Take Action: No Kavanaugh hearings before midterms

By August 7: Tell the Census Bureau to remove its citizenship question from the 2020 census form

United State Census 2020For the first time since 1950, the Census Bureau will ask all U.S. households about citizenship status, specifically, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

Because of the rapid growth in the Texas population in the last decade, Texas is poised to gain up to three new congressional representatives and millions of dollars for our state. However, the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census could prove to be a barrier between this new representation and funding if many Texans are concerned about filling out the Census because of the climate of fear caused by today’s politics.

The Census is not intended to count the number of U.S. citizens in each state. The Census is intended to count every person in the state regardless of their citizenship status.

Submit your comments to the Commerce Department by Tuesday, August 7 >>

Read “Why a 2020 Census citizenship question is a loser for Texans” (CPPP) >>

Tell Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos to give high school students the vote

Map of Texas high school voter registration compliance

From the Texas Observer:

“Abysmal compliance with a decades-old state law is leaving at least 180,000 high school seniors off the current voter rolls, according to a new report.”

“The authors of the report…call on the secretary of state’s office to automatically send the forms to schools, rather than requiring administrators to request them; offer online trainings for voter registrars; and create a publicly available database showing which schools are registering students.”

Contact Secretary Pablos:

Phone: (512) 463-5555
Email: secretary@sos.texas.gov

Tell Cornyn and Cruz: No Kavanaugh hearings before midterms

Unflattering headshots of John Cornyn and Ted CruzOur dear old friends John Cornyn and Ted Cruz sit on the Judiciary Committee, deciding things like whether hearings can be held on a Supreme Court nominee whose millions of pages of records have not been released. The National Archives needs until October to compile the initial request from Senator Grassley—which still does not include records from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. Yet, the GOP-controlled Senate appears to be pushing for September hearings.

Celeste Pewter has a script just for Judiciary Committee members:

I am asking [Cruz/Cornyn] to commit to a thorough vetting and questioning of Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the Supreme Court.

We need to know where Judge Kavanaugh stands on key legal rulings, his conduct and ethics in office, and his employment track record. This includes a full recounting of his documents while serving as staff secretary for President Bush White and all documents available from the National Archives.

With that in mind, I’m calling on [Cruz/Cornyn] to ensure that the National Archive has until October to finish their full review of documents—as requested. We cannot and should not proceed without a full picture of Kavanaugh’s background.

How your voices are making a difference

  • In Austin, local activists and lawmakers pressured ICE to drop a request to detain a woman jailed two weeks ago for assault while she was experiencing a mental heath crisis
  • A record number of states are introducing reform measures to combat partisan gerrymandering
  • A federal judge ruled that Donny must fully restore DACA

Read more >>

Events

  • Thursday, Aug. 9, 8:30-9:30 AM, 1105 N IH35 – Indivisible Rosedale Huddle brings us banner drops Thursdays this August. This week: make Ted sweat his constituents! (Facebook event)
  • Saturday, Aug. 11, 11AM-11PM, Fiesta Gardens (festival) & Texas State Capitol > Congress Ave (parade) – Happy Pride, Austinites! Free parade portion runs 8-11 PM, starting at the Capitol, continuing down Congress onto 4th (Facebook event) More events at the Austin Pride website and the Chronicle’s Gay Place roundup.
  • Save the Date: Monday, Aug. 27, 9AM-2PM, Robert B. Rowling Hall, 300 W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd – Texas Disability Issues Forum (TDIF) brings together members of the Texas disability community, major candidates for statewide office, and disability advocates (Event link at REV UP!)

Countdown: 91 Days to November 6

BLUE WAVEWith only thirteen weeks between now and midterms, every hour of effort, every weekend of work counts. This week, add your drop to the growing #BlueWave:

Ask three people you know or meet if they are registered to vote at their current address. If they’re not sure, help them check using the Texas Secretary of State’s tool here. If they aren’t registered, help them change that by reaching out to us at ask@indivisibleaustin.com, and we’ll get them in touch with an Indivisible VDR. If they or you have any questions about voter registration, please use the same address!

Texas is overwhelmingly a non-voting state. Changing that reality starts by changing our shared culture—which also means talking (early and often!) about voting.

Congress Critter of the Week: Rep. Pete Sessions

Pete SessionsPete Sessions isn’t one of ours, but he is a representative from Texas, and he did hit peak Republican this week.

In attempting to explain his virtuous view of how to handle divorce proceedings, Pete managed to blame, for her own murder, a woman killed by her husband. He also blamed the divorce court judge—because they were unfair to the wealthy, presumably white, man.

His own words explain why he’s this weeks Critter better than we can:

“A big-time guy in Highland Park, who went and killed his wife, just gunned her down. And that was because the judge was unfair, and the woman was unfair. And she demanded something, and he was out. And it was frustration.” 

Running against Pete Sessions in TX-32 is Colin Allred, who was just endorsed by President Obama.

Your Moment of Zen

It could’ve happened in Austin, but didn’t: 118 goats freely roamed a Boise, ID, neighborhood on Friday after escaping the enclosures of the local We Rent Goats business.

Funding the Fight

Taco plate from Taco DeliThey say an army marches on its belly. That’s true for an army of block walking canvassers, phone bankers, and letter writers too.

Be a part of the movement by making a contribution today! Your gift of $25 or $50 could provide the coffee and breakfast tacos that get us and America over the line.

Take Action: Rebuke Trump for the Debacle in Helsinki

Take Action

Tell your reps that Trump must be rebuked for his comments in Helsinki

But first, here’s Lyin’ Cornyn:

“Nobody disputes the fact that they were unsuccessful in changing a single vote or affecting the outcome.”
—Sen. John Cornyn, speaking on the Senate floor after Trump’s abysmal, traitorous performance in Helsinki.

It’s a lie. And a common lie among Republicans unwilling to accept an uncomfortable truth: that Russian information warfare might very well have swung the election to Trump.

Because it seems like a year ago, read the Washington Post’s chronology of the Helsinki debacle to refresh your memory. Then, call your reps!

Talking Points
(with a hat tip to Celeste Pewter)

  • Censure the President for his remarks.
  • We need new, bipartisan sanctions—stronger than the previous ones, and actually enforced.
  • Get a transcript of what was said privately between Trump and Putin.
  • Support legislation to protect the Mueller investigation.
  • The translator and the U.S. national security team that accompanied Trump to Helsinki must testify on Capitol Hill.
  • Condemn any suggestion of, or hesitation over, Russia interrogating members of our intelligence community.
  • A second meeting with Putin—at the White House, no less—sends exactly the wrong message. It’s galling.

Bonus script for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos:

secretary@sos.texas.gov
(512) 463-5555

“Given the additional indictments concerning attempts to hack into our election system, and with November midterms coming up, I would like to know how Secretary Pablos is protecting the integrity of elections in Texas.”

Tell John Cornyn and Ted Cruz that Brett Kavanaugh’s White House records must be released

During Elena Kagan’s nomination process, 11,000 of her emails and 160,000 documents from her tenure in the Clinton White House were released to the public. So why would Brett Kavanaugh—who served in the George W. Bush White House—be treated any differently? That is the question for Senators Cornyn and Cruz, both of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Call and ask them. We have a right to know.

Read more on why we must stop Kavanaugh from becoming Trump’s next Supreme Court Justice >>

Our government continues to separate families at the border and putting toddlers on trial—demand a stop to it!

The Russia news overshadowed the ongoing border crisis last week. It’s important to remain focused on the cruelty that the Trump administration continues to inflict on blameless children and their frequently desperate parents. July 26th is the court-ordered deadline to reunite most families. The Texas Tribune has expanded its coverage at the border. Get caught up—and then call your reps.

“The Trump administration has summoned at least 70 infants to immigration court for their own deportation proceedings since Oct. 1, according to Justice Department data provided to Kaiser Health News.”

—Texas Tribune, “Immigrant infants too young to talk called into court to defend themselves”

“On the brink of being released from detention and reunited with children separated from them sometimes months ago, migrant parents are held at a South Texas facility in a sort of limbo — not free to leave, but without access to phones or commissary accounts that regular detainees get.”

—Texas Tribune, “Incommunicado in South Texas: Migrant parents await reunification in seclusion

Also read:

TribTalk: “Americans — and American values — support immigration and compromise” by our friend Tiffany Yates Martin >>

ACLU: “Inside the Family Separation Legal Drama” >>

Indivisible Austin: Tired of calling your reps? Write a letter to the editor! >>

How your voices are making a difference

  • Will Hurd penned a startlingly frank op-ed
  • A federal judge temporarily halted deportations of families
  • The big angry Trump baby is coming to America

Read more >>

Featured Event

#BeATexasVoter Phone Bank with Indivisible founders and co-executive directors Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin

Ezra Levin and Leah GreenbergSunday, Jul. 29, 1-3 PM, Austin History Center Come join Indivisible Austin and our special guests, Indivisible founders and co-executive directors Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin, at our #BeATexasVoter kickoff phone bank! We’ll be just about 100 days out from the November midterms, and we’re celebrating by calling prospective voters to make sure they know why this election is so important, and to get them engaged NOW so they’re ready to go to the polls as soon as early voting starts. There will be snacks and swag for all phone bankers!

YOU WILL NEED TO BRING:

  • a laptop or tablet
  • your cellphone
  • earbuds

If you’ve never participated in a phone bank, it’s easy! We’ll teach you!

(IATX event info; Facebook event)

Also:

  • Thursday, Jul. 26, 11 AM-12:30 PM, NeWorlDeli – IATX Women’s Coffee Meetup (Facebook event)

Congress Critter

From Republican strategist John Weaver:

Moment of Zen

It’s record-breakingly hot in Austin this week. Elsewhere, Buttercup the bulldog enjoyed a kiddie pool of ice:

Funding the Fight

You made it! You’re all the way at the bottom of the email, but if you look back at the top you’ll see something very important: Help Lead Indivisible Austin’s GOTV Work.

We have to knock on doors, call, text, mail, organize and build community throughout Central Texas to do our part to bring some accountability and decency to DC and to our own capitol here in Austin.

You know how important this is. Be a part of the solution by supporting our efforts NOW so we can bring change in November.

Austin Sanctuary Network News – June 2018

Support for sanctuary is building

On May 10, the Austin City Council unanimously passed the ASN sponsored resolution.  In short, the City expressed its support of ASN’s efforts to safeguard Alirio, Hilda and Ivan and to obtain Stays of Deportation for all three.  On June 4, the City Council of Durham, NC passed a similar resolution. Unanimously, they resolved to ask their U.S. Representatives to intervene in support of two fathers in Sanctuary.

Please get involved

The Trump’s Administration policy demands a response.  Its intent could not be clearer. A forceful agenda of cruelly separating children from their parents at the border, raiding workplaces, rounding up undocumented immigrants and deportation proceedings has left families without one, and in some cases, both parents.  Further, Attorney General Session’s has instructed Immigration Judges to disregard domestic abuse and gang violence as reasons to grant asylum and his enforcers “to start looking at churches and other zones.” These directives will negatively impact thousands of refugees.  A forceful movement opposing these actions is essential. Please get involved. Stay informed, support ASN, participate in its efforts, write your Congress-person and urge others to do the same.

News of Hilda, Ivan and Alirio

During this month’s ASN meeting, Hilda and Alirio moved us deeply as they spoke about their frustration and discouragement on being confined for so long —   Over ten months for Alirio, around two years for Hilda and her 10 year old son, Ivan. In other news, ASN is arranging a meeting with ICE to request a stay of deportation for all of them.

Call for volunteers

We need volunteer drivers to take our immigrant friends to appointments in San Antonio as they go to court hearings, ankle monitor appointments, and ICE check-ins.  Your help would also help lighten the emotional burden of our friends. If you are interested, please email Peggy at morton.peg@gmail.com.

Next ASN meeting

Tuesday, July 10 at 7:00 p.m., at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Avenue.

Families Belong Together: Events and Volunteer Opportunities

Families Belong Together - Austin, TX June 30 2018

Today we’re sharing all the information we have so far about confirmed events on the border in Texas in the coming days, as well as events in Austin. Please send any additional event information to tips@indivisibleaustin.com.

If you are not from the border communities and you’re headed down for the day or a few days, please consider how your actions will impact people who live in these communities everyday. Please consider how your actions will impact the community organizations that have been working with immigrants families for generations. We all have a deep desire to help and to take action, but we believe that it’s incredibly important to follow the lead of those who have been in this fight for many years, and who best understand the needs of their own communities.

Events in the Austin Area

June 26 – Jericho March: Tear down the walls dividing families

9:30 – 11 AM
710 S Main St.
Georgetown, TX

Join Grassroots Leadership for a show of moral force as faith leaders and women formerly detained testify before County Commissioners. Immediately following testimony, we will march outside and circle the walls of the County Courthouse 7 times, as in the Old Testament Joshua circled the walls of Jericho and they came tumbling down. We call for the walls of the detention center and the power structures that uphold it to be torn down. Let’s reunite these families and end prosecutions of people seeking safety and a better life.

Facebook event >>

June 27 – HABLA Platica: Families Belong Together!/¡Familias Unidas No Divididas!

7:30 – 9 a.m.
Juan in a Million
2300 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, Texas 78702

We will have a distinguished panel of guests discussing the latest status of efforts to reunite children with their families, fundraising efforts and calls to action. Please join us for this important HABLA platica! HISPANIC ADVOCATES BUSINESS LEADERS OF AUSTIN (HABLA) is a “THINK TANK” group and forum made up of local Hispanic/Latino community and business leaders committed to discussing and developing sustainable solutions on current affairs, public policies and quality of life issues impacting our local Austin Hispanic/Latino community.

Facebook event >>

June 30 – Families Belong Together and FREE Rally

12 – 3 p.m.
Texas State Capitol
Austin, TX

On June 30, we’re joining with people rallying in Washington, D.C. and around the country to tell Donald Trump and his administration to end this cruel and inhumane zero tolerance policy, to end dehumanizing immigrants and migrants, and to end family​ detention and separation.

Facebook event >>

June 30 – REUNITE FAMILIES, STOP HUMANITARIAN ABUSES

10 a.m. to noon
Congressman Bill Flores’ Bryan District Office
3000 Briarcrest Dr, Ste 406, Bryan, Texas 77802

Join the the national march of FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER in our sister vigil in Bryan/College Station. Meet on the Briarcrest sidewalk in front of the Wells Fargo building to show support for those 2,300 children who have been needlessly separated from their parents at our border in the last several weeks, and to demand a better alternative to Trump’s current, cruel executive order.

Facebook event >>

Events to Support Immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley

Via Neta RGV

McAllen Area

June 25 – Parents Everywhere Care

10 AM – 2 PM
Ursula Child Detention Center (3700 Ursula Ave)
McAllen, TX

This event is being organized by a grassroots group of individuals. Although originally the rally was focused on the practice of separating children from parents, following the Trump administration’s executive order, one of the event organizers stated that the event would continue in opposition to the “indefinite jailing and detention of individuals and families.”

Facebook event >>

June 28 – Vigil for Claudia Gomez Gonzalez

7 PM – 9 PM
Harlon Block Sports Complex (1020 W. 18th St)
Weslaco, Texas

This event, which is being co-organized by the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, the RGV No Border Wall Coalition, and La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), will seek to “bring awareness to the injustices and transgressions of Border Patrol on border communities and honor the lives of those that have passed.”

Facebook event >>

Brownsville/Harlingen Area

June 23 – March to Defend Families! Immigration Reform

12 PM – 2 PM
Location Details: International Gateway Bridge-Port of Entry, Brownsville, TX
Meeting Place: Xeriscape Park, Brownsville TX. (Front of the International Gateway Bridge in the Flag area.)

This event is being organized by Frontera Progressives, a group that states it came together after the 2017 Women’s March around issues regarding the “assault on peace, justice, equality and the environment.” According to a press release, Frontera Progressives is organizing this event “to demand an end to the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, for fair treatment of asylum seekers according to international norms, and for the immediate reuniting of families separated by the administration’s separation policy.”

Facebook event >>

June 28 – Families Belong Together Rally at the Border

11 AM – 2 PM
Linear Park (1501 E 7th St.)
Brownsville, TX 78520

Organized by the ACLU Border Rights Center. According to the Facebook event page, “families, advocates, and allies will hold a rally in the park across the street from the Brownsville Federal Court, where immigrants are being prosecuted en masse for crossing the border into the United States, and then separated from their children.” The event is being co-organized by a wide coalition of organizations.

Bus Transportation will be available from the following locations and is limited, click the following links to reserve your spot:

Laredo: https://goo.gl/forms/UcJMrLmpueaPmVvY2

Dallas: https://goo.gl/forms/3SBNl6M492MVTAOe2

Austin: https://goo.gl/forms/vzUnmeNkdsfFJgbn1

Houston: https://goo.gl/forms/6vhAfX6xzEKyuh2h2

San Antonio Waitlist: https://goo.gl/forms/mY8hbPUrcqElekdD2

Facebook event >>

Events in the Tornillo/El Paso Area

June 23 – Physicians & Nurses March to Tornillo: Families Belong Together!

9:30 – 11 a.m.
18051 Island Guadalupe Rd, Fabens, TX 79838
Texas physicians & nurses will MARCH in support of keeping families together and ending this immoral and cruel practice of separating children from their parents. We have a responsibility to these children to first, DO NO HARM.

Facebook event >>

June 24th – #EndFamilyDetention Action

9 – 11 a.m.
Tornillo Port of Entry, El Paso, TX

Led by Voto Latino. “For thousands of children in detention centers, nothing has changed. This is why we will be in Tornillo, TX on June 24 at 9am. We demand a PLAN and a PROMISE that these children will be REUNITED with their families. Moreover, reunification in DETENTION CENTERS is not a solution. Jailing families together is trauma as well.”

***OVERNIGHT BUS FROM AUSTIN leaves at 10 p.m. Saturday night from UT campus***
Email Irving with Voto Latino to reserve your spot.

More information >>

June 27th – Direct Action to Stop and #AbolishICE

Led by United We Dream. “Our fight to reunite families continues. We won’t rest until immigrant detentions across the state and the country end, UNTIL the profiting from the suffering of families ends and until Congress abolishes ICE & CBP to end the perpetration of abuse, violence, and deaths towards immigrant youth and families. We demand #FreedomForImmigrants and that Congress Defund ICE & CBP.”

More information and sign-up >>

Volunteer Opportunities

Join NETA to deliver food/water to asylum seekers stuck at ports of entry or donate to them here – People currently showing at ports of entry seeking asylum are being  denied that right. When they arrive, officers tells them that the port of entry is at capacity and that they’re not processing asylum applicants. This backlog has created long lines of people (+50) who have essentially been living on the bridge, patiently waiting their turn. They’ve been sleeping on the hard concrete floors and have been enduring the Texas heat that reaches up to 110 degrees. Some have been there anywhere from 5 to 17 days, and they arrive with nothing. Join NETA to take these individuals food, water, and other necessities.

Volunteer at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen – Sacred Heart Church is working around the clock to help migrants who have been provisionally cleared and released by Border Protection with temporary papers a future court date (and an ankle monitor in tow). After being processed they are dropped off at the McAllen bus terminal where they wait before leaving to their next destination. The church picks up people from the bus terminal, brings them to their welcome center, and offers them their first warm meal, a bath, a change of clothes, hygiene products, a call home, and assistance with translating their paper work and travel itinerary. They need volunteers to help assist and prepare items for families.

Be a Volunteer Attorney with ProBar or donate to them here – ProBar, the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project. This is a project of the American Bar Association, and they are currently supporting over 1,000 ‘unaccompanied children’ in detention centers. They’re also working hard to reconnect these children with their parents. They’re looking for volunteer attorneys who could help with these children prepare for credible fear interviews (will take several days to a week), and in the longer term help with assistance for bond cases (some of this work could be remote, but would have to be periodically present). I’ve created the google doc above to try to help them identify volunteer attorneys.

Help Texas Civil Rights Project take declarations from families or donate to them here – Everyday, TCRP is taking declarations from families and need help with intake efforts in Brownsville, Laredo, El Paso and Alpine. They’re able to train people and organize legal intakes in these cities. They also need help in McAllen with interviewing families. Note — Volunteers are required to speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistance experience.

Full list of immigrant advocacy organizations >>

Write a Letter to the Editor about Family Separation and Detention

Like everyone else, you’re probably wondering WHAT CAN I DO? One thing you can do is to write a letter to the editor (LTE) to your local paper. It may not get published, but if a LOT of people write on the same issue, there’s a good chance some of those letters will get published.

Most papers limit the length of LTEs to 150-250 words. You can usually find the guidelines and a submission portal or email address on the Opinion page of your local paper’s website. If you are feeling REALLY motivated and have a lot to say, consider extending your letter into an op-ed, which has a more generous 600-700 word limit.

This is a sample letter to the editor on family separation at the border. Feel free to use it to help you craft your own. Please note, it includes elements that are common to successful LTEs:

  • Facts to build an argument
  • An emotional hook to pull the reader in
  • A call to action to those in power & our fellow citizens

On May 6, Donald Trump chose to create a humanitarian and moral crisis by implementing a policy to have children of border-crossers taken from their parents. Since then, more than 2,000 children, including infants and children with disabilities, have been stolen away. All this to deter future border crossings and, more importantly, to use as leverage against Democrats.

Americans have risen to the challenge of this crisis, in part because, for now, the media has found the courage to call lies lies and stay focused. We have been horrified at the pictures of children being taken from their parents and put in cages. Our hearts have broken at the sounds of children in custody crying out for their parents, because we know their cries will go unanswered.

Trump bowed slightly to pressure, signing a vague order, mostly to relieve pressure from the media. At best, it will result in families being held in prison together, possibly for years. At worst, Trump will resume stealing children from their parents after the 20-day limit for family detention expires. Regardless, the order does nothing to reunite the families already torn apart. Trump created this crisis. He can and must choose to fix it. We must put even more pressure on to reverse the policy and reunite the children and parents. Remember, that little girl looking up at her mother still doesn’t know what’s happening. The children crying for their parents on the audio recording still haven’t been answered. This isn’t over.

Tony Weber
Indivisible Austin

Other topics you might want to build an LTE around:

A Day on the Hill

(Read about day 1 of my trip to D.C.)

Bright and early last Thursday morning I headed to the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center for the weekly coffee with Sen. John Cornyn, which I RSVP-ed for in advance (and I don’t know if they spend any time researching attendees, but I suspect they do).

Texas flag sign that say says Texas Thursday Coffee Senator John Cornyn
Even Texas signs are bigger

It was gorgeous DC day, and this sort of picture-perfect postcard view of the Capitol is enough to give even the most jaded Texas gal a little hope.

U.S. Capitol dome
Our Capitol is beautiful, majestic, and inspiring.

I joined about 50 other fellow Texans at the coffee, which was held in a large meeting room in the visitors center. I had a few minimum expectations about this event, and I had prepared for any opportunity to speak to or ask questions of the senior senator from Texas. I was ready to talk to him about the family separation policy, gun safety reform, and health care. I was also aware that I was in a room full of people who likely had diverse views on all these issues.

I got my coffee and filled out my photo information form. And then waited for something to happen.

At about 9:50 a staffer (not intern–though they were mostly young white male interns) came in and made a beeline to an older gentleman wearing a Make America Great Again hat. She spent a fair bit of time talking to him and his (I assume) wife.

A few other staffers came in and each spoke with a few folks. In the meantime, they started to line us up to take our photos with the senator. Finally Sen. Cornyn came in and went straight to the flags for photos. We were hustled through very quickly, maybe 15 seconds each, and since no one else was chatting him up I didn’t either. That was a crucial mistake.

More than 50 constituents came to the coffee, and our senator didn’t take any time to speak with us, except for banalities while shaking hands and taking a picture. He whizzed in, took photos for 10 minutes, and then disappeared. There was no welcome from him or from his staff. There was no acknowledgement that most people in the room had traveled from Texas to be there. And there was absolutely no opportunity to engage with our senator about any of the critical policy issues.

I have been to D.C. for enough meetings with members of Congress over the years to have had a certain set of expectations about what happens when 50 constituents are in the room. I learned my lesson and I’m passing it on to you: go to the coffee, get the photo, but also make the appointment and go to the office.

As interns started coming into the room to give people information about their tours, I took my last opportunity to connect with staff. I hand-delivered 300 postcards constituents had signed over the last couple of months, asking Sen. Cornyn to pass basic gun safety reforms that the vast majority of Texans and Americans support. If you wrote a postcard to Sen. Cornyn at the March for Our Lives or the Town Hall for Our Lives, they were delivered, and I hope you get a response. Please share it if you do!

Approximately 300 postcards from Sen. John Cornyn's constituents, asking for strong gun safety measures to protect our children.
Approximately 300 postcards from Sen. John Cornyn’s constituents, asking for strong gun safety measures to protect our children.

My next meeting on the hill couldn’t have been more different. I had reached out to Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s D.C. office the week before my trip and asked if I could stop by and meet some of the staffers so I could put names to faces. I expected to spend about 15-30 minutes at the office at most, but was treated to the opportunity to spend some time with each member of the congressman’s policy team. All my preparation paid off!

In the time I spent with the congressman’s staff, we discussed family separation and what’s happening here in Austin, as well as upcoming Congressional trips to the border; gun violence prevention actions and the hearing on red flag laws and safe gun storage at the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence committee on June 25; work being done to address out-of-control drug prices; the immigration bills that will hit the House floor this week (they are both bad, so call your reps!); the new poll on support for Medicaid expansion in Texas. We probably touched on a few other things I’ve forgotten.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Lisa Goodgame
Thank you for taking a few minutes to chat!

As I was about to leave, Rep. Doggett appeared, and he generously gave me a few minutes. We talked about several of the items on the list above, but most specifically about the actions Democratic members of Congress are taking to address family separation. Something is happening out there, and people are deeply moved by the horror we’re seeing play out at the border. I’m thankful for the members who are putting this issue front and center, and I hope it will drive some change in Congress. But when we see Texas members of Congress hailing the policy as a positive development while also lying that it’s happening because of a law passed by Democrats it’s hard to imagine any sort of solution. Also, do they not hear themselves contradicting themselves in that lie?

With just about an hour left in my schedule, I quickly headed to the offices of Rep. Flores, Rep. Smith, and Rep. McCaul to drop off more postcards asking for stronger gun safety measures, as well as some letters from voters. I have a plan to visit Sen. Cruz’s office next time I’m in D.C.

I caught a member of Rep. McCaul’s staff in the middle of lunch, but I made him listen to me for several minutes as I shared my concerns on the policy of family separation, the criminalization of asylum-seekers, and the need to change this inhumane response to people fleeing violence. He listened, was reasonably friendly, and promised to put my concerns in the database. I’ll let you know if I get a response.

Here’s my key takeaway from this trip: really bad shit is happening in our government every single day and the executive branch agencies are being gutted and destroyed by political appointees. We can campaign our butts off trying to get new people elected in November, but right now most of our representatives are co-signing everything the president wants. Our representatives have traded away a lot of their decency for tax cuts. Each day that we don’t call or take action and engage the people who represent us right now, we are tacitly telling them that we’re OK with what they’re doing and how they are representing us.

We. Are. Not. Don’t let them forget it.

Indivisible Goes to Washington

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Washington with about 40 other Indivisible leaders from across the country. It was a wonderful chance to meet some of the folks I’ve gotten to know virtually over the last year-and-a-half, while also connecting with some of the Indivisible national staff.

Indivisible leaders from California to Maine and points in between gathered in D.C.
Indivisible leaders from California to Maine and points in between gathered in D.C. Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth/Indivisible Illinois

We had a nice meetup followed by dinner, as we prepared to attend the We the People Summit the next day along with about 1,000 people from the labor movement, as well as allies such as Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, United We Dream, and many more. We also ran into some of our Austin friends from Workers Defense Project!

Progressive activists joined Communications Workers of America at the We The People 2018 Summit.
Progressive activists joined Communications Workers of America at the We The People 2018 Summit. Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth/Indivisible Illinois

The summit was actually a forum with a number of Democratic members of Congress (some of whom are likely 2020 candidates). Here’s a video recap from MSN, along with other analysts discussing the 2020 field. We heard from:

Sen. Cory Booker
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Rep. Pramila Jayapal
Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Each member gave a brief speech, and then took 2-4 questions, depending on available time. Vox has a pretty good recap of each speaker. The topics they covered were broad, but had common themes: an economy that isn’t working for many Americans, worsened by the massive tax scam; immigration policies and zero-tolerance crackdowns that are tearing families apart; racial bias in the criminal justice system and mass incarceration; uncontrolled drug prices; corruption as the basic mode of operation of the White House.

Senator Kamala Harris of California addresses the crowd at the We the People Summit.
Senator Kamala Harris of California addresses the crowd at the We the People Summit. Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth/Indivisible Illinois

Indivisible member Ricky Silver from New York asked Sen. Gillibrand whether she’d support a tax on every Wall Street transaction. The senator has been challenged on her cozy relationship with Wall Street, and apparently she was not expected to answer the question directly. To everyone’s happy surprise, she not only directly answered the question, but for the first time said on the record that she’d support the transactions tax as a means of reigning in income inequality.

After the forum concluded, we went a short distance to D.C.’s Freedom Plaza where Rep. Jayapal and Rep. John Lewis, among others, and about 200 activists gathered for a rally and march to the D.C. office of Customs and Border Protection. Several members of Congress as well as about a dozen activists then started a sit-on on the steps of the office and prepared to be arrested. Unfortunately I had to leave early, but reports from the field told me no one was arrested. (Facebook video from Workers Defense Project)

L: Members of Congress lead the Families Belong Together rally and march to Customs and Border Patrol; M: Marchers headed to Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C.; R: Families belong together rally outside Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C.
L: Members of Congress lead the Families Belong Together rally and march to Customs and Border Patrol; M: Marchers headed to Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C.; R: Families belong together rally outside Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C. Photo credit Lisa Goodgame/Indivisible Austin

I met up with a friend for dinner. We knew each other when I worked as a foreign service officer, and this person continues to work for the State Department. My friend flagged a story in Foreign Policy about the deconstruction of the administrative state happening within the State Department, illustrated by a newish appointee who has been compiling an “enemies list” and working to destroy the U.S. relationship with international organizations like the United Nations and WHO, among others. As bad as you think it might be, it’s worse. The brain drain and diplomatic talent leaving the State Department (voluntarily or being forced out) is something we won’t recover from for a long time.

The food was good, the company enjoyable, but I left with a troubled feeling of unease.

Show up to support the Austin Sanctuary Network at City Council!

Indivisible Austin is a proud active member of the Austin Sanctuary Network, supporting asylum seekers and immigrants finding refuge here in Austin, and advocating for immigrants rights throughout Texas and America!

Keep Alirio Safe

On Thursday, May 10, join us and the ASN in supporting a City wide resolution showing solidarity with the courageous Sanctuary leaders in Austin and all over the United States. This resolution will show support for

sanctuary for three individuals living at houses of worship in Austin, and urging federal officials to prevent their deportation

Moreover it will show Austin’s support for national Sanctuary efforts, and leaders like Edith Espinal in Ohio, Juana Luz Tobar Ortega in North Carolina, Carmela Apolonio Hernandez in Philadelphia, and Alex Rene Garcia in St. Louis as well as our Austin Sanctuary leaders Alirio Gamez, Hilda Ramirez and her 12 year old son Ivan Ramirez.

Join us at Austin City Hall for the passage of this monumental resolution that will be one of many more to come all over the United States!

Click here to RSVP and for more information

Thursday, May 10
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Austin City Hall
301 W 2nd St, Austin, TX

Get to Know: Workers Defense Project

This is the first in a regular series of blogs spotlighting organizations tackling major issues in Central Texas.

Guest post from Workers Defense Project:

Workers Defense Project (WDP) is a membership-based organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment through education, direct services, organizing and strategic partnerships. WDP was founded in August 2002 by employees and volunteers of Casa Marianella, a local Austin shelter, to address the problem of unpaid wages for Austin’s low-wage workers.

WDP is a worker center that provides low-wage workers, concentrating on the construction industry, with legal solutions for wage theft, discrimination and injury cases, as well as ESL classes, safety classes, and the leadership development they need to improve their working and living conditions. With these important resources, WDP members are able to change the conditions that negatively impact working families. WDP provides a source of power and hope for low-wage workers and is part of a national movement of organizations that seek to achieve sustainable change for working families. The organization is one of the most established worker centers in the South and a leader in fighting for fair conditions for working people.

WDP envisions a future where all low-wage and immigrant workers are treated with dignity and respect. In the wake of the 2016 election, WDP has renewed its commitment to fighting for the rights of low-wage workers and immigrants disproportionately affected by the policies of the current administration and its impact on local and statewide governance. This push back includes winning big changes in the construction industry and beyond, including:

  • Passing an ordinance requiring paid sick leave for all employees within the City of Austin;
  • Ensuring paid rest breaks for all construction workers in Austin and Dallas;
  • Suing the State of Texas over the anti-immigrant law SB 4, and moving every major city in Texas to join the lawsuit;
  • Winning fair pay and safe working conditions for more than 16,000 construction workers through WDP’s innovative Better Builder® program; and
  • Recovering more than $1.7 million in unpaid wages for more than 1,800 workers.
There are many opportunities to get involved with WDP, but none are more valued than our volunteers. Register HERE to attend our Monthly Volunteer Orientation and Volunteer Night, the first Thursday of the month at the Austin office. The next opportunity is May 3rd, 2018, 6-8PM. Contact elizabeth@workersdefense.org to learn more about the volunteer program or sign up for volunteer updates. Sign up HERE to receive our monthly e-newsletter, and click HERE to make a donation. We encourage you to visit our website or write info@workersdefense.org to learn more. WDP is grateful for the support of the community- we couldn’t do our work without you!

How Your Voices Made a Difference: The Tide is Turning

The head of the parent company of Henry Holt—the publisher that recently released Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury with eyebrow-raisingly candid comments from White House intimates about Donald’s fitness (or lack thereof)—defended itself against Donald’s cease-and-desist lawsuit, citing it as a breach of the Constitution: “a clear effort by the President of the United States to intimidate a publisher into halting publication of an important book on the workings of the government… This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent,” the CEO wrote in his memo. “We will not allow any president to achieve by intimidation what our Constitution precludes him or her from achieving in court. We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution.”

Meanwhile, amid the dust-up over the book and those who’ve disparaged Donald in it, Steve Bannon, prime among the disparagers, has stepped down from Breitbart, his mouthpiece of hate and propaganda.

Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee, overruled Republican committee head Chuck Grassley’s efforts to suppress the testimony to the committee by the former British spy who helped assemble the infamous Trump dossier for Fusion DPS. On Tuesday she released transcripts of all ten hours of testimony by Christopher Steele, which indicates the FBI believed the information Steele had given them, and that the bureau had had an informant from within the Trump camp.

On Tuesday a panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s voting districts as unconstitutionally gerrymandered—the first time a federal court has blocked a congressional map because of a gerrymander.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case over whether Texas’ congressional and state House maps discriminate against voters of color.

A San Francisco federal judge ruled—again based on Donald’s tweets and his own words right from his shithole–that the federal government must reinstate the DACA program for young immigrants to find a path to citizenship that he announced the end of in the fall, as legal challenges to the ban move forward. The federal government has accordingly announced it will continue to enroll “dreamers” in the DACA program, per the ruling.

Donald’s announcement that oil drilling would be allowed in all U.S. waters immediately met with opposition from Florida’s Republican governor, and the White House quickly excluded the state’s waters from the order. It’s likely a move to appease voters in his key state in advance of the 2018 elections, and is having bipartisan repercussions from voters and other governors across the country.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected measures proposed by Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy (at least as far as he knows) that would favor the coal and nuclear industries over natural gas and renewables in competitive electricity markets. Of the five-member agency, four were appointed by Donald, three of them Republicans.

A Senate bill introduced to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality laws has received 40 senate sponsors and will proceed to the floor for a vote, which could overturn the repeal—a repeal opposed by the vast majority of Americans.

God bless the notorious RBG—Ruth Bader Ginsburg appointed law interns for the next two terms, signaling that she intends to serve at least until 2020.

New, wide-net, demographically detailed survey results by Survey Monkey reveal that Donald is not doing so well, even among his base. The tide is turning, slowly but inexorably, reminding us once again that America is great because America is good…and goodness will prevail as long as good people refuse to be silent.