Protesters shouted down House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in Sacramento Wednesday, voicing anger for his alignment with President Donald Trump and his administration’s stance on immigration.
“McCarthy, where’s your heart?! McCarthy, where’s your heart?!” protesters yelled, interrupting a wide-ranging conversation with the Bakersfield Republican, hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California.
McCarthy had just finished pressing his case for tougher border security, when roughly a dozen protesters stood up, shouting and holding up neon green banners that read “No justice, no peace.” McCarthy sat calmly and listened to the protesters, at times with a slight smile on his face.
“How productive was that?” McCarthy asked after a security detail quietly escorted protesters outside, where they continued to chant. “Why do we have to be so divided?”
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Rosa Barrientos, a Sacramento woman, said she and others staged the protest to urge McCarthy to more forcefully push for federal actions to re-unite separated families, grant citizenship for so-called Dreamers and to prevent a broader immigration crackdown.
“We don’t want no wall. We don’t want families to be separated,” Barrientos said. “He hasn’t used his power effectively.”
McCarthy said he opposes “sanctuary” policies. He called for Democrats to work with with Republicans to secure protections for Dreamers, saying a deal must include tighter border security and funding for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
He said legal immigration will benefit the economy. “Economically, we need to have immigration to be able to continue our growth,” McCarthy said.
He also blasted the idea of abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, repeating a Trump assertion that proliferation of the gang MS-13 is a major threat.
McCarthy is one of California’s 14 House Republicans facing intense scrutiny over immigration ahead of the November election. Organizers of Wednesday’s action, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, are expected to carry out similar events in House districts considered competitive — especially in the Central Valley and Orange County.
Democrats are targeting 10 of the 14 House seats currently held by Republicans.
If Republicans retain control of the House, McCarthy, a close Trump ally, could position himself to be the next speaker. He deferred questions about campaigning to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan when he leaves office at the end of the year, saying he cares most about Ryan’s successor being a Republican.
“I think at the end of the day, if we’re successful, the person that puts in the work and the best person for the job, will be able to be sworn in,” he said.