Immigration activists picket Rep. Valadao's Bakersfield office
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) —
The event was part of a statewide caravan making stops at the offices of numerous House Republicans.
Protesters were brought by several organizations, including the United Farm Workers, an organization co-founded by the mother of Valadao's latest Democratic challenger, Emilio Huerta.
Despite a considerable registration advantage in Valadao's solidly Latino district, Huerta won just 43 percent of the vote in November. Huerta announced in May he would challenge Valadao again in 2018.
Opponents who gathered at his office Tuesday criticized him for his stance on immigration, referencing his support for House Speaker Paul Ryan as evidence.
The protesters also voiced their concerns about his promise to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.
"He said he supports DACA, he supports the BRIDGE Act, but at the same time in 2015 he also signed onto a House resolution that was against expanding DACA and against providing protection for undocumented parents," said Marichel Mejia, civil engagement organizer for the United Farm Workers Foundation.
In 2015, Valadao voted in favor of a House resolution in support of a lawsuit being filed by a number of states against then-President Barak Obama, which claimed he overstepped his authority in creating the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, referred to as DAPA. House Republicans said at the time their support for the lawsuit was tied to their concern over executive overreach and not the DAPA program itself.
"While I firmly support comprehensive immigration reform, attempting to repair the system through quick fixes and far reaching Executive Orders will not achieve real, lasting solutions," Valadao said in a prior statement about the resolution. "... This amicus brief is not about the issue of immigration, nor is it about this President. It is about ensuring the United States remains a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans maintain control."
Dolores Huerta, founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and advocate for immigrant rights, said Valadao's vote in favor of the House resolution to petition DACA showed his constituents his stance on the issue.
"When he had the opportunity to really make a difference to sign a petition for the immigration reform bill to come to a vote in the Congress he did not," said Dolores Huerta. "The Democrats were there, and we needed just a few Republicans, and he was one of those who said he was for immigration, but he refused to sign that petition."
In January, Valadao announced support for the BRIDGE Act, a measure aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants currently allowed to remain under the DACA program.
Dismantling the DACA program was among President Donald Trump's campaign promises in regard to immigration.
Responding to critics Tuesday, Valadao's spokesperson issued the following statement:
"As the son of immigrants, the issue of immigration reform is very important to Congressman Valadao. Since he was elected, Congressman Valadao has been a vocal supporter of immigration policies that provide certainty to immigrants and keep Central Valley families together. It is unfortunate his political opponent and his opponent's mother have decided to politicize this issue rather than focus on achieving a solution."
Dolores Huerta said the caravan of demonstrators traveled across the state and stopped by several congressional offices before ending up outside Valadao's Bakersfield office.
"We want to hold him accountable," she said. "He's a congressman here, and a lot of people that are in his district are immigrants, and there are many people that are affected by DACA, and he has a responsibility to represent them."