Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, has written an open letter to Democrats, telling them to set aside “patriotic causes” and spend time promoting the party’s new stance on sanctuary cities.
At a conference in Texas last weekend where she announced a draft bill calling for a “Department of Sanctuary Cities”, the Democratic congresswoman slammed those who were supposedly acting on their patriotism.
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“The idea that standing up for all our values makes us patriots is truly ludicrous,” Gabbard said. “And it only gives cover to extremists, like the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.”
She continued, speaking to the attendees of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), who had just announced new legislation in support of cities that refuse to work with federal immigration authorities.
“We must stop pretending that the patriots on the right want to divide us, and we must stop pretending that if we make [our] stands against them, they will abandon us. I know we have the best of intentions, and I know that we care deeply about our nation, but if we pretend it, the extremists will believe we don’t.”
The strategy of Democrats, Gabbard warned, will only get them “a few seats in the House, and even fewer in the Senate”.
The senator Elizabeth Warren published an open letter to Democrats promising to fight for immigrant-rights while simultaneously stating her opposition to House democrats’ defense of the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill. She said that Democrats would fight to defend all Americans who “don’t have a job, a place to live, or the safety they need to be able to provide for their families”.
Democrats have faced increasing criticism from immigrant rights groups for failing to take an unambiguous stance on immigrants in the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the US. Many Democrats at the conference criticized the anti-immigrant rhetoric that is creeping into national politics, and many blamed the actions of President Donald Trump for the increasingly contentious nature of America’s immigration policies.
“There is a reason there has never been a year like this for immigrant rights and civil rights in our nation’s history,” Gabbard wrote in her letter to other Democrats. “Donald Trump has used fear and hate to win the presidency, and it is showing no signs of stopping.”
She urged them to tell the message of unity and resistance to Trump and his rightwing supporters.
“Do not let hate divide us,” she wrote. “Do not let divisiveness dominate the debate. Do not build a wall that is not there. We are stronger than division.”
Trump has made the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, which would allow local officials to be sanctioned for ignoring ICE requests to detain certain undocumented immigrants, a cornerstone of his immigration agenda.
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Speaking on Fox News on Monday, Texas governor Greg Abbott, who was also at the conference, asserted that Gabbard’s action was “an act of treason,” while California senator Kamala Harris said it was “very disappointing”.
She was one of several Democrats to address a crowd at the conference, which has garnered controversy in the past for its rightwing extremism. Although Politico called the conference a “shadow convention”, the organization in fact falls within the purview of the Republican-dominated American Legislative Exchange Council.
Members of Alec have spent the week wooing delegates, and Angela Merkel, who was the keynote speaker on Saturday, fielded multiple questions about how “progressive” her party was.
“There will always be liberal and conservative solutions to a lot of the problems that we face,” Merkel said. “The only thing is that we need to find the answers at the level of policy, at the level of standards, of distribution.
“We need to find what’s the real solution for the people that are living in third-world conditions. And it is the liberals, the social democrats, the conservatives and the socialists – it is not just Trump. It is not just the Republican party. It is not just the Democrats.”