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.

 

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.

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.

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.

CALL TO ACTION: Submit Trumpcare Comments to the Senate Finance Committee by Monday, Sept. 25

The Senate Finance Committee is accepting comments on Graham-Cassidy (aka Trumpcare aka Zombiecare) until 12 P.M. (CENTRAL) ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25.

Here are instructions from our friends at Community Catalyst:

Working against the September 30th deadline for the budget reconciliation instructions, Senate republicans are trying once again to ram a repeal bill through the Senate. After some members of the Senate called for regular order – a public process with committee hearings, expert testimony and opportunity to offer amendments – the Senate Finance Committee will meet on Monday, September 25th at 2:00pm EDT in a hastily thrown together attempt at “regular order.” However, without a full CBO score detailing the impact on how many consumers will lose coverage and with no time for actual debate, this hearing is nothing more than a distraction from what is really happening: the latest attempt to gut Medicaid and strip health care from millions of Americans.

The hearing record needs to be filled with strong statements of opposition from organizations and individuals!

  1. Draft comments detailing the harmful effects of the Graham-Cassidy bill.
  2. At the committee’s request, be sure to submit comments with the following formatting instructions: a typewritten, single-spaced statement, not exceeding 10 pages in length, with title and date of the hearing and the full name and address of the individual or organization on the first page of the statement.
  3. Email to GCHcomments@finance.senate.gov by 12pm CDT on Sept. 25.
  4. We recommend that you also provide a copy of the letter to your own Senators.

Talking points from Community Catalyst (PDF)

OMG We are SO Tired of This Repeal BS! Here’s What We Need to Do

We know you are tired of beating back health care repeal bills. We are, too. We’ve been doing this for months, and it doesn’t get any easier.

The only saving grace is that the the Senate Republicans can only attempt to repeal the ACA through the gimmick called reconciliation until September 30. (And really, it’s September 29, since the Senate won’t be voting on Yom Kippur.) That’s only eight days away!

The time is short, so we have to work fast! Here’s what you can do right now to help stop this final attempt at repeal:

    1. Call Sens. Cornyn and Cruz at 202-224-3121 and tell them:
      My name is [Name] and I am one of your constituents. I want Senator [Cruz/Cornyn] to oppose Graham-Cassidy because it will take healthcare away from millions including children, people with disabilities seniors and even victims of natural disasters like Harvey and Irma. (If you also have a personal story to share, it really helps.)
    2. Sign up for a timeslot in our call relay! The goal is to get enough people signed up every day to make calls all day long so the DC office phones never stop ringing. This page will reset each day until we #KillTheBill. (You can still call whenever you want!)
    3. If you’ve called both Sens. Cornyn and Cruz and you’re asking yourself: what more can I do? How can I influence Republicans in red states who may be on the fence? You can sign up to call constituents in the target states and ask them to call THEIR senators!
    4. Join us this Sunday, Sept 24 at 8:30 a.m., for a Public Square Town Hall to take a last stand against ACA repeal and Medicaid cuts! Sens. Cruz and Cornyn will be just steps away from our event, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival!
    5. Sign up here to get email and occasional text alerts for urgent actions.

BONUS: Submit comments to the Senate Finance Committee by Monday at noon! 

Thank you for supporting Texans who depend on the ACA and Medicaid for their healthcare!

How to Make a #WelcometoAustin Kit

The mayor announced that as many as 7,500 people could be coming to Austin soon, seeking shelter from Harvey’s wrath. There are a lot of ways to help, but one way is to provide a welcome kit for new arrivals. Like you, we’ve seen many lists of needed items, and different groups are collecting for different needs. But everyone needs something to get started with, and here’s a way to help.

The city is calling for 6,000 welcome kits to be delivered to Austin Disaster Recovery Network at their Hope Thrift Store location at

1122 E 51st Street
Austin, Texas 78723
Mon-Sat, 10AM-5PM

Prepping a welcome kit is not a totally inexpensive proposition, we get that. If you are in a position to give, that’s amazing, and it might also be a good project to share with a friend or another family. If you’re not, but you have time, Austin Disaster Recovery Network and many other organizations need volunteers. You can also make a contribution to ADRN or other local groups involved in Harvey relief.

See list of welcome kit contents below.

Welcome kits should include the following:

KIT ITEMS:

  • New Towel
  • New Washcloth
  • Soap
  • Tissue
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine products
  • Shampoo
  • Comb
  • A note of encouragement

ADDITIONAL IMPORTANT ITEMS:

  • New Blanket
  • New Pillow
  • Wipes
  • Baby bottles/formula
  • Diapers
  • Baby food

HOW TO CREATE A WELCOME KIT:

  1. Get a reusable bag(s) or plastic container with a lid
  2. Fill the container with listed items
  3. Drop your donation off

PLUS: Austin Animal Center needs supplies for lost animals and pets of people in shelter:

  • 500 large crates
  • Used sheets and towels to line the crates

Donate to:
Austin Animal Center
7201 Levander Loop
Austin, TX 78702
11am to 7pm, 7 days a week

We’re Showing Up for Texas Today

Today we have a message for the president. Texans are hurting from Hurricane Harvey, and it will take us years to recover. While it will be some time before the full damage estimates and economic impact of the storm are assessed, we can be sure that our great state’s recovery will take a long time. But we’re Texans, and we’re not afraid of the hard work ahead of us.

Texas has never seen a storm like Harvey. It is epochal.

On his Texas visit today the president will likely take advantage of some photo opportunities, and speak some self-described perfect words. He will no doubt make promises and try to burnish his presidential image. But the real measure of his response will not be if he appears more presidential, but rather his administration’s accomplishments in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Will that response tackle not only the misfortunes of the affluent in this disaster, but also the misfortunes of those his administration has habitually targeted from its start?

It is difficult to reconcile the forthcoming pledges to rebuild impacted areas of Texas with the president’s pardon of Joe Arpaio as the storm was bearing down on Houston (for ratings, he said), his refusal to close border patrol checkpoints on evacuation routes out of South Texas, his destruction of some of our state’s most treasured natural gems to make way for his border wall, and his imminent repeal of DACA. That’s why we’re showing up for Texas today during the president’s visit.

There has never ever been a natural disaster in the U.S. during which public officials have had to clarify numerous times that those seeking shelter from the storm and  flooding will not be deported.

The test is simple. Will this administration start to take the threat of climate change seriously and begin tackling the technological and infrastructure challenges necessary to reduce the impact of future disasters like this one? Will this administration make sure that the poorest communities and communities of color – which suffer disparate impacts of natural disasters – recover from this storm? Or will those communities be offered only platitudes and empty gestures? Time will tell, but the recent actions of this administration make clear its steadfast refusal to extend the same consideration to those communities that it extends to the well-to-do. We are showing up today to make sure the administration knows we will not allow these concerns to be swept under the rug in the usual post-disaster niceties.

We also cannot forget that many other policies this administration pursues have negative impacts on our state, and when combined with the devastation from Harvey, further harm our state and our people.

The proposed border wall means Texans will lose their land through eminent domain, and fragile ecological regions will be decimated; even our own Senator John Cornyn’s recent border “security” bill doesn’t include funding for the president’s vision of this folly.

The nation’s largest inland port, Laredo, is on the front lines of the president’s Twitter war against against NAFTA. In 2015, Texas exported nearly $100 billion in goods to Mexico, and some 382,000 Texas jobs are linked to trade with Mexico. Targeting NAFTA hurts Texans and hurts our economy.

The president’s intention to rescind DACA, which is expected to happen this week, will have a disproportionate impact in Texas. Of the nearly 800,000 young adults whose DACA status has been approved, more than 25 percent of them live in Texas. They may have come to the U.S. as undocumented children through no fault of their own, but they have followed specific requirements to remain in the U.S. legally. As a result, they have graduated from colleges, started Texas businesses, bought homes, and built lives in Texas. For that they are being used to score political points by an administration determined to take a hard line on all immigrants regardless of status. He has used them as scapegoats. He lies about crime statistics to stigmatize a vulnerable group, and to stoke fear and hatred of all immigrants.

Trump’s policies will harm the Texas economy, which will be deeply strained during the long road of recovery from Harvey. We are already gearing up for the budget fights in Congress that could stifle the emergency relief we so desperately need.

Harvey has to be our top priority right now, as we anticipate thousands of evacuees coming to Austin. We have been and will continue supporting the rescuers and aid givers who need our volunteer hours and our financial and material assistance. But today we also need to send a message: Texans are great, resilient people, and we will do all we can to protect our state from policies that harm our residents and their livelihoods. 

Indivisible Austin
Wilco Indivisible
Indivisible TXLege
TX10 Indivisible
TX17 Indivisible
TX21 Indivisible
TX35 Indivisible

 

Our Commitment to Showing Up

Re-posted from TX21 Indivisible with minor edits and permission:

It hasn’t been a week since the Charlottesville terrorism, and it’s the only thing on some of our minds. Organizers in particular, many of whom have been recruiting people to show up to all the things for seven months running, are asking ourselves whether personal risk has been materially escalated or if it’s always been this high. In the end, every activist must choose for themselves how and when they will show up, and that has been true since forever. It just feels like the stakes are really high now.

With that in mind, and knowing that many of us are committed to showing up, please be sure to exercise caution and make safe choices. A few suggestions:

  • Read / re-read this protest safety document, authored by George Schorn.
  • If you can, take a protest safety course. Let us know when you see training opportunities!
  • If you’re worried about being publicly identified, google yourself preemptively and see what information is available about you on the internet. And then take steps to scrub whatever you wouldn’t want a rabid militia member to know about you.
  • Attend rallies and protests with a buddy. Stick together and keep each other calm, cool-headed, and safe.
  • Make sure that your phone battery is charged and, if possible, bring an extra battery so you can be connected at all times.
  • Let others who are not attending know where you’ll be, and when you should be home. Have a check-in plan for after the event.
  • If there’s an “alt-right” / white supremacist / hate protest and you opt out of the counter-protest, consider contributing to a fundraiser like this one, so you can protest with your dollars instead.
  • “Sheet-caking” as per Tina Fey’s recommendation has not been proven an effective activist technique, but you can decide for yourself.

With appreciation for everything you’ve done and continue to do to fight for progressive values for all,

TX21 Indivisible