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Valley Residents Join National #CloseTheCamps Protest In Front Of Congressman's Clovis Office

Dozens of people lined up in front of Congressman Devin Nunes’s Clovis office on Tuesday as part of a national protest to close immigration detention centers. 

The #CloseTheCamps protests around the state and country come a day after several Democratic members of Congress visited detention centers at the southern border. There were reports of no running water, overcrowded facilities, people sleeping on floors, drinking out of toilets, and parents not knowing where their children were placed. 


Credit Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio
A protester in front of Congressman Devin Nunes’s Clovis office during the #CloseTheCamps national protest.

“Just left the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) facility,” Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeleine Dean said on Twitter. “The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined.” 


She added: “15 women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families. This is a human rights crisis.”


More than 100 people were calling on Nunes, who represents California’s 22nd district, to listen to his constituents and to do something about the inhumane treatment of children and adults detained at the border. 


“Isn’t that Congress’s job?” asked Brian Bobbitt, a protest organizer. “To act, to do something, to fix it? It’s just deplorable.”


Bobbit has been coming with others to protest in front of Nunes’s Clovis office every Tuesday for the past couple of years. They call themselves The Watch, he said, which is also a Facebook group that keeps tabs on Nunes and other elected officials within his district. The Watch partnered with act.moveon.org to join the national protest. 


Credit Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio

Bobbitt said he is not optimistic Nunes will do anything to help the families that are detained. 


“He’s beholden to his voters, not his constituents,” Bobbitt said. “He just runs from everyone down here. If you’re not a big dairy farmer you’re not important to him.” 


Genoveva Islas, a Fresno Unified School Board member and director of Cultiva La Salud, was among the protestors and said she feels “heartbroken” for the children detained and “angry” the government is allowing this to happen. 


NBC News reports at least 24 immigrants have died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since President Donald Trump took office. It also reports at least seven children have died in immigration custody in the last year. 


“It’s an outrage,” Islas said. “We are normalizing a pattern of behavior that is hateful and cruel, and that we are allowing this to happen to children is beyond disgraceful. I think that he (Nunes) will continue to dismiss it because I don’t think that he cares about the plight of children.” 


Nunes’s office did not respond to a request for comment.


Elba Reyna, who is a special education teacher in Fresno, said she came out to protest because many of her students have parents who have immigrated to the Valley. Reyna said she is also an immigrant and is privileged her family brought her here as a baby 30 years ago because she could have easily been one of the kids today, separated from their families and detained. 


“I can’t imagine being ripped away from my parents when I was a baby,” Reyna said. “I feel I’ve been a good product (of migration) and now I’m giving back to my community and showing kids wherever you’re coming from you can be a good citizen.”


Several people at the protest, like Islas, described the detention centers as concentration camps, something New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been criticized for. 


Credit Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio

“My mind is definitely made up and I use the word ‘concentration camps’ because that's what I see them as,” Islas said. “These are not places that are affording dignity and well-being to the children that are housed there.” 


Although Hannah Krebs was out protesting against the inhumane conditions at detention centers, she said calling them concentration camps is going a step too far “considering what happened there.” 


“It’s a little over the top,” the 82-year-old said.


She and her parents immigrated to the United States from Germany escaping the Holocaust when she was just 2.


Krebs is in Nunes’s district and said she has never felt represented by him.


“He doesn’t seek to look to any of his constituents for anything they're interested in or what we believe in,” she said. “He really doesn’t care. We’ve been out here for years protesting his representation.”

Monica Velez was a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star.