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Opponent Praises Malloy’s Immigration Move

by Paul Bass | Jul 29, 2014 3:23 pm

(7) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Immigrants, Politics, State, Campaign 2014

The governor did right by refusing to house immigrant child refugees—in the view of a campaign challenger from the Tea Party movement.

The challenger, Joe Visconti, said if he were the governor, he, too, would have turned down a federal request to house 2,000 children in Connecticut who had crossed the southern U.S. border. (Click here to read about that.)

Visconti wants to become Connecticut’s governor. He said he has collected well more than enough signatures needed to have his new placed on the November ballot as an independent.

Visconti, who’s 57, made his comment about the governor during a wide-ranging interview in New Haven—the cradle of the state’s immigrant-rights movement, and as alien territory as you’ll find in Connecticut for the right-wing Tea Party movement, which he helped found in the state. He drank espresso, not tea, at the interview, which took place at Woodlands Cafe in Sherman’s Alley.

Visconti made other comments that ran against New Haven’s political mainstream, arguing that, despite conventional wisdom, his brand of politics—including a call to abolish the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) as well as opposition to the state’s recent minimum wage hike and gun control law—can sell in this liberal college town.

“We need to take the cities back,” Visconti declared during the interview.

And, he said, “When I’m on the ballot, Connecticut will have a real Republican to vote for.”

“Give Him A Few Months”

Paul Bass Photo Connecticut will have a Republican listed on the November ballot: either moderate Republican John McKinney (read his interview with the Independent here) or hard-to-define Republican Tom Foley, depending which one wins the Aug. 12 primary. Visconti (pictured), a former Republican West Hartford councilman who runs a family construction company, decided to run as an independent, he said, to promote views more along the lines of the Republican national platform.

That includes a harder line on immigration than that advanced by the Republican candidates. Those candidates criticized Malloy recently when he turned down the federal request to house thousands of violence-fleeing child refugees at the old Southbury Training School.

 

New Haveners took to the streets to criticize Malloy, too. The city is the heart of the state’s immigrant-rights movement; it pioneered an immigrant-friendly ID card, defied a federal “Secure Communities” effort and ordered police not to ask about people’s immigration status unless it’s absolutely germane to a stop.

Visconti knows that story well. As one of the leaders of the state’s then-nascent Tea Party movement, he took to City Hall steps to announce a lawsuit aimed at stopping the introduction of the ID card. (The card took effect anyway.)

“Do you want to follow the Constitution and the force of law? Or do you want to bend your law to your own feel-good” preferences? Visconti said in reference to embracing immigrants. “We have to treat them human. We have to bring them back to their country of origin.”

“We cannot take everyone off the street and give them everything from the taxpayer right now,” he said.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has generally supported the immigrant-rights movement in the state. Visconti said that while he agrees with the governor’s recent decision on declining to accept the 2,000 children, he doesn’t see the governor converting to the Tea Party’s position in general. “Dan Malloy would never do that” if he weren’t facing a tough reelection fight, Visconti argued. “Give him a few more months. He’ll change his mind.”

Not so Visconti. He said he continues to believe New Haven’s embrace of immigrants has hurt the city. He was asked about proponents’ arguments that the policy has helped the city, attracting hard-working people who pay taxes but don’t receive social services because of their immigration status. “We don’t know all that,” Visconti responded. (Click on the video at the top of the story for more of that conversation.)

Visconti’s grandparents moved to the U.S. from Italy. He grew up in Hartford’s South End—until his junior year in high school, when he said, his parents to move the family to West Hartford in the face of racial tensions and urban violence.

He was asked about the difference between America’s embrace of immigrants in his grandparents’ day and his opposition to immigration today.

“The cost of education, the cost of health services, the cost of cash assistance, the cost of social security—they didn’t have those costs then,” Visconti said.

Right Meets Left

As the governor’s race takes shape, it has featured a near-convergence at times between left and right. Visconti has found common cause in a few cases with Jonathan Pelto, the other independent candidate petitioning his way onto the ballot, challenging Democrat Malloy from the left.

Both, for instance, oppose the governor’s support of Common Core testing standards in state public schools. Pelto focuses on the complaints of teachers about losing autonomy and freedom to rigid, counterproductive high-stakes testing. Visconti, like Tea Party activists nationwide, attacks Common Core as “a costly social experiment to federalize education at the expense of your children’s education and future.” But like Pelto he also criticizes the removal of teacher autonomy; he called Common Core an intrusion into a cherished teacher-student relationship, as he also criticizes the intrusion of health insurers and Obamacare into the doctor-patient relationship. (He does not, however, call for shutting down Connecticut’s Obamacare exchange; he proposes a “train them & retain them” program to keep doctors in the state.)

The overlapping of establishment-challenging agendas mirrors what at least one observer, former state Comptroller Bill Curry—who ran for governor the last time the state had a four-way race, in 1994—called a possible emerging left-right populism in America. (Click here to read Curry’s article about that in Salon.) Assuming their petitions are certified, Visconti and Pelto will offer voters a livelier campaign, at least when it comes to debating issues.

Underlying the potential Tea Party-liberal populism Curry envisions is a joint critique of corporate power, of a dominance of both the Democratic and republican Parties by “the 1-percent.” In this campaign, Visconti and Pelto both distance themselves form the establishment candidates on that issue, in different ways. Pelto has called for raising the income tax rate for top earners. Visconti said he opposes income or sales tax hikes. Instead, he said, he would look at possibly raising corporate taxes “as a last resort”—not on small businesses, but on the largest conglomerates. Aetna, for instance, “is huge,” he said. “They’re not going anywhere.”

Right Vs. Left

On numerous issues, as with immigration, Visconti stakes ground far removed from popular liberal New Haven territory.

For instance, Visconti said, he would have voted against the recent minimum wage hike, to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

“Not in a recession,” he said.

 

Visconti said he opposes two separate efforts at the state Capitol to ensure greater PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) grants to cities that, like New Haven, have extensive tax-exempt not-for-profit-owned properties. One of the Republican gubernatorial candidates, John McKinney, said in an Independent interview that he would consider greater guaranteed PILOT payments to cities like New Haven.

Visconti said he would phase out PILOT, which reimburses cities for revenues lost on tax-exempt properties, altogether.

“The cities have to be weaned off state money,” he said.

Instead, the state should help revive main neighborhood commercial arteries in Connecticut’s cities as a way to bring back suburban shoppers, he said. (Click here for a story about Mayor Toni Harp’s efforts to do that in New Haven.) Right now, he said, “different ethnic groups” dominate those strips; suburbanites won’t “drive in” as long as they’re “afraid,” he said.

“These main arteries look like war zones.”

“I love the ethnic flavor of the city,” he said. But to thrive economically, the cities need to “bring in Caucasian-Americans,” too. “how do you bring standardized stores from Manchester that are not Third World shopping? You have the Jamaican [stores in Hartford]. But they don’t go to the average person who would never live in Hartfrord.” Cities need their share of Ace Hardware outlets, for instance, to build their base, he argued.

Visconti said he would hold off any state grants to specific neighborhood projects—like, say, an expected $15 million in bonding to rebuild New Haven’s Dixwell Community “Q” House —pending the development of that broader plan for reviving commercial. districts.

One of Visconti’s signature issue is guns. If elected, he said, he would repeal the gun-control law that passed last year in the wake of the Newtown massacre. The law instituted universal background checks and banned sales of AR-15-style rifles and large-capacity magazines.

Visconti was asked why New Haven voters, who elect devoutly pro-gun-control politicians, would support that stand.

He responded by posing a question to New Haven voters: “Has the crime and the gun violence slowed with these new laws? How can you stop guns and drugs when they [undocumented immigrants] came here” across the border?”

“You are never,” Visconti reasoned, “going to take guns out of America.”

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posted by: Theodora on July 29, 2014  3:32pm

I see he wants to focus on Caucasian-Americans. God forbid that they haven’t had enough support in America’s shameful history.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 29, 2014  3:46pm

At first I was going to post something about the migrant children, but then I read

Right now, he said, “different ethnic groups” dominate those strips; suburbanites won’t “drive in” as long as they’re “afraid,” he said.

Holy hell, peak Tea Party. I guess he’s correct in a roundabout way, part of the problem with cities currently is white people being afraid of minorities, meanwhile children from places that look like actual war zones due to policies we created he’s telling to screw off.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 29, 2014  3:49pm

As for the kids, Jon Stewart made a good last night point on how when he was in Jordon he saw a poor nation with few resources and only 6-7 million people accepting refugees by the hundreds of thousands from Syria and Iraq and doing everything it can to try to accommodate them. Refugees we tell them to help accept and in return give them a pittance to help care for them. Meanwhile in our country we can’t do anything about concrete about thousands of children fleeing unimaginable levels of violence(violence caused by our drug policies and voracious appetite for drugs). Republicans use the kids as a football to try to fire up their fucking loony base by telling awful lies about them and as his guest pointed out, Obama instead of calling them out on their crazy, racist bullshit is in fact trying to expedite the deportations by trying to get the law signed by GWB in 2008 guaranteeing people from Central America a court hearing on asylum seeking removed.

posted by: cp06 on July 29, 2014  9:32pm

I nominate the following comment by Madcap for comment of the week/month/year.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 29, 2014 4:49pm

As for the kids, Jon Stewart made a good last night point on how when he was in Jordon he saw a poor nation with few resources and only 6-7 million people accepting refugees by the hundreds of thousands from Syria and Iraq and doing everything it can to try to accommodate them. Refugees we tell them to help accept and in return give them a pittance to help care for them. Meanwhile in our country we can’t do anything about concrete about thousands of children fleeing unimaginable levels of violence(violence caused by our drug policies and voracious appetite for drugs). Republicans use the kids as a football to try to fire up their fucking loony base by telling awful lies about them and as his guest pointed out, Obama instead of calling them out on their crazy, racist bullshit is in fact trying to expedite the deportations by trying to get the law signed by GWB in 2008 guaranteeing people from Central America a court hearing on asylum seeking removed.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 30, 2014  11:18am

We are an embarrassment of riches. There was a time in Mr. Visconti’s family history that his ancestors, immigrants, fled to the US, due to the dangers of their home nation, and the abuse of the children of the poor, to use them as cannon fodder to fight in the mountain passes of the Alps during WWI. It is a shame that so many people lack any respect for their own lack of empathy for the lives of these children, as their lives have been blessed by the struggles of their ancestors who suffered the same type of oppression when they came to this country for a better life, free from fear of violence and death; where one could practice their religion without fear of persecution, and speak in public about the issues that concerned them without fear of reprisals. If there is any one reason that this nation could fail, and I do not mean collapse, but fail, in the mission set down by the original authors of the Constitution, it will be by our own loss of understanding what has made this nation great. We helped others that were down, and the same happened for those that helped others. It was a continuing cycle of humaneness, and respect for the human struggle. But many of us have been blessed, and their struggle today consists of not having a bigger auto, a bigger home, a better vacation, and on and on. We have become so shallow.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 31, 2014  9:10am

Visconti: “to thrive economically, the cities need to ‘bring in Caucasian-Americans’”. lol Of course, everyone reading that knows he means that urban commercial districts ideally (in his opinion) should appeal to a racial and ethnic mix to thrive. However, Mr. Visconti fails to deliver that message in a politically-correct manner. And in today’s politics, that’s usually more important than any political platform. As for “diversity” in commercial districts, stores reflect their neighborhoods. Chapel Street boutiques appeal to the Yalies who live and study nearby. C-Town appeals to the black and Latino residents who live near their establishments. Hartford’s Jamaican stores serve the Jamaicans who live nearby. Business owners who know their clientèle don’t need a govt business plan—particularly not from a govt that ultimately will “charge” for creating the business plan, e.g. via taxes, which then must be passed on to the consumer. (And THAT is a traditional GOP message—not Tea Party.)

posted by: westville man on July 31, 2014  12:34pm

Far from being an issue of “politically correctness”, if the quotes are accurate, he sounds ignorant AND racist to me. Scary combo.  He’s not fit to govern.

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