Abuses Alleged at Richmond ICE Facility

No access to bathrooms, only to plastic bags. Hours-long lockdowns. Federal immigration detainees at the West County Detention Facility have documented these and other complaints in a September letter signed by 27 inmates to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a group that monitors jails where immigrants are detained.

Complaint filed by immigration detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff – whose office has a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE to operate the immigration detention center – is investigating the allegations of mistreatment raised by the detainees.

The allegations were publicly revealed in a San Francisco Chronicle article on November 2, and the newspaper has further investigated the story:

You can also read detainees’ demands to improve conditions at the West County Detention Facility, released by the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

The reports have raised concerns among state elected officials. Reportedly, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has scheduled a tour of the jail on November 27, and State Senator Nancy Skinner has urged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a letter to probe conditions at the jail.

What you can do:

Please call your elected officials and say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. As the SF Chronicle has reported, immigration detainees at the ICE facility at West County Detention Center in Richmond are alleging abuse and mistreatment. Please move quickly to conduct a thorough, independent investigation to insure that their rights are upheld and that conditions do not put their health at risk.

Call State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and ask him to investigate, as Sen. Nancy Skinner has reportedly asked him to do. Public Inquiry Unit: (916) 210-6276 or (800) 952-5225

Other ways to help:

  • Nancy Burke, of Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante & Richmond, is organizing a meeting with the sheriff who runs the West County Detention Center to bring the community’s concerns to her attention. The meeting will focus on 10 points of concern about conditions at the facility. Please contact Nancy by email or phone: (510) 932-9267 if you have questions or you’re interested in attending the meeting.
  • Save the date to help support CIVIC (the group to whom the detainees sent the letter) in their work to end the isolation of West County immigration detainees. Artists for Humanity invites all to an afternoon of music, poetry, and dance, January 28, 2018, 2:30 to 5:00 PM at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. The benefit concert (asking for a sliding scale donation) will create a revolving bail fund to be used by West County detainees to reunite with their families and gain legal representation. Email for more information.

Racial Justice Task Force Community Forums

The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Task Force was created by the Board of Supervisors on April 12, 2016, and given a mandate to:

  • Research and identify consensus measures within the County to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system;
  • Plan and oversee implementation of the measures once identified; and
  • Report back to the Board of Supervisors on progress made toward reducing racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

Click here to see a list of the Task Force’s 17 members, and meeting locations and agendas for each monthly meeting, held the first Wednesday of every month at 1 PM.

The Task Force is also holding a series of five Community Forums, one in each district; all members have committed to attending at least one of the Forums.Contra Costa County Racial Justice Task Force

You can also submit input about the process to the Racial Justice Task Force here.

This is the Task force member list, as of November 2017:

Racial Justice Task Force members

No Saturday Night Massacre 2017

Word leaking from the White House is that Trump is losing his shizzle as Special Counsel Robert Mueller & Team close in on the president and his friends & family in pursuing the Russia investigation. The October 30 bombshell unsealing of the 12 count indictments against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and an eye-popping guilty plea by Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI has ratcheted up the pressure.

Some Republicans are trying to diminish, obstruct or outright kill the investigations into Trump’s Russia ties. A resolution was introduced on November 3 to remove Mueller, and Fox News and other right wing media are pushing for firing. Meanwhile, Democrats have introduced legislation to protect Mueller or bolster the investigation, including Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) Special Counsel Integrity Act (H.R. 3771).

There’s much you can do:

  • Call your MoCs and say: My name is ___, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please do all you can to combat Republican efforts to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and to support Democratic efforts to protect it. Thank you.
  • Send an e-letter: Join the Action Network’s online letter-writing campaignRead more details and use the easy form to have letters sent to your MoCs.
  • Hit the streets if Mueller is fired!  MoveOn is calling for emergency Nobody is Above the Law rallies nationwide if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Search by zip code to find an event. At this time, local rallies set for San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

Stayed tuned for further news!

No Boooos at October All Member Meeting

Our pre-Halloween October 29 All Member Meeting at the Oakland Public Library gathered a crowd of enthusiastic and motivated folks to talk about federal, state and local issues.

STATE LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: Governance Committee member Jiggy filled us in on the high (and low) lights of the just-closed California legislative session. See the CA StateStrong recap.

SENATE RACE: See our article on the spirited discussion (first of many, we’re sure) about the 2018 California Senate Race.

Oakland Rising presentation by Beth Gunston at AMMOAKLAND RISING: Strategic Partnerships Director Beth Gunston gave an inspiring presentation about Oakland Rising, including letting us know about the November 4 event that IEB is supporting. Sign up here, see details on the Make It Fair FB page. With able video assistance from local hero Robert Reich, Beth explained that this weekend’s event will have volunteers heading out to neighborhoods to discuss the negative impact Prop 13 has on the Oakland community. Oakland Rising believes that face-to-face dialogue is the key to informing voters in our community.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS

  • The CA 11 (Rep Mark DeSaulnier) team welcomed new members and discussed co-lead Kristen’s attendance at an October power lunch and conference with Reps Pelosi and DeSaulnier and other high-power Democrats. Topics of interest: focusing on California “red” districts for 2018 midterms; the effectiveness of “new” technologies vs grassroots activism; how to not leave those left behind. Read Kristen’s account here. The team also talked about our priorities beyond maintaining relations with Rep DeSaulnier: local community issues, environment/climate change, and mid-term elections. The CA-11 United team’s next meeting is November 29, 7-8:30 PM at the Rialto Theater in El Cerrito.
  • The CA 15 (Rep Eric Swalwell) team also welcomed new members and discussed the upcoming voter registration training on November 11 at Inkling’s Coffee & Tea in Pleasanton between 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Please RSVP to Ward or LeAnn Kanowsky: @ward (on Slack) or kanowsky@sbcglobal.net. We also talked about ways to increase attendance, and Rosemary Jordan from Alameda4Impeachment talked about strategies to encourage Swalwell to join other members of the House Judiciary Committee in calling for impeachment.
  • New members: A standard feature of all AMMs, we welcomed new members with a short orientation and Q&A, after which they joined other breakouts and also hung out to chat with Governance Committee members.
  • Feedback: Meeting facilitators Andrea and Ann talked to members about IEB, All Member Meetings, and more – some excellent suggestions were made. We’d love to hear your suggestions, please fill out our survey!

Assembly District 15 Candidate Forum

There’s a crowded race to fill Tony Thurmond’s California State Assembly District 15 seat, which he’s leaving to run for state superintendent of public instruction in 2018. Hear the candidates who’ve already announced, at the Assembly District 15 Candidate Forum, Saturday, November 4, 2017, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Contra Costa College, 2600 Mission Bell Dr., San Pablo, in the Room 225, General Education Bldg.

Hosted by the California Democratic Party African American Caucus, the forum is co-sponsored by Contra Costa College, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and the El Cerrito Democratic Club.

City of San Pablo Vice Mayor Genoveva Calloway and Contra Costa Community College District Board Member John Marquez will welcome the community to the City and to Contra Costa College. Paul Cobb, publisher of The Post News Group, will serve as moderator.

Candidates who will attend (in alphabetical order): Judy Appel, Ben Bartlett, Jovanka BecklesDan Kalb, Andy Katz, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, Owen Poindexter, Cheryl Sudduth, and Buffy Wicks.

The event is free, you can register here (not required). Any questions – contact Mister Phillips (510) 556-1951, the California Democratic Party African American Caucus Secretary. Can’t make it to the event? Submit questions for possible inclusion.

District 15 includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont in Alameda County, and El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, Richmond and San Pablo in Contra Costa County.California State Assembly district 15 map

Phone Banking in West County

Living the motto “friends don’t let friends phone alone,” hero members of Tassajara Indivisible and Indivisible El Sobrante/Richmond, also in IEB’s CA-11 team, are burning up the phone lines hosting multiple phone-banking parties reaching hundreds of voters in other states’ upcoming elections.

Join them at any of the several West County phone bank parties up to Election Day, November 7, to help make calls for the Virginia House of Delegates races and for Dr. Kathie Allen, running for Jason Chaffetz’s open Utah seat.

These are the currently scheduled West County phone banks:

Saturday October 28, 11 AM to 1 PM, El Cerrito
Sunday October 29, noon to 2 PM, El Sobrante
Monday October 30, 5 to 7 PM, El Cerrito
Tuesday October 31, 1 to 3 PM, El Sobrante

Saturday November 4, 10 AM to 4 PM, El Sobrante [come when you can for as long as you can]
Sunday November 5, noon to 2 PM, El Sobrante
Monday November 6, 2 to 6 PM, El Sobrante

TUESDAY ELECTION DAY, November 7, 8 AM to 2 PM, El Sobrante [come when you can for as as long as you can]

For information on locations and to RSVP, visit the Commit to Flip Blue website and enter your zip code into the search box. Have general questions? Email us.

The hosts will gladly train you on the script and making the calls. Bring your phone, charger, and earbuds (for your comfort) AND a laptop or tablet (or when you sign up, indicate you’d like to borrow one), and don’t forget your good cheer and positive energy to #Resist! And bring friends!

Can’t make it to an in-person phone or text bank? You can text with MobilizeAmerica for Virginia. They’re having two Get Out the Vote trainings — they’ll walk through setup, who you’ll be texting, how to mark data, and best practices.

After you sign up, MobilizeAmerica sends you dial-in info for the conference call. Upcoming dates are Mon Oct 30 and Wed Nov 1, both 3 to 4 PM. Sign up here.

 

Watching the Electors

When voter suppression tactics prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote, election outcomes fail to represent the true will of the people. – Election Watch program overview

2016 was the first presidential election after the Supreme Court gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). Free to alter voting laws and practices with no oversight or system of ensuring that their revisions weren’t discriminatory, many localities snuck through changes that went unnoticed and unchallenged. These changes, including strict voter ID requirements, closing down polling places, purging voters, and cutting back early voting and voter registration, disproportionately impacted people of color and young or low-income people, and severely curtailed voters’ access to the ballot.  Election WatchElection Watch, a non-partisan voting rights program, has the ambitious goal of mobilizing trained lawyer volunteers in every county or county-equivalent in the country (count them: 3,144!) to monitor and defend voting rights year-round. The new program, run by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation (L4GG) in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Voting Rights Institute, will “monitor, report on, … and address problematic decisions made by local election boards across the country on a year-round basis.”

Election Watch will train volunteer lawyers on the ground to monitor local election boards all year and detect rights violations. With this early alert system flagging potential issues as they happen, EW can proactively address problems before damage has been done (i.e., before an election). A national steering committee of experts, including representatives of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the American Constitution Society Voting Rights Institute, will review the reports, and EW will prioritize and determine next steps for each.

As Trump and the GOP cheat to pack the federal courts with more and more far-right wing judges, it’s clearer than ever that we the people have to educate ourselves about voting issues, and step up to watch over the officials who run the elections in our states, towns, and counties.

How to help:

  • Are you a lawyer, law student, or legal professional interested in volunteering with Election Watch? If so, email me for more information, learn more at the Election Watch program overview, or fill out the signup form.
  • Know any legal eagles, including in other parts of the country, who might be a good fit for Election Watch? Send them the program overview or my email address.
  • Donations to support the program are welcome.
  • Non-lawyers are invaluable in this fight! Learn all you can about your state and local election officials and bodies, and help monitor them.

By Heidi Rand

 

In Counting There is Strength

Many of us were shocked by the results of the 2016 election, and months later still grapple with an ever-growing pile of reasons that added up to the Democrats’ devastating losses. But most of the 100+ experts and activists at the October 7-8 Take Back the Vote Conference were not surprised; to them the results were the predictable outcome of problems they’ve been warning about and working on for years.

Take Back the Vote conference
Photo © Heidi Rand

Hard truth time: no matter how many voter registration and get out the vote drives we run, no matter how many hours we spend canvassing and phone or text-banking, our efforts will amount to a hill of uncounted ballots if we don’t restore the soundness of our election infrastructure.  

The non-partisan conference “to advance the conduct of American elections – how votes are collected, counted and cast,” featured 25 speakers, a Who’s Who of nationally recognized election integrity experts and activists, computer scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists and election officials as well as federal, state and local legislators. They presented findings, shared and debated ideas, and answered tough questions. To see their bios, click the “speakers” link on the NVRTF website, and view or download the Conference program at the “schedule” link.

The audience, ranging from seasoned activists to new volunteers, passionately discussed necessary next steps and strategies to restore publicly verified democracy in the United States. The issues are complex, many have no easy answers, and reasonable minds differ about best practices. In coming weeks we’ll follow up this conference report with in-depth looks at issues covered, including:

  • propaganda and political communication
  • internet voting and cybersecurity risks
  • open source election software
  • election suppression
  • auditing options; including risk limiting, hand-count, two-tier, and digital ballot audits

Despite differing opinions on issues, had we taken a vote at the conference it likely would’ve been unanimous that our country is careening down the path of having our democracy stolen from us, and that protecting our elections from internal and external attacks will take ALL of us becoming educated, engaged, and involved in the process.

What can you do? Get involved! A good start – watch videos of the conference at the “videos” tab of the Voting Rights facebook page. Next, work with IEB’s voting issues team – no experience necessary, we’ll get you up to speed! Email us for info.

And to learn Everything You Wanted to Know About Voting But Were Afraid to Ask, check out these websites:

boss tweed cartoon vote with caption small

 

Help the OtO Team Find Partners

The mission of IEB’s Outreach to Organizations (OtO) team is to build partnerships with and support effective community groups. Two great examples of organizations that have been working in the trenches for years and that OtO has been working with: the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which among other things fights to save SNAP (food stamps) funding, and Oakland Rising, which organizes in Oakland around immigration,  criminal justice reform, and many other issues.

We invite anyone interested in strengthening IEB’s connections to activist community groups to join the OtO team! With more liaisons we can inform IEB members about terrific grassroots organizations fighting for justice and equality and against the Trump agenda; and we can increase our support and mobilize IEBers to take action on state or local policies, and to get involved in issues that the most vulnerable populations in our community face.

You can help! Are you a member of – or do you know about – a grassroots group that’s mobilizing its community around progressive issues or values? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact @tonihenle on Slack or email Toni  at ieb.outreach@gmail.com with your ideas and input.

ACCFB
IEB at AFFCB event to educate community about the farm bill and SNAP

Don’t Forget Puerto Rico!

The administration throws paper towels, says that loss of life and infrastructure isn’t really a crisis, and then makes a jaw-dropping attempt to simply remove unflattering statistics from the FEMA website about the lack of access to water and electricity in Puerto Rico. The territory is still in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The deadline for people to apply for aid from FEMA will probably run out before electricity and phone service is restored; the governor has begged Congressional leadership for more aid. The Jones Act waiver has expired, meaning that food and supplies will once again become unaffordable. Tell our members of Congress to push for relief for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico!

Extend FEMA Deadline

You’ve likely heard that nearly all of Puerto Rico was without power after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20. According to the Department of Energy as of October 18 power has only been restored to 19% of the island. In addition, cell phone service is extremely limited. Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 9.09.24 PMThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is telling residents to apply for disaster relief on its website or over the phone, which is impossible for nearly all of them. Further, FEMA has a strict 60 day deadline for emergency assistance applications. That means that by the time the island has fully restored power, it will be far too late for our fellow citizens to get the aid they need and deserve.  

Please contact your MoCs today! What to say:

“My name is _____, I’m with Indivisible East Bay from [zip code]. I’m calling to ask that you support extending FEMA’s strict 60 day deadline for aid applications for Puerto Rico. With nearly 90% of the island still without power and very limited cell phone service, it will be impossible for most people to meet the deadline.”

Sen.Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Inspiration:

Send More Aid

Puerto Rico’s governor has made it clear that – despite Trump’s delusional claims to the contrary – the aid that has been sent is not nearly enough to restore the territory. In fact, it isn’t enough to keep the crisis there from becoming worse. In a letter to Congressional leadership, he says:

We are grateful for the federal emergency assistance that has been provided so far. However, absent extraordinary measures to address the halt in economic activity in Puerto Rico, the humanitarian crisis will deepen …

Get the Jones Act out of the way

The Jones Act is a nearly century-old law under which only ships registered in the United States may carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another. Under the Jones Act, foreign vessels had to pay punitive tariffs, fees, and taxes to bring American goods to Puerto Rico, or they could reroute to Florida and offload to an American ship, an expensive procedure. These extra costs are passed on to the consumer, making prices there on U.S. goods exorbitantly high: under the Jones Act, food is twice as expensive in Puerto Rico as in Florida. A waiver of the Jones Act went into effect in late September, but it has expired. Tell your MoCs to push for getting the Jones Act out of the way so Puerto Ricans can get out of this crisis.