We all know some of the more egregious instances of racism, bigotry and intolerance recently in our country: the white nationalists in Charlottesville, a US Senate candidate in Alabama, an IED blast at an Islamic center, the president’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or “Dreamers,” and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, Nicaraguans and possibly others. But it seems even more impactful when it happens in the city in which you live, by people who are supposed to represent you.
Legislative bodies across the country have passed resolutions supporting DACA and TPS. They are only symbolic but symbolism counts when it conveys the beliefs of a community—its values, its morals.
The city council in my home community—the city of Everett, Massachusetts—passed a resolution in support of dreamers and those under TPS. It passed eight to one. A strong statement of backing for immigrant communities in our city of more than 46,000 located four miles north of Boston, right? Yes. Except for the one “no” vote.
I am nothing short of stunned and horrified at the reason City Councilor Stephen Simonelli gave for opposing the resolution. According to a local newspaper report, Simonelli issued a statement that said, “We have to take care of our own first,” and said that he’d like to see “Everett keep Everett people first.” Hmmm.
The short statement speaks volumes about where this councilor stands. First, let’s correct the moronic thinking that making a statement supporting immigrants would somehow mean residents whose families have been here for generations would suffer.
Perhaps Councilor Simonelli should get out of his Neanderthal-like comfort zone and take a look at the people he was elected to represent. Immigrants are a critical part of the fabric of this community. They are our neighbors, business owners, high school students, teachers, care givers and union members.
Importantly, they are taxpayers. They pay property, business, sales and excise taxes as well as all permit fees. They also pay your city council salary, Mr. Simonelli. And what do you want to do? Toss them aside because you think they are not “Everett people.”
Everett is in the midst of unprecedented growth. The city voted overwhelming in 2013 to welcome a casino, the Wynn Boston Harbor resort, currently under construction. It’s a behemoth $2.4 billion project scheduled to open in 2019. That’s billion with a b. Wynn is spending an additional $90 million buying property in the city. Will workers building the casino be considered “Everett people?” How about the executives coming in to run it? Maybe we need a definition from Mr. Simonelli as to who qualifies.
Want to ask him? Feel free to text him at his city hall-published phone number: 857-888-2880.
Simonelli’s fellow councilors all voiced support for the city’s immigrants through the resolution, but I am curious to know what they think of Simonelli’s statement. The same applies to Mayor Carlo DeMaria. He has worked hard to make Everett a welcoming place for all residents—old and new. What does he think?
When I voted in the last municipal election, I don’t recall choosing between councilors who would represent all the city’s citizens and those who want to ostracize an entire portion of the community.
Simonelli’s message is clear: If you and your family have been here for years, even generations, you are welcome. If not, you are a second class Everett citizen. It’s disgraceful and every Everett resident and elected official should say so.
The saddest part of this entire situation is that Councilor Simonelli’s family is not of Native American decent. His family forbearers were at one point immigrants. What would he think if his family was treated the way he is treating today’s immigrants?
Mr. Simonelli, words count. And yours lay bare your bigotry. As citizens of Everett, we cannot allow racists like Simonelli to hang a “Immigrants Not Welcome” sign on the gates to our city.