Autumn of the Illegal

Remember the ‘Summer of the Shark’?  Those few warm months in the days prior to 9/11 when it seemed every week brought a new horrific news story about some innocent bather munched by a wedge-finned terror from below?  It wasn’t actually the case that the sharks were rising up to take back the oceans; shark attacks just happened to be the media’s collective obsession at the time, and as a result stories that in an ordinary year remained confined the regions in which they occurred became national news.

We’re seeing a variation of that in Massachusetts right now, only this time the tragedies in question are both man-made and eminently preventable, and the media attention might actually lead to constructive changes in law and process intended to reduce the chances of more such incidents in the future. All of a sudden it seems like every day in Massachusetts there is a new report of an illegal immigrant – often an individual with a serious criminal record – committing a crime that results in injury or death to an innocent person. Nicolas Guaman, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador with felony assault of a police officer on his record, who hit and killed  Matthew Denice while driving drunk in Milford late in the summer.  Then Uncle Omar, hot on his heels (and today reportedly giggling in court).  On the very day that Michael Graham (who has been at this issue like a dog at a bone) filed this column adding Eduardo Torres (6 OUIs) to the list, Marcelo Almeida stabbed his girlfriend to death in Marshfield in an incident that might be added to the sad and all-too-ordinary domestic violence file but for the fact that Almeida’s criminal history should have resulted in deportation long before he turned murderer.  And now there’s Wanderson DaSilva-Neto, an illegal who came close yesterday in Ipswich to tragic re-enactment of Matthew Denice’s horrific death when he got behind the wheel drunk, and struck and dragged a seven year old girl in Ipswich (happily she survived, reportedly with only minor injuries).

So what is going on here?  Has the illegal immigrant community of Massachusetts suddenly decided to go on a drunken rampage?  Or is it just that all of a sudden the press is paying attention to the defendants in cases like this, ferreting out for publicity the ones who would not even be here but for Governor Patrick’s steadfast, steel-jawed and now drippingly condescending opposition to the federal Secure Communities program?  Does it matter?

I should mention, I suppose, that the press is hardly uniform in the degree of attention it is paying to this issue.  Exclusive readers of the Globe could be forgiven for knowing very little about it, as its editors have apparently deemed the issue (and by extension all those victims I just mentioned) largely beneath their notice.  But the TV networks, the regional papers, and especially the Herald have been all over it.  Much as Governor Patrick must have hoped the issue would go away (as it did during last year’s campaign) following Matthew Denice’s killing, it hasn’t.  He has a group of Sheriffs going rogue on him, demanding that the federal government side-step his opposition and allow them to implement Secure Communities.  He has his ordinary allies on the op-ed pages turning on him (Margery Egan at the Herald and today Joan Venocchi at – yes! – the Globe, though there’s a telling caveat to that below*). He has the families of those victims I mentioned asking, admonishing and even begging him to drop his indefensible opposition to a common sense program that might well have spared their loved ones.

And the Governor’s reaction?  The aforementioned dripping condescension.  All of this uproar is a “publicity stunt,” he says dismissively.  Shame on him.

I’ve laid this out before – as has Michael Graham and others – but in the face of Governor Patrick’s doggedly consistent repetition of falsehoods and half-truths it bears repeating: Secure Communities is not about racial profiling… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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