Tell Big Business: No Cruelty for Profit!

By Alice Towey

It’s no secret that conditions at border detention facilities are dangerous and inhumane. Reports detail overcrowding, degrading treatment, and lack of access to food, sanitation, and medical treatment. The situation is even more dire for children who are separated from their families, locked in cages, and left without proper care. Denied basic essentials like soap and toothbrushes, these children are at risk of severe health issues, and may suffer lasting trauma as a result of their imprisonment. 

The conditions are shocking, but some CEOs can’t see past the chance to make a buck. Numerous companies have shown themselves willing to profit from human misery, continuing to do business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in spite of the human rights violations. 

Fortunately, not everyone at these companies is willing to look the other way, and hundreds of employees have shown their moral courage by standing up for what’s right. On June 26, 2019, hundreds of employees of home furnishings company Wayfair staged a walkout to protest the company’s contract to furnish a youth detention center in Texas. Similarly, last year over 600 Salesforce employees signed a letter asking their CEO to “re-examine” the company’s contracts with CBP. 

It’s time for us to stand up as well, to tell the leadership of these companies that we see them and we will hold them accountable. Make no mistake – we want immigrant children to have beds, but we want them to have beds that aren’t in a cage. The end goal is to close the camps and release people who are exercising their basic human right (protected by international law) to seek asylum. Help apply pressure by letting these companies know that you’re watching and that you won’t tolerate their complicity in human rights abuses.

What to do:

Contact the companies doing business with ICE and CBP. Here are a sample message and below that, contacts for several corporations that have active contracts with ICE and CBP. Please email them to ask them to stop profiting from human misery. 

What to say: 

Please use as these message points but rewrite them, choose among them, reorder them to create your own message. Most companies discount or even disregard numerous emails that come in with the same or overly similar language.

If you email, be sure to include your name and your city and state.

  • I’m writing to ask that your company take immediate action to show its support for basic human rights. 
  • I understand that [COMPANY NAME] has active contracts with ICE and/or CBP, the two federal agencies involved in separating children from their families, terrorizing immigrant communities, and detaining people in inhumane conditions on the southern border. 
  • If your company has any involvement in enabling the US government to pursue a racist, inhumane policy to separate children from their parents and house them in what amount to cages and internment camps, I implore you to stop that involvement right now. 
  • At this moment in US history, we cannot rely on our elected representatives to do the right thing. 
  • Be a leader, take the moral high ground and lead the way. 
  • Don’t put profits over morality.
  • Please be on the right side of history and end your company’s involvement in these horrifying practices. 

Who’s making a buck off human misery:

Wayfair: In spite of the walkout mentioned above, Wayfair management insists it will fulfill a $200,000 order from BCFS, a government contractor that manages detention centers. 

Microsoft: ICE uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform for handling data. Microsoft had a $19.4 million contract with ICE as of 2018. 

Deloitte: $103 million in contracts with ICE, including $4 million which directly involve “detention compliance and removals.” 

Salesforce: CEO Marc Benioff apparently “struggled” with the decision to keep a contract with CBP, but keep it he did

General Dynamics: General Dynamics contracts with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. In fiscal year 2017, General Dynamics had $15 billion in government contracts and had faced $280.3 million penalties for 23 misconduct cases since 1995. 

More ways you can help!

Want to do more? This July 3, 2019 Sludge article lists dozens of nonprofit shelters and some companies that are profiting from detaining and transporting migrant children – contact them as well.

Alice Towey is a Civil Engineer specializing in water resource management. She lives in El Cerrito, where she and her husband are active in Indivisible CA-11 United.

Photograph © Office of Inspector General Report July 2, 2019 “Management Alert – DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley (Redacted)”

Next Stop Hunger Games?

Deadline: yes, right now – How many things are wrong with this picture? The administration continues to detain migrants and refuse to let them apply for asylum; takes children away from their parents and leaves them in vans in a Texas parking lot for nearly two days; allows the border patrol to confiscate migrant kids’ medicine; and now says there are so many kids in detention it can’t afford to take care of them, so it’s going to cut back on – or just completely cutactivities for unaccompanied children “that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.” That includes things most humane people consider necessary, like legal aid, and others you could make a good case for, like English classes and recreation. Presumably the plan now is to let the kids sit in cages (or vans?) until it’s time for them to go by themselves to court, where they can’t speak or understand the language. Or maybe we’re headed straight for the Hunger Games?

To quote Rep. Barbara Lee:

By defunding English classes and legal aid, this administration is depriving child migrants of tools that are critical for navigating their asylum cases. But cutting recreation on top of that? This is cruelty for cruelty’s sake.

Rep. DeSaulnier has also criticized the administration’s heartless treatment of the children in U.S. custody; and Senator Feinstein has introduced a bill, which Sen. Harris has cosponsored, to protect immigrant children.


What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress NOW and tell them to scream bloody murder about this inhumane treatment of small, defenseless human beings, and to continue to do everything they can as legislators to protect all those crossing our borders.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want ____ to do everything in his/her power to keep this administration from spending my money to militarize the border, separate families, and treat migrants in custody inhumanely. The decision to cut services for unaccompanied minors is just the latest outrage. This needs to stop.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

“Abandoned soccer ball at refugee camp”, photo by Max Pixel

Speak up for immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018, or write a letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security (must be postmarked by November 6, 2018).

In September we alerted you to new horrific steps the administration is taking to unfairly treat immigrant families. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed a rule that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit families to be detained in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so speak up and act now!

What you can do:

Use the suggested talking points below, and feel free to add your own thoughts, to either leave an online comment (option 1), or write and mail a letter (option 2):

  • Option 1: Click on this link to leave an online comment about Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.
    • You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov and include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line.
  • Option 2: Write and mail a letter to:
    • Debbie Seguin, Assistant Director, Office of Policy,
      U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
      500 12th Street SW
      Washington, DC 20536

Mix & match from these suggested talking points to include in your comment or letter, and feel free to use your own words and add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Also! A great idea suggested by Families Belong Together — hold a letter-writing party and get your friends to write together. Email info@familiesbelong.org for more information, or see the resources in FBT’s toolkit here.

If you missed our original article, here’s more background: The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants. Our September 12 article, when we first asked you to comment, is here.

Families Belong Together graphic by Instagram user @desdemona1

Help stop the jailing of immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018. Or copy the link into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas and Georgia, we learn that the administration has been stealing FEMA money to spend on jailing and deporting immigrants. Here’s another part of the unnatural disaster that is the administration’s immigration policy: a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit the administration to detain families in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so read up and act now!

The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Please speak up NOW. Leave a comment at this link (do not comment on this article, please click on the link, or type this into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 ) for Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children. You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov (include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line).

Mix & match from these suggested points to include in your comment, and feel free to add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants.

March For Our Lives & Other Events Against Gun Violence

There are numerous events against gun violence on different dates in different locations. We will add to and edit this list as we learn of new events and/or updates.

March 14: School Walkouts:

Schools and students nationwide will participate in a 17-minute walkout on March 14 at 10 AM (local time), to honor the 17 people killed on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and to protest gun violence. KRON-4 News has put together this comprehensive list of all the participating schools in the entire Bay Area. Some school districts, including Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont, have issued district-wide policies stating that they will be working with students on various events and activities for that day. Note: IEB is not encouraging students to do anything that could endanger their academic careers, and we don’t know whether specific schools will mark students absent, etc., or whether parental notification will affect the school’s handling of individual cases.

March 24: March For Our Lives

Student organizers and Everytown for Gun Safety are organizing March for Our Lives events on March 24 in locations around the country and around the world, aided by celebrity support and donations. This is the weekend event that families can go to together and kids and teens can attend without missing school. Bay Area locations include:

  • Oakland: 10 AM-1 PM, Frank Ogawa Plaza. Register here. The March is looking for volunteers; email OaklandMarch@gmail.com.
  • Richmond: 11 AM, Downtown Richmond, 1300 Nevin Ave
  • San Leandro: 9-11:30 AM. Gather at Washington Elementary, San Leandro at 9 AM to make signs; march begins at 9:45 AM; rally begins at 10:15 AM with speakers and activities (postcard making, letter writing, and refreshments). This event is suitable for families with young children.
  • Walnut Creek: 11 AM, location downtown Walnut Creek TBD
  • San Francisco: 1 PM, Civic Center Plaza. Interested in volunteering? Reach out here.
  • Search for an event near you here.

April 20: The Anniversary of Columbine

The two students who massacred their fellow students and several teachers at their high school in Columbine, Colorado on April 20, 1999 used explosives and other weapons of mass destruction as well as guns, but Columbine is generally recognized as the mass school shooting that began the modern plague that our nation has suffered from unremittingly in the nearly two decades since. In those days before live internet news, people watched and listened in horror as radio and TV reported what was previously unimaginable. Now, a student who lives near Sandy Hook, site of another previously unimaginable school shooting, has originated a call to mark the date: Friday, April 20 will see school walkouts throughout the country. We’ll list Bay Area events as we learn of them.

Graphic: #MarchForOurLives

Congress: Renew CHIP Funding

Poor overworked GOP Congress, so busy trying to steal our health care and criminalizing 20-week abortions that it couldn’t find one little minute to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.CHIP funding mapCHIP, a federal-state partnership, provides federal funds to cover low-cost health insurance for nearly 9 million uninsured children from low to modest-income families. If Congress doesn’t act, states will have to make tough decisions about their CHIP programs.

Please call your MoCs today! What to say:

My name is _____, I’m a constituent from [zip code]. Please support a bipartisan reauthorization of the CHIP program, and pass a clean reauthorization bill without policy riders that could delay the bill’s passage.”

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

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065