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We’re supporting the petition to stop the deportation of Alirio Gámez

Why that matters, and how you can help

Alirio Gámez entered sanctuary at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin in August of this year, and has been living within the church since. During a press conference in September, Alirio commented “I entered sanctuary because I have a right to live, and I want my life to be respected.”

In fact, Alirio’s life is at risk if he is deported back to his native El Salvador. In 2015 Alirio left his job and his family to escape the violence crippling his country, and threats directed towards him. After traveling by land to enter the United States, Alirio was picked up by ICE and pressured to leave, but instead he pursued the legal course of action to seek political asylum. In May, his asylum was denied and he was issued a deportation order.

I entered sanctuary because I have a right to live, and I want my life to be respected" - Alirio Gamex Alirio’s situation came to the attention of the Austin Sanctuary Network, a coalition of over 25 congregations and nonprofits in Austin, who helped Alirio find sanctuary at First UU. Together the Austin Sanctuary Network and Alirio are preparing to fight until Alirio is granted prosecutorial discretion by ICE to stop his deportation. The ASN has launched a petition campaign with that goal, and we’re asking you to sign on.

By signing the petition online, you not only add your name to the hundreds who have already, but you will automatically send an e-mail directly to ICE officials Norma Lacy and Daniel Bible requesting they use their prosecutorial discretion to allow him to remain in our community.

While Alirio is just one man, every victory against America’s deportation regime chips away at the system. In 2015, the First Unitarian Universalist Church provided sanctuary to Sulma Franco, an LGBTQ activist from Guatemala who faced persecution and violence in her home country because of her sexual orientation. Sulma was the first person to seek sanctuary from deportation in a church in Texas since the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, but her situation ended in victory: with broad support from the community, Sulma won a Stay of deportation and 15 months later earned her US resident card to stay. We can win for Alirio too.

The extreme violence Alirio faced in Central America has everything to do with America’s militarized and politically hyperbolic “war on drugs”, combined with its insatiable appetite for those same drugs. In spite of this, the US denies asylum to 83% of seekers from El Salvador, 77% from Guatemala, 80% from Honduras and nearly 90% from Mexico. Many asylum seekers, especially those coming from Central America, do not have legal representation as they formally seek asylum in the US — 30% from El Salvador do not. By winning individual victories we can chip away at the legal culture of default deportation, and establish increasing precedence for asylum seekers to stay.

Also, we might help save Alirio’s life.

That’s why we’re asking you to sign the petition to stop Alirio’s deportation.

To keep up with this situation and learn more follow the Austin Sanctuary Network on Facebook.

 

How Your Voices Made a Difference: Unraveling

Some weeks are tougher than others, and this was a rough one—between Donny giving companies the right to deny women health care coverage for birth control, to the EPA’s Scott Pruitt rolling back the Obama-era protections of the Clean Power Plan to replace it with his own dirty version and threatening to remove tax incentives for wind and solar power, and of course demented Donald’s latest disgorgements of bile:  trying to circumvent the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA with an executive order, flouting our First Amendment by threatening to revoke media outlets’ licenses for publishing news he doesn’t like…and the soul-draining childishness of the man-baby-in-chief’s petty feud with Sen. Bob Corker, and GOP lawmakers’ collective cowardly silence in its wake.

But the weird upside of all this awfulness is this: Lately it’s Donny’s own voice making a difference. Don John’s behavior and actions are becoming egregious enough that some of the GOP is beginning to find its spine (and moral compass). Backlash against Donald’s attack on the First Amendment was immediate and bipartisan, including GOP Sen. Ben Sasse’s sharp call-out on Twitter (apparently the new forum of political discourse…sigh). Donald’s attacks against women’s health care have women’s health experts speaking out to refute his premises. His Twitter-tantrum threats to remove aid from Puerto Rico in a crisis “largely of their own making”(while he plays golf yet again) is an attack on and abandonment of more than 3 million Americans drawing broad censure—and his failures as a leader are starkly underscored by five former leaders’ (the five living ex-presidents) banding together to help hurricane victims (of all shades). His undermining a health care system that a majority of Americans now approve of is fueling criticism from states on both sides of the aisle. And his attempts to undermine NAFTA will undoubtedly bring a backlash from the industrial and rural base he so often panders to, who will be most hurt by it. Even Rex Tillerson, after Donald demanded a tenfold increase in nuclear armaments despite decades of policy designed to reduce the nuclear threat worldwide rather than expand it, has realized his boss is a “fucking moron.” (Mensa has kindly offered to host an IQ test to answer the question definitively after Donald tweeted out an “I know you are but what am I” to his secretary of state.) An array of White House insiders report versions of Donny “unraveling” in jaw-droppingly unstable ways.

Meanwhile, the Harvey Weinstein scandal is rocking Hollywood—not only showing conservatives how you handle a sexual predator (by calling it out loudly and publicly, and taking sharp actions against the predator to stop the actions—rather than by defending it and offering it a cable show, or electing it president), but by bringing this rampant sexism and harassment into the light, and showing that women (and James Van Der Beek, one of the disappointingly few courageous men speaking up) will no longer be silent in the face of institutionalized sexual misconduct and abuse. The tide for sanctioning the sexual-predator-in-chief may be turning.

Steps forward are incremental, and not always steady—some weeks it can be hard to see all the progress we are making. But remind yourself of the huge victories the resistance has already won, most decisively stopping every attempt to repeal the ACA, and comfort yourself that Donny’s ratings—sorry, approval numbers—are tanking faster than his loose hold on rationality, even in his rural base, and according to pollster Quinnipiac, 55% of voters believe he is not fit to be president.

Donald’s own actions will wind up bringing him down, as long as we continue holding him and all his defenders in the GOP accountable, and demanding our lawmakers do the same. To that end, on the Russian-investigation front, it’s looking like Bob Mueller is getting close to something that’s making the Donny John camp pretty uncomfortable: Carter Page—Don John’s former campaign manager who got benched after confabbing with Russian diplomat and top spy Sergei Kislyak last year (despite denying speaking with him) and who subsequently met with Putie’s top associates in Russia—has refused to testify before the Senate Intelligence panel in their Russia investigation. You know, like you do when you have something to hide and fear incriminating yourself and perhaps the leader of the free world. Reince Priebus spent an entire day with Mueller’s team, talking about who can only guess what…? Now’s a good time to call your MoCs and ask that they support the two bipartisan bills in Congress proposed to prevent Donald from firing Mueller as he tightens the noose around the man-baby-in-chief’s neck.

You’re not imagining how hard this battle can be—this administration is taking a deep emotional and mental toll on many Americans. But in a glimmer of hope for our collective future in these divided times, 55% of Americans now believe politicians should work more bipartisanly and embrace compromise. (You know, like you do in every single other relationship in your life.)

Hang in there, warriors. If all else fails, Hustler’s Larry Flynt is offering $10 million to anyone who can provide info leading to 45’s impeachment. Really.

Yes, Trump Can Start A Nuclear War. Yes, We Can Stop Him.

Hey y’all! As my first blog post for Indivisible Austin I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Billie Green, I’m a UT Alumni, and I really don’t want Trump to start a nuclear war.

I’ve been working directly with Global Zero and William Perry on current nuclear weapons issues. Our primary concern is Trump’s ability to order a unilateral launch against any country at any time, and how his dangerous rhetoric with North Korea is inching us closer to a military confrontation. This incredible piece by nuclear weapons historian Alex Wellerstein dives into the question: “Can the President use nuclear weapons when he wants, and can anyone stop him?” The short answer is No. No one can stop Trump once the order is given. Generals Mattis or Kelly will do all they can to discourage him, but if Trump validates the decision, chain of command will be initiated.

It is incredibly important for us to be vocal about this issue. If we can manage to take Trump’s finger off the literal “Apocalypse” button, then maybe we won’t feel like every ridiculous decision his administration makes is the end of the world. We have to get our representatives on board saying they will only support diplomacy, deterrence, and no preventative (nuclear 1st strike) military options. There’s already been indication that the GOP is sincerely concerned about Trump’s instability (e.g. Corker saying Trump could start World War III) but we need them to take tangible action. This is where we, the masses, step in.

I’ve recently created Global Zero – Austin TX. The focus of this group will be to educate the public about the relevant dangers of nuclear weapons and what we can do to stop/limit said dangers. Currently, Global Zero has planned a Week of Action for the first week of November, but has encouraged their remote activists across the nation to reach out to their communities and start recruiting members for local chapters. As an immediate action, we can call on Cruz and Cornyn to support legislation introduced by Ted Lieu and Ed Markey, that would constrain Trump’s authority to use nuclear weapons.

I know we live in Texas. I’m aware that Cruz and Cornyn are hardliners. But this issue should be bipartisan. Here are two scripts from the Indivisible Project to use when you call:

  1. Donald Trump has frighteningly few checks on his authority to launch a nuclear weapon. That’s why Senator Markey and Congressman Lieu have introduced bipartisan legislation that would make explicit that the President cannot launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Will you help constrain Trump’s authority to use nuclear weapons by co-sponsoring the bipartisan “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act”? (H.R. 669 in the House and S. 200 in the Senate)
  2. Trump’s dangerous rhetoric is fanning the flames with North Korea. His words could provoke the unstable Kim Jong Un and further escalate tensions when our top priority should be de-escalation and diplomacy. Will you denounce Trump’s dangerous rhetoric that puts our national security at risk? Will you demand he come to Congress first before engaging in any sort of military operation against North Korea?

And remember to sign up for the new Global Zero – Austin, TX Facebook Group.

Keep Calling: CHIP Is Still Not Funded

Congress failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Plan by the September 30 deadline. CHIP gives modest-income families that earn too much for Medicaid an affordable coverage option. What does this mean for the 400,000 Texas children covered by CHIP? According to the Dallas Morning News, a lot of uncertainty, especially for Harvey survivors:

“As…the system absorbs new applicants made eligible by Harvey, some experts fear that between rising demand for care and unpredictable reauthorization, these families will have nowhere to turn for health insurance.”

CHIP has broad, bipartisan support, and the only reason it hasn’t been funded is because of Congress’s ineptitude, and its zeal for repealing the ACA. Call your MoCs in both the House and Senate and tell them to fund the CHIP program before more Texas children and pregnant women lose coverage.

Call Cruz, Cornyn & Paxton Today About Trump’s Decision to End CSR Payments

A worst-case scenario came true: the administration has announced that it will end the cost-sharing reduction payments, or CSRs, that lower out-of-pocket costs for low income enrollees. This may take effect immediately.

The elimination of CSRs is expected to cause premiums to rise on average at least 20% for ALL marketplace consumers, and some insurers may leave the marketplace altogether.

THIS IS NOT WHERE WE SHOULD BE 17 DAYS BEFORE OPEN ENROLLMENT BEGINS!

Here are three calls you need to make, one to each senator, and one to Ken Paxton. (You can also call your House member, but the healthcare working group is in the Senate.) We didn’t fight so long and so hard to have health care for millions ripped away by the sclerotic stroke of a pen.

Scripts courtesy of Celeste Pewter

Calls to Senators

You: Hello, my name is [name]. I’m calling from [zip code].

You: I am calling to ask [Cruz/Cornyn] to publicly denounce the Trump administration’s decision to end cost-sharing reductions for the Affordable Care Act. The CBO and independent studies all show this will increase health premiums by 20 percent or more, and the deficit will be up by $194 billion. (Per the CBO)

You: I am also demanding [Cruz/Cornyn] work with their colleagues to appropriate funding for CSR payments. [Cruz/Cornyn] has to focus on the goal of market stability and reducing premiums, for the good of the constituents they represent.

You: I will be monitoring how [Cruz/Cornyn] chooses to respond, and whether [Cruz/Cornyn] chooses to respond in a way that shows a commitment toward improving healthcare for all.

You: <Insert optional comment here>

Call to Ken Paxton – (512) 463-2100

You: Hi, my name is [name]. I am calling from [zip code]. 

You: I am calling on Ken Paxton to take action against the federal government’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction or CSR payments for the Affordable Care Act.

You: Please use all available legal means, including lawsuits against the federal government, to rectify this attempt to cause instability to the healthcare market.

You: Rising premiums would also cause significant financial challenges for individual states. Please act quickly.

You: <optional comment>

Tell John Cornyn to Withdraw Support for Judicial Nominee Jeff Mateer

We call upon Senator John Cornyn to publicly withdraw support from Jeff Mateer, who is nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.  We request that the senator vote against his confirmation both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate Floor.

Mateer has called a first grader part of “Satan’s plan” because she is transgender. Regardless of where Sen. Cornyn stands on civil rights for the LGBT community, surely he can agree that someone who would make such a cruel and biased statement is not fit to serve as a judge.

We were heartened to hear that Sen. Cornyn is reviewing with his staff the new information that has come to light about Jeff Mateer, and we believe the only appropriate response to the nominee’s bigoted remarks about Sen. Cornyn’s LGBT constituents (and his other disqualifying statements) is for the senator to immediately withdraw his support.

Mateer doesn’t believe the Constitution protects  any LGBT civil rights. He says, “I’ve read the 14th Amendment thousands of times…I don’t see anything about right to same-sex marriage. I don’t see anything saying right to homosexuality. I don’t see anything about right to privacy.”

But that’s not surprising from someone who doesn’t even believe the Constitution protects religious freedom, saying that there is no “provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim.”

We encourage the senator to take his role of advice and consent on behalf of Texas, and as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee very seriously. If he rubber stamps this unfit judge, he puts loyalty to President Trump above ensuring that the people of Texas can rely on an fair and decent judiciary.

Call to Action

Please call Sen. Cornyn today and say:

Thank you for reviewing the new information that has come to light about Jeff Mateer who is up for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Calling a young child part of “Satan’s plan” because she is transgender makes Mateer unfit to serve on the federal bench. Please publicly withdraw support from this nominee and vote against his confirmation in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate Floor.

How Your Voices Made a Difference: The Resignations Continue

The Supreme Court heard on Tuesday initial arguments in a Wisconsin gerrymandering case where a state with 48% Republican voters somehow managed to capture two-thirds of the congressional seats. Swing judge Anthony Kennedy may tip the scales in the direction of fairer representation, and if the court upholds the federal rulings (in Wisconsin, and also Texas and North Carolina) that these extremely gerrymandered districts are unconstitutional, we could see the beginning of the end of partisan gerrymandering that gives the political party in power disproportionate influence and allows lawmakers to choose their constituents, instead of the other way around. Uber-conservative Neil Gorsuch, Donny’s pick for the seat illegitimately blocked by Mitch McConnell and the GOP for a year, tried mansplaining the Constitution to the other judges. Ruth Bader Ginsburg—the notorious RBG—was having none of thatHere’s a great explanation of gerrymandering and the court case at hand, and last Monday’s excellent NYTimes Daily podcast offers a clear (and chilling) closer look at the Wisconsin case.

More strands in the complex Russia web are coming to light. Trump documents that federal investigators requested the White House turn over reveal that Donny’s lawyer Michael Cohen had two more contacts with Russian officials looking to do business with Don John during the 2016 campaign (in one case inviting Cohen to a meeting where Putin would be present)—contacts that were previously undisclosed.

Not only did Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Gary Cohn use personal emails for government communication after taking the White House—but recent reports show that some of them did so after the NSA expressly warned them not to do it for fear of foreign espionage. Due to these facts, a recently revealed past possible criminal indictment whose charges were suspiciously dropped, and Kushner’s dozens of omissions to his national security questionnaire that he’s had to correct multiple times and has been fined for, two House Dems are calling for the revocation of his and Ivanka’s security clearance; call your MoCs and ask that they add their voices to stop this administration from wasting public dollars.

In further Trump administration abuses, Ryan Zinke, secretary of the interior, is now under investigation by the inspector general of his department, the Interior Department, for his profligate use of taxpayer dollars for his travel, including a number of taxpayer-funded vacations for him and his wife, as well as his mixing of official trips with political appearances, an ethics no-no. He joins former HHS secretary Tom Price, who has since resigned, and EPA head Scott Pruitt as the most flagrant abusers of taxpayer funds. Keep calling your MoCs to demand accountability.

In the same vein, Democrat-proposed legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would ban federal agencies from doing business with Trump hotels. The HOTEL Act would keep Donald from profiting from the presidency, a repeated violation of ethics this administration has so far been unwilling to address. Keep calling your senators and ask that they support this legislation.

Rabidly anti-choice GOP Rep Tim Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, has tendered his resignation after it was revealed that he asked his mistress (yes, his extramarital lover) to get an abortion when they got pregnant. Apparently there are some hypocrisies lawmakers feel even Republican voters won’t accept. If we keep shining the light unflinchingly on this corrupt family and administration, hopefully more and more voters will see what they are actually voting for.

Las Vegas: Enough is Enough

After the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, and the 273rd this year, there’s very little left to say.

Thoughts and prayers are never going to stop these murderous acts of domestic terrorism. Senseless gun deaths will keep happening as long as Congress refuses to take action. What we need are common-sense gun control laws, which the public overwhelmingly supports.

But shills for the gun lobby–which is, let’s face it, exactly what nearly the entire Texas Republican Congressional delegation are–continue to stop it from happening. How many more kids have to be murdered? How many more parents have to bury their children? How many more families have to be torn apart?

Enough.

Many among us are gun owners, and we refuse to be bullied into silence by the NRA, which has spent months engaged in race-baiting and calls to violence against people of color, and anyone who calls for common-sense legislation.

We demand action. Congress must act. Thoughts and prayers are insufficient. The time for sensible gun legislation is now.

This week, the US House was slated to vote to ease curbs on silencers. If the Las Vegas gunman had used a silencer, it would have been harder for first responders to detect the source of gunfire.

Ironically, the last vote on this bill had to be rescheduled following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise in June. If the GOP plans to wait to schedule a vote until the crisis of gun violence abates, they are going to be waiting a long time. (Update: the bill was predictably delayed.)

It is also worth noting that every single one of our Austin-area GOP reps co-sponsored this bill. That’s Michael McCaul, Bill Flores, Lamar Smith, Roger Williams, and John Carter — plus many other Texas reps, including Democrats Henry Cuellar and Gene Green.

Call your reps today and tell them enough is enough. We need common sense gun regulation, not more mass shootings and NRA propaganda.

How Your Voices Made a Difference: Zombiecare is Dead

You did it! You beat back ACA repeal—again. I’d love to say “once and for all,” but repeal seems to be the Thing That Won’t Die. But for the third decisive time, public outcry kept the GOP from stripping millions of their coverage and kept Obamacare in place. Next challenge: to get the Republican party to put their efforts behind transparent bipartisan efforts to improve and strengthen the ACA.

Meanwhile, the personal-fiefdom mentality of the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (sorry, it’s not old yet) and his administration cronies is coming into sharp focus in recent financial investigations—Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and his high-dollar charter flights, Stephen “Moochin’ Mnuchin and his (as well as his trophy wife’s snarky little commentary about her taxpayer-funded lifestyle), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his $12K private charter from Vegas to his Montana home (courtesy of us), Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin’s wife and her taxpayer-funded vacation, and the EPA’s Scott Pruitt and the $25K Get Smart soundproof booth in his office have all come under fire lately for their profligate and inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Tom Price resigned over his $400K flying spree (he pledged to repay about one-eighth of that amount—and that was before his additional $500K in military flights came to light). Keep calling your MoCs to protest this abuse of taxpayer dollars and hopefully we can drain more of the swamp that’s sucking funds from public coffers.

After taking the weekend off at his golf course in New Jersey while hurricane Maria battered U.S. territory Puerto Rico, Donald finally bestirred himself to speak about the devastation in its aftermath.Despite initially refusing to waive the Jones Act that prohibits foreign shipping between U.S. territories, as he did for Houston and Florida, public pressure and outcry (as well as John McCain) pressed him to do so, offering much-needed relief supplies to the island. But true to childish, unproductive form, rather than help or offer support, he keeps attacking the mayor and the island’s people in Twitter tantrums.

Jared Kushner may be feeling some very familiar heat—directed his way now rather than at Hillary Clinton—for his use of personal email accounts for official White House emails. It’s not clear whether Donald will instigate calls to lock him up (though I have my doubts), but the revelation has shined a spotlight on this administration’s loosey-goosey use of private email use for government business:Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus also have been found to be using personal email for official correspondence. Whoopsie! Bet that’s embarrassing…. The White House claims to have launched an investigation (though that’s a bit like the fox investigating the chickens…), but we need to keep the heat on, demanding an actual investigation by proper (and unbiased) ethics organizations.

October 19: Sarah Kendzior in Austin

We are excited to kick off our new speaker series, “Understanding Autocracy,” with the writer Sarah Kendzior. Get tickets below or on Eventbrite.

Kendzior has been eerily prescient about the Trump administration.

Her essay “We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump,” published on November 18, 2016, stands alongside works by Masha Gessen and other experts on authoritarianism as a roadmap for what to expect, and what we can do about it.

Kendzior’s writing appears in The Globe and Mail and many other publications, and she is a frequent guest on NPR, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, CBC News, BBC World Service and other broadcast outlets.

As part of a new series called “Understanding Autocracy,” Indivisible Austin is proud to host an opportunity to hear Sarah Kendzior speak and answer your questions.


Indivisible Austin strives to be a vocal ally for marginalized communities. A portion of proceeds from our Understanding Autocracy speaker series will go toward local organizations working to change systemic injustice and inequity. These are two organizations we are supporting.

Austin Justice Coalition is a grassroots, activist-led organization addressing community needs, increasing political involvement, empowering communities, and criminal justice reform at the local level.

Mama Sana Vibrant Woman is a community organization that works to facilitate access to culturally appropriate and quality, prenatal and postnatal care for women of color in Austin and Travis County.