AILA National Day of Action

I recently attended the AILA National Day of Action in Washington DC. We were tasked with meeting our representatives to motivate and educate them about immigration issues.

Or first stop was the office of Congressman Brad Sherman. We met with one of his staffers in their crammed office. There was no indication that money was being wasted on space as a number of folks were squeezed into a pretty small space.

We were assured that the congressman, “my boss” as all staffers refer to their representative , was on board with all the immigration reforms we were championing – first and foremost a fix for DACA. The staffer echoed the news of the last year and a half – telling us that with the Republicans in power his boss wasn’t able to move anything forward on immigration.

Next stop was the office of Senator Diane Feinstein. The offices were much more spacious and less cramped. It’s good to be a senator! We also met in a conference room rather than a crammed table near the front door of the congressman’s office.  Her staffer, Senior Counsel Jennifer Piatt, was very informed on the machinations of immigration in the United States in fact I believe she may have been a former immigration lawyer herself. Her boss, like Congressman Sherman, was also very much stymied by the current balance of power. That said, the day before our meeting the Attorney General “temporarily” terminated the Legal Orientation Program for detainees. Senator Feinstein’s office characterized this as a bipartisan affront because the program was created by congress and the Attorney General did not have the authority to terminate it. Feinstein’s staff felt they would have a good chance at pushing back against Mr. Sessions. Overall it was a good meeting and we all came away impressed with Senator Feinstein’s knowledge and efforts. Sorry Kevin.

What became clear very early on in our day is that not much would happen until the midterm elections because immigration is such a third rail across the aisle. This became abundantly clear at our next stop.

We met with a staffer from the office of Republican Congressman Cook. Cook is a very conservative representative from the Adelanto, California region – the site of our private prison immigration detention center. The staffer we met seemed to have been tapped moments before we arrived and had virtually no knowledge of immigration issues and quite honestly evoked sympathy from us because of his deer in the headlights appearance. This should have been a hot meeting considering all of the issues surrounding the use of private prisons to profit from illegal immigration as well as the many failings reported at the Adelanto facility. In the end, the staffer repeatedly stated he was “not familiar with that” and would “tell his boss.” Frustrating.

After lunch we met with Congressman Schiff’s staffer who echoed the refrain that the mid-terms are key. He also inferred that his boss was more concerned about other overarching issues – possible Mueller firing and the continued threats to the institutions of our government. Indeed it echoed my desire to ask what their bosses were doing about the worrisome creep toward an authoritarian regime.

Next was the office of Senator Harris. Her staff too was frustrated however they were very concerned about whistle blowers in the immigration machinery and what if any knowledge or experience we had with that.

Our final stop was the office of Congressman Gomez. He is the son of Latino immigrants and is solidly on the side of justice of the community. Unfortunately his staff repeated the refrain that the mid-terms were the only hope in the near future.

So the take away is to go out and vote and canvas for a Democrat – preferably a Democrat in a Purple district.

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