Fifth San José Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight is will be my fifth Human Services Commission meeting with an agenda focused on the needs of women, interactions with law enforcement, and continuing to work to support immigrant communities being targeted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Police Annual Report
Aaron Zisser, Independent Police Auditor
Purpose: to provide the Commission background on the IPA process and data with a gender overlay of the history of complaints made of the San Jose Police Department.
My thoughts: I asked if Mr Zisser could attend and I am excited to hear from him as I’ve heard good things about his work in the community. Below, I’ve pulled together the context that could help make our time together productive. In my time on the commission, we’ve interfaced with SJPD on 4 major issues:

  1. Hiring/retention of women and people of color in SJPD. We heard from Heather Randol back in March about her efforts to increase the recruitment of women in SJPD.
  2. SJPD handling property of homeless people. We have been working through a request from Anthony King of De-Bug Silicon Valley to see if it would be possible for SJPD to handle the property of homeless people when it is seized during sweeps; Vanessa Beretta of the Housing Department has asked us to wait on recommending that change to City Council to see if the new contact with HomeFirst and Tucker Construction (or whoever wins the relevant bids) improves the current situation.
  3. The gender analysis portion of the Women’s Bill of Rights. You probably know this, but the Women’s Bill of Rights is our local implementation of the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and was passed by city council unanimously on December 17th, 2017.

    In the bill, the Human Services Commission is required to 1) recommend which city departments, policies, and programs should undergo a gender analysis, 2) oversee the gender analysis (here is more on what a gender analysis entails).

    As part of that, we wrote to city council requesting they include $300k in the FY19 budget for the gender analysis and several local women’s organizations have also sent letters in support. Last I heard, Vice Mayor Carrasco included a BD for the gender analysis, though I am not sure at what price point.

    Whether the funding comes through or not, the bill requires the commission to recommend to council who will undergo the gender analysis first. Sita Stukes of the Cities for CEDAW taskforce requested that the commission advise city council that SJPD should be one of the first departments to undergo a gender analysis; SJPD has told the City Manager’s office and the Vice Mayor’s office that they prefer to not to undergo a gender analysis this year. We’ve been receiving community feedback from survivors of domestic violence and their allies requesting the SJPD undergo the gender analysis soon rather than later.

    This third issue is the one that led to me if Mr Zisser could join us, as I’m hoping you could help us understand how best to time and manage the competing requests the commission is getting on this issue.

  4. 280 women in South San José arrested for commercial sex. In January, Councilmember Tam Ngyuen’s staff liaison to our commission reported to the commission about an operation SJPD’s vice team ran in South San José in the last 6 months of 2017 that involved arresting 280 women for involvement in commercial sex (after some disagreement, I confirmed that was the correct number with Sgt Richard Galea back in March).

    As a rough estimate, according to a number of folks in law enforcement I checked-in with, arresting that many women takes about 280 officer hours, that is, about 7 full weeks of work.

    The commission connected with Community Prosecutor Josue Fuentes and Sharan Dhanoa of South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking (notes from their presentations here) to get a sense of whether those women were sex workers or survivors of sex trafficking; we heard only 2 were identified as survivors and that they knew of, none had been referred for the Valor diversion program (though this isn’t 100% clear).

    I connected with the nonprofit that generally coordinates services for survivors of trafficking in the county, and they said they hadn’t seen a major increase in referrals.

    I checked with friends who work in law enforcement in Oakland and another friend worked in California Department of Justice’s on human trafficking policy issues and both said that 280 women in 6 months is a huge number for a city San José’s size; given that I have found no one who provided any of these women services, and none seem to have been prosecuted (though, again, this is not entirely clear), it is not clear to me who benefitted from these arrests.

    Why this matters: whether someone is a sex worker or a trafficking survivor, having a prostitution arrest on her, his, or their record makes a wide range of employment outside of commercial sex immediately and permanently unavailable and so causes lasting and quantifiable harm to those arrested.

    (As a bit of personal context for newer readers — my first job out of college was running online advocacy for Polaris, the organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. As part of that, I worked directly with survivors, advocated for comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, and worked to increase law enforcement training in dozens of states,, so I have some depth on the complications and intricacies of this issue).

Women’s Bill of Rights Policy
Purpose
: to determine what city departments will undergo a Gender Analysis under the Women’s Bill of Rights.
Action: Vote to recommend to city council that this Human Services Commission be allowed to create a 3-year task force to fulfill its obligations under the Women’s Bill of Rights, modeled on Santa Clara County’s CEDAW Task Force. This San José City CEDAW Task Force should formally include members of the public as well as commissioners. Here is the CEDAW Final Ordinance.
My thoughts: We’re waiting on the City Manager’s office to finish translating the survey we wrote 5 weeks ago into Vietnamese and Spanish; in the meantime and as mentioned above, we have received feedback from survivors of domestic violence hoping that SJPD will undergo a gender analysis sooner rather than later. We don’t currently have a recommendation on which departments, policies, or programs should be reviewed first, but if you have thoughts, please comment!

Two other items on this:

  • We are moving forward in securing funding for the gender analysis; we will know more when the Mayor’s office gets back with their estimate.
  • I’ve started redrafting the CEDAW legislation with the help of a wide and wonderful range of community groups, using the research I did here. If you have feedback, you can provide it by email or by commenting on the Google Doc of the draft legislation.

Commissioner resource deployment to support the Rapid Response Network
Purpose: to look at the Commissioners own networks to find places to amplify the message and information about the Rapid Response Network Action: Discussion only. Here’s more on the City’s Rapid Response Network.
My thoughts: I went on my first Rapid Response call last month and believe increasing the number of volunteers (particularly in East San José and Gilroy) who can monitor ICE and support community members being targeted will increase the safety of those communities.

 

Ensuring Local CEDAW Ordinances Protect Transwomen and Non-Binary People

Most weeks, the night before my San José Human Services Commission meeting, I see my friend M. M is part of group of friends of mine that gets dinner mosts weeks, loves trashy space opera as much as I do, is a budding Java programmer, and is nonbinary. M is private about their gender because it’s not safe for them to be out to their family, so I’ll be clear here that the letter M exists nowhere in M’s name.

M is not my first nonbinary friend, but I know not all of my readers and fellow residents might not know anyone who is living a gender different from the one on their birth certificate. So in this post, when I write about making sure people outside of the gender binary are counted and served by our local laws, think about M: M who gave me a shy, big hug, when they heard one of my poems will be getting published this summer; M who ate a massive slice of my celebratory rum cake along with their corndogs, and was not sorry about it at all; M, who deserves to have their human rights protected because those rights are inalienable for everyone.

Background

About 8 weeks ago, when I was first looking into how to best support the implementation of San José’s Women’s Bill of Rights (our local implementation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW), a member of Together We Will – San José posted a reply to a post I started, and what she said stuck with me:

 

 

 

 

Posted with permission. At the time, I replied:

Good point! As a queer woman, including our genderqueer and non-binary brothers and sisters is important to me as well. Would you be willing to speak to the commission about including more than M/F options in the gender analysis next month if I can get it on the agenda? I think we could propose to city council that they amend the Women’s Bill of Rights to include non-binary and genderqueer people; also, to modify the language in the Duties and Powers section to consistently refer to gender, rather than switching to sex halfway through like they were synonyms. Here’s the text of the bill: http://sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/74224

[Quick update here: when I posted the language above I noticed I’d used not-great language for being inclusive of non-binary people and I wanted to remind myself to be accountable; this left some readers confused, since I didn’t actually point out that between writing this comment on Facebook and posting this blog post this weekend, I’ve gotten better (I hope) at using inclusive language. Regular readers will remember the many discussions of how much our language set around gender is evolving and this is a solid example of where I can do better. I should have said: “non-binary siblings” or “non-binary brothers, sisters, and siblings,” since I know some non-binary folks who are femme non-binary or masc non-binary and wouldn’t object to the gendered family language. Ok, back to the original post.]

And then I started asking around — our local CEDAW task force, other cities, our county. No one had heard of a local implementation of CEDAW that explicitly included transwomen and nonbinary people. That changes today.

After spending the evening reading through all 38 cities’ CEDAW ordinances, I found that Pittsburgh, PA’s language seems to be as inclusive as I could hope for. I’m going to spend the next few weeks shopping it around to see if there are ways to make it better, but unless I’ve very much mistaken, I think following Pittsburgh’s example in this bill language would solve the important problem highlighted on that Facebook thread and that’s been bothering me ever since.

Still a Women’s Bill of Rights?

Now, I believe there is value in highlighting cis and transgender women’s rights within the overall human rights conversation. This post isn’t about how to turn a Women’s Bill of Rights into an Everyone’s Bill of Rights (that already exists and has since 1948, or 1791, or 1215, depending on your definition of “everyone”); this post is about making sure that the gender analysis portion of a local implementation of CEDAW isn’t a missed opportunity to include the needs of nonbinary and transgender people. There is a lot of potential for it to be a missed opportunity, because most of the bill language I found refers exclusively to “women” and “men” as if the entire Venn diagram of human existence could be fit between those poles.

What’s the Harm in the Current Language?

Now, this may all sound very abstract. But we can’t track — and we can’t fix — what we don’t count. Here is an example of where counting nonbinary people’s experiences could have revealed important information for local policymakers and service providers. This is a quote from the University City, Missouri CEDAW resolution:

WHEREAS, in Missouri, just over nine percent of seniors are in poverty, two-thirds of whom are women, and overall the gap between elderly men and women in poverty is 3.7 percent, but in some counties this increases to 8.0 percent; and

What is the gap between cisgender men and nonbinary people? Between cisgender women and transgender women? From how this is framed, no one knows; that that should bother all of us, whether we’re cis or trans, identify as men, women, or use another term entirely, because our governments should serve their residents, not just those of us who fit into dueling check-boxes.

Another from Miami Dade County’s implementation of CEDAW (I’m sorry for the cruddy resolution and even sorrier for the fact that this bill was posted in an unsearchable format):

Another example, this one from San Francisco’s groundbreaking CEDAW ordinance, from the definitions section:

(e) “Gender” shall mean the way society constructs the difference between women and men, focusing on their different roles, responsibilities, opportunities and needs, rather than their biological differences.

This language assumes that gender is a binary, when for it is really more of a bimododal distribution:

An image of a bimodal distribution — I did not color this pink and blue; Wikipedia did.

[Note: a reader pointed out that between some and many non-binary folks do not consider gender a graphable distribution at all; I do, which is why I wrote this post this way, but I wanted to give space to that view here.]

If you’d like sources on this, that gender isn’t as simple as tab-A or slot-B, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll drop you some of the excellent studies and stories; or just take this as a premise and go out into the world tomorrow and test it yourself; or just think about M, and about whether you think it would be ok for anyone in our community to be uncounted because of their identity.

My Methodology

  1. I used this list of all 38 US cities with a CEDAW ordinance in the United States, using the Cities for CEDAW list.
  2. I searched those bills for the following terms: “binary,” “trans,” and “queer,” (because I wasn’t sure whether people would spell “nonbinary” and “transgender” and “genderqueer” the same way I would, because as I’ve mentioned before, the terminology in this space is still evolving.
  3. About half of the cities’ ordinances and resolutions were posted in a non-searchable form (like Kentucky’s example at the top), so I read through them with my own two eyes, looking for language inclusive of transgender and nonbinary people.

Below is a spreadsheet with links to each ordinance and resolution I reviewed, courtesy of Cities for CEDAW. I found only 2 that mentioned transgender or nonbinary people, and only one city has that language in the operative part of the ordinance, as opposed to an executive office directive or unfunded resolution:

A Quick Note on Blame

I’m not listing these cities to shame them. Many of these cities — including San Francisco most notably — passed their version of CEDAW decades ago; not before trans and nonbinary people existed, since trans and nonbinary people have always existed, but before trans and nonbinary people had voices in most halls of power, had someone in the room making sure they were included. If you’ve found this post because your city is listed here, a great next step would be amending your local ordinance to match Pittsburgh’s solid language and then get to work implementing those changes at home.

Full Summary of CEDAW Ordinances in the US and Whether They Explicitly Include Transgender and Nonbinary People

City Name Any mention of transgender people being protected by the bill text Any mention of nonbinary/genderqueer people being protected by the bill text Is the bill a searchable pdf or did I have to read with my own 2 eyes?
Boulder, Colorado Resolution No No PDF
California State Senate Resolution No No PDF
Cincinnati, Ohio Resolution No No PDF
Cincinnati, Ohio Ordinances No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Columbia, South Carolina Resolution No No PDF
Daly City, California Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Durham County, North Carolina Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Edina, Minnesota Resolution No No PDF
Eugene, Oregon Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Honolulu, Hawaii Ordinance No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Kansas City, MIssouri Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Kentucky House Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Lafayette, Colorado Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Long Beach, California Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Los Angeles CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
Los Angeles Mayor’s Executive Directive Yes Yes Not searchable, but I read through it
Louisville, Colorado Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Louisville, Kentucky Resolution No No PDF
Miami Dade County, Florida Ordinance No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Minneapolis, Minnesota Resolution No No PDF
Mount Vernon, New York Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
New Orleans, Louisiana Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Ordinance Yes Yes PDF
Rapid City, South Dakota Resolution No No PDF
Salt Lake City, Utah Resolution No No PDF
San Francisco CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
San Jose CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
Santa Clara CEDAW Ordinance No No PDF
Santa Monica, California CEDAW Resolution No No PDF
St. Paul, Minnesota Resolution No No PDF
St. Petersburg, Florida Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Sarasota, Florida CEDAW FAQ No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Tampa, Florida Resolution No No PDF
University City, Missouri Resolution No No Not searchable, but I read through it
US Conference of Mayors Resolution in support of Cities for CEDAW No No Not searchable, but I read through it
Washington, D.C. Ordinance (proposed) No No PDF
West Hollywood, California CEDAW Resolution No No PDF
2017 Gender Equity Resolution Adopted by the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA) No No Not searchable, but I read through it

Note: in reading through these, I found that Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center proposed doing Miami Dade County’s Gender analysis for $18,270; Cincinnati set-aside $8,000; which is in the low-end of the range I’ve heard but is another good datapoint from back in 2015.

Conclusion

I’m going to be shopping this language around to see where we can improve it; if you have ways you would like to see it changed, please let me know!

Rights and Wrongs: Updates From My Fourth Human Services Commission Meeting

Today was my fourth San José Human Services Commission meeting and we made progress on some important issues. Here is the agenda and my initial thoughts on it.

Public comment in support of making the Women’s Bill of Rights gender-spectrum inclusive.

Context: Because I’m chairing the ad hoc subcommittee on improving the language of the Women’s Bill of Rights to make sure it includes trans folks, I reached out a few weeks ago to a colleague at the LGBTQ YouthSpace (a program for queer young people in Santa Clara County under 25 that I know does excellent work) to see if one of their participants or staff would be willing to speak. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back in time to get them on the agenda itself (which has to be finalized and posted a week ahead of time), so we made space during public comment.

Erika Cisneros spoke for 2 minutes about the importance of including transgender, genderqueer, and gender-expansive people in the gender analysis portion of the Women’s Bill of Rights and then read the following statement from a participant and volunteer at the YouthSpace (though it was public comment, I am not 100% sure the young woman was comfortable having her name out there, so I’ll leave it off until I get specific permission):

“To include language that is expressly gender-neutral, be it for systems of bureaucracy or otherwise, is essential in recognizing and respecting the presence and inherent value of Queer, Trans and Gender Expansive People; to include language that is outside the gender binary, with pronouns such as they, them, hir and zhe, will encourage those in positions of legislative and communal influence to recognize and commit themselves to new and positive involvements with a community that has long been left behind. As such, this inclusion will increase the possibilities for people’s who are Trans/Non-Binary to have a space to assert the unique needs of their communities, most of which includes overarching narratives of impoverishment, violence, abuse, houselessness and unemployment.”

A note on language: as a cisgender queer woman, I know I don’t get my language always right about the experiences of my genderqueer, nonbinary, gender-expansive brothers, sisters, and siblings. If some of the words above were new, weird-sounding, or confusing — that is totally fine. The language around gender and sexuality is evolving so fast, there is absolutely no consensus about terminology; but there is a profoundly-felt consensus about the importance of respect and self-determination. So when I meet someone and they tell me they use a particular word to describe themselves, I use it for them too, immediately, without arguing. If I don’t know the word, I Google it and pretend I’m cool and already knew what demi-sexual meant (to use a specific example; sorry Chris). Just like if someone told me their eyes are hazel but I thought calling them green would be easier for people to understand, I wouldn’t be a boor and say that out loud. I mark their eyes as hazel in my head and move on. We all have better things to do.

Census update

We heard from staff that the city is still working to update the list of addresses that the census will go out to to make sure every person in San José gets counted, per the constitution. That is tough, when people are living in informal (and probably unpermitted) converted-garages, side rooms, etc. Some key information from this update:

On 5/12 starting at 9am at the Seven Trees Community Center (3590 Cas Dr, San Jose, CA 95111), there is a big census event in my area, where volunteers will walk the streets and try to eyeball how many people they think are living in a given unit, so the city knows how many forms to request the Census Bureau to send to that address. Volunteers send that info via Facebook Messenger or text to a system and it goes into a database that is air-gapped from the rest of the city systems and locked in a room in City Hall until it is sent to the Census Bureau, so no one from Code Enforcement to ICE can get to it. Volunteers also have to delete all texts and messages about the program at the end of the day. I’m intending to come out and hope you can too!

Community Budget Meetings

I haven’t participated in these before, but apparently they are a way residents of San José can voice where we’d like our dollars to go. Below are the meeting times and locations for each district — I’ll be trying to make mine!

Property Rights of People Who Are Homeless

At my second commission meeting (the first one where I could contribute agenda items), I asked Anthony King of DeBug Silicon Valley to give a presentation about how the property of people who are homeless is treated during what the city calls “sweeps” or “cleans.” The commission had requested to speak with SJPD about a proposal asking them to handle the bags, tents, clothes, and other personal property that is currently being managed by a nonprofit provider, a construction company, and the city. Instead, we had an unagendized presentation from Vanessa Beretta of the San José Housing Department. Below are my notes on that presentation:

  • Ms Beretta runs San José’s homelessness response team doing outreach and what she called “abatement.” She has previously worked at HomeFirst San José.
  • She wanted to share what the process for a “sweep” or what she called “a cleaning” was:
    • 1) A resident or business calls the abatements/homeless concerns hotline, staffed by the city 9-5 on weekdays or emails a dedicated inbox.
    • 2) That concern then goes to outreach providers.
    • 3) Ms Beretta goes to the reported location to see if it is city or water district property (since the city can’t “clean” Caltrans or Union Pacific property). She selects sites based on: if there’s an environmental issue (people’s stuff falling into a creek); if it is near a school; if the site blocks a right-of-way; if there are health-and-safety issues.
    • 4) Ms Beretta goes to the property again (or one of the contractors do; this was unclear) and posts a sign saying it will be “cleaned” in 72 hours, telling people they need to find somewhere else to sleep, and provides a number to call if people want to get their stuff back after its taken.
    • 5) Tucker Construction, Ms Beretta, outreach workers from a service provider, and San José Police Department officers on “secondary employment” converge on the site. The officers “clear” the came “for their safety” (“their” is the construction workers, outreach workers, and city employees I believe). Employees of Tucker Construction evaluate items in the site to decide if it is “deemed storeable,” and throw-away what is not. This is a specific concern from Mr King’s presentation, because a broken tent might not be “deemed storeable” but when it’s the best cover someone has, it would be better for them if it was not thrown away. Ms Beretta emphasized that Tucker Construction follows guidelines on store-ability written by department lawyers. Follow-up: She said she would provide that this to the commission and I’ll post it here when we receive it.
    • 6) All of the items “deemed storeable” are moved to a secured location “so people can’t just show up.”
    • 7) Outreach workers and the 72 hour notice signs include a phone number people can call to find out how to get their things back. Ms Beretta wasn’t sure how long it usually took for people to get their things back, but it sounded like 7-10 days was common — if people got their property back at all, which Mr King emphasized many people have stopped trying to do because the process is so onerous. To quote from my notes on his presentation:“He knows of only 3 people who have gotten anything back — not all of their stuff, but anything at all. He said some people don’t even try to get their belongings back anymore.”
    • 8) From Ms Beretta’s perspective, the process of having property taken and then getting it back goes like this.
      • Someone comes back to where they’ve been living to find a notice saying they need to leave within 72 hours.
      • For whatever reason (and I can think of several excellent ones like: they didn’t see the notice, they were trying to find someplace to stay and couldn’t on the timeline, etc) they don’t pack everything up.
      • The “clean” starts; some of their property is thrown away, some is taken.
      • The person finds a phone and calls the number to get their stuff back, using a general description and a time/date of the clean.
      • HomeFirst picks-up the call, then calls Tucker Construction, who then goes to the secondary location to find the stuff, then drops it off at the Little Orchard shelter.
      • The person makes their way to the shelter and picks-up their stuff. Ms Beretta emphasized that the shelter has no place to store belongings, so if someone doesn’t come the day they say they would, they have to start the process over again.
  • The city’s Housing Department sent out a new Request for Proposal (RFP) for “homeless encampment abatement” and has nearly-finished selecting which contractor will handle it for the next fiscal year. She said it was unlikely HomeFirst would apply, because it’s not in their mission. But she said they want to change the process to address some of the concerns advocates like Mr King have been bringing-up to make the retrieval process better.
  • On a Woman’s Bill of Rights note, I asked if Ms Beretta knew of any report on how much money is being invested in women, men, and transgender people respectively who are homeless. She said she did not.

Next steps:

There was some confusion about what action to take moving forward. The chair highlighted that the city’s Housing and Community Development Commission may also be elevation to city council this issue and we should communicate with them; he will be connecting with their chair to see how we can work together.

I believe there is a role for our commission in this work, given our unique human rights focus. Follow-up: I will be advocating for making this issue one of our focuses in FY19 by working to get it added to the work plan for the commission.

We also had some discussion about better ways to including the people most directly impacted by services in deciding who gets contracts, like the “homeless encampment abatement” RFP Ms Beretta spoke about. The staff person from the City Manager’s office who serves as secretary of the commission cautioned us that there are a lot of processes in place; but there remains a clear and painful gap between how we talk about serving vulnerable people and how we actually serve them.

Conversations like this are always a balancing act for me; I’ve worked with and for human services providers in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Seattle, and Santa Clara County and know how hard the work is to do right and well. I also see how far we are from where we need to be. So I try to push for the justice and respect vulnerable deserve, standing firmly grounded in my understanding of the frictions and complications involved. I was not impressed by the process outlined above and hope to support making it better.

Key moment: There was a powerful moment, after Ms Beretta had left, when I asked the commission if we thought that “sweeps” or “cleans” helped people who are homeless. There was no one on the commission who thought they did. We can do better.

Process Updates from the City Attorney’s Office

We had sent quite a few questions to the City Attorney’s office in the past few months and just heard back on several of them. In the order they were shared with us:

  • The letter we wrote to council about fully funding the Women’s Bill of Rights gender analysis went to council; the op-ed and letter to the editor the commission reviewed and unanimously approved will need to be reviewed by a sub-committee of the city council and may not be sent out for months. Strategically, since the purpose of the op-ed and letter to the editor was making sure staff and councilmembers heard our requests, it being an item covered by a sub-committee is not bad, since someone has to read them to vote on whether to allow them to go out into the world. Timing-wise, we have about 6 weeks before the budget is finished, so the op-ed and letter to the editor probably won’t make it out from the commission in-time. But community members can (and should) voice their support.
  • The city attorney is still looking into if the text of the Women’s Bill of Rights would prohibit city departments from tracking how they or the organizations they give grants to invest in transgender people.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Invitation

Staff sent a follow-up to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and will be sending another before the next meeting. More on this request and the importance of holding ICE accountable.

Commissioner Baracio and I both went through the Rapid Responder training. I spoke to about 70 people at the Orchard City Indivisible meeting last Tuesday asking them to sign-up for a 2-hour training as well and if you’re reading this, you should sign-up too. The training reminded me of a mix of my training to become a volunteer clinic escort for Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania when I was in college at Carnegie Mellon and the trainings I’ve given to people canvassing for candidates. It’s one of those trainings you’re grateful to have and hope to never have to use.

Follow-up: We need to continue to hold ICE accountable and I’ll be continuing to speak to members of my community about how the commission can do that.

Women’s Bill of Rights Policy

Great update: The Vice Mayor’s office’s may have included a line-item for funding a consultant to conduct the gender analysis survey in their most recent budget request! We’ll know for sure in mid-May.

The commissioners had a few great edits to the survey on which city departments should undergo a gender analysis (here’s the memo on the process). We will be sending it out as soon as the city translates it into Spanish and Vietnamese. This isn’t a huge time-crunch, but if it’s not translated by the next commission meeting I would be surprised. I’m planning to collect both qualitative and quantitative support for which departments need to undergo the gender analysis; the survey will provide the quantitative and the other comments we’re seeing will be the qualitative ones. I’ve already started hearing from survivors of domestic violence who want to use this survey to improve how women, girls, and nonbinary people are treated in San José. Trigger warning for domestic violence:

“An Asian survivor was physically assaulted by her abuser and ran away to a public location while bystanders called the police. The officer who found her was from her community and spoke her language, but told her to please settle domestic matters at home and don’t bring them to the public. We’ve also seen this happen during non-crisis situations, for example when an Asian survivor went to the police station to file a report, and the Asian lady at the window told her to go back to her husband and not make things public. And this is not limited to the Asian community; other DV agencies have told me that, for example, an officer stopped speaking Spanish to a survivor and forced everyone to speak English after he found how long she’d been in the U.S. – because he felt she needed to acculturate.”

“It’s taking 4-6 months for abusers who violate retraining orders/criminal protective orders to be arrested. I’ve heard the delay is because SJPD only has two detectives. I can’t speak to police capacity or city budget issues, but I can share that this lack of follow up not only has an impact on the emotional well-being of the survivor, but it sends the wrong message to abusers: that they won’t be held accountable for their actions and can continue acting with impunity. For example, we helped a survivor whose abuser showed up three times over three months and wasn’t arrested until four months later.”

“In terms of anecdotal, the most frequent mishandlings we hear about are language access issues (not having/utilizing interpreter, non-certified interpreter or inappropriate interpreter (child, abusive partner), not offering EPRO’s at the scene without consulting a judge, and not knowing how to DV issues if there are LGBTQ individuals involved (not knowing who the dominant aggressor is, making dual arrests, etc).

“I also want to be clear that the officers I’ve spoken to have been VERY helpful, and I do believe individuals are doing what they can to work within a challenging system. At the same time, anything we can do to make the system less challenging for our communities would be great.”

Action:

  • Funding: To help ensure the Women’s Bill of Rights is full funded in San José, I will be requesting a meeting with my council member to emphasize my support as a community member for the recommendations made by the commission. I will also be coordinating with Santa Clara County’s Cities for CEDAW to ensure their affiliated organizations make their voices heard on this important issue.
  • Improving the language: I’ve reached out to a wide range of local LGBTQ organizations to see how best to improve the language. I’m hoping to have a final copy of the changed bill language by the next meeting.

Commission and Associated Events:

  • 5/12: Census Volunteering at the Seven Trees Community Center (3590 Cas Dr, San Jose, CA 95111)
  • 5/26: Children’s Rights Event at the Seven Trees Community Center (3590 Cas Dr, San Jose, CA 95111)
  • 10/25: Disability Rights Day with a movie festival (called ReelAbilities)

Items to propose for the next meeting:

  • Action: Vote to follow-up with the Housing Department to see, specifically, in what ways they will be changing the way that the property of people who are homeless is being handled in the coming months.
  • Action: Vote on the letter to city council asking them to improve the language of the Women’s Bill of Rights to be gender-spectrum inclusive.
  • Presentation: I would love to hear from the Office of the Independent Police Auditor about whether SJPD should be one of the first departments to undergo the gender analysis portion of the Women’s Bill of Rights.
  • Presentation: Uplift Family Services
  • Action: Following-up on the suggestions by Sharan Dhanoa (South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking) and Josue Fuentes (District Attorney’s Office of the County of Santa Clara) at the 2/15 commission meeting, draft a letter to City Council requesting additional funding for transitional housing for survivors of human trafficking be provided, as a lack of housing is stoping people from being able to leave exploitative in our city. Note: This is building-on the 2017 – 2018 Work Plan topic of Human Trafficking.
  • Discussion: Find ways for the commission to use our networks and community relationships to help grow the Rapid Responder network in San José as part of our continuing work to hold ICE accountable.

Summary

I continue to enjoy my time on the commission and look forward to the upcoming budget discussions and seeing how we can ensure more vulnerable people in San José get the justice and respect they deserve.

Thanks for reading!

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