Commentary: Markey has been trusted ally for Haitian Americans

Sen. Markey addressed a crowd in support of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in Jan. 2018.

For over forty years, Ed Markey has been a champion in Washington for Haitians in Massachusetts, throughout the US and in Haiti. In this time of crisis for our community, it is vital to maintain this experienced, proven leadership on the issues that matter most to us.

On a cold day in January 2018, the Haitian-American community held a rally downtown to protest President Trump’s racist comments about Haiti and several African countries, which he used to justify racist immigration policies. Ed saw the rally from his office and came out to join us.
Ed had no prepared speech or even notes, but he took the mic to condemn the President’s racism. He went on to demonstrate the President’s ignorance by citing from memory Haiti’s historic contributions to freedom throughout the world. Ed then connected our protest that day with Haitians’ struggles for equitable treatment in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s and two centuries of struggle for democracy in Haiti.

Haitians use a proverb: “The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun,” to explain why it is difficult to understand another’s hardship if you have not experienced it yourself. Ed grew up in a working-class family. His father was a milkman and he worked his way through college and law school. His experience as the first in his family to attend college inspired a life-long commitment to quality educational opportunities for everyone. When he wrote the historic 1996 Telecommunications Act as a member of the House of Representatives, Ed made sure to include the “E-rate” program, which brought broadband internet to schools and libraries that might have otherwise missed out on the digital revolution. He is a perennial supporter of the Head Start program, that provides early childhood education, health and nutrition in our schools.

Ed has been showing that Black Lives Matter to him since 1972, when he was in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The House leadership tried to push through a redistricting plan that year that would prevent the election of a Black state senator from Boston. Ed was one of the few white legislators who supported a rival plan by the House’s Black Caucus that would create a district that more fairly represented Black voters. Leadership threatened to punish Ed, who was only in his first term, but he stuck by his principles. His support allowed the Black Caucus plan to prevail, which opened the door to the 1975 election of Bill Owens, Boston’s first Black State Senator.

Ed understands the importance of safe, affordable housing for our communities. When the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tried to block a deal that would lead to upgrades and prevent the expiration of affordable housing vouchers at the Heritage Apartments in Malden in 2007, Ed passed an amendment that required HUD to proceed with the deal. Year after year, Ed has obtained funding from Washington for affordable housing throughout the Boston area, including $3.5 million in new funding from HUD this January.

When Hurricane Matthew devastated parts of Haiti in October, 2016, Ed flew down to see how he could help. He toured the hardest hit areas to see firsthand the damage and the response efforts. Ed came back to Boston to discuss what he had seen with the Haitian community and to coordinate with local political leaders such as former State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. Ed then went back to Washington, where he sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, and pushed the US government and the United Nations to provide more and better support to the hurricane victims.

Haitians in the United States, like all communities of color, are likely to suffer disproportionately from the increasing impacts of climate change. The Green New Deal—for which Ed is the lead sponsor in the Senate—would turn this threat into an opportunity by providing massive amounts of jobs and job training that would prepare our workers to fully participate in the economy of the future, while reducing the impacts of changed weather patterns on vulnerable communities.

Ed’s experience collaborating with Haitians in Massachusetts and his proven record of advancing our issues in Washington make him the best candidate to advance our interests in the Senate over the next six years. We owe it to ourselves to send Ed back to Washington by voting for him in the Democratic primary on September 1.

Henry Milorin is the Chairman of the Medford Democratic City Committee.