When they came for me

Now that the Massachusetts Legislature has sold out immigrants, it seemed like a good time to affirm our responsibilities for one another and to our own liberties. Several friends have mentioned this poem in recent weeks (I wonder why?). There have been many versions of this but the martin-niemoeller-stiftung.de identifies this as the first:

Als sie mich holten

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Kommunist.
When the Nazis came for the Communists,
I was silent,
I was not a Communist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
When they locked up the Socialists,
I was silent,
I was not a Socialist.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
When they came for the unionists,
I was silent,
I was not a trade unionist.
Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr,
der protestieren konnte.
When they came for me
there was no one left
who could protest.

— Martin Niemoller

Democrats did this

Today Marion Davis of MIRA issued a press release announcing that the Democratic-majority legislature had abdicated moral leadership by stripping four immigrant protection provisions from the 2019 budget. It echoed U.S. Congressional Democrats doing much the same thing last January. Sacrificing immigrants for budgets is becoming a Democratic habit.

In MIRA’s press release, Eva A. Millona, executive director of the MIRA Coalition, was quoted:

“We are deeply disappointed. The Massachusetts Legislature had a prime opportunity to stand up for civil rights and human decency, and under political pressure from Governor Baker and conservative Democrats, it backed down. The safety and well-being of tens of thousands of immigrant families will suffer as a result.”

Democrats did this.

“It is particularly disturbing that the Legislature succumbed to fear-mongering about ‘sanctuary’ policies. Though nothing in the four provisions approved by the Senate actually met the definition of ‘sanctuary’ used by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, prominent House members embraced nativist propaganda misrepresenting those provisions, using the falsehoods as political cover for their inaction.”

Democrats did this.

“We find it shocking that, with this agreement, the Legislature has tacitly accepted the notion that police should be able to ask people who ‘look foreign’ to show their papers before they can report a crime, and that immigrants should be kept in the dark about their legal rights, so it’s easier to deport them. The Legislature couldn’t even agree that Massachusetts should never contribute to a Muslim registry. That is stunning and embarrassing.”

Democrats did this.

“Our country faces an existential crisis, and in the face of horrific abuses by the federal government, it is morally imperative for states to act to protect their most vulnerable residents. By failing to pass the Safe Communities Act, and now failing to pass even basic legal protections, the Legislature has abdicated its moral leadership, and failed a large share of its constituents.”

Instead, the Massachusetts House chose expediency and making a Republican governor happy.

Democrats had better fix this.

Defiance

At the national level Democrats may be forgiven for doing little for DACA and TPS recipients or for immigration reform in general. But, in a majority Democratic state like Massachusetts, there is no excuse for the legislature dragging its heels on reasonable immigrant protections called for by the party’s own platform. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has repeatedly manipulated and maneuvered to shelve bills and limit votes on immigration, and now he’s trying to strip immigrant protection provisions from the FY2019 budget.

Of course we can’t blame it all on DeLeo — who now has exhausted every last cent of his political capital with progressives. House Democrats can’t — and shouldn’t — hide behind the Speaker forever. Ultimately they will be held to personal account. Too many members of the State House sound like Republicans in their willingness to “go along to get along” with cruel attacks on undocumented families. It’s simply hypocrisy for Massachusetts Democrats to chastise Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell for their lack of spine when they themselves are guilty of the same.

Last year I attended the Massachusetts Democratic convention in Worcester, at which a new party platform was drafted. Among the hollow declarations of resistance and highfalutin but ultimately meaningless verbiage added to the platform were planks calling for a living wage and sensible immigration polices.

It was left to groups like RaiseUp to fight to get living wages on the November ballot because Democrats themselves didn’t find it important enough. And even though the state party’s platform calls for immigrant protections, these proved to be hollow promises as well:

  • “Becoming a sanctuary state, where all immigrants and refugees feel welcome and safe in all communities of the Commonwealth.”
  • “Eliminating policies that make local and state officials responsible for the enforcement of national immigration laws.”

For many of us the MassDems platform has no value other than to document the hollowness of a party whose real-life politicians have no intention of standing by the party’s professed values.

Representatives, start acting like Democrats. Ultimately voters are going to look at your positions and voting record, not Speaker DeLeo’s. Do the right thing. Stand up for the principles we voted for last year. Stand up for some of the state’s most vulnerable people. Show some backbone. Defy the Speaker. Keep immigration protections in the budget.