January 27, 2018

Talking Racism with my Congressman

A while ago, when our eloquent president decided to enhance the immigration discussion by referring to various countries with people-of-color-majorities as shitholes and wondered why we wouldn't want to bring more white immigrants to America, I reached out to John Katko, who represents my NY-24th district in the House.

Katko has made a name for himself as a willing, if not eager proponent of bipartisanship, and he's actually had a number of legislative successes, something that the more recent past representatives of the district were unable to do. He's been successful enough that we actually sent him back for a second term - something, again, that his recent predecessors also were unable to do.

He's also managed to keep himself out of the fray, generally, when it comes to Trump's behavior, his rhetoric, his racist attacks, and his generally rude and insulting demeanor.  Knowing that, I still sent him this message back on January 11th:
Congressman Katko, I'm looking forward to your forceful condemnation of the comments made today by the leader of the Republican party, president Donald Trump. 
I'm sure  you are aware of his comments regarding African nations and Haiti - and the defense issued by the White House that he will "always fight for America."
I'm asking YOU to fight for decent people in New York, and across the country, and issue the strongest possible statement calling the president out as a racist and unfit to serve.
If you're not able to do that, I'm equally interested in hearing why. My vote in the upcoming election hangs in the balance.
Thanks in advance for your personal and detailed response.
I actually received a response; it was what I expected him to say, but not what I wanted him to say. Take a look.
Thank you for contacting me regarding (p)resident Trump's recent comments about immigration. It is good to hear from you.
Our nation was founded by immigrants and continues to thrive culturally and economically due to our acceptance of all nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. However, our immigration system has been broken for many years. Having served a a federal prosecutor for over 20 years, I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of the rule of law. I believe that we must properly enforce our immigration laws, while working towards common sense immigration reform. I am eager to work with my colleagues to establish effective immigration reform.
You may be aware of recent media reports surrounding president Trump's comments regarding the immigration policies of the United States. While I was not present for the meeting in which the comment was said to have been made, I believe it is imperative that we depart from partisan political rhetoric and I will continue to reach across the aisle to start productive conversations and collaborations. I am committed to working with the president and my colleagues in Congress to pass bipartisan, effective legislation to improve the economy and quality of life of individuals and families in the 24th district.
His letter went on to talk about bills he has cosponsored regarding a pathway to legalized status for those in the DACA program (five year 'conditional status' as long as they're vetted by Homeland Security and either pursuing higher education, serving in the military or authorized to work, after which they can apply for five-year permanent status), and another bill would provide a pathway to legalized status and also deal with border security "using technology, levees and physical barriers", and also add immigration judges and appeals attorneys to reduce the backlog in immigration cases.

I take no issue with Rep. Katko's willingness to participate, to work towards immigration reforms, and to reach across the aisle to do so. Heck, I even agree with him on some of the specifics,  particularly focusing on reducing the backlog in immigration courts - but that was not the question I asked. I also didn't ask him to keep my thoughts in mind if "legislation related to this issue comes before the House for a vote."

Why? Because there is no way that legislation on this issue will come to the floor for a vote unless a member of the House actually puts forth for consideration a statement condemning the president for his vulgar and unnecessary comments.

I also found interesting Katko's reference to "partisan political rhetoric" -- implying that Trump's racist comments are representative of the Republican party's stance on Africa, Haiti and bringing in white people.  That, I have to admit, was an accusation I was not going to make. But, when in Rome...

I'll be responding to his message, clarifying my initial request and suggesting that perhaps a resolution of disgust would be a nice way for him to add another another bipartisan accomplishment to his resume, and an excellent way to keep my thoughts in mind.

Hopefully I'll have more to come on this in the next couple of weeks. 

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