Small California city applauds its pro-immigrant Congresswoman
Over 500 people packed the City Council chambers in Morgan Hill. Henry Millstein | PW

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.


CONTRIBUTOR

Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.

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