Witness at the Texas-Mexico Border

Submitted by Tomi Nagai-Rothe

bollard wall

In June I saw images of tent city prisons built for children separated from their families and all I could think about was the concentration camp where my mother’s family lived for several years during World War II.

The Japanese-American community has made a point of standing in solidarity with those targeted by the US government, including the Muslim community after 9/11. Because almost no one — except for the American Friends Service Committee — stood for them when they were forced out of their homes simply because of their ethnicity. I feel a part of this solidarity movement so that no one and no group targeted because of their identity will feel so alone.

I felt led to do more than organize locally in El Cerrito − to go in person to witness what is happening at the Texas-Mexico border. Going in person felt like one way to embody my commitment.

In October I spent 2 ½ weeks volunteering with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in Alamo, Texas just outside McAllen which was ground zero for the family separation crisis over the summer. TCRP interviewed 382 families and organized 90 attorneys as part of the #FamiliesBelongTogether effort over the summer (there are only three attorneys in their Alamo office, and six others in the other TCRP offices).

Humanitarian Respite Center

By October the family crisis had abated somewhat, so I worked on a border wall project. I studied the history of the border wall, including the economic, cultural and environmental impacts and created this illustration of the executive summary of the article, Death, Damage and Failure: Past, Present and Future Impacts of Walls on the US-Mexico Border.

To support the work of the TCRP attorneys I created an interactive map of the landowners affected by the October 10 waiver of 28 federal laws that clears the way for additional border wall construction. TCRP is working with individuals who need help negotiating with the government and cannot afford to hire an attorney.

FINAL Impact of Wall on the Border

On my last day in Texas I volunteered at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen where newly arrived families and individuals gather before taking busses to reunite with family members in other parts of the state or country. I was struck by how young they were — in their 20s and 30s — and how composed they seemed, having experienced unspeakable challenges. Soon after I arrived I started crying inexplicably. I can only guess that it was the feeling of so many people’s trauma in one small room.

When I returned to the office I edited stories of people killed by the Border Patrol for a Dia de Los Muertos Offrenda (altar). It felt important to write a respectful obituary for those who died a violent death. It was an emotional end to an eye-opening visit.


To learn more about why the Bay Area is a border region, why the Texas-Mexico border has the fewest miles of wall and more, come to Tomi’s talk about her sojourn in South Texas.

Saturday, January 5 3 to 4:30pm at Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury at Lincoln, El Cerrito
















teargasNationally, Families Belong Together are calling for a National weekend of protest on December 1 and December 2nd.  Locally, West County residents can join the chorus to STOP THE TEARS by Showing UP at the El Cerrito Plaza at Noon on December 1st. Event Sign Up  This visibility action is for ONE HOUR and meant to be a reminder – just 10 hours from our borders, we are placing innocent people in harms way, ignoring international law, and making it virtually impossible for asylum seekers to carry through with their quest for asylum.

When tear gas traveled through the throngs of migrants on the border areas of our State, most citizens stood by horrified by the images of women and children frantically running for safety,   Trumps latest manifestation of a hostile policy toward migrants  follows on the heals of the failing family separation policy,  long term detention of immigrant families, not to mention the newly restricted rules for asylum application.  It is clear that the architects of the current administrative changes at the border are determined to halt any immigration of the refugees who are fleeing from countries that have been torn apart by violence, political corruption and economic deprivation.

Locally, other efforts are underway to support the migrants at the border.

The city of Berkeley will donate money for the migrant caravan to the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, not to exceed $250 per council member. Funds will help provide food, shelter and basic needs to caravan members detained at U.S. ports of entry or traveling to immigration hearings, according the Daily Cal (November 28, 2018)

safe_imageTo learn more about the solidarity work that can be done on the border, please join the Interfatih Movement 4 Human Integrity

Saturday, Dec. 8th, 7 pm – 9 pm
People’s Assembly for Migrant Caravan Solidarity
@ 1st Pres. Church Oakland, 2619 Broadway Ave. Oakland
Join IM4HI & the Migrant Welcome Committee of the Bay Area for an evening of sharing and action as we better understand the recent caravans and take action in solidarity with their participants.
  • Find out the root causes of the mass migration of Hondurans and other Central Americans in this historic moment.
  • Hear testimony from participants of the migrant caravans about the realities, stories and power of their journey and collective action.
  • Find out the many ways individuals and organizations right here in the Bay Area can support the material and political goals of the migrants who are seeking asylum in the US.
Financial Donations to support organizations in Tijuana supporting migrants
and migrant legal defense will be collected at this event.


El Cerrito Shows UP Going Dark (for awhile)

GET OUT THETE 101The ushering in of Daylight Savings Time will mark the end of El Cerrito Shows UP  for this year.  Local residents mobilized in 2016 at the height of the Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville to send a message that our community does not tolerate hate and racism.  Since that time, residents faithfully appeared week after week (prior to winter darkness) to maintain this message.  Some of the human billboard actions were huge, with over 600 people in attendance.

@MaryMartinDeShaw-0011-XLFor almost a month, hundreds of local residents responded to the separations of families at the border.

IMG_1790 (1)With a plethora of countywide actions from the different organizations of the social justice community, residents “kept the heat on ICE.” (ICE is the acronym for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The County Sheriff finally agreed to end the County’s contract with ICE and no longer houses detained immigrants at West County Jail.

The point of El Cerrito Shows UP has been two-fold:

  • To build resistance and remind residents that our current administration cannot be tolerated, accepted or be normalized.
  • To create community among people who care about social justice and prevent isolation and depression that can easily beset individuals when power in this country is so abused and intended to promote hate.

Clearly, for those who are politically involved, we know the November 6th elections mean the possibility of stopping the train wreck of policies threatening our health care, education, environment and more.  How can we show others that voting can make a difference?  On Thursday, October 25th, from 5-7 pm., residents will gather for the last El Cerrito Shows UP for this year.  PLEASE JOIN US.  We will be focusing our attention to the mid-term with sign’s to remind voters what is at stake.  If you haven’t been involved, this is a time you can meet up with others and get involved. Plenty of phone banking, text banking and canvassing is still needed to be done.  You can find the Indivisible East Bay ready to get you started.

El Cerrito Shows UP NEW TIME: 5-6PM

20180621-untitled shoot-12By Carol Thomas-XL@MaryMartinDeShaw-0011-XL@MaryMartinDeShaw-0063-X3On a summer day in July of 2018 when news reports splashed out headlines and images of family separation, hundreds of residents descended on the intersection of San Pablo and Carlson. Families stacked the steps in front of the El Cerrito Plaza carrying signs of protest to say no to these policies.

Fast forward two months later.  As of August 31, according to the Washington Post, “Nearly two-thirds of the 497 minors still in custody — including 22 “tender-age” children, who are younger than 5 — have parents who were deported, mostly in the first weeks of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.”

And as recently as mid September, the New York Times reported that the number of migrant children being detained by the government has reached its highest level ever.  The Times showed that 12,800 children were detained in federal custody this month, compared to 2,400 children detained in May 2017. Federal shelters housing migrant children have remained filled at around 90 percent capacity since May of this year.

In addition to the assault on refugee families, Trump is proposing a regulation that could change the face of legal immigration — by restricting low-income immigrants. According to reporting by VOX New Trump Plan, it would give enormous discretion to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers to reject an immigrant’s application for admission, or for a green card, because the officer feels the immigrant doesn’t make enough money to support a large family or doesn’t have the resources to provide health care for a preexisting condition.

Please be advised that although the brash and heart wrenching reporting of family separation in July is no longer in the headlines, vulnerable families, refugees, immigrants, and our neighbors in our community are in peril.  What can you do?

1, Do not accept the normalization of administrative policies. Show UP! Thursday at 5:00 P.M. at the El Cerrito Plaza entrance on the west side, in front of Daiso.

2. Challenge your elected officials to push back on racist and heartless policies by calling and sending letters.

3. Write letters to the editors.

4. Stay informed and impassioned by connecting to organizations working directly with targeted families including:  Freedom for Immigrants, and  interfaith Movement for Human Integrity



El Cerrito Shows UP – Join Us!

July (1)

El Cerrito Shows Up

Thursday, August 30th at 6:00-7:00 PM

El Cerrito Plaza (San Pablo Ave. Entrance)

When El Cerritans and nearby residents come together for another Show UP at the El Cerrito Plaza entrance, pedestrians and commuters will encounter something unusual.  Judge Judy will come with gavel to preside over the hour long public spectacle of a community trial.  Residents can bring any charge against the man in the White House, as the list of constitutional violations, moral degradations, human humiliations, behavioral malfunctions is growing longer each day.

Come join others with your charges. Write them in large letters on your signs or make signs at the action.  Line the streets, raise your charges and come to a verdict!




Bake for Bonds hurdles past $10,000 goal!

Bake for Bonds Raises $10,451

Beautifully decorated Bake for Bonds table at the Kensington Market with community volunteers. Final tally raised for bond funds to support immigrants is $10,541

Update on Bake for Bonds

Bake for Bonds, now completing its third and final weekend, raised $8,200 as of Saturday, September 1st.  Organizers set a goal of $10,000 for funds to help immigrants transferred from West County Detention Center to private prisons out of state.  With a strong supportive community, organizers predict success at the end of Sunday.  Please join the campaign and buy some baked goods for a good cause. Find Bake for Bonds at Trader Joes in El Cerrito Plaza and Kensington Farmers Market from 10Am to 2PM. day1bakesale

Bake for Bonds launches the first weekend of bake sales – almost $500 raised in 4 hours.  Day 2 promises to be even greater – more sites and a 1-1 match for every dollar raised!

When El Cerrito Progressives launched a local effort to support the coalition of organizations raising funds for a Bay Area bond fund to support local ICE detainees, the outpouring of support heartened us all.  In addition to raising $3,000 within the first 10 days, a local neighbor donated funds and  suggested a city wide bake sale.  With a quick Canva graphic, catchy title and a bit of social media, neighbors came together to launch three weekends of scrumptious treats to be sold at some well traversed spots in our city. Don’t miss your chance to support a good cause.

Find us every weeekend.jpg

Local Voter Registration Drive Begins


Friends, we invite you to join the  El Cerrito Progressives’ Voter Registration Drive! The work will take place between Labor Day weekend and October 22, the deadline for registrants wanting to use a mail-in or polling-place regular ballot. Later registrants will have to use a provisional ballot.

We plan to set up tables at high-traffic locations such as Farmers’ Market, Ranch99, etc.  We also plan to canvass door-to-door in precincts with low voter registration rates in El Cerrito and Richmond Annex. Teams of 2 or more will be able to set their own schedules for this door-to-door work. The canvassing promises more voter engagement and education opportunities.

If you’ve never registered voters before, or if you’d like to go over the instructions including on-line options, please open this Doodle Poll and select your first (one click) and second choices (2 clicks) for times to attend training. There will be 2 beginners’ trainings offered on the most popular of these dates. Just click or copy and paste this link into your browser:


If you have training and experience in registering voters, or if you’ve signed up for the beginners’ training above, please go to this poll and select your first (one click) and second (2 clicks) choices for this training. We expect to give the training on only one date. This training will include strategies for ongoing engagement  including post carding, distributing the EC Progressive Scorecard and other voter information resources, accessing the on-line registration verification option, and most important, messaging strategies found most effective with uneducated, uninvolved, alienated potential voters as well as voters who may not agree with you on issues.


Even if you have limited time for registration activities, please consider taking one or both trainings to make you a more effective advocate and citizen.

For those of you who want to work as a poll worker or poll observer, watch for a follow-up email with information about the Contra Costa County Registrar’s community meetings, and poll worker trainings.

Please respond before Wednesday, August 15.


Landry Wildwind, Elections Committee,

El Cerrito Progressives