Drag PG&E into the light

By Ann G. Daniels

Deadline: December 13 and keep the pressure on –

Dear readers, as we go into yet another damn PG&E power shutoff we hope that wherever you normally read our blog posts has power and that you are safe and warm and illuminated. And speaking of illuminated – it’s about time we shed some light on why we’re having to do without electricity in this highly technologically advanced State in this highly technologically advanced country, don’t you think? 

On November 13, 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to do just that. The plan is to prevent catastrophic fires in the future, and to call PG&E to account for their behavior to date – behavior that has led to depriving millions of Californians of power while not preventing wildfires. All of the state’s utility companies must report to the CPUC by December 13. And the CPUC has already imposed “sanctions,” which are actually instructions to comply with procedures to improve its approach to planned power outages.

What you can do:

In the context of the ongoing investigation of PG&E, tell our state legislators you want PG&E to be thoroughly investigated, punished as appropriate, and made to put their customers and California residents, rather than their shareholders, first. Tell them:

  • Support and insist on a thorough investigation of PG&E, including their: 
    • Causing wildfires through failure to maintain their infrastructure
    • Failure to work with local governments
    • Failure to communicate properly and coherently with their customers
    • Unnecessarily, dangerously and repeatedly depriving customers of power while still failing to prevent fires from their equipment
  • Support legislation that adequately protects California residents and PG&E consumers, by, among other things:
    • Imposing specific requirements on utilities to protect the public from wildfires
    • Removing barriers to municipalization
    • Providing a pathway to energy security
    • Providing access to relevant documents and information
    • Protecting consumers from financial hardship while shareholders benefit
    • For more information on this subject, see the letter concerning AB 1054 that IEB signed on to in September, 2019.
  • Support actual sanctions for wrongdoing, not merely instructions for new procedures

What to say:

My name is ___________, my zip code is __________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask ______ to support a thorough investigation of PG&E. Any investigation needs to include their role in the state’s wildfires, their failure to work with local governments, their horrible communication with their customers, and their putting us in the dark and at risk. I hope that _____________ will support sanctions for the things that PG&E has done wrong – not just a slap on the wrist or a list of things they need to change. We should be PG&E’s priority, and I hope _____ will do whatever it takes, including supporting legislation that protects California residents and PG&E consumers above PG&E shareholders, to make that happen.

Assembly:

  • Buffy Wicks: email; District: 510-286-1400; Capitol: 916-319-2015
  • Rob Bonta: email; District: 510-286-1670; Capitol: 916-319-2018
  • Rebecca Bauer-Kahan: email; Capitol (handles legislative calls): 916-319-2016
  • Bill Quirk: Capitol: 916-319-2020; District 510-583-8818

Senate: 

  • Steve Glazer, District 7 (Contra Costa): email; 916-651-4007; Orinda 925-258-1176; Antioch 925-754-1461
  • Nancy Skinner, District 9 (Alameda & Contra Costa): email; 916-651-4009, Oakland 510-286-1333
  • Bob Wieckowski, District 10 (Alameda & Santa Clara): email; 916-651-4010, Fremont 510-794-3900

Don’t know who your state representatives are, or have friends outside the East Bay? Find legislators and their contact info here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/


Light bulb, photograph by Nguyễn Tự Khanh

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

Newest food aid attack – making cold people go hungry

By Ann G. Daniels

Deadline: comments due December 2 –

If it feels like you’ve read something here before about the Grinch-in-Chief trying to cut back on food aid to this nation’s needy … it’s because you have. We’ve been writing about this time and time and time and time again, because they keep trying. So far, Congress keeps rejecting these efforts, but it’s obviously a priority of this administration. Now they’re at it again – and now it’s winter, and the new proposal will primarily affect people who live in places where it’s cold, so they can be both cold and hungry. You have until December 2 to submit your comments to try to keep this Dickensian plot twist from becoming reality.

What you can do:

Submit comments before December 2 by going to the comment site at https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FNS-2019-0009-0001. If that doesn’t work, go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FNS-2019-0009 and click the blue button that says “COMMENT NOW.” You can look at other people’s comments here for ideas for what to say, and you can also get ideas from the bullet points below, but please use your own words – duplicate comments may be discarded. 

More info:

It’s a little convoluted, but here’s the bottom line: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations provide food aid based on income, and income is determined based on, among other things, expenses – including how much people spend on heating and cooling. For decades, rather than make people actually show how much they spend, states have provided month by month estimates that the Agriculture Department has taken into account. Under the new proposal, the Agriculture Department would instead “standardize the methodology for calculating standard utility allowances … The new methodology would set … the heating and cooling standard utility allowance (HCSUA), at the 80th percentile of low-income households’ utility costs in the State.” In other words, the new plan will get rid of states’ ability to determine, and have flexibility in determining, what it costs to keep from suffering from cold or heat, because the administration thinks that under the current plan too many people are getting help.

How this breaks down – some ideas you can use in your comments:

  • The proposed plan would cut benefits for 19% of households on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, while increasing benefits for 16%. 
  • The average loss in benefits would be $31 a month. The average gain would be $13 a month. Households could lose as much as $75 per month, or gain up to $33.
  • Almost 8,000 households would lose benefits entirely. 
  • Cold northern states would be most affected by the proposed change to how heating costs are calculated. In other words, people who will be cold during the winter will now also go hungry.
  • The food stamp program kept over 3 million people out of poverty in 2018.
  • The proposal would save $4.5 billion from the SNAP program over five years, or less than $1 billion per year on average. The SNAP program cost $68 billion in 2018 alone – in other words, the proposed change would cause a lot of suffering to save a fraction of the cost. 

Photograph “Hungry, Broke, Cold and Old” by Travis Wise

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

Menashi: Unfit to sit

By Ann G. Daniels

The bad news: Steven Menashi, nominated to the super-important Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, thinks it’s “obvious” that Western culture, government, science, etc. is superior to everything else, especially everything Muslim; was a top legal advisor on Betsy DeVos’ plan to protect for-profit colleges that ripped off their students; and has denounced feminists, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity efforts. The good news: he’s so bad that even Sen. Susan Collins has said she’ll oppose him, and his supporters in the administration and the Senate repeatedly had to postpone the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on his nomination before the Committee passed the nomination 12-10 on party lines on November 7. The bad news: now the nomination proceeds. And while we don’t yet have a date for the next vote, and trying to predict what the Senate will do is a little like trying to predict the future by reading chicken entrails, we have to be ready.

More good news, though: Senators Feinstein and Harris – both of whom voted no in the Senate Judiciary Committee – have already spoken out on this appalling nominee. And there’s a chance that Sen. Collins and other Republicans will cross party lines when the full Senate votes.

Senator Feinstein has expressed her concerns about Menashi’s “role at the White House” and his lack of disclosure about his work there, including on issues including family separation; and about his work under Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education’s efforts to reverse sexual assault protections, use federal funds to buy guns for teachers, and reverse attempts to crack down on deceptive for-profit colleges. She has also expressed deep concern over his racist statements, since a judge – especially in an area as diverse as that governed by the Second Circuit – must be impartial toward all who come before him

Similarly, Senator Harris has stressed that Menashihas refused to answer questions” about his work in the White House or whether he was “involved in Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky,” and she has also cited his work for Betsy DeVos on “predatory for-profit colleges.” She finds his nomination “Unacceptable.” 

We agree. As the NAACP so eloquently says: “Steven Menashi has a vile, offensive record … Under no scenario should he sit in Thurgood Marshall’s former seat on the Second Circuit and preside in the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.”

What to do:

Please thank our Senators for speaking out on this unacceptable nominee, and urge them to stand strong and keep speaking out.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code  is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator _____ for speaking out with her concerns about Steven Menashi, and I want to urge her to keep speaking out. I trust she will vote NO on Menashi’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals and I hope she’ll do everything possible to persuade her colleagues to vote NO. Menashi has shown that he’s hostile towards Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-income families, and immigrants. He cannot be trusted to fairly decide matters before the court. 

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Do you live outside California, or have friends or family in other states? Use this link to find contact info for your Senators: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. Or call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to be transferred to your Senator, and say this:

Hello, my name is ____ and my zip code is _____. Please vote NO on Steven Menashi’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Menashi has shown that he’s hostile towards Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-income families, and immigrants. He cannot be trusted to fairly decide matters before the court. 

 

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

“Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse”, photograph by Ken Lund

 

 

November 2019 debate watch party

Deadline: RSVP now, space limited –

Friends don’t let friends watch the presidential debates alone! Join Indivisible East Bay’s CA-11 Team on Wednesday, November 20, at 5:30 pm in the Scene Room of the El Cerrito Rialto Cinema, at 10070 San Pablo Ave. a few blocks from El Cerrito Plaza BART station. We’ll watch the debate, discuss the merits of the Democratic presidential candidates, enjoy food and refreshments from the theater, and learn from each other how to make sure the eventual nominee gets elected.

We’re keeping this event small so we can talk amongst ourselves (and fit around the table), but that means we need you – and your friends – to RSVP! All are welcome, not just those who live in the CA-11 district.

Got questions about the event? Want to know about IEB’s CA-11 Team and its work? Want to see what we do at our monthly meetings when the candidates aren’t debating? You can read more about the team at this January 2019 article. And contact the team at IndivisibleCA11@gmail.com or if you’re on Slack, contact @Ted Lam or @KristenL and join the moc_team_ca11 team. Want an invite to join Slack? Please drop us a line at info@indivisibleeb.org

Graphic “Debate picture” by Blok Glo

It’s a bird, it’s a dog … it’s birddogging!

By Ann G. Daniels

Sorry, animal lovers, but although this particular action sounds like a trip to the dog park, we’re really asking you to get a different kind of exercise: tracking down your Members of Congress, other electeds, and candidates, and getting them on the record.

Amazingly, ordinary folks can often get elected representatives and candidates to commit to positions in ways that even the press can’t, by using a little persistence and showing up at public events. After all: they represent YOU – or they want to – and they love being seen talking to their public. Do a little homework, and you can turn a cute photo-op into a serious opportunity to get them on the record!

What birddogging can do:

  • Push our elected representatives to take action or get them to take a stance
  • Confront our electeds on issues where we disagree with them
  • Get candidates on the record on issues they’re dodging
  • Inspire others in your community to get out and take action!

The great thing about birddogging is that there are plenty of roles for folks to fill: the researcher behind the scenes, the people willing to ask the questions, the folks who record the encounters on video, the social media mavens … so whatever you’re good at, there’s a place for you on a birddog team.

Indivisible East Bay has a great team that’s been birddogging Representative Eric Swalwell. Watch how it’s done, as IEB’s CA-15 team co-lead Ward Kanowsky pushes Rep. Swalwell on the timing of the impeachment inquiry at the October 1, 2019 Union City Impeachment Town Hall with Rep. Swalwell and special guest John Dean; video by CA-15 team co-lead LeAnn Kanowsky.

 

What you can do:

  • Check out Indivisible National’s excellent guide for how to get started.
  • Keep up with your elected representatives’ or target candidates’ schedule of public appearances:
    • If you’re in the East Bay: the Indivisible East Bay newsletter has an extensive events calendar including town halls and other public appearances. Also, IEB’s Slack has teams for state representatives and Members of Congress (House and Senate). If you’re on our Slack, look for:
      • ad_team_15
      • moc_team_ca11
      • moc_team_ca13
      • moc_team_ca15
      • moc_team_feinstein
      • moc_team_harris
        Or if you’re not on our Slack, email us at info@indivisibleeb.org for an invitation.
    • If you’re not in the East Bay: you and a formal or informal group can birddog your member of Congress or state representatives, or you can choose a candidate to target. Search their websites and call their district office/local campaign office to ask about upcoming public events. See Indivisible National’s Town Hall Guide for really helpful tips.
    • No matter where you live: follow your Members of Congress and targeted candidates on Facebook and/or Twitter, and sign up for their email newsletters.

 

Photo and video of Rep. Swalwell and Ward Kanowksy by LeAnn Kanowsky

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

The other impeachment – Brett Kavanaugh

By Ann G. Daniels

Deadline: Now, the Supreme Court’s already in session –

While we’re talking impeachment … which we do, a lot … did you know that although a US President hasn’t YET been removed from office after being impeached, federal judges have been? That’s right, we can impeach a federal judge, and it’s been done before. Brett Kavanaugh, serial perjurer, time’s up.

As Senator Kamala Harris recently said, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were “not a serious pursuit of truth or justice” – and the way to get such a hearing is through the impeachment process. 

Senator Harris has called on the House Judiciary Committee to open an impeachment inquiry, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley has introduced H.Res. 560, “Inquiring whether the House of Representatives should impeach Brett M. Kavanaugh.” House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler says the Committee is “too busy” impeaching Trump – we certainly don’t want to distract them, but we believe Congress can multi-task, and we want their attention. After all, the House didn’t get a chance to grill Kavanaugh before, since judicial nominees only come before the Senate – let’s tell them to step up and be counted when they have the chance.

What to do:

Here’s a basic message you can tailor for each of our Members of Congress:

My name is _______, my zip code is _______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I believe that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were an outrage, and I want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings to look into his perjury during those hearings. We deserve to have a Supreme Court that we can trust not to make a mockery of justice.

  • For Senator Kamala Harris, add: I want to thank Senator Harris for publicly stating her support for impeaching Brett Kavanaugh. Please keep it up!
    (
    email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • For Senator Dianne Feinstein, add: I hope Senator Feinstein will wholeheartedly support impeaching Brett Kavanaugh, and will publicly state her support as Senator Harris has done.
    (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • For Representative Barbara Lee, add: I want to thank Representative Lee for cosponsoring H.Res. 560. I hope she’ll continue to fight for impeaching Brett Kavanaugh.
    (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • For Reps. Mark DeSaulnier and Eric Swalwell, add: I want Representative ____ to cosponsor H.Res. 560, and I hope he will fight to impeach Kavanaugh as Rep. Barbara Lee is doing. We need the House to take action to make sure that the Supreme Court doesn’t become as corrupt as the White House.
    Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
    Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065 

Chișinău,” graphic by Tony Bowden

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

August All Members Meeting: what we did on our summer vacation

By Ann G. Daniels

On August 25, an enthusiastic group gathered at Sports Basement Berkeley for the Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting, eager to hear about election activism, voting security, and impeachment – and to do some hands-on activism.

But first: we got our new beautiful rainbow logo t-shirts (union made of course), and a couple of IEB members displayed their handmade Blue Wave hats! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Want to wear your very own IEB logo rainbow shirt, and perhaps make a donation to benefit IEB? Get them while they last at IEB events!

On to the amazing presentations: 

Leanne Karns from Swing Left East Bay talked about the organization’s well-thought-out electoral strategy, including great information (and cool graphics!) about where in the country an electoral win would make the most difference, and why they choose canvassing as the most effective strategy. 

Leanne Karns of Swing Left East Bay, at 082519 AMM
Leanne Karns, Swing Left East Bay

Holly Scheider, representing our allies at East Bay Activist Alliance, told us about the importance of the upcoming Virginia election. We’re just a few seats away from being able to flip both of the state’s legislative houses to blue in November, and EBAA is conducting a phonebanking campaign to remind people to register to vote. Why is it so important to get involved in a state election on the other side of the country, you may wonder? Gerrymandering in Virginia, like in much of the country, has been an enormous problem – it isn’t an exaggeration to say it’s one of the great voting rights challenges. With the upcoming 2020 census, it’s absolutely imperative to have a Democratic state legislature to stop Republican gerrymandering intended to permanently lock up districts and nullify blue votes. 

IEB member Larry gave a brief but info-full update on impeachment: what’s happening in DC, what activists are doing and how you can join in, including calling your Member of Congress and the House Judiciary Committee and spreading the word by talking about impeachment and helping us find venues to present our information and discussion session. And that’s just the short summary: read much more in our article.

IEB member Ion gave a great briefing on election security issues and the need to provide funding for our state and local governments to defend the foundation of our democracy. Read his article for lots of great info about the webinar presented by several major pro-democracy organizations, and find actions you can take to ensure we get that funding.

Ion's presentation about election security, AMM 082519
Ion’s presentation about election security

IEB member Joaninha presented an astonishing wealth of options for people looking for something easy to do right here in the East Bay: from postcard parties (with popcorn!) to chocolate and dim sum fundraisers and more. Hmm, is there a theme? Of course there is: go out and do something!

Joaninha & Paula presentation about postcarding and more, AMM 082519
Joaninha & Paula: postcarding & more

And then – we phonebanked! Veteran phonebankers got right to it and Holly and other experienced folks trained the newbies, and we called 228 voters in Virginia Beach! Out of those calls, four people said they would support the Democratic candidates, Alex Askew and Cheryl Turpin. And that’s why phonebanking is worthwhile. 

Phonebanking led by East Bay Activist Alliance, at 082519 AMM
Phonebanking led by East Bay Activist Alliance

Couldn’t make it to the AMM? Allergic to meetings? Join us online where we do our planning and organizing— ask  info@indivisibleeb.org for an invite.

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

Emoluments, schmoluments, why not have the G7 meet at a Trump resort?

… um, because Article I, section 9, clause 8 of the Constitution says:

[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

What’s an emolument, anyway? It’s defined as: “(1) the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites (2) archaic advantage.” As BusinessInsider.com succinctly puts it: “The foreign-emoluments clause of the Constitution bars public officials from receiving gifts or cash from foreign or state governments without congressional approval. 

… Like, for instance, the president’s Doral Resort taking in money from foreign governments if the G7 Summit is held there, as Donald “Never Seen an Emolument I Didn’t Like” Trump has said it will be. The House Judiciary Committee seems to have some questions as well – they announced August 28 that they’re opening an investigation into the plan. Stay tuned!

What you can do:

Deadline: ASAP. Representative Barbara Lee is on the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, which has jurisdiction over (among other things) the State Department. Ask her to insist on a rider to appropriations for the State Department that would ban the use of funds for any clear violation of the emoluments clause. 

What to say:

My name is ____________, my zip code is _____________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling Representative Lee in her capacity as a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. I’m disgusted that Trump is using his office to make money from his resorts, and having the G7 meet at the Doral would be immoral as well as unconstitutional. Please insist on a rider to appropriations for the State Department that would ban the use of funds for any clear violation of the emoluments clause. 

Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661 • email (if you are her constituent, zip code required)

 

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

Tell our Senators: Keep ICE’s hands out of the cookie jar

UPDATED September 5, 2019

Under the US Constitution and federal law, it’s the responsibility of Congress and the President to create a federal budget and spending bills. The process is complex, but one thing is clear: federal agencies shouldn’t be able to decide, on their own, how federal funds get spent, or to take money that’s been allocated for another purpose. And yet, that’s exactly what has been going on – Department of Homeland Security is essentially taking hundreds of millions of dollars from federal agencies like FEMA and giving it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use for Trump’s racist, deadly immigration agenda.  They deceptively call it “reprogramming and transfer authority,” but we call it sleight of hand. Or theft. Relatedly, on September 4 it was revealed that states from Virginia to Arizona will lose millions in the administration’s plan to divert $3.6 BILLION from Pentagon-funded military construction projects to build a wall along the border.

In the current budget process, the House of Representatives has passed a good DHS Appropriations bill, which sets overall spending limits by the agency. The House bill (1) puts some limitations on how ICE/Customs and Border Protection can spend its money, and (2) rescinds the DHS Secretary’s ability to move money from any part of DHS (such as FEMA) to CBP and ICE Enforcement and Removal. 

Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Senators Feinstein and Harris both signed a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations supporting reduced funding for the administration’s immigration and detention agenda, and opposing ICE’s reprogramming and transfer authority. But they need to hear from us, because there will be pressure for the Senate to come up with a bipartisan bill. Tell our Senators you want reduced funding for ICE and CBP, and an end to ICE’s “reprogramming and transfer” authority. Also: Indivisible’s “Defund Hate” week of action is September 9-13, and we have lots going on: check out our article and plan to join us and our partners for crafting, calling, rallying, and more!

Read on for a call script and contact info; and below that, for more information and resources.

What to do:

1. Contact our Senators, tell them you want reduced funding for ICE and CBP, and an end to ICE’s “reprogramming and transfer” authority.

What to say:

My name is _________, my zip code is _________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the Senator for opposing the administration’s horrible immigration agenda, and also opposing ICE’s reprogramming and transfer authority. I hope the Senator will work for a DHS appropriations bill like the one passed by the House. We need a bill with protections for immigrants and an end to using all of DHS as a slush fund for immigrant detention, deportation, and abuse.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: email (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: email (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

 

2. Check out Indivisible National’s “Defund Hate” campaign and mark your calendars for their September 9-13 Week of Action. If you text Defund Hate to 977-79, Indy National will send you the latest updates on our plan for the Week of Action, including telling you when events are registered near you. And be on the lookout for IEB and partners’ action items coming your way!

3. Spread the word! Got friends outside California? Send them this link so they can contact their Members of Congress.

 

More information: 

As if the administration’s immigration policy weren’t devastating enough in terms of the threat to life and health, last year, just as hurricane season was about to start, ICE raided $10 million from FEMA (the agency responsible for coordinating disaster response efforts). This year they’re raiding $155 million from FEMA and a total of over $270 million from agencies dealing in safety. And remember when Trump declared a national emergency so he could build his wall? That money he wanted – billions of dollars – was to be transferred from other agencies to which Congress had budgeted it. That, in a nutshell, is how “reprogramming and transfer” is happening – Congress budgets money for things that are not Trump’s immigration and detention program, and then he and DHS sneak in or bully their way in and take it anyway.

This ability to steal money that isn’t theirs lets ICE make a mockery of Congress. Congress appropriates money to the various parts of the government? Meaningless! Congress tells ICE to decrease immigrant detention to a specific level? Not happening – ICE thinks it’s above the law.

This budget cycle the Democratic House of Representatives is working to put a stop to these shenanigans with an appropriations bill for DHS that approaches the problem from several angles, such as:

  • Prohibits construction of border barriers, except with funds appropriated for that purpose.
  • Prohibits funding transfers to ICE Operations and Support for Enforcement and Removal Operations.
  • Prohibits ICE from removing sponsors of unaccompanied children based on information provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as part of the sponsor’s application to accept custody of the child.
  • Limits future detention facility contracts or renewals from having an indefinite period of availability. 
  • Ensures access by Members of Congress to detention facilities.

California’s Senators have spoken out in favor of curbing funding for ICE and CBP and in favor of “language limiting the DHS Secretary’s ability to transfer funds for the purpose of detaining immigrants.” While not as strong as the House version, that’s pretty good. But the appropriations process is about to heat up in the Senate, and at this point in the proceedings there will be pressure on the Senate to come up with a bipartisan bill – meaning that it’s going to take support from us to keep our Senators fighting to keep ICE’s hands off money we don’t want them to have.

Bottom line: If we don’t want the administration to keep stealing millions of dollars that we need for health and safety and other critical issues that Congress has budgeted it for, we need to act NOW.

Resources:

 

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

Graphic “Money” by TaxCredits.net, edited by Heidi Rand.
FEMA logo.

Call in day: Voting Rights for People on Parole

Deadline: On Monday, August 19, 2019, make a call to make California a more democratic place –

California is one of a rapidly shrinking number of states that doesn’t allow people on parole to vote. Believe it or not, it’s actually in the state Constitution. Now ACA 6, the “Free the Vote Act,” would amend the California Constitution to remove that prohibition – and it’s coming up for a vote in the State Assembly the week of August 19. Tell your Assemblymember: Vote YES on ACA 6. Read on for a short call script and contact info; and below that, more info, talking points, a great toolkit to boost this on social media, and more resources.

What to do:

1. Call your state Assemblymember and tell them to vote YES on ACA 6.

What to say:

If your Assemblymember is Rob Bonta, he’s a coauthor of the bill; you don’t have to ask him to vote on it, but you should thank him:

My name is ____________, my zip code is _____________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Assemblymember Bonta for coauthoring ACA 6. Not allowing people on parole to vote is a form of voter suppression and it needs to end. California should leave Jim Crow behind. Many states restore the vote to people when they leave prison. We should too.

  • Rob Bonta: District: 510-286-1670; Capitol: 916-319-2018

If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, or Bill Quirk, tell them:

My name is ____________, my zip code is _____________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Assemblymember _______ to vote YES on ACA 6. Not allowing people on parole to vote is a form of voter suppression and it needs to end. California should leave Jim Crow behind. Many states restore the vote to people when they leave prison. We should too.

  • Buffy Wicks: District: 510-286-1400; Capitol: 916-319-2015
  • Rebecca Bauer-Kahan: Capitol (handles legislative calls): 916-319-2016
  • Bill Quirk: Capitol: 916-319-2020; District 510-583-8818
  • Not sure who your Assemblymember is? Check here; or call 916-702-8820 and enter your zip code and you’ll be connected directly to your legislator.
  • Got California friends outside the East Bay? They can use this click-to-call page for a script and to be patched through to their Assemblymember; or they can call 916-702-8820 and enter their zip code to be connected directly to their legislator.

2. Spread it on social media

Here’s a cool social media toolkit all set up for you! Use it, pass it on, spread the word!

More info about why we need ACA 6:

Under the California Constitution and Elections Code, people on parole cannot vote. ACA 6 seeks to change that.

Parole is intended to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals back into the community. Nearly 50,000 Californians on parole pay taxes at the local, state, and federal levels. Allowing people to vote again after they have finished their prison sentence increases their feeling of connection to their community in a positive way. Voting “can play a major role in reducing recidivism.”

On the other hand: stripping the vote from felons comes from the Jim Crow era. It’s part of a whole fabric of voter suppression in minority and marginalized communities – restoring the vote needs to be part of destroying that fabric. Current state law allows some people on community supervision to vote, but since some individuals have been punished harshly – even jailed! – for trying in good faith to vote when they were not allowed to, some eligible voters will be deterred from going to the polls rather than take any chances. Ending disenfranchisement for people on parole would clarify voting rights for all formerly incarcerated people in California.

California is behind the times in not allowing people on parole to vote: As of 2020, in sixteen other states and the District of Columbia a person’s right to vote will be automatically restored after their release from prison, with more states considering eliminating their provisions against people on parole voting; in addition, two states (Maine and Vermont) don’t remove voting rights for people with convictions, even while they’re in prison. It’s too late for us to be a leader, but at least let’s not be the tail end of this trend toward justice.

More resources:

Photograph, “Felon voting rights” by Michael Fleshman