial slurs and threatened Diante’s life just before murdering him.

Walker has a history of racially motivated violence. In 2010 sheriffs were called to the scene for a disturbance in Hesperia, San Bernardino County, and after their arrival Walker used racial slurs in their presence. After an initial plea deal, Walker was charged with assault and a hate crime, and then fired.

And that should have been the end of Walker’s license to kill. But following arbitration the racist officer was rehired and paid nearly $200,000 in back pay — only to escalate his hate into murder eight years later.

Enough! There must be a reckoning for Diante Yarber’s death.

MA FY2019 budget not all about money

Progressive Massachusetts is asking voters to call or email state representatives to preserve the best — and reject the worst — of a lengthy list of proposed amendments to the FY2019 House Budget. And it’s not all about money.

Most of the amendments are quite positive — funding for recently-passed criminal justice reforms, education, environment, and for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Many amendments reflect policy changes needed in education, immigration, policing, transportation, the environment, and public assistance. You can find a full list of the amendments here.

But Republicans — and one Dartmouth state representative — have sneaked in policy amendments which either gut or damage civil rights and civil liberties protections:

  • Amendments 113 (Lombardo), 227 (Diehl), and 347 (Lyons), which would would create even broader authority for police to detain immigrants or punish the 31 cities and towns that have adopted measures to limit police participation in immigration enforcement.
  • Amendment 508 (Jones), which would attempt to pass Governor Baker’s unconstitutional proposal to overturn the Lunn decision via the budget.
  • Amendments 515 (Jones) and 1174 (Markey), which would expand state wiretap powers to “listen in” on a wider range of personal communication.
  • Amendment 979 (Howitt), which would curtail the right to free expression, namely the use of economic boycotts against foreign governments (recall the boycott movement against apartheid South Africa). This legislation was originally co-sponsored by several local state representatives who should be asked to repudiate previous support.

The House votes on the amendments next week — so it’s critical you call or email your representatives ASAP:

https://www.progressivemass.com/fy2019_house_budget

Article I, Section 8

If Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on civilians, add it to a long list of atrocities and injustices perpetrated daily on this planet. To this same list we should also add Israel’s Passover massacre of civilians in Gaza, the genocide of the Rohingya, and dictatorships at work in Turkey, Venezuela, Egypt and dozens of other countries. To crimes against humanity we should also add our own “surgical strikes” by drones and missiles which have killed thousands of Syrians in our never-ending “War on Terror.”

But America is focused on Assad — not because we really care about Syrians or any of the other victims of brutality around the world — but because “regime change” is part and parcel of bending the Middle East toward American interests. It’s the height of hubris — playing god by remaking the world in our own image.

I have rarely known a year when the United States was not throwing its weight around, invading another country, murdering its citizens — sometimes by the hundreds of thousands or millions in the case of Viet Nam. If Americans really want to stamp out malign evil I suggest we start by looking in the mirror.

Start with the Boltons who advocate for war, the Hampels who torture in secret prisons and conceal the evidence from even Congress, the Trumps who use American military power for political dog-wagging, the Mattises who manage slaughter like a CEO rolling out a new product, and the many sociopaths in Congress who funnel national wealth away from the care of citizens into a vast war machine. We delude ourselves if we think the United States is the greatest force for good in the world. Quite the opposite. We are the most homicidal nation on the planet.

Which is why no one in their right mind would give one man — especially a volatile racist with dementia — sole power to wage war. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is quite clear that it is the responsibility of Congress to do the dirty work of waging wars:

  • To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
  • To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

Our unhinged president is sufficient example of why Congress must take back this grave responsibility from the Executive Office and must wield it responsibly and only with great reluctance.

A reply from Setti Warren

Yesterday I wrote a piece expressing my disappointment with Setti Warren’s announcement that he would veto the long-awaited criminal justice omnibus bill if he were governor. I provided background information from a number of sources which attempted to contextualize Warren’s positions and evolution on others. I received an email from Warren today asking me to clarify a factual error and explaining his positions in greater detail. Thankfully, the candidate is more progressive than I characterized him, and for that I owe him a prompt apology.

However, I do think Mayor Warren owes — not just voters — but those most at risk from the criminal “justice” system a better explanation than “not abandoning principles” for throwing out a bill with so much good in it. I am firmly in favor of taking firm positions on firm principles — but not when it hurts someone. Would a reasonable person vote for Trump’s Mexican wall to save the “Dreamers?” Or hold the line opposing the wall?

Yes, the omnibus bill throws in new mandatory minimums for fentanyl as a sop to the DA’s who previously opposed reforms. It also gets rid of many others. But I would have liked to hear from Mr. Warren — and thereby get a better sense of his judgment — how precisely these limited minimums would have caused more harm than all the good built into the bill. I don’t think he’s done that yet.

Here is Setti Warren’s reply to my post in its entirety:

Hi David,

I hope all is well. I just read your email entitled “Setti Warren’s bad call.” I respect your thoughtful and well cited reaction to my announcement that I would veto the Criminal Justice Reform bill if I was governor. I feel that I must respond, however, in order to explain the principles which guide my decision.

I have seen the horrible damage that mandatory minimums have done to communities of color. My father Joe fought in the early days of the civil rights movement, sitting at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina to try and desegregate the city. When he came up north for graduate school, he devoted his life to working with young people in the black community in Boston. These are communities that have been devastated by mass incarceration, and the work my dad did paled in comparison to the damage that was done by our criminal justice laws.

As Mayor of Newton, I worked with twenty-four city councilors. We had to come to positive, productive compromises every single day to take on the challenges facing our city. In my eight years leading the city, we turned around the budget, invested in better roads and new schools, and implemented innovative programs like Solar Share, which invested in solar and reduced Newton’s municipal carbon footprint by 50% while passing along the savings to nine hundred of our lowest income residents. When it comes to governance, I know what good compromise looks like.

I also learned, however, to never abandon my principles. This criminal justice reform bill is a matter of principles. Because of systemic racism, mandatory minimum laws are used like cudgels in some communities while they sit unused in others. I can never support them—and I will never support a bill that includes them. This is how I will govern.

That being said, I support nearly every other reform being offered in this bill. Mandatory minimums were a compromise put in the bill so that Charlie Baker will sign it. As governor, I hope that the legislature will present me with progressive criminal justice reform untainted by new mandatory minimums. That is a bill that I will happily sign.

I hope that you will share my response with your readers. I also hope that you will take a moment to watch this video further detailing my decision.

Best,

Setti

P.S. I wish to correct a factual error at the end of your letter regarding my endorsement of Our Revolution’s “People’s Platform.” In my letter to ORMA seeking their endorsement, I specifically addressed each of these issues. It appears the link you included in your email does not have this language. I hope this information helps you characterize my views correctly moving forward.

Of the eight specific federal legislative proposals listed, I support without reservation the first five (Single Payer Healthcare, Free Public College, $15 Minimum Wage and a Union, Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance and Automatic Voter Registration) and will work to implement each of these in Massachusetts as governor.

The Justice is Not For Sale Act includes a range of federal issues which I have not had the time to fully research to be able to endorse the federal elements. I would, however unequivocally oppose the privatization of prisons and would veto any effort to introduce private state prisons by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I also support parole as an appropriate criminal justice tool.

The Inclusive Prosperity Act is a federal proposal which does not have a Massachusetts impact. I do not have enough information to offer support for the federal proposal.

The Keep It In The Ground Act deals with federal offshore drilling, which would not be within the purview of the Governor of Massachusetts. What is related and would be decidedly in my wheelhouse as governor is the unnecessary expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure within Massachusetts. I strongly oppose this.