Safe Communities Call-in Day MONDAY

Please forward this message to people and organizations who care about our immigrant friends and neighbors.

House budget debates begin on MONDAY, April 23, and our allies in the House will be lobbying to include basic protections for immigrants in the House budget. Urge your Representative to bar police from inquiring about immigration status, ensure basic due process for immigrants, and end collaboration between our sheriffs and ICE.

We also want to be sure you saw the Globe’s excellent coverage of yesterday’s Children’s March at the State House attended by the children of Massachusetts immigrants. (“Refusing to be silent, the children of immigrants speak out“.) The children wrote and delivered letters to the Speaker and the Governor asking for state action this year to protect the Commonwealth’s immigrant families from the federal government’s aggressive policies on immigration. Hats off to ECCO and JALSA, who organized it!

Let’s amplify their voices with ours! Here are three actions you can take:

  1. ACLU is hosting phone-banking on-site in its Boston office at 211 Congress Street, 4th floor, on Monday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. RSVP today to Olivia at Osantoro@aclum.org.
  2. Please call Speaker DeLeo’s office (617-722-2500) and your House Representative on Monday between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. (the House is open late during budget negotiations) or Tuesday morning. See a suggested script below.
  3. Forward this email to your networks across Massachusetts, and follow up this weekend with phone calls to key contacts who have other networks.

Sample script for calls:

  • Hello, my name is ____________ and I live in [city or town]. I am calling to urge [the Speaker][Representative ____________] to REJECT any anti-immigrant budget amendments to the budget, AND to work to pass concrete protections for immigrant families. In particular, we need to make sure police don’t ask people about their immigration status; make sure immigrants in custody know their legal rights; and end collaboration agreements between our sheriffs and ICE.
  • [Optional] Children of immigrants were at the State House last Thursday asking for action to protect their parents from deportation. You may have seen excerpts from their letters in Friday’s Globe. No child should have to be in this position. Please urge the Speaker/the Representative to take action today. Thank you!
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Sleeping with a suitcase under the bed

What would you do if immigration agents came for you and separated you from your children? Breaking apart families was never a central mission of previous Republican and Democratic administrations, but with Trump many parents are now faced with having to plan for unimaginable cruelties of a racist deportation machine. It may not be 1935 but, if you are someone sleeping with a packed suitcase under the bed, it sure feels like it.

On Thursday Helena daSilva Hughes of the Immigrants Assistance Center and Corinn Williams of the Community Economic Development Center, both in New Bedford, hosted a workshop given by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s (MLRI) Emily Leung. Roughly 40 attendees represented a spectrum of local social service, academic, health care, and legal organizations and they had come to learn about legal tools immigrants can use to protect the welfare of their children if they face deportation.

Leung discussed the Trump administration’s “shift in enforcement,” which was a diplomatic way of describing ICE’s shift from deporting dangerous individuals to going after the easiest people to round up. The MLRI attorney discussed adaptations to, and the function of, the Caregiver Authorization Affidavit and Temporary Agent Appointment documents, both already in use within the Commonwealth. Neither of these legal documents grants guardianship of a child to another adult — a last resort if a child is young and the deportation is irreversible — but they permit a caregiver to make important decisions for a parent who can no longer advocate for her own children.

It was a lively meeting with many questions asked and answered. Leung dispensed practical advice on storing and collecting identity and travel documents — and ending by stressing the importance of committting important phone numbers to memory. By the time you need to make that phone call you’re already in ICE custody — and they’ve got your phone.

For more information go to the MLRI website or to Mass Legal Help. You can find workshop resources in English and Spanish — and more translations would be welcomed.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has published a similar Emergency Planning Guide for Families in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

* * *

The Immigrants Assistance Center (IAC) and the Community Economic Development Center (CEDC) both perform important work of helping immigrant families — whatever their status.

Check out the Benefit Concert for the IAC at the Greasy Luck Brewpub, 791 Purchase St., New Bedford, MA 02740, on Saturday, February 24th, from 5-8pm. Buy your tickets here.

And please support the work of the CEDC by making a generous donation.

Courage needed

Few people who listened to Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech could fail to miss his remarks on minorities and immigrants. This is a demagogue playing to a far-right base by expanding a deportation machine. This is an unrepentant racist who now makes it clear he doesn’t want even legal immigration if it involves brown people.

In New Hampshire since last summer American citizens on I-93 have been stopped at roadblocks in Thornton, forced to show their ids, and had their cars searched in violation of what’s left of the Fourth Amendment. In Fort Lauderdale last week, agents stopped and boarded a Greyhound bus and again demanded to see everyone’s id. A video of the spectacle provoked widespread condemnation.

This is not a sign of a healthy democracy, nor is it an America most of us want to live in. It’s a little too reminiscent of the pogroms of Germany of 1935. And this is why we need the Safe Communities Act, now before the Massachusetts legislature.

State legislators want to protect the public, and they also want to provide law enforcement officials with the tools to do it. Anti-immigrant organizations like FAIR, and spokesmen for FAIR like Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson, would have us believe Trump’s claim that an overwhelming number of immigrants from Latin America are rapists and cartel members. Those who know the immigrant community know that this is complete hogwash. But some legislators fear making the wrong call.

Hodgson and his former segregationist friend Jeff Sessions claim the Safe Communities Act is a “sanctuary” bill that prevents immigration agents from doing their job. Sessions, like Hodgson, even wants to arrest mayors of cities who won’t deputize their police as ICE agents.

But nobody’s stopping ICE from doing its work. The Safe Communities Act now moving through committee simply says that Massachusetts taxpayers aren’t picking up the tab for federal policing, and we’re not going to go out of our way to deputize our police and prison officials as ICE agents. The bill also says “no” to registries of Muslims, Latinos — or anyone else on the wrong side of the president.

Fear merchants like Tom Hodgson are hoping you won’t read the legislation and will believe whatever they tell you about it. But the Safe Communities Act is 154 lines double spaced, and it’s not difficult to read or understand.

An important calculation the legislature must make when voting on “Safe Communities” is whether the risks to democracy of expanding the president’s deportation machine outweigh any benefits of getting rid of what the president calls “bad hombres.” Most of the deportees we’ve been hearing about recently are guilty of 20 year-old DUI’s and other low level offenses. Expanding a police state to go after them will have only negative consequences.

Let’s leave the determination of dangerousness to local cops and DA’s — and not willingly join the president’s pogrom against brown people. Encourage your legislator to pass the Safe Communities Act. The quality of our democracy literally depends on more states passing courageous legislation like this.

Resistance to 287(g)

Three neighboring counties in the bottom right quadrant of the Commonwealth have Republican sheriffs in otherwise Democratic districts. It could have something to do with demographics — or maybe just neglect and Boston-centric politics. But it is surely a sign that not all is well with a party that habitually runs weak sheriff candidates — or none at all.

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings recently joined fellow Republicans, Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson and Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald, in signing a 287(g) agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Under such agreements ICE permits prison officials to volunteer as federal immigration agents. The Trump administration, which strongly promotes the program, sees 287(g) as a tool in its larger mass-deportation strategy. And the Republican sheriffs know it. “The president said our role is probably the most critical because we know the players in our communities and we know how to find them,” Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson said.

You wouldn’t know it from Hodgson’s many statements on right-wing talk radio, but 287(g) is not very popular — by any stretch of the imagination. At present ICE has agreements in only 18 states, and with only 60 law enforcement agencies. Massachusetts joins Arizona, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Ohio — and the entire South — as participants. Now generally limited to a “jails” model because of previous abuses in the older “task force” and “hybrid” models, 287(g) agreements have a long history of civil rights abuses. For instance, in 2011 Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s agreement with ICE was terminated for civil rights abuses.

These ICE agreements impose costs of running a federal law enforcement program on state government and redeploy state corrections employees as federal agents. Sheriffs who enter into the agreements do so out of personal politics — not as part of their job description. And many local police forces find 287(g) programs undermine community trust.

According to the American Immigration Council, ICE agreements with local sheriffs are not properly supervised by ICE. Both the Boston Globe and the New York Times have featured articles on the lack of local accountability for county sheriffs — sheriffs who often operate as spokesmen for the Trump administration and anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and CIS. Understandably, there is growing resistance to 287(g) programs and a desire to slap some limits on them. And a lot is happening recently.

On January 3rd the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates voted 9-5 to support a resolution opposing the 287(g) program in Barnstable County. Because of weighted voting, however, the resolution failed.

On January 8th at 7PM at the Falmouth Public Library county residents will have a chance to discuss 287(g) agreements and learn about the Safe Communities Act — state legislation which puts some limits on a sheriff’s discretionary powers regarding ICE.

And at the Bristol County prison on January 11th at 6PM county residents will have a similar opportunity to express concerns about the 287(g) program — see http://www.bcso-ma.us/ for details of the public hearing. And do your homework if you plan on attending.

Immigration Forum

If you didn’t see the article, hats off to Tanner Harding and Sippican Week for a very informative piece on problems facing the immigrant community in the SouthCoast.

On November 8th the League of Women Voters sponsored a talk at the Marion Town Music Hall on immigration that mercifully did not include a white supremacist sheriff. Moderated by the League’s Susan Grosart, two remarkable women — Helena DaSilva Hughes of the Immigrants Assistance Center and Corinn Williams of the Community Economic Development Center — talked about challenges facing their organizations which serve local immigrant communities. In addition, two people representing immigrant groups whose protections are now threatened — DACA and TPS — had a chance to share their stories. Priscilla Gamboa, a “Dreamer” currently protected under a DACA program (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) that Trump is threatening to scrap, and David Oliva, whose TPS program (“Temporary Protected Status”) will also likely be terminated, gave attendees a sense of what is is like to live in uncertainty and dread.

Those of you who know me may also know that I am an ESL volunteer at the CEDC. My handouts are partially responsible for depleting the CEDC’s paper and toner supply, so I appeal to you to donate. If you’d like to give to an extremely worthy organization and have a great meal too, buy a ticket to the CEDC’s fundraiser and community dinner celebrating their 20th year:

Friday, November 17th 5pm – 9pm

TICKETS: $15 Adults & $5 Children under 16
Portuguese American Club
57 Holly St. New Bedford, MA 02746

To purchase a ticket, call 508-979-4684 or stop by the office. You can also give the CEDC a donation, earmarking a portion for the dinner.

Download the flyer in English or in Spanish.

Mainstreaming white supremacy

On Thursday morning the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce had Bristol County sheriff Tom Hodgson and Helena DaSilva Hughes to breakfast at the Wamsutta Club to discuss immigration. During his presentation the sheriff cited questionable statistics from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), claiming that illegal immigration costs taxpayers $116 billion a year. The CATO Institute calls FAIR’s new study “fatally flawed” and “even more sloppy” than their previous one.

It would have more appropriate for Hodgson to speak about opioids, recidivism, or suicides. He actually knows something about the latter since his own jail accounts for a quarter of all county prison suicides. But there he was – again – acting as a spokesman for FAIR’s white supremacist immigration policies and conveniently avoiding trouble in his own backyard.

In 2015 Tom Hodgson appeared with Dennis Michael Lynch at an Islamophobic venue in Stoughton which had previously hosted Dutch neo-fascist Geert Wilders. Lynch is an Islamophobe, a white supremacist, a supporter of the Constitutional Sheriff Movement and of sovereign citizen Cliven Bundy, about whom he made a film.

That same year Hodgson appeared with a representative of the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) at the Fisherman’s Club in New Bedford. Despite the name, FAIR has little to do with reform. Instead, its goal is assuring White Anglo-Saxon dominance. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, FAIR has links to white supremacists and eugenicists. Its founder, John Tanton, wrote to one eugenicist: “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

In 2016 the Sheriff was one of three speakers at a “Patriots Unity Day” rally in Randolph. The second speaker was Jessica Vaughan, of the nativist organization Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Like FAIR, CIS was founded by John Tanton and publishes dubious statistics on immigration. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, CIS also maintains links to white supremacist and anti-semitic groups. CIS executive director Mark Krikorian quipped after the deadly 2010 Haitian earthquake: “My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.” The third speaker was Raymond Hanna with the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America, which also has white supremacist ties. In Arkansas ACT’s “March Against Shariah” events were organized by a Nazi and publicized on Stormfront.

In June this year the Sheriff appeared with Dan Stein and Michelle Malkin at an annual “Hold their feet to the fire” broadcast with anti-gay bigot Sandy Rios. Stein is executive director of FAIR, and characterizes America’s immigration laws as an effort “to retaliate against Anglo-Saxon dominance.” Stein describes Central American immigrants as engaged in “competitive breeding” and asks: “Should we be subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible, and not subsidizing those with high ones?” Malkin too has links to white supremacist groups, including VDARE, and to Islamophobic groups. Malkin opposes the 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship to slaves.

According to FAIR’s 2011 annual report, that was the year the organization began cultivating sheriffs like Hodgson. “In 2011, we identified sheriffs who expressed concerns about illegal immigration.” FAIR staff “met with these sheriffs and their deputies, supplied them with a steady stream of information, established regular conference calls so they could share information and experiences, and invited them to come to Washington to meet with FAIR’s senior staff.” Since roughly that time Hodgson’s main job has been as a FAIR spokesman.

It’s hard to believe that the avuncular fellow who sends Thanksgiving turkeys to deportees in the Azores could really have such horrific views. But when the sheriff keeps consorting with white supremacists, singing and quoting their lyrics in the original German – well – it’s hard to reach any other conclusion. Tom Hodgson is a white supremacist.

It was disappointing that the Chamber of Commerce gave this hater a mainstream platform, and worse, an opportunity to skip another day of work – taking care of the business Bristol County voters actually elected him to do.