Yesterday I took the day off from work and joined a group from CASA for a trip to DC to visit the offices of 55 members of Congress. We were there to ask them to support the Dream Act, and to keep the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program intact.
The folks I traveled with were largely people who’d be directly impacted by the cancellation of these protections. These are hard-working people who either came here as kids, or whose own kids were born here, and are now at risk of losing their ability to work, go to school, or even remain in this country.
We visited the office of Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district. We asked to speak with him and were told he wasn’t available. We then asked to speak to his legislative director and were told he wasn’t there either. So we said we’d wait in the office until one of them showed up. Wouldn’t you know it, a few minutes later Joseph Knowles, the legislative director, appeared as if by magic from a back room. He of course “had a meeting to get to at 12:30,” but he took us into a side office so the CASA members could tell him their stories.
Knowles was clearly uncomfortable with being confronted, and he also seemed completely disconnected from the plight of the real human beings standing in front of him. “The congressman is aware of the situation and wants to seek a legislative solution,” he kept saying, sounding more like an answering machine message than someone who was face to face with people whose lives would be irrevocably harmed by the dissolution of DACA and TPS.
This, for me, was the most disconcerting part of the conversation. To be able to sit in front of your fellow human beings and display not an iota of compassion is beyond me. And that folks like Knowles are populating the offices of our elected representatives is an excellent indication of the failure of our system to produce compassionate results for the people who need them most.
Down the hall, meanwhile, the staff of Rep. Lloyd Smucker, “representing” PA’s 16th district, took one look at another group of CASA members and locked the door to their office. The members immediately began chanting and singing in the hallway, and we joined them when our visit with Knowles was finished. We marched in the hall until the Capitol Police showed up. We had already agreed not to risk arrest, so we left with them and headed outside to rally on the Capitol lawn.
Please contact your representative and urge her or him to support the DREAM Act and TPS with no strings attached. But do more than just call or email. Take several hours or a day and go visit a local office. Or head to DC and visit them there. And get your friends to go with you. If the promises of this country are to mean anything, we must stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable members of our society.