Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, while all eyes were on the White House as Speaker Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Trump in the wake of a whistleblower’s report, President Trump drastically cut the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States next year, federal officials declined to bring civil rights charges against the Sacramento police officers who shot Stephon Clark, and attorneys for a Mississippi town are arguing that undocumented immigrants do not enjoy Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment protections.
The Chicago Teachers Union voted to authorize a strike in mid-October if no deal on issues of class size limits, understaffing, and compensation is reached. This strike would occur at the same time as strikes that have been authorized by two other unions, one for the Chicago Park District staff and one for other school employees including custodians and security guards. (NPR)
Trump has cut the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States next year to just 18,000, the lowest number in the history of the modern refugee program. He also issued an executive order allowing cities and states to turn away refugees seeking resettlement. (NPR)
Federal officials declined to bring federal civil rights charges against Sacramento police officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who fatally shot Stephon Clark in 2018. Clark, 22, was holding a cell phone the officers said they believed was a gun when he was shot seven times in his grandmother’s backyard. The Sacramento Police Department cleared the officers, concluding that there had been no violations of department policy or training. The officers will return to active duty. (CNN)
Attorneys for the city of Southaven are arguing that an innocent man killed by the police did not have Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment rights because he was undocumented. In July 2017, police looking for a domestic violence suspect in Southaven, MS went to the wrong house and shot 41-year-old Ismael Lopez, killing him with a shot to the back of the head. Now Claudia Linares, Lopez’s widow, is bringing a $20 million civil rights lawsuit. In the past, the Supreme Court has held that people in the United States enjoy certain protections regardless of immigration status, including the right to due process and the right to an education. (Washington Post)
Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) proposed the Confronting the Threats of Domestic Terrorism Act, which makes domestic terror a federal crime. Rep. Schiff argues that the law must change to reflect that homegrown terrorism currently poses a greater threat than international terrorist organizations. Civil liberties groups argue that prosecutors have sufficient legal tools to prosecute domestic terror already, and worry that this new bill could be used to further target marginalized communities. (Washington Post)
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg met with civil rights leaders in Atlanta to address concerns about the company’s handling of hate speech on its platforms. Advocates at the meeting criticized Facebook’s newsworthiness policy – if the poster is an elected official, it will not delete newsworthy posts that break the site’s rules about hate speech or are misleading. Critics argue that this policy allows politicians to amplify hate speech. Facebook is in the process of completing a civil rights audit due in early 2020. (Washington Post)
Increased use of facial recognition technology has prompted backlash. Detroit’s implementation of facial recognition technology as part of a crime fighting initiative, Project Green Light, drew criticism by residents including one who called it “digital redlining.” Other cities, including Oakland, CA; San Francisco, CA; and Somerville, MA, have already moved to ban the use of this technology. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) has sponsored the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act, to ban its use in federally-funded public housing. (N.Y. Times).
The ACLU pushed the U.S. Education Department to take back its threat to revoke funding for the Duke-UNC Consortium on the Middle East for overemphasizing the “positive aspects of Islam” and misusing grant funds. The Education Department responded that the investigation was not “anti-Muslim or pro any other group.” (Washington Post)
A report released Tuesday by PEN America highlights “arbitrary” restrictions placed on books in prison, including one New York prison’s attempt to ban a book containing maps of the moon for its potential to “present risks of escape.” (N.Y. Times)