By Vic Bedoian
Hundreds of Valley residents gathered at the office of Congressman Devin Nunes in Clovis on Wednesday, February 8 to protest his support of President Trump’s executive order banning Muslims from coming into the United States from seven designated countries. Nunes is Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Trump transition team. He issued a statement on January 29 stating that refugees from certain war-torn countries pose a national security threat, calling the executive order “a common-sense measure”. Participants of the action called upon Nuñes to rescind his statement.
Devin Nunes represents conservative-leaning district 22nd district in the Central Valley winning elections by large margins. But many of the district’s constituents are angered by his position on immigration and the executive order targeting Muslims. They gathered on short notice at his Clovis office to show their outrage. One of them was a young woman carrying her child who didn’t want to use her name, “I’m here today because I strongly disagree with the executive action on refugees and immigrants and I’m deeply disappointed as a constituent of representative Nunes that he’s voiced support for that executive action and that he described it as common sense. I think it’s absolutely racist and xenophobic and I want to make sure that he understands that that executive action does not represent the views of his constituency.”
Ramon is an army veteran who issued a warning to the Republican party and to Nunes, “We want all the GOP to be on notice that we will be watching, and whenever we can we will unseat them. If they continue all this rhetoric they’re going to put us all in danger, and you can see that already throughout the world.”
Karen says she came because the executive order violates human rights and targets people who are legally in the country, “American citizens have committed more acts of terror than people from the countries he’s banning. So, it makes absolutely no sense to me and it scares me because it seems like a move that a fascist dictator would make and not somebody who cares about law and history and the bigger picture and what actually causes people to cause terrorist acts.”
Reza Nekumanesh is executive director of Fresno’s Islamic Cultural Center. In addition to Trump’s immigration policies, his concern is heightened by the administration’s sabre- rattling statements on Iran, “We’ve gone up against Iran for no apparent reason. We’ve told Iranians that if you come here you’re not welcome. We’ve said there’s a stay on you coming. We’ve been detaining Iranians in our airports here. Anxieties are high and you use language like that, what do you think is going to happen?”
Pat said she was wearing a scarf around her head to commemorate world hijab day, “It’s hijab day. I’m wearing it in company with the Muslims. Though I am not a Muslim, I am in support of the Muslim women.”
Sequina was wearing a hijab and carrying a sign that said ‘Unapologetically Muslim’, “You know, we’re here outside of representative Nunes’ office to share our disappointment and disgust at the comments that he made. As a constituent of his district, I expected representative Nunes to stand with the people that are in his constituency and make sure they are fairly represented, but by supporting the comments made by the president to take a basically bigoted approach and he’s incorrectly saying that this has to do with national security.”
The lone obvious Trump supporter in the crowd was a man named Josh. He stood on the corner holding a ‘Trump – Make America Great’ banner and said he was disappointed that so many of his neighbors were protesting against Nunes and the President, “He made promises supporting the president’s decision to protect this country, which is what he ran on and he signed an executive order which is what he promised America he would do. I guess what America said – we’re going to elect him for that, and that’s what he did.” A handful of bystanders present in the business district were also critical of the demonstration, asking why people had not protested Barak Obama’s immigration actions when he was President.
Sequina stated that the Muslim community here is heartened by the show of support by so many local residents, “We think particularly in Fresno it’s heartwarming to see hundreds of people turn out regularly for these actions. We had a lot of people at the airport the other night standing with the undocumented community, so as a Muslim in this community I’m proud to see that there are a lot of communities standing with us allowing me to see how much compassion there is in this community and that people stand for a better message than our representatives are showing.”
The action against congressman Nunes and President Trump marked the third consecutive day of protest by significant numbers of Valley residents. Given the passion expressed, and the fear of Trump’s conduct, rallies like these can only be expected to grow. As I walked back to my car, the crowd chanting “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like…” was reverberating throughout downtown Clovis.
[Editor Update: Nunes’ February 10 response to the 9th Circuit Court’s decision in the Fresno Bee: “Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, called the ruling “a textbook example of judicial overreach by a notoriously left-wing court whose verdicts habitually get overturned. Pausing the refugee program is well within presidential powers and is a measured, appropriate response to current jihadist threats.”
In his position as Head of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has also refused to investigate potential ethics violations by current and former members of the Trump administration regarding sanctions on Russia and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Former Trump National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn is accused of negotiating during the campaign with Russian officials regarding sanctions, prior to his authorization to do so. Instead, Nunes is calling an investigation into the leaks and leakers of alleged discussions between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
Constituents with concerns about his decisions are demanding a town hall. No record could be found to show that he has held any town hall meetings since 2010. Dave and Bev Derby are holding a vigil every Tuesday from 11:45 to 12:45 at Devin Nunes’ office in Clovis. This “quiet vigil of peaceful prayer and reflection is in the pursuit of ‘justice, tolerance, fairness, inclusion, actions and laws that protect all people.’”]
Vic Bedoian is an independent radio and print journalist working on environmental justice and natural resources issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Contact him at vicbedoian @ gmail.com.