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.

Border to border with love to defund hate

On September 10, volunteers gathered to assemble a giant pro-immigrant, anti-hate collage as part of Indivisible East Bay’s participation in Defund Hate Week. Coordinated by the Defund Hate Campaign, a group of immigration advocacy and immigrant-led organizations, the overarching goal was to put our Members of Congress on notice and remind them we will hold them accountable to fight the administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.

For our IEB event — one of over 150 organized! — we chose to create artwork comprised of messages about defunding hate and welcoming immigrants. Our plan – to collect the messages into a collage that we’d send to the border to be added to a Defund Hate petition addressed to Congressional Democrats. 

Our collage came together quickly as participants arrived and got to work.

Defund Hate collage party, organizers Amelia and Fionap, hoto by Ted Lam
Organizers Amelia & Fiona, at Defund Hate collage party, photo by Ted Lam

Submissions ranged from personal written messages to three-dimensional construction paper creations.

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Highlights included paper cranes originally collected to be placed on the gates of a migrant detention camp in Dilley, Texas, as part of a peaceful protest by survivors of Japanese internment camps and their relatives.

Defund Hate collage, photo by Fiona Woods
Defund Hate collage, photo by Fiona Woods

There were also great submissions from the staff of 1951 Coffee, the local non-profit cafe that provides barista training to the refugee community. There was so much art we had to add an extra panel to the original banner to fit everything!

In between creating submissions for the banner, we also wrote postcards to our Members of Congress in support of Defund Hate Week’s goals. We urged our MoCs to cut funding for ICE and CBP, to vote to reject bills that include funds transfers to ICE, and to support deportation alternatives while opposing dangerous “third-country agreements”. 

We mailed our banner on Weds., September 11, and it reached San Diego in time for the Defund Hate rally there on Friday — the culmination of Defund Hate Week.

A very special thank you to the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers for graciously allowing us to use their space to create our collage, and to all of the volunteers (including some highly creative kids!) who contributed beautiful submissions.

Join us for Defund Hate Week!

Immigrant families are under an all-out assault: from caging children and families at the border and refusing them access to basic necessities like showers and toothbrushes, to launching raids that rip people away from homes where they’ve lived for years or even decades. Fueled by racism, hatred, and fear, the Trump administration has continued to pursue these unpopular and harmful policies – and Congress has continued to fund each and every one. As an official member of the Defund Hate Coalition, Indivisible East Bay stands with immigrant families to focus our collective power on defunding hate. 

Now, IEB is collecting creative messages from Bay Area members and allies to put together into a collage which we’ll add to a Border to Border with Love Petition, addressed to Congressional Democrats, as it makes its way down the West Coast to San Diego. There, we’ll get together with Native, Indivisible and local leaders for a rally to #DefundHate. Join us in this project! And keep reading to find out about more activities going on during Defund Hate Week, September 9-13.

What you can do:

Create a message!

Create your own messages to add to our collage! This action is both about defunding hate (specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection) and celebrating and welcoming immigration – feel free to focus your piece on either or both. 

The only requirements are that the piece must be:

  1. six inches or smaller and flat
  2. made of paper or an equally light substance
  3. On-message: pro-immigrant and anti-hate!

Possible messages might include how immigration enforcement affects you personally, or our demands for Congressional action. For example:

  • Cut funding for ICE and CBP
  • Vote NO on any Department of Homeland Security funding bill that doesn’t prohibit funding transfers to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (see our article)
  • Vote NO on any DHS funding bill that doesn’t cut ICE and CBP funding to fiscal year 16 levels
  • Require the DHS Inspector General to monitor detention and enforcement spending and report to Congress 
  • Support alternatives to detention: close the camps and end immigration detention 
  • End the “remain in Mexico” policy and dangerous “safe third country” agreements

For more complete guidelines and talking points, look here and here

Spread the word:

Better yet, do this with your friends and families! Create cards with like-minded coworkers during lunch, or bring some paper and markers to your book club or your kid’s soccer game. Be sure to collect contributors’ email addresses on a separate sheet so we can send everyone a photo of the final product!

Drop off pieces for the collage:

  • Any time (during open hours) before noon on Tuesday 9/10, leave your pieces in our drop box at the Rockridge branch of 1951 Coffee at 6021 College Ave, Oakland.
  • Any time (during open hours) before noon on Tuesday 9/10, leave your pieces in our drop box at Sports Basement Berkeley, 2727 Milvia St, Berkeley
  • Bring them to our special event on September 10 in Oakland (see below)!

Defund Hate Week Events:

  • Come to our main event: Tuesday, September 10, 5:30-7:30 PM at IFPTE Local 21, 1440 Broadway, Suite 610, Oakland, CA – we’ll be assembling the collage, writing postcards, and learning about other actions we can take. RSVP appreciated, but not required; we’d love to have you help out at the event, too!
  • Find us at Oakland Pride on Sunday, Sept. 8 (details and RSVP). 
  • Call your Member of Congress on the Defund Hate Call-In Day, September 9. Call script and details here.
  • Participate in Indivisible SF’s Defund Hate National Week of Action event, Friday September 13 in the plaza near the Ferry Building in SF.

Defund Hate

And also… 

  • Want to help us get this project to its destination? Please consider chipping in a few dollars toward priority shipping costs. You can donate cash at any of our events, or use our secure ActBlue online donation site.
  • A huge thank you to our partners and the organizations helping us make this project happen:
    • 1951 Coffee, founded in 2015, is a non-profit specialty coffee organization that promotes the well-being of the refugee community in the United States by providing job training and employment to refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues. You can support them by buying a cup of coffee in their cafes, buying or gifting their merchandise and whole bean coffees online, donating to support their services like the Barista Training Program, or volunteering at one of their open houses.
    • Sports Basement, Berkeley is hosting one of our drop boxes, and has hosted so many of our other meetings. If you shop there, please mention IEB and thank them!
    • And thank you to the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21 for letting us use their space to assemble our collage.

Fiona Woods, Ann Daniels and Amelia Cass contributed to this article

Don’t deport people getting lifesaving care

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services acknowledged the obvious this week: its decision to end the humanitarian “deferred action” program for immigrants receiving lifesaving medical treatment in the US would cost lives. Faced with growing public outrage – and likely not wanting such obvious blood on its hands – the White House announced on Labor Day that it’s reconsidering this terrible decision. We hope that the medical deferred action status program will be renewed, but it’s far from certain, and we need to keep the pressure up! This is literally a matter of life and death to at least one East Bay family, and to an unknown number of others here legally in the US for medical treatment – read on below to find out what you can do, and for the story of Concord’s own Isabel Bueso, and more.

What you can do:

1. Speak out, spread the word, share the stories. At this time our most powerful weapon is public pressure on the administration to revoke the decision to end the humanitarian medical deferred action program.  However you engage with people – in person, by email, phone, on social media – share this link to our article. We don’t often post petitions, but you should share this one: it was started by Isabel’s mother Karla, and nearly 80 thousand people have already signed! The petition includes a lot of valuable information about Isabel and her situation, and even has a useful link for you to tweet directly to Trump.

2. Thank our Members of Congress who are working on behalf of Isabel and other people affected by this cruel action (see below). Let them all know how important this issue is to you, and ask them to do everything possible to protect immigrants.

  • Read the powerful letter spearheaded by CA-11 Representative DeSaulnier and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley (news about the termination letters was first broken by Boston media). The August 30 letter to the heads of DHS, ICE, and USCIS, condemning the cruel action and raising critical questions, was signed by over 100 Members of Congress including Senators Feinstein and Harris and Reps. DeSaulnier and Lee.
  • Rep. DeSaulnier  and Senator Kamala Harris have been actively pursuing avenues that might allow Isabel and her family to remain in the US, including sending a letter asking Acting DHS Secretary McAleenan to reconsider the decision.
  • On September 3, Rep. DeSaulnier also introduced a private bill to allow Isabel to remain in the country.  The legislation, H.R. 4225, would provide Isabel and her family with permanent resident status so they can remain without fear of removal.
  • 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

3. Join one of the rallies in support of Isabel and other migrants, planned for this week:

  • The California Nurses Association has organized an Oakland rally to support Isabel outside UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital on Friday, September 6 from 12:30-1:15 PM.
  • Join students at CSU East Bay rallying on the lawn at Hayward City Hall on September 6 at 5 PM. Contact asipresident@csueastbay.edu for questions or volunteer opportunities.

640 Migrant Rights Rally hayward sept 6 flyer

More information:

Before the administration’s change of heart/attempt to prove that it actually has a heart, the Concord family of Isabel Bueso received notice that they could no longer stay in the US for the lifesaving treatment that Isabel receives here and cannot receive in the family’s home country of Guatemala. The family would have to leave within about a month, they were told, or face deportation. It’s not clear how many families got rejection letters of this sort, which cited no basis for the rejection and provided no means to appeal. It still isn’t clear whether Isabel – or any of the other families – can stay or must leave.

Isabel, a recent graduate of Cal State East Bay, has a rare illness, MPS-6, and was invited to our country from Guatemala with her family to participate in a clinical trial. For 16 years, she has received care at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and this care keeps her alive; read UCSF’s statement on Isabel’s possible deportation. Isabel and her family pay for her care through private insurance, and they renew their visas every two years. Since this treatment isn’t available in Guatemala, ending the deferred action program means cutting off Isabel’s ability to receive the weekly treatment that is keeping her alive.

Rachel Maddow ran a heartbreaking segment on Isabel’s story, and celebrities have taken up her cause. But it shouldn’t take celebrities or members of Congress to point out the obvious: it’s beyond outrageous to deport people who are legally in this country for lifesaving medical treatment most of them can’t receive in their countries of origin.

 

Ann Daniels and Heidi Rand contributed to this article

Photograph of Isabel Bueso by Garvin Tso

Tell our Senators: Keep ICE’s hands out of the cookie jar

UPDATED September 5, 2019

Under the US Constitution and federal law, it’s the responsibility of Congress and the President to create a federal budget and spending bills. The process is complex, but one thing is clear: federal agencies shouldn’t be able to decide, on their own, how federal funds get spent, or to take money that’s been allocated for another purpose. And yet, that’s exactly what has been going on – Department of Homeland Security is essentially taking hundreds of millions of dollars from federal agencies like FEMA and giving it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use for Trump’s racist, deadly immigration agenda.  They deceptively call it “reprogramming and transfer authority,” but we call it sleight of hand. Or theft. Relatedly, on September 4 it was revealed that states from Virginia to Arizona will lose millions in the administration’s plan to divert $3.6 BILLION from Pentagon-funded military construction projects to build a wall along the border.

In the current budget process, the House of Representatives has passed a good DHS Appropriations bill, which sets overall spending limits by the agency. The House bill (1) puts some limitations on how ICE/Customs and Border Protection can spend its money, and (2) rescinds the DHS Secretary’s ability to move money from any part of DHS (such as FEMA) to CBP and ICE Enforcement and Removal. 

Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Senators Feinstein and Harris both signed a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations supporting reduced funding for the administration’s immigration and detention agenda, and opposing ICE’s reprogramming and transfer authority. But they need to hear from us, because there will be pressure for the Senate to come up with a bipartisan bill. Tell our Senators you want reduced funding for ICE and CBP, and an end to ICE’s “reprogramming and transfer” authority. Also: Indivisible’s “Defund Hate” week of action is September 9-13, and we have lots going on: check out our article and plan to join us and our partners for crafting, calling, rallying, and more!

Read on for a call script and contact info; and below that, for more information and resources.

What to do:

1. Contact our Senators, tell them you want reduced funding for ICE and CBP, and an end to ICE’s “reprogramming and transfer” authority.

What to say:

My name is _________, my zip code is _________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the Senator for opposing the administration’s horrible immigration agenda, and also opposing ICE’s reprogramming and transfer authority. I hope the Senator will work for a DHS appropriations bill like the one passed by the House. We need a bill with protections for immigrants and an end to using all of DHS as a slush fund for immigrant detention, deportation, and abuse.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: email (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: email (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

 

2. Check out Indivisible National’s “Defund Hate” campaign and mark your calendars for their September 9-13 Week of Action. If you text Defund Hate to 977-79, Indy National will send you the latest updates on our plan for the Week of Action, including telling you when events are registered near you. And be on the lookout for IEB and partners’ action items coming your way!

3. Spread the word! Got friends outside California? Send them this link so they can contact their Members of Congress.

 

More information: 

As if the administration’s immigration policy weren’t devastating enough in terms of the threat to life and health, last year, just as hurricane season was about to start, ICE raided $10 million from FEMA (the agency responsible for coordinating disaster response efforts). This year they’re raiding $155 million from FEMA and a total of over $270 million from agencies dealing in safety. And remember when Trump declared a national emergency so he could build his wall? That money he wanted – billions of dollars – was to be transferred from other agencies to which Congress had budgeted it. That, in a nutshell, is how “reprogramming and transfer” is happening – Congress budgets money for things that are not Trump’s immigration and detention program, and then he and DHS sneak in or bully their way in and take it anyway.

This ability to steal money that isn’t theirs lets ICE make a mockery of Congress. Congress appropriates money to the various parts of the government? Meaningless! Congress tells ICE to decrease immigrant detention to a specific level? Not happening – ICE thinks it’s above the law.

This budget cycle the Democratic House of Representatives is working to put a stop to these shenanigans with an appropriations bill for DHS that approaches the problem from several angles, such as:

  • Prohibits construction of border barriers, except with funds appropriated for that purpose.
  • Prohibits funding transfers to ICE Operations and Support for Enforcement and Removal Operations.
  • Prohibits ICE from removing sponsors of unaccompanied children based on information provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as part of the sponsor’s application to accept custody of the child.
  • Limits future detention facility contracts or renewals from having an indefinite period of availability. 
  • Ensures access by Members of Congress to detention facilities.

California’s Senators have spoken out in favor of curbing funding for ICE and CBP and in favor of “language limiting the DHS Secretary’s ability to transfer funds for the purpose of detaining immigrants.” While not as strong as the House version, that’s pretty good. But the appropriations process is about to heat up in the Senate, and at this point in the proceedings there will be pressure on the Senate to come up with a bipartisan bill – meaning that it’s going to take support from us to keep our Senators fighting to keep ICE’s hands off money we don’t want them to have.

Bottom line: If we don’t want the administration to keep stealing millions of dollars that we need for health and safety and other critical issues that Congress has budgeted it for, we need to act NOW.

Resources:

 

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.

 

Graphic “Money” by TaxCredits.net, edited by Heidi Rand.
FEMA logo.

Team IEB at the Port of Oakland

On July 25, a group of Indivisible East Bay members attended the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners meeting to present concerns about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations at Oakland Airport. IEB attended in support of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) and Centro Legal de la Raza, and were joined by East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy (EBASE). Before the proceedings began, IEB Governance Committee member Ted Lam was interviewed by KTVU’s Alyana Gomez, and Lourdes Martinez from MUA and Amelia Cass from IEB shared their questions about how Oakland as a sanctuary city could support deportations. 

Six of the speakers present addressed the Port of Oakland’s relationship with ICE: Ted requested a response from the Port about how deportation flights could have been authorized and who signed the contract, and Amelia followed up with a recommendation to bring in community groups who could advise on how to move forward. Ms. Martinez and Rosario Cruz from MUA described how ICE has terrorized the community they serve and asked the Port to renegotiate contracts to ensure they align with Oakland’s sanctuary city values. Divya Sundar from EBASE also reiterated the need for the Port to honor the sanctuary commitment. 

In response to the public comments, the Port’s Director Danny Wan stated that as an immigrant himself, he understands the concerns of the community. The Port had begun investigating the situation three days prior, when they were first made aware of the deportations. Wan said that “Port employees have not participated in or actively aided deportations” and that the Port is looking into “how and why the flights are taking place.” At the close, another Port commissioner stated that the item might be placed on the agenda for open discussion at a future meeting. IEB was able to submit both our formal statement and that of Centro Legal to be entered into the record.

The next Port of Oakland meeting is scheduled for September 12, 2019. As new developments arise, we will keep you informed of possible actions as we continue to support our partners who are experts in the field.

Photo by Ted Lam

Ted Lam, Paula Schmidlen and Fiona Woods contributed to this article.

 

 

IEB 7/16/19 Meeting with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, AD-15

Meeting with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, AD-15, on July 16, 2019

PRESENT: Buffy Wicks; Senior Field Representative Uche Uwahemu; one additional staff person and three interns; five IEB members.

This was Indivisible East Bay’s first solo meeting with Assemblymember Wicks, following our May 10, 2019 meeting with her and Asm. Rob Bonta. We gave Wicks and her staff our pre-meeting memo and our list of IEB Priority Bills (many of which are also bills of priority interest statewide). By now bills initiated in one chamber of the Legislature have passed to the other chamber, where they must pass by mid-September, so these were the bills we focused on. With a few exceptions, we did not cover other bills that have died, that have not been included in the Governor’s budget, or that have become two-year bills and will roll over into next year.

ELECTIONS / VOTING RIGHTS:

A unifying theme of our selection of voting rights bills is supporting the major goals of the federal bill H.R.1, the For the People Act: expanding voting rights, campaign finance reform, and strengthening the government’s ethics laws. H.R.1 is an omnibus bill because the most effective changes work in tandem to complement each other. Wicks stated that she cares about voter rights and supports a variety of approaches. She was open to the idea of an omnibus bill and even suggested that she might look at authoring such a bill next session. We also discussed:

  • ACA 6, which expands voting rights to people on parole to re-enfranchise over 50,000 Californians. IEB is working with the community co-sponsors of ACA 6, including Initiate Justice, All of Us or None, and our community partner Open Gate. This is now a two-year bill. It still needs to be voted on in this Assembly this year, but will not reach the Senate until next year. Because it is a constitutional amendment it will require a two-thirds vote to pass. We asked Wicks to become a co-author, and she said she would be happy to.
  • We thanked Wicks for supporting AB 1217, which requires issue advertisements to disclose the top three funders. The bill is now in the Senate. SB 47 is another important bill for transparency, requiring ballot initiative signature gatherers to disclose the top three funders. We asked her to become a co-author. 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE:

  • Wicks supported AB 32, which prohibits the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from entering into or renewing contracts with private for-profit prisons. The bill, which is now in the Senate, has a long list of community co-sponsors, including California StateStrong; and one opponent, the CA State Sheriffs’ Association.
  • Wicks supported AB 1185, establishing a sheriff oversight board, on the Assembly floor (the bill is now in the Senate). However, more needs to be done in this arena – right now, there is no term limit on sheriffs. In response to IEB’s asking if she would consider introducing a constitutional amendment to switch from elected to appointed sheriffs or introducing a bill allowing counties to set term limits for sheriffs and district attorneys, Wicks responded that she is interested in an approach that would change the requirement that a person have a law-enforcement background in order to run for sheriff. She told us that either she or Sen. Nancy Skinner will author a bill to do that. 

STATE BUDGET:

  • Wicks joined us in being glad that Medi-Cal was expanded to include some undocumented immigrants (SB 29), but disappointed that it didn’t include seniors because of stated budgetary concerns.
  • Likewise, we were disappointed that the budget did not expand the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) program to include holders of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, though we’re glad the income threshold was expanded.

IMMIGRATION/LOCAL COOPERATION WITH ICE:

  • Just before the meeting, we learned that Oakland Airport has been one of the top airports used by ICE in California. Wicks said she had also been unaware of this. When we asked if she had any thoughts on what might be done to end that cooperation, she said that the Governor has a broader ability to do things and we may need to get to him.
  • Since our meeting, IEB testified at the Port of Oakland commissioners meeting on July 25. In response, the Port said in the coming weeks, they are committed to developing recommendations and a definitive response to the events that occurred. 

ENVIRONMENT:

  • Wicks agreed with AB 1276, a state-specific “Green New Deal” aimed at addressing the climate crisis in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, technology and infrastructure, as well as economics, education, and civil rights. She specifically supported resilient infrastructure with AB 1698 (infrastructure investment and financing).
  • SB 200, which Wicks voted for, establishes a fund to secure access to safe drinking water. It was signed into law by the governor on July 24th.

EDUCATION:

  • Wicks co-authored SB 37 with Sen. Nancy Skinner to increase the tax rate on large corporations in order to fund child care, public schools and higher education. Though it didn’t pass the Senate, she emphasized that the need for it remains. She supports Prop. 13 reform (the Schools and Communities First initiative will be on the ballot in 2020) but noted that it only provides $11 billion towards the $50 billion she believes is required to fund schools.
  • Wicks voted in support of bills that reformed how charter schools are formed and operated: AB 1505, which passed both houses of the Legislature; AB 1506, which did not; and SB 126, which has already been signed into law. She stated that she believes there are good charter schools but that more accountability is needed.

HOUSING:

Housing is a major focus of Wicks’ legislative interest. She stated that we need 3.5 million units of housing at all income levels and at higher density levels and noted the need for housing at moderate income levels, where costs are too high but people do not qualify for assistance. She is a co-author of:

  • AB 724, which was intended to create a registry of rental properties (though it did not pass the Assembly).
  • AB 1482, which would prohibit rent gouging and eviction without just cause.
  • SB 50, which provides incentives for streamlining approval of housing development.

POVERTY:

We didn’t discuss poverty with Wicks because she is already very strong on the issue. We had several priority bills on issues of poverty and hunger, and she has either authored or voted for all of them:

FUTURE WORK:

Wicks asked that we stay in touch going forward. She is developing bills for next year’s session that she would like our feedback on and support with, touching on a number of topics, including housing, hunger, privacy concerns, and reproductive rights.

By IEB Governance Committee members Toni Henle and Ion Y

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.

There’s no ICE in SANCTUARY

Like most people in the East Bay, we in Indivisible East Bay were shocked to learn that Oakland Airport has been the site of thousands of deportations. Hidden in Plain Sight: ICE Air and the Machinery of Mass Deportation,” the extraordinary report by the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights, reveals that almost 27,000 people were deported through Oakland Airport between 2010 and 2018. IEB spoke to the report’s authors in consultation with Centro Legal de la Raza and the Asian Law Caucus, and we learned that it gets even worse: 6,080 of those removals were potentially problematic. 313 of those deported still had pending immigration proceedings, 13 were removed despite having deferred action or some other benefit that should have blocked their deportation, and 5,754 of them underwent forms of deportation such as expedited removal, with no chance to appear before an immigration judge. And on July 22 2019, the White House expanded fast-track deportation regulations, meaning even more people nationwide will be deported without due process protections.

Both Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Port of Oakland, under whose jurisdiction the airport falls, have said that they had no prior knowledge that these flights were occurring. Mike Zampa, spokesperson for the Port of Oakland, issued the following statement:

The Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport understand community concerns over this issue. We have been, and will remain in compliance with sanctuary city laws. No Port or Airport employees were part of any immigration investigation, detention or arrest procedures in connection with possible immigration law violations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims that the deportation flights out of Oakland stopped in October 2018, but there is no guarantee that they will not resume in the future. And while the Port states that they are in compliance with Oakland’s sanctuary city laws, it is unclear what that means – or what changes they will make in the future to “strengthen (their) commitment to the sanctuary city policy,” as Mayor Schaaf reported. To further complicate matters, while the members of the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners are appointed by the mayor of Oakland, and the Port maintains it’s a public agency and steward of public assets, it is not clear how the Board holds itself accountable.

We have some ideas.

If you’re a resident of Oakland, call Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office at 510-238-3141 or email officeofthemayor@oaklandnet.com:

My name is ________, I’m a resident of Oakland and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m asking Mayor Schaaf to hold the Port of Oakland accountable in their response to the deportations that occurred at the Oakland Airport.  If the Port is truly committed to the sanctuary city policy, they should be transparent in how that is upheld and maintained.

In addition, IEB members are planning a presentation to the Port of Oakland itself, complete with a series of asks concerning public transparency, detailed information about the Port’s current and past relationship with ICE, and a request for an investigation into how the airport has handled past deportation flights, including any rights violations that may have occurred. We’ll keep you up to date!

Photo credit: Entrance to Oakland Airport BART Station, by Weegee010

IEB Meeting with Sen. Feinstein Staff June 2019

Meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Staff, June 20, 2019
1 Post St., San Francisco

From Sen. Feinstein’s office: Jim Lazarus, State Director; Abigail Ellis, Field Representative; two interns

Read Indivisible East Bay’s pre-meeting memorandum

TOPICS DISCUSSED:

  • Climate Change & Infrastructure: Climate change and rising sea levels (a consequence of climate change) affect infrastructure, including roads and bridges. We asked whether Sen. Feinstein is working to include climate change in infrastructure legislation; Jim Lazarus said not that he knew of, but that he’d let the Senator know about our concern.
  • Iran and the Middle East/AUMF Repeal & Defense Appropriations Bill: Lazarus expressed frustration that Sen. Feinstein has tried repeatedly to contact Secretary of State Pompeo, who hasn’t returned any of her calls. He said that Feinstein supports the nuclear treaty with Iran and does not support the US withdrawal from it OR the unilateral use of force without authorization from Congress. Ellis said that Feinstein supports the repeal of the 2001 AUMF; Lazarus continued that in political reality, there will be a defense appropriations bill, and it will probably include a compromise on the AUMF repeal.
  • ICE and CBP Detention Facilities/Border Supplemental Appropriations Bill: We presented background information and recommended that the Senator view the recent argument of a Justice Department lawyer before a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that CBP needed the authority to deny children sleep as well as access to basic hygiene. Lazarus agreed to do this. Feinstein’s staff has visited the detention facilities, and she is extremely concerned about how the children are being treated; Ellis said that the facilities are exploiting loopholes, which the Senator wants to close via legislation. As far as her staff knows, her thinking on the role of ICE has not changed.
  • American Dream and Promise Act: We asked Sen. Feinstein to move to proceed to a floor vote on the bill. Lazarus asked if anyone asked Sen. McConnell, and we pointed out that by Senate rules, any Senator can make a motion for a floor vote.
  • Judicial Nominations: We have asked Sen. Feinstein to vote NO on the floor on Trump’s judicial nominations even if she votes YES in the Judiciary committee. According to her staff, she has to maintain relationships and cooperation with some Republicans: for example, when Sen. Feinstein might seek support from some Republican Senators for judicial nominations she favors, especially of nominees from California—or of other legislative goals she supports.
  • Election Security: The Senator is concerned about election security. We urged Sen. Feinstein (and other Democratic Senators) to push back on Sen. McConnell, and were skeptical of Lazarus’ explanation that the GOP opposes election-security legislation because it traditionally favors “local control” and fears possible overreach from federal government standards for elections.
  • American Family Act of 2019: We expressed disappointment that Sen. Feinstein still hasn’t joined 38 of her colleagues in cosponsoring this legislation to help families with children. Lazarus said he didn’t know of any concerns keeping her from cosponsoring and implied she might be exploring alternatives.
  • Investigations & Oversight: We expressed concern that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are not obtaining adequate information about the Mueller investigations and the previous FBI counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election. Lazarus was unable to tell us what Sen. Feinstein is doing to ensure that the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which she is the ranking member, will finally obtain all the information it needs. 

 

– By IEB member Phil

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