Governor Patrick talks the politics of inclusion and immigration

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick addressed Boston College on April 2 and discussed the current challenges facing comprehensive immigration reform in America.  Hosted by the Graduate School of Social Work, Governor Patrick advocated for “policies of inclusion” that are rooted in deeply held American ideals.

Drawing from his personal experience as the child of a single mother on the south side of Chicago, Patrick emphasized that America was not built around a single ethnic group, religion, or even language, but rather a handful of civic ideals. These values, including equality, freedom and opportunity, are, according to Governor Patrick, ingrained in American life.

As a living example of the promise represented by the American Dream, Governor Patrick drew parallels between his life and any other American’s. “Whether by birth, boat or even slavery, we were all brought here. The American Dream is not the stuff of folklore. It is real,” he said.

Photo courtesy of the Governor's Instagram

Photo courtesy of the governor's Instagram

Advocating for broad immigration reform, Patrick addressed the nearly 11 million men, women and children who are currently living in the shadows of American society. He reaffirmed his support for a clear pathway to citizenship for individuals that are currently here illegally and pushed for the passage of the DREAM Act, which stalled last year. The aforementioned act would have given a pathway to citizenship to minors who were brought to the U.S. before they reached adulthood.

On the federal level, there is promise of genuine immigration reform being brought to the Senate for a vote in the coming months. The so-called “Gang of Eight” senators, 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans, recently reached a very tentative deal that included both an earned pathway to citizenship as well as a commitment to secure the U.S.-Mexican border. While a vote is not expected for at least a few weeks, both sides are discussing the promise that the legislation has of passing the Senate at the very least.

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Regarding Massachusetts, Governor Patrick turned his attention to the “Gateway Cities” of the state, including Fall River, Lowell, Springfield and Worcester. These areas have not seen the economic growth that the rest of the state has, and the governor has made it his goal to help improve these areas in his second term. Many of the individuals that would benefit most from immigration reform are the very same persons that are the focus of social workers’ efforts in these previously mentioned areas.

Patrick reminded the audience that the fieldwork that the graduates of the School of Social Work will encounter in the very near future deals directly with the problems posed by the current immigration system. English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for immigrants, regardless of their respective origins, and early childhood education were two areas that he stressed as any part of a measure to educate and help newly naturalized citizens. These two programs, and other measures implemented by the state and charitable organizations, can assist in youth and lower-income groups that the graduates will work to assist once they finish their upper-level education.

Once the floor was opened up for questions, the focus of the governor’s appearance changed. Lizzie Jekanowski, the chair of the BC Students for Sexual Health, asked Governor Patrick what his stance was on the recent conflict resulting from the Boston College administration threatening to take disciplinary action against the student group handing out condoms on campus.

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The governor largely dodged the question, at first offering up a joking, “no comment” and then a terse, “My opinion doesn't count for much here.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had to leave BC promptly after his speech, but not before the Graduate School of Social Work was able to present him with a gift asking him to promise that this would not be the last time that he would grace the Heights. He emphatically agreed, regardless of the uncertainties that the future and rampant speculation over a potential run for the 2016 presidency may bring.

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