A year ago, on June 30, 2018, I attended a Families Belong Together rally in New Bedford, one of hundreds of similar events taking place nationwide. Between 400-500 people attended, overflowing into the balcony at the Bethel AME Church on County Street, to hear New Bedford’s expressions of solidarity and concern for families separated at the border.
Despite his actual history of voting for anti-immigrant legislation, one or more of the organizers invited U.S. Congressman Bill Keating to speak at the event. Keating shed his tie, rolled up his sleeves, and gave an energetic speech — all clenched fists and faux outrage at the Trump administration’s caging of six year-olds.
The only problem with this performance was not the dramatic oratory; it was the rank hypocrisy. Keating has voted repeatedly for GOP anti-immigrant bills. H.R.3009 punished Sanctuary Cities. H.R.4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, restricted absorption of Syrian refugees. H.R.3004, “Kate’s Law,” took a hard line against desperate people who re-enter the United States. And Keating’s “On the Issues” statement on immigration reads like it was written by Tom Hodgson:
“Bill Keating opposes amnesty. As a District Attorney, Bill Keating enforces our laws and believes that everyone must obey them. His office has prosecuted thousands of criminal cases that resulted in defendants being detained for immigration and deportation action. Bill believes that we must secure our borders, and wants to punish and stop corporations that hire workers here illegally. Bill does not support giving people who are here illegally access to state and federal benefits.”
On July 12th Keating was at it again. At a New Bedford rally called Lights for Liberty, some of the same organizers had again invited the Congressman, and there he was — delivering the same shtick in precisely the same way. This time he huffed and puffed at the concentration camps the Trump administration is running on the southern border.
But Keating himself just voted to expand them. The Washington Post reported “House passes $4.6 billion border bill as leaders cave to moderate Democrats and GOP.” Ninety-five Democrats opposed the legislation, which placed no constraints on how Trump could use the funding. House leader Nancy Pelosi even abandoned language to earmark funds specifically for humanitarian aid. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted the capitulation: “Well, too bad. This is our job. Cancel vacation, fly the Senate in. Pass a clean humanitarian bill and stop trying to squeeze crises for more pain.”
These appearances remind us how easily machine Democrats and their friends can so easily exploit and co-opt humanitarian issues they repeatedly refuse to fix. And Keating reminds me how little will change until these good buddies of the GOP are retired and replaced.
By coincidence, a day before Keating’s theatrical performance in New Bedford, Stephen Kinzer, a well-known historian of American Empire, wrote a blistering piece in the Globe excoriating the Congressman:
“My own representative, Bourne Democrat Bill Keating, takes campaign donations from arms makers and repays them by endorsing mind-boggling Pentagon budgets. He has cosponsored a bill promoting increased US arms sales to Ukraine, voted to allow the deployment of US troops to Libya without Congressional approval, and called President Trump’s 2017 missile attack on Syria ‘necessary and proportional’. […] Most recently he was one of 129 Democrats who voted with Republicans to fund the network of immigration prisons along our southern border without any requirement that inmates be given water, soap, blankets, or toothbrushes.”
We clearly need a new Congressional Representative in the 9th District. And, as luck would have it, Kinzer even wrote the want ad:
“Urgently Needed: Dynamic activist from Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the South Shore, New Bedford, or Fall River. Job entails a year of 16-hour days, knocking on doors, and organizing to defeat Representative Bill Keating in the Democratic primary in the fall of 2020. Benefits include the satisfaction of speaking every day about the need to defend human rights, build strong communities, combat climate change, and end foreign wars. No pay, but seat in Congress if campaign succeeds.”
NOTICE: The Democratic Party does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or any other status protected by law or regulation. All qualified applicants will be given equal opportunity and selection decisions are based on job-related factors only.
Just kidding. It will be an uphill battle all the way. But Massachusetts needs another Ayanna Pressley and one less Blue Dog.