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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appeared in federal court on Monday (October 7) to fight a Florida law that requires formerly incarcerated Florida residents to pay fines before they can have their voting rights restored, according to a statement emailed to Colorlines.

The law at the center of this fight establishes wealth-based roadblocks to voting and goes against overwhelming support for the Voting Restoration Amendment, also known as Amendment 4, which voters passed during the midterm elections.

An emailed statement from the ACLU explains:

Floridians voted in 2018 to amend their state constitution to restore voting rights to people convicted of most felonies once they’ve completed their sentences. It was the single largest expansion of voting rights in the United States since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971. In response, the legislature passed a bill to limit Amendment 4’s reach, requiring people to repay any fines, fees and restitution before their voting rights are restored—effectively, a poll tax. 

With Gruver v. Barton, attorneys for the ACLU seek to challenge the limits placed on Amendment 4. “Over a million Floridians were supposed to reclaim their place in the democratic process,” reads the ACLU statement. “[However,] some politicians clearly feel threatened by greater voter participation. They cannot legally affix a price tag to someone’s right to vote.”

The hearing is expected to last several days.



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More than 30 civil rights groups—including RAICESMedia JusticeFight for the Future and National Immigration Law Center—came together to protest Amazon Ring’s partnerships with police forces across the country, according to a Vox report. The group published a joint letter on Tuesday (October 8) that says the collaboration “[threatens] civil liberties, privacy and civil rights, and [exists] without oversight or accountability.”

Amazon Ring, a wi-fi powered home security system, includes doorbell video cameras, floodlight video cameras and in-home security cameras. According to Vox, Amazon has established more than 500 partnerships that permit law enforcement organizations to contact Ring owners directly and request access to video footage that they think can assist in official criminal investigations. In some cases, police actually distribute free or discounted Ring products to residents to further their aims.

The letter breaks down the coalition’s concerns about the partnerships:

Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely. In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies like ICE or the FBI.

Homeowners can also post footage from their security systems directly to Neighbors by Ring, a neighborhood watch-type app run by Amazon that lets users view and comment on video posts. But history shows these types of apps negatively impact people of color.

Chris Gilliard, a professor of English at Macomb Community College, talked to Vice about the ramifications of platforms like Ring’s app that reinforce racism. “We know from a bunch of high profile incidents in the past, and even when people live in a particular neighborhood, often their White neighbors don’t identify them as neighbors or belonging in those spaces,” Gilliard said. “So there’s a way that Blackness can be seen as foreign, even when you ‘belong.’ And those systems codify that in a way that makes me really uncomfortable.”

The civil rights activists behind the letter are pressuring elected officials to either end the practice of Amazon partnering with law enforcement or launch an investigation into the practice. Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, told Vox, “I don’t think they should have for-profit surveillance partnerships with companies like Amazon without getting express permission from the city council or mayor or without having some community input.” Greer added, “Amazon has found the perfect end run around the democratic process: Getting the police to market their products to private individuals and then giving the police a seamless process for accessing the footage those individuals are collecting, with no meaningful oversight from the community.”

In its response to the letter, Amazon claimed that the Ring is not a threat to civil liberties:

The Neighbors app has strict community guidelines, trained moderators, user flagging capabilities and other tools in place to create a safe place for all members of the community to talk about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. All content submitted to our app is reviewed to ensure that it adheres to our community guidelines, including our policies against racial profiling and prohibiting hate speech or other forms of prejudice before it goes live on the platform. We take this very seriously and have invested many resources, tools and human power to ensure we uphold a standard of trust and civility.



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On Tuesday (October 15), Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) reintroduced the “groundbreaking, intersectional” Health Equity and Access Under the Law for Immigrant Women and Families (HEAL) Act with the support of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and more than 120 other organizations, per a statement from NAPAWF.

HEAL, which extends healthcare coverage to immigrants, would get rid of the five-year wait that immigrants must endure before they can apply for Medicaid. It would also allow immigrants of undocumented status to purchase healthcare through the Affordable Care Act

Jayapal spoke to the heart of this bill in a statement

Immigrants, even those here lawfully, have had a limited ability to access affordable health insurance for two decades. When women lack access to health care coverage, it takes a toll on families and entire communities: it leads to delayed treatment of preventable diseases and early interventions, more visits to emergency rooms and even premature death. And when women are healthy, their entire family benefits.

“This legislation would allow immigrant families to better meet their financial needs, and would likely offer some peace of mind. [It] allows immigrants to access the benefits they already pay for,” said Haaland in that statement. “Under this administration, people in our country are denied access to health care because of where they come from—it’s not what we stand for. I’m leading this bill with Congresswoman Jayapal, because everyone in this country should be able to go to the doctor when they’re sick without having to weigh the cost against groceries or paying for electricity.”

“Our collective voices are what will make real change,” added NAPAWF Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow. I am hopeful that with our communities and members of Congress, we can ensure health care coverage for all immigrants, regardless of their status.”


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The United States government is set to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers detained at the southern border, The Associated Press reported Monday (October 21). A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told The AP that officials will add information from the samples to a large FBI database used to track and investigate criminal activity. The DOJ’s amended regulation will reportedly “mandate DNA collection for almost all migrants who cross between official entry points and are held even temporarily.”

According to the official, who spoke to The AP “on the condition of anonymity before the regulations were published,” these new rules would not apply to anyone entering the U.S. “legally” and wouldn’t affect legal permanent residents. Children under the age of 14 are also exempt. The AP says it’s still unclear whether asylum-seekers who cross into the U.S. through legal ports of entry will be forced to give DNA samples. From the outlet:

The new policy would allow the government to amass a trove of biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants, raising major privacy concerns and questions about whether such data should be compelled even when a person is not suspected of a crime other than crossing the border illegally. Civil rights groups already have expressed concerns that data could be misused, and the new policy is likely to lead to legal action.

The new regulations are scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday (October 22), with officials hoping to “have a pilot program in place shortly after the 20-day comment period ends and expand from there,” according to the DOJ official. 

Colorlines previously reported on the DOJ’s plan to expand DNA collection at the border. At the time, it wasn’t clear when the program would begin, but advocates expressed outrage over the policy:

Vera Eidelman, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told  The New York Times this shift has to be taken seriously. “That kind of mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance,” she said. “[That] is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society.” Eidelman added that because genetic material also carries family connections, the collected DNA data could also impact family members who may or may not be legal residents of the U.S.

Immigration officials are currently limited in the amount of DNA they are allowed to collect. According to The APDNA can be collected “when a migrant is prosecuted in federal court for a criminal offense. That includes illegal crossing, a charge that has affected mostly single adults. Those accompanied by children generally aren’t prosecuted because children can’t be detained.”

The FBI database, also called the Combined DNA Index System, “has nearly 14 million convicted offender profiles, plus 3.6 million arrestee profiles and 966,782 forensic profiles as of August 2019.” The AP reports:

Federal and state investigators use the system to match DNA in crimes they are trying to solve. As of August 2019, the database produced about 480,000 hits, or matches with law enforcement seeking crime scene data, and assisted in more than 469,000 investigations.

According to The AP, the FBI will train border officials on how to obtain DNA samples and will supply the necessary cheek swab kits.


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NBC News reported on Monday (October 21) that the largest pension fund in the United States, California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) is divesting from GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two main for-profit prisons that run Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) migrant detention facilities. 

CalPERS is just the latest pension fund to make such a move. According to NBC, in November 2018 the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) pulled more than $13 million in investments from the publicly traded prison firms. Bank of America and Wells Fargo also cut financial ties with private prison companies that maintain contracts with ICE

“California public employees took a stand and made their voices heard after learning that their retirement savings were propping up the very companies that have played a critical role in the migrant abuse crisis, as well as mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Emily Claire Goldman, founder and director of the ESG Transparency Initiative, whose Educators for Migrant Justice campaign pushed CalPERS to divest.

Megan White, a spokesperson for CalPERS, however, insists the group wasn’t moved to divest $10.8 million for political reasons, but for financial ones.

“Ben Meng, our CIO, told the Board in January when he started that he would conduct a comprehensive review of our investments and investment strategy,” said White. “That included a review of benchmarks and indices, as well as an analysis of investments and strategies. Ben’s key focus is on risk mitigation; his goal is to assess what is adding value to the fund, consistent with CalPERS’ investment beliefs, and helping CalPERS achieve its 7 percent target return.”

Meanwhile, the California Faculty Association, which met with CalPERS on Friday (October 18), released a statement to NBC emphasizing its political take on the matter. “Our union was not going to stand by and watch our pension dollars support these terrible corporations, and we’re pleased to see that CalPERS investment analysts have come to the conclusion,” the statement read.

A spokesperson from GEO Group told NBC that the company is being misrepresented. “The divestment efforts against our company are based on a false narrative and a deliberate mischaracterization of our role as a long-standing government services provider,” the statement began. “We have been a trusted service provider to the federal government for over three decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations, and in that time, we have never played a role in setting policy, nor have we ever advocated for or against immigration enforcement policies.”

As Colorlines reported in July, GEO Group and Core Civic faced several lawsuits for alleged human rights violations. GEO Group faced even more controversy when one of the company’s top executives went to ICE to ask the agency, and therefore taxpayers, to cover its legal fees. ICE reportedly denied the request.


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An estimated 200,000 Salvadorans “living and working in the U.S.” will continue to be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), NPR reports. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made the announcement on Monday (October 28):

The Trump administration is extending the validity of work permits for El Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through January 4, 2021. Additionally, the Trump Administration is providing El Salvadorans with TPS an additional 365 days after the conclusion of the TPS-related lawsuits to repatriate back to their home country. 

As Colorlines previously reported, on January 8, 2018, the federal government ended TPS eligibility for Salvadorans who had been “permitted to enter and live in the United States following devastating earthquakes and civil unrest in their native El Salvador.” As NPR notes, TPS is a federal program typically “reserved to help foreign nationals from countries embroiled in wars or facing natural disasters.” The revocation was one in a long line of actions that attempted to end TPS for people from Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, among other countries.

U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Ronald Johnson joined President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador on Twitter to make their own announcements about the TPS extension. “This is recognition of the achievements and good work of the government of Nayib Bukele,” said Johnson.

However, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says people have the wrong idea about the Trump administration’s latest move. Per NPR:

“A clarification: some reporting has spoken of ‘extending TPS,” Cuccinelli said in a tweet. “That has important legal meaning, and that’s not what happened with the agreements. Rather, work permits for Salvadorans will be extended for one year past resolution of litigation for an orderly wind down period.”

According to the DHS statement, the Trump administration still wants to repatriate people to El Salvador via “an orderly and responsible process,” but there are concerns that “a sudden inflow of 250,000 individuals to El Salvador could spark another mass migration to the U.S. and reinvigorate the crisis at the southern border.”



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The Trump administration hasn’t been honest about the number of family separations at the southern border as part of its zero tolerance policy, Time reports. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is leading a class action lawsuit against the government on behalf of affected families, learned on Thursday (October 24) that an additional 1,556 children were separated from their parents and guardians. According to Time, that means the total number of family separations since July 2017 adds up to nearly 5,500. The administration admitted to the new number when a judge ordered an accounting of every single case.

Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney in the lawsuit, spoke to Time about the big reveal. “We—naively, looking back—assumed the government was telling us about all the children they had separated,” he said. “I think what we’ve learned is that we need to continuously press the government to find out what they may not be disclosing.”

As a result of this new information, the ACLU has expanded its original lawsuit to include the additional affected families, Time reports. “At every stage of this case there have been shocking revelations,” Gelernt told Time. “In some ways, the real work is going to begin [now] because we have to try to find all these 1,500 families.”

Time reports:

The newly-disclosed cases deal with the period of July 1, 2017 through June 26, 2018, according to the ACLU—meaning many families were separated months before Sessions’ zero tolerance policy began on April 6, 2018. “There was a lot of public outcry over children who were separated during the zero tolerance policy, but this group of kids never really got that kind of public attention,” says Christie Turner, deputy director for special programs at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which is assisting in locating the families and providing them with legal services.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still continues the practice of separating children from their parents and citing minor criminal histories as the rationale, Time points out. As Colorlines previously reported in July 2019, the ACLU accused the government of “systematically separating large numbers of families based on minor criminal history, highly dubious allegations of unfitness and errors in identifying bona fide parent-child relationships.” The ACLU specified in its motion at the time that “[the government is] separating young children based on such offenses as traffic violations, misdemeanor property damage and disorderly conduct violations.”

According to Time, DHS has yet to comment on the updated claim. 



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A judge in Portland, Oregon, just threw another wrench into the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to punish poor immigrants. United States District Judge Michael Simon on Saturday (November 2) issued a temporary restraining order on the administration’s rule forcing immigrants to prove they can afford health insurance before applying for visas, Time reports. The visa rule was scheduled to go into effect on Saturday.

According to Time, seven U.S. citizens filed the federal lawsuit on Wednesday (October 30), saying the visa rule would “block nearly two-thirds of all prospective legal immigrants.” The suit also alleged that the rule would “greatly reduce or eliminate the number of immigrants who enter the United States with family sponsored visas.”

Esther Sung, a senior litigator at Justice Action Center (JAC), argued at Saturday’s hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs. She spoke to Time about the urgency of the case: “We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately,” Sung said. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped.”

Trump signed the visa proclamation in early October, and it applies to people living abroad who are looking to an immigrant visa. It doesn’t pertain to legal residents, asylum-seekers, refugees or children. It does, however, target poor immigrants who are either unable to afford health care, or don’t have employer-provided coverage.

Under the government’s visa rule, the required insurance can be bought individually or provided by an employer and it can be short-term coverage or catastrophic.

Medicaid doesn’t count, and an immigrant can’t get a visa if using the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies when buying insurance. The federal government pays for those subsidies.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration think tank, 57 percent of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared with 69 percent of U.S.-born, and 30 percent had public health insurance coverage, compared with 36 percent of native-born. 

“Countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today,” Jesse Bless, director of federal litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Time. “The court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted without the hold,” he said.

JAC released a statement saying this fight is far from over. The court still has to consider the “full merits of the case, Doe v. Trump, in the coming days and weeks,” the statement read.

It is not clear when the judge will take those next steps.



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Voters in Tucson, Arizona, gave a resounding “No” in response to Proposition 205, according to As Colorlines reported on Tuesday (November 5), the measure sought to turn Tucson into the state’s first sanctuary city. It also sought to add restrictions around police questioning residents about their immigration status. reports that “58,820 voters, or 71.4 percent, voted ‘no’ on the proposal compared to just 23,562, or 29 percent, who voted ‘yes.’” People’s Defense Initiative, the group behind the movement that became Prop 205, issued a statement to press after the results were announced:

“We are incredibly proud of the hard work and inspiring commitment of our team and the hundreds of Tucsonans who made this campaign their very own,” the statement said. “Through this effort, we were able to uplift an important city-wide conversation that changed Tucson for the better.”

As reports, lawmakers in Arizona pushed back against the measure, threatening “lawsuits and to withhold tax money to Tucson if the initiative passed.”

The New York Times spoke to Tuscon’s Mayor Jonathan Rothschild ahead of the vote, who said his city is already supporting immigrants. “The city of Tucson,” he said, “in all respects except being labeled as such, operates as a sanctuary city.”



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The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday (November 12), heard arguments to determine the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and Reuters reports that the justices seem to be divided. This case is “one of the most important of the term,” according to The New York Times, and it will ultimately determine presidential power over immigration policy.

The Trump administration is on a mission to end the program, which is widely supported in Congress and protects roughly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. Launched by President Obama in 2012, DACA offers protection for people brought to the United States as children. Often referred to as “Dreamers,” they are able to live and work in the U.S. via a renewable temporary status. Currently, there is no path to citizenship for Dreamers. 

According to Reuters, conservative Supreme Court justices appeared to be sympathetic to the Trump administration’s goal to end the program. The news outlet reports:

Several of the five conservative justices appeared skeptical that courts can even review the Republican president’s 2017 plan to end [DACA]…. Even if the court finds that it can be reviewed, conservative justices indicated they think Trump’s administration gave a reasonable explanation for its decision.

Liberal justices, however, were more focused on the hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that have benefited from the program, Reuters reports:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor demanded that U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued the case for the administration, identify whether the administration considered all the harm that ending the program would do, or if it was just a “choice to destroy lives.”

States suing over Trump’s move to end the program include California and New York, according to Reuters. Lower courts found “Trump’s move to rescind DACA was likely ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and violated a U.S. law called the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The Supreme Court is now considering the case. As Reuters reports:

The justices must determine whether administration officials failed to provide adequate reasons for the decision to end DACA. The initial memo rescinding DACA, the plaintiffs said, gave a “one-sentence explanation” and did not spell out why the administration believes the program is unlawful. The justices will also have to decide whether the administration’s action against DACA is even something courts can review.



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Recently, an email was circulated by anti-immigrant forces saying that they intended to show up “armed” to an immigrants’ rights event at a public library in Georgia, because we as the organizers of the event had dared to challenge law enforcement and “speak [our] minds.” The majority of the speakers, including myself, were immigrants.

As an outspoken immigrant who is often critical of the United States government’s policies, I have often been told to go back “instead of stirring up trouble here.” Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to aggressive and hateful speech in the course of pursuing justice. But this email escalated anti-immigrant rhetoric to threats of violence.

Many immigrants and refugees have left home countries where governments restricted their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. They arrived in a country where such freedoms are protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution. And yet, those who become outspoken community organizers, activists and even elected officials in the U.S. are targeted and silenced by the government. This targeting of immigrants and refugees, particularly people of color, for speaking up shows the emptiness of the rhetoric about the sanctity of free speech for all in this country. By silencing outspoken immigrant activists, jailing them and inciting violence against them, the government and White supremacists are attempting to keep immigrants in a state of fear and intimidation.

The targeting of Representative Ilhan Omar—a Somali-American, Muslim, Black woman who came to the United States as a refugee in 1992—is illustrative. She has taken strong positions on U.S. foreign policy, Palestinian liberation and immigrants’ rights. She stands for much of what the Trump administration is against, and the state and White supremacists protest her mere presence in Congress.

While the harassment that Omar has endured is recent, this targeting of outspoken immigrants goes back to at least the early 20th century. Consider the Palmer Raids. Between 1919 and 1920, during the Wilson administration, U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer led a number of raids against anyone suspected of having ties to leftist groups. The Palmer Raids resulted in the arrest of 3,000 to 10,000 people, the jailing of thousands and the deportation of hundreds of immigrants.

Emma Goldman is one of the people impacted by this ongoing criminalization. A Jewish immigrant to the U.S., she stands as a major figure in the history of American radicalism and feminism. An influential and well-known anarchist of her day, Goldman was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women’s equality and union organizing. She was arrested for “inciting to riot” after speaking to unemployed workers and encouraging them to take action and demand work. She was arrested again for publicly teaching women how to use contraceptives. Her criticism of mandatory conscription of young men into the military during World War I led to a two-year imprisonment, followed by her deportation in 1919.

More recently, scores of primarily Muslim immigrants have been targeted, imprisoned and deported in the post 9/11 era. Ghassan Elashi is just one example. He was born in Gaza, Palestine, and he was one of the Holy Land Foundation directors targeted by the FBI for leading an organization that did relief work in Palestine. The organization came under investigation a few months after 9/11, causing the government to seize its assets and force its closure.

Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, Elashi was later convicted for allegedly providing aid to Hamas, which was deemed a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Clinton administration in 1995. He is currently serving a 65-year sentence in a Communications Management Unit, a system that exists within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and predominantly houses Muslims, per reports. The CMU system has faced criticism for discriminatory practices and blatant violations of the constitutional rights of those detained.

In the Trump era, the targeting has also impacted outspoken immigrants such as Ravi Ragbir. The executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition and a long-time immigrants’ rights leader, he came to the U.S. from Trinidad in 1991. Ragbir has advocated against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies, has been very critical of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and helped educate community leaders and elected officials on the costs of deporting and separating families. He has faced retribution by the government as a result.

ICE has already deported one member of the New Sanctuary Coalition, Jean Montrevil, and it attempted to do the same to Ragbir. Following a routine ICE check-in in January 2018, the heavily surveilled Ragbir was arrested and detained. But Ragbir and his supporters pushed back via organizing and legal action against ICE. They alleged that the agency was retaliating against him for his speech, and an appeals court agreed. The judge stated that, “public expression of his criticism, and its prominence, played a significant role in [ICE’s] recent attempts to remove him.” In response to the decision, Ravi Ragbir said: “It was all of our voices together that made this decision possible and we have to continue to speak out against the travesty of our deportation system.”

The callous and scary chants of “send her back” directed at Ilhan Omar at the Trump rally in North Carolina sent a chill down my spine and a served as a reminder of the targeting of outspoken immigrants and refugees for state retribution in the U.S. for centuries. The criminalization of immigrant activists in the Trump era has resulted in the disruption of free speech against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. And when the government is given the green light to violate the rights of one group of people, we know that it’s only a matter of time before it comes after all of us.

The targeting of immigrants, with the aim of deterring their speech and organizing work, must cease immediately. As immigrants, we cannot allow these threats from the state and White supremacist forces to keep us from doing our work. As Ravi Ragbir said, we have to continue to speak out boldly against policies that we deem racist and xenophobic.

In Georgia, we decided to go ahead with our forum, despite the threats, for that same reason. Georgia is an open-carry state, and we could not legally prevent several members of the anti-immigrant organizations from entering the library with firearms. But when a climate of intimidation and fear is combined with the threat and potential of violence, we look to our history of resistance and the strength of our partners to forge ahead. We organized for the safety of all participants and took security precautions into account. Yes, we ensured that the event was safe and productive, but it is outrageous that as immigrant activists, we have to face the potential threat of an armed attack for daring to speak out against unjust laws.  But that will never stop us.



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A group of doctors reached out to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in an effort to provide free flu vaccines to detained immigrants. The group is alarmed that the Trump administration “is denying flu vaccines to immigrants in custody,” which could have disastrous results, NBC News reports.

The physicians, all members of a new group called Doctors for Camp Closure (D4CC), sent a letter to DHS on November 5 asking the agency to stop denying detained migrants the flu shots they need. As NBC reports, at least three children detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is part of DHS, died from flu-related complications in 2018. 

D4CC members have offered to set up a free, mobile flu shot station at the CBP processing and detention facility in San Ysidro, California. “We implore you to allow our volunteer physicians to hold our requested influenza vaccine clinic,” the doctors said in their letter to DHS

But CBP denied the doctors’ request. A spokesperson from the agency responded to the letter with a statement obtained by NBC. “As a law enforcement agency and due to the short term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible,” the spokesperson said.

Dr. Luz Contreras Arroyo, a member of D4CC, spoke to NBC about the potentially hazardous conditions that the agency could create. “This is how epidemics begin,” he said. “It’s not just migrants. Workers will come out to communities, potentially spreading that virus and it could get out of control.” Arroyo also stressed the importance of remembering that detained migrants are not criminals. “Seeking asylum is not a crime,” he said.

According to NBCCBP isn’t supposed to hold anyone longer than 72 hours, but the agency typically detains people for far longer than that. 

Health care providers have protested longer detention periods for migrants, warning that children in particular would face more serious health risks with the extended incarcerations.

The doctors also wrote that detained children are nine times more likely to die from flu-related complications than other children. “In our professional medical opinion, this alarming mortality rate constitutes an emergency which threatens the safety of human lives, particularly children,” says the letter from D4CC. “As physicians, we have seen the effects of flu infections in the strongest as well as the most vulnerable, and the outcomes can be devastating.”



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LGTBQ characters of color on television are steadily increasing, especially on television, where 47 percent of all regular characters on broadcast scripted TV series are people of color, a three percent increase and a record high, according to a new report released by GLAAD. In addition, and for the second year in a row, the report titled “GLAAD we’re on TV” confirmed that LGBTQ characters of color are outnumbering their White counterparts, representing 52 percent compared to 48 percent. GLAAD had challenged all platforms–broadcast, cable, and streaming–to make at least half of LGBTQ characters on each platform be people of color, within the next two years.  

“Last year, GLAAD called on the television industry to increase the number of LGBTQ characters and more accurately reflect the world we live in, and they responded by exceeding this challenge,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD told Deadline in an article published today (November 8). “At a time when the cultural climate is growing increasingly divisive, increased representation of LGBTQ stories and characters on television is especially critical to advance LGBTQ acceptance. Shows like ‘Pose,’ ‘Schitt’s Creek,’ ‘Batwoman’ and ‘Billions’ demonstrate that not only are LGBTQ stories and characters on TV becoming more diverse, but that viewers everywhere continue to respond with extreme positivity.”

The report emphasized the importance of TV watchers having access to diversity by noting that The Public Religion Research Institute found that less than 25 percent of Americans have a close friend or family member who is transgender, which means that much of what’s learned comes from what they see in media and on their screens. “This is why the historic casting of Brian Michael Smith as Paul Strickland–primetime scripted broadcast TV’s first Black, transgender man series regular character–on FOX’s mid-season drama ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’ is so important,” said the study.

Additional key findings from the report:

  • When it comes to racial diversity, of the 120 regular characters on broadcast, 52 percent are people of color, a two-percentage point increase from last year with six more characters. This marks the second year in a row where LGBTQ people of color have outnumbered White LGBTQ people on broadcast, making broadcast the only platform to meet the goal of having at least half of LGBTQ characters be characters of color.

  • Another record-high percentage was with Latinx characters, up one percent to nine. Black series characters held steady at 22 percent, while Asian Pacific Islanders represented eight percent across broadcast television regular characters. 

  • On the cable and streaming side, diversity is moving a bit slower: Cable has 48 percent who represent characters of color–up two percentage points from last year–whereas streaming has shown 41 percent people of color, a seven percentage point drop from last year. 


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Foster care and adoption agencies will soon be able to legally refuse their services to families in the LGBTQ+ community if a new rule put forth by the Trump administration goes into effect. 

On Friday (November 1), the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHSproposed a rule that would reverse a 2016 discrimination regulation that included sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Per the HHS:

The proposed rule represents the Trump administration’s strong commitment to the rule of law—the Constitution, federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions. These require that the federal government not infringe on religious freedom in its operation of HHS grant programs and address the impact of regulatory actions on small entities.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told The Hill in an interview: “The administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12 o’clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities. The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith.”

The majority of the more than 400,000 children in the foster care system are people of color, according to a 2017 report, with 23 percent of them identified as Black, 21 percent as Latinx and 9 percent listed as “other races/multiracial.”

Reports The New York Times:

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated in a report that 114,000 same-sex couples in 2016 were raising children in the United States. Same-sex couples with children were far more likely than different-sex couples with children to have an adopted child, 21.4 percent versus 3 percent, the report found.

Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, called the proposal “horrific” in a statement and also said it would “permit discrimination across the entire spectrum of HHS programs receiving federal funding. The Trump-Pence White House is relying on the same flawed legal reasoning they’ve used in the past to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people and other communities.”

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Monday (November 4), after which there will be a 30-day comment period and an effective date for the rule unless a legal challenge halts implementation.



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Against the advice of many scientists, policymakers and public health experts, the Trump administration is poised to pass new rules that will severely limit the scientific data that can be used to make public health regulations. It could also, opponents argue, expose more Americans to dangerous toxins and life-threatening pollution.

The New York Times obtained a draft of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAproposed rules, “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.” The document states that the agency will only consider the conclusions of academic studies if scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records.

While the EPA cites the new regulations as evidence of the agency being “committed to the highest quality science,” The Times reports:

The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements. And, unlike a version of the proposal that surfaced in early 2018, this one could apply retroactively to public health regulations already in place.

Examples of studies that could be rejected—although they have been used in the past to write national policy initiatives—include ones that show how mercury from power plants impairs brain development and how lead in paint dust causes childhood behavioral disorders.

Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, said in an interview with The Times: “This means the EPA can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths.”

The fossil fuel industry, as well as some Republican lawmakers and the American Chemistry Council, have publicly disagreed with the use of studies that cannot be independently verified via raw data, reports The Times. A 2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that it would cost the EPA hundreds of millions of dollars to redact private information if academics made their raw data available to the public. But in September, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, told a congressional committee, “Good science is science that can be replicated and independently validated, science that can hold up to scrutiny. That is why we’re moving forward to ensure that the science supporting agency decisions is transparent and available for evaluation by the public and stakeholders.”

On Wednesday (November 13), the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on the proposal. Key opponents from the medical and science fields are expected to testify.



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Actor and comedian Mo’Nique filed a lawsuit against Netflix over race and gender discrimination in a Los Angeles court on Thursday (November 14), The Hollywood Reporter reported. “Netflix courted Mo’Nique, saw what she had to offer and made her an offer. But the offer Netflix made Mo’Nique wreaked of discrimination; it perpetuated the pay gap suffered by Black women,” notes the suit. 

The performer is suing the streaming company for racial and gender discrimination over the $500,000 offer she received to do a stand-up special. In the suit, Mo’Nique compares her offer to what other comedians were reportedly paid: Jerry Seinfeld ($100 million), Eddie Murphy ($70 million), Dave Chappelle ($60 million), Chris Rock ($40 million), Ellen DeGeneres ($20 million), Jeff Dunham ($16.5 million) and Ricky Gervais ($40 million). The 38-page suit also includes headshots of seven Netflix executives, all White, as visual support for the company’s “complete lack of racial diversity.”

“In short, as this lawsuit shows, Netflix’s treatment of Mo’Nique began with a discriminatory low-ball offer and ended with a blacklisting act of retaliation,” states the complaint. Netflix told THR that its offer to Mo’Nique was fair and that it will fight the lawsuit.



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On Thursday (November 14), Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) introduced The People’s Justice Guarantee, a bill that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the justice system that centers “the voices of the people most impacted by injustice in America,” per a statement. From Pressley in the statement:

You cannot have a government for and by the people if it is not represented by all of the people. For far too long, those closest to the pain have not been closest to the power, resulting in a racist, xenophobic, rogue and fundamentally flawed criminal legal system. The People’s Justice Guarantee is the product of a symbiotic partnership with over 20 grassroots organizations and people impacted by the discriminatory policies of our legal system. Our resolution calls for a bold transformation of the status quo—devoted to dismantling injustices so that the system is smaller, safer, less punitive and more humane.

Pressley hopes to use policy to shift “the purpose and experience of the criminal legal system,” while dramatically reducing the U.S. prison and jail population. The proposed legislation calls for decriminalizing migration, ending mandatory minimum sentencing and abolishing the death penalty and sentences of life without parole. Per the statement, the legislation is based on five “guiding principles”: shared power, freedom, equality, safety and dignity.

The resolution highlights the need to uphold the dignity and humanity of those impacted most by the criminal justice system, and it proposes tax incentives to encourage local governments to decarcerate and moves to decriminalize sex work. Pressley also pushes for an end to the “draconian systems of mandatory detention and automatic deportation” of people crossing the U.S. border. Additionally, the resolution stresses the need to allow “transgender individuals to be housed in a facility that conforms with their gender identity” and calls for federal Pell grants to be rewarded regardless of incarceration status. 

“We have an incarceration crisis in America that is making us less safe and undermining the values upon which our country is built—liberty and justice for all,” said Rob Smith, executive director of The Justice Collaborative, in the statement. “The People’s Justice Guarantee is a bold, transformative plan to shrink our jail and prison populations sharply, end wealth-based discrimination in the criminal legal system, and invest heavily in the communities that have been the most destabilized by the failed policies of mass incarceration.”

The bill is endorsed by nearly a dozen organizations, including American Civil Liberties UnionColor of ChangeUndocuBlack NetworkNational Immigrant Justice Center and URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. Read it here.



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African American Policy Forum kicked off season two of its podcast, “Intersectionality Matters,” on Wednesday (November 13) with an episode titled “What Slavery Engendered: An Intersectional Look at 1619.” Host Kimberlé Crenshaw—professor at Columbia Law School and the University of California, Los Angeles—walked through history with guest Dorothy Roberts, a professor and scholar in race, gender, bioethics and the law at the University of Pennsylvania. Per the episode description, they sought to “shed light on the lasting consequences of slavery, segregation and White supremacy and their impact on Black women specifically.”

“It wasn’t the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution nor the Stars and Stripes that gave birth to America; it was the Black vagina that laid the golden egg or rather the chattel slave,” Crenshaw said in the show’s introduction. “The property mortgaged to build America, slaves, was $12 billion dollars worth, [which] speaks on how Black vaginas have been appropriated, syndicated, capitalized but never vindicated.”

In highlighting the systemic erasure of Black motherhood and the creation and maintenance of the Black welfare queen trope, Roberts explains the long-reaching implications of these ideas. “It’s not just that Black women’s enslavement and forced reproduction paint Black women as the scapegoat towards the social problems,” said Roberts, “but it also laid the foundation for a whole future, including eugenics of government policies aimed at controlling the reproduction of people, including forced sterilization. It just seems natural that the government should be able to regulate the childbearing of Black women because Black women are dangerous reproducers.”



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As Native American Heritage Month continues, the Shinnecock Indian Nation will describe their struggle to protect their ancestral and burial lands in a new PBS Independent Lens documentary, “Conscience Point,” which premieres tonight (November 18). The nation resides on a reservation in The Hamptons, New York, an area synonymous with golf courses and multimillion-dollar properties.

“As Native people, you feel a responsibility to your ancestral territory to protect the land as much as we can,” American Indian Movement advocate Rebecca Hill-Genia said in the film. “Its nearly impossible in this day and age, but we’re still gonna do the best we can.” Conscience Point is the site where Shinnecock ancestors met the first European settlers. 

Directed by Treva Wurmfeld, who summered in The Hamptons as a child, the film follows Hill-Genia and her long-standing battle over The Hamptons’ continual destruction of Shinnecock sacred burial grounds for mansions and marquee attractions. This film highlights the debate over who has rights to the land. “Some people say, ‘My family has been here four, five, six generations,’ well, we’ve been here 400 generations plus,” Hill-Genia said. 

The documentary gathers perspectives from a land developer, local officials, Shinnecock members and longtime fishermen and farmers who blame the developers and summer-vacationers for the destruction of the Shinnecock Bay’s ecological system. The changes to the environment are then compounded by the extreme wealth gap. “In 1640 when the first settlers arrived, we gave them eight square miles of land to use which is now current day South Hampton Village and we’ve paid the price for it ever since,” said Lance Gumbs, Shinnecock tribal trustee. “Here we sit in the middle of the lifestyle of the rich and famous and yet 60 percent of our people in our community are below the poverty level. That’s a problem.” 

The other problem that looms largely in this film is the blatant disrespect felt by the Indigenous people. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, for example, was carved out of a sacred burial ground and uses a Shinnecock image in its logo, yet refuses to allow Shinnecock members access to the land. “This land was stolen from us,” Gumbs said. “Flat out, hands down, no questions, stolen.” Small victories are won, though the film showed that even those came with a price.



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More than 2 million Americans live in residences without tap water or flushing toilets, says a new report—and Native Americans are the group most likely to be without them. 

The report, “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,” was conducted by the US Water Alliance and DigDeep, a nonprofit that has helped to build water systems for the Navajo Nation. It was released today (November 18) and concluded that race is the strongest predictor of water and sanitation access. Per NPR:

Fifty-eight out of every 1,000 Native American households lack plumbing, compared with three out of every 1,000 white people, according to the report. This disparity has implications for public health. They experience more deaths, poverty and higher unemployment rates.

The report was conducted after DigDeep founder George McGraw learned that there was no conclusive, national data on water access. “No one could tell us, from federal to state agencies to other nonprofits, just how many Americans still don’t have running water or a working toilet where they live,” he told NPR about why he commissioned water experts from across the country to pool their information to create the report.

On the Navajo Nation, the report found that some groundwater has been contaminated by the presence of 521 abandoned uranium mines. In addition, gastric cancer rates doubled in the 1990s in locations near the mining sites. According to the Indian Health Service, it would cost an estimated $200 million to provide basic water and sanitation access to the Navajo Nation.

“Our nations didn’t have access to funding for infrastructure in the same way that it’s federally allocated for cities and states overall,” Mahrinah von Schlegel, an anthropologist from New Mexico’s San Ildefonso Pueblo tribe, told NPR. “It’s been a struggle, one, to get the access to that infrastructure capital, and then, two, it’s really expensive to develop some of these remote areas.”

While an estimated 2 million people do not have water in their homes, over 44 million Americans get water from systems that were recently in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, reports NPR.

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