The California delegation that bused 57 miles from Sandusky, Ohio, to reach the Republican National Convention on Monday saw firsthand the heavy security in place.
Those who have attended conventions in past years say this year’s convention feels different, and with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump in charge, they are counting on a less conventional convention.
Michael Der Manouel Jr., president and CEO of Der Manouel Insurance Group in Fresno and a Trump delegate, emphasized that the security at this year’s convention is unprecedented.
Delegates go through security before getting on the shuttles at their hotel (in the Californians’ case, that’s the Kalahari in Sandusky, halfway between Cleveland and Toledo), and are then accompanied by two Secret Service officers and a police escort to the convention.
“It’s unreal,” Der Manouel said. There’s “two armed officers on every bus, plus a police escort plus four layers after we get in” the secure area around Quicken Loans Arena.
The buses ferry delegates inside the secured area in downtown Cleveland, which is lined with 15-foot fences and concrete barricades, leaving lots of distance between the attendees and protesters in the city’s public spaces.
The security force includes California Highway Patrol officers. Der Manouel and his son, Grant, who just finished his freshman year at Columbia University in New York, were able to greet some of the officers from the San Joaquin Valley on Monday.
Der Manouel said the security was “way tighter” than the last national convention he attended, at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2004. The national conventions that year were the first after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.
The immense security precautions being taken by law enforcement come in the midst of tense race relations across the nation after the shootings of black men Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and the subsequent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.
Many delegates are sporting “Blue Lives Matter” pins in support of the fallen officers. Black Lives Matter pins are not so visible within the convention. Der Manouel reported from his Twitter account that he had only been in Cleveland for a few minutes before a Black Lives Matter protest held his bus up in traffic.
Monday’s theme was “Make America Safe Again,” a seemingly appropriate topic given the country’s tumultuous climate. Der Manouel said he was looking forward to the straightforward, simple theme, saying “domestic terrorism and international terrorism are both very important issues.”
Immigration issues coming up
Tuesday’s convention theme is “Make America Work Again,” which will feature Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the podium.
They plan to address America’s “broken economy” and how to increase the number of jobs. Surely, immigration reform will be brought into the conversation, as many Republicans attribute a lack of job availability to illegal immigrants taking jobs away from Americans.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to deport all illegal immigrants and build a wall to span the nearly 2,000-mile-long border between the United States and Mexico. His brash rhetoric when discussing immigrants, which characterized Mexicans as criminals and rapists, upset many.
According to a 2010 study by factcheck.org, “economists and other experts say there’s little to support the claim” that immigration costs Americans jobs. Nevertheless, Der Manouel said, “I see a country that imports millions of people to take entry level jobs, and then pays millions of able-bodied people to not work,” adding, “It’s the dumbest thing that’s ever been done in the history of the world.”
Mike Stoker, an agricultural lawyer from Santa Barbara and a delegate, noted that Monday’s theme of “Make America Safe Again” applies to many issues, not just policing and national security. Being safe, Stoker explained, also means ensuring that the economy provides for a good quality of life in the homeland and securing our borders.
Stoker said he is a proponent of extending three-year work visas to immigrants that can be renewed upon returning to Mexico. He said that in his experience, “99 percent could care less about citizenship,” in reference to illegal immigrants. The 673,417 illegal immigrants who applied for exemption from deportation under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative might disagree.
Brian Ward is a freelancer covering the convention for The Bee. He is a fourth-year English and political science student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The Bee’s John Ellis contributed to this report.
Central San Joaquin Valley GOP delegates
16th Congressional District
Jeffrey Christensen, Fresno
Fred Fagundes, Madera
Brittanni Shollenbarger, Fresno
21st Congressional District
Aubrey Bettencourt, Hanford
Kelley William Boudreau, Coalinga
Vernon Costa, Hanford
22nd Congressional District
Michael Der Manouel Jr., Fresno
Tom Fife, Visalia
Bob Smittcamp, Fresno