Governor speaks out on US immigration laws

- Posted in America by Visa Bureauon 02 May 2012

Speaking at the Aidekman Arts Center in Massachusetts, the Democratic governor said US immigration laws enacted in Arizona and Alabama and being proposed in other states were provocative and even racist.

"The actions of various states to take matters into their own hands have been ham-fisted, self-defeating, and even racist," said Governor Patrick.

Changes to immigration policy have traditionally been the prerogative of the federal government in Washington DC but states, particularly those with extensive borders such as Arizona, have taken matters into their own hands.

Arizona's SB 1070 law, widely regarded as one of the toughest in the country, is currently being scrutinised in the Supreme Court over the question of the constitutionality of states to enforce their own immigration law.

Debate over the issue has been widespread and varying and Governor Patrick has remained critical of strict immigration laws throughout his career yet the language used in his latest speech has raised eyebrows.

"The public discourse about immigration is as toxic today as McCarthyism or Jim Crow were in their time," said Governor Patrick, referring to anti-Communist laws overly enforced by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and racially segregating laws in the late 19th-early 20th centuries.

"Now, like then, the debate seems to be based more on emotion than reason, more on slogan than fact."

The governor's speech has been even more divisive than typical opponents of strict immigration legislation due to its tone; both Senator McCarthy's actions and civil rights remain delicate topics and comparisons are not made lightly.

"It's very strong wording that really speaks to [Governor Patrick's] belief, to his understanding, to his vision for a stronger America," said Eva A Millona, executive director at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, who supported the governor but expressed surprise at his tone.

Meanwhile, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, Jessica Vaughan, said the governor's choice of words was too scathing and will be seen as a political mistake.

"The language he chooses is just as loaded and charged as the rhetoric of the people that he's criticising, maybe even more so. I don't think he could get away with giving that speech anywhere other than a college campus," said Ms Vaughan.

While proponents of Governor Patrick's message may have only cautiously expressed their support due to the provocative language used in the speech, opponents have been much more vocally critical.

"[Governor Patrick] used this as an opportunity to cast aspersions and throw stones," said Republican Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr..

"He's basically labelling people who have a different opinion from his as Jim Crow and McCarthy, which I found patently offensive. He should be better than that."

The outcome of the Supreme Court case over Arizona's immigration law is expected to have repercussions across American politics, especially November's presidential election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts governor before Governor Patrick, has previously spoken in support of SB 1070 although has since softened his own rhetoric on immigration.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.