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: 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.
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 email@example.com. 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!
When the current occupant of the White House started what has turned into a terrifying court-packing effort (together with his cronies in the Senate), a few of IEB’s fearless research-loving members went into high gear. Since late summer 2017, what is now our Judiciary Team has created and shared an extensive database of information about judicial nominees as well as creating and sharing digital toolkits, and has become a resource for Indivisible National, Indivisible chapters nationwide, and other organizations. We’re proud to tell you some of their many achievements:
Indivisible National cites IEB’s Judiciary Team for our work and recommends us as a resource (about 3/4 of the way down this page).
Judiciary Team members Linh, Donna and Heidi have begun organizing with Lawyers For Good Government, a national group interested in working on Trump’s judicial nominations.
IEB Judiciary Team member Donna helped organize Rapid Resist text/phone bank campaigns into Texas and North Carolina against the nomination of Gregory Katsas for the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Indivisible SF also helped with the North Carolina campaign. Shout outs to Alysia, Cassie and Yoni of Rapid Resist!
Two groups in North Carolina have also mobilized against the nomination of Thomas Farr for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, after receiving information from us.
We have provided our friends at Indivisible SF with information and scripts to help their work contacting a network of groups in Colorado to mobilize against the nominations of Katsas and of Allison Eid to fill Neil Gorsuch’s seat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Shout outs to Jonah and Kristen at ISF!
We have been in contact with two groups in Idaho that will call their Senators against Trump’s judicial nominations.
Donna has also been in contact with Indivisible chapters and other progressive groups in Minnesota and Oregon that have mobilized against Trump’s court nominations.
We have worked extensively with Indivisibles in Texas. At the request of Indivisible Houston, we created and provided a toolkit with talking points for MoC meetings, blog posts, graphics for social media posts, and call scripts. Indivisible Austin ended up using our materials to create a blog post/call to action. Indivisible Houston used the toolkit for a visit to Senator Cornyn’s office to discuss the nomination of Jeff Mateer (the one who said that trans children are “part of Satan’s plan”). Indivisible Denton did a call script and call to action. Indivisible Austin used our materials in their blog. Judiciary Team member Amelia also reached out to Equality Texas, which was also doing a call to action on Mateer, and shared their link with the Texas Indivisibles.
The latest addition to the state list: Arizona, where Rapid Resist has just begun campaigning against the Katsas nomination with IEB’s help. Thanks to Alysia, Cassie, and Yoni at Rapid Resist!
Have a questions for the Judiciary Team, or want to lend a hand? Contact us!
At the October IEB All Member Meeting, members participated in a respectful and productive opening discussion about the 2018 Senate race. After folks called out issues important to them we all voted for our top three choices. Not surprisingly, people shared overwhelming concerns about healthcare, immigration, and voting rights.Amelia Cass, IEB’s Member of Congress lead and Senator Feinstein expert gave a synopsis of Feinstein’s positions on the top issues, and invited the audience to contribute their thoughts about California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Léon and other candidates.
Senator Feinstein has said she favors universal healthcare, but has demurred on single payer, saying she’s not yet ready to commit. At a recent meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff, IEB learned that implementation (funding, rollout, and transition to) of a single payer system is one of the problems preventing her endorsement, and that she has not yet seen a reasonable, feasible plan that would get California where it needs to go toward a fair healthcare system. In contrast, Kevin de Léon has stated that he supports CA healthcare for all, and in a tweet said that California should have two senators behind Health Care For All. Another candidate for the Senate seat, David Hildebrand, is a Democratic Socialist and self-described “Berniecrat” who is solidly behind single payer. At present, so early in the race, little is known about the other candidates.
One IEB member stated that “if you want single payer or medical care for all, young people need to be involved to create the economics to drive it forward.” Sharing her experience working on the California healthcare bill, another member described how difficult it was to balance moving forward on a bill and being able to explain everything that is going to happen with it.
The son of a single immigrant mother, Kevin de Léon was an author of SB 54, the California Sanctuary State bill. The bill went through several iterations before Governor Brown signed it, which some advocates believe severely weakened the bill.
IEB Governance Committee member Katie added that if the final DREAM Act includes other legislation, it may be worth considering how Senator Feinstein votes, if not for a “clean DREAM Act” for which most immigrants’ rights groups have advocated. Candidates should be explicit in what they will and won’t accept. In contrast, Senator Kamala Harris has stated she won’t support any end-of-year spending package without a clean DREAM Act.
Members suggested that further discussions could separate immigration into two issues: comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship. Senators Harris and Feinstein have offeredlegislation that would protect undocumented farmworkers in California from deportation and create a path to citizenship.
Interestingly, California is one of the few states which has an independent, non-partisan commission draw its district lines, instituted by ballot proposition in 2011. At the national level, after the Supreme Court curtailed the federal Voting Rights Act, a critical tool to prevent discriminatory voting practices, several states have created serious obstacles to voting, including voter ID and registration restrictions, cutbacks on early voting, closing polling places in minority neighborhoods, and more. A member suggested examining the candidates’ opinions on the districting commission.
This was the first of what we’re sure will be several conversations about the 2018 Senate race. Future discussions will examine the remaining issues suggested during the meeting.
Editor’s note: When you know you’re making a difference: IEB’s Governance Committee member and co-lead of Indivisible CA-11 United, Kristen Law was invited by Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) to join him at the Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon and Issues Conference on October 19, 2017 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The event was hosted by Nancy Pelosi and paid for by the DCCC (not authorized by any candidate or committee). The following is Kristen’s report from the conference.
The Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon and Issues Conference began with welcoming remarks from Representative Nancy Pelosi, acknowledging the heartbreak and devastation of the recent fires. Along with gratitude for all those who have stepped up to help, Rep. Pelosi provided weblinks for Napa relief and Sonoma relief. Rep. Pelosi also touched on questions that she often receives about communications with constituents, redistricting and voter suppression and the need to leverage the grassroots movement, and acknowledged women congressional candidates in attendance: Angie Craig (MN-2), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Abby Finkenauer (IA-1), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), and Susie Lee (NV-3). Also on the subject of elections, she acknowledged the event’s “power couple,” Ann and Jerry Brown, whom she described as committed to flipping seats in California.
Panel 1: Political Updates
This panel consisted of DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan, DCCC Recruitment Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).
Lujan began by providing an update on the national environment. He struck an optimistic note, saying “history is on our side and we need to make history repeat itself”: after Clinton came Bush, after Bush came Obama, and after Obama came 45 – who is below 40% approval. Lujan honored the importance of grassroots work for taking down Trumpcare, and noted that the Democrats need to work directly with people and must inspire America. Republicans are under water in many red districts, so people in blue areas should adopt a precinct to flip. Lujan spoke of the need to defend against fake news and trolls.
Rep. Clark expressed deep gratitude for the Left Coast. She recognized the success of local engagement, especially citing the success of Town Halls. Like several others at the event, she focused on the Women’s March (the “You know there’s trouble when librarians are here” poster was one of her favorites because her mom was a librarian). The Women’s March, she said, has translated into an increase in women wanting to run for elected seats. As of late September, 84 women were running for office in 80 Congressional districts. When women run for office, she said, they focus on issues such as the wage gap, the struggle to care for parents and children at the same time, and the cost of education. Women’s issues are economic issues, and women candidates “stand for you and giving your family a shot at the American dream,” so supporting women candidates is supporting our values as a country.
Rep. Lofgren advised that we focus on flippable seats here in California. There were seven Republican seats where Trump lost in 2016:
CA-10: There are currently 8 Democrats running against Rep. Jeff Denham
CA-21: (Kern area) Trump lost by 16 points – there is one Democrat running against Rep. David Valadao
CA-25: This is the last Republican seat in LA County
CA-39: This is a majority minority district in Orange County and is experiencing a dramatic demographic shift
CA-45: (Irvine) A number of strong Democrats may run against Republican Rep. Mimi Walters
CA-48: (Laguna) Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is considered “Russia’s Congressman” and has a number of competitive Democratic challengers
CA-49: (San Diego/Oceanside) Rep. Darrell Issa won by under 200 votes in the last election, and recent polls show him losing to a fictitious Democrat!
To this list, Rep. Lofgren added CA-50 (San Diego), where Rep. Duncan D. Hunter is under investigation for using campaign funds for such things as groceries, kid’s college tuition and shipping a rabbit by plane (you read that correctly); and CA-22 (Tulare County). Lofgren warned that we need to make sure that we are protecting incumbents. There has never been a time like now where we NEED to win: The president is doing everything in his power to depress us, but the power is in our hands.
Question topics for this panel included voter suppression. The panel replied that there are several avenues being explored, including the Democratic Redistricting Committee chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder, and plans to launch on the ground campaigns earlier than ever before. Rep. Pelosi closed the panel, again emphasizing the power of mobilizing the grassroots and stating that the community wants to select their leaders.
Ultimate Women’s Luncheon panel: Reps Anna Eshoo and Mark DeSaulnier, and Tom Steyer. Photo by Kristen Law
Panel 2: Infrastructure and Jobs of the Future
Rep. Pelosi introduced this panel by stating that our primary goal should be “Build. Build. Build!” – We need to build infrastructure, we need to build education/human resources, and we need to build our democracy.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18) talked about the new Innovation Agenda 2.0. Ten years ago the Democrats created the first Innovation Agenda: of 22 proposals, 21 became law (all except comprehensive immigration reform). There are three pillars to the new Innovation Agenda:
Create and Support Workforce.
Recommit to Basic Research: government funded research leads to innovations, protects people’s health and safety and creates jobs.
Modernize Government: Government should keep up with technology and scientific advancement, should be tech savvy, should enhance policies to protect security, and should draw on the private sector. Government must be accessible to the average person: the public should be able to access data because “knowledge is power” and we need knowledgeable citizens.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) started off, as he generally does, by encouraging everyone to read Dark Money and then Democracy in Chains. He said that under Trump there have been far fewer oversight committee meetings than under Obama. Regarding infrastructure, Rep. DeSaulnier said there are trillions of dollars in backlog. Tech centers are driving young people to urban centers, creating huge challenges around providing infrastructure for so many people to get around. We need mobility and government needs to provide it, but Republicans don’t want to invest. Regarding workforce/labor, DeSaulnier (who recently held his 50th Town Hall) said he has repeatedly heard how people are suffering and heard a sense of urgency. As we in California have leapt forward in advancement, we have left too many people behind; we need to focus on bringing everyone along with us. For example: in the transportation field, as we transition to self-driving trucks we need to prepare for what to do with the current workforce of truck drivers, with employers contributing to training and retooling and helping to mitigate the cost (like CEQA in the environmental field). Rep. DeSaulnier authored the Smart City Program, a competition that Columbus OH won in 2016, gaining them $40 million from the USDOT (plus more from corporate grants); DeSaulnier hopes that the San Francisco Bay Area wins next time.
Environmentalist, mega-donor and sometime political candidate Tom Steyer spoke (not surprisingly) about the need to put investments into leveraging the grassroots. Infrastructure is investment, he said, but it isn’t enough to just build – we need to build smart infrastructure and a smart, clean United States with renewable energy, denser living spaces, open spaces, and public transportation. Infrastructure requires connectivity: the ability to connect to a rapidly changing world, including physical connection, training, and emotional connectivity. People’s feelings of disconnectedness, Steyer said, led to the Trump election. On the other hand, Steyer pointed out, we have had some big wins: GM is going electric, the tar sands pipeline was shut down, the new refinery proposal on the California coast was closed. We have the technology and the ability to build a fantastic future but we need to think about it on a human basis. Job creation has to include every community, from inner city to rural. New technology means health and justice: no one wants to be a coal miner and no one wants to live near coal mines (and the Republicans’ insistence on coal hurts the poor). Investing in schools, training and health is about social justice and the rights of Americans.
In the Q&A period, the panelists discussed the need for government to invest in community colleges, which 2.2 million students attend in California; Rep. DeSaulnier says that free, high quality community colleges are essential to our future.
Panel 3: National Security
According to Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), “President Trump is a National Security risk,” primarily because he won’t listen to the generals. How are we doing? Let me count the ways: He has undermined allies, insulted other leaders, and picked fights with our closest allies; he sided with Saudi Arabia against Qatar and his first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, the country where 15 of the 9-11 terrorists came from; he has provoked North Korea, a belligerent nuclear power, with “Fire and Fury” text messages; degraded the intelligence community, applauded the president of the Philippines; he has isolated the US from the Paris Climate Treaty, terminated the Iran deal for no apparent reason (other than its having been signed by Obama); he has allowed China to move toward being the World’s primary superpower while our allies are drifting away … Rep. Speier recommends, as the first solution, invoking the 25th Amendment; and she also recommends reading The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) said flatly that Donald Trump is dangerous and is is ruining our standing in the world – but that the world is with us (though not with the administration). She focused on peace and diplomacy: we need to include more women in peace negotiations and international relations and look at international ways of achieving peace such as the United Nations. Rep. Lee urged support for HR 669, which would prevent a president from a nuclear first strike without Congressional approval, and also for repealing the AUMF, which allows commitment of money and personnel to wars without Congressional approval. (Repeal of the AUMF received bipartisan support until Speaker Ryan torpedoed it.) Rep. Lee urged support for “the three D’s”: Reinvesting in Development, Diplomacy and smart Defense.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) chairs the Future Forum, a group of the youngest members of Congress. The Forum travels the country listening to millennials; one young Marine told Rep. Swalwell “this is not what we fought for,” and said that he fought for freedom. Swalwell stated that freedom is under attack: freedom to have clean air; freedom to work; freedom for a woman to make a choice about her health with her doctor; freedom to stay healthy without going broke. Even freedom to make a choice in voting because our own democracy is under attack – Russia chose our president. We are 22 votes short of an independent review of how Russian interference affected the election, but to get this we need to flip seats.
Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Lieutenant General (ret.) Karl Eikenberry talked about four big trends posing challenges: the diffusion of global policy; the diffusion of technology – we are in a time when the “weak” can coerce the “strong”; the increasing difficulty of global governance of states; and the fact that we live in a world where nations need to cooperate and the other three trends are eroding this. Ambassador Eikenberry gave a shout-out to Rep. Lee for her long efforts to try to repeal the AUMF, saying he believes that the power to declare war belongs with the Congress and that Congress needs to step up to enforce this.
The event ended with a celebratory luncheon honoring power couple Ann and Jerry Brown and featuring a performance from local musicians. The five Congressional candidates spoke about themselves and their campaigns, including these highlights:
Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania is former US Air Force Captain, a third generation military officer, former teacher, businesswoman and president of a non-profit, who never saw herself running until 45 was elected and she wanted to be able to answer with pride when her children and grandchildren asked what she did during these bad times.
Abby Finkenauer from Iowa is in her 20’s, a first generation college student who has raised more than $300k since announcing in April – a lot of money for that district!
Angie Craig from Minnesota is a firecracker! She lost the last election by two points and is running again. She lives with her wife and four teenage sons, worked two jobs to pay for college after watching her mom work for nearly 10 years to get her college degree. Her opponent, Jason Lewis, is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country.
I was grateful and delighted to be Rep. DeSaulnier’s guest at the event and table partner at the luncheon. DeSaulnier has made an effort to work with Indivisible chapters on grassroots issues, and makes himself available to his constituents; if you live in his district and would like to be involved, you can contact me on IEB’s CA-11 Slack channel @klaw. Not on Slack? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you!
Our team has been busy connecting with folks in CA-15. Recently, I attended the general membership meeting of Livermore Indivisible, held at the Livermore Public Library. Their organization is structured by focus groups (health care, education, environment, etc.) and each group has a report out–about 20 people were in attendance. I spoke to Linda Guthrie, who ran the meeting, introduced myself as a co-lead for the Swalwell team from IEB, and discussed coordinating communications with Representative Swalwell and his staff between our two organizations. Going forward, I’ll communicate with Livermore Indivisible on communications with Swalwell’s office. Their group has engaged with his staff before, but not on a regular basis. By partnering we hope to coordinate our efforts and messaging.
LeAnn (CA-15 co-lead) and I met over the weekend with fellow IEB members Corrine and Hank Hansen to discuss voter registration. Corrine and Hank are members of the League of Women Voters and we discussed the LWV program “Empowering the Voters of Tomorrow,” designed to engage young people, and particularly Latinos in registering to vote. Corrine provided us with educational materials about voter registration challenges in California, and a descriptive packet on the LWV program in particular. We’re in the process of going through these materials, and we’ll continue to stay in touch and work with Corrine and Hank. The LWV program provides a step-by-step “how to” process for getting young people not only registered, but also getting them to vote, so if you’re interested in getting involved in this particular area, please send me an email.
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 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.
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.
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
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:
It was quite a week at the beginning of October 2017 – we met back to back with the state directors for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
We didn’t plan on having our first meeting with Sen. Harris’ state director, Julie Rodriguez, the evening before our umpteenth meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd. (Julie is based in LA, so we normally meet with with Daniel Chen, the head of the senator’s SF Office. But Julie has agreed to another meeting the next time she’s in town.)
But two in a row worked out well, since there are a lot of things we wanted to impress on both senators: from reminding them of the urgency of passing the DREAM Act, to expressing disappointment that they both voted in favor of a huge national defense authorization bill last week, to some specific asks on long-term help for Puerto Rico as part of a hurricane relief package.
We heard a few more details about Sen. Feinstein’s hesitations around endorsing Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All — mainly about implementation and some remaining fuzzy details on the funding side. But Sean tells us that it’s the feedback from us that has moved her from off the cuff comments about “complete government takeover of health care” to asking her staff to take a close look at Sen. Sanders’ bill.
We also heard a few more details about Sen. Harris’ next steps in her push for Medicare for All. Julie says she will take the lead from Sen. Sanders, but that with a minority in Congress, the important thing to focus on is building grassroots support for single payer health care.
We shared our concerns about oversight of the Homeland Security Department, specifically ICE, and learned about some of the individual cases involving detention centers that each of our senators’ constituent services departments have worked on. In fact, Sean told us, a couple of years ago when ICE detention facilities were overcrowded due to the Central American refugee crisis (including many unaccompanied children), Sen. Feinstein had her staff visit every facility in California to compile a report and recommend changes to President Obama.
We spoke with Sean at length about Trump’s judicial nominations being fast-tracked through the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Sen. Feinstein is the lead Democrat. He told us she’s fighting hard to preserve the “blue slip” process, which gives every senator a say about judges appointed to the federal courts within their state. We asked Sen. Harris to make a statement in support of the senators who have withheld blue slips on dangerous federal court nominees in Oregon and Minnesota.
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 email@example.com with your ideas and input.
Last week we published the first part of an Indivisible East Bay member’s interview with Lara, a DACA recipient. Our last question was whether her parents felt they made the right decision in moving to the United States. Lara ended her response with: “When DACA passed and I was able to go back to school, that alleviated a lot of their guilt and they felt glad I finally had a real chance. But now with what Trump’s done, they regret it all over again and feel guilt all over again for putting me in this situation. I keep telling them, you cannot blame yourself for this.” We continue with Part 2:
How are your siblings handling it?
I think they’re used to me being the strong one. They don’t really ask how I’m doing. Out of my 4 siblings, only one asked me how I was doing after the news. They’re used to me not depending on them. I’ve been so independent for so many years, they assume that I’m okay. They know I don’t allow myself to sit in the pity pool too long. But I know deep down inside, this time around they really are concerned because this administration is not playing; they are really on a mission to make peoples’ lives extremely complicated. Even though they haven’t expressed it, I know that they really are concerned for me this time. I know them and this is their way of not discouraging me.
I think they’re more worried about how I might respond one day, with the wrong person. Not so much if I’m going to get deported, but, for example, if I’m at an event representing Dreamers and someone says something that pushes me over the edge.
Are your siblings politically active?
No, they leave it to me. And it’s so unfair. I tell them, how is it the undocumented one is at the forefront of things? Their answer is “Because we don’t have to. We were born into this privilege.” They haven’t had to fight for anything, so they’re not really concerned.
So…they don’t have to fight for you?
Exactly! And so I said, what about me? “Eh, you’re good at fighting for yourself.” So I envy the families that are there for each other because my siblings live in their own world, chasing their own dreams. I’ve always been so independent, vocal, and active, I guess they’ve never cared to involve themselves because of that. Maybe they see how worked up and exhausted I get, and there’s no off button sometimes, maybe that turns them off. They see how consuming it can be.
But, it’s also because they’re just selfish and immature. I haven’t been home in over 10 years, so they haven’t been there to see me break down. I did it so they wouldn’t have to see how much I suffered. I didn’t want them to see me cry, so I purposefully moved out so they wouldn’t have to see how much I suffered. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do.
You found out about your status when you were in high school. After that, did you see you and your siblings differently?
We were so poor growing up and my dad worked two to three jobs for years. We don’t get Medicaid, food stamps, financial help of any kind, so you depend on your community, neighbors, church. We lived in a two bedroom apartment. Four of us in one room, my parents in the other, until we finally moved to our first house. It was a bad ugly house and my dad and his uncles fixed it up. My siblings all grew up in a house, but I remember living like sardines and dealing with cockroaches.
I’m happy they were able to have their own bed. I’m glad they didn’t have to deal with the cheap Payless shoes and getting bullied for having the same cheap clothes or backpack, and all the things growing up poor entails. But from the very beginning, I always knew we were going to have a very different life.
When I got older after high school, when I saw how hard it was going to be to even find a job, I said I have to get out of here because I don’t want them to see me like this. I was bitter and angry and I resented the situation. I didn’t want to infect them with my bitterness. I had always been the strong, positive, happy, bossy big sister and wanted them to keep that image of me and not the angry, resentful, bitter one. So I moved out. But when I have tried to share what it was like living on my own without them, I feel they don’t want to accept it and instead, play it down.
When you see that people aren’t willing to hear your story for what it is or want to hear what you have to say, then you stop sharing. But, my parents know everything. I shared everything with them, especially the bad experiences with managers and customers who called me every terrible discriminatory name. That’s a bond that my siblings may resent a little bit because my parents understand my pain. I’m grateful that at least I have always had my parents patience, compassion and understanding.
What are your parents going to do?
For now, I think they are going to move to a smaller property. They came for the American dream and they want to leave us an inheritance. They worked very hard and want to leave us houses and properties just like White Americans. They came to break that stereotype and leave a legacy for their children. They won’t let this discourage them. They taught me to be strong. Like most people, they wanted to be more successful and prosperous than their parents. You always want to be more successful than the previous generation. They’re leaving the bar really high for us.
What do they think their lives would have been like if they stayed in Mexico?
I don’t know. My dad probably would have finished being an engineer. But there’s no way they would have been able to give us an education or the safety to do the things we’ve wanted, be involved in the things we’ve been involved in–music, dance, sports, etc. Most of our family is still there. I probably would have grown up knowing my grandparents — I’ve seen them a handful of times, but I don’t know either side. I have no relationship with them or my uncles, aunts, cousins.
How do you think your lives are different than your relatives in Mexico?
It’s black and white. I see pictures of the homes they live in — dirt floors or cement floors. The quality of the houses, the sizes of the room, the clothes they wear, the diet they have — it’s what’s affordable. My parents are seen as more prosperous in comparison.
If we know anyone who is traveling there for the holidays, we always send stuff. Mostly clothes, shoes, school materials — binder paper, pencils, crayons, everything. Money every month to my grandparents to help. My grandparents were blue collar workers and farmers, so there’s little to no pension or retirement. Now that they’re older, we help take care of them and pay their bills. We send what we can. Had we stayed there … I don’t know. I don’t think my siblings would have been able to explore and experiment in the arts, music, and sports the way they have here. I wouldn’t have found a purpose or reason to become socially active at the capacity I have done. It’s safer here — over there, it can mean death a lot of the time if you get too loud or political. Here, at least I know I can be socially active and it won’t cost me my life. I don’t think I would be the person I am. I’d probably be like my cousins — at least we’re here together, at we have food, clothes, a bed. But being part of this country and raised with the idea that you can do better if you sacrifice more and work harder, I can never imagine myself being satisfied with just making it. You always hear about the American dream and reaching for new heights — I wouldn’t have this personality, I think. I wouldn’t be such a fighter, such a life hustler.
You don’t hear about the equivalent in Mexico, “The Mexican Dream.”
There isn’t. I guess the Mexican dream is, you have a little house you can leave for your kid, that you probably built yourself with your parents, siblings and cousins. But here, it’s so different. I’m so proud of my parents for the American dream they’ve accomplished. They have left such an amazing legacy and high standards for us. They came with a baby and a bag of clothes and they’ve accomplished so much, even with their limited legal status. They instilled a work ethic, and stressed that discipline and sacrifice is essential for anything you want. To be willing to always pay that price — so essential for any goal. That’s the Mexican Dream.
When they left, did they know people here?
Yes. They stayed with my mom’s sister for a few months until they had enough money to rent a room. When my mom got pregnant with my brother, we moved to a one bedroom apartment.
Was it common for other aunts and uncles to come to the US?
Yes, but only In the 80s. Just a few of us lived here. My parents are the only homeowners in our entire family. It required extra hard work, extra discipline that many families weren’t willing to do. My parents had a dream, so they agreed on what we were going to have to live without and were willing to do whatever it took. It’s interesting to see that now they’re the only ones among those who came over in the 80’s who are considered “successful”. But so much of what Trump is doing against my community, it’s bringing back a lot of the same anxiety. We’re going to make it. We’ll figure it out as a family the way we always do.
How has your husband been handling it?
He is awesome. Fortunately my husband is a citizen. If both of us were undocumented, it would be double the stress and double the what-ifs. He’s very much like me — very optimistic, positive and he’s also a life hustler. Always finds a way to survive. We’ll find a way and we have faith that God will provide for us as a unit, to help my case and my situation. My husband lets me go through the motions and isn’t judgmental. He doesn’t pretend to understand what I’m feeling, because he’s never experienced my life. HIs patience with me is ridiculous and he’s the most empathetic person I know. He never claims to understand the struggle of being undocumented, though he’s learning what it’s like to be married to a strong undocumented woman!
When you socialize or when he talks to people, I guess he doesn’t talk about your status.
When he thinks of me, he thinks of me the person, so it doesn’t really come up. But folks invited us, for example, on a cruise and I had to explain to them why I couldn’t. We are very honest people and honesty gives opportunities for growth and knowledge. I see it as a way to share my story and help people be grateful for their privilege. There are privileges I have as an undocumented person that I take for granted all the time, like being able-bodied. I don’t mind sharing my story when appropriate. It doesn’t come up as much now, as a couple. In my 20s, I could never order a beer or a glass of wine when I was out with my friends or on a date, but now I have an ID. I never told anyone why until my late 20’s.
Being married has changed a lot about how (politically) active I am. It’s also made it easier to see the priorities. Maybe I should leave all of the rallying and protesting to the younger generation. I feel confident that I served my time. I did that already, in the early years. It’s their turn to take the torch and keep fighting the good fight.
A huge thank you to Lara for sharing her story–this is not the last we’ll hear from her, to be sure. We’d love to hear your comments – you can leave them at this post, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.