Sacramento activists target immigration policies

Jeff vonKaenel

One day after President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew their Obamacare replacement bill because they knew it would go down in defeat, 40 Sacramentans came together for an American Civil Liberties Union People Power meeting. It was held at the Barrio Cafe in South Land Park, and they were there to discuss how to resist Trump’s policies in general and his immigration policies specifically.

Receiving a massive Trump bump of tens of millions of dollars in donations,[[[implies Trump donated or was source of donations]]] and thousands more volunteers, the ACLU on March 11 launched a national grassroots People Power campaign with 2,200 local gatherings across the country. Twelve of those gatherings were held in the Sacramento region, in people’s homes and local cafes, where longtime agitators as well as newly engaged activists watched a national ACLU forum livestreamed from Miami.

During the streaming, the ACLU presented a Freedom Cities Action Guide to the People Power teams. Focused on immigration, this guide provides practical tools for activists to use in their communities.

The group at Barrio Cafe discussed how they could implement the ACLU resistance campaign in Sacramento. The discussion touched on how to connect with the other 11 Sacramento People Power groups and how to approach local law enforcement.

The recent Saturday follow-up meeting involved preparations for attending an upcoming town hall meeting with Trump supporter Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and representatives from ICE, to be held Tuesday evening, after SN&R press time.

It was uplifting to be with a group of people who, with very little ego and a whole lot of dedication, were trying to figure out how they could be effective activists. ACLU board member Jose Quezada explained the importance of California Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using their resources to investigate, detain or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes. The group asked for talking points so they could improve their lobbying techniques.

Some of the questions were basic. When was Jones up for election? What does it cost the county to work with immigration officials? How best to educate people about what constitutes a proper warrant? I left the meeting encouraged that these activists were going to make a difference.

Just as, only the day before, nationwide activists had made an impact by preventing the Republicans from giving a huge tax break to millionaires and removing health care from 24 million Americans. While the extreme-right-wing Republican House Freedom Caucus, which held out for a plan that would provide even less coverage, gets much of the credit for defeating Ryan’s plan, the truth is that it wouldn’t have passed in the Senate.

What really killed the Republican health care plan was that only 17 percent of Americans supported the plan, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Politicians who want to remain in office rarely vote in favor of proposals supported by only 17 percent of the population. Activists and journalists made sure that the public knew what was at risk, and both activism and education were keys to stopping the legislation.

Sitting in Barrio Cafe that Saturday, I felt I was watching American history being made. And, as a side benefit, the mushroom asparagus empanadas were delicious.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.