“Where’s Rothfus? Wednesdays?” brought to you by PA Progressives

Emily McConville

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

5:27 PM

Aug 2, 2017

For months, demonstrators have gathered every Wednesday outside the Ross office of Keith Rothfus. Their original purpose was to call for a town hall meeting with the Republican congressman, but now they also protest the policies of President Donald Trump.

Pro-Trump demonstrators also turn up each week on the same stretch of sidewalk on Babcock Boulevard to counter “Where’s Rothfus? Wednesdays,” which is organized by political advocacy group PA 12 for Progress.

The groups continued to do so this Wednesday, when members of groups such as One Pennsylvania joined PA 12 for Progress for a specific purpose: to demand that Mr. Rothfus, R-Sewickley, not support a federal budget that increases funding for immigration enforcement measures, such as the expansion of detention centers and the construction of a border wall.

The demonstrators, whose group was one of 11 at congressional offices around the state protesting what they called a “deportation budget,” laid shoes along the sidewalk to represent undocumented immigrants who had been deported. Immigration advocacy group Make the Road Pennsylvania organized the statewide protest, though One Pennsylvania drove the Ross demonstration.

The demonstration focused on the 2018 federal budget, which is to be considered in Congress in the next couple of months. In May, the White House submitted a budget plan to Congress which included an increase in funding for immigration enforcement, including expansion of detention centers, and nearly $1.6 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bundle of appropriations bills that included funding for the wall and other security-related spending. Mr. Rothfus voted for that measure and also introduced a bill that would allow funds seized from drug traffickers or from civil asset forfeiture to fund border security.

Linda Bishop, a Pine resident and member of the political advocacy organization PA 12 for Progress, said she wants Mr. Rothfus to oppose the parts of Mr. Trump’s budget proposal regarding immigration and support DACA, the executive order by then-President Barack Obama that defers deportation for young undocumented immigrants.

“We want him to be a supporter of the DREAMers,” she said, referring to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children who would have had a path to citizenship under an Obama-era bill.

Glenn Grayson Jr. of the Hill District, a lead organizer at One Pennsylvania, said he hopes the protest could educate people about harmful immigration policies.

“We believe we need schools, not jails; safety, not chaos,” he said. “We need to take care of each other.”

Asked to comment on the protesters’ demands, Mr. Rothfus said in an emailed statement that Congress must stop drugs from coming into the United States by securing the border before other issues can be addressed.

“Further policy discussions on immigration are not even truly possible until we secure our southern border and protect American families,” the statement said.

Pro-immigration demonstrators held up signs that read, “Wall Don’t Work, Immigrants Do” and “Repeal + Replace Trump.” Honks and thumbs-up came from passing cars on Babcock, aimed at both them and at the smaller pro-Trump demonstrators, whose signs read, “Healthcare, not Obamacare” and “Build the Wall.”

“We want to make sure people are aware there are people who support what the president is trying to do,” said Bob Howard of Marshall, who held a sign that said “Drain the Swamp.” Mr. Howard said the group supported increasing funding for immigration enforcement.

The pro-immigration demonstrators delivered a petition to Mr. Rothfus’ office expressing opposition to a border wall and mass deportations.

Emily McConville: emcconville@post-gazette.com