Mass. Fiscal Alliance Takes Aim At Berkshires Lawmakers Over “Sanctuary Support”
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is defending mailers it sent to Berkshire County residents earlier this month targeting Democratic lawmakers for supporting what it calls sanctuary policies.
Pittsfield residents started receiving mail in early December from the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance that read “Pittsfield welcomes illegal immigrants,” and “sanctuary state next exit.”
The mailer designed by the right-leaning nonprofit was meant to educate residents about the policies lawmakers debate on Beacon Hill, Alliance spokesperson Paul Craney says. In this case, the Safe Communities Act, which prohibits state and local law enforcement from detaining undocumented immigrants for federal immigration violations.
“You have very powerful interest groups who are well-funded, who have all of the proper connections they need in Boston, who are getting lawmakers to propose and push legislation that would take away that local control and make an entire state – so every city and town – a sanctuary,” Craney says.
Craney acknowledges the hold Democrats have on political offices in the Berkshires. In May, the Pittsfield Police Department formalized a policy that bars law enforcement from asking residents about their legal status.
The city council debated whether the law enforcement policy could be described as a sanctuary designation. City Councilor Nick Caccamo.
“Just to be clear: I mean, we’re, this is not creating a sanctuary city, and that has its own definitions,” Caccamo says. “Merely the most of what this does. It just says if you go to the police department, you won’t be asked any questions about your immigration status, and that’s it.”
“This doesn’t help immigrants – illegal immigrants that is – and this doesn’t help taxpayers,” Craney says. “If you really want to be compassionate to illegal immigrants who want to come to the United States is work together. Both parties – in fact: work with the president.”
Residents soon started calling in their support for targeted Democratic State Representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Paul Mark, of Peru.
“If you are calling about the mailer that you received regarding sanctuary state, please leave your name and mailing address and brief message and we will make sure the representative understands your opinion,” Farley-Bouvier’s office voicemail said.
Letters poured into The Berkshire Eagle. Facebook comments mounted. It’s the second time in six months Farley-Bouvier has been one of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance’s targets. In June, the Alliance criticized the Pittsfield Democrat for voting in favor of legislative pay raises.
“Mass Fiscal Alliance is actually is a purveyor of disinformation, and that’s very important,” Farley-Bouvier says. “They like to, they are hiding under this nonprofit status as if they are an educational organization and they are not. They are very, very partisan. They are right wing and they are extremist.”
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance has partnered with the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an "extremist" group with racist tendencies. Farley-Bouvier contends the bill isn’t a sanctuary policy.
“What we don’t want is residents who see a crime to not report it because they don’t trust the police. There are those in the federal government who have made statements about sanctuary cities and sanctuary states, including denying municipalities or states funding if they declare themselves a sanctuary state. This legislation is very purposeful in being narrowly focused so it is not in any way running afoul of federal law,” Farley-Bouvier says.
“No, this is a sanctuary state bill, nothing more and nothing less,” Craney says. “That’s exactly what she’s trying to push. Now if she wants to run away from it because it may have bad connotation with people that want to re-elect her…”
Farley-Bouvier says the Alliance isn’t a non-profit because it doesn’t disclose its donors. Even the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance has tried to get the Alliance to release information about its donors.
“I am not interested in what her definition of dark money is,” Carney says, “because the only dark money in politics is the taxpayer money that is sent to Boston that it doesn’t return back to the cities and towns. No one knows how that money is spent. It’s very opaque in the State House.”
“I think they are running afoul of the law,” Farley-Bouvier says. “I think that, you know, we are going to be seeing them in court.”
The other part of the Safe Communities Act bars state officials from participating in the kind of Muslim registry President Donald Trump has called for.
“I am completely and totally against that,” Farley-Bouvier says. “That would be not different from, you know, having Jews be reregistered in the 30s in Germany. You know, we are not going to do that here in Massachusetts.”
“As unpopular as that may sound to certain viewers, work with the president to get something done that could be, to find common ground so you can actually help these people if that’s what you want to do,” Craney says. “But what this is they’re forcing something across the state to all of the cities and towns.”
There are about 80 sponsors of the bill – 14 of whom have been targeted in mailers so far. The outcry in support of Representative Mark in Greenfield led to the resignation of the Alliance’s only western Massachusetts leader from the Greenfield Community College’s board of trustees and from the Community Advisory Council at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.
The bill remains in the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.