Fiscal irresponsibility from Mass Fiscal Alliance

Fiscal irresponsibility from Mass Fiscal Alliance

Blocking Safe Communities Act would drive up state and local costs

IN DECEMBER, when you open your mailbox, you’re used to the usual flow of holiday cards from relatives and old friends, as well as end-of-year fundraising solicitations. However, residents of towns from Pittsfield to Hull recently got something else: an incendiary mailer attacking select legislators for their support of the Safe Communities Act and warning of the flood of “illegal immigrants” into their cities and towns. And they weren’t talking about Santa Claus and his elves.

That would have, at least, been closer to the truth.

The source of these mailers was the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, an organization sometimes quoted as a nonpartisan source of “fiscally responsible” expertise in the press, perhaps best known as a thorn in the side of the state’s Democratic Legislature on budgetary affairs. As a supporter of robust public goods, I’m used to disagreeing with Mass Fiscal when it comes to how much we should be investing in our schools, our roads, our public transit, our health care infrastructure, etc. It isn’t that often that I see Mass Fiscal arguing for greater city and state spending, but that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Why? Because the Safe Communities Act ensures that state and local budgets are not hijacked by a federal immigration agenda from Donald Trump. It prohibits the use of state databases or records for enforcement of any federal registry based on religion or other protected characteristics. It prevents state and local law enforcement agencies from arresting or detaining a person solely for federal immigration enforcement purposes or participating in raids on such grounds. And it prohibits collaboration agreements between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Massachusetts law enforcement agencies that deputize state and local officers as immigration agents, work they are not being reimbursed to do.

What was especially concerning was that, in justifying its “call to action,” Mass Fiscal Alliance cited statistics from the Federation of American Immigration Reform. The organization, which goes by the ironic acronym FAIR, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists. Indeed, its founder has expressed a desire for the US to remain a majority-white population, viewing immigration restrictions as essential to meeting that goal. There’s an old adage that you are what you eat. In academia and politics, you are what you cite. And if you’re citing a hate group, well, you might want to look in the mirror.

Mass Fiscal Alliance and other opponents of the Safe Communities Act want you to think that immigrants are a drain on the Massachusetts economy. To the contrary, Massachusetts’s economy depends on immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Our state is home to more than 1.1 million immigrants, who are home health aides, scientists, hotel workers, entrepreneurs, and everything in between. According to a recent report from MIT, Massachusetts depends on foreign-born immigration for our thriving economy. As MIT management professor Paul Osterman said clearly, “Increased restrictions are a threat to our prosperity. Indeed, the economy would be strengthened if immigration increased from its present level.”

This economic boon isn’t just by way of employment. Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year, and are putting billions of dollars back into our economy. One-third of the undocumented population has been here for 10 years or longer. In other words, they’re well-integrated, contributing members of our community.

The Safe Communities Act isn’t just about economics. At its core, it’s about just what its name implies: making us all safer. Spending money on federal immigration enforcement also diverts money from local and state law enforcement’s ability to do the job that they are being asked to do. And research has shown that jurisdictions that limit collaboration with federal immigration agents have lower crime rates than those that do not. If individuals are afraid that reporting crime to the police could lead to deportation of themselves or their loved ones, then they are not going to do so. Victims of domestic violence are especially at risk, as reporting of domestic violence has fallen since Trump’s election amidst such fears.

Mass Fiscal Alliance and other opponents of the Safe Communities Act are saying that we should spend more money to be less safe. If that isn’t the height of fiscal irresponsibility, then I don’t know what is.

Meet the Author

Jonathan Cohn

Co-chair of issues committee, Progressive Massachusetts
Jonathan Cohn is an editor and activist in Boston and the co-chair of the issues committee at Progressive Massachusetts.


  • Alan Cohn

    Jonathan makes some good points. If you are concerned about crime, then the Safe Communities Act will help keep the crime rate lower and cost less than Mass Fiscal Alliance proposal. On the economic side, most credible economists will tell you that more immigration is needed to grow the economy. Alan C.

  • Henry B

    The Safe Communities Act is so badly named. Despite all the pronouncements based on statistical comparisons, I still don’t understand how it is good for Massachusetts, indeed America, to make it a crime for law enforcement authorities to communicate and work together to catch AND RETAIN criminals.

    State and local law enforcement authorities regularly deal with crime involving transnational gang activity, human trafficking, smuggling, drug-related offenses, and other serious crimes tied to illegal immigration. When state and local law enforcement fail to coordinate with Federal immigration officials, criminal aliens are able to re-enter communities and engage in further criminal activity at the expense and safety of citizens and lawful immigrants.

    Mr. Cohn also puts some effort into discrediting anything that FAIR says. What a load of baloney. If any group disagrees with the Southern Poverty Law Center, then they smack them with the label “hate group.” Such a
    pathetic smear tactic, designed to intimidate and shut down an open discussion.

    If you really think that unlimited (and unsustainable) illegal immigration is good for our country and the economy, then please refer to the analysis on illegal aliens that our Democratic hero Bill Clinton gave to Congress in 1995 — c4351026/clinton-1995-immigrat ion-sotu.

    But for political reasons, the Democratic Party now will do or say whatever it takes to incentivize illegal immigration, in the corrupt hope that these people will someday vote for Democratic candidates. A truly
    “deplorable” strategy, which thankfully is backfiring across America.

    • Mass Fiscal Alliance is not non-partisan. I wish it were. Many of their positions are inherently contradictory.
      Going after gangs is not the same as going after undocumented immigrants. As Anarchus said, ‘The law is a spider web, it captures only the weak while the strong break through.’ As an advocate for the wealthy, Mass Fiscal advocates positions to persecute the weak and poor, while they themselves refused to be regulated in any way. It perhaps should be call Mass Farcical. Jesus described the problem well when he described the Pharisees: “They strain on a gnat and swallow a camel whole.” It is not a crime for being alive or being present. The entire immigration debate is unconstitutional. Unfortunately, commonsense is no longer self-evident. Which should be welcoming people to our country, and helping them succeed, the same as the Native Americans did hundreds of years ago. That is what makes America great!

      • Henry B

        OK, so without getting into the details about immigration law and national sovereignty, let me ask you — in your opinion, is there a numerical limit to how many immigrants America should welcome every year? Or is there no limit, and are you advocating for open borders, where the only factor that determines if anyone in the world can live in America is whether they want to or not?

        • That’s not really the issue. First, these people are already here. A more proper question would be how can we accommodate the people that want to come, if we are not allowing enough to come. Second, what business turns customers away? If you want to run the government like a business (aka fiscally conservative), then you need to be consistent. If there is demand, then you create the infrastructure to supply the demand. What is the point of claiming we need to grow the economy, when we want to evict producers and consumers? Why spend money evicting people? What happened to “teach a man to fish?” The big ugly government is a creation of the conservatives, the same as the poverty which is created by inequitable wages.

          Let me ask you a question: by what criteria can one determine a proper quota? (Suddenly, quotas are a great thing. Another example of selective principles). There are many antecedents to a population boom. Should we be like Communist China and adopt a one-child rule? Or is the issue really only about race, religious and class prejudice? When God said ‘be fruitful and multiply’ did He mean only within national borders?

          It is so hypocritical of conservative Christians to claim to be stewards and statesman and demand ‘responsibility’ from others, while being so extreme and irresponsible, oh, and unchristian. Fear does not make good public policy, nor does pride. Nor does made up or twisted statistics portend a convincing argument.

          What do the principles of freedom and liberty mean, exactly, when you have a government that can overreach, apply double-standards, coddle the rich and destroys any pretense of equality, due process or equal protection? “All Men are created equal,” is self-evident. Not just whites born in America. It applies to the slaves as well as the slave-masters.

          Conservatives have twisted the fundamental meaning of what makes America, and would be happy to march us back into an ugly society based on spurious claims of sovereignty. Like the capitalists in Atlas Shrugged, they would rather destroy their society than to share with one another and work together. You need to get outside of your bubble.

          P.S. Clinton was wrong and unimaginative. The problem with Congress is that the worst ideas generally please both parties. As Anarchus also said: “Democracy is a system where the wise speak and the fools decide.” Fools have been carrying the day for a long time, in both parties.

          • Mike Hanauer

            Our US Overpopulation IS the issue. We are killing ourselves and the planet.

            I believe the first question to ask pertaining to immigration is how big should US population become – for the sake of both the US and the world? If you have not explored this question, why not? Please read on.

            Our “almost open borders” immigration stance is so selfish. So short sighted.
            THE USA IS OVERPOPULATED. We now are over double a sustainable population and adding a Chicago every year, virtually all caused by immigration. Growth overwhelms all else we try to do to help the environment and our society and to achieve true sustainability. Climate Change is one of the many symptoms, as is crowding, overfishing, pollution, loss of species, waste and plastic, the need for franken foods and the anthropocene. So is income inequality, loss of quality-of-life, and always more revenue needed to accommodate quantity rather than quality. Population is a multiplier of virtually every problem we have!

            I have come to believe that our open borders Immigration policy is short-term oriented and very selfish…

            I have been studying population and environmental issues for over 25 years and have come to believe that for the US, for other countries, and for the world – the most humane and environmental tact is to HELP PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE – and to not encourage them to migrate.

            Migration to the US increases our own very unsustainable and growing population level with its devastating local and global environmental impacts, relieves us from:
            1. Training and hiring our own many low wage workers
            2. Holds our wages down while new jobs bypass citizens (verified by BLS)
            3. Ttakes pressure off of source countries to deal with their own population growth and related environmental and economic problem
            4. And, draws away from those countries the very people who are most likely to be leaders in their native lands to help improve conditions. Some countries have asked us, in fact, to better enforce our laws to help them better their own conditions.
            We must set an example of authentic sustainability and stop being selfish.

            The USA has the most liberal, unenforced, biased toward big business, and damaging immigration “policy” in the world!

            It is only the biggest US corporations that benefit from high immigration. Everyone else loses.

            “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people. The same problem becomes harder, or ultimately impossible, when more people are involved.” -Sir David Attenborough

            “Don’t be a deep feeler and a poor thinker.” – George C. Marshall, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1953.


          • Hi Mike,

            I think you are “feeling” more than you are “thinking.”

            I agree with some of your observations, but even then your coloring is off. For example, ‘helping people where they are’ reveals a bias that they need help and that we are capable of delivering it there, but not here. Plus, they are not asking for help, they are simply following an opportunity. If we can’t protect ourselves from the corporations, and limit the bias towards big business here, then, well, why not? Are they the problem or is it our inane attempt at self-government?

            You claim that a smaller problem is easier to solve than a bigger problem, but that is a logical fallacy, and in many ways at the heart of our problems. The move from the Articles to the Constitution was based that by putting all the problems together so they could be solved more easily. In fact, they couldn’t solve the issue in any of the states, and did no better by aggregation. Quality has nothing to do with quantity, and your whole argument is quantity-based.

            Plus, there is also the other obvious flaw in your argument: our domestic population will grow to whatever magic number you decide, eventually. So we can’t avoid the central problems by eliminating immigration, anyway. There is also the example of significantly larger populations in other countries. Why can’t we do it if they can?

            Obviously I agree that population growth puts a lot of stress on ourselves and the environment, which is why we need to think smarter! With the industrial revolution and technological advances we are more co-dependent on one another than we have ever been. The idyllic idea of yeoman farmers living in a self-sufficient agrarian countryside became obsolete rather rapidly.

            Yet, we will never NOT be tied to the production of food and its movement. If we screw up the environment and our political and economic systems (aka war, blight, etc), we will pay the consequences, somehow. The planet, of course, will be fine. Whatever folly we bring, it remains a womb and tomb for all things. Our success begins and ends with equality and the golden rule. The division of labor cannot be an excuse for a division of understanding. All bias, fear and pride, both within ourselves as individuals, and institutionalized as part of government, needs to be purged. We can only advance through enlightenment, and we will certainly regress through paranoia. Every fool believes their opinions to be well reasoned. As the Grateful Dead put it,
            “These are the horns of the dilemma
            What truth this proof against all lies?
            When sacred fails before profane
            The wisest man is deemed insane”

            Wisdom has never changed over thousands of years. Man, individually and collectively, loses his grasp on it, and then, eventually, hopefully, it gets rediscovered. All our non-profit think tanks, like Mass Fiscal, are simply taking bribes to repeat lies and self-delusions that their sponsors want to hear told to themselves. On any issue, the lies are strong and proud, and often both sides are more wrong than right, so focused on minute that they can’t see the bigger picture. You are trying to see the bigger picture, but I think you are still missing the real dynamics of the problem, and your fix isn’t a fix at all. The real problem with population is only that of compounding lies, whereas changing direction is easier in a small ship than in a bigger one.

          • Mike Hanauer

            Hi Steve (and perhaps others),

            “The future is not so much to be predicted as to be selected” – Donella Meadows (1941-2001, author of Limits to Growth and Beyond the Limits)

            I believe the science says we need to take action. Can I get you to read the sources below? The first two are quite brief, the third is a short but new book.

            Some facts on what US Overpop is doing to US and the world.

            Thoughts on the many impacts of US Overpopulation (written by yours truly)

            A new book, only 100 pages, on the importance of Overpop and how to get there.

            For anyone who is interested, Many more credible videos and articles.

            Why is this a local issue: “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Start at our community.