Experts talk about how to beat the Kavanaugh nomination

By Candace Goldman

On August 2, 2018, Indivisible East Bay took part in a community meeting in Berkeley to discuss Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, and actions we can take to prevent his approval by the Senate. IEB co-sponsored the meeting with the California Civil Rights Coalition, Equal Justice Society, The Center for Independent Living, and People For the American Way.

The evening was emceed by Eva Paterson, a long-time civil rights advocate, and speakers included Leslie Proll with the NAACP, Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California, Raymundo Jacquez III from Centro Legal de la Raza, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, Dan Roth with the American Constitution Society, and IEB’s own Linh Nguyen, who co-leads our Judiciary Team.  Linh did a masterful job of informing the gathering about what IEB and the Judiciary Team have been doing. She really engaged the audience and was an inspiring example of what we can do when we band together to take action.  Great job, Linh – and thank you!

The speakers addressed the dangers a Kavanaugh confirmation would represent – and they are legion – and also the actions we can take to defeat his nomination.  Everyone’s rights and interests are at risk with this potential swing position on the Supreme Court – from women’s health to labor protections, from shredding Executive accountability to continuing environmental destruction to endangering the lives of immigrants.  Each speaker emphasized that it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Kavanaugh will be approved, but we need to keep a laser beam on the nomination and ramp up the pressure to defeat him.

What you can do:

  • Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris that you want them to vote NO on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee; and that if the nomination gets out of committee and to the full Senate, you want them to vote NO and hold all other Democrats and swing voters to do the same
    • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
    • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Call all the people you know in the states whose senators are on the Judiciary Committee and urge them to tell their senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh in committee and, if necessary, in the full Senate
  • Ask all your friends to contact their senators – especially swing votes like Senator Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Collins of Maine – and tell them to vote NO if the nomination reaches the full Senate.
  • Read our articles here, here, here, here, and here (wow, we’ve been busy!) for more info, suggested call scripts, and actions you need to take.
  • Make your voice heard: Unite for Justice has called for nationwide rallies to oppose Kavanaugh on Sunday, August 26. Find an event near you at this link, or attend NARAL Pro-Choice California’s event from 1-3 PM, San Francisco Civic Center.
  • Educate yourself: the IEB All Members Meeting will also be held on August 26 from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Linh will present an updated version of the Kavanaugh presentation she made at the August 2 meeting. Please join us if you can – it’s important to educate ourselves about this unacceptable nominee who would serve for life (and he’s only 53 years old!) if confirmed. We need to keep the pressure intense to stop this dangerous nomination.

 

We Need to Save Wildlife. Again.

By Christina Tarr and Andrea Lum

Action deadline: September 24, 2018

A death knell rang on July 19 for hundreds of endangered animals and plants in the United States, as the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back two key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. Yes, this means polar bears. In the most brazenly anti-environmental/pro-business stance possible, the administration also wants to eliminate language that tells officials to ignore economic impacts when determining how wildlife should be protected.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. In a recent press release, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl stated: “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife. If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

What you can do:

Comment on the proposal: The comment period on this proposal opened on July 25. Please file your comments here by the deadline: September 24, 2018.

Some points you can include:

  • The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction.
  • This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems.
  • Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.

Next, call your Members of Congress: Let them know that endangered species matter to you, thank them for their work in protecting endangered species, and urge them to continue to do so whenever they can. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris stood against anti-environmental provisions. Our representatives all have good records: read about Representative Barbara Lee’s support for the environment and environmental justice here, and see her conservation scorecard here. See Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s conservation scorecard here, and Representative Eric Swalwell’s here. Call them using the same comments you adapted from the above scripts, or a slightly different one, like this:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank [Senator/Representative ______].

I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the proposed threats to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration. The ESA, and all environmental legislation, is very important to me.

[Here’s an example, you can say something about your own experience with wildlife]: Seeing bald eagles nesting in Milpitas and peregrine falcons nesting on the Cal campus encourages me to believe that we can coexist with nature, but we have to work at it. When development and the resulting habitat loss is the chief danger to all wild life, I appreciate anything you can do to curb our destruction of wild species and wild places. We are lucky to be close to so much wilderness in the Bay Area, but we have to work to ensure that wild places persist, both here and everywhere around the country. Thank you.

[For Senators only:  Thank you for working to keep dangerous anti-environmental riders out of must-pass legislation like the Farm Bill and the Defense Authorization Act.]

  • 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

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. Andrea Lum is on the IEB newsletter and website team, and is the IEB Volunteer Team lead.
Photograph of bald eagle by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

Let’s See Your Papers, Brett Kavanaugh

Call Script

Hi, my name is _____ and my zip code is ____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to support the Senator’s request for Kavanaugh’s documents from his work with the Bush-Cheney administration and Ken Starr’s investigation. It’s possible that the White House chose Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court nominee for reasons not yet apparent to most of us. We need a far more complete record for this candidate. I’m asking the Senator to stand firm in her request for these documents and to insist on their thorough review before Kavanaugh is examined before the Judiciary Committee. Without a complete record, the nomination hearing could be a travesty or a rubber stamp for Trump’s nominee.

Background:

Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has rightfully been called the “Forrest Gump of Republican Politics”: he worked with Ken Starr, served as the principal drafter of the Starr Report investigating Bill Clinton, worked for candidate George Bush during the Bush-Gore Florida recount, and worked in the George W. Bush White House. During those years he created a vast, but non-public, paper trail of his views on important issues. That’s critical, because he may have been nominated precisely because of those largely non-public views. Even his public views on the Presidency are extreme, as he once wrote that Congress should exempt the President from criminal prosecution and investigation while in office, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense lawyers. Read our earlier article on various reasons why Brett Kavanaugh’s record is so disturbing.

At his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh will likely dodge answering how he would decide specific future cases or how he views or would rule on specific issues. Judicial nominees often do that under cover of avoiding making “pledges, promises or commitments…inconsistent with…impartial” judging under Canon 5(A)(3)(d)(1) of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct; but it also conveniently provides plausible deniability for Senators voting to confirm him. Without a written record, they can claim they are “shocked” at his future rulings. This is particularly critical given the Republicans’ narrow majority in the Senate and the Trump administration’s resulting recent withdrawal of another judicial nominee after his racist writings as an undergraduate became public.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has urged Democrats not to meet individually with Kavanaugh until Kavanaugh’s past written work has been produced. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has demanded that the White House and Kavanaugh produce his past written work to be reviewed before any confirmation hearing. Indivisible East Bay has supported Senator Feinstein in her position (and in her hiring counsel specifically to vet Kavanaugh’s record). Republicans continue to oppose the scope of the request.

Please thank Senator Feinstein for her firm stance and call both her and Senator Harris, who is also on the Judiciary Committee, and ask them to insist that the White House and Kavanaugh turn over the documents he authored at the White House and while working for Ken Starr before the Judiciary Committee hearing.

By Dean Gloster. Dean is a former clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court who now writes novels. His debut YA, DESSERT FIRST, is out now.

Demand Justice – Block SCOTUS

Updated July 5, 2018

Deadline: ASAP & ongoing –  Justice Kennedy’s retirement leaves a calamitous Supreme Court vacancy, putting major decisions at risk for generations. The people on Trump’s nomination wish list oppose all we hold dear: reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, health care, the environment, voting rights, and more. This is a fight for our lives. Democratic senators are fired up and so are we! And it’s a fight we can win if they hold together and flip even just one Republican who cares more about his or her constituents’ desire to protect reproductive choice and the ACA than about doing Sen. McConnell’s bidding and being a rubber stamp for the nominations of an unpopular president.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about the Supreme Court vacancy. I want the senator to do everything possible to oppose whoever Trump picks off his short list, or any other nominee who will take away our rights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Subscribe to the newsletter. See our newsletter archives.

 

Four Ways You Can Fight for Immigrants

For background on the family separation issue, please see our earlier articles here and here.

Updated July 3, 2018:

On June 26 federal District Judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, halting the family separation policy and ordering agencies to quickly begin reunifying families separated as a result of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. As of this writing, the Administration still has no plan to reunite families, and there are troubling questions about where the children are – including the fact that children have been placed with religious foster care agencies linked to Betsy DeVos and her husband.

On July 2, a district court judge in Texas ruled against the administration’s blanket practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers instead of granting them parole and releasing them to sponsors in the U.S. who have indicated that they are willing to provide housing. The court, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from denying parole to “asylum seekers who traveled to the United States, were found to have a credible fear of persecution, and were referred for immigration proceedings to decide their asylum claims.”

Here are updated tips on what you can do to fight the administration’s war against immigrants: (1) show up and raise your voice; (2) tell our Members of Congress to take action; (3) donate and help organizations; and (4) know the facts & spread the word.

1. Show Up and Raise Your Voice!

Thanks to all of you who attended any of the June 30 protests put on across the country by a broad coalition of groups (including Indivisible). Don’t stop now: events are continuing!

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) houses adult immigration detainees in Richmond, at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF), 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Other actions on the spot: demonstrations and other events are being planned at short notice all over the Bay Area Please check the IEB facebook page for updated events listings
  • Join 90-year old Ethel Kennedy and many others in “Break Bread, Not Families,” a hunger strike organized in solidarity with and to benefit organizations doing critical work to protect and care for families at the border.

2. Tell Our Members of Congress to Take Action

Our Senators and East Bay Members of Congress (MoCs) have always opposed the administration’s immoral policy of separating immigrant families and jailing babies and children. They must remain vocal leaders as the administration tries to sweep this issue out of public view. This is a fast-changing story and we will update the following action list as often as we can; please check back frequently.

Find contact info for our Senators and Representatives below and here.

Insist on Information:

Does the administration think that if they don’t talk about their outrageous conduct, we’ll forget about it? HHS has stopped answering questions about how many children have been separated from their parents, as well as other information about the children. Tell our elected representatives that “I can’t hear you” is not acceptable and that we want information.

Legislative action:

The administration has no process to reunite children with their parents, even after they are deported. There are no Republican bills that fix the problems caused by the administration’s zero tolerance policy.

  • Ask our Senators to introduce, support, insist on legislation that will at a minimum return the children to their families. Since some of these children were taken from families seeking asylum who were wrongly arrested before their cases could even be heard, any legislation should also take this into account and allow for family reunification in the United States.
  • Ask our Senators to use every tool at their disposal, including Congress’ power of the purse. Ask them to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use all the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop this immoral and inhumane separation of families and jailing children.
  • We’re proud that our California MoCs have been active in opposing, and trying to stop and reverse, the Administration’s cruel policies. Please thank all of them, with especial thanks for those who have taken on leadership:
    • Senators Feinstein and Harris introduced legislation to stop family separation and prevent future increases to immigration detention.
    • Senator Feinstein has requested a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on family separations and is working on plans to visit at least one detention facility in California during recess.
    • Senator Harris toured the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility in San Diego and has suggested scrapping ICE and starting from scratch.
    • If you live in Rep. DeSaulnier’s district, please thank him for his vehement and apparently successful opposition to turning the Concord Naval Weapons Station into a detention facility.
    • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Lee, please thank her for visiting with detained parents and children in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas and speaking out strongly afterward. She has also written to the UN requesting observers.
    • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Swalwell, you can thank him for being a signatory to a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen strongly protesting the Administration’s actions and demanding answers to a number of questions including plans for reuniting families and whether separating families “violates international human rights law,” as well as a letter to the Inspector General concerning record-keeping and family reunification. Rep. Swalwell will be making multiple appearances at June 30 Keep Families Together events.
    • All three East Bay Representatives signed a letter seeking more information about the Navy’s proposal to create a tent camp for undocumented immigrants at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, and all three are co-sponsors of the Keep Families Together Act.
  • The Constitution-Wrecker-in-Chief has asserted that undocumented immigrants should be deported with “no judges or court cases,” despite the fact that the Constitution extends due process rights to all persons, not just all citizens. Tell our MoCs to fight any effort by the Administration to take away any due process rights from undocumented immigrants.

Witness and report: 

So far, we have the statements of the administration (and their Biblical interpretations) about the incarceration of children separated from their parents; and we already know they’re lying through their teeth about this policy. And the agencies running the ‘detention centers’ will only provide their own video and photos of the inside of the facilities where the children are imprisoned.

  • We want our MoCs to make the journey to see first-hand, to demand access, to investigate and report. HHS has issued a directive prohibiting visits with less than two weeks’ notice (except scheduled tours with RSVPs), and banned legislators from talking to the children in detention; we want them to fight back against this outrageous and transparent cover-up attempt. We want them to insist on being admitted into the facilities, on being permitted to talk to the children, and on making full reports of what they see and hear. Our MoCs have been strong on this issue; please thank them.
  • We also want our MoCs to call for oversight and to demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning these children. This should include what experts were consulted as to the children’s physical and emotional welfare as a result of removing them from their parents and housing them in their current conditions. The administration should be required to prove to the satisfaction of appropriate, disinterested medical authorities that these children, housed in tents in the brutal Texas summer, are physically safe. It’s already clear, however, that they aren’t emotionally safe; experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated forceful opposition to the policy of family separation, which they say “can cause irreparable harm.”

What to say [this is a suggested script, you can adapt to include more of the the above information]:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want ____ to visit and inspect the detention facilities, and to call for oversight and demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning migrant families. I also want ____ to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop these immoral anti-immigrant practices.

  • 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) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

3. Donate and help organizations

Ready to do more? These organizations are doing good and need your help:

  • Kids at The Border ActBlue Fund – your donation helps several organizations working to protect kids separated from their families. The list is being updated, at this time it includes: Human Rights First, We Belong Together, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Women’s Refugee Commission, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), United We Dream Action, La Union Del Pueblo Entero, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Al Otro Lado, The Florence Project, Neta, Innovation Law Lab, Fuerza Del Valle, and The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
  • This page listing many more worthy organizations is also being updated regularly
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) – This Texas-based organization gives direct legal support to immigrants. Your donation will help pay bonds so that parents can be released from ICE custody and reunite with their children
  • Are you a lawyer, or do you know any who might want to help? Sign up here for more info about volunteer opportunities with Lawyers for Good Government, L4GG Foundation, and the Immigration Justice Campaign. They offer a wide range of in-person and remote options to provide assistance to immigrants, from research to representation.

4. Know the facts & spread the word:

  • See this excellent article, including an extensive Q&A section by Suit Up Maine.
  • Refute the administration’s lies that this is all the Democrats’ fault or that separating families was just enforcing the law. If their claims sound wrong – they probably are. Use fact-check sites such as Politifact and Snopes, and share only info you can verify.

 

Contact Your Elected Representatives!

FEDERAL:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104

 

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

***************************************************************

STATE:

http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Governor Edmund G. Brown: (email); (916) 445-2841c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 953-5335 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]

IEB goes to Washington

Indivisible East Bay usually meets with our Washington representatives when they visit the Bay Area. But from June 4-6, 2018, IEB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for a succession of get-togethers with California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris as well as several of their key staffers. It was an opportunity for face-to-face interactions at a high-level — and IEB made the most of it.

Senator Feinstein visit to DC

One highlight of the trip was a constituent breakfast with Senator Feinstein. For her opening remarks, Feinstein mainly spoke about her recently-introduced legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families, as well as her plans to address the problems of homelessness and climate change. Since it was the morning after the primary, she thanked those who voted for her and said she hoped to win over the rest.

During the Q&A that followed, we noted that the Senator is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked what we could do to help fix the broken process for the confirmation of judges, and especially to protect the federal judiciary from the too-often extremist nominees put forward by Republicans. Her answer was simple but will be difficult to accomplish: Take back the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris in DC

We also heard Senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak at a rally jointly organized by the NAACP and Demand Justice (a new organization focusing on judicial nominations). IEB’s Judiciary team recently started working with Demand Justice to attempt to block the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime judgeship on the district court in North Carolina. Farr has a decades-long history of involvement in voter suppression of North Carolina’s African-American population.

Finally, we had several days of meetings with six members of Feinstein’s and Harris’s staffs. At each meeting, we raised our concerns on specific issues, listened to their replies, and offered our responses. Here are the highlights:

Senator Feinstein Chief of Staff Steve Haro and Appropriations Legislative Aide Josh Esquivel

Our highest level meeting was with Senator Feinstein’s chief of staff Steve Haro and Josh Esquivel, her appropriations legislative aide.

The opening topic was nuclear bombs, notably the House’s recently passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision for $65 million to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon to be launched from submarines. Feinstein is on record as strongly opposing this and other efforts to expand the nuclear stockpile and plans to offer an amendment to remove such provisions from the Senate bill. However, Josh would not promise that Feinstein would vote NO on the full NDAA if, despite her efforts, the nuclear authorizations remain in the bill.

We next discussed aspects of the Homeland Security Authorization Bill, which currently has bipartisan support in the Senate. We asked about the increased budget authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) included in the bill. In our view, both of these agencies have abused their power and defied Congressional oversight; we thus asked that Senator Feinstein vote against additional funding for those agencies. Steve and Josh both expressed some surprise that funding for these agencies was included in the bill; they were under the impression that the bill was mostly about other aspects of the Department, such as disaster preparedness and election security.

We also requested a status update regarding funding for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Josh told us that there is still “plenty of money” left from the last relief funding bill Congress passed. Why then, we asked, does the situation in Puerto Rico remain so dire? He replied that the administration is not doing a good job using the available money to get resources to the people who need it.

We told him that we would like to see Congressional staff get raises. Legislative branch funding is very skimpy and one of the reasons for this is that Congressional Republicans have, since the 1990’s, cut funds for the legislative branch in an apparent bid to increase lobbyists’ relative power and influence. We would like to see that trend reversed in upcoming federal budgets.

Lastly, we discussed sexual harassment and staff well-being policies in Congressional offices. On the subject of harassment, Steve said that the Senator has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy. Staffers are asked to report any incidents directly to him or the Senator. In either case, a report immediately triggers an investigation, headed by Steve. If any harassment is determined to have occurred, the consequences are very serious and even a first offense can result in termination.

Feinstein judicial nominations counsel Gabe Kader

In our meeting with Gabe Kader, one of Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee counsels, we returned to the subject of nominations to the federal bench. Gabe was very interested to hear about our work in this area, especially about which issues in the nominees’ backgrounds resonated most with our members and friends: reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, conflicts of interest, etc.

While we affirmed our support for Feinstein’s goal of Democrats taking back the Senate — as the ultimate solution here — we told him that, in the interim, Feinstein should use her leadership to convince all Congressional Democrats to stand together in opposing unqualified and ultra-conservative nominees put forward by the GOP.

Gabe replied that the Senator is concerned that pushing back too hard could give Senator Grassley and the rest of the Republicans an excuse to abandon the vetting and bipartisan process entirely. We questioned how much that would differ from what the GOP is already doing.

Feinstein immigration counsel Olga Medina

Our last meeting with a Feinstein staffer was with Olga Medina, an immigration counsel. We went over the details of Senator Feinstein’s new legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border. Her Keep Families Together Act would prohibit agencies from separating children from their parents unless a state court, an “official from the State or county child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and  development,” or the Chief Patrol Agent or the Area Port Director “in their official and undelegated capacity” determines that a separation is in the best interests of the child.  It also explicitly states that families can’t be separated as a deterrent. A variety of other provisions (such as keeping siblings together) are designed to protect families in those rare cases when a separation does occur.

Senator Harris legislative science fellow Ike Irby

We had two meetings with representatives of Senator Harris. The first was with legislative science fellow Ike Irby. The focus was on the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and how we can learn from our failures there. Ike told us that the Senator is working on legislation to put standards in place for how states and territories calculate death rates from natural disasters. We also discussed climate change, both specifically in terms of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure and, more generally, about federal carbon pricing. It sounded as if Senator Harris, similar to many of our local representatives, isn’t quite ready to put her weight behind any particular carbon pricing plan, but is generally supportive and waiting to see which way the wind blows.

Harris Legislative Aide Elizabeth Hira

Our meeting with Elizabeth Hira, one of Senator Harris’ staffers, focused on the judiciary and criminal justice. As in our meeting with Gabe Kader, Elizabeth was very interested to hear which issues in the judicial nominees’ backgrounds most resonated with the resistance.

We also discussed criminal justice bills that Senator Harris supports, most notably the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. We expressed concerns that these bills don’t sufficiently guard against the possibility that the software used for determining recidivism risk and thus sentencing could unintentionally perpetuate racial biases. As such, we want to see provisions to properly review such software and to allow people to appeal decisions made by software. We suggested a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “algorithmic bias”, with expert testimony from researchers in the field, and Elizabeth asked us to write up a short proposal for such a hearing, indicating she would follow up on this matter.

Top photo: IEB members with Emma Mehrabi, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

Memos:

The atrocity at the border; what we can demand our Members of Congress do

A lot of us are rightly horrified and appalled by what’s happening at the border and are asking what can be done about it in addition to voting out Republicans in November. It turns out this is a good time for a few possible actions in both chambers — although because of membership, seniority, and timing of legislative activities, the Senate might be better for short-term action. These are not the only things to do. Direct action in the streets to bring attention to the issue is also critical (as well as campaigning against horrible Republicans) but these steps are in line with what Indivisible was founded to do: influence our current members of Congress.

Some relevant info about Congress and its relationship with these agencies:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) both need to be authorized by Congress for certain activities and need to have their annual funding appropriated via the annual budget process.
  • Both agencies fall under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and are in discretionary funding categories (their funding needs to be appropriated every year and is thus subject to Congressional review).
  • Because Congress can authorize activities and conduct oversight, you can ask both for oversight over current activities, and for changes to what these agencies are authorized to do in the future.
  • The DHS (including its sub-agencies such as ICE) has not been reauthorized since it was created in 2003; there is an authorization bill ready for Senate Floor debate (it already passed the House), so please call both of your senators to ask them to offer amendments curtailing ICE authority and cutting back its budget authority in future years.
  • There is a DHS appropriations bill “mark up” hearing scheduled for the third week in June, which means senators and staffers are busily working on the funding bill NOW. Please call your senators and tell them to cut ICE’s funding for the Fiscal Year 2019.  To cut ICE’s funding, ask both Senators Feinstein and Harris, but put special emphasis on Feinstein since she is on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • To get oversight on current horrible things that ICE and CBP do, contact Harris and Feinstein’s offices. Both of them are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight authority over border and immigration laws. Sen. Harris is on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), which has authority over ICE & CBP personnel and policy issues. Ask her for more oversight hearings like this one last month.
  • The House can also conduct more oversight. The House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over DOJ and Immigration laws. If you live in CA-15, please contact Rep. Eric Swalwell about Jeff Session’s zero-tolerance policy on border crossing criminalization.

TL;DR! To sum up: These cruel policies are in place because of guidance from the White House, and are implemented through a memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and are being carried out by ICE and CBP. Congress has a lot of power over what these agencies can do and how much resources they have to do it.

Calling your MoCs frequently on this issue is the best way to let them know how important this is to you. You can send post cards too!

What to say:

To Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein:

My name is _________ and my zip code is ______. I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am horrified by what our immigration officials are doing to children and families at our border. I ask Senator _________ to cut ICE’s funding and authority in FY 2019 and future years, and to use her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to exercise maximum oversight over ICE and CBP. 

You can add, for Senator Harris:

I want Senator Harris to use her position on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee to exercise more oversight of ICE & CBP personnel and policy, and to demand more oversight hearings.

You can add, for Senator Feinstein:

I want Senator Feinstein to use her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to do everything possible to cut ICE’s funding for the Fiscal Year 2019.

  • 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

To Rep. Swalwell (if you are a constituent):

My name is _________ and my zip code is ______. I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am horrified by what our immigration officials are doing to children and families at our border. I ask Rep. Swalwell to use his position on the House Judiciary Committee to take action against Jeff Session’s policies on border crossing criminalization that are brutalizing children and treating human beings like animals.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

 

IEB Meets with Senator Harris’ Staff, May 2018

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

By Myra S. Mitzman

On May 3, 2018, Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Kamala Harris’ State Director, Julie Rodriguez, and Bay Area District Director, June Williams, in downtown Oakland.  

We opened with a serious discussion surrounding ICE tactics of detaining pregnant women and separating children from their parents. Julie stressed that, in light of misinformation about the recently-arrived “caravan,” it is important to humanize the narrative—something we can do to help. Please email Senator Harris if you have a story concerning someone adversely affected by these harsh ICE policies.

The dialogue turned to national security, in particular Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel (torture, anyone?). We pointed out that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation, about the treatment of detainees during the so-called “War on Terror” rightly belongs to the Senate, not the CIA, and perhaps could be publicly released by any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee – which includes both Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein. Also on the national security agenda: Syria, where there is seemingly no long-term strategy, and where, according to Julie, the U.S.’s “muscular diplomacy” (i.e., ability to engage in effective negotiation) has dwindled.

On the topic of Social Security, IEB members and staff alike took umbrage at the characterization of this program as an “entitlement” when so many of us have paid into it for decades. Ironically, one of the best things we could do to shore up Social Security is to pass comprehensive immigration reform, so more young immigrants will be able to pay into the system—and earn more money, and create more jobs, growing an economy that can take care of the aging population. And let’s not forget how the Trump tax scam was always intended to dry up funding for social safety net programs.

Over the course of the next 60 minutes, we covered climate change (see S.2352, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2018, currently in need of co-sponsors); Puerto Rico (debt restructuring/renewable energy?); Trump’s latest judicial appointments (see snippet of Senator Harris grilling Wendy Vitter); defense spending (don’t count on a Harris “No” vote on increases); election security (demand paper ballots!); and sexual harassment in Congress (Harris’s staff undergoes regular harassment training, but she appears to be in the minority in doing this).

We also got into drug policy, including Senator Schumer’s proposed national Democratic platform for marijuana decriminalization. Julie pointed out that, with Democrats holding so few Washington “power levers,” one way to effect change is through the appropriations process. If Congress doesn’t approve appropriations, the Department of Justice can’t implement its regressive drug enforcement policies. For now, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is still good law (the DOJ isn’t supposed to spend money enforcing federal drug laws in states that have legalized medical cannabis). But as we know, true drug reform requires reforming sentencing laws, eliminating cash bail (promising, but not if the algorithm used to determine flight risk, etc. is inherently biased), and decriminalizing marijuana (including a nationwide “equity agenda” similar to Oakland’s).

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

A few more notable moments:

  • Julie saying that, for Senator Harris, the conversation always needs to be, “How do we improve people’s lives?” It’s her “litmus test” whenever evaluating an issue or proposal. Amen.
  • Quote of the day: “The Senator’s ability to be fearless is because you all are.” Awwww. See the Senator’s interview on the Stephen Colbert show, where she was perhaps a bit measured, but watch and judge for yourselves.
  • Reminding Julie that, despite Mitch McConnell’s bluster, any Senator can introduce the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia 

Last but not least, we’re pushing for another town hall. June Williams said she’s been pressing the Senator on this. Historically, town halls were held only by House representatives. Fun fact: Before the 2016 election, Senators Feinstein and Boxer had not held a town hall in 24 years—last year’s Feinstein April town hall in San Francisco was her first ever! But in these troubled times, people’s demands have changed, and town halls are an important way to have our voices heard. Please call our senators and reps and demand more town halls this year—then show up (and speak up!) if and when they happen.

Myra Mitzman is an Oakland real estate/business attorney and sideline women’s fiction author (under the pseudonym Sheryl Sorrentino).

Photos by Maria Bernstein

 

Gina Haspel Should Not Run the CIA

On April 26, the Senate voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, despite his record as an Islamophobe who has sought to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, his support for the NSA collecting Americans’ communications data, his past support of torture as an “interrogation technique,” and his lies about the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in our elections. In an April 17 press release titled “Pompeo Not Qualified to Serve as Secretary of State,” Senator Feinstein detailed these reasons, and more, why Mike Pompeo would not be “capable of proudly representing all of America in the pursuit of peace.” We could not agree more.

Now the Senate has before it the Current Occupant’s nomination of Gina Haspel to succeed Pompeo as CIA Chief. Haspel’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for May 9, 2018. 

Haspel has no business running the CIA:

  • Gina Haspel’s CIA career includes documented connections with torture, including connections with the torture of terrorism suspects in a secret prison and destroying evidence of the torture.
  • Haspel was denied a CIA promotion in 2013 because of her history with torture, in part thanks to Sen. Feinstein.
  • Feinstein recently said that Haspel has been a good CIA deputy director, but on March 14, 2018, said that Haspel “was involved in one of the darkest chapters in American history. Senators who will vote on her nomination MUST know the exact role she played in the CIA’s torture program.”
  • The details of Haspel’s involvement with torture are still classified by the CIA while the agency continues to push out glowing internal memos about her.
  • With Pompeo’s confirmation as Secretary of State, Haspel is now the CIA’s Acting Director, and has classification/declassification authority over records of her own culpability for torture and cover-up of torture.

What you can do:

Please tell Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris that since they stand against torture, they must stand against putting people who condone torture at the head of the CIA—they must vote NO on Gina Haspel.

Hi, My name is _______, I’m a constituent from [zip code] and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination as head of the CIA. Gina Haspel carried out torture and destroyed the evidence. The CIA is refusing to disclose the extent of her involvement with torture. She is not qualified to lead the CIA. I want the Senator to oppose Haspel’s nomination and to speak out publicly against Haspel as head of the CIA. Thank you.

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

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