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Protesters oppose Rep. Tom Cole's immigration stance at congressman's Norman office

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Protesters gather outside Rep. Tom Cole's Norman office July 2.

A crowd of protesters gathered outside Rep. Tom Cole’s Norman office Tuesday to express displeasure with the Oklahoma Republican’s support of President Donald Trump’s stances on immigration. 

Around 40 people were assembled, signs in hand, to advocate for the rights of immigrants at the Mexican border. 

Joan Conley, a protester standing outside Cole’s Norman office, said the crowd was here because they “can no longer bear to see children being harmed, tortured or killed at the border.” 

“What we’re trying to do is let Mr. Cole know that it is important to us as Oklahomans and as citizens of the United States that our country not be responsible for harm and unnecessary harm, especially to little ones,” Conley said.

The House of Representatives passed a bill June 27, according to a press release from Cole’s office. Cole voted yes on the bill. The bill had previously been passed by the Senate, and would later be signed by Trump.

According to the release, the bill “(provides) emergency funding to manage the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.” 

“Certainly, members on both sides of the aisle are committed to caring for the vulnerable families and children arriving," Cole said in the June 27 release. "As we monitor and manage the ongoing crisis in the days ahead, I hope Republicans and Democrats will continue to work together to ensure we can confront the situation effectively and compassionately. Especially in divided government, this is essential.”

At Cole’s Norman office Tuesday, Howard Baer, Homer L. Dodge professor of high energy physics at OU, said he attended the protest to “express his outrage at Tom Cole for supporting Trump’s concentration camps.” 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's use of the term concentration camp to describe migrant detention centers used by the United States caused increased debate on the proper usages of each term.

“It’s completely outrageous the way he’s treating children and women and needy people. It’s just not what this country is supposed to be about,” Baer said. “Tom Cole needs to do something, he needs to grow a spine and he needs to put his foot down and stop aiding in the bedding of Trump and his diabolical plans.”

Adrienne Gautier, another protester, said Cole’s inaction will have political consequences.

“I think he’s siding with Trump,” said Gautier. “I think he’s playing a political game. I think he’s sitting on his hands. I don’t think he’s allowing himself to feel the atrocities of what’s going on,” said Gautier. “We will remember, and (Cole) will not be voted back into office if doesn’t do something now.”

Conley and Darian DeBolt said the treatment of immigrants is particularly important for them. DeBolt, a retiree who earned a PhD from OU, was protesting alongside Conley.

“It is very personal because we do have two grandchildren living in Mexico. A lot of Mexicans are treated very badly by people who are prejudiced against Mexican people,” DeBolt said. “We’ve seen that happen with our grandchildren and we’re not going to put up with that. We need to protect all children.”

Conley said that many people have “odd ideas” about what is occurring in regard to Mexican immigration. Many people at the border are not trying to enter the country illegally, but are asking for legal asylum in the United States, Conley said.

“They are coming here for help and we are treating them like criminals,” Conley said.

In a July 2 statement to The Daily, Cole said he welcomes the constituents and their views.

“My offices are always open to constituents of the Fourth District,” Cole said in the statement. “We welcome our fellow Oklahomans, who want to offer their perspectives and views on any issue. Fortunately, Congress passed with my support and the president signed into law the much needed humanitarian aid to help properly address the ongoing crisis at the southern border.”

Conley said the country’s treatment of migrants, specifically in detention centers, is unacceptable.

“Many people are making comparisons or connections to the Holocaust,” Conley said. “Some people are saying that (comparisons between the Holocaust and detention centers) shouldn’t happen, but people, especially Jews who are Holocaust scholars are saying the comparison should be allowed. Because unless we use the Holocaust as an example of what we should not do, then it’s going to happen again.”

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