Mashpee Residents Debate Immigration Issues At Rally

For Maxine S. Wolfset, the message of Monday’s Falmouth rally in support of housing immigrant children at Camp Edwards was handwritten on a sign that read, “Compassion is a Cape Cod value.” The sign was held by a group of attendees, she said, and reflected her own beliefs.

“You need to show compassion and concern and take steps to take care of these children,” she said.

A Mashpee resident and a member of Occupy Falmouth, the group that organized the rally, Ms. Wolfset describes herself as a senior environmental and humanitarian activist. Upon receiving the e-mail publicizing the event, she “felt a  need to be there in support of those children.”

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The rally was a response to a protest held on Sunday at the Otis Rotary against Governor Deval L. Patrick’s proposal to the federal government to temporarily house immigrant children at Camp Edwards and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. According to Gov. Patrick, the plan—which would be paid for entirely by the federal government—would provide shelter and care for up to 1,000 of the unaccompanied children who have illegally immigrated to the United States from Central America via the southern border.

About a dozen Cape residents voiced their opposition to the proposal at Sunday’s protest, spurring a heated debate over immigration laws. Planned in a matter of hours, the Falmouth rally in support of the plan attracted 75 activists the following day.

“These children unfortunately are prisoners, and how we should help is not an easy thing [to decide], but it can be done and it should be done,” Ms. Wolfset said, adding that Congress and members of the Tea Party movement appear to oppose “being humanitarian and helping out.” “I am appalled and disgusted that people on Cape would reject taking these children.”

However, not all of the attendees at the rally shared her point of view.

Fellow Mashpee resident Marcia E. MacInnis, a 68-year-old member of the Plymouth Rock Tea Party, attended the rally with a few other opponents of the proposal.

She said that the proposal by the governor does not address the immigration problems in the United States. Instead, she said, the government should respond by legalizing drugs like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to break up the drug cartels in Central and South America.

“Then there would be less of an incentive for people to bring people here,” she said.

In response to the influx of immigrant children, Ms. MacInnis believes that church groups and families should volunteer to care for detainees or find places for them to live. Housing children at Camp Edwards would likely morph into a long-term solution, she said, doubtful that the children would be reunited with their families after four months.

Gov. Patrick’s invitation to the federal government was also not preceded by any conversation with local officials, and as a result, Ms. MacInnis said, it “left a bad feeling” with some Cape residents.

But rather than arguing with supporters of sheltering immigrants at the rally, she hoped to start a conversation.

“What was fantastic about this rally is that after it was over, some of us from the Tea Party were standing on the street and some of the Occupy people came over to talk to us,” she said. “We had a conversation amongst ourselves, sharing ideas and concerns for the community.”

Although the two sides still disagree, the conversation was a positive alternative to the closed-minded comments on the issue that Ms. MacInnis said she has read in the news recently.

“I’m perturbed by the amount of anger on both sides [of the debate] and by how unwilling people are to listen to each other,” she said.

“This is hitting people in a very emotional place.”

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