SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 23, 2012

Benton: Amnesty no longer a dirty word

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Almost four centuries after the Pilgrims enjoyed the first Thanksgiving feast in the Bay State, the year 2012 may be accorded similar milestone status for the Hispanic community.

This is the year those who came to the United States not from England, but from Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean and south of the border asserted themselves in the presidential election. The result — a convincing win for President Barack Obama and reduced influence for Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives — was in no small measure due to Democrats’ ability to attract the Latino vote, which accounted for about 10 percent of the total cast.

Within hours, influential Republicans were joining Democrats in calling for comprehensive immigration reform. And “amnesty” was no longer a dirty word.

In a pre-holiday message to staff and faculty, North Shore Community College President Wayne Burton hailed a recent directive from Gov. Deval Patrick that Bay State students eligible for work permits under the Obama administration’s implementation of the DREAM Act be charged in-state tuition rates.

“To me, as world residents, we have a moral obligation to assist displaced persons reach their fullest potential no matter where they were born or whom they were born to. I thank Gov. Patrick for his courage in taking this step,” Burton noted.

Unfortunately, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, on the short list for “turkey of the year” among the nation’s politicians, is still doing everything she can to thwart Obama’s initiative. This week, according to the Arizona Republic, despite the state’s long history of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented workers in general, the governor issued an executive order specifically prohibiting similar treatment for those young people who have applied for deferred action on their status under the DREAM Act.

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The Beverly City Council strengthened its reputation as the most progressive and enlightened such body on the North Shore this week, voting 8-0 to make properties along the Rantoul Street corridor eligible for tax breaks under the state’s Urban Center Tax Increment Financing program.

The program encourages residential development along the major downtown arterial by granting developers a 70 percent tax break in the first five years after construction and 30 percent break for the next five years. The goal is to bring more people downtown who would then provide a permanent customer base for businesses in the area.

It’s a formula that has worked very well for downtown Salem, and one that, sadly, continues to be resisted by councilors in Peabody who now hope that simply slowing traffic on Main Street will prompt people to abandon their vehicles to do some shopping there.

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We recall Sen. John Kerry’s communications chief, Whitney Smith, saying shortly after the 2010 election how she’d recently come away from a Democratic briefing fully convinced that the Republicans would hold a majority of Senate seats come 2013. But Democrats have actually increased their plurality to 53-45, with the two independents saying they will caucus with the majority party.

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Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.