Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. This week, the Supreme Court stays an execution in Alabama, President Trump is acquitted in the Senate, President Biden announces plans to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, and hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Alabama must delay the execution of Willie B. Smith III to allow his personal pastor in the death chamber. The state had maintained that only prison staff should be in the room, citing security reasons. However, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in an opinion joined by four other justices, including Amy Coney Barrett, that the state “cannot now execute Smith without his pastor present, to ease what Smith calls the ‘transition between the worlds of the living and the dead.’” No state has had an execution since July 8. (AP).
The Biden administration has announced that it will begin processing asylum-seekers who are currently in Mexico under the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). MPP, also known as Remain-in-Mexico, was a controversial immigration program of the Trump administration that required asylum-seekers entering through the southern border to return to Mexico for the duration of their immigration court proceedings. Most have since lived in tent cities along the border, with limited support from local NGOs. (CBS News).
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that it will begin enforcing the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although the Department has received 197 claims of discrimination involving sexual orientation or gender identity over the past year, fair housing laws have not been interpreted to cover such cases in the past. The move comes following an executive order signed by President Biden directing agencies to enforce discrimination prohibitions. (NPR).
The Biden administration has announced that it intends to close the prison on Guantanamo Bay. The Detention Center currently has forty inmates, including five men charged with supporting and planning the September 11, 2001 attacks. At its height, the prison held 680 people. (CNN, NPR).
A grand jury in Buffalo, NY, has declined to indict the officers who went viral for shoving a 75-year-old to the ground during Black Lives Matter protests. The officers had faced charges of felony assault, as the victim spent almost a month in the hospital with a fractured skull and brain injury. The officers still face an internal probe within their department. (CBS News, Reuters).
A study of vaccine distribution within Florida has found that the most wealthy within the state are almost twice as likely to have been vaccinated. Residents of the ten counties in Florida with the highest incomes have a vaccination rate of 9% — nearly double the 5% vaccination rate of people living in the state’s ten poorest counties. Statewide, the first-dose vaccination rate for Floridians is 6%. The study also found race to be a dominant factor in whether residents had access to the vaccine. (CBS News).
Advocates are calling for more to be done as an increase in violence against Asian Americans is reported throughout the country. A spike in anti-Asian hate crimes has been rising since the beginning of the pandemic, when anti-Asian rhetoric and hate speech was used by some politicians and fueled an anti-Asian climate. Now, a string of violent attacks in Oakland and San Francisco have spurred police and activists to take new action. (USA Today).
Donald Trump has been acquitted in his second impeachment trial, where he was accused of inciting a violent insurrection on January 6th. House Impeachment Managers attempted to demonstrate that former President Trump’s actions and speech had incited the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th, but were only able to convince seven Republican Senators. However, the vote was still historic: with seven Republican Senators voting to convict former President Trump, the trial was the most bipartisan impeachment of a president in history. (CNN).