Immigration Roundtable with Rep. Swalwell

On July 8, Andrea Lum and LeAnn Kanowsky of Indivisible East Bay attended CA-15 Representative Eric Swalwell’s roundtable discussion on the situation at our border and immigration detention centers. Eden United Church of Christ hosted the event, and representatives from Indivisible Livermore, Tiburcio Vazquez Health Center, other religious organizations, and legal aid agencies who provide services to immigrants were invited to participate in the hour-long discussion. Swalwell’s goal was to share his recent experience visiting the detention centers, discuss how we can help those in need, and collect information to support legislation in Congress to improve treatment of those crossing the border and seeking asylum.

During Swalwell’s recent visit with several other members of Congress to Homestead detention center in Florida, officials refused to open, let alone distribute, boxes of donated soap and toothbrushes. He noted that no one from the delegation visit was allowed to enter the detention center, as the officials at Homestead cited a need for two weeks’ advance notice.

The legal aid advocates at the meeting confirmed that the situation at the border and at the detention centers is “chaotic” and that the attitude by the current administration has encouraged bad behavior by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Once detainees have established “credible fear” with CBP, the interview is supposed to end and ICE should be involved. However, the legal advocates stated that immigrants often report CBP continuing to probe for information, creating a hostile environment. In addition, indigenous immigrants who do not speak Spanish (such as Maya people from Guatemala and Honduras), are severely disadvantaged by a lack of translators and unaware of the need to assert fear as the first process of seeking asylum.

Swalwell said the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, will soon hold hearings on how to hold ICE and CBP officials accountable for the inhumane and criminal treatment of those in custody and stated that going forward, the next administration may need to completely remake ICE in order to clean up the “poisoned pool” of its employees.

When asked what we could do to help, Swalwell said that the upcoming Lights for Liberty events are important for boosting awareness. The following organizations are also worthy of support:

  • Immigrant Family Defense Fund: Legal and community resources for families in Alameda County public schools
  • The Florence Project: AZ legal service provider for adults and children
  • Keep Tuscon Together: AZ project that assists community members being deported
  • County Rapid Response Networks need our support, and we need to encourage our County Supervisors to commit to providing long term funding to these organizations.

At the conclusion of the meeting, we met an immigrant mother and her three children who are awaiting arrival of their father who is still in custody even though he won his asylum case. The administration is detaining him pending appeal, in spite of federal regulations which prohibit this.

Photograph (top) (c) Rep. Swalwell’s office, from December 2018 Town Hall

Hugs, not tear gas!

Outraged by the administration’s inhumane and illegal treatment of refugees seeking asylum at our southern border, the East Bay turned out in force on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at several hastily-planned protests called by the national group Families Belong Together.  

Governance Committee member and CA-11 team lead Ted Lam reports on the noon rally in El Cerrito:

Thirty people, including families with children, gathered at a busy intersection at El Cerrito Plaza at the Stop the Tears protest organized by El Cerrito Progressives’ Sherry Drobner. People held signs – including forming a human billboard spelling out STOP T-H-E-T-E-A-R-S – and enthusiastically chanted “Let them Pass, No Tear Gas” and “Refugees families under attack, This is illegal, Stand up and fight back!”

Stop the Tears protest in El Cerrito, photo by Ted Lam
Stop the Tears protest in El Cerrito, photo by Ted Lam

The pedestrians and motorists streaming by were very supportive, with many honking  in approval. The one-hour event passed too quickly but we felt good at speaking out loud and clear against the administration’s inhumane actions. 

Governance Committee member and volunteer team lead Andrea Lum reports on the San Leandro protest, which she organized with GC member and IEB treasurer Gina Clinton:

Stop the Tears protest in San Leandro
Stop the Tears protest in San Leandro

The day started off rainy and stormy but ended in cheers, honks and waves at our small but mighty protest on the corner of Memorial Park in San Leandro, As the sun came out, our trio was joined by a mother and son, and another person outraged by the tear gassing of families at the border. Seven people on a rainy Saturday – we call that a win!

Didn’t make it to a protest? There’s still much you can do to help fight. See our article with information, a call script, and contact info to make sure that your elected representatives speak out and do all they can.

 

 

 

Tears at the border

Deadline: today and every day –

On Sunday November 25, Customs and Border Protection officers shot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into Mexico at refugees approaching the country’s busiest border crossing, which the United States had closed that day. This was a shocking, excessive and unjustified response. Asking for refugee status is not a crime and should not be treated as such.

It’s clear 45 set up the chaos and threw the match. He sent an unprecedented and unnecessary number of troops to the border to defend against unarmed civilians seeking asylum, escalated his inflammatory anti-immigrant and racist tweets, and illegally forced the migrants to remain in Mexico under dangerous conditions, all while their claims were processed at a deliberately slow pace.

Asylum seekers must be permitted to apply for asylum, and must be protected from the atrocities they flee, not be subjected to further brutality and violation of their human and legal rights. Immigration officials, including from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, continue to perpetrate a growing list of atrocities – from family separation and detention of children to family gassing (which the Mad Hatter in the White House unbelievably called “very safe,” blaming the shameful incident on “…parent[s] running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming…” and speculating that the parents might actually be child-stealing “grabbers” … )

What you can do:

We may be miles away but you can help fight this administration’s barbaric and illegal actions.

Make sure your elected representatives speak out:

Our Members of Congress are standing up! Senator Feinstein issued a statement condemning the administration’s actions, and Senator Harris and East Bay Representatives DeSaulnier, Lee, and Swalwell, have also spoken out publicly.

What you can do now: Make sure your MoCs keep speaking out. Call them frequently: it’s the best way to let them know how important this is to you. What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m horrified by the growing list of atrocities by immigration officials against refugees, from family separation to family gassing at the border. Thank you for speaking out, and please do all you can to keep funding for ICE and CBP in check, ensure their compliance with inspections, and conduct rigorous oversight.

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

Hit the streets:

Families Belong Together has called for nationwide protests on Saturday and Sunday, December 1-2. There are several events in the Bay Area at varying times, including in the East Bay:

  • Sat. Dec. 1, 9:30 AM: Oakland, Fruitvale Station (near BART entrance), 3401 E 12th St.
  • Sat. Dec. 1, 10 AM: San Leandro, Memorial Park, 1105 Bancroft Ave.
  • Sat. Dec. 1, 12 PM: El Cerrito, El Cerrito Plaza, 7000 San Pablo Ave.

Enter your zip code at this link to find one near you, then click on the link beneath any of the listed events for further details and to RSVP. And stay tuned for further protests.