In recent months, with a helping hand from Indivisible East Bay, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff has reached out to local communities, providing an opportunity for citizens to participate in freewheeling Q&A discussions. The most recent meeting was March 9, when IEB, in partnership with the Unity Council, met Feinstein’s Field Representative Abby Ellis at the Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center in Oakland. Taking a break between lunch and bingo, many of the Center’s seniors stopped by for the meeting. The remainder of the 50 or so participants included a combination of neighbors, loyal Indivisible members and Unity Council staff.
As many of the attendees asked their questions in Spanish, we were most appreciative that the staff was willing and able to act as informal interpreters, translating between English and Spanish as needed.
A major focus of the discussion were immigration issues, with DACA at the top of the list. Many spoke of their fear and uncertainty surrounding the future of DACA and what it what may mean for their friends and relatives. For example, one woman was concerned that her daughter might not be permitted to stay to graduate from college this May, nor pursue her long-term dream of becoming an FBI agent. One man summed up the overall feeling in the room by stating, in Spanish, “The children are our future” — at which point everyone cheered.
In reply, Abby assured everyone that the Senator remains strongly committed to a clean DREAM Act. She promised to pass along their personal stories and indicated that some of them might be used in floor speeches that Feinstein gives on this matter.
Many of the remaining questions concerned federal funding for health care and other programs critical to the Senior Center and surrounding community. Abby assured the audience that the Senator is doing everything she can to protect existing support programs as the Congress continues to fight over the budget. She added that, if the Democrats had the majority, Feinstein would be pushing to expand funding.
Several in the audience expressed skepticism about current Democratic efforts. They spoke of frustration that immigration issues were not effectively resolved when Obama was President and Democrats controlled Congress. They noted ironically that the Trump administration’s current attacks might be serving to spur Democratic action and give these issues a higher priority than they had previously. Others in the room were more supportive of past Democratic efforts, countering that they had at least attempted to pass legislation under Obama.
Abby replied that Sen. Feinstein had been in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform bills at the time. Further, the Senator has continued to push for pieces of that bill as independent legislation, such as the DREAM Act and the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 (which would provide legal status to more farmworkers).
At this point, as the meeting was nearing its conclusion, the same gentleman who had been cheered previously spoke up again — to more cheers — stating that the most important lesson from all this was that every citizen in the room must vote.