The immigrant wedge

If it’s election season, it’s time to ratchet up the rhetoric about immigration, and the fatter the target, the better. That’s why in-state college tuition for the children of illegal immigrants has been such a consistently hot point of contention in recent gubernatorial contests, and why it’s become a flashpoint in the showdown between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.  It’s a wedge that’s just too big and too effective to leave on the ground.

The argument about whether to allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges has been flaring up in Massachusetts for the past six years. In 2005, the Legislature voted down a bill that would have extended in-state college tuition to undocumented graduates of local public high schools. Deval Patrick, who supports in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, took up the issue, first as a candidate, and then as governor, and he has been repeatedly knocked around for it. Data may support Patrick’s stand, but the governor has found that there’s little political capital to be gained by lining up behind a constituency that can’t vote.

Patrick’s Texan counterpart, Rick Perry, is learning that lesson now. Texas passed the first in-state tuition measure in the country. Mitt Romney, Perry’s chief rival for the White House nomination, spent last weekend hammering Perry for the Texas tuition measure. He unveiled this line of attack in Florida, a state full of retirees who should be receptive to Romney’s critique of Perry’s labeling Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. A full 58 percent of Florida voters disagree with Perry’s characterization. Even so, Romney led his attacks on Perry with immigration, not Ponzi scheming. That’s how juicy a political target immigration is.

Perry was booed when he tried to defend his immigrant tuition policy, saying, “If you say that we should not educate children coming into our state … brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children because they will become a drag on our society.”

“My friend Governor Perry said that if you don’t agree with his position on giving that in state tuition to illegals, that you don’t have a heart,” Romney said at a rally the next day. “Um. I think if you’re opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a heart. It means that you have a heart and a brain.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs in on the debate today. The paper questions the sincerity of Romney’s anti-immigrant stand, and praises Perry’s stance, even while it wishes that the Texas governor would explain the policy rationale behind it. And in doing so, the country’s leading conservative editorial page stands alongside Patrick, one of the country’s most liberal governors:

“Mr. Perry didn’t help himself by calling his critics on this issue heartless, and he could do a better job of explaining the program’s rationale. Lower in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities aren’t akin to welfare for the indigent; they’re not means-tested. They’re a discount for residency…. State tax officials estimated that increased college enrollment by illegal immigrants would be budget neutral. It would bring in new students who would pay tuition, and those students who graduated would produce increased tax payments to the state. A college graduate’s lifetime earnings are nearly double those of someone with only a high school diploma. The Dallas Morning News has reported that in 2009 illegal immigrants who were taking advantage of the tuition subsidy were 1% of the state’s million-plus college students. The program is hardly the draw on state coffers that critics have claimed.”

                                                                                                                                                –PAUL MCMORROW


Federal authorities say a Marlborough man arrested over the weekend in Boxborough and charged with his sixth drunk-driving offense is an illegal immigrant who has already been deported from the country three times, the Lowell Sun reports. On Beacon Hill, WBUR reports that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing for a bill to stiffen penalties and curb benefits for immigrants living in Massachusetts illegally.

A bill supported by high-ranking legislators after a social worker was murdered in Lowell would require residential mental health facilities to install “panic buttons.”

A clerk magistrate agreed to a defense request to seal documents that lay out prosecutors’ case against former state Probation commissioner John O’Brien and Scott Campbell, a former aide to ex-treasurer Tim Cahill. The two former state officials pleaded not guilty yesterday at their arraignment on bribery charges. The Globe’s Kevin Cullen and CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan have a similar question about the bribery case against O’Brien. Attorney General Martha Coakley reiterates that the charges represent “the beginning and not the end” of her office’s Probation investigation.

The Cape Cod Times explores the issue of tribal gaming rights.


The state funnels $631,000 to Lawrence to hire more police officers. State lawmakers and officials jointly announced the grant at a press conference, but Mayor William Lantigua didn’t participate and stood at the back of the room, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A Marblehead man awaiting trial on drunk-driving charges is held without bail after allegedly causing a head-on collision with another car while driving drunk. The Salem News reports the man is a suspended Lawrence city employee and a former legislative aide to Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua.

Swampscott’s wastewater pump station suffers a catastrophic failure, forcing trucks to transport the city’s sewage to Lynn for treatment, the Lynn Item reports.

At least two Quincy city councilors are criticizing Mayor Thomas Koch’s decision to appeal a Civil Service Commission ruling overturning his appointment for fire chief. The ruling said the appointment was “procedurally flawed” and lacked a “fair and honest weighing” of all candidates.

Somerville unions agree to join the Group Insurance Commission.


Senate leaders trumpet a deal that keeps federal agencies running, but the small print says the offer expires November 18 and does nothing to solve the problem of disaster relief funding. Meanwhile, some Irene-hit towns in North Carolina are enduring epic swarms of mosquitoes.  Local officials have ceased spraying because of fears they won’t be reimbursed by FEMA. The Atlantic says Capitol Hill leaders were just going through the motions and crying wolf in this latest near-shutdown.

The federal health care law is on its way to the US Supreme Court, which positions the nine justices to deliver an opinion in the thick of the election season next year.

Facebook forms a political action committee, The Hill reports. The New York Times reports the PAC is just another indication of how social media companies are integrating with the political landscape.

Budget crunches continue to plague cities, especially those that depend heavily on property taxes.


Elizabeth Warren could become an albatross for President Obama and the Democrats nationally with her propensity for class warfare rhetoric, says former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord, writing in the American Spectator. But the Wall Street Journal says the electoral college map still favors the president, who is sharpening his attacks on the GOP.

Rick Perry’s multiple proposals to amend the Constitution, along with those of conservatives in general, display his fidelity to the original, says the National Review.

Mitt Romney meets the Donald, gives the slip to photographers.

Alan Khazei talks to the Springfield Republican.

Jim Braude hosts a Republican and a Democratic analyst to talk about the US Senate race in Massachusetts.


A new poll suggests many Americans are not prepared financially for retirement, NPR reports.

WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook asks: Is the US economy heading for a Japan-style lost decade?

The state Appeals Court ordered Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Co. to pay a couple at least $60,000 in legal fees plus additional attorney costs relating to a 2005 boating accident when a ferry struck the couple’s boat while they were towing a disabled lobster boat.  Universal Hub offers a hat tip to the appellate court for the opening line of its written decision: “Sometimes ships do not pass in the night.”

Drug production slowdowns continue to dog Genzyme five months after French drug maker Sanofi SA acquired the Cambridge-based biotech firm, the Globe reports.

Carlos Slim, the world’s richest person, chats with The Daily Beast about taxes, welfare, and the Yankees.


Schools in the northern Berkshires see some gains on the MCAS, but not on the federal Adequate Yearly Progress reports.

The state’s 15 community colleges will split a $20 million federal grant to train workers for industries facing shortages of skilled workers.


Anatomy of a deal gone wrong: The Washington Post analyzes what happened to the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.


Facebook’s journalist program manager (who knew there was such a thing?) explains what his company’s latest updates mean for reporters.

Sarah Palin’s attorney has written a letter to the publisher of Joe McGinniss’s book, The Rogue, threatening to sue, ABC News reports.

Seems like an oxymoron: Digital Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online in a joint effort between Israeli officials and Google.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans think they can effect social change by starting movements online, according to a new study by Walden University. Via Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Like a number of vocal Facebook users, Keller@Large has issues with the new format.


Should we prepare to regard Robert Andino as the new Bucky Dent?