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Petalumans raise their voices

“The threats to truth, civility, rational thought and brotherly love coming from the White House have prompted a huge counterreaction.”

- Timothy Egan, New York Times contributing op-ed writer

The controversial statements and actions of newly minted President Donald Trump have sparked a national wave of public protests and resistance in the last couple months, including here in Petaluma where many rightly fear the president’s misguided edicts will harm residents in our community and our state.

Petaluma’s elected officials, from city council members all the way to Congressional representative Jared Huffman, are listening to their constituents, the vast majority of whom are unified against many of the president’s grievous policy proposals that would adversely affect the environment, health care, immigrants, abortion rights and public education. Collectively, Petalumans and their representatives have begun to fight back in unison.

Nowhere has the growing fear of Trump’s reckless policy decisions been more apparent than among Petaluma’s immigrant community. Two weeks ago, with hundreds of people spilling out of Petaluma City Hall, council members voted unanimously to reaffirm the city’s commitment to shield undocumented immigrants from the accelerated deportation practices of the federal government. The council’s adoption of the so-called “It Won’t Happen Here” declaration, which states the city’s refusal to work with federal officials on actions leading to the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, was welcome news for families terrified of being torn apart.

The resolution affirms that police officers will not detain immigrants at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless a probable cause hearing has been held and a federal warrant issued; exceptions are allowed for those who have committed serious felonies. It was the right thing for the council to do, and may have done more to help unify the city’s white and Hispanic populations than all 10 years’ of El Dia De Los Muertos celebrations combined.

Supervisor David Rabbitt and his colleagues on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors also declared their support of undocumented immigrants by unanimously approving a resolution last month that outlines supervisors’ continued commitment to provide services to residents regardless of their immigration status. In addition to confirming its commitment to “vulnerable communities,” the board vowed to educate immigrants about their rights and the public services available to them. Per state law, the Sonoma County Jail does not honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers unless federal officials show proof of probable cause, typically in the form of an arrest warrant.

Of major concern to many Petalumans is Trump’s plan to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, a historic measure that provides health care coverage for many millions of previously uninsured Americans. According to a Pew Research poll last month, 54 percent of Americans now approve of the ACA, while here in Petaluma an overwhelming majority of voters are strongly in favor of the law.

On Monday evening, nearly 1,000 Petalumans crammed into the Petaluma Veterans Hall to hear Congressman Jared Huffman and a panel of health care experts discuss their perspectives on the matter just hours after House Republicans unveiled an irresponsible and poorly conceived plan to ditch the existing health care law in favor of a system that would reduce coverage, slash federal funding for the public health programs offered at the Petaluma Heath Center, and defund Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion coverage.

Huffman said, correctly, that while the Affordable Care Act may have its shortcomings, that overall it has helped provide quality health coverage to millions of low and middle income Americans, especially here in California.

“It’s very clear to me that if we were to repeal this law, and certainly without putting an adequate and comprehensive replacement in place first, the impacts would be devastating for millions of people,” Huffman warned.

Sonoma County health care officials have echoed Huffman’s sentiments, warning that the newly introduced health care replacement bill could upend the local health care system, leading to the loss of health coverage or dramatic benefit cuts to nearly 150,000 residents, and cost thousands of jobs and $200 million in economic losses. That’s not what anyone here wants or needs.

Amidst the daily train wreck that has come to define the Trump presidency, it’s heartening to see Petalumans and their elected representatives standing up for what is right, staying informed and becoming more deeply engaged in the political process. More than ever, their voices need to be heard in Washington D.C.

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