No. Not what you ‘re thinking…hoping?
I set out at 6am for the Men’s County Jail to see my friend Jeremy who is presently residing in dorm 5200. Jeremy is a good-looking white man in his mid-thirties. A meth head with a penchant for transsexuals. He has two kids in Utah. He used to manage an ihop. He is the kind of character I couldn’t invent from a movie I couldn’t write. A charming man with anger issues. Like most inmates he is pre-occupied with his own case, another miserable drug dealer hauled off the streets. We spoke for thirty minutes, I left $50 for him to eat well and I drove home.
The deputies who processed us into the jail were very pleasant, polite.
Yesterday we drove to Redondo Beach where we met with Democratic State Senator Lieu. The second State Senator I have met this month. He has a strange constituency, ranging from progressive liberals in the Venice area to hard-core Odinists in Orange County. We sat in the sparse office with his Harvard educated interns. They were polite but they didn’t offer us water or coffee.
Our successful visit last month to Senator Calderon lead to his decision to co-sponsor the Trust Act. The bill then passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and is now headed towards the Senate Floor . The Trust Act will make what happened to me less likely to happen to others. It may liberate the 3000 un-convicted men and women currently held on ICE holds in California. The Trust Act will demand that ICE follows its own guidelines, its own rules.
It is essential that Senator Lieu support this bill.
Lieu is an interesting man. In his Redondo office there is a huge studio photograph of Lieu and his family lounging on a white, fluffy rug. He is wearing a dress shirt but no tie. He has been a vociferous supporter of the LGBT community, especially the transsexual population for whom he reserves special respect.
I sat with Kristine Chong from The Californian Immigrants Policy Center and three other Immigrant rights specialists… including a day labourer from Mexico in the Senator’s dingy ‘conference’ room. Lieu’s people wore badly cut suits. We all began to sweat in the un air-conditioned office.
Antonio, the day laborer, spoke very movingly about the catastrophic effect ICE and the Secure Communities protocol are having on the immigrant population. Families broken apart, 5000 American children made orphans, their mothers and fathers deported. Immigrants are routinely forced to sign deportation papers or threatened with months held in privately owned immigration camps, camps that are currently costing the people of California 6 million dollars a year
The situation is tantamount to ethnic cleansing.
This state has enjoyed, for many years, low-cost manual labour on which their false economy was based. Now, these undocumented migrants are being rounded up like animals. Targeted on the streets, in their cars, in their homes.
ICE have to deport 400, 000 people a year to fulfill a federal government quota. Even President Obama’s announcement last week supporting The Dream Act didn’t stop three ‘Dreamers’ being deported yesterday.
I told my story. I told them what they must have heard many times out of Latino mouths. Spanish speakers, their accents somehow devaluing what they have to say. Listen to me. Listen to my clipped British accent. Listen to me eloquently tell my story. Pay attention to the dramatic pauses.
It is always very shocking for them (especially the starched, ivy league interns) that an affluent white person could have got caught up in the immigration net. They bowed their heads in shame. After 45 minutes our meeting is over.
They tell us that Lieu’s support on the Senate floor cannot be assured, he has to pamper to the right-wing element of his constituency. They say: Lieu, in the past, has been threatened physically for supporting immigrants rights. He received death threats. Pampering to the right? I ask incredulously. Pampering to the right will keep this state poor, our children uneducated, the prisons full and gay men like me… unmarried and childless.
Be brave, I urge him, and do the right thing.
As we are leaving we pass another group of men and women patiently waiting their turn to be heard. They could have been Odinists for all I know, demanding that Lieu hunt down every illegal immigrant in California and throw away the key.