The atrocity at the border; what we can demand our Members of Congress do

A lot of us are rightly horrified and appalled by what’s happening at the border and are asking what can be done about it in addition to voting out Republicans in November. It turns out this is a good time for a few possible actions in both chambers — although because of membership, seniority, and timing of legislative activities, the Senate might be better for short-term action. These are not the only things to do. Direct action in the streets to bring attention to the issue is also critical (as well as campaigning against horrible Republicans) but these steps are in line with what Indivisible was founded to do: influence our current members of Congress.

Some relevant info about Congress and its relationship with these agencies:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) both need to be authorized by Congress for certain activities and need to have their annual funding appropriated via the annual budget process.
  • Both agencies fall under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and are in discretionary funding categories (their funding needs to be appropriated every year and is thus subject to Congressional review).
  • Because Congress can authorize activities and conduct oversight, you can ask both for oversight over current activities, and for changes to what these agencies are authorized to do in the future.
  • The DHS (including its sub-agencies such as ICE) has not been reauthorized since it was created in 2003; there is an authorization bill ready for Senate Floor debate (it already passed the House), so please call both of your senators to ask them to offer amendments curtailing ICE authority and cutting back its budget authority in future years.
  • There is a DHS appropriations bill “mark up” hearing scheduled for the third week in June, which means senators and staffers are busily working on the funding bill NOW. Please call your senators and tell them to cut ICE’s funding for the Fiscal Year 2019.  To cut ICE’s funding, ask both Senators Feinstein and Harris, but put special emphasis on Feinstein since she is on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • To get oversight on current horrible things that ICE and CBP do, contact Harris and Feinstein’s offices. Both of them are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight authority over border and immigration laws. Sen. Harris is on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), which has authority over ICE & CBP personnel and policy issues. Ask her for more oversight hearings like this one last month.
  • The House can also conduct more oversight. The House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over DOJ and Immigration laws. If you live in CA-15, please contact Rep. Eric Swalwell about Jeff Session’s zero-tolerance policy on border crossing criminalization.

TL;DR! To sum up: These cruel policies are in place because of guidance from the White House, and are implemented through a memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and are being carried out by ICE and CBP. Congress has a lot of power over what these agencies can do and how much resources they have to do it.

Calling your MoCs frequently on this issue is the best way to let them know how important this is to you. You can send post cards too!

What to say:

To Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein:

My name is _________ and my zip code is ______. I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am horrified by what our immigration officials are doing to children and families at our border. I ask Senator _________ to cut ICE’s funding and authority in FY 2019 and future years, and to use her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to exercise maximum oversight over ICE and CBP. 

You can add, for Senator Harris:

I want Senator Harris to use her position on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee to exercise more oversight of ICE & CBP personnel and policy, and to demand more oversight hearings.

You can add, for Senator Feinstein:

I want Senator Feinstein to use her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to do everything possible to cut ICE’s funding for the Fiscal Year 2019.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

To Rep. Swalwell (if you are a constituent):

My name is _________ and my zip code is ______. I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am horrified by what our immigration officials are doing to children and families at our border. I ask Rep. Swalwell to use his position on the House Judiciary Committee to take action against Jeff Session’s policies on border crossing criminalization that are brutalizing children and treating human beings like animals.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546


Autocracy Enablers Watch: Paul Ryan Edition

In the dead of the night, at the direction of Speaker Ryan, the House Rules Committee stripped out the AUMF repeal amendment submitted by Rep. Barbara Lee (the amendment had won near unanimous GOP support as well as unanimous Democratic support in the House Appropriations Committee). He substituted in much weaker language submitted by Rep. Cole (language which had never been debated let alone voted on). This means there will not be any debate this legislative session on whether this President gets to have unlimited war making powers in the Middle East.

Rep. Barbara Lee has been a tireless leader in the House these nearly 16 years on this critically important Constitutional issue.  It’s important that we support and thank her for this important work. Please call and say:

I am appalled by Speaker Ryan’s undemocratic removal of your AUMF repeal amendment. The amendment had won near unanimous support from your GOP colleagues on the Appropriations Committee.  The Constitution grants Congress the power to authorize and regulate military activities and Presidents do not get blank checks for endless war. Thank you, Rep. Lee, for your continued leadership on this important issue. Please keep it up!

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

Let’s ask Senator Dianne Feinstein to add similar language to the Senate Defense Appropriations Bill to ensure that it gets some debate in the Senate. Please call and say:

I’m very worried that the executive branch’s impulsive, undisciplined, and unreliable approach to foreign policy is leading to escalated U.S. involvement in conflict abroad without strategy or accountability. I want Sen. Feinstein to reassert Congress’s Constitutionally mandated role of authorizing and regulating the military by amending the defense appropriations bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): (415) 393-0707
DC: (202) 224-3841
LA: (310) 914-7300

Barbara Lee Speaks for the Constitution

Update: Today, August 8, we heard from the President the threat to unleash “Fire and Fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea.  This completely unhinged and destabilizing statement reminds us again of the need for Congress to re-assert its constitutionally mandated power to authorize and regulate military force.  All our members of Congress would be well advised to take up and pass immediately the bill banning presidential nuclear first strike authored by another California legislator, Ted Lieu (a senate version of the bill was introduced by Ed Markey of Massachusetts).

For the first time in almost sixteen years, there’s a chance for a real debate in the Congress about our seemingly endless war in the Middle East – thanks to East Bay hero Rep. Barbara Lee.

Regulation of the military as well as authorization and funding of war is a power granted solely to Congress in Article I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution; yet under the hastily drawn 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the President has been able to act unilaterally to commit blood and treasure without Congress’s approval. CA-13’s Rep. Lee has toiled, often alone, to force a debate on this issue on the House floor, and now Congress may finally follow her lead and do its job after too many years of silence. On June 29, a House Appropriations Committee meeting on Defense spending gave Rep. Lee the go-ahead (and a round of applause) for an amendment to the FY 2018 defense spending bill that would repeal the AUMF. All the Committee Democrats and all but one of Rep. Lee’s GOP colleagues joined in supporting this amendment, which would give Congress eight months to debate and formulate a new, more targeted Authorization for use of military force for current activities in the Middle East.

Though the amendment’s passage out of committee is a significant milestone, it by no means signals smooth sailing and final passage. There are already objections to authorization (or de-authorization language) in a spending bill, and its ultimate fate still depends on the rest of the House and Senate. But this is at last the start of a real and serious debate within and without the halls of Congress about not just the legality but the prudence of granting the executive unlimited war powers authorization. Whatever procedural objections members of Congress may have to the Lee Amendment, they will will have to weigh that objection against a Commander in Chief who lacks the attention span and skill needed to oversee an expansive war in the Middle East.

Though often dismissed as a Bay Area radical, Barbara Lee’s consistent and dogged leadership on repeal of the 2001 AUMF these last fifteen-plus years shows her to be the real steward of the Constitution. Congress has both the legal and moral authority to check the executive – if only it would exercise that authority. We owe it to Barbara Lee to advocate for not just the amendment but also for Constitutional constraint of the executive.

End Forced Arbitration

The most important thing we can do to protect employees against illegal treatment is end forced arbitration. A bill in the House is building momentum and Reps. Barbara Lee and Eric Swalwell have already signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 1374; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier needs to join them.

Rep. Mark Desaulnier (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay.

I am asking Rep. DeSaulnier to cosponsor and speak out on behalf of H.R. 1374, The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2017. For too long, corporations have used unfair arbitration agreements to revoke employees’ constitutional right to their day in public court. Employees that have faced sexual harassment, retaliation, and discrimination have been denied the ability to seek justice and fair compensation for their hardships.

Background:  We were inspired by this post by CA-13 resident (and local badass) Susan Fowler.  There’s additional information on Arbitration Fairness from Sen. Al Franken, here.

Healthcare for millions is on the line

Time to leave it all on the field take it to the Senate floor…

Please call both your senators today and say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. Why haven’t I seen the senator among the Democrats participating in delaying tactics on the Senate floor? I want her to do more to block the Republicans from rushing to a vote without time to understand how the bill will affect their constituents. That means slowing down Senate business now, and filibuster by amendment if the bill gets that far.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): (415) 393-0707
DC: (202) 224-3841
LA: (310) 914-7300
Fresno: (559) 485-7430
San Diego: (619) 231-9712

Sen. Kamala Harris (email): (415) 355-9041
DC: (202) 224-3553
Sacramento: (916) 448-2787
LA: (213) 894-5000
Fresno: (559) 497-5109
San Diego: (619) 239-3884


Use this guide to see how the bill will impact your future and submit your amendments using the link from here:

Bail Reform for California

Nationally, one in three people are sitting in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. In California, the median bail amount is $50,000. If you can’t afford that, you can get out of jail by paying a bail bond – a hefty fee – to a private bail bond company. Bail bonds are not refunded under any circumstances, even if the court finds that you were innocent or wrongfully arrested. And if you can’t even afford the bail bond – well, you don’t get out of jail. Freedom should never depend on the size of your bank account, and yet in California it does.

We need your help NOW to change this system. THIS WEEK, the California Legislature will vote on the California Money Bail Reform Act (AB 42 and SB 10). These bills would require that people be screened after arrest to see if they are safe to go home and likely to return for trial, without charging them a fee, and would prioritize services to help people make their court appearances. This kind of system is working in other states and in some California cities already. With your help, it can be in place statewide.

  • The bail system hurts all Californians and the state economy: it costs taxpayers $14 billion a year – $38 million per day – to keep people in jail who have not been convicted of a crime. Most of this is spent on people who don’t pose a significant risk to public safety – they are just too poor to get out of jail.
  • Poor families take on long-term debt to purchase the safety and freedom of a loved one.
  • The money bail system preys on low-income families and people of color, who are most often targeted for arrest and incarceration.
  • Bail for Black men averages 35% higher than for white men, even when controlling for the seriousness of the offense.
  • Bail bonds enrich private companies at cost to people who cannot afford to pay their way out of jail. These people never get their bond fees back, even if they are found innocent or were wrongfully arrested.

For more information, see Ella Baker Center

Call your legislator at their Sacramento office and ask them to vote for the California Money Bail Reform Act (SB 10 and AB 42). 

Find your legislators and their phone numbers here:

Call Script:

For Assemblymembers, please refer to AB 42 by Mr. Bonta when you mention the bill name.

For Senators, please refer to SB 10 by Mr. Hertzberg when you mention the bill name.

“Hello, my name is __________________, and I am calling from [city or area]. I strongly support reforming our terrible bail system, which requires people who have been arrested to pay a private company in order to get out of jail and go home, even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime. 

I support the California Money Bail Reform Act, which will require that people be screened to see if they are safe to go home and likely to return for trial, without charging them a fee. This system is working in other states and in some California cities already. What’s most important is it’s fair and it’s safe.  No more money bail.

These senators and representatives are of high priority for contact:


Baker (916) 319-2016

Burke (916) 319-2062

Caballero (916) 319-2030

Cooley (916) 319-2008

Daly (916) 319-2069

Low (916) 319-2028

Maienschein (916) 319-2077

Mathis (916) 319-2026

Rodriguez (916) 319-2052

Rubio (916) 319-2048


Portantino (916) 651-4025

Stern (916) 651-4027

Rep. Barbara Lee: Perspectives on Presidential Accountability Town Hall

By Candace Goldman

Rep. Barbara Lee, John Dean (White House counsel in the Watergate era) and Malcolm Nance (security and terrorism expert) on stage at the same time – now there’s an interesting powerhouse mix! Yesterday (5/21), several hundred of Rep. Lee’s constituents came to King Middle School in Berkeley to hear these three titans discuss presidential accountability and respond to questions.

The program began with energetic music from members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and an intro from Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.  Rep. Lee spoke briefly, encouraging continued resistance.   During the program she interjected a few comments, but mostly turned the floor over to Mssrs. Dean and Nance.  In response to questions whether she would consider either a senatorial or presidential run, Rep. Lee demurred with a gentle smile.

John Dean focused on understanding and working around authoritarianism and those who support it. He cautioned, however, that while impeachment procedures and implementation of the 25th Amendment are fairly straightforward, the current political complexities make it difficult for either to gain real traction.  Rep. Lee concurred but noted that there is an effort afoot to update the 25th Amendment for today’s world.

Mr. Nance provided cogent analysis of Russian cyber-sleuthing and interference, both in our elections and in other settings here and around the world.  He compared Russian cyber capacity in a dictatorship with the s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s of using such measures in a democracy, with the implication that we need to be far more savvy and rapid-fire in our intelligence efforts.

What about Trump having his hand on the nuclear button?  All three thought we need more fail safe mechanisms; absent that, Malcolm Nance reminded the audience that:

  1. The military is opposed to the use of nukes (they understand the consequences)
  2. When people have expressed concern about a president who might go off half-cocked about using nukes and asked how the Sec. of Defense and military would respond, the answer is, ”Tackle him.”

       I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want to have to rely on a fleet-footed linebacker Lt. Col. to keep us from nuclear disaster.  

Throughout the program, the drum beat behind the discussion was VOTE.  Get everyone you know in every state you know to VOTE.  VOTE so we can stop voter suppression and gerrymandering.  Get your legislators to VOTE to do the same.  When half of eligible voters are not bothering to go to the polls, Mr. Nance said (in essence) very forcefully, that if you value your civil liberties and your democracy, if you honor those who fought for and created this country, if you DON’T want an autocracy, if you want better government and policies that serve the people and not special interests, your job as a resister is to get out the VOTE.  Protest is good and has its place, but carry it into the ballot box.  Capisce?  “You know what to do,” Nance said.  “Now go do it.”

Personal note:  After the program, a man in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic, approached the stage.  He struggled to tap out a message to John Dean on a pad fixed to his wheelchair; a guy trying to help couldn’t follow the taps.  It was frustrating for both and taking forever.  I finally stepped in and luckily, got it.  The message?  “It is an honor to meet you.”  John Dean was very gracious in response.  This man had made so much effort to deliver that one simple sentence.  I think he’s an inspiration to us all to do what we can do, because the effort is worth it.

2018: The Resistance and Establishment’s date with destiny?

By Amelia Cass

On Thursday a few of us volunteered to help out at a DNC fundraiser featuring Chairman Tom Perez at the Delancey Street Restaurant in San Francisco. The view of the Bay and the appetizers were both lovely. The respectable crowd—of 150 or so—was rather subdued compared to resistance events we tend to frequent. But the chairman was fired up!

In a lot of ways, he seemed to be talking to us. He expressed a suitable level of outrage at the news coming out of the White House and Capitol Hill lately. He mentioned Indivisible by name twice, and one of his biggest applause lines gave credit to women for leading the resistance.

He was talking to us, yes, but he, like much of the Democratic Party seemed to be a little bit confused about who we are. I think they look at the resistance and see what they want to see, the force that’s going to take back Congress in 2018. And they’re not wrong.

But they often conveniently gloss over the part where we hold our democratic and Democratic representatives accountable after we elect them. They don’t just have to win our votes, they have to continue to engage with us and take our input on their votes.

Of course we will volunteer for the Democratic party, and donate to Democrats, and work to elect Democrats. We’ll cheer when the DNC Chairman talks about protecting civil rights, and immigrants, and raising the minimum wage.

But if the Democrats really want to make full use of the power of the resistance, they need to recognize, and embrace, the fact that a major part of what we are about is making constituent voices a more active part of the governing of our country. The Democratic Party should expect Indivisible not just at campaign rallies and phone banks but also when it’s time to draft the party platform and even legislation.

As Perez said Thursday, the arc of the moral universe doesn’t bend toward justice on its own. And at Indivisible we are no longer prepared to leave the work of bending it to the politicians. We’re all throwing our weight into it, and all taking an active role in determining in what direction it needs to be bent in order to move towards justice.

That’s how we’ll win against Donald Trump and everything he stands for, and that’s how we’ll protect our liberal multicultural democracy from falling prey to his like ever again.

What’s next for Muslim Ban Jr.

By Heidi Rand

Trump’s second try at a Travel Ban, halted before it went into effect by Hawaii Judge Derrick Watson’s nationwide preliminary injunction, moved forward in the courts on Tuesday. At an hour-long hearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers argued vigorously about whether the Ban violates both the Constitution by favoring one religion over another, and federal immigration law. The judges lasered in on what role, if any, Trump’s statements about banning Muslims from coming into the country should play in deciding the fate of the Ban.

Next stop depends on the Ninth’s decision. The federal government wants the injunction vacated, the State of Hawaii and named plaintiffs want it affirmed. And there could be a split decision. In an article on Scotusblog, legal expert Amy Howe wrote that “[t]he judges also at least hinted that they might narrow the scope of the district court’s order.” The government lawyer caught that drift, saying as he wrapped up that even if the court didn’t buy his arguments, the plaintiffs weren’t entitled to a nationwide injunction, instead they could, for example, provide visas to a named plaintiff’s mother-in-law and other Muslim students who might come to Hawaii.

Investigate Sessions now!

California’s senators must join in calling for investigation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. I want the Senator to support the letter signed by Senators Warren, Heinrich, and others calling for an investigation into A.G. Sessions’ failure to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He should not have been involved in firing Director Comey. He is not fit to serve. It is Congress’ role to ensure oversight.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): (415) 393-0707
DC: (202) 224-3841
LA: (310) 914-7300
Fresno: (559) 485-7430
San Diego: (619) 231-9712

Sen. Kamala Harris (email): (415) 355-9041
DC: (202) 224-3553
Sacramento: (916) 448-2787
LA: (213) 894 – 5000
Fresno: (559) 497-5109
San Diego: (619)2393884