Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump has developed rapidly, included the arrests of several associates of Rudy Giuliani, attorney to Donald Trump, and pending testimony from U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich, and U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. While all of this was unfolding, the Supreme Court heard arguments for cases concerning abortion access and LGBTQ protections, the Trump Administration is engaged in a number of court battles over immigration and refugee policies, and California bans private prisons.
Federal judges in New York, California, and Washington have temporarily blocked Donald Trump’s “Public Charge” rule for green card holders, which was set to take effect October 15th. The new rule would have expanded the definition of “public charge,” an immigration guideline that has been in place for over one hundred years, to include considerations of whether an applicant speaks English, requires medical or food assistance, or requires subsidized housing. If an applicant is determined to be a “public charge,” they may be denied a green card. (NPR).
California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill banning private prisons and immigrant detention centers in the state. The bill is the first of its kind, and would lead to the closure of three prisons once their contracts are up in four years, as well as four immigrant detention centers. The author of the bill, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, cites the comparatively low access to healthcare, high rates of recidivism, and less training for staff in such private facilities as motivation for the bill. (WBUR).
A 13-year-old student in Kansas was charged with felony criminal threat for making a gun shape with her hand. The student was allegedly making a gun shape and pointing it at students, and was arrested by the Overland Park Police officer assigned to her school. She is due to appear in juvenile court later this month. (New York Times).
The US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about employment protections for LGBTQ employees, with Justice Neil Gorsuch appearing to be undecided. The case calls into question whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers sexual orientation as a protected class, and therefore prevents employees from being fired due to their sexual orientation. Justice Gorsuch reportedly grilled both parties, acknowledging that the Act’s protection on the basis of sex may be fairly interpreted to include sexual orientation, but questioning whether this determination would be better left to the legislature. (NPR).
The U.S. Supreme Court also heard arguments from a Louisiana case, June Medical Services v. Gee, about abortion access. This is a challenge to Louisiana’s law requiring abortion providers to have emergency room admitting privileges. Opponents of the law argue it is medically unnecessary and will cause facilities to close, imposing a substantial burden on women seeking an abortion. (NPR).
The Justice Department is purportedly drafting rules to expand collection of DNA from migrants who cross the U.S. border to enter into an FBI criminal database. The rules have yet to be released, and it’s unclear whether they would also apply to asylum seekers. (The Guardian).
The City of Sacramento and the family of Stephone Clark, an unarmed Black man shot and killed by Sacramento police officers last year, reached a settlement of $2.4 million dollars to be awarded to Clark’s two sons. The two officers that killed Clark did not face criminal charges, but the family filed a wrongful-death suit against Sacramento in January. The shooting had prompted California to change its use-of-force law. (The New York Times).
A federal district court ruled in favor of Harvard in a case challenging the university’s race-conscious admissions policy. Edward Blum has backed three high-profile cases challenging universities’ affirmative action policies (University of Texas Austin, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Harvard University) as unconstitutional discrimination against White and Asian American applicants. The federal judge in this case disagreed, but Blum is almost certain to appeal the decision. (Politico).
Donald Trump issued an executive order requiring both state and local governments to consent in writing before accepting refugees, essentially creating a local veto power. Details of the order are still unclear, including who will actually have the authority in each locality to give and withhold consent. (Washington Post).