The Denver Post’s Danika Worthington reports on the end of an occupation of Sen. Michael Bennet’s office by supporters of “DREAMer” undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children–which came despite passage last week of a budget resolution that once again failed to provide a solution for these people despite high drama and near-universal lip service paid to resolving their status:
At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, six immigration activists entered the office for Bennet, who has been active on immigration issues in recent years. They demanded that he vote against this week’s proposed budget agreement, which bolstered military and domestic programs but left out immigration reform…
The activists left at 11 a.m. on Friday, said Emma Bliesener, one of the protesters. The group had referred to themselves as “the Denver6.”
“We’re on the same team here,” she said. “We just want to make sure everyone is doing everything in their power to support the immigrant community.”
There are several important reasons why the occupation last week of Sen. Bennet’s Denver office was resolved amicably–in marked contrast to a similar direct action last summer in Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver office by a group of protesters with disabilities from the storied ADAPT civil rights group, which ended in a public relations disaster for Gardner as Denver Police dragged ADAPT activists out of his office and arrested them in full view of national news cameras.
By all accounts Bennet’s staff was level-headed and engaging throughout the occupation of his office, and arrest never appears to have been seriously considered. Second, Bennet personally spoke with the activists in his office by phone from Washington to listen to their concerns, a conversation that reportedly went well. Third, and most importantly, Bennet voted against the DACA fix-less budget “deal” that has outraged immigrant-rights activists. Although the deal passed without Bennet’s support, there was no practical reason left to hold Bennet responsible for the actions of his Senate peers.
Although Bennet’s good faith in dealing with these protesters averted the nasty outcome Gardner had, it would be a mistake to think that Democrats are not in political danger from failing–repeatedly now–to maintain a unified front against President Donald Trump and Republicans in the fight to protect DACA beneficiaries. Activists on the issue broadly perceive Sen. Chuck Schumer’s cave-in last month, followed by last week’s budget deal, to be an abandonment of Democratic promises after being essentially bribed by Mitch McConnell to choose a laundry list of domestic spending goodies over a DACA fix. Democrats were also far too concerned with the inside-baseball procedural moves that tossed nominal “responsibility for a shutdown” back and forth between the parties–which nobody outside the political water cooler class gives two shits about.
So yes, good on Sen. Bennet for deftly managing last week’s tricky politics, and good for the activists pushing back on everybody regardless of their party affiliation to demand deeds not words. Politically and morally, more of both will be needed before the end.