Today’s Lenten Meditation is offered by Juliana Serrano: a report on her experience this week traveling to Sacramento to lobby for the adoption of SB54 … AKA the California Values Act. So grateful for this wonderful window into the prophetic work of putting faith into action.
The day of action for SB54 – the California Values Act in Sacramento on Monday, April 3 was nothing short of fantastic! I was proud to be part of the LA Voice delegation to travel to the state capitol and advocate for the passage of the bill along with two new friends, Gabriel Lopez and Gloria Walker.
Once we arrived at the capitol we joined the rally happening in the Rose Garden. There we met Joseph McKeller from PICO Network California and the fourth member of our delegation, Rabbi Julia Weisz. It didn’t take long for us to connect with friends and colleagues while at the rally. It was clear that those who work toward justice and peace in our communities where in Sacramento to fight for this bill.
After a quick training and directions, we made our way into the capitol building to begin our lobby visits at Senator’s offices. Our first stop was at the office of Senator Stern who came out to the lobby to warmly great us himself. Because he knows Rabbi Julia, I think Senator Stern was exceptionally generous with his time and chatted a long while with us, even asking Gabriel to see pictures of his father who Gabriel had spoken to him about.
From there Gabriel and I made our way to the west steps of the capitol to participate in the afternoon rally. There we joined a large group of people in singing, dancing and chanting for immigrant rights. Gabriel spoke at the rally, sharing the story of his family’s migration to the US and revealing how his father is one of the many that are being targeted for deportation under the Trump administration.
Before we entered the Senate Gallery to watch the floor vote, we stopped by the office of Senator Portantino to express our thanks for his promised “yes” vote. Senator Portantino is my representative and I know him well through his tenure as my former Assemblymember and his work in the Pasadena community. He was great and allowed Gabriel to share his story with him. Before he was whisked away by staff to enter the Senate Chambers, he suggested we take a picture.
Since the Senate Gallery was packed with supporters of SB 54 – Gabriel and I had to go into the overflow room to watch a live video stream of the hearing. After sometime, we decided to go back to the Gallery and wait in line to get in. It wasn’t long before we were permitted inside and from there we were able to watch the vote on SB 54 and a couple of other important bills. It was wonderful to be in the room where it happens! I loved the energy from all those in the gallery – even though we were asked to refrain from cheering or sneering.
When the bill finally came up for the vote, we were all on the edge of our seats. While the discussion on the floor was interesting, especially the remarks made by those who were in opposition to bill, I felt confident that the bill would pass. Shortly thereafter, roll call commenced and before we knew it we had 28 aye votes with only 12 no votes! Senator Leyva announced “the measured passed.” Most of us silently cheered while other could not contain themselves!
After the vote, we gathered with all the other grass roots lobbyists outside Senator DeLeon’s office for a press conference. As the author of SB 54, Senator DeLeon gleefully expressed his gratitude for the bill’s passage, as well as for the help and support from Californian’s up and down the state, including all those at the capitol that day. After some photo snaps with the Senator, those who were there as part of the PICO Network gathered in the Senate Rotunda to do a quick debrief of the day and discuss next steps. In short, everyone was happy, grateful, pumped and looking forward to the fight in the Assembly.
Personally, the day was amazing. While I have been to Sacramento to lobby for legislation several times before, this experience was more invigorating and fulfilling than ever before. I believe it is in large part due to the fact that I was seeing and experiencing everything through the eyes of Gabriel who was lobbying in Sacramento for the first time. He was nervous on many occasions.
He had never met a Senator before. He had never been to our state capitol. He had never shared his family migration story to the public. And in spite of his feelings, he pushed himself and did a great job representing his family and Homeboy Industries. In fact, after each meeting and speaking engagement, he felt more and more pumped for action! We may have a future professional lobbyist in our midst!
Now, onward to the Assembly.
Q. What happens when a Catholic, Jew and Homeboy enter the state capitol?
A. A bill to protect our undocumented immigrant siblings comes closer to being a law!
Si se puede!
Juliana Serrano is the Senior Associate for Peace & Justice and Director of the Office for Creative Connections.