Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security investigates allegations of unwanted hysterectomies at an immigration detention center, postal workers face mounting COVID-19 risks as the election approaches, and the Education Department withholds millions of dollars in desegregation grant money from Connecticut schools. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are battling over the future of the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
President Trump plans to nominate a woman next week to replace Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. More than 1,000 people gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday to mourn Justice Ginsburg, who championed progressive causes on the court for 27 years. In a statement dictated to her granddaughter in the days before her death, Ginsburg said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” (The Washington Post, NPR)
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommends ending a 1938 rule that allows people with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage. Although designed to boost employment, the subminimum wage program, in practice, “is rife with abuse and difficult to administer without harming employees with disabilities,” according to a report released last week by the commission. The commission’s analysis of subminimum wage employers found that they paid persons with disabilities an average of $3.34 per hour between 2017 and 2018. (NPR)
Postal workers face inadequate protections as thousands test positive for COVID-19. ProPublica reported that the Postal Service “doesn’t test workers or check their temperatures” and has made inconsistent efforts at contact tracing, with a single nurse in one district being tasked with contact tracing for more than 8,000 employees. Since March, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has received more than twice as many coronavirus-related complaints against the Postal Service as compared to private employers like Amazon and FedEx. (ProPublica)
Women speak out about undergoing unwanted surgery while in immigration detention. The Department of Homeland Security is now investigating allegations by nurse Dawn Wooten that migrant women at a Georgia detention center were subject to hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures without informed consent. One woman who spoke to the Associated Press said she still does not know what procedure she got while in detention after being told she needed an operation to treat her ovarian cysts. (Associated Press, New York Times)
The Education Department threatens to withhold $18 million from Connecticut schools over a dispute about sports policy for transgender students. Connecticut schools have refused to withdraw from an athletic conference that allows transgender students to compete on teams that match their gender identity. Consequently, the Education Department plans to withhold millions of dollars in grants that were intended to help schools desegregate. A conservative Christian organization had previously filed complaints against the conference and one Connecticut school board alleging the policy gave an unfair advantage to transgender student athletes. (New York Times)
The city of Louisville agrees to implement police reforms in a $12 million settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family. The reforms include requiring high-ranking commanders to approve search warrant requests, involving social workers in police responses, increasing drug testing for officers, and implementing incentives for officers to live in the neighborhoods they police. Taylor’s mother continues to call for criminal charges to be brought against the officers involved in the botched drug raid where Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot by police in her home. (NPR, Associated Press)
President Trump nominates tough-on-crime former prosecutors to fill empty seats on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The seven-member commission, which has five seats to be filled, is responsible for setting sentencing guidelines for federal judges. Among Trump’s nominees are Judge Henry E. Hudson, a former prosecutor who once said “I live to put people in jail,” and Judge K. Michael Moore, a former prosecutor who sentenced a nonviolent first-time drug offender to 20 years in prison in 2015. (The Marshall Project)
Black babies are less likely to die when cared for by Black doctors as compared to white doctors, according to a recent study of Florida hospital births. The study found the mortality rate for white babies to be largely unaffected by physician race. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “statistics point to a lower quality of care for Black babies in intensive care units,” and data from one Florida county shows that Black babies are more than two times more likely to die than white babies. (Tampa Bay Times)