Activists Demand Rep. Panetta Shape Up on Immigrant Rights

MoveOn Activists Demonstrate In Front of Rep. Panetta’s Office

On Tuesday, July 2nd, I joined activists from MoveOn to ask Rep. Panetta to work harder on ending the Trump-created crisis at the border, as part of MoveOn’s nationwide #CloseTheCamps protests. I met the activists at the scheduled protest in front of the clock tower in Santa Cruz, and we walked to Rep. Panetta’s office, conveniently located nearby. (MoveOn had originally directed that the protests occur at Congressional offices.) The activists told me that similar such protests are held on the first Friday of every month in the same location, if any readers would like to join.

As we walked, I got to know the diverse group a little bit. Anita, Cath, Liz, and Patrice came had diverse backgrounds, and occupations, including working at the University and owning a local restaurant, and they are united in opposing Trump’s camps. Like me, they were not pleased with Rep. Panetta’s votes on June 25th and June 27th to 1) defeat the House’s progressive version of H.R.3401, the emergency DHS appropriations bill, and 2) to pass McConnell’s version. This second vote was particularly bad because that final bill gave money to Trump’s deportation machine and concentration camps, to continue the deaths and human rights abuses. Yes, more funds are needed for services for refugees and children, but passing this bill was worse than passing no bill at all, and was passed on majority Republican support. After all, Trump created this emergency by instituting a “metering” policy at legal points of entry, making people seeking asylum through legal channels wait in dangerous Mexican cities for many months at a time.

Rep. Panetta’s staff were extremely gracious, receiving us warmly as we raucously approached the office door, waving our signs around. Emanuel quickly ushered us into a conference room to hear out our concerns, judiciously taking notes, and asking questions to ensure a comprehensive account was taken.

We went around the table, and discussed our concerns with the way the U.S. Government was handling the border crisis, and especially on what we’d like Rep. Panetta to do to address it. We started off with an array of concerns reflecting our diverse backgrounds, but we quickly settled on consensus on some simple asks:

  • We would like Rep. Panetta to display courage reflecting his personal values on the issue. This means taking intiative and publicly leading the efforts to close the camps and restore dignity and justice to the refugees. For example, out of everyone, I was the only one aware that Rep. Panetta had previously visited detention centers, because he had hardly publicized it.
  • We would like Rep. Panetta to fulfill the requests in the letter from MoveOn that we hand delivered, including 1) Close the Camps by ending the DoJ zero tolerance policy, 2) No more money for Family Detention and Deportation, and 3) Bear witness and Reunite Families by visiting a detention center, heavily publicizing it, and becoming a personal advocate for those kids and families that he met on the visit.

Emanuel assured us that he would deliver our asks to Rep. Panetta, and I’m sure he did, but thus far, I don’t believe he has met any of them. Indivisibles, we have a lot of work to do! September 9-13th lets join the Defund Hate Week of Action and make sure that the House and Rep. Panetta don’t make the same mistake in the upcoming appropriations bill.