Lofgren leads Dems in urging stop to ICE raids

A Bay Area congresswoman helped lead 146 House Democrats in urging President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American families and children.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sent their letter to the White House just hours before the president was scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday. The entire Bay Area delegation except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, signed the letter.

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The lawmakers wrote that the Department of Homeland Security operation “has generated widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities and has far-reaching impacts beyond the alleged targets for removal.” And it has raised due-process concerns “including meaningful access to legal counsel for mothers and children after apprehension and DHS officers reportedly using deceptive tactics to gain entrance into private residences,” they wrote.

“For these reasons and others, we believe that this operation should be immediately suspended until we can ensure no mother or child will be sent back to a country where they would face persecution, torture or death,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats blasted the Obama administration for failing to provide a comprehensive refugee solution for those fleeing from violence in Central America.

“Your Administration has used family detention, Spanish language communication campaigns in Central America urging people not to come to the United States, and financial assistance to Mexico to deter, arrest, and return those fleeing violence,” they wrote. “This strategy has proven to be ineffective, as mothers and children continue to arrive at our Southwest border seeking refugee protection. Desperate Central American mothers and children will continue to flee to the United States and seek protection, regardless of the deterrent actions taken by this Administration.”

A regional solution to the crisis should include refugee screening and resettlement, the use of safe havens in appropriate third countries, temporary protected status for those in the United States, the use of priority refugee processing, and other humanitarian remedies, all in cooperation with other countries and non-governmental organizations, they wrote.

“The goal of this comprehensive refugee approach should be to ensure that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution,” the lawmakers concluded. “We urge you to immediately halt the current enforcement actions towards Central American mothers and children and take steps to engage in a comprehensive effort with our hemispheric partners to address this regional refugee crisis in an appropriate humanitarian manner.”


Pelosi has ‘strong concerns’ about marijuana raids

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, weighed in yesterday against the Obama Administration’s recent actions against medical marijuana providers:

Nancy Pelosi“Access to medicinal marijuana for individuals who are ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is both a medical and a states’ rights issue. Sixteen states, including our home state of California, and the District of Columbia have adopted medicinal marijuana laws – most by a vote of the people.

“I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.

“Proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.

“I am pleased to join organizations that support legal access to medicinal marijuana, including the American Nurses Association, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, and the AIDS Action Council.

“Medicinal marijuana alleviates some of the most debilitating symptoms of AIDS, including pain, wasting, and nausea. The opportunity to ease the suffering of people who are seriously ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is an opportunity we must not ignore.

“For these reasons, I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that recognize the scientific evidence and clinical research demonstrating the medical benefits of medicinal marijuana, that respects the wishes of the states in providing relief to ill individuals, and that prevents the federal government from acting to harm the safe access of medicinal marijuana provided under state law. I will continue to strongly support those efforts.”

“We applaud Pelosi’s leadership in urging President Obama to address medical marijuana as a public health issue,” Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer said in a news release today. “Rather than defending a policy of intolerance, President Obama should end his unnecessary and harmful attacks once and for all.”

The Alameda County Democratic Party unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday “decrying the federal raids on dispensaries and calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to refrain from future expenditure of public resources on any act that contradicts the will of the California voters regarding medical marijuana.” The San Francisco Democratic Party passed a similar resolution last week, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement earlier last month.

Medical marijuana activists say the Obama Administration has stepped up federal crackdowns on California’s medical marijuana cooperatives and providers; in one of the latest actions, federal agents last month raided Oakland’s Oaksterdam University and the home of its founder, legalization advocate Richard Lee.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama noted medical marijuana users aren’t being targeted:

President Barack Obama“Here’s what’s up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.

“The only tension that’s come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, ‘This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.’ That’s not something we’re going to do. I do think it’s important and useful to have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of the things we’ve done over the past three years was to make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. We’ve had a discussion about how to focus on treatment, taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to deal with this issue. I think that’s an appropriate debate that we should have.”


House members plan local meetings this weekend

Lotsa opportunities to get with your member of Congress this weekend…

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host a town-hall meeting from 5 to 6 p.m. this Friday, June 13, in St. Columba Church, 6401 San Pablo Ave. in Oakland, to hear reports from community members on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids conducted in her 9th Congressional District. A panel of community leaders including Arnold Garcia of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, David Kakishiba of the Oakland Unified School Board, and American Civil Liberties Union attorney Julie Harumimass will give statements about recent raids, and community members are encouraged to bring written statements about their own ICE-raid experiences; Lee intends to use this testimony in addressing the issue with federal immigration officials. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, call Lee’s district office at 510-763-0379.

Representatives George Miller, D-Martinez; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; and Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will co-host a foreclosure prevention workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, June 14, in the union hall at 835 Detroit Ave. in Concord. The program includes presenations from the Contra Costa County District Attorney‘s office; Bay Area Legal Aid; Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Internal Revnue Service; Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco; a bankruptcy attorney; and the Community Housing Development Corp. of North Richmond. These and other agencies will have resource tables there as well.

And McNerney’s going from there to one of his “Congress At Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet sessions, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Richert Lumber Co., 5505 Sunol Blvd. in Pleasanton.