Texans Do Not Want a Border Wall. Pass the DREAM Act Now.

The Texas border has never been more secure than it is now. On the Mexican border, there are already nearly 700 miles of fencepredator drone aircraft with facial recognition technology, military-grade surveillance equipmentaerostat balloons — gigantic blimps with 360-degree, infrared sensors that detect movement from 5,000 feet in the air–motion-triggered cameras, miles and miles of barbed-wire, and thousands of heavily armed border agents.

DHS employs more than 12,000 sensors along the border, with hundreds of license plate readers at ports of entry, and giant X-ray scanners for trains and trucks. In fact, once-sleepy border towns are now mass-surveillance zones, where every move of innocent residents is documented and cataloged.

Crime rates are lower in U.S. cities along the border with Mexico than elsewhere in the country. The border is safe. Unauthorized border crossings diminished to historic lows in recent years. In fact, net migration from Mexico is at zero or less. The number of Border Patrol agents along the border has OCTUPLED since 1982.

The border is already heavily militarized and secure.

And yet House Republicans, led by Michael McCaul (TX-10), unveiled a plan to provide $10 billion for Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico. The package would add 10,000 more border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, tap the National Guard to patrol the southern border and target people who have overstayed visas.

A $20-billion dollar, 2,000-mile, 30-foot high, poured-concrete wall is, quite literally, the last thing that our country and our state needs.

According to the Department of Homeland Security:

The number of unauthorized foreign nationals deported from the U.S. has been declining since its 2012 peak of nearly 410,000. These include apprehensions at the border and those removed from the interior of the U.S., according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with policing the border. Factors such as fewer immigrants trying to get to the U.S. and stronger border enforcement have contributed to the trend, as has an Obama administration focus on deporting criminals.

Like previous Republican-led efforts, McCaul’s “border security” package focuses exclusively on enforcement, without reforming our outdated system that fails to provide adequate channels for obtaining legal immigration status.

Republicans like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick have been fear-mongering for years about the need for increased border security. Despite the reality of the situation, they continue to make specious claims that the United States government is not in control of the border, and that the lack of control is somehow deliberate, and speak as if “illegals”–the word used by white supremacists for undocumented immigrants–were pouring into the country in waves.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

And according to the Pew Research Center:

The undocumented population isn’t growing. Data analyzed by the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project show that the number of people living in the U.S. illegally has declined slightly to just over 11 million.

The cowardly pandering to a dwindling minority of nativists that Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and their lieutenants in the Texas GOP engage in will be their undoing in Texas. Demonizing, scapegoating, targeting, demeaning, and spreading lies about immigrants is now just what the Trump-era GOP does. It does not represent the spirit and wishes of real Texans, who know that immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. Those who vilify immigrants to appease their dwindling base–like the Empower Texans-backed “Texas Freedom Caucus” in the Texas Legislature are in the minority.

The majority of Americans do not want to pour billions of their tax dollars into funding Trump’s mass deportation machine. The fact is, the wall is an unpopular idea. Most Texans oppose it.

We’re calling on every Texan to shift the conversation to the urgent need for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children.

82% of voters believe that DREAMers should have a path to citizenship, including 69% of Republicans. 

Politicians want nothing more than to be popular. Not only do we have the leverage to put a stop to Republicans in Congress pandering to nativists with border wall and militarization, but we are in the majority. We have leverage to pressure Congress to pass the DREAM Act. And we should use it. 

I don’t subscribe to a view that a utilitarian or meritocratic justification for immigrants is necessary. But members of the Texas Congressional delegation do.

So in that regard, making an economic case for a clean DREAM Act is a no-brainer: there are 138,440 DACA recipients in Texas alone, and each year they contribute $313,095,000 in State and local taxes.

Passing the DREAM Act, and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status, would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Because the gains from legalization grow each year, the cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years would be $281 billion.

Texas has the most to gain and the most to lose, based on how we move forward on immigration reform. Our leaders refuse to show courage and leadership, so it’s up to us.

We have to act, and we have to act now. Call your members of Congress. Tell them you do not want a wall, and urge them to pass a clean DREAM Act.

If helpful, use the following script:

YOU: Hi, my name is [name]. I’m calling from [address/city/ZIP Code].

YOU: I am calling to ask [MoC/House Member] to vote NO on the proposed “border wall” package that Michael McCaul has sponsored and brought to the House for a vote. This is not something that Texans want or need.The border is already heavily militarized and secure. Crime rates are lower in U.S. cities along the border with Mexico than elsewhere in the country. Unauthorized border crossings have diminished to historic lows in recent years. In fact, net migration from Mexico is at zero or less. The number of Border Patrol agents along the border has OCTUPLED since 1982. Our Members of Congress should not be wasting their time and energy on this when the country has other very urgent matters we could be addressing, namely, passing the DREAM Act.

YOU: This cannot wait. I implore the Congressman to vocally, publicly signal his support for a clean DREAM Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children. The economic incentive is a no-brainer. There are 138,440 DACA recipients in Texas alone, and each year they contribute $313,095,000 in State and local taxes. Passing the Dream Act, and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status, would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

YOU: Finally, it’s very important the DREAM Act not be held hostage with clauses, caveats, riders, or amendments that would add additional border militarization, or call for more deportation forces to be added. We will not accept the Congressman’s support for any bill that compromises the integrity of the DREAM Act with language that would allow any kind of “wall”, increased militarization, or deportation forces.

YOU: Thank you and have a nice day.

Capitol Switchboard:

(202) 224-3121

Texans: Amplify Your Activism

Texans: Amplify Your Activism

Do you want to get your member of the Texas legislature or member of Congress to hear what you have to say on an issue that’s deeply important to you?

Are you frustrated by what’s happening with our democracy and do you want to get more involved?

I. If you haven’t already, begin by studying the Indivisible Guide: https://www.indivisibleguide.com. This is your army field guide for the war on our democracy.

Next, pick your issue. What mobilizes you to action: Healthcare? Immigration? LGBT rights? Voting Rights? Repro Rights? Disability Rights? Environmental Protections? Education?

Pick a primary issue (many issues are intersectional and will overlap) – one that energizes you or angers you the most. Then consider your personal connection to that issue: How does this issue touch your life? Does it threaten your health? Safety? Family? Finances? Future? Etc.

II. Find out who decides what will happen to your issue. Is your issue being addressed (or ignored) by bills, laws, or executive order? Find out where your issue belongs:

Local Government:

  • Mayor
  • City Council member
  • Board member (if public school district issue)

State Government:

Your Senator and your House Rep. can be found using the links below.

Federal Government

House of Representatives: You have one for your district

Each State has two Senators that represent the entire state.


When you know Who you need to contact and you’ve thought about Why the issue matters to you, it’s time to write your story.

  • Your story is what makes your stance on an issue so compelling: not only for your community or for the media, but for your representative. I can argue all day about how healthcare is a civil right and how a free market solution and the loss of a social safety net with cost human lives, but that argument is more effective and I’m likely to better argue it when you can tie it to something that personally affects you.

Put together your story in 200 words or less using this outline:

  • Cause
  • Concern
  • Connection
  • Consequence(s)
  • Call-To-Action

Always include your name, address, phone number, and email address so they can reply to you and so they will know you are a constituent (not necessary for letter to the editor submissions)

For example, the issue that drives me and compels me and keeps me up at night is health care. So let’s break it down here, as an example:

  • Cause: Healthcare
  • Concern: The AHCA bill will unravel ACA protections and gut Medicaid
  • Connection: My daughter needs life-saving access to care. She is disabled and has several pre-existing conditions including heart disease and Down syndrome. We are self-employed and qualify for ACA subsidies for access to insurance coverage and are grateful to not be charged more for my daughter’s care due to her disability and existing conditions.
  • Consequence: If AHCA passes and Medicaid cuts go into affect, we may be forced to close our small business and look for work for another employer. Contractors who work with us will not have work. If we can’t afford coverage for my disabled child she will go without treatment for her complex medical conditions, placing her life at risk. Cuts to Medicaid will prolong wait lists for waiver services, placing my daughter at risk of institutionalization.
  • Call-To-Action: Therefore, I ask you Senator Cruz to oppose Medicaid Cuts and Trumpcare.

Now you have your story. It’s time to get your representative to hear it and take action!

Below are the order of operations I like to take for advocacy. You will want to connect with the highest-level government official who can take the action you demand. Ask to meet directly with your representative but be willing to talk with someone else – for now.

Request an in-person meeting with your Representative.

Visit the State Legislature or Congressional website for your Representative to request an in-person meeting with your member of legislature (for State) or member of Congress (federal). Most of them will have an online submission form you must use to request a meeting. Tell them you want to meet and discuss an issue [describe in one sentence what that issue is] and then be sure to copy and paste include your story. If you don’t get a response in a few days, follow up with a phone call to their office to check on the progress of your request. If the representative is unavailable (as they will claim to be in most cases), ask to meet with the regional director (for members of Congress) or Chief of Staff (for state legislators) at the office nearest you. Keep up the request and don’t stop until you get a meeting.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

If you still don’t get a response within a few days, say so on social media. Tag your representative to let them know you’ve reached out but no one has answered you. Keep calling and emailing to follow-up until you get an appointment. You may also wish to drop by unannounced at your nearest field office for your representative. Then you can ask them in person about your request for a meeting. Bring a printed-out copy (and an extra) with you in case they offer you an impromptu meeting with the director, deputy director or staff member or intern. Agree to the meeting and at the close, get business cards, ask for a photo of you with the staff member, then ask for a follow-up meeting with the representative in person. Next, snail mail and email a thank you note, a copy of your story and mention your follow-up request to see your representative.

Get Creative!

Write a song, do some artwork, make a video, or write a poem about your issue. Have fun! I’ve seen activists do a “silent-film” style performance about the death of the ACA. It was awesome! Do your thing and deliver it to your representative. Post it on social media. Organize a demonstration with your local Indivisible group on social media and host a rally. Follow up from your rally with a small sign for your representative from the demonstration as a token of the demonstration and deliver your personal letter and call-to-action with your contact information included for follow-up. Photograph the delivery of that action. Spread it across all social media.

Aim for the Top of the Food Chain

The Congress person or State Senator/Representative will likely not meet with you, but they should offer you the opportunity for a meeting with a staff member at their regional office. You want to meet with the highest ranking staff member so ask to meet with the Regional Director (they will pawn you off on an intern if you let them, or another staff member and sometimes the Deputy Regional Director).

You can choose to meet with these other staff members if they don’t make a meeting with the Director available. When you do, take pictures, deliver a print copy of your story and follow-up with a thank you card, email, and post images on social media of your meeting (be sure to flag your MoC in that FB or Twitter post).

In every follow-up correspondence, in addition to thanking them for the meeting, restate your request to meet next with the MoC in person. If you must, settle for a follow-up with the next higher-up – usually the regional director for your Senator or Chief of Staff/Exec. Director for your House Rep. If that option isn’t available, you can also request a conference call with the DC policy point person for your issue.

For example, my issue is healthcare, so I ask to speak with my Senator’s healthcare policy director in DC.

And when meeting with my Texas state legislator, I ask to speak with their Chief of Staff and their healthcare policy director.

Chain of Command

It’s worthwhile to know the how the chain of command works so you can work your way to the top:

  1. Senator or House Rep
  2. Chief of Staff or Executive Director
  3. Policy Director (in Austin for Texas Lege or in DC for MoCs. There is usually one for each major issue).
  4. Regional Director
  5. Deputy Regional Director
  6. Local Office Staff Member
  7. Intern

Follow-Up Procedure

VERY IMPORTANT! Following up correctly is arguably as important as the meeting itself. After every meeting or phone conference, email and snail mail a thank you note and a request to meet with your Representative or MoC (or request a follow-up meeting again if they actually met with you in person).

Remember: you are building rapport with staff. By being persistent in your efforts, they will understand that the only way to get rid of you is by granting you access to your representative or MoC. And when that happens, you will build on that relationship as well. They work for you, after all.

 Your Team

In addition to getting to know the gatekeepers for your Representatives, you will want to get to know and follow reporters and fellow advocates that have access to networks and media. These will be the folks you will notify of all your actions. They will be the voices who will help you amplify your efforts. Find them, friend them, and follow them:

  • News Media, local, state and national
  • Issue-Related Group Networks on Twitter & FB
  • Local and Statewide Issue-Based Advocacy Groups
  • Local and Statewide Indivisible Groups

Helpful links:

Here’s a guide to writing and sending your personal story to members of Congress: http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/ContactingOfficials/Tips

How to testify at the legislature: http://covertexasnow.org/Resources/How-to-Testify

How to set up a meeting with your MoC: http://familiesusa.org/product/how-set-meeting-your-member-congress

Other Tips:

Don’t forget our Representatives at the State and Federal levels WORK FOR YOU! If you feel intimidated by the process or afraid to ask for what you believe in, don’t be. They represent US. They work for US. And while you don’t need to threaten them with the fact, remember that if they don’t represent us, we will VOTE THEM OUT.

You don’t have to go it alone! It’s great to show a united front for an issue and to show how this affects many people. So bring a buddy! Or two, or three. I would limit visits to Legislative and Congressional staff to six or less people. More than that will usually be too many to accommodate in a meeting comfortably and for whatever reason, in my experience if you have more than half a dozen folks they will ask you to split into smaller groups or come back later. If you do go as a group, make sure you decide in advance who will speak first and what you will say. Make sure everyone is taking the same stance on the issue so there is no divisions among you. And everyone in your group should bring a one-page letter with their story, contact info and call to action –preferably.

Keep up the fight until you see the change you desire. And if you don’t, find out who will run for office to unseat your representative and start working for their campaign. If no one is running, consider a run for office! There is always something we can do. Our democracy depends on our persistent efforts to defend our civil rights and to protect the future for all Americans.

In solidarity,

Julie Ross

 

 

 

Daily Resistance at the Capitol

Far-right extremists in the Legislature are waging an all out war on Texas’ rural familiesmothers, people of color, workers, women, retired teachers, and schools. The harm they have done to our communities are not because of just one bill, or even a few. The oppressive state of voting rights, worker rights, women’s rights, health care, education, and basic services for Texans in need is the cumulative effect of thousands of bills passed over decades.

Our Chapter has aligned with a broad coalition of progressive advocates to focus on building the collective power of our movement in Texas and in the state legislature. Whether you can join us for a few hours on one day, or every day, your support matters, and it will make a difference.

Every Monday through Thursday, we’re asking anyone who’s able to join us at the Capitol to register FOR, AGAINST OR NEUTRAL ON EVERY BILL that is scheduled for a hearing on that day.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up to get emailed the next day’s bill list here. The next day’s bill list will go out the night before. 
  2. Every night, you’ll get a bill list with Committee hearing times. Keep in mind that hearings are generally in the morning, with the latest hearings usually starting in the afternoon, at 2:30pm. Generally, you can register your position electronically on every bill or issue at a kiosk, but for some bills that won’t be the case.
  3. Hearings are generally in the Capitol Extension. Sometimes, for some of the more controversial bills, the State Affairs committee will hear testimony on the Senate or House floor. If that’s the case, you can just walk in, ask a clerk where the form to register your position is, and wait your turn to testify. But mainly you’ll be in the Extension. To get to there, Walk through the Rotunda, towards the elevators, and go to E1 or E2. There are also staircases leading down into the extension behind the large staircases that go up to the Senate gallery. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you see–they’ll tell you how to get to where you need to go. Here’s a map.

If you plan to testify, but are unsure about the process, don’t worry! We’ve got an informative, easy-to-understand how-to here. There’s really nothing to it.

Even if you don’t plan to testify, we hope you’ll get to the capitol to register your opposition or support for the bills we’re tracking. It takes two minutes. You step in, sign onto public wi-fi, navigate to , register your position on a bill, and that’s it. Super easy. NB: The Senate is not as electronically savvy as the House, so you’ll need to register your position on Senate bills at a kiosk.

To help inform positions on bills, we’ve asked numerous progressive organizations to share their legislative agendas, as well as drawn from our own priority bill list. Based on that information, daily bill lists of every bill scheduled for hearing will be emailed and available at the Capitol for advocates to reference.

We’ll be at the capitol as a point of contact. You can reach us most easily via DM on Twitter. The packets will also be posted in the private Facebook Group here.

You can also receive the packets via email by signing up at http://bit.ly/txlegeresistance.

The goal and strategy of the #txlege resistance is to harness and leverage the mobilization power of the various organizations and issues we support to 1) increase our impact on bills that matter most to each our communities and 2) make sure elected officials know we are watching every bill, not just a few.

Now it’s time to let politicians know that we’re paying attention, we’re united and we’re fighting for all Texans, all the time.

Every step of the way our communities are committed to resisting. We will persist and we will participate in democracy to the fullest extent.

Join us at the capitol.

Actions for the week.