Casper Town Hall Organizes To Hold Wyoming Delegation Accountable
Nyrma Soffel stood at the podium in a former church in north Casper on Saturday and posed a personal question to three empty chairs reserved for the Wyoming congressional delegation.
"Are you going to continue to support this immigration ban, which causes people like me to be questioned, people like me to not be welcome," Soffel asked.
Soffel's mother was from Pennsylvania and her father was from Puerto Rico, where she grew up, she said.
Recently, her blond-haired, blue-eyed brother with their parents' Hispanic name -- one as common as "John Smith" -- moved to Colorado and tried to get a driver's license and register to vote. Authorities initially denied his requests and told him he was a resident of another state and could be impersonating someone else, birth certificate and other identification to the contrary.
The pall cast by President Donald Trump's Jan. 27 travel ban, Soffel said, has affected American families like hers, and she wanted to know what Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barasso, and Rep. Liz Cheney will do about it.
"I have been in Wyoming for eight years, and I have been an American citizen all my life," Soffel said. "Why am I not welcome? Don't you welcome me, Senator Barasso, Senator Enzi, Liz Cheney? Do you welcome me here in your state?"
Soffel was among 70 Casper-area residents at the first local Town Hall meeting, part of the nationwide "Indivisible" movement. Many wanted to know what the delegation will do about other issues:
- The Affordable Care Act including its provisions for mental health care.
- Proposed cuts for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities (the latter formerly headed by Cheney's mother Lynne).
- The proposed wall along the Mexican border.
- Climate change and the potential loss of environmental protections.
- Trump's disdain for freedom of the press.
- Protection of the rights of transgendered people.
The Town Hall movement is grass-roots, locally organized, mildly confrontational, sharply questioning, intent on holding elected officials accountable, and not backing down.
Meeting moderator Andrea Percy said she became involved after the Jan. 21 women's march for equality in Casper.
Percy knew only a few of the Town Hall participants before the march, but learned many local residents were of a like mind, she said. "In this sea of red, we're not necessarily alone."
One of those involved with the town hall, Jane Ifland, contacted the national "Indivisible" movement to help form a group in Casper, Percy said. The founders of "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda," borrowed the Tea Party strategy that effectively organized conservatives after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.
After the group secured a meeting place, Margot Glendenning on Tuesday went to the offices of the delegation. She complimented the courtesy of the staff when she told them about the meeting, and admitted it was short notice.
Percy said if the delegation attended she would have altered the format, "making sure that it did stay a respectful gathering, because that's the way to get things accomplished."
At the beginning of the meeting, she asked how many present were registered voters in Natrona County, and all raised their hands.
While many of those attending were Democrats, Percy said the Town Hall intends to be nonpartisan. Many Wyoming residents regardless of party oppose proposals such as turning over public lands to state and possible private control, she said.
The Casper Town Hall intends to set up another meeting on March 16 when the delegation is scheduled for its next home work week, Percy said. "This time we fortunately have a little bit more time to plan so we can get the invitations out this week for another Town Hall on the 16th."