Friends,

Well, that was intense. Executive orders on immigration, healthcare, pipelines, abortion, and we’re only on day 12!

Now more than ever, every one of us has to stand up and take action. Remember our values, remember your commitment, and keep fighting hard.

It’s also critical to get others engaged as well. If you see a friend on Facebook complaining about Trump – get them to take the pledge. If you meet someone new at a rally or event – get them to take the pledge. The more of us there are, the more we can make a difference!

This week, we’re keeping things focused with just four action items. They’re all fairly quick, so try to do them all – but especially #1. Please also take a few seconds to do our one-question survey – your feedback has been very helpful so far! And remember, we’re relying on you to spread the word!

  • 1) Fight the ban & unconstitutional actions
  • 2) [MA residents] Support the ACLU Freedom Agenda
  • 3) Get Bannon off the National Security Council
  • 4) Fight the remaining Cabinet nominees

A note on calling elected officials

You may have noticed that many of our action items (especially this week) involve calling elected officials, whether at national or state level. We’re working on diversifying the types of actions we suggest, but the simple truth is, right now we’re primarily on the defensive, and our elected representatives are the first line of defense. Going forward, as we seek to organize more proactively, we anticipate a greater diversity of actions, including various forms of concrete local organizing, campaigning, and movement building.

For now, though, it’s worth reminding ourselves why calling works. Where possible, show up in person at elected officials’ open meetings and offices. But if you can’t do that, calling is the next best thing, better than emails, tweets, or online petitions. Focus on the specific elected officials for your location (or, plausibly, previous location, e.g. home state if you’re a student). Where possible, tell personal stories relating to the subject of your call.

For a quick and easy resource for making calls regularly, check out 5 calls. And if you’re nervous about making calls, the shy person’s guide to calling reps and how to call your reps when you have social anxiety may help!

—–

1) Fight the ban & unconstitutional actions

Trump’s Executive Order restricting Muslims and refugees is unconscionably inhumane, unjust, un-American, and counterproductive. It is also, quite possibly, illegal, as evidenced by the court orders rapidly challenging it. Worse still, it shows the beginnings of a brewing constitutional crisis. Here’s what you can do to fight it.

The ban itself

  • Call your Senators, Representatives, Governors and state Attorneys General to apply pressure about the ban. You can find contact information and updated details of their existing positions and public statements on the ban here, including a general script here.

    • If they have already come out against the ban, thank them for doing so. For Senators specifically, use this script to ask them to obstruct Senate business until the ban is lifted.

    • If they have not taken a clear position on it, ask them to voice their opposition. Even several Republicans, including Senators McCain & Graham, have already spoken against it, so keep applying pressure even if your representatives seem resistant!

    • If they have supported the ban, politely object and suggest they reconsider. You can use the general script.

    • When calling Senators and Representatives, make sure to ask them to call out Constitutional violations around the continued implementation of the ban as well! (See below for details)

  • Learn more about the implications of the ban here and here, and about the court orders that followed here.

  • Help counteract Islamophobia by watching this short documentary and sharing it with your friends and family.

  • Donate to or volunteer with organizations working to challenge the ban or help those most affected:

The constitutional issues

Just as worrying as the ban itself is the questionable manner in which events around it have unfolded.

Despite emergency federal court orders suspending the executive order, in some locations Customs & Border Protection agents continued to enforce the order and detain or deport people, in an unprecedented refusal to comply with the courts. This is a direct affront to the separation of powers between Judicial and Executive branches of government that is absolutely fundamental to our democracy.

Similarly, it has emerged that House staffers secretly contributed to the executive order (and were forbidden from speaking about it with nondisclosure agreements), an unethical bypassing of standard legislative processes that further undermines the separation of powers between Legislative and Executive branches.

Furthermore, Trump has shown he brooks no dissent about this ban. He fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce it, justifying the widely condemned action with a highly accusatory statement. And as hundreds of State Department diplomats filed a formal dissent – a whistleblower-protected formal feedback channel – in opposition to the ban, the White House press secretary suggested they should quit instead (this just days after top State Department leadership was purged). These are not the actions of a transparent and accountable government.

What can we do? Ask your Senators and Representatives to call out CBP’s violation of the Constitution and support an investigation into the matter – and in the meantime, stay vigilant!

2) [MA residents] Support the ACLU Freedom Agenda

If you are a Massachusetts resident: ask your state senator to support the ACLU Freedom Agenda and cosponsor ACLU-backed legislation. The “Freedom Agenda” is a plan to sponsor and support legislation protecting civil liberties on the local, state, and federal level. The ACLU’s priorities in MA include protection of women’s reproductive rights by ensuring access to affordable preventative care regardless of Congressional action against Obamacare, protection of privacy rights, easing community reentry for individuals post-incarceration, increased government transparency, and voter registration.

The ACLU is currently sponsoring over a dozen bills in Massachusetts. These include efforts to prevent  discriminatory registration based on religion or national origin (the Fundamental Freedoms Act, sponsored by Sen. Chandler); fight back against unreasonable search and seizure in the digital age (the Electronic Privacy Act, sponsored by Sen. Spilka and Rep. Peake); and support efforts to improve government transparency (Arrest Data Transparency, sponsored by Sen. Brownsberger and Rep. Rushing). Co-sponsors must sign on by February 3rd, so the time window to act on this is short and vital!

If you are not a Massachusetts resident, or just interested in the ACLU’s state and local initiatives across the country, the ACLU is working in every state in the country. Find out more here.

3) Get Bannon off the National Security Council

Trump has just proven how important the so-called alt-right is to his campaign by elevating Steve Bannon to the National Security Council (NSC), giving Bannon, the head of Breitbart News, a position usually reserved for generals. This comes at the same time as Trump removed the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the meetings unless issues pertaining directly to their expertise are discussed. This is a departure from both the Obama and Bush administrations, and a dangerous move. Senator McCain is opposed to this change, calling it a radical departure from any national security council in history.”

Bannon’s job as chief strategist is to make sure that Trump stays on message from the campaign, a highly political role. The role of the NSC is to advise the president on matters of national security and foreign policy; it may play a role choosing the people targeted by CIA strikes. Politicizing national security is a dangerous move: politics should not be a factor in NSC meetings, especially with a president who has so little experience in foreign policy. (Even George W. Bush expressly forbade Karl Rove from attending NSC meetings for this reason.)

Fighting Bannon’s appointment will not be easy. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a petition against Bannon, as does MoveOn.org, Change.org, and StopBannon.org. People have also taken to social media to call for his removal, and #StopPresidentBannon has been trending on Twitter. It’s not clear how effective these efforts will be, but we need to be vigilant in watching the Trump administration as it places those who support racism, islamophobia, and misogyny in places of power.

4) Fight the remaining Cabinet nominees

With the confirmation of Elaine Chao as transportation secretary, Trump’s cabinet now has five confirmed members. Democrats have sought to delay the confirmations of Mnuchin and Price by boycotting the vote (though Republicans have since overruled them). As of Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Jeff Sessions. Sessions, who was considered too racist to be a federal judge, has voted against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, and presents a danger to the health of people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly. The vote will now go to the Senate floor.

Keep calling your Senators to urge them first to call for all cabinet nominees to be properly vetted by OGE (script from Wall-Of-Us here), and second to oppose the more reprehensible specific nominees. Besides Sessions, other top-priority targets are Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin, Tom Price, and Scott Pruitt.

As confirmations are proceeding this and next week, keep an eye on the latest status of nominees. Focus first on those in committees on which your Senators sit, then on those facing the full Senate. You can check the relevant committee memberships, and find talking points and scripts for all nominees, here, here, and here (all spreadsheets with the same information but different layouts, use whichever is easiest for you).

Better yet, consider going one step past calling and showing up at your Senator’s office (even after the Wall-of-Us day of action has passed).

—–

That’s all for this week. Stay strong and keep fighting!

As always, keep encouraging people to take the pledge, and please do share any thoughts or questions with us at solidaritymit@mit.edu, including suggestions for action items!

Until next week,

Solidarity MIT
solidaritypledge.com

 

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