All posts by Matt

My View – Common Ground with Immigrants

Originally published in the Cape Cod Times August 15, 2014

Matt Patrick
Matt Patrick

It would be good if people could take an emotional inventory of the root causes of their negative feelings toward the young immigrants from Latin America. Once people understand them, hopefully they will see that the now-defunct plan to house the children on the base for four months is separate from the overall immigration issue.

I did my own inventory to try to understand where people were coming from on the issue. Here is what I found. The problems of immigrants are the same ones we are experiencing … only more dire.

It is understandable why people fear immigrants. People are concerned that more immigrants will do even more to take away jobs and suppress wages in a process that has been going on since the 1970s. When I was young, I could always get a job in a factory that would support my family if I decided not to go to college. Many of my friends did. Then the factories began shutting down and moving away. The situation can be exacerbated by immigrants – legal and not legal – who can work for less money.

Americans are losing their jobs to overseas workers who will work for less when factories move out of the U.S. Most American manufacturing has moved overseas to take advantage of unorganized workers who have lower wages, drastically reduced benefits and few, if any, worker protections. Corporations that move overseas also have more options to pollute, because there is less environmental regulation.

Almost all corporations do this in the name of creating more wealth for their shareholders, which they claim is their only responsibility. That claim is debatable.

The end product to all of this is there is a lot less job security in America and a much greater gap between rich and poor, something that didn’t exist back in the 1950s through 1980s.

So, the concern that many Americans have about immigration is understandable. Anything that contributes to less job security for Americans is something that can and should be avoided. In addition, it irritates most people to know we can’t control our own borders.

I recently had the privilege of hearing the Rev. John Dorhauer, Southwest Conference Minister of the United Church of Christ, who spoke from his heart about the plight of the immigrants and why they are leaving their homes. He explained that there are three causes to the increased migration, not of the immigrants’ making.

The first two are products of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Alliance, which went into effect in 1993. NAFTA put the small farmers in Latin America out of business by subsidizing the corn producers in the states. Thousands of Latin American farmers found that they could not produce corn at the same price as American corn. They sold their farms to feed their families and many of them immigrated to the States to work on American farms. Where there were once many thriving small farms and villages, there is now only overgrown fields.

NAFTA also shut down roughly 30,000 small businesses by enabling big-box stores to move into Mexico. The big boxes undercut all the small businesses that once appeared on every small town’s main street. Sound familiar? Wal-Mart has replaced those businesses just as they have here at home. Here in the States, Wal-Mart pays its workers minimum wage while coaching them to get food stamps and other federal benefits, effectively shifting its responsibility to pay a living wage to the American taxpayer. What do the Latin American businessmen do to provide for their families? What would you do?

Last, there is the war on drugs that has made the Americans who consume drugs the financiers of drug cartels and their gangs in Mexico and Central America. These cartels and gangs have set up shop in every American city. They commit unspeakable acts of terror upon the people and children of Latin America.

The best way to stem the tide of immigration is to create better living conditions in Latin America. It is essential that all families be able to eat and keep themselves in basic necessities: housing, water and good health. They need work just as we do, and it doesn’t have to be a great-paying job.

The first thing we should do is eliminate the NAFTA subsidies for American corn producers. They now have price guarantees borne by the American taxpayer.

The next thing we should do is eliminate the dominance of big-box stores and make them pay living wages, both here and in Latin America. How do you do it? We should implement legislation to regulate corporations similar to the way the Community Reinvestment Act did banks. Corporations should play by our rules in order to keep their charters … rules that benefit the common good both here and in other countries. It would help if the rules were international in scope.

Finally, we must do more to reduce drug use in America. We need to provide treatment instead of mandatory jail time for nonviolent drug offenders. Putting them in jail only perpetuates the problem. To reduce the use of drugs, we should provide people with well-paying, family-supporting jobs so they can raise families and become responsible taxpaying citizens.

Bringing manufacturing home and addressing our energy needs with clean-energy alternatives, like offshore wind turbines, smart grids and energy efficiency, is our future, one we need to embrace to help industry create these jobs.

Matt Patrick is a candidate for the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate District.


mattatuccdIt seems as if many of the recent comments regarding the proposal to bring immigrant children to Massachusetts bases are misleading in their assumptions. The Governor answered our questions based on Homeland Security information, but that is not good enough for opponents, even though everyone seems to agree that we ought not to make this a political issue. It seems obvious that these people would rather question the honesty of the Governor, the Senate President and anyone from the Federal government to create doubt in the minds of people who are honestly looking for answers to very important questions.

I took the time to speak with the Governor’s office and with representatives from Health and Human Services. As a result of those interactions, I am impressed with the State’s willingness to talk and provide answers to what I agree are very important questions; the dialogue with these hardworking people has helped me draw conclusions based on facts rather than rhetoric. My conclusions are that, provided this does not cause harm to our local communities or cost the Commonwealth any money, we absolutely should extend our hands to help those in need during a traumatic time in their lives. In most cases, it probably won’t get any better for a while. Why should we do this? Because we can. I have assurances from the administration that the towns will be included in the negotiations for the MOU.

Let’s examine the most frequently listed reasons for opposing the plan. First, it has been implied that the decision has already been made by the Governor to bring the children here to Massachusetts, but that is simply not the case. According to Homeland Security and the Governor, the bases must be evaluated for their suitability by Health and Human Services. If the bases are determined to be suitable, then and only then would the Department of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth and nearby towns to work out the details of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The Towns will be at the table to discuss their concerns and get assurances written into the MOU at these meetings.

We are also told to believe that either Westover or Otis are the only destinations in the Nation for the 57,000 immigrant children that have come into our country. Again, this is not the case. There are at least four other states: Arizona, California, Texas and Oklahoma that are already taking many more of the immigrant children. In the Boston Globe (7/29/14), Mayor Jon Sharkey of Port Hueneme, California, one of the host cities for a temporary processing center said, “It’s been virtually invisible to us. It’s had no impact.”

One elected official says that we can expect more than 1,000 children at the site. Even if more than 1,000 children cycle through there what difference does it make? There are still only 1,000 beds available at a time meaning that no more than 1,000 children could occupy the base during any given period. The entire effort will be paid for by the Federal Government, another fact that several elected officials repeatedly ignore.

Opponents say that after being processed, 80% of the children will be placed with host families or friends and the other 20% will be put in foster care. As it turns out, the 80% placed with family and friends could be anywhere in the United States, not just in Massachusetts. Having one of these temporary processing sites does not make it any more likely that the children will remain in Massachusetts. The July 28th Globe article cites Julie Flanders, an immigration lawyer from Texas, as saying, “That’s not going to make them stay there.” Massachusetts gets about 3% of all the immigrant children who are placed with families or friends, regardless of where in the states they were processed.

It has been suggested that the remaining children will most likely be placed in foster care within Massachusetts and become a burden on local medical, educational and ancillary costs involved with keeping them rather than staying on the Federal dime. Again, this is wrong. There is only one foster home in the Commonwealth with 20 beds where the children could be located and it is funded by the Federal Government. The Federal Government also has funding for the 3% of immigrant children that are living with family or friends that may attend local schools.

Clearly, these folks have decided not to recognize any information provided by the Federal Government or the Governor as truthful and instead they have chosen to distort and discredit that information.

It’s easy to pick and choose bits of information that make it sound less like we are turning away helpless children and more like we are protecting our communities from new demands on our tax base. It’s easy to look the other way and pretend those kids will be fine and hope that someone else will be there to give shelter and mercy to them. The law signed by President Bush entitles these children to be treated properly while they await their disposition in court. At the end of the day, it’s easy to fail at upholding the long tradition we have here in Massachusetts as people who care about others regardless of who they are. However, once they understand the facts, I believe that the citizens of Massachusetts will agree that providing housing on our military bases is the least we can do for these children.


Ten Years in the Massachusetts House, a Legislative Memoir

It’s exceedingly hard to pass legislation.  I often joked with freshman legislators that the only reason stuff passes in the legislature is because it met leadership’s press relations needs. Much of what I accomplished were bills that were amended onto larger bills that were moving like freight train. These are the stories behind the bills that I got through the House.

The first bill I passed was the Mashpee’s home rule petition for an Economic Development Corporation with bonding authority, which had been languishing for years. My good friend and colleague Angelo Scaccia, who was chair of bills on Third Reading helped me get this bill passed because we had a history.

Continue reading Ten Years in the Massachusetts House, a Legislative Memoir