Immigrants in a climate of fear
This winter I was getting a haircut in Jamaica Plain. The barbers usually weave in and out of Arabic and English, but on this day there was little English. Rancorous debate filled the room. I could understand the emotions (not the words): Fear, uncertainty, frustration. They explained, “We are talking about Mr. Trump”. — About what is now called the first “travel ban” – this was the day it was ordered. “Do I look like a terrorist?” My barber asked. “Am I terrorizing you? I hope I’m not terrorizing your hair!”
The barber said that before hairstyling, he drove cabs in Boston. In a mandatory class that cab drivers take for their license, the teacher drilled drivers about the city. My barber, an immigrant who loved his adopted home, so frequently had the right answer or offered a better route. His obvious mastery of the subject prompted the teacher to pass him early. “I love Boston,” the barber said. “This is my city; this is my home. I will never leave.”
As our president agitates anew for his “travel ban” it is clear that legal protections for immigrants (documented and undocumented), foreign visitors, and in particular Muslims must come from the local level. Washington offers immigrant populations only bellicosity and vitriol. In response, our state representatives are proposing legislation to protect the privacy and dignity of all
Commonwealth residents without exception – for example:
–Bill S.1305, known as the “Safe Communities Act,” prohibits government officials of the Commonwealth – including state and local law-enforcement officials – from collaborating with federal immigrations enforcement agents in targeting undocumented immigrants;
–Bill S.787 outlaws any statewide system whereby residents have to register their religion, nationality, citizenship, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. – that is, a registry like the one Trump promoted back in the fall; and
–Bill S.1308 prohibits any statewide law enforcement agencies, the Mass RMV, or other “political subdivisions of the commonwealth” from releasing information in its databases to federal programs requiring the registration of people based on religion, nationality, citizenship, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc., etc.
These bills offer a bulwark against government-sponsored discrimination. Now is their most relevant time for passage.
As I learned at the barber shop, intolerance touches us on a personal level, infecting our communities. Some who are not of an embattled minority dismiss the president’s attempts to curtail the civil rights of a few. It is a fallacy to think that such curtailment, if successful, would not be extended to other groups of people based on nationality, religion, gender identity, sexuality, or even party affiliation. That the civil rights of any group of people in the United
States are under attack is cause alone for backlash. The legislative agenda presented by Beacon Hill comprehends this.
As a leader in extending health care coverage on a near-universal level, and as a leader in marriage equality, the Commonwealth has the opportunity to lead in civil rights protections for all.
Jamaica Plain resident
Going Beyond the Affordable Care Act
Efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) make clear its perfect replacement: a non-profit single-payer healthcare system, also known as Medicare for All. The ACA cannot control health care costs and premiums and co-payments and deductibles are rising to the point that they are unaffordable. However the ACA has provided health insurance to many who previously could not get it because they had a pre-existing medical condition and provided subsidies to many low income people for health insurance. Medicare for All can clearly preserve the good things that the ACA has done and go beyond them by controlling costs and making health care a true human right that will be affordable and comprehensive for everyone. A non-profit single-payer system operates with a very low overhead, little paperwork, and no need for multi-million dollar salaries for its executives. Currently Medicare for those over 65 has a 3% overhead compared to the 31% overhead with the for-profit insurance companies. Please consider the advantages of single-payer health care, such as improved Medicare for All, and advocate for it. It’s a matter of life and death!