About two dozen constituents delivered letters Tuesday to U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert’s Longview office protesting “disgraceful” conditions at migrant detention centers on the border.
“He needs to spend some time there personally and know that his constituents are concerned about this humanitarian crisis,” Lauren Land said, shortly before the group passed through security at the Gregg County Courthouse to hand Gohmert Field Representative Shannon Crisp their written protests.
Land said Tuesday had been declared Close the Camps Day across the nation.
“These things are going on all over the country,” she said. “The goal is to talk to your local representative if he or she is in the office.”
Local event organizer Geff Grimes was not optimistic Gohmert, the Republican representing Northeast Texas in the U.S. House, will be influenced by the notes.
Gohmert, he said, “supports everything the Trump administration is doing. He’s carried water for the Trump administration even before there was a Trump administration.”
Noting he had not seen the letters, Gohmert indicated later Tuesday by email that he is relying on federal agents on the border to accurately report conditions in the centers.
“Since I have not yet seen the letters, I do not know if the writers have visited the facilities,” Gohmert wrote. “If they have visited the facilities, I’d like to see what their first-hand observations were that caused them concern.
“I do, however, hear from and visit with our Border Patrol constantly who have this first-hand view: Radical federal judges and Democrats in Congress are willfully stopping the Border Patrol from having the means and the authority to stop those trying to illegally cross into this country. I mourn for those being lured to our open border and losing their lives as a result of these reckless policies.”
Fran Grimes, 79, of Longview used a walker Tuesday on one of two stairless entries into the courthouse.
“I don’t even look like a protester, do I?” she quipped on her way to a ground-floor elevator to the third floor and Gohmert’s office.
The group assembled in the hallway waiting area outside the Commissioners Courtroom, opposite Gohmert’s office, and one by one knocked on the locked door to hand a letter to Crisp.
One was signed by 13 local ministers. Another, by local Democratic leader Steve Crane, cited the Gospel of Matthew’s “sheep and goats” passage in which a returned Christ curses those who failed society’s weakest for not visiting them in prison, the hospital, extending their hearts to “the least of these.”
“It is inconceivable that you, as a Christian, can stand by and let this happen,” Crane wrote.
The letters included three, one-sentence notes from Amanda Veasy’s children. Veasy said the project presented an avenue to engage Keiton, Gavin and Jayden, respective ages 13, 10 and 8, and even 3-year-old Jaryn, in taking a stand for the rights of others.
“I want them to experience compassion,” she said. “I want them to stand up for people with compassion and grow up to be world-changers.”
Veasy said her children have kept up with news from the U.S.-Mexico border.
“They know about the horrific conditions down there, the lack of basic necessities,” she said. “They know about the situations of flu outbreaks and the lice.”
Democratic Women of East Texas co-founder Mary Lou Tevebaugh arrived shortly after the group reached Gohmert’s office, fresh from protesting outside a detention center outside of Clint near El Paso.
“It’s not a good environment,” she said. “I’m an attorney, and I’ve been to visit clients in the state penitentiary system. And this was ... it looked like a penitentiary, or even more secure. This is not what we expect for children in this world to be in. It’s important that we keep up the pressure. From what I’m told, there’s going to be more of these facilities.”
Suzanne Lynn’s letter urged Gohmert to “do your job,” bemoaning the lack of clean diapers, soap and other basic necessities in the children’s detention centers.
“We are a country that others, in the past, had looked up to for help and leadership. Now, we have become a disgrace. ... You are among the, ‘Make America Great Again,’ followers. DO IT NOW! Signs of our greatness are certainly not visible to me or the world!”
Lynn did not believe her congressman will be swayed.
“No, I do not,” she said. “Because I don’t think he cares about the immigrants at the border. I think he cares about being reelected.”