Congressional challenger Morse raps Neal over border spending boost


  • Alex Morse, July 22, 2019.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2019 11:38:02 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Congressional hopeful and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse gathered Tuesday with several progressive political activists outside the office of his opponent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, where he denounced proposed additional funding for the country’s top immigration agencies.

Morse, along with the CD-1 Progressive Coalition — a network of left-leaning groups in the 1st Congressional District — called for limiting spending for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Neither Neal, D-Springfield, nor any staffer from his office attended the event outside the congressman’s office at the federal courthouse.

“As a member of Congress, representing the 1st Congressional District, I will not provide additional dollars to ICE and CBP,” Morse said.

“To vote in favor of a bill that would give any additional money to this inhumane administration to do with it what they please … that is just unacceptable,” he said of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Before Morse spoke, organizer David Greenberg laid out three main demands the coalition had for Neal before Congress begins debate over the 2020 budget; the first, to “publicly and forcefully oppose increased funding for ICE”; the second, to remove from the first draft of an appropriations bill $387 million for deportations; and the third, to create language that bars ICE from taking money given to other agencies.

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” illegal immigration policy has resulted in a large number of family separations at the border, along with squalid conditions at detention centers run by ICE.

Both Neal and Morse were invited by the coalition to discuss their records and current stances on immigration, as both are vying for the Democratic nomination in the 1st District race. Morse and the coalition were critical of Neal’s vote in favor of $4.5 billion in emergency spending for border operations on June 27.

Morse also decried Neal’s reticence to call for an impeachment inquiry for Trump, saying that Neal, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a nearly 30-year veteran of Congress, does not use his platform to advance conversations within the Democratic Party. 

“What good is that power if you’re not going to use that power to protect and stand up for our most vulnerable members of our community here in Western Mass.?” Morse asked. 

Morse said he was in support of cutting funding for ICE and CBP in the future. He also pointed to the Trump administration’s diversion of appropriated defense funds to the border wall as an example why congressional oversight is important.

“It’s not just about committing to not providing additional funding, but looking at the funding the agency already has and making sure we redirect that funding to actually invest in people’s lives and actually focus on some of the core issues that have caused this migration in the first place,” he said.

Neal’s spokesman emailed a statement later in the day stressing Neal’s opposition to the White House’s border policies.

“Congressman Neal believes the scenes we are witnessing each day from the border are disturbing, inhumane and contrary to our basic American values,” said spokesman William Tranghese. “President Trump’s policy of family separation is wrong and morally reprehensible. The Trump administration must ensure that basic humanitarian standards are met at these detention facilities.”

Tranghese also defended Neal’s support for more funding for border authorities.

“Congressman Neal has consistently advocated for more resources to address this humanitarian crisis because it requires our ‘immediate action and attention.’ Having visited the border, he knows that families belong together and vulnerable children should not have to endure squalid conditions. The Congressman has also voted for legislation that will provide funding to help relieve the dangerous conditions at the border and enact protections for children and families being held in detention centers,” Tranghese said.

Other activists at the event spoke before Morse, including Dina Friedman, who visited a detention facility in Homestead, Florida. She and seven other members of the Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice traveled to the facility in June, saying they had to stand on stepladders to look inside since the fences were blacked out.

The group held up large red hearts at children in the facility, waving at them, she said. Occasionally, some of the children would wave back to them.

“We wanted the children to know that somebody there cared about them,” she said.

Michael Connors can be reached at 

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