I watched the federal court case against Seattle activists who were charged with trespassing for protests at U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office last summer. To my dismay and that of many others, there was no mention of their reasoning to request a meeting with the senator or any reference to what is happening locally in Tacoma or with unregulated “Black Sites” that detain youth.
What, instead, filled the time was semantic argumentation about building and office hours for specific building tenants.
Noticeably this was petty, as Cantwell’s office refused to drop charges against the demonstrators who neither destroyed property nor resisted when escorted out of the building. I was personally left with deep disappointment and an overall sense that our senator does not get it.
A review of the senator’s press releases over the last year shows support, in writing, for ameliorating conditions for refugees and detainees at the southern U.S. border and the Northwest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center. Sadly, though, it seems Cantwell does not act to change the conditions or processes or codify policy to address the root of enforcement brutality.
For instance, the “Keep Families Together Act” and the “Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act,” both from the U.S. Senate in the past few years, make no mention of the Trump administration’s deliberate limiting of asylum petitions and the subsequent systemic bottleneck at the border. This is one key element of the southern border crisis. Likewise, even when addressing the detention center in Tacoma, there is no discussion of why an entity that literally changed its name to whitewash its reputation is allowed to remain in operation.
Allowing these harms to continue without question only perpetuates the idea that this is natural. That migrants seeking refuge are to be treated in ways that grossly violate the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and that a civil infraction is reason enough to allow private corporations to traumatize, brutalize and make money off of human misery. We have to move beyond merely being reactive to right-wing politicians’ policies.
I also believe this shows the knee-jerk reactions embedded in our current mainstream socio-political discourse. There’s little attention to upstream solutions that dive into the root causes of issues. Unfortunately, systematic analysis is looked down on politically as fear of not being reelected is palpable. This fear, in fact, is what mires us in the cyclical practice of electing politicians who merely uphold the status quo.
People are hurting, and it’s clear that there are larger historical and environmental processes that are driving migration. This larger conversation continues to be systematically ignored by media and political players. To use Cantwell’s own words, “We cannot and will not look away.” We certainly won’t, and we certainly expect much better.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and is a Master of Social Work student at the University of Washington. He has previously contributed to HistoryLink.org and the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
Read the full Feb. 26 - Mar. 3 issue.
© 2020 Real Change. All rights reserved. Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice since 1994. Learn more about Real Change and donate now to support independent, award-winning journalism.