Con­gres­sional reps urged to take ac­tion to pro­tect bor­der mi­grants

The Fresno Bee - - Stay Connected - BY YESENIA AMARO ya­[email protected]­ Yesenia Amaro: 559-441-6144, @Ye­se­ni­aA­maro

‘‘ IF YOU CAN SEND TEAR GAS, YOU CAN SEND AID. Reza Neku­manesh, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­ter of Fresno

Faith and com­mu­nity lead­ers con­vened Thurs­day evening out­side of Rep. Jim Costa’s of­fice in Fresno, urg­ing lo­cal con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives to help pro­tect mi­grants seek­ing asy­lum at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

“If you can send tear gas, you can send aid,” said Reza Neku­manesh, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­ter of Fresno.

Faith in the Val­leyFresno, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with PICO Cal­i­for­nia, or­ga­nized the rally, with sim­i­lar events tak­ing place across the state.

Lead­ers urged elected of­fi­cials to send hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, as well as to deny bud­get in­creases for agen­cies, such as U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, and U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion.

Julie Lopez, a faith leader with Sa­cred Heart church in Fresno, said the crowd got to­gether “to de­mand an end to hu­man suf­fer­ing” at the bor­der.

Faith in the Val­ley is about bring­ing to­gether peo­ple across race, ge­og­ra­phy and re­li­gion to de­nounce in­jus­tice, Lopez added.

The group asked elected of­fi­cials “to take more ag­gres­sive ac­tion to pro­tect mi­grants.” Lopez said seek­ing asy­lum is a hu­man right sup­ported by in­ter­na­tional laws.

“Our faith calls us to build bridges and not walls,” she said. “We are a na­tion of im­mi­grants who have con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to Amer­i­can so­ci­ety and econ­omy through hard work.”

Thurs­day’s event is the lat­est in a se­ries of gath­er­ings held in the Val­ley in re­cent days to de­cry the treat­ment of the thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants now stranded in Ti­juana, Mex­ico.

Neku­manesh, who heads the Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­ter of Fresno, said the group also was ask­ing con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives to push for the asy­lum process to be ex­pe­dited and for judges to be de­ployed to the bor­der to as­sist with those pro­ceed­ings.

Lopez be­lieves peo­ple of­ten flee their coun­tries due to sit­u­a­tions caused by Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy and cap­i­tal­ist trade po­lices that “im­pov­er­ishes and desta­bi­lizes mil­lions of peo­ple.”

Neku­manesh said there’s also a call for the U.S. to send as­sis­tance to Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries for job cre­ation and vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion in­stead of boost­ing the bud­gets for U.S. im­mi­gra­tion agen­cies.

Thomas Weiler, chap­ter di­rec­tor for Faith in the Val­ley-Fresno, said it’s im­por­tant for all lo­cal con­gres­sional lead­ers to hear from peo­ple.

“Here in Cal­i­for­nia, peo­ple are loud and clear that im­mi­grants are part of our com­mu­nity,” he said. “We should do ev­ery­thing we can so they guar­an­tee them due process, a fair shot at the le­gal sys­tem.

“It’s crit­i­cal that all of them take a stand .... against poli­cies that are try­ing to crim­i­nal­ize fam­i­lies flee­ing vi­o­lence.”

San­dra Gar­cia, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive with Costa’s of­fice, read a brief state­ment from the con­gress­man dur­ing Thurs­day’s event.

“We are sup­port­ive and we will be con­tin­u­ing to fight to make sure there is no wall, and we are also mak­ing sure we are rep­re­sented prop­erly,” Costa said in his state­ment.

A state­ment from Con­gress­man-elect TJ Cox was read aloud dur­ing the event.

“I de­cided to run for Congress be­cause I could not stand by and watch the way this ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional lead­ers treated our com­mu­ni­ties,” Cox said in the state­ment.

“I re­fused to stand by while fam­i­lies were torn apart and chil­dren were put in cages. In Congress, I will con­tinue the fight that you all have la­bored on for so long.”

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA [email protected]­

Julie Lopez, cen­ter, pre­pares the mi­cro­phone as a crowd of 25 peo­ple gather for Faith In The Val­ley’s rally, de­cry­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion and urg­ing politi­cians to pro­tect mi­grants at the bor­der Thurs­day in down­town Fresno

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