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Gubernatorial forum split on housing-immigration tie

Reilly raises issue of Patrick's work for Ameriquest

Two gubernatorial candidates say they oppose a Senate plan that would require local housing authorities to check the immigration status of anyone applying for housing.

The amendment, tucked into the Senate version of the state budget, also would give priority to citizens and legal immigrants over undocumented immigrants.

Democrat Deval Patrick and Grace Ross of the Green-Rainbow Party, speaking at a candidates forum at Faneuil Hall last night, said they oppose the plan.

Patrick said what's needed is a more balanced and comprehensive approach to the immigration issue on both the state and federal levels. He said denying housing could add to the problem of homelessness and cost the state more in the long run.

``We've got to start connecting the dots," he said. ``Every time we make a short-term political judgment, it costs us in the long term."

Ross said the plan would ``essentially pit us against each other" and takes attention away from other bigger problems.

``It's really critical not to use status against a small sector of people," she said.

Democrats Thomas F. Reilly and Christopher F. Gabrieli -- and independent candidate Christy Mihos -- said they support the proposal.

Mihos said illegal immigrants are costing the state millions. ``You talk to housing authority people who actually run these authorities and they will tell you this is a huge problem for them," he said.

Reilly said as attorney general he's gone after companies that exploited undocumented workers, but he supports the Senate plan.

``There is nothing wrong with inquiring and asking someone to verify their status," he said.

One of the sharpest exchanges of the night came after Patrick was asked about his work as a board member of the parent company of embattled mortgage giant Ameriquest, given charges of predatory lending against the company.

Reilly, who has tried to use Patrick's connection to the mortgage company to chip away at the candidate's base of support, seized on the question.

``These are people who as part of their business plan have turned the American dream of owning your own home into an absolute nightmare for generations of people," he said. ``Why in God's name he ever went to work for a company like that is beyond me."

Patrick, who said he is stepping down from the board at the beginning of July, said he had more success helping reform the company from the inside than he would have from the outside.

``There is a view out there that the only way you can effect change is from the outside," he said. ``If I thought that, I wouldn't be running for governor."

In 2005 Patrick received $360,070 as a board member for ACC Capital Holdings Corp., the parent company of Ameriquest.

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