Defunding Hate: What’s the Budget Got to do with it?

By Linh Nguyen and Ann G. Daniels

Deadline: Now, the budget bill is coming up fast –

This is where the rubber meets the road: the rubber erasers, and the mechanical pencils, and if you’ve got those wacky green eyeshades you can pull them out too. We’re gonna get nerdy and talk about how things really work in DC: how the budget process, and the way this administration has been screwing around with it, has been funding the racist immigration policies we’ve been fighting for the past three plus years. 

First, a look at why the budget process is so hugely important to this administration in making its anti-immigrant dreams come true. A brief glance at some of the lowlights shows something truly remarkable – they didn’t require any new legislation:

The Democratic House has passed a lot of good bills this year, but the Republican-controlled Senate hasn’t taken any of the significant ones up for so much as a debate – except for spending bills. Funding the government through the budget is mandatory; spending bills come up every year, and if the Senate ignores them the government shuts down, as we saw last winter. 

A few quick points about the appropriations process:

In any situation, where we choose to spend our money is hugely important and says a lot about our values. In our current situation, where other ways of lawmaking are cut off, lawmakers are forced to legislate by placing restrictions on how money may be spent. Unfortunately, Congress has so far largely declined to put in the effort to make those restrictions stick.

Now, let’s get into the weeds a bit.

The administration has abused budgetary authority to achieve their racist goals using three principal tactics: overspending, use of reprogramming authority, and failure to cooperate with Congressional oversight. The table below shows how they’ve used each of these:

Abuse of authorities


The following graph shows just one example of how ICE has overspent. ICE ratcheted up its funding twice per fiscal year – once in the final funding bill, when Congress invariably bailed ICE out for its overspending in the first part of the year, and then again by moving additional money into its account through transfers and reprogramming. ICE has consistently been funded to detain an average of 40,500 people per day, but has detained significantly more, peaking at 48,019 individuals in detention in early January 2019 in the midst of the government shutdown.

Overspending on detention beds

 

Immigration detention timeline
Immigrant detention funding fight timeline


Where we are now:
In September 2019, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), a temporary measure to keep the government funded and operating for a limited period of time – in this case, until November 21. The good news: it didn’t fund the racist border wall, and it didn’t increase funding for immigration detention beds. The bad news: it didn’t do anything to keep the administration from stealing money from military families and disaster relief and using it for anti-immigrant purposes, which it’s been doing through its reprogramming authority – allowing money funded for one purpose to be used for another purpose within the Department of Homeland Security. When the CR expires in November, Congress will have to pass a spending bill – and we want it to do the job right.

What you can do:

Tell your Members of Congress:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for refusing to fund Trump’s racist wall and for passing a spending bill in September that didn’t increase funding for immigration detention beds at the border. But I was disappointed the September Continuing Resolution did nothing to keep the administration from stealing money from military families and disaster relief, as it’s been doing all year. When the CR expires in November, I want you to work to pass a spending bill that safeguards our tax dollars from this corrupt and racist administration. If Trump wants to steal more money from the American people, he will need to shut down the government again to do it.

  • 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

Do you live outside the East Bay, or have friends in other districts or states? Spread the word! Use this link to find contact info for all Members of Congress.

For more info, including a presentation by Indivisible East Bay’s Linh Nguyen of this material and more, watch Impeachment University’s video of the Town Hall hosted by the Equal Justice Society.

For complete slide deck, see IEB - DefundHate-EJS-Townhall
.

Linh Nguyen is one of several IEB congressional procedure pedants.

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

Meeting with Rep Swalwell’s staff

By Ward Kanowsky

Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky, co-leads of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 team, met with members of Representative Eric Swalwell’s staff as part of Indivisible’s February 11 National Day of Action. On behalf of IEB, we conveyed our gratitude and support for Swalwell’s cosponsorship of the Green New Deal, H.R. 1 (For the People Act of 2019), and H.R. 8 (Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019).

The purpose of the Day of Action was to keep up the pressure on all Members of Congress by hearing from their constituents, and to ask them to fund the government with no new funding for Trump’s wall, ICE, or CBP. We raised three main issues related to the potential for a February 15 shutdown:

  • Border wall – a wall would devastate border communities and waste billions of taxpayer dollars.
  • ICE agents – keep families together; no additional funding for more Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents.
  • Beds – stop ICE from expanding the number of immigrants held in detention.

We specifically asked Rep. Swalwell to co-sponsor H.R. 678, the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act of 2019. Federal contractor employees were especially hard hit by the shutdown and did not receive back pay when the government reopened on January 25. Many of these employees, who include cafeteria workers, security guards, and cleaning crews at federal buildings across the country, typically earn between $450 and $650 a week, and are now forced to choose between paying for utilities or putting food on the table for their families.

In addition, we highlighted the impact of the recent 35-day shutdown on some of CA-15’s most vulnerable, with information from the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Specifically, we pointed out that 13,000 CA-15 households received their February CalFresh/SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) in January as a result of the shutdown – resulting in a “SNAP gap” of up to 50 days until they can get their next monthly benefit payments. This irregularity and gap can create confusion and anxiety among recipients, especially since many of these 13,000 households include seniors and children. We also noted the increased need at food pantries during shutdowns.

Overall, our meeting with Rep. Swalwell’s staff was very effective. They were grateful for our feedback and information (especially about H.R. 678), and will pass on the content of the meeting to Swalwell and his D.C. staff.

If you have questions or want to participate with the CA-15 team, contact Ward on Slack at @ward or by email at wardkanowsky@gmail.com.  And please join us in Dublin at the Local IBEW 585 Union Hall for the IEB All Members Meeting on Sunday February 24 from 1-3 PMRSVP here.

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photo: CA-15 team co-leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky met Rep Eric Swalwell in 2018

 

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.

No More Shutdown, No More Wall Funding

Deadline: February 15, 2019 – Tell our Members of Congress: Keep the government open, without funding for the border wall!

For the moment, the federal government is open again, and Hostage-Taker-In-Chief failed to get funding for his Wall. So why are we still running action items? Because the new bipartisan committee only has until February 15 to come up with a compromise bill and get Trump to sign it – or he may shut the government right down again or issue a bogus emergency declaration in order to get his funding. (Although given what’s going on with the polar vortex, isn’t it more likely that people will be coming here over the Northern border?) (Memo to the White House: No, the Polar Vortex doesn’t mean there’s no global warming … or waming … sigh)

What to do:

Please thank our senators for their votes against the wall, and ask them to continue to vote against wall funding and all further immigrant detention and border militarization.  Although neither of our Senators is on the bipartisan committee, they both work closely with the committee members (Sen. Harris on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Sen. Feinstein on the Senate Appropriations Committee), so ask them to make this a priority in their discussions with their colleagues.

What to say:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator ___ for opposing funding for the border wall. I’m asking her to continue to vote against wall funding and all further immigrant detention and border militarization. And I hope she will do everything possible to persuade her colleagues on the bipartisan committee to keep the government open without giving into demands for this kind of funding. Our government should not be held hostage in this way.

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

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

Representative Barbara Lee is on the bipartisan committee. If you are her constituent please thank her for her record to date and ask her to stand strong against funding for the border wall and all further immigrant detention and border militarization.

What to say:

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 wall funding and all further immigrant detention and border militarization. And I hope she will do everything possible on the bipartisan committee to keep the government open without giving into demands for this kind of funding. Our government should not be held hostage in this way.

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

 

DeSaulnier Hosts Emergency Town Hall on Trump Shutdown

By Toni Henle

You won’t fall asleep at one of Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s Town Halls! He’s done 75 of them since 2015, when he was first elected to represent CA-11, and it’s clear he loves this way of connecting with his constituents. I attended my third town hall in Lafayette on Saturday, January 19, 2019 – yes, it was the same day as the Women’s Marches, and in fact the audience cheered loudly when DeSaulnier mentioned that he’d come from the Walnut Creek Women’s March!

DeSaulnier’s town halls are always informative, but also entertaining and a chance for 500 or so constituents to express their opinions to their representative, which they did, resoundingly approving his stance that there should be no negotiations on the border wall until the government is reopened. “Democrats and Republicans should not shut down the government because they don’t get what they want through the legislative process, that’s not how democracy works,” he said. “The process should be open and public and you have to hold votes” to reach a resolution.

National Treasury Employees Union table
National Treasury Employees Union table

The Emergency Town Hall on the Trump Shutdown was serious indeed – outside, a dozen tables were set up to connect furloughed or working-without-pay federal employees with services, including food banks, a credit union offering interest-free loans for Coast Guard employees, the National Treasury Employees Union (its members work across many parts of government), CoCo Kids, Monument Crisis Center and the Contra Costa County Veterans Office, among others.

Rep. DeSaulnier began with a slide show, Special Edition: The Trump Shutdown, including these facts:

  • 37,000 California workers are furloughed due to the partial government shutdown
  • $5.7 billion won’t build the wall that Trump wants – independent and congressional studies estimate it could cost up to $40 or even $70 billion in all.
  • Illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades; in 2017, border-crossing apprehensions were at their lowest point since 1971.
  • Two-thirds of the “illegal” immigrant population in the U.S. is due to people overstaying their visas, so building a wall will not address that part of the situation.

How would he address the border situation?

  • First, end the shutdown now and put people back to paid work.
  • Then the GAO needs to do a cost-benefit analysis by convening experts to address the best way to both secure the border and alleviate the humanitarian crisis. “Democrats continue to support strong, smart, effective border security solutions” like smart technology and more personnel.
  • Congress needs to hold hearings and we need to have a public debate.
  • In the long run, “I’d like to spend more money in the countries that asylum-seekers are coming from…to help them restore the rule of law, so that they can live in the country that they want to live.”
  • We need permanent legislation to address the Dreamers, not a temporary solution.

Rep. DeSaulnier serves on the Education and Labor Committee, which is preparing legislation on ways to help American workers, and Transportation and Infrastructure. He may also be able to “waive onto” a third committee, Government Oversight, on which he’d want hearings on the child separation policy and reunification of families as well as, of course, Michael Cohen and others.

DeSaulnier answered audience questions for the last 45 minutes, including:

  • How to end the shutdown (see above)
  • Concern about the potential for aviation accidents if the shutdown continues, voiced by an airline pilot
  • Concern about family separation policy and reuniting children with families
  • Restoring “regular order” so that we don’t go from one continuing resolution to another in funding the government
  • 7,500+ in Contra Costa County losing their Section 8 housing subsidy at the end of February
  • What is to be expected after the Mueller report is released?
  • What can be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ people in our military?

On Tuesday, January 22, the CA-11 representative will be back in Washington after having heard important input from his district. Want to contact him? Here’s how: (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Did you miss the Town Hall? Watch the video recording here.

Toni Henle is retired after a career in policy work at non-profits focused on workforce development. She is a member of the IEB Governance Committee, co-lead of Outreach to Organizations and a member of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Photographs by Toni Henle

Time to Help the Coast Guard

It’s mid-January 2019, and the Shutdown has reached its fourth week. We reported last week on how the Tantrum Over the Wall was affecting people nationwide, including some of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or must work without pay. This week, we’re looking closer to home: some federal employees you may never think about, right here in Alameda County, are being required to work without pay, and may be heading for dire financial straits.

Close to 1,000 uniformed men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard live in Alameda County. Coast Guard Base Alameda is a major homeport of four Legend class cutters that go on months-long patrols: USCGC Bertholf, Waesche, Munro, and Dorothy Stratton. Each holds over 113 personnel, and some are on patrol now while their families are left behind to deal with the financial stresses of this shutdown.

The 41,000 women and men of the U.S Coast Guard were paid once before January 1, and have missed their first bi-weekly paycheck in January. However, since Coast Guard members are considered critical personnel, they must work without pay during the shutdown. Of course, their expenses aren’t put on hold; nor are the literally life-or-death nature of the responsibilities some of them have, such as those at Station Golden Gate who participate in search-and-rescue.

The government has responded to the situation by adding insult to fiscal injury, telling Coast Guard members to see themselves through the hard financial times brought on by the Current Occupant’s wall-inspired tantrum: Have a garage sale! Be a dog-walker! Be a mystery shopper! says a Coast Guard support tip sheet. “Yes, your credit score may suffer during this time,” it helpfully notes. “Bankruptcy is a last option.” Former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen has decried this shutdown as unnecessary political theater. Perhaps we should talk about moral bankruptcy of a government that refuses to pay the men and women who serve their country because one man insists on a so-called defense system that experts repudiate?

No paychecks for government workers like our Coasties doesn’t just harm them and their families: it also means immediate economic impacts to their local communities and threats to the well-being of local businesses. Based on previous shutdowns of similar length (although this is now the longest government shutdown in US history), one study concluded that “the shutdown led to an immediate decline in average household spending of almost 10 percent” and “households with a member who was furloughed and required to stay home from work slashed their spending more dramatically – by 15 percent to 20 percent.” Some small businesses in the area are already reporting dramatic losses because the federal workers who are their frequent customers aren’t getting paychecks.

IEB Governance Committee member Ted Lam says:

People often ask me what I miss most as a retired Coast Guard officer: the service? Or the work? I always say: I miss the people. They are the most patriotic, inspiring, and unselfish people I have ever worked with. So during this difficult time for the Coast Guard, I’m looking for ways to help my old shipmates, and I can tell you there’s a great way to help. It’s the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. I’ve seen first hand the amazing results of Mutual Assistance’s work to help the youngest and most vulnerable in the CG. I hope you’ll join me.

You can donate to help a member of the Coast Guard on the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance website.

You can also call our Senators and tell them you want them to insist on reopening the government without money for the border wall. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to thank them for their support, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The government shutdown is hurting people and communities, all because of a wall that’s a terrible idea to begin with. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please do everything you can to reopen the government without funding for the Wall.

For more information and other call scripts, read our articles here and here.

 

Ted Lam and Elizabeth Douglas contributed to this article.

Photo of Coast Guard Island in Oakland Estuary between Oakland and Alameda United States Coast Guard, by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.