LSPC BLOG

Congressman Andy Harris has a White Nationalist and Anti-Semitism problem

Congressman Andy Harris has been representing us in Congress for well over 10 years.  Throughout his time in office, Andy Harris has had a major problem with ties to White Nationalism and Anti-Semitism.  In this letter I will discuss in detail Congressman Harris problematic ties to these extremist and hateful ideologies. Make this word plural? 

 

On January 16th 2017, Congressman Andy Harris joined Congressman Phil Roe for a meeting with White Nationalist activist Chuck Johnson. Chuck Johnson is nationally known for his hateful and dangerous ideology including being a Holocaust denier, believing that Muslims are “genetically different in their propensity for violence or rape”, and linked to stories about how African-Americans “possessed a ‘violence’ gene.” These views have been proven to be debunked pseudoscience? from as far back as 1920. Yet our congressman took time out of his day to meet with such a radical extremist. 

 

Read more about it here

 

This is not the first time that Andy Harris has openly worked with someone with anti-Semitic and white nationalistic views. Since taking office Congressman Harris has been a major collaborator with Hungarian Dictator Viktor Orbán. Andy Harris has assisted Viktor Orbán in his efforts to erode democracy and seize power in Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán, during his power grab, was is famous for using anti-Semitic imagery around his nation, claiming that “powerful Jewish financiers are scheming to control the world.” He has also led smear campaigns that openly ran Jewish leaders, businesses, and institutions out of the country.  Orban’s anti-semitic horror show doesn’t end there. Throughout his time in office, Orban has started efforts to revise history in order to “sanitize” the record of Hungarian participation in the ghettoization and deportation of the country’s Jews to concentration camps during WWII. During this period, Hungary was an ally of the Nazis. Despite these several authoritarian and openly anti-semitic actions, Congressman Harris still proudly promoted and supported anti-Semites in their effort to rewrite history, harass the Jewish community in the country, and seize power in the nation. 

 

Read about Harris’ collaboration with Viktor Orbán here

 

Read about Viktor Orbán’s anti-Semitic views here.  

 

Andy Harris’s efforts to support foreign anti-Semites don’t stop in Hungary.  In 2018, the congressman  attempted to secretly meet with the leader of the Czech Nazi Party (Svoboda a přímá demokracie) Tomio Okamura in Prague. Not only was this meeting going to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, this party is by far the most extreme that Czech Politics has to offer. You might be asking yourself why is this party so bad?  The party has a long history of advocating for the violation of human rights and extremism like anti-Semitism. The Secretary of the Party Jaroslav Staník openly called for the gassing of “Jews, gays, and Roma”,  which would be nothing short of a modern-day Holocaust. The party’s leader, Tomio Okamura, has called on the Czech people to walk pigs and dogs in Muslim neighborhoods and mosques  (Muslim religious doctrines call for practicing Muslims to avoid interaction with these animals). To have people walk pigs and dogs in their community would be nothing short of harassment and open terrorism towards people just trying to live their lives like you and I. Tomio has also advocated for the end of religious freedoms and wants to ban Islam and other religions he views as undesirable. The fact that our congressman would set up a meeting with such an extremist that openly goes against American values of freedom and peace is disgusting and a clear sign he holds these beliefs himself.   

 

Read about Andy Harris’s planned meeting with a political party calling for the mass murder of Jews, Romas, and members of the LGBTQ community here

 

In the simplest terms, the situation with our sitting congressman is untenable. The first time Andy Harris met with or attempted to meet with an Anti-Semite and or White Nationalist leader or organization, there it was at least somewhat believable that maybe Andy Harris and his staff were incompetent and didn’t know how to vet people before setting up meetings. Not even Harris could be THIS incompetent. There is no reason not to believe that he holds these anti-American and anti-Eastern Shore views himself. There is a saying for people like Andy Harris: if there’s a Nazi at the table and ten other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with eleven Nazis. We can’t afford to continue electing a congressman who holds sympathetic views towards White Nationalism and anti-Semitism. 

Jared Schablein

Pittsville 

Chair, Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

  • Congressman Andy Harris has a White Nationalist and Anti-Semitism problem

    Congressman Andy Harris has been representing us in Congress for well over 10 years.  Throughout his time in office, Andy Harris has had a major problem with ties to White Nationalism and Anti-Semitism.  In this letter I will discuss in detail Congressman Harris problematic ties to these extremist and hateful ideologies. Make this word plural? 

     

    On January 16th 2017, Congressman Andy Harris joined Congressman Phil Roe for a meeting with White Nationalist activist Chuck Johnson. Chuck Johnson is nationally known for his hateful and dangerous ideology including being a Holocaust denier, believing that Muslims are “genetically different in their propensity for violence or rape”, and linked to stories about how African-Americans “possessed a ‘violence’ gene.” These views have been proven to be debunked pseudoscience? from as far back as 1920. Yet our congressman took time out of his day to meet with such a radical extremist. 

     

    Read more about it here

     

    This is not the first time that Andy Harris has openly worked with someone with anti-Semitic and white nationalistic views. Since taking office Congressman Harris has been a major collaborator with Hungarian Dictator Viktor Orbán. Andy Harris has assisted Viktor Orbán in his efforts to erode democracy and seize power in Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán, during his power grab, was is famous for using anti-Semitic imagery around his nation, claiming that “powerful Jewish financiers are scheming to control the world.” He has also led smear campaigns that openly ran Jewish leaders, businesses, and institutions out of the country.  Orban’s anti-semitic horror show doesn’t end there. Throughout his time in office, Orban has started efforts to revise history in order to “sanitize” the record of Hungarian participation in the ghettoization and deportation of the country’s Jews to concentration camps during WWII. During this period, Hungary was an ally of the Nazis. Despite these several authoritarian and openly anti-semitic actions, Congressman Harris still proudly promoted and supported anti-Semites in their effort to rewrite history, harass the Jewish community in the country, and seize power in the nation. 

     

    Read about Harris’ collaboration with Viktor Orbán here

     

    Read about Viktor Orbán’s anti-Semitic views here.  

     

    Andy Harris’s efforts to support foreign anti-Semites don’t stop in Hungary.  In 2018, the congressman  attempted to secretly meet with the leader of the Czech Nazi Party (Svoboda a přímá demokracie) Tomio Okamura in Prague. Not only was this meeting going to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, this party is by far the most extreme that Czech Politics has to offer. You might be asking yourself why is this party so bad?  The party has a long history of advocating for the violation of human rights and extremism like anti-Semitism. The Secretary of the Party Jaroslav Staník openly called for the gassing of “Jews, gays, and Roma”,  which would be nothing short of a modern-day Holocaust. The party’s leader, Tomio Okamura, has called on the Czech people to walk pigs and dogs in Muslim neighborhoods and mosques  (Muslim religious doctrines call for practicing Muslims to avoid interaction with these animals). To have people walk pigs and dogs in their community would be nothing short of harassment and open terrorism towards people just trying to live their lives like you and I. Tomio has also advocated for the end of religious freedoms and wants to ban Islam and other religions he views as undesirable. The fact that our congressman would set up a meeting with such an extremist that openly goes against American values of freedom and peace is disgusting and a clear sign he holds these beliefs himself.   

     

    Read about Andy Harris’s planned meeting with a political party calling for the mass murder of Jews, Romas, and members of the LGBTQ community here

     

    In the simplest terms, the situation with our sitting congressman is untenable. The first time Andy Harris met with or attempted to meet with an Anti-Semite and or White Nationalist leader or organization, there it was at least somewhat believable that maybe Andy Harris and his staff were incompetent and didn’t know how to vet people before setting up meetings. Not even Harris could be THIS incompetent. There is no reason not to believe that he holds these anti-American and anti-Eastern Shore views himself. There is a saying for people like Andy Harris: if there’s a Nazi at the table and ten other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with eleven Nazis. We can’t afford to continue electing a congressman who holds sympathetic views towards White Nationalism and anti-Semitism. 

    Jared Schablein

    Pittsville 

    Chair, Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

  • The Case for Todd Nock

    “As a local community leader and as an educator, Todd Nock has worked to improve the lives of Pocomoke residents his entire life.  Councilmember Todd Nock is deeply rooted in Pocomoke’s vibrant community and committed to bettering the lives of the families who call the city home. Councilmember Nock’s work to reach across the political divide and build consensus with people of all backgrounds has resulted in him being selected to serve as Vice President of the Pocomoke Town Council and the District Vice President representing District 1 at the Maryland Municipal League. Since being elected the youngest representative to the council in City history, Councilmember Nock has brought the community together to address racial injustices, improved community safety, and has improved the city’s economic conditions. These achievements show exactly why Councilman Nock is in a good position to be reelected on 4/6. I have seen the enormous good Councilmember Nock has done for his community first hand, and I look forward to continuing our shared work on behalf of the working people of Pocomoke.” – LSPC Chair Jared Schablein 

    During his first term in office, Councilmember Nock is already fulfilling promises and working hard for Pocomoke. As an educator, son, and community leader with deep roots in Pocomoke, Councilmember Nock has spent his career listening to and helping solve problems with hundreds of constituents and their families from Pocomoke and across the entire Lower Shore. 

    Since being elected to the City Council, He has brought that same dedication and understanding to his work in City government, hosting and participating in events across the district and championing legislation to bring the community together to address racial injustices, creating a safer community, and improving the economic conditions of the city.  

    As a young black man in America, Councilman Nock knows firsthand the systematic racism in our society. After George Floyd's death this past summer, millions of Americans, including many in Pocomoke’s 4th district, were hurting and demanding change in our broken criminal justice system. Understanding the pain of his district and the City at large, Councilmember Nock showed that he was a great unifying force by springing into action and leading a peaceful march and vigil alongside members of the Pocomoke Police Department. George Floyd's death led to hyperpartisanship and no sustainable action to address the issue in many communities around the country, yet Councilmember Nock’s event successfully brought the community together to grieve and work with local authorities to start developing policies to prevent future acts of brutality.  

    Over his first term, Councilmember Nock has been laser-focused on addressing racial injustices both in the city and at the state level. Councilmember Nock introduced an ordinance to make Juneteenth an official holiday in Pocomoke, lead the effort to create a youth advisory committee to empower the city’s youth, and built local support for criminal justice reform bills in Annapolis.  

    As the only black man on the City Council, Todd brings a critical voice to issues related to racial justice. And as a community leader who has worked to bring the community together to create a more just society, Todd understands what changes need to be made to make our city and community work better for people of all backgrounds. 

    Public safety is a top concern for any municipal government and during his first term, Councilmember Nock has worked to drastically improve public safety in Pocomoke. In addition to promoting policies to ensure that the city of Pocomoke is a just place for all, Councilmember Nock has also worked tirelessly to create a safe community for all residents

    One way Councilmember Nock has created a safer community for Pocomoke is by serving as a liaison to build trust between the police department and his district. Bringing the community and local law enforcement together and giving an effective way for the community and the department to communicate with each other has resulted in the increased trust from the community-at-large in the local police department, given the police a way to give information more effectively to residents, and given the community a way to address concerns with the department in a manner that can result in those concerns being addressed. Through his work as a community liaison, Councilmember Nock has built a close relationship with Pocomoke City Police Chief Lee Brumley and other leaders within the department.  This relationship has resulted in a better serving department and the ability to create local programs to improve public safety in Pocomoke.  

    In addition, Councilmember Nock has created a safer community by assisting in the effort to restart the City’s Neighborhood Watch Program. By restarting this program, Councilmember Nock has helped to bond the community together through service to the community and the shared goal of keeping the community safe. The joint service and shared values create a more unified community that works together to get things done. 

    Another benefit of Councilmember Nock restarting this program is the training it provides to Pocomoke’s residents and the city’s local law enforcement.  The neighborhood watch program helps to unite the law enforcement officers, private organizations, and individual residents in Pocomoke to reduce crime and improve the local community through cooperation and communication. 

    Finally, Councilmember Nock has created a safer community by leading the effort to create a Safe Place Initiative for the City of Pocomoke. Living in a rural community where everyone knows each other is fantastic. Unfortunately, it has its drawbacks especially when it comes to reporting crimes. Living in a community where everyone knows each other like Pocomoke makes it more difficult to report a crime in a safe and discreet manner. When community members see a crime or could provide tips helpful to the local police but do not feel they can safely report it knowing it will be confidential, they are unlikely to report what they know. This is devastating to local law enforcement because it keeps them from vital information they need to effectively do their job. 

    Councilmember Nock’s Safe Place Initiative brought local businesses and the Police department together to address this problem by allowing residents to report crimes at downtown businesses. Through this program, residents can safely report crimes in the community without the fear of having it be traced back to them ensuring that vital information to prevent and solve crime makes it to the police. 

    Councilmember Nock knows that a strong local economy is vital to improving the life of residents and the overall quality of the city.  That is why Councilmember Nock has created and served on multiple commissions and committees in Pocomoke to promote economic growth and support the local economy.  Under his leadership, Pocomoke has made efforts to beautify the community, create new recreational activities for the city,  and find new ways to create economic growth. Councilmember Nock is focused on using these committees to help build a more robust local economy post-covid and bring more good-paying jobs and business to the 4th district and city at large.

    In 2018, the Pocomoke City Council was in desperate need of new ideas and a new generation of local leaders. Councilmember Nock fulfilled those needs and offered the residents of Pocomoke’s 4th district a better path forward. It was because of this new vision that Councilmember Nock was able to win a hotly contested election. Councilmember Todd Nock has strong prospects for re-election and should be elected for a second term by the voters of Pocomoke’s 4th district in order to build upon his good work. 

  • A Progressive Love Letter to Somerset County

    So I have been reading Obama's The Audacity of Hope.

    Based on what is going on right now, I'm having a hard time seeing where the hope fits in. From what I can glean from history, once LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this pissed off a whole segment of our country (the white supremacist God, guns & country segment) who had previously supported the New Deal vision of fair wages and benefits, patronage and public works, and an ever-rising standard of living for Americans. Suddenly, this segment of America decided that the New Deal vision of fair wages and benefits, patronage and public works, and an ever-rising standard of living should be for only some Americans, not all Americans.

    I live in an area where the majority of the population represent the God, guns & country vision of America, one where minority folks do not enjoy the same privileges as many, if not most, of their white counterparts. Although I vote and campaign for progressive ideals, I live in Trump country.

    Interestingly enough, this area and specifically Somerset County, used to be economically successful and a bright spot in Maryland. Yet, decades of keeping certain people in charge, not adapting as the market changed, not allowing for new growth, calling people who migrated to the area 'Come Heres', and keeping things the same, has resulted in economic decline for Somerset County, specifically for Crisfield, MD. Many people in Crisfield have tried to bring new business, arts, tourism, etc. to the community. Over my 15 years living here, although there have been small successes, the community is still just hanging on.

    I am a true believer that the outward appearance of a community is a big deal when people visit Crisfield. If you provide a welcoming appearance to all visitors, and treat all newcomers with open arms (regardless of their color, race, sexual orientation, religion, previous geographic home), you are more likely to see economic circumstances improve.

    Instead, when you are driving into Crisfield by the main route (Hwy 413) , tourists and would be newcomers must pass a business that not only openly supported Trump, but also has maintained a political statement displaying an actual wreck with a Trump truck driving over a 'Dems' economy car. Not only does this business, Southern Connection, have this hateful eyesore, but since Trump lost the November 3rd presidential election, the business now displays a message on it's electronic sign for all visitors to see on their way into town & on their way out of town.

    What is the message, you ask? It is a message urging the community to fight for Trump and it reads: TRUMP 2020-Free men don't ask permission -- Fight for TRUMP.

    I can tell you that anyone who truly cares about America and ALL of her citizens would not want this to be the message that visitors see on the way into their community.

    Don't get me wrong, the owner of this business is free to display this and he has displayed it for several weeks now. I can tell you that people who really want Crisfield to improve economically, socially, and spiritually, should speak out against this type of sedition.

    www.dictionary.com/browse/sedition

    Sedition is the act of encouraging rebellion against the government, or an action that promotes such rebellion, such as through speech or writing.

  • A rebuke to MD-01 Rep. Andy Harris

    May 2, 2020
    Congressman Andy Harris, M.D.
    2334 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515
    Representative Harris,
              Here we are in May 2020; Let me start by saying that your behavior on 05/02/2020 was reckless.  This COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-growing tragedy.  Being as though you are a physician, I would honestly expect more from you. (I am not sure why) YOU are a disgrace to every single elected official across this state. Governor Hogan has set measures in place to protect the citizens of Maryland, and you do not care. Let me explain something to you, opening this state will KILL us! How dare you take part in a rally to reopen the state, you’re not dependable! 
              As of yesterday, we had 1,730 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the state of Maryland.  I realize even with the stern guidelines; this state is becoming more ill by the day. I have so much more to say, but you will not care. YOU ARE AN IDIOT! There have been many instances where we needed your help, and you did not show up. However, you did today; you showed up in a big way.
             Back in 2011, I met you at the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake; I remember it like it was yesterday.  My boss encouraged me to stay away from you, yet I still took a picture with you.  I did not understand at the time why Jim did not like you.  Over the years, I have grown to understand.  In March 2019, The National League of cities set up a meeting with you and I.  When I showed up to your office, they treated me like a second-class citizen. THEN you never met with me.  I was extremely disappointed, I thought you would want to interact with officials from the Eastern Shore.
             You are not concerned with the well-being of Marylanders; you are concerned with life-risking labor.  YOU are corrupt, and WE WANT YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM THE EASTERN SHORE, just like you normally do. 
    Todd J. Nock
    District 4 Council Member
    City of Pocomoke City
  • The Voice of Stability during Covid-19: Salisbury's Mayor Jacob Day

    The Voice of Stability during Covid-19: Salisbury's Mayor Jacob Day

    The outbreak of Covid-19 has caused significant stress on all aspects of life. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and struggle to operate what many would consider a healthy daily life. In addition to new daily stressors is the anxiety that comes from trying to figure out how we will continue to pay bills and avoid getting sick during these trying times. While millions struggle, the federal government has failed to put forth any meaningful response to provide aid to working-class people or slow the spread of this deadly disease.

    Fortunately for us here on the Lower Eastern Shore, we have had a voice of stability and guidance in Mayor Jacob Day of Salisbury. Since this outbreak started, Mayor Day continues to relay crucial information that we need to stay safe and flatten the curve and to answer questions asked by the community via a daily video briefing on Facebook live.

    Mayor Day has worked around the clock with our state and federal representatives to address things such as getting relief aid for our communities and ensuring constituents still get the state and federal resources they need.

    Finally, Mayor Day has stepped up by implementing an emergency declaration to fight the spread of Covid-19 here. His orders include:

    • limiting the number of occupants who can be in retail or commercial facilities at one time;
    • prohibiting all self-serve foods and product sampling;
    • ensuring that cleaning guidelines set by the CDC and MDH are followed;
    • requiring a minimum of six feet of distance in lines, outside and inside stores; and
    • establishing 1 to 2 exclusive hours per day for high-risk populations, such as senior citizens and other high risk populations.

    These measures will establish the conditions needed to reduce the spread of the disease and help keep the community safe. While the world around us exhibits instability and chaos due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it is reassuring to know that our community is taking action to fight this disease, and that we have the stability to overcome this all from the calm leadership of Mayor Jacob Day.

    Written by Jared Schablein

    Chair of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

  • On migrant workers in Maryland

     Just past midnight on a Saturday morning twenty-eight year old Melva Guadalupe Vázquez of Ciudad del Maíz, México wakes up to her phone alarm in a cramped bedroom she shares with five other women in Woolford, Maryland on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. She puts on her work uniform, which despite washing still reeks of crabs, and heads out into the darkness to walk a quarter-mile to Lindy’s Seafood, where the graveyard shift is due to begin at 2 a.m. A half hour later she is part of a team of a dozen women on the picking line as crabs are wheeled in on a huge dolly and put in piles on a long, stainless steel table. Vázquez puts on her fingerless blue gloves, picks up a crab and cracks the shell. She then quickly maneuvers her two small knives to extract the meat and puts it into a small plastic container labeled #9. A supervisor will record how much she has produced during the shift, so she works fast, deshelling roughly two crabs per minute. No one speaks while working. Spanish music plays on one of the women's iPhone. Most of them spend the time thinking of their children back home. At 7 a.m. Vázquez takes an hour for lunch, when she puts a Band-Aid on a self-inflicted cut to a finger on her right hand, which burns painfully from the salt. She works another 4 hours for a total of 10 -- there are a lot of crabs to process that day. Now it’s 1 p.m., and exhausted she walks back home in the bright midday sun. She is looking forward to tomorrow, Sunday, the one day she usually gets off, when she plans to attend church and do grocery shopping.

                                           *                                                        *                                                            *

         Like the Jim Crow laws of the 19th century that enforced racial segregation in the U.S., there are ways in which our modern day temporary immigrant visa system resembles the historical institution of slavery. There are differences of course. Workers come to America of their own free will, and they are in principle afforded equal protection under the law, both in the workplace and as visitors to our country. For instance, they are entitled to enroll in the ACA if they choose while they are here. However, they are effectively segregated from the general population and take up the kind of low-paying, manual labor that occurs out of the sight and mind of most people. They are also subjected to not-so-subtle forms of racial discrimination that is inspired these days directly from Washington. “A lot of the Hispanic people are afraid of going to certain stores because there are some people who look at them disapprovingly,” said Margarita Marquez, an outreach worker. “But they know how to avoid those situations.”

     

         Over the past four years the Trump administration has painted a consistently black and white, absurdly demonizing portrait of immigrants, particularly Mexicans, as degenerate criminals and rapists threatening American society at home and amassing at our borders, poised to take jobs and good fortune away from the average flag-waving Joe. The ideology is dead wrong and leads to miserable, unfair relations with our immigrant population. On the contrary, immigration is a complex issue, which demands nothing less than rational, compassionate consideration from citizens and legislators alike. The full picture regarding immigration in any nation should fairly encompass all the nuances of the host and the needs of a diverse set of emigres seeking entry for various reasons, from desiring temporary work to full blown political asylum. As is common in any serious debate, for every reasonable argument in favor of a position, there tends to be a valid counter argument -- up to a point. Logic is not everything in human affairs; sympathy and compassion should be given equal weight. That is, every controversial socio-political-economic position in the end should be subjected to a common sense ethical standard and moreover grounded in a valid, generally accepted set of facts (which in today's bifurcated political environment is easier said than done). We're in a crisis at the moment, because the distinction between fact and falsehood is being deliberately blurred for political ends. Not only must we do a better job respecting the facts (immigrants are not taking away jobs Americans want), but we should abide by the Christian golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

         Above all, in the end, the freedom and welfare of ordinary human beings, at home and abroad, must necessarily be insulated from the cheap political rhetoric that is meant to arouse nationalist, xenophobic and racist sentiments for political gain. In particular, it is so difficult right now in America to settle any argument concerning immigration at the local, state or national level that meets the overall needs and concerns of the majority, because the issue is so polluted out of the gate by political dogma of the most offensive kind issuing from Donald Trump’s incessant Twitter bully pulpit. The latest threat from Washington to invade sanctuary cities with the military arm of ICE follows right on the heels of a heartless, criminal policy of separating immigrant children from their families. The president has moreover insisted that we must build a wall and that he might shut down the border with Mexico altogether, particularly now that we are combating the Coronavirus, a pandemic that the administration will likely try to convert into a win for America first nationalism.

         We need to get beyond the Trump administration’s absurd racist policy and consider the human side of the issue, namely the perspective of the refugee, the concerns of the underdog. We must try to imagine what it is like being in the shoes of these struggling people, fleeing poverty and/or civil strife in their native countries to seek refuge in America, or doing more or less the same holding temporary visas in order to sustain the lives of their children and families back home. We should respect these poor, hard-working people as we do our own workers and afford them the wages, dignity and civil rights that we take for granted ourselves; instead the current government encourages us to treat them with contempt like the invisible slaves of our colonial past. These immigrants do the hard, subsistence work that almost no Americans want to do themselves in a relatively healthy economy, such as agricultural, food processing, landscaping, construction, housekeeping and amusement park labor.

         A good example of this troubling international crisis exists right here in Maryland’s eastern shore; crab meat processing plant workers, all women and mostly mothers, who travel here for stints of up to eight months at a time from central Mexico under the government’s H-2B visa program. In September of 2019 The Baltimore Sun ran an exceptional article with an accompanying short video documentary on the situation. The piece was in contrast to most of the other recent news stories on the topic, which have focused mainly on the difficulty of crab processing industry owners in recent years to garner sufficient cheap labor south of the border, despite logging consistent annual profits in the tens of millions of dollars. (see: ‘I’m not here to take anyone’s job’: Mexican crab pickers quietly work in Maryland as immigration debate rages https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-crab-pickers-20190925-vpgfhcq4uvfvvomgseru64dody-story.html) In the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0JqyHVY5G8), two women from Mexico interviewed in Spanish share their thoughts on the tough, thankless, isolated life they endure on the remote Hoopers Island during their multi-year stints in the U.S. So many communities across the nation have situations which mirror in microcosm our national crisis like this one. The bottom line here on Maryland's shore is that crab meat processing companies make less of a profit selling whole crabs to restaurants and supermarkets, because Americans don’t like the trouble of extracting the meat themselves, so they sponsor migrant workers and pay them subsistent wages to do that undesirable labor under slave like conditions -- yes, this has been happening since the 1980s right in Maryland’s backyard. “We cannot find [domestic] workers,” said Jay Newcomb, owner of Old Salty’s Restaurant in Fishing Creek. “We’ve done job fairs, we’ve contacted the detention centers, run ads all over the East Coast. We’ve tried colleges and temp agencies.” The local people are just not there, and you can’t relocate and/or force them to take these jobs. “I feel like I’m not here to take anyone’s job, says Vázquez. “On the contrary, I’m here to do a job that Americans don’t want to do. Latinos make economic life in this country grow. And I don’t accept or agree with the ideals of the president we have here in the United States, but I also respect the decisions that are made here, good or bad. As long as we are offered visas, I think we are going to be here. Whether it’s for many months or just a few; either way, we are grateful.”

                                            *                                                        *                                                            *

         It’s Sunday morning, and Vázquez gratefully attends mass. Religion is the racial equalizer here, at least on the surface. Church is the sole outlet where immigrants are superficially welcome in Dorchester County, a conservative community where the abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman was born and struggled to free fellow slaves. It provides a brief respite from the incessant, grueling work she endures week-to-week, year-to-year, but sometimes she has to work Sundays too. In the eyes of God, for an hour or so, she feels like she is an equal here, and she feels at peace. Later she will go to a grocery store where she feels welcome and is not treated with suspicion.

                                            *                                                        *                                                            *

          The federal temporary visa system works overall for both local economies and the guest workers, but the working conditions and quality of life for the latter is just short of appalling. The current restrictive immigration law not only hinders domestic commerce, but also makes life painful for the migrant workers who depend on this work to address the basic needs of their families back home. The system should be expanded and liberalized, not curtailed and made more stringent; anything short of that is plainly counter-economic. Furthermore, legislation should guarantee foreign workers’ wages and human rights on a par with American citizens. As already mentioned, people need to appreciate the human toll of the processed crab meat they enjoy on the backs of honest, hard-working Mexican mothers. In the words of Melva Vázquez, “There are a lot of sacrifices made here. You leave your family, your home, your country. You see new faces, hear a new language. I’ve been coming to Hoopers Island, to the company, for three years now. It’s something really nice, because it helps me financially, and I think we help the company financially. This is the life of a crab worker. Every single day. The work is heavy. Difficult.”

         So what can ordinary people do to help? Well, we can start by not following the president’s lead in being racist and insensitive to these workers, who are in the majority good, law abiding, church-going people slaving away doing work that most consider beneath us. When we treat them like sub-humans doing our dirty work, it makes life that much harder and more difficult for them. Surely God is watching us and is not pleased.

  • Call to Action in Wicomico County

    We at the LSPC strongly encourage you to take the same path as Mr. Ben Rayne has and contact the 3 county council members listed below in an effort to garner attention to accurate information regarding the legality of proposed actions, as well as to let your elected officials know exactly what the citizens of Wicomico County desire regarding the proposed restrictions on consumption of medical cannabis within our county. 

    Letters, emails, and phone calls are wonderful ways to let county council members know the wishes of the community they serve.

     

    Wicomico County Council

    125 N. Division Street, Room 301

    Salisbury MD 21801

    Dear Mr. Cannon, Mr. McCain, Mr. Davis:

    My name is Ben Rayne and I have lived in Wicomico County my entire life, save for a brief 6-month period during which I lived in Dorchester, after which I came bounding back to Wicomico.

    I am writing the three of you today in protest of Sheriff Lewis and SA Dykes proposal to increase the severity of punishment with regards to public use of cannabis. I myself am a registered patient with the MMCC and I can’t begin to tell you the life changing benefits of legal cannabis use for the treatment of certain medical conditions from which I have suffered from most of my life. I am bipolar, I have ADHD, I suffer from PTSD, I have a panic/anxiety disorder, and I am on the autism spectrum. In case you were unaware, these are not curable conditions, only treatable with therapy and medication. Medical cannabis has helped me overcome much of the anxiety of daily life that had left me unable to work after a series of traumatic moments in my life.

    But even if we forgo the usual anecdotes about how much good this plant is facilitating, we can find massive faults in the arguments put forth by Sheriff Lewis and SA Dykes. Their entire plan hinges upon something known as preemption. Preemption is a legal concept that sets forth the idea in strong State Government models, like The State of Maryland is set forth in its constitution, that when the State passes a law, that law is THE law of the land. No local laws may be made that supersede the State or Federal Government’s authority.

     

    Now, I can explain this visually as well. Imagine you have a clear plastic tube and in the middle of it there is a disc with several holes in its surface that would allow sand to easily pass through. Now, the State laws are like marbles that perfectly stop up those holes. Local laws are like the sand and they have no way to pass through the disc without there being a clear hole, one representing a lack of a State law.

    There has been much said about “open container” and the need to regulate public use of cannabis as harshly as we would alcohol, but there is another place where the tube metaphor is useful. The State regulates all alcohol sales in the State via a regulation that allows for each county to decide and legislate their own rules once they have an established and State approved liquor board. Now that board has a lot of leeway in deciding what the county’s rules on liquor would be and as you know, the Council works with the WCLB to regulate the sale of alcohol and distribution of licenses to do the same.

    This is only possible because the State of Maryland passed laws allowing the county this authority. Had the State of Maryland voted to, they could have set up a system similar to liquor distribution and allowed the counties to regulate as they saw fit.

    The difference is, they did not give local municipal and county governments the authority to do so, but not for any nefarious reasons. They kept the authority to themselves because Medical Cannabis is not a recreational drug, it is a very highly regulated medicine that the State created an entire commission to regulate.

    As a TAXPAYER, I don’t want my tax money being used in a legal defense fund that WILL lose upon its first challenge and every subsequent appeal. There simply is no hole for Mr. Lewis to crawl through. If he wants to continue to move forward with society and the law, he will have to find a new reason to create probable cause. Otherwise, he’s not only going to find himself in violation of the Constitution of the State of Maryland but of the 4th amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

    Sincerely,

    Ben Rayne

  • The Racial Impact of Marijuana Laws

    One aspect of making additional marijuana laws that are often overlooked in rural, or less urban areas is the racial impact they have on society. The enforcement of marijuana laws generates some of the justice system’s starkest racial disparities. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” a landmark report from the ACLU, details the staggering racial bias and financial waste of our country’s counterproductive fight against a drug widely considered less harmful than alcohol. The excuse that marijuana is a gateway drug is a widely debunked theory. *In the United States, between 2001 and 2010, a black person was almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person was, despite approximately equal rates of use. That needs to be repeated... despite approximately equal rates of use. In some states and counties, blacks are 8, 10, or even 15 times more likely to be arrested, mainly because of the concentration of law enforcement in lower-income or poor areas. Lower-income people, regardless of ethnicity, are more likely to be financially devastated by the disparate enforcement of such laws. They are less likely to afford bail. That, in turn, means that someone living from paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford to pay a small bail faces losing employment, housing, even their families as they wait the average 3 months of incarceration before even having a court hearing. The main purpose of bail is to ensure appearance in court and protect society. Not many people would argue that the average marijuana users are dangerous. However, holding someone on bail has another unlawful purpose; revenue. One of the reasons that some in law enforcement favor the laws is just for that reason; to continue the revenue flow from incarceration. Many jurisdictions depend on that revenue as a large portion of their budget. That is wrong. That is not how our justice system should work. *Marijuana Law Reform ACLU

    Submitted by Gerald Hampton, a Wicomico County Resident

  • A Letter From the Chair

    I love walking down the boardwalk in Ocean City and admiring the hive of activity during the busy beach season. Seeing folks from all walks of life enjoying our Eastern Shore of life brings joy to my heart.

    One way to continue supporting Ocean City tourism is to bring new jobs to the Lower Shore. Offshore wind developers are required to open two new operations and maintenance facilities in the Ocean City area, which means more jobs, more worker income, more local tax revenue, and more commerce for Ocean City businesses.

    But as Mayor Meehan wails against the offshore wind developers over the height of their proposed turbines, he is doing a disservice to the residents of Ocean City. Like Las Vegas, the tourism capital of the world can attest, a recession can be a downright disaster for an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Las Vegas saw almost three million fewer visitors between 2007 – 2009 during the Great Recession. Residents lost homes, businesses were shattered, and families were decimated. Offshore wind will provide lower shore residents more job stability when the state and national economy inevitably cool off.

    Ocean City has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars hiring hotshot attorneys and lobbyists to derail an industry that economists say will support an estimated 25,000 jobs in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in worker and business income over the next twenty years.

    Imagine if that money had been spent making safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians on Coastal Highway or combating the H20i car festival that frustrates residents and visitors each year.

    Concerns about offshore wind and tourism are not supported by facts. Block Island in Rhode Island presents a lesson for Ocean City. The tourism-dependent island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and like Ocean City, some were concerned about the effect on tourism. Not only was tourism not impacted, it actually increased. The University of Rhode Island examined AirBnB data and found that occupancy rates increased 19 percent and added an extra $349 in revenue for owners. Block Island is proving that tourism and offshore wind can co-exist. Perhaps the mayor can use some of the money he is spending on lobbyists to visit block island and see the positive impacts for himself.

    Economic opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. We have an opportunity to help build a new American industry that will benefit Ocean City and the entire region. Our elected officials should stop, examine the situation and ask themselves if they want to go on the record as being against job creation for their own constituents. I certainly hope they think twice for the sake of our economy.

    Jared Schablein
    Chair, LSPC
    Pittsville

  • Patients' rights under attack

    It was likely only a matter of time before Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis spoke up regarding the use of medical cannabis. For an elected official sworn to uphold the law, he doesn't always seem to understand the potential impacts of the proposals he is making. In seeking to limit the use of medical cannabis in public, he is in flagrant violation of the state Constitution and completely disregards the opinions of medical professionals who have prescribed this medication in the best interests of their patients.

    See the news story link below City Councilwoman Michele Gregory's heartfelt plea to use common sense and empathy to uphold patients' rights in our community.

    Dear Council President and Members,

    First and foremost, I would like to thank you for taking the time to hear my story and for the opportunity to provide you with an alternative view of the proposed legislation. I sincerely appreciate the fact you allowed me to speak, even though the public comments had closed.

    As I explained to you in my remarks, our journey to using medical cannabis was not an easy one. Even now, it isn't a magical cure. What it does allow, however, is a quality of life that was previously impossible. And despite the immense rarity of my son's condition, there are many like him, young and old, who use cannabis as a medical treatment, whether for epilepsy or easing the symptoms of cancer treatments or any other number of ailments. I hope you take this into consideration when debating this regressive legislation, and decide that the right of our counties citizens to a better quality of life is greater than the need for more penalties for the few who break what is already the law.

    Another point I would like you to consider is the costliness of enforcement of this proposed law. Yes, it may occasionally lead to catching a few "bad guys", but overall I would wager that it will be time and resource-consuming more than beneficial. Most medical cannabis patients are law-abiding citizens like my own family, ones that would be overwhelmingly unfairly targeted by this law. Those resources could be better put to use in the fight against other more serious issues and crimes. As the Sheriff and State's Attorney admitted, any of the scenarios and anecdata they presented would clearly be covered by existing laws. I urge you to consider the overall cost, not just to the taxpayer, but to patients who have fought for their right to access medical treatment that will be hindered if you pass this legislation. Consider the health and safety of those who rely upon cannabis for a better quality of life.

    I urge you to do the right thing and to not take away their right to prescribed treatment. Thank you again for your patience and willingness to listen.

    Michele Gregory

    Salisbury City Council, District 4

    https://www.wmdt.com/2020/01/wicomico-county-officials-propose-stricter-marijuana-laws/