Don’t just protest. WitnessPolitically Aware, Bottom Highlights, Latest Issue Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
The immediate impact of President Trump’s travel ban was confusing and horrific. The airport protests that forced coverage of the situation were a critical response, as were the lawyers who came to offer advice and counsel. A Federal Court injunction has calmed the situation for now, but what if it hadn’t worked?
As the ban moved up the courts, legal analysts worried that President Trump might refuse to obey the injunction. Imagine he told the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to continue enforcing the ban because the decision was not subject to judicial review, which is part of what his legal team argued to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. To enforce the injunction, the courts might have sent Federal Marshals to block DHS actions. Bizarre as that scene might look, the branches of government would at least know where each stood and how to monitor the situation.
More worrisome is the possibility that the Trump administration would pay lip service to the injunction, but not actually obey it. The scenario could take many forms, from clandestine directives to DHS officials to perverse incentivizing or lax oversight of DHS employees who continued to enforce the ban on the ground. With Trump claiming compliance, court and congressional oversight would be difficult and likely delayed until there were enough reports, or leaks, to prove the conspiracy. Protests would be difficult to direct against a purported ally.
Which is why we need to witness as much or more than protest. In broad terms, a witness is present for an act or event. In legal terms, a witness testifies to something under oath. In faith traditions, a witness publicly affirms a conviction in words or actions. All apply to what may be needed to hold to account an administration known to operate on alternate facts.
After 9/11, the charged duty of Americans was “if you see something, say something.” That is no longer enough, if it ever were. To protect our values, and the safety and lives of San Diegans at risk, we must be more proactive in protecting freedoms.
Imagine you see a young Latina hassled by the Border Patrol for no apparent reason. She needs you to support her when she asks “Why do you need to see my ID?” She needs your name and number in case there is an action against her. She needs you, in that moment, to stand witness for what you believe San Diego and America should be – places that cherish our freedom and diversity where no one has to carry papers.
There will be many marches and protests against intolerant directives of the Trump administration. I look forward to seeing you there to demonstrate our indivisibility in the quest to impact policy. In between the protests we need to be aware of those around us who might need help today, and use our eyes, ears and voices to be witnesses for justice and equality.
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