Small California city applauds its pro-immigrant Congresswoman

March 6, 2017 10:56 AM CST By Henry Millstein

MORGAN HILL, Calif.—On March 4, over 500 people packed the City Council chambers in Morgan Hill, a small city south of San Jose, for a town hall meeting with Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, a long-time supporter of immigrants’ rights.

Morgan Hill City Councilperson Larry Carr pointed out in introducing her that, to his knowledge, never had the city hall had so many people. Loud applause erupted when he said that Lofgren was the senior Democrat on the Congressional subcommittee on immigration and border security, and attendees repeatedly applauded as she detailed her progressive stands on immigration and other issues.

Though immigration was the announced focus of the meeting, questions from the audience touched on many issues of concern in the face of the Republican assault on pro-people policies. The first questions concerned the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, popularly known as “Obamacare”). Lofgren responded that though the Republicans hold majorities in both houses of Congress, “the American people can give Republicans cold feet” about repealing the law, and she was met with vigorous applause when she declared, “I will stand up for the ACA” and again moments later when she indicated her support for “Medicare for all,” a single-payer health care system such as exists in all other industrialized nations. She urged her constituents to call the White House and the Speaker of the House to register their support for healthcare for all.

The next round of questions focused on immigration, an issue on which Lofgren has long been active, starting her years as an immigration attorney. The audience again broke out in applause when she stated her support for the refusal of local authorities in many parts of California and elsewhere to function as “immigration police,” and yet again when an audience member posed the question, “How do we get ICE out of Morgan Hill?” Lofgren gave a moving description of seeing mothers and children in deteriorated immigration detention facilities that had only one doctor for over a thousand detainees, mentioning a psychologist’s report that children growing up in such conditions would suffer permanent damage. “This is not the America I know,” Lofgren declared to renewed applause, calling on the public to take responsibility for alleviating this situation.

In response to a question about Medicare, Lofgren denounced House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system, pledging that Democrats in Congress would “fight tooth and nail to keep Medicare alive” and expressing confidence that “we can win that fight” but that “the American public needs to stand up and say no” to Republican plans to destroy popular programs.

Other questions concerned the high cost of college education, Republican reluctance to fund public transportation, hate crimes and Islamophobia, and election and voters’ rights. On the latter question, Lofgren—to more applause—announced that she had introduced a bill to require all states to have a non-partisan system of establishing election districts such as exists in California, to prevent the gerrymandering that has helped put both the House of Representatives and many state legislatures into Republican hands.

Lofgren earned yet more applause when, in response to a question about how to stop “right to work (for less)” legislation recently introduced in Congress, she pledged to do all she could to oppose such efforts, declaring “I grew up in a union family” and pointing out that without unions there would be no weekends.

As the meeting concluded, Lofgren emphasized that, while she could not always defeat conservative attacks, there were two things that she—and everyone—could do: “I can speak and I can vote,” urging all present to do the same, particularly in regard to the 2018 congressional elections.

This government-funded town hall was officially “non-partisan” and “non-political,” and when at its end Lofgren asked whether the audience wanted a follow-up political meeting funded by her campaign, virtually everyone present raised their hands.

Via People’s World

California cities, counties, school boards act to defend immigrants

February 9, 2017 12:45 PM CST By Marilyn Bechtel

OAKLAND, Calif. – This city could become the first in the nation to boycott firms helping to build the wall President Trump plans along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the City Council meeting Feb. 2, Councilmember Abel Guillén introduced a resolution denouncing Trump’s executive order to build the wall, and “to the extent practicable,” calling on city departments to avoid entering new or amended contracts for goods or services from any company involved in building the wall.

If approved by the Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee, the measure is expected to come before the whole Council early next month. Estimates say upwards of a quarter of city residents are immigrants.

Earlier, on Jan. 31, the Oakland City Council voted to set up a $300,000 fund over two years, to support a “rapid response network” of 12 organizations to help families threatened with separation who can’t afford legal representation. Oakland is already a sanctuary city.

The surrounding county, Alameda County – also a sanctuary – followed suit a week later by earmarking $750,000 for its Social Services Committee to use to defend immigrants and refugees. The appropriation will be matched by an anonymous donor, giving the county $1.5 million for the purpose. Board President Wilma Chan noted that 30 percent of county residents were born outside the U.S., and a quarter of them remain undocumented.

The county’s decision followed the actions taken in late December by the county and city of Los Angeles to join with private foundations in establishing a $10 million fund to defend immigrants facing deportation. An estimated 815,000 undocumented people currently live in LA County.

Also this week, the state’s new Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, joined with attorneys-general from 15 other states in filing a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that the president’s temporary restrictions on travel from seven largely Muslim countries “has inflicted and continues to inflict harm on state colleges and universities around the country” that depend on faculty and students from other countries. All the attorneys-general signing the brief are Democrats, while seven come from states with Republican governors.

The Ninth Circuit Court is now considering Washington state and Minnesota’s challenge to President Trump’s executive order, with a ruling expected later this week.

In their brief, the attorneys-general charged that the president’s order “abruptly” barring many tourists and students from coming to the 15 states has “directly and immediately” cut revenues to state academic institutions and tax authorities.

Tech companies such as eBay, Apple and Google – all major players in California’s economy – are saying in their briefs that the order makes it harder for their companies to attract talent, increases their business costs, makes it harder for U.S. companies to compete internationally, and encourages international companies to build facilities and hire workers outside the U.S.

California school districts have also joined the fray. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is calling on districts around the state to declare they are “safe havens” for immigrant children.

Torlakson emphasized that California schools welcome all students “regardless of their heritage, religion, ethnicity, background, disability or sexual orientation.” Calling diversity “California’s strength,” he added, “We do not just welcome diversity, we celebrate it.”

Among the districts already declaring their support for immigrant students are Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sacramento, Stockton, San Francisco and Oakland, while San Jose, Riverside, Long Beach and Fremont are expected to submit resolutions to their boards for approval.

In a Feb. 5 interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump reacted to these developments by threatening to defund “out-of-control” California. His charges were met with separate statements from the heads of the two houses of the state legislature, both pointing to the size of the state’s economy and emphasizing California’s vital role in the national economy.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn, D-Los Angeles, called the threat “not only unconstitutional but emblematic of the cruelty he seeks to impose on our most vulnerable communities.” He noted that Californians contribute more to the national government than the state gets in return, and warned that sanctions on the state would have nationwide consequences.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, called on other states to be similarly “out-of-control.”

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is also on record saying the state “may be called upon to defend” legislation passed in recent years to protect immigrants, and “defend them we will.”

Meanwhile, emphasizing the importance of California’s longstanding cross-border relationships,
San Diego’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, held a joint news conference with Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum of the Mexican city of Tijuana, on the other side of the country’s busiest border crossing.

While not mentioning the president’s statements, the two emphasized the importance of their cities’ longstanding collaboration, which involves many functions.

Tijuana’s mayor pointed to the need to “keep the momentum strong,” while Faulconer told how international trade and investment have brought over 110,000 jobs to his city.

The mayors are among many along the U.S.-Mexico border who have come together in recent days to emphasize the importance of their cross-border relationships.

Via People’s World