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

AB 3115, Voter Education in Jails: Update

Action needed by Monday, June 25!

Voter education is just as important as voter registration. We previously discussed and urged support for AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), and now this important bill is headed for a vote in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, June 26. Please call Senator Nancy Skinner, committee Chair (and your state senator if you live in Senate District 9), by Monday, June 25: (510) 286-1333 or (916) 651-4009.

What to say:

My name is ______. My zip code is _____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Senator Skinner to vote YES on AB 3115. We should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. AB 3115 is an important bill and I ask Senator Skinner to vote YES.

Other committee members, for constituents in other parts of the state:

Contact Your Elected Representatives!

FEDERAL:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104

 

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

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

***************************************************************

STATE:

http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Governor Edmund G. Brown: (email); (916) 445-2841c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 953-5335 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]

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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IEB goes to Washington

Indivisible East Bay usually meets with our Washington representatives when they visit the Bay Area. But from June 4-6, 2018, IEB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for a succession of get-togethers with California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris as well as several of their key staffers. It was an opportunity for face-to-face interactions at a high-level — and IEB made the most of it.

Senator Feinstein visit to DC

One highlight of the trip was a constituent breakfast with Senator Feinstein. For her opening remarks, Feinstein mainly spoke about her recently-introduced legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families, as well as her plans to address the problems of homelessness and climate change. Since it was the morning after the primary, she thanked those who voted for her and said she hoped to win over the rest.

During the Q&A that followed, we noted that the Senator is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked what we could do to help fix the broken process for the confirmation of judges, and especially to protect the federal judiciary from the too-often extremist nominees put forward by Republicans. Her answer was simple but will be difficult to accomplish: Take back the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris in DC

We also heard Senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak at a rally jointly organized by the NAACP and Demand Justice (a new organization focusing on judicial nominations). IEB’s Judiciary team recently started working with Demand Justice to attempt to block the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime judgeship on the district court in North Carolina. Farr has a decades-long history of involvement in voter suppression of North Carolina’s African-American population.

Finally, we had several days of meetings with six members of Feinstein’s and Harris’s staffs. At each meeting, we raised our concerns on specific issues, listened to their replies, and offered our responses. Here are the highlights:

Senator Feinstein Chief of Staff Steve Haro and Appropriations Legislative Aide Josh Esquivel

Our highest level meeting was with Senator Feinstein’s chief of staff Steve Haro and Josh Esquivel, her appropriations legislative aide.

The opening topic was nuclear bombs, notably the House’s recently passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision for $65 million to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon to be launched from submarines. Feinstein is on record as strongly opposing this and other efforts to expand the nuclear stockpile and plans to offer an amendment to remove such provisions from the Senate bill. However, Josh would not promise that Feinstein would vote NO on the full NDAA if, despite her efforts, the nuclear authorizations remain in the bill.

We next discussed aspects of the Homeland Security Authorization Bill, which currently has bipartisan support in the Senate. We asked about the increased budget authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) included in the bill. In our view, both of these agencies have abused their power and defied Congressional oversight; we thus asked that Senator Feinstein vote against additional funding for those agencies. Steve and Josh both expressed some surprise that funding for these agencies was included in the bill; they were under the impression that the bill was mostly about other aspects of the Department, such as disaster preparedness and election security.

We also requested a status update regarding funding for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Josh told us that there is still “plenty of money” left from the last relief funding bill Congress passed. Why then, we asked, does the situation in Puerto Rico remain so dire? He replied that the administration is not doing a good job using the available money to get resources to the people who need it.

We told him that we would like to see Congressional staff get raises. Legislative branch funding is very skimpy and one of the reasons for this is that Congressional Republicans have, since the 1990’s, cut funds for the legislative branch in an apparent bid to increase lobbyists’ relative power and influence. We would like to see that trend reversed in upcoming federal budgets.

Lastly, we discussed sexual harassment and staff well-being policies in Congressional offices. On the subject of harassment, Steve said that the Senator has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy. Staffers are asked to report any incidents directly to him or the Senator. In either case, a report immediately triggers an investigation, headed by Steve. If any harassment is determined to have occurred, the consequences are very serious and even a first offense can result in termination.

Feinstein judicial nominations counsel Gabe Kader

In our meeting with Gabe Kader, one of Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee counsels, we returned to the subject of nominations to the federal bench. Gabe was very interested to hear about our work in this area, especially about which issues in the nominees’ backgrounds resonated most with our members and friends: reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, conflicts of interest, etc.

While we affirmed our support for Feinstein’s goal of Democrats taking back the Senate — as the ultimate solution here — we told him that, in the interim, Feinstein should use her leadership to convince all Congressional Democrats to stand together in opposing unqualified and ultra-conservative nominees put forward by the GOP.

Gabe replied that the Senator is concerned that pushing back too hard could give Senator Grassley and the rest of the Republicans an excuse to abandon the vetting and bipartisan process entirely. We questioned how much that would differ from what the GOP is already doing.

Feinstein immigration counsel Olga Medina

Our last meeting with a Feinstein staffer was with Olga Medina, an immigration counsel. We went over the details of Senator Feinstein’s new legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border. Her Keep Families Together Act would prohibit agencies from separating children from their parents unless a state court, an “official from the State or county child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and  development,” or the Chief Patrol Agent or the Area Port Director “in their official and undelegated capacity” determines that a separation is in the best interests of the child.  It also explicitly states that families can’t be separated as a deterrent. A variety of other provisions (such as keeping siblings together) are designed to protect families in those rare cases when a separation does occur.

Senator Harris legislative science fellow Ike Irby

We had two meetings with representatives of Senator Harris. The first was with legislative science fellow Ike Irby. The focus was on the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and how we can learn from our failures there. Ike told us that the Senator is working on legislation to put standards in place for how states and territories calculate death rates from natural disasters. We also discussed climate change, both specifically in terms of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure and, more generally, about federal carbon pricing. It sounded as if Senator Harris, similar to many of our local representatives, isn’t quite ready to put her weight behind any particular carbon pricing plan, but is generally supportive and waiting to see which way the wind blows.

Harris Legislative Aide Elizabeth Hira

Our meeting with Elizabeth Hira, one of Senator Harris’ staffers, focused on the judiciary and criminal justice. As in our meeting with Gabe Kader, Elizabeth was very interested to hear which issues in the judicial nominees’ backgrounds most resonated with the resistance.

We also discussed criminal justice bills that Senator Harris supports, most notably the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. We expressed concerns that these bills don’t sufficiently guard against the possibility that the software used for determining recidivism risk and thus sentencing could unintentionally perpetuate racial biases. As such, we want to see provisions to properly review such software and to allow people to appeal decisions made by software. We suggested a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “algorithmic bias”, with expert testimony from researchers in the field, and Elizabeth asked us to write up a short proposal for such a hearing, indicating she would follow up on this matter.

Top photo: IEB members with Emma Mehrabi, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

Memos:

State Legislature Vote-a-rama

Indivisible East Bay supported several California Assembly and Senate bills pending in the June 2018 session. The legislature has voted, and here are the results:

Law Enforcement:

  • AB 3131 Law enforcement agencies, military equipment, funding, acquisition, and use: passed Assembly. See our articles here and here for more info
  • SB 1421 Peace officers, release of records: passed Senate. See our article for more info

Voting & Elections:

Other:

Want to work on state issues and legislation with the Indivisible East Bay state issues team? Email info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #ca_state_issues channel on IEB Slack.

The California Legislative Process Demystified, graphic © Indivisible California StateStrong

 

Update on IEB endorsements

It may be several weeks before final results of the June 5, 2018 California primary election are reported, but here are the day-after results in local races that Indivisible East Bay supported or endorsed.

Contra Costa County District Attorney: Indivisible East Bay and the IEB CA-11 team endorsed interim DA Diana Becton. With the in-person votes counted, Becton garnered the greatest percentage of the votes — besting Paul Graves 49.59% to 42.06%. In order to clinch the race and avoid a runoff in November, one of the candidates would have to win 50% plus one; at this time Becton falls short of that number by .04. However, the East Bay Times reports that election officials state there are about 70,000 mail-in votes and 10,000 provisional ballots yet uncounted. Should there be a runoff in November, IEB will continue to work hard for Becton. Can you help? Email info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #moc_team_ca11 team on Slack.

Contra Costa Sheriff: Although incumbent David Livingston ran unopposed, IEB and the CA-11 team found him so unacceptable that we recommended writing in “no confidence” rather than leaving the ballot blank for this office. At this time the County reports that 1.76% of voters chose a write-in option, with Livingston capturing the remaining 98% of the votes. We’re disappointed but not surprised. The CA 11 team, in coalition with other groups, is considering mounting a recall effort and will renew efforts to locate a candidate to run against Livingston next time around. Want to help? Email info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #moc_team_ca11 channel on Slack.

U.S. House of Representatives: IEB also endorsed incumbent Congresspeople Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Eric Swalwell (CA-15), all of whom won easily. Although all garnered way more than 50% of the vote (with Lee running unopposed!), they must all run again in the general election we expect them to win easily again in November.

Oakland Measure D: IEB strongly supported this bond measure supporting Oakland’s libraries, which garnered more than the required 2/3 vote despite low voter turnout. Thanks to all who came out in support of library love, we love you back!

Speaking of voter turnout: always poor in midterm elections, turnout was shamefully bad, at only 19% in Alameda County and 20% in Contra Costa — although those numbers will increase when remaining ballots are counted. But we must do better! And we also need to work to make sure that our election processes are fair — there were significant problems in some precincts. IEB observers reported that paper ballots at some Contra Costa precincts ran out well before closing time and people were told to vote provisionally on their sample ballots! We invite you to work with us on IEB’s Voting Issues Team– contact info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #voting-issues channel on Slack.

 

Feinstein’s State Director responds to concerns about Alzheimer’s care

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd, is no stranger to Indivisible East Bay. Far from it: he regularly meets with small groups of IEB members to listen and respond as we go over our priorities for action. And he doesn’t stop there: he also generously makes time to meet with the public at events that we periodically organize. One of the best parts of these public meetings is that we get to hear questions (and Sean’s answers!) from people outside our typical cadre of members — which often brings new issues to the conversation.

For example, at our latest public meeting on May 24 at the IBEW Union Hall in Dublin, we were joined by a group asking Sen. Feinstein to co-sponsor the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act — a bipartisan bill to fund Alzheimer’s care, education, and study. The parents of a daughter with early-onset Alzheimer’s described their struggle and told Sean that the bill could have helped them personally by putting in place infrastructure that could have helped them identify their daughter’s disease sooner and pursue more effective treatment.

Both Sean and IEB were very moved by their story. Sean said that he would take the bill to the senator and get a response “right away.” IEB plans to research it, and will likely ask all of our members of Congress to show their support (Rep. Swalwell already has). While this topic is a little outside our usual focus, it certainly fits within our goal of “health care for all.”

The other main topic covered at the meeting was communication. We went over the best ways to reach the senator — noting that emails, calls, faxes, and letters are all currently weighted equally in her call sheet reports. We also discussed the senator’s much-expanded Twitter presence. We voiced our appreciation that she uses the platform to speak out about the issues, but one member suggested that she include more calls to action.

Finally, we talked about recommended news sources. Sean recommended subscribing to TheWashington Post’s Daily 202 e-newsletter for a briefing on the top political stories (including Twitter highlights) and to the very impressive The Rough & Tumble website for a daily roundup of California political news. Sen. Feinstein subscribes to The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Her staff also regularly provides her with packets of relevant articles from numerous other papers. Sean claimed that the first things she reads each day are the Letters to the Editor. A word to the wise: Write letters to your local paper expressing your political views; you never know who might wind up reading them or what effect they might ultimately have!