Contra Costa County Sheriff skates on thin ICE

Protesting works! Activism pays off! That’s a message we got loud and clear from Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston’s July 10, 2018 press conference announcing that he is terminating the County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In practical terms, this means the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond will no longer be used to “incarcerate undocumented migrants.” In resistance terms, it’s a victory that many, including members of Indivisible East Bay and our CA-11 team, have long worked to accomplish.

For months previously, WCDF had been the site of increasingly frequent and larger protests over the immigrant detainee issue. The matter gained additional traction in the chaos caused by the Current Occupant’s policy of separating refugee children from their parents. In announcing the termination, Livingston admitted that the public’s growing opposition and mounting political pressure significantly affected his decision. As we said, score one for the effectiveness of persistent protesters.

Cancelling the ICE contract was praised by most local politicians and officials, including Supervisor John Gioia, who declared that housing ICE detainees “erodes the trust between local government and local law enforcement and our immigrant communities. Ending the contract is a critical step in rebuilding this trust.”  Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), who previously called for termination of the contract, also spoke out in support.

Not everyone shared this view. At the press conference, County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said she was sorry to be losing the contract. One concern was about how the County would make up for lost revenue; the ICE contract reportedly provided around $3 million in profit. Another was that detainees would be moved to sites much further away from family members, supportive communities, and their immigration lawyers.

A solution to the relocation problem, advocated by the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and other groups active in assisting immigration detainees, would be to release currently held detainees as they await their immigration hearings. Not relying on the administration to release the detainees, these same groups have organized the West County Detention Facility Community Fund to raise donations to pay bond for those who can’t afford it and to pay for related expenses such as phone calls from detention centers.

There’s more than a bit of irony to the Sheriff’s decision. While he deserves credit for  finally terminating the ICE contract, we can’t forget that he has long supported and defended it — which is why people have been protesting at WCDF. His decision looks more like political pressure forcing a one-time capitulation rather than a change of heart. The Sheriff himself has given us much reason to take such a harsh view. To see why, let’s take a closer look at Livingston’s political history:

Looking back

David Livingston was first elected as Sheriff for Contra Costa County in 2010. His initial term passed with apparent little controversy, leading to his unopposed reelection in 2014. Over the next four years, his tenure took a dramatic turn.

In 2017, the East Bay Times‘ Editorial Board objected to Livingston’s heavy-handedness and “bombastic bullying” in dealing with those who “dare disagree with his policies.” As one example, the article noted that the Sheriff rejected a police dispatch contract for El Cerrito as “punishment” for the city’s opposition to an unrelated Livingston-supported West County jail expansion plan.

Later in 2017, twenty-seven WCDF inmates sent a letter, detailing allegations of abuse, to civil rights organization Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC — the national group recently re-named itself Freedom For Immigrants). Among the allegations, detainees described being locked up for hours and told to use bags in their cells when they needed to go to the bathroom. In response to the letter,  Rep. DeSaulnier asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the claims of mistreatment. Numerous other politicians were similarly critical of the Department. Sheriff Livingston denied the accuracy of the letter but did pledge an investigation (we are unaware of any publicly released results). 

In March of 2018, the Mercury News reported that Livingston banned CIVIC volunteers from entering the jail for a routine visit. The advocacy group labelled it as “retaliation” for their prior publicizing of the allegations of abuse. Human Rights Watch supported CIVIC’s complaint, noting that the Sheriff’s decision appeared to be “in response to protected speech, rather than alleged violations of policies and procedures.” In other words, Livingston was again deploying his tactic of “bullying” opponents.

In April, Livingston was accused of publishing the release dates of inmates in what appeared to be an attempt to assist ICE in tracking the inmates upon their release. In response, the California Senate began debate on a bill that would end the ICE contract and prevent “law enforcement from communicating and cooperating” with ICE. Not surprisingly, Livingston strongly opposed the bill, calling it a “disaster.”

During this same period, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt sought to have a tour of the West County facility and Rep. DeSaulnier sought to visit a local children’s shelter that was housing two adolescent girls separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Both politicians were denied permission initially, but by July, close to the time of the ICE contract termination, permissions were granted.

Looking ahead

Amidst all of this controversy, Livingston was again running — unopposed! — for re-election as Sheriff. A strongly worded editorial in the East Bay Times lamented the lack of an opponent to Livingston and his “wrong-headed ideas and practices.” Similarly, IEB asserted that we should “speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him.”

Given the lack of an opponent, IEB and the CA-11 team, and several other groups, endorsed a “no confidence” write-in campaign against the Sheriff, rather than asking people to leave the ballot blank. Although the County’s official final vote tally shows Livingston receiving 100% of the vote (160,926), that is misleading — the County told us prior to the election that only write-in votes for “qualified candidates” would be reported. In fact, Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek has now informed us that the “total unqualified write in votes for Sheriff-Coroner was 5563.”  That is 3.46%, a significant increase over Livingston’s prior races:

  • 2010: 0.41% (692) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option
  • 2014: 1.22% (1,328) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option

David Livingston is now on track to be the Contra Costa County Sheriff until at least 2022. In response, the CA-11 team, in coalition with other groups, may consider a recall effort. Recalls are very difficult, so we’ll also continue to search for someone to oppose him in the next election. One problem is that California law requires that a Sheriff candidate be in law enforcement — and it has been difficult to find qualified candidates willing to oppose Livingston.

In the meantime, we will continue to closely scrutinize his actions, ready to protest again whenever the situation demands, and to support those vulnerable populations who suffer most from his policies and practices. It worked this time. It can work again!

How you can help!

Reunite families fund

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually the first Saturday each  month – check their calendar for date & time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest there the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Keep the Heat on ICE! Join the weekly El Cerrito Shows Up protests organized by a coalition of groups including IEB and CA-11 team members; every Thursday from 6 to 7 PM at western entrance to El Cerrito Plaza
  •  Work with, support and/or donate to Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement
  • Donate to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund    
  • This local fundraiser by the El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.
  • Want to work with IEB and the CA-11 team to organize against the Sheriff? Email indivisibleca11@gmail.com or join the @moc_team_ca11 channel on IEB’s Slack.

REUNITE Immigrant Families

In a July 17, 2018 press conference, Senator Kamala Harris, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), introduced a comprehensive bill to reunite immigrant families ripped apart by the administration’s disastrous policies. Senator Harris’s press release reports that the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act:

  • Requires the DHS and HHS Secretaries to publish guidance describing how they will reunify families. This guidance must include how to ensure sustained, no-cost contact between parents and children, access to children by legal counsel and other advocates, and unannounced inspections by child welfare organizations.
  • Requires immediate reunification of children who remain separated from a parent and legal guardian.
  • Creates presumption of release on recognizance, parole, or bond for parents of separated children.
  • Restores the Family Case Management Program.
  • Creates presumption that parents will not be deported until their child’s immigration proceeding is over or the child turns 18.
  • Prohibits DHS from using information, including DNA information, obtained pursuant to this Act for immigration enforcement purposes.
  • Creates privacy protections around the use of DNA testing to establish familial relationships.
  • Requires the Attorney General, the DHS Secretary, and the HHS Secretary to establish the Office for Locating and Reuniting Children with Parents, an interagency office, to expedite and facilitate the reunification of children and parents separated after enter the U.S.
  • Redirects $50 million in appropriations from ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for the enforcement of this Act.

The last point is particularly important in light of Slate’s recent shocking disclosure of internal documents from the Office of Refugee Resettlement showing that

HHS plans to pay for child separation by reallocating money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which, according to its website, ‘provides a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.’ Per the documents, the process of transferring those HIV/AIDS funds has already begun.

Key points at the press conference included Senator Harris’s insistence that family reunification is not enough if it means family incarceration, as is apparently the administration’s desire. Sen. Cortez Masto pointed out that in other situations, non-detention case supervision and management programs have superlative proven track records. Both Senators Harris and Cortez Masto, career prosecutors before their elections, stated that the detention centers – which they had visited – were identical to jails and in no way places for families or children. Moreover, Sen. Cortez Masto pointed out, they are staffed by contractors, not employees of the government who (at least theoretically) have a mission to take care of and reunite families.

Watch video of the press conference here.

What you can do:

  • Thank Senator Harris for introducing the REUNITE Act. (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Tell Senator Feinstein to support the REUNITE Act. (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Spread the word! Promote the REUNITE Act on social media; tell your friends and family to contact their Senators.
  • Some things you can say:
    • Almost 2,600 children remain separated from their parents. I stand with @SenKamalaHarris – Congress must pass the REUNITE Act & safely reunite these children with their parents and guardians. #FamiliesBelongTogether
    • The US Government has committed a human rights abuse by separating children from their parents. I support @SenKamalaHarris’ REUNITE Act because every child needs their parent or guardian. #FamiliesBelongTogether
    • Family detention is not a solution to family separation which is why I support @SenKamalaHarris REUNITE Act to reunite families as soon as possible and not lock them in cages. #Familiesbelongtogether
  • Read what Senator Harris has to say on Twitter and Facebook and retweet/like and share

Some other things you can do:

  • Volunteer with or donate to Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC).
  • This great coalition of groups is raising bond funds to get detainees released before they’re moved from the West County Detention Facility to other locations far from their families and immigration lawyers.
  • This local fundraiser by El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.

Read our latest article on actions you can take to fight the administration’s war against immigrants. For more background on the family separation issue, please see our other earlier articles here and here

 

 

Thousands Protest Immigration Policies at “Families Belong Together” Demos

It was a dark time for the Rebellion. The armies of the Empire had thwarted the attempts of those seeking asylum from violence in their homeland — forcing refugees to choose between returning to the dangers of their home or being forcibly separated from their children at the border — perhaps forever. This unconscionable action could not stand. And it did not. Responding to growing protests even among his own supporters, Emperor Trump at last rescinded his order.

But for those families who had already been separated, it remained unclear when or how they would be reunited. Further, a recent court filing indicates the Justice Department plans to keep migrant families in detention. To keep the pressure on for a quick, humane and complete solution, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday June 30 at more than 700 “Families Belong Together” nationwide rallies. At the largest rallies, numbers reportedly ranged from 35,000 in Washington, D.C. to 70,000 in Los Angeles.

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Families Belong Together in Washington, D.C.

Indivisible East Bay communities held several notable protests, and IEB members were out in force. Some of our reports:

West County Detention Facility (Richmond)

“We joined thousands of protesters at the Richmond, California West County Detention Facility (WCDF) to make it LOUD and clear that families belong together,” IEB and Indivisible El Cerrito member Melanie Bryson said. She also sent a special thank you to the dedicated people who’ve been attending monthly vigils and bi-weekly protests at WCDF, and to all those attending weekly vigils in El Cerrito.

Families Belong Together protest at West County Detention Facility, June 30, 2018
Families Belong Together protest at West County Detention Facility

IEB member Mandeep Gill estimated the “massive” crowd at over 2,000, also noting that the energy level was high, and the noise level loud at the Richmond rally. He added that “our sustained several minute ‘Abolish ICE’ chant roar was loud enough that I saw several folks covering their ears. Good! This is the kind of fierce collective energy that’s going to carry us all forward.”

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A protestor at the Richmond rally

Berkeley

Over 1,500 people gathered together in Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. Carrying a wide variety of creative signs, the protesters were enthusiastic but peaceful. Undeterred by the week’s string of Supreme Court defeats, including the decision to uphold Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the crowd positively responded to the exhortations of the speakers — including State Senator Nancy Skinner — that we remain committed to the fight and maintain our confidence that we will be successful in the end.

Members from several Indivisible groups were among the crowd. Daron Sharps, a speaker from Indivisible Berkeley, called on demonstrators to phone-bank and vote President Donald Trump and his allies out of office.

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At Berkeley rally, protesting is a “family affair”

Livermore…and more

Several hundred people turned out for each of a trio of rallies in Tri-valley cities Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton. The largest was in Livermore, where CA-15 Congressman Eric Swalwell was a featured speaker.

 

Concord

CA-11 Congressman Mark DeSaulnier spoke to a large crowd attending the Migrants March at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord.

See our article for many actions you can take to continue to fight for immigrants.

Photos by CNN, Heidi Rand, Mandeep Gill, and Ted Landau

Demand Justice – Block SCOTUS

Updated July 5, 2018

Deadline: ASAP & ongoing –  Justice Kennedy’s retirement leaves a calamitous Supreme Court vacancy, putting major decisions at risk for generations. The people on Trump’s nomination wish list oppose all we hold dear: reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, health care, the environment, voting rights, and more. This is a fight for our lives. Democratic senators are fired up and so are we! And it’s a fight we can win if they hold together and flip even just one Republican who cares more about his or her constituents’ desire to protect reproductive choice and the ACA than about doing Sen. McConnell’s bidding and being a rubber stamp for the nominations of an unpopular president.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about the Supreme Court vacancy. I want the senator to do everything possible to oppose whoever Trump picks off his short list, or any other nominee who will take away our rights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Subscribe to the newsletter. See our newsletter archives.

 

Four Ways You Can Fight for Immigrants

For background on the family separation issue, please see our earlier articles here and here.

Updated July 3, 2018:

On June 26 federal District Judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, halting the family separation policy and ordering agencies to quickly begin reunifying families separated as a result of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. As of this writing, the Administration still has no plan to reunite families, and there are troubling questions about where the children are – including the fact that children have been placed with religious foster care agencies linked to Betsy DeVos and her husband.

On July 2, a district court judge in Texas ruled against the administration’s blanket practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers instead of granting them parole and releasing them to sponsors in the U.S. who have indicated that they are willing to provide housing. The court, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from denying parole to “asylum seekers who traveled to the United States, were found to have a credible fear of persecution, and were referred for immigration proceedings to decide their asylum claims.”

Here are updated tips on what you can do to fight the administration’s war against immigrants: (1) show up and raise your voice; (2) tell our Members of Congress to take action; (3) donate and help organizations; and (4) know the facts & spread the word.

1. Show Up and Raise Your Voice!

Thanks to all of you who attended any of the June 30 protests put on across the country by a broad coalition of groups (including Indivisible). Don’t stop now: events are continuing!

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) houses adult immigration detainees in Richmond, at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF), 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Other actions on the spot: demonstrations and other events are being planned at short notice all over the Bay Area Please check the IEB facebook page for updated events listings
  • Join 90-year old Ethel Kennedy and many others in “Break Bread, Not Families,” a hunger strike organized in solidarity with and to benefit organizations doing critical work to protect and care for families at the border.

2. Tell Our Members of Congress to Take Action

Our Senators and East Bay Members of Congress (MoCs) have always opposed the administration’s immoral policy of separating immigrant families and jailing babies and children. They must remain vocal leaders as the administration tries to sweep this issue out of public view. This is a fast-changing story and we will update the following action list as often as we can; please check back frequently.

Find contact info for our Senators and Representatives below and here.

Insist on Information:

Does the administration think that if they don’t talk about their outrageous conduct, we’ll forget about it? HHS has stopped answering questions about how many children have been separated from their parents, as well as other information about the children. Tell our elected representatives that “I can’t hear you” is not acceptable and that we want information.

Legislative action:

The administration has no process to reunite children with their parents, even after they are deported. There are no Republican bills that fix the problems caused by the administration’s zero tolerance policy.

  • Ask our Senators to introduce, support, insist on legislation that will at a minimum return the children to their families. Since some of these children were taken from families seeking asylum who were wrongly arrested before their cases could even be heard, any legislation should also take this into account and allow for family reunification in the United States.
  • Ask our Senators to use every tool at their disposal, including Congress’ power of the purse. Ask them to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use all the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop this immoral and inhumane separation of families and jailing children.
  • We’re proud that our California MoCs have been active in opposing, and trying to stop and reverse, the Administration’s cruel policies. Please thank all of them, with especial thanks for those who have taken on leadership:
    • Senators Feinstein and Harris introduced legislation to stop family separation and prevent future increases to immigration detention.
    • Senator Feinstein has requested a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on family separations and is working on plans to visit at least one detention facility in California during recess.
    • Senator Harris toured the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility in San Diego and has suggested scrapping ICE and starting from scratch.
    • If you live in Rep. DeSaulnier’s district, please thank him for his vehement and apparently successful opposition to turning the Concord Naval Weapons Station into a detention facility.
    • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Lee, please thank her for visiting with detained parents and children in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas and speaking out strongly afterward. She has also written to the UN requesting observers.
    • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Swalwell, you can thank him for being a signatory to a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen strongly protesting the Administration’s actions and demanding answers to a number of questions including plans for reuniting families and whether separating families “violates international human rights law,” as well as a letter to the Inspector General concerning record-keeping and family reunification. Rep. Swalwell will be making multiple appearances at June 30 Keep Families Together events.
    • All three East Bay Representatives signed a letter seeking more information about the Navy’s proposal to create a tent camp for undocumented immigrants at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, and all three are co-sponsors of the Keep Families Together Act.
  • The Constitution-Wrecker-in-Chief has asserted that undocumented immigrants should be deported with “no judges or court cases,” despite the fact that the Constitution extends due process rights to all persons, not just all citizens. Tell our MoCs to fight any effort by the Administration to take away any due process rights from undocumented immigrants.

Witness and report: 

So far, we have the statements of the administration (and their Biblical interpretations) about the incarceration of children separated from their parents; and we already know they’re lying through their teeth about this policy. And the agencies running the ‘detention centers’ will only provide their own video and photos of the inside of the facilities where the children are imprisoned.

  • We want our MoCs to make the journey to see first-hand, to demand access, to investigate and report. HHS has issued a directive prohibiting visits with less than two weeks’ notice (except scheduled tours with RSVPs), and banned legislators from talking to the children in detention; we want them to fight back against this outrageous and transparent cover-up attempt. We want them to insist on being admitted into the facilities, on being permitted to talk to the children, and on making full reports of what they see and hear. Our MoCs have been strong on this issue; please thank them.
  • We also want our MoCs to call for oversight and to demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning these children. This should include what experts were consulted as to the children’s physical and emotional welfare as a result of removing them from their parents and housing them in their current conditions. The administration should be required to prove to the satisfaction of appropriate, disinterested medical authorities that these children, housed in tents in the brutal Texas summer, are physically safe. It’s already clear, however, that they aren’t emotionally safe; experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated forceful opposition to the policy of family separation, which they say “can cause irreparable harm.”

What to say [this is a suggested script, you can adapt to include more of the the above information]:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want ____ to visit and inspect the detention facilities, and to call for oversight and demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning migrant families. I also want ____ to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop these immoral anti-immigrant practices.

  • 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) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

3. Donate and help organizations

Ready to do more? These organizations are doing good and need your help:

  • Kids at The Border ActBlue Fund – your donation helps several organizations working to protect kids separated from their families. The list is being updated, at this time it includes: Human Rights First, We Belong Together, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Women’s Refugee Commission, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), United We Dream Action, La Union Del Pueblo Entero, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Al Otro Lado, The Florence Project, Neta, Innovation Law Lab, Fuerza Del Valle, and The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
  • This page listing many more worthy organizations is also being updated regularly
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) – This Texas-based organization gives direct legal support to immigrants. Your donation will help pay bonds so that parents can be released from ICE custody and reunite with their children
  • Are you a lawyer, or do you know any who might want to help? Sign up here for more info about volunteer opportunities with Lawyers for Good Government, L4GG Foundation, and the Immigration Justice Campaign. They offer a wide range of in-person and remote options to provide assistance to immigrants, from research to representation.

4. Know the facts & spread the word:

  • See this excellent article, including an extensive Q&A section by Suit Up Maine.
  • Refute the administration’s lies that this is all the Democrats’ fault or that separating families was just enforcing the law. If their claims sound wrong – they probably are. Use fact-check sites such as Politifact and Snopes, and share only info you can verify.

 

Feed People – Save Food Stamps

House Republicans drastically cut SNAP/CalFresh (AKA food stamps) from the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) on June 21, and this week the action moves to the Senate, with an expected vote by Friday, June 29.

SNAP helps put food on the table for people struggling to find work, low-income families with children, veterans, and seniors. Find more info about SNAP here. This is a five-year authorization bill; we must lock in this critical part of the safety net that millions depend on. Please call our Senators and ask them to protect and strengthen SNAP, and to vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program. Call every day (yes, that’s every day!) until Friday night (June 29), and check back for updates.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for your past support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP). I am calling to ask you to protect and strengthen SNAP and vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program or cut its funding in the Farm Bill.

 

Senator Feinstein (415-393-0707; DC: 202- 224-3841)
Senator Harris (415-355-9041; DC: 202-224-3553)

Say Hell NO to forced family separation

Outraged at the administration’s illegal and immoral policy of separating families at the border and jailing children? (Of course you are.) Here are some things you can do. We will update as we can.

Action: Hit the streets!

  • Mass mobilization protests are being scheduled nationwide on June 30 by a broad coalition of groups (including Indivisible): find – or sign up to host – and RSVP for a Families Belong Together action near you. We’re not listing local 6/30 events because more are being added all the time.
  • Actions on the spot: demonstrations and other events are being planned at short notice all over the Bay Area prior to June 30. Please check the IEB facebook page for updated events listings. At this time, these are a few events:
    • June 21, 6-7 PM: Keep the Heat on ICE – Families Belong Together. El Cerrito. Info here.
    • June 22, 6:30 PM: Keep Families Together Rally, Root Park, San Leandro. Sponsored by San Leandro Democratic Club.
    • June 23, 10-11:30 AM: Families Belong Together, co-sponsored by Women’s March. Embarcadero Plaza, SF. Info here.
  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: At this time we’re not aware that any of the children are being held at facilities in the Bay Area, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) houses immigration detainees in Richmond, at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF), 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.

Action: donate and help organizations

Action: Know the facts & spread the word:

  • See this excellent article, including an extensive Q&A section by Suit Up Maine.
  • Refute the administration’s lies that it’s all the Democrats’ fault or that separating families was just enforcing the law. Use fact-check sites such as

 

Stop family separation & GOP immigration bills

 

On Wednesday June 20, after intense public pressure, Trump finally issued an executive order (supposedly) putting a halt to his policy of separating parents from their children at the southern border. Setting aside the fact that he continuously denied his ability to end the barbaric process that he initiated, this executive order does not end the zero-tolerance policy or address reuniting the 2300 children already separated from their families. All it does is reiterate that families can remain together if detained by Homeland Security–a settlement established and reaffirmed by the Clinton-era 1997 Flores court case.

This is NOT the end of the story. There are still children in cages and internment camps, parents with no way to reunite with the children ripped from them, and people seeking asylum who were blocked from entering the country to ask for asylum, or whose cases were never entered into the system, among other major issues. Trump and the complicit GOP are not going to stop demonizing and dehumanizing immigrants, and they will do all they can to bury this real-life horror story.

Our Senators and East Bay Members of Congress (MoCs) have always opposed the administration’s immoral policy of separating immigrant families and jailing babies and children. They must remain vocal leaders as the administration tries to sweep this issue out of public view. This is a fast-changing story and we will update the following action list as often as we can; please check back frequently.

Find contact info for our Senators and Representatives at the end of this article and here.

Legislation:

The administration has no process to reunite children with their parents, even after they are deported. There are no Republican bills that fix the problems caused by the administration’s zero tolerance policy.

  • Before Friday June 22, ask your House member to oppose the Goodlatte and Ryan immigration bills: these bills restrict family reunification visas and severely narrow asylum criteria, effectively criminalizing many asylum seekers like the ones held in detention centers due to the zero tolerance policy. They do nothing to fix the immorality of separating families and jailing children. (More info on the Goodlatte and Ryan bills here.) [ed. note: the Goodlatte bill was defeated moments after we published this article]
  • Ask our Senators to introduce, support, insist on legislation that will at a minimum return the children to their families. Since some of these children were taken from families seeking asylum who were wrongly arrested before their cases could even be heard, any legislation should also take this into account and allow for family reunification in the United States.
  • Ask our Senators to use every tool at their disposal, including Congress’ power of the purse. Ask them to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use all the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop this immoral and inhumane separation of families and jailing children.
  • We’re proud that our California Senators introduced legislation to stop family separation and prevent future increases to immigration detention. Please thank our MoCs for their leadership.

Witness and report: 

So far, we have the statements of the administration (and their Biblical interpretations) about the incarceration of children separated from their parents; and we already know they’re lying through their teeth about this policy. And the agencies running the ‘detention centers’ will only provide their own video and photos of the inside of the facilities where the children are imprisoned.

  • We want our MoCs to make the journey to see first-hand, to demand access, to investigate and report. HHS has issued a directive prohibiting visits with less than two weeks’ notice (except scheduled tours with RSVPs), and banned legislators from talking to the children in detention; we want them to fight back against this outrageous and transparent cover-up attempt. We want them to insist on being admitted into the facilities, on being permitted to talk to the children, and on making full reports of what they see and hear.
  • We also want our MoCs to call for oversight and to demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning these children. This should include what experts were consulted as to the children’s physical and emotional welfare as a result of removing them from their parents and housing them in their current conditions. The administration should be required to prove to the satisfaction of appropriate, disinterested medical authorities that these children, housed in tents in the brutal Texas summer, are physically safe. It’s already clear, however, that they aren’t emotionally safe; experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated forceful opposition to the policy of family separation, which they say “can cause irreparable harm.”

What to say [this is a suggested script, you can adapt to include more of the the above information]:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want ____ to visit and inspect the detention facilities, and to call for oversight and demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning migrant families. I also want ____ to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop these immoral anti-immigrant practices.

Contact info for East Bay Members of Congress:

  • 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) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Say NO to internment camps: stop family separation

This action originally appeared in the Indivisible East Bay newsletter on June 14, 2018. At that time, the deadline to take action was ASAP & ongoing. We will update this article as the rapidly evolving situation changes and we learn of other actions, please check back.

Stop separating families

The administration’s zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting all border crossings, even by asylum seekers, has led to plans to build detention camps to house up to 5,000 children at military bases. If you’re thinking that sounds like internment camps, you remember your history lessons! The question is — do our legislators remember? We’re proud our CA Senators introduced legislation to stop family separation and prevent future increases to immigration detention – but GOP committee chairs refuse to schedule hearings/votes for bills they don’t like. What to do? We want our MoCs to travel to immigration detention centers and talk to the immigrants there. And we want them to use every tool at their disposal, including Congress’ power of the purse, to stop this atrocity.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want ____ to visit the detention facilities and inspect any proposed sites for child internment camps. And I want ____ to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use all the authorization and appropriations powers enumerated in the Constitution to stop this morally disgusting practice of separating families and jailing children.

 

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Risk-limiting audits: did your vote count?

This action originally appeared in the Indivisible East Bay newsletter on June 14, 2018. At that time, the deadline to make a call was Monday June 18; we will update as the status changes.

June 19 update

  • Thank you for all your calls and letters — it’s working! Today, AB 2125 was heard in the Senate Elections Committee. The courtroom was packed. Just prior to the hearing, negotiations about troublesome provisions in the bill resumed in an attempt to salvage it. Author Quirk offered another set of amendments to satisfy some of the most important provisions that were previously lacking in the bill:

    • The audits will be based on paper ballots
    • Audits will include Vote-by-Mail and provisional ballots
    • Secretary of State to write regulations on public verifiability

Though not yet written up by legislative counsel, these amendments were read aloud to all in the courtroom. The bill passed committee: 3 – 0 – 2 abstain.

As amended, AB 2125 sunsets in 2021, essentially making it a pilot bill. Advocates for election security and transparency are cautiously optimistic that a workable pilot bill may result. There are still kinks to be worked out (especially because it is voluntary for counties as amended today) so please stay tuned. We may need to put up our dukes one more time before this reaches the Senate floor.

Again, thank you. Nothing is more important to democracy than the accuracy and transparency of our vote totals. You did this. You prevented damaging election legislation from becoming law. Now buckle your seat belt.

June 18 update: Please keep the calls coming in today! Crucial vote on the integrity of our vote-counting audits is happening Tuesday June 19 at 1:30 PM. Can you join us and CA Clean Money to help pack the hearing room? Here is our joint letter explaining problems with the bill.

If you can’t come to Sacramento, please sign this coalition petition urging the Senate Elections Committee to vote “NO” on AB 2125 unless it’s amended. We need election audits but they must be transparent and accurate — AB 2125 is not there yet!

California vote-audit bill falls short

Vote vote vote! But — how do you know it was counted? In 2017 California enacted AB 840, exempting many vote-by-mail and all provisional ballots from audit. Security experts agree: to determine whether election outcomes are correct, we need risk-limiting audits (RLAs) which hand count a small sample of paper ballots, then expand as needed. AB 2125, headed for a crucial hearing in the CA Senate on Tuesday 6/19, nominally requires RLAs but has no teeth. Please tell the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee: We need state-of-the-art post-election audits to protect our democracy from cyberattacks. Why would we settle for less?

What to say:

My name is ___, I’m a California resident and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want our election outcomes to be verifiable and I strongly support risk-limiting audit legislation. But I oppose AB 2125 because the bill doesn’t meet best standards agreed upon by experts. California should lead with a model risk-limiting audit that makes our elections trustworthy. I ask Senator _____ to oppose AB 2125.

Senator Harry Stern, Chair
Phone: (916) 651-4027

Senator Joel Anderson, Vice Chair
Phone: (916) 651-4038

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