What We Learned Visiting Democrat Reps in DC Before Another Gov’t Shutdown

Chispa crew and friends in DC.

By Angeles Abigail Marin, Guest Columnist 

For months, the United States government has remained deadlocked over the fate of a fortress wall along its southern border with Mexico. An agreement by Democrats and Republicans on border security funding may come on Friday, but Orange County organizers wasted no time in being idle and let representatives in Washington D.C. know what’s up.

On Feb. 6, I traveled to the nation’s capital with Chispa to help support Mijente, a Latinx national political organization, with Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) visits. Most of us are aware that Democrats basically handed over immigration issues to Latinx representatives. Now it’s a matter of the communities they represent holding them accountable in recognizing that migrant lives are not to be gambled with. We arrived to DC demanding that the CHC stays firm on rejecting any funding for border security, including proposals for a so-called “smart wall” full of surveillance technology.

Our first day of visits brought us to the offices of four Latinx congress members including Pete Aguilar, (CA-33) who, in the past, showed no support for President Donald Trump’s “wall of doom” but insists on an investment on broader technology as a better path. We didn’t have much luck the first time around; staffers were busy and immigration point people were not available to speak. But we didn’t leave empty-handed.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released last Wednesday, CHC members urged that DHS conferees dismiss funding proposals for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as “increase transparency, accountability, and oversight of ICE and CBP, including by requiring annual audits of spending in all programs and inspections of all detention facilities.”

We felt optimistic with this development but had one important question for CHC members on our last day of visits.

“Will you stay opposed to funding and remain conscious of the livelihood of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers even if a government shutdown happens next week?”

Not many knew what letter we were referring to but we were able to sit down and speak with Ricardo Pacheco, a staff member for Nanette Diaz Barragan, (CA-44). Pacheco informed us that Barragan is very opposed to funding for a wall, which is important since she has a CHC leadership role. Though Barragan doesn’t support money for a wall, according to her staff member, she does support money for logistics and technology at port of entries to help cut off trafficking and drugs–but didn’t address the issue of a smart wall.

We also spoke to a legislative aide for Lucille Roybal-Allard, (CA-40), who is a member of Homeland Security Appropriations Committee. The aide chose to not disclose any information regarding the wall but specified how vital medical attention is needed at the border, an issue Roybal-Allard is focusing on.

Much has happened in the short time since we left DC, mainly coming in the form of significant proposals offered by Democrats. These office visits gave us insights but weren’t enough to ensure that the CHC will remain just in its positions. With negotiators remaining under pressure until February 15, affected communities are also feeling tense, and maybe a little optimistic, that a humane, just agreement can be reached.

 

Deport This! is a partnership between OC Weekly, Chispa and Orange County Immigrant Youth United. The column is a rebuttal of Donald Trump’s racist politics and his OC cheerleaders, who’ll no doubt get triggered every week with news and views by and about the undocumented community.

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