A Matter of Life, Death, and the Rule of Law

Somewhere in Northern Mexico, an exhausted nine-year-old girl stumbles. She’s traveling with her maternal grandmother, her legal guardian since her mother died, but they don’t have a paper explaining that, so if they are separated at the border, she will never be reunited with her family. She’s already walked 1,100 miles, but she’s still hundreds of miles away from the U.S. border and finding out what trauma awaits her there.

But the administration isn’t satisfied with baby jails, toddlers separated from parents and forced to appear alone in court, or families who, the administration now says, won’t be sufficiently ID’ed to be reunited for two years. On April 7, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resigned at the request of the Baby-Jailer-in-Chief. Kevin McAleenan, whom Trump tapped for acting Secretary, has a terrible record. As head of Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan defended his agency’s use of tear gas on children and families. He also repeatedly broke the law to implement Trump’s travel ban, and ignored the death of a seven year-old girl in CBP custody in his Congressional testimony. In a broad purge, Trump also forced the resignations of the head of the Secret Service, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS General Counsel, and the DHS undersecretary for management, and withdrew his nominated Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher” direction. It’s hard to imagine what that could even be, in a civilized country.

What to do:

Trump will nominate a replacement DHS Secretary who will need Senate approval. Tell our Senators, NOW: Don’t approve anyone with a history of promoting, tolerating, or overlooking human rights abuses of any kind. We need someone far better than Nielsen — not someone even worse! Senator Kamala Harris was the first Senator to call for Nielsen to resign in a July 2018 statement, and she continues to speak out strongly against the family separation policy, including tweeting on April 8: “The next DHS Secretary must unequivocally denounce this abusive policy. We deserve better.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, however, has only expressed sympathy for the “thankless” task performed by Nielsen and the “hope” that McAleenan will be “able to propose and implement more sensible, humane and bipartisan solutions to the problems we face” — a hope that appears to have no foundation in reality.

What to say:

For Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for speaking out against the family separation policy that former DHS Secretary Nielsen oversaw. I hope that when the nominee for Nielsen’s replacement is in confirmation hearings, Senator Harris will do everything possible to prevent the confirmation of anyone with a history of promoting, tolerating, or overlooking human rights abuses of any kind. We need someone far better than Nielsen — not someone even worse!

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

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m concerned that Senator Feinstein has spoken sympathetically about former DHS Secretary Nielsen and Acting DHS Secretary McAleenan, and hasn’t spoken out about the abuses they have perpetrated. I hope that when the nominee for Nielsen’s replacement is in confirmation hearings, Senator Feinstein will do everything possible to prevent the confirmation of anyone with a history of promoting, tolerating, or overlooking human rights abuses of any kind. We need someone far better than Nielsen — not someone even worse!

More info:

Kirstjen Nielsen presided over implementation of the administration’s April 2018 “zero tolerance policy” to deter migrants, separating families and caging the children to deter others from seeking asylum. She then lied to Congress about it, saying, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Thousands of children have been separated from their parents, and the government has missed several court-imposed deadlines for reuniting families, conceding that it has failed to keep records and claiming that as a result it may take over two years to reunite them—or will never reunite them, in the case of refugees traveling with legal guardians.

After public outcry and a series of adverse court decisions, the zero-tolerance policy was rescinded by executive order, but family separations have continued. Even more troubling, because refugees keep coming, the Scofflaw-in-Chief now wants immigration officials to stop following U.S. statutes and court orders and instead to close the southern borders to asylum—or to close it entirely, to everyone, with the resulting enormous economic disruption. At the border recently, he instructed agents to refuse to follow court orders and to say instead, “sorry, Judge, I can’t do it.” He reportedly fired Nielsen because she opposed his requested actions as counterproductive and against the law and applicable court orders.

The new DHS Secretary must be required to commit to follow — and must actually follow — applicable statutes and court orders, not just the whims of the President. By the time she reaches our borders, it would be good if the nine-year-old Guatemalan girl still found a country with the rule of law.

Photograph: “Women Disobey protest against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy separating children and families at the US/Mexico border,” copyright Sarahmirk

Tell our MoCs: no raiding the budget for wall funding

Our Members of Congress have been consistent opponents of Trump’s efforts to increase militarization of our country’s southern border. But on February 14, all of them other than Senator Kamala Harris voted for H.J. Res. 31, providing $1.375 billion for border “fencing,” rejecting Democrats’ demands to limits on funding for immigrant detention funding for ICE, and – perhaps most dangerously – setting no bounds on Trump’s ability to take funds granted to the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Army Corps of Engineers, and use those funds instead to build his border wall.

Please thank Senator Harris and put the others on notice that now that we’ve won the House, control of immigration detention funding is not something to compromise on. Read on for more info; call scripts and contact info below.

We get it – no one wanted to be responsible for another government shutdown. But as we said in our action blog post last week, the threat of shutting down the government if H.J.Res. 31 failed was a false choice, and our MoCs should not have caved to the administration’s bullying. And we can of course hope for the best but we are sincerely disappointed if any of our MoCs who voted for this plan actually believe that this administration will “ensure … the humane treatment of immigrants.”

We are thankful this is the first time since ICE was created In 2002 that a new spending bill didn’t increase its funding and that “the deal” only affects Customs and Border Patrol funding at ports of entry. But we are done settling for stopping things from getting worse. We elected a Democratic House of Representatives to make things better and going forward we expect our representatives not just to rein in, but also to cut spending on harmful immigration enforcement.

The semi-good news is that there’s always something down the road, and in this case it’s a short road. In less than three weeks, the president’s Office of Management and Budget will release the president’s budget. We expect plenty of horrible funding requests on all sorts of issues, including requests for yet more “border security” and yet more detention funding. We want our MoCs to reject these, and we want them to go further – we want them to revoke “reprogramming and transfer authority” for all agencies that Trump is commandeering for this war on immigrants and asylum seekers. Specifically, we want our MoCs to vote to prohibit Trump from taking money allocated to the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, or any other agencies, and using it for his wall and inhumane immigration policies. Congress must seriously examine why there is so much slop in the system that these agencies can have billions – in some cases over $6 billion – that can be reprogrammed and transferred, in defiance of Congressional appropriations authority.

What you can do: Contact your Members of Congress

For Sen. Kamala Harris (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for voting against H.J.Res. 31. I’m very disappointed that so many Democrats agreed to a spending deal that didn’t cut funding for detention beds and didn’t limit DHS’s ability to use money Congress designated for other purposes as a slush fund for its harmful immigration enforcement policies. I hope Senator Harris stands firm and works to make sure that next year’s bill does both those things.

For Sen. Feinstein and all three Reps:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m very disappointed that the Democrats agreed to a spending deal that didn’t cut funding for detention beds and didn’t limit DHS’s ability to use money Congress designated for other purposes as a slush fund for its harmful immigration enforcement policies. I want ______ to work to ensure that next year’s bill does both those things.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  •  Rep. Eric Swalwell: (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Clap back at the wall

Deadline: February 15, 2019 and keep going – Clap if you can hear me, and tell our Members of Congress to keep it up: No wall, no use of military funds for the wall, no further immigrant detention and border militarization, no bargaining to keep the government open.

Leader Dearest talked and talked and the message was: if you aren’t nice to me about the Wall and immigration, I’m gonna keep on tantrumming. Yeah, nope. We want our Members of Congress to keep right on standing up to him: no funding for the wall, no militarizing the border or jailing more immigrants. No more separating families.

What to do:

Please thank our senators for their votes against the wall, and ask them to continue to vote against all additional funding for ICE, CBP, or wall construction; stronger accountability for DHS; and restricting the administration’s ability to use its transfer and reprogramming authority to treat DHS funding as a slush fund to increase detention programs and invest in ineffective and inhumane policies.

On the front lines, Representative Barbara Lee is on the bipartisan committee that is in charge of writing the Dept. of Homeland Security bill to avert another shutdown. The committee has a deadline of February 15. And Senator Kamala Harris is one of the original cosponsors of a new bill, the ‘‘Restrictions Against Illegitimate Declarations for Emergency Re-appropriations Act of 2019’’ (‘‘RAIDER Act of 2019’’), which would block the administration from using military funds to build the wall without Congressional authorization.

What to say:

To Senator Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for opposing funding for the border wall and for cosponsoring the RAIDER Act of 2019. I hope she’ll continue to oppose all additional funding for ICE, CBP, wall construction, or any form of border militarization.

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

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein for opposing funding for the border wall. I hope she’ll continue to oppose all additional funding for ICE, CBP, wall construction, or any form of border militarization.

To Rep. Lee (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. Lee for opposing funding for the border wall. I’m asking her to continue to vote against all additional funding for ICE, CBP, or wall construction. I hope she’ll also support stronger accountability for DHS. And we need to keep the administration from using its transfer and reprogramming authority as a way to treat DHS as a slush fund to increase inhumane detention programs. And I hope she will do everything possible on the bipartisan committee to keep the government open without giving into the administration’s demands for this kind of funding.

Tell our MoCs: No more funding for ICE/CBP or the Wall

Deadline: today and every day – Like the spoiled kid who says he’ll take his toys and break up the game, the Current Occupant is threatening to shut down the government unless Congress agrees to his demands: $5 billion to pay for his wall and for more inhumane enforcement and detention at the border. This on the heels of tear-gassing kids and calling their parents “baby-grabbers.”

So far, the current House of Representatives is saying OK, but the Senate is saying NO. The Senate should, pardon the expression, stick to its guns. They can insist on a budget with no new funding for the wall or for enforcement; or, alternatively, support a Continuing Resolution, which would basically authorize just enough funding to keep the government going until the next Congress takes office.

And both the Senate and the House have the ability and responsibility to exercise oversight authority over the actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, on December 11, at 11 AM Eastern time, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary – on which both Senators Feinstein and Harris sit – will hold a hearing on “Oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” You can watch on CSPAN or here.

What you can do:

Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris:

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. Please do everything you can to keep funding for ICE and CBP in check – fight for a budget with no new funding for the wall and border enforcement, or support a Continuing Resolution. And please be extra rigorous and thorough in your questioning in the upcoming Judiciary Committee hearing on Oversight of US Customs and Border Protection.

Contact info:

  • 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

 

Tell Representatives DeSaulnier, Lee, and Swalwell that you want them to limit funding, and to call for investigations into the administration’s inhumane immigration policies, including turning away refugees, tear gassing, and family separation.

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 asylum seekers, from family separation to family gassing at the border. Thank you for speaking out, and please do all you can to investigate, conduct rigorous oversight, and limit funding for the administration’s inhumane immigration policies.

NOTE: You can add on the following for each of the East Bay’s Representatives:

  • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Swalwell, ask him to use his position on the House Judiciary Committee to do all he can, including oversight of ICE and CBP; and thank him for saying that despite threats of a government shutdown, he would never vote to fund the wall. Read our article.
  • If you’re a constituent of Rep. DeSaulnier, ask him to use his position on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to do all he can, including oversight of ICE and CBP.
  • If you’re a constituent of Barbara Lee, thank her for publicly calling out Trump’s “childish and unacceptable” threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t get funding for the wall – and her pledge not to support it.

Contact info:

  • 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

Read our related article for more information.

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.

 

 

 

Briefing memo for meeting with Sen. Harris, Nov. 2018

On November 30, 2018, a delegation from Indivisible East Bay visited with Senator Kamala Harris’s staffers Julie Chavez Rodrigues and Daniel Chen. As we do before all our visits with our Senators, we prepared a briefing letter on all the issues we wanted to discuss, including extensive background research. This meeting concerned the following topics:

  • Asylum seekers
  • ICE/CBP abuses and DHS appropriations
  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Climate change, including carbon pricing
  • Poverty reduction
  • Abuses of the intelligence agencies
  • Cabinet order
  • Digital privacy
  • Criminal justice reform and the First Step Act
  • Judicial nominations
  • Campaign finance reform
  • New blue house
  • Town hall

You can read the entire memo here.

 

Families Belong Together Rally 6/14/18

On June 14, more than 200 people from all corners of the Bay Area streamed to El Cerrito to protest the administration’s inhumane policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border.

Families Belong Together 061418
DE-FUND ICE

Filling all corners of the large intersection, we chanted, sang, and cheered for the clenched fists raised in solidarity and supportive honks from the constant stream of cars.

Families Belong Together

Organizers provided background information and ways to take further action, and got more than 150 signatures on a petition to deliver to our Members of Congress, asking them to go to the border and find out the facts.

Families Belong Together 061418
More demonstrations are planned.  Nationwide, find and/or organize a event. If you’re in the Bay Area, check that list (events are added frequently) and follow the Indivisible East Bay and El Cerrito Shows Up facebook pages. Also, see our articles for actions you can take, including how to pressure our Members of Congress and other ways to help.

Photographs by Heidi Rand