Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General released a report on their investigation of the family separation policy, the Oregon Supreme Court limited the ability of police to turn traffic stops into fishing expeditions, and the city of Montgomery, Alabama honored women who fought for the desegregation of Montgomery buses.
A new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General revealed disturbing new information about the Trump Administration’s family separation practice. The report found that “prior to policy implementation, DHS did not address deficiencies recognized and documented in 2017 that could potentially hamper the ability to track separated families.” The report also revealed that Customs and Border Protection projected the separation of more than 26,000 children. (NPR)
The four-part documentary series “College Behind Bars” premiered on PBS this week. The documentary follows students of the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that allows people incarcerated at six prisons in New York to enroll in a full-time liberal arts program to earn a Bard College degree. Executive Producer Ken Burns explained in an interview with Rolling Stone, “Ninety-five percent of people who are incarcerated will eventually get out, and the question is, do we want them as contributing members of society, or do we want them having used prison as a different kind of school to hone criminal skills? If you’re spending $100 billion a year to maintain our prison system and it has a 75 percent recidivism rate, something is broken.” (PBS)
The Oregon Supreme Court has banned a controversial police tactic used during traffic stops. The ruling instructs officers to ask only questions that are “reasonably related” to the reason that the driver was pulled over. Prior to its enactment, police were allowed to ask motorists probing questions unrelated to the reason for a stop as long as it didn’t cause significant delay, which allowed officers to turn even a routine traffic stop into a fishing expedition for arrestable offenses. (U.S. News)
A number of national, state, and local groups filed amicus briefs this week, in support of Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board. The lawsuit brings both Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX claims against a Gloucester County School Board policy that prohibited Grimm, a trans student, from using the boys’ bathroom and required him to use a separate, one stall bathroom that no other students were required to use.
The briefs were filed by a variety of groups, including school administrators from 29 states and Washington, D.C., attorneys general from 22 states and Washington, D.C., The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Trevor Project, as well as a number of other groups. (ACLU)
On Sunday, the city of Montgomery, Alabama unveiled memorials in honor of Rosa Parks, and four other women involved in the desegregation of Montgomery buses. The unveiling occurred on the 64th anniversary of Parks’s arrest. Historic markers were presented for the four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the case that deemed Montgomery’s bus segregation unconstitutional. (Montgomery Advertiser)
Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were released from prison after serving 36 years for a 1983 murder that they did not commit. A unit of the Baltimore prosecutor’s office, tasked with reviewing questionable old cases, found a number of prosecutorial errors in the original investigation of the case. Chestnut, Watkins, and Stewart were all sixteen-years-old at the time of the incident: a shooting at a junior high school. Exculpatory evidence was only uncovered when Chestnut submitted a public records request for the case file. The three men were exonerated on November 25 by a Baltimore Circuit Court judge, at the request of the state’s attorney. (NY Times)
Tensions are rising between Google and employees who are engaging in protests and walkouts. This week, Google announced the firing of four employees for alleged violations of the company’s data-security policy. Among those fired is Rebecca Rivers, who is suggesting that she was fired in retaliation for her activism at the company, including her involvement in a Customs and Border Petition and other social media posts. Reports are unclear on whether Rivers has been fired, or placed on administrative leave, but Rivers tweeted that she has been fired. A rally was held on Friday at Google’s San Francisco office, calling for the reinstatement of Rivers and another employee. (Washington Post)
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, released a new report showing the rise and escalation of hate crimes in the United States under the Trump Administration. The report found that person-directed hate crimes have steadily increased over the last four years, and as of 2018 are at a 16-year high, whereas property destruction and vandalism rates have declined. The study’s co-author, Brian Levin, attributes the shift to social and political factors, especially the scapegoating of minority groups by political figures like Donald Trump, and the echoing of their rhetoric in the right-wing media. (DailyKos)
More than 100 members of Congress have called for the firing of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, after leaked emails have raised more questions about his ties to white nationalism. The Southern Poverty Law Center uncovered hundreds of emails Miller wrote to a reporter at Breitbart News prior to his time at the White House. The SPLC released a batch of these emails last week, which include Miller recommending articles from white nationalist websites AmRen and VDARE. (NPR)
Rhode Island Superior Court judge Melissa Darigan dismissed a case challenging the federal and state constitutionality of a state bill, the Reproductive Privacy Act, that codified Roe v. Wade abortion rights into state law. The bill was initiated amid concerns that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, and was signed into law in June. The plaintiff, Catholics for Life, indicated that it plans to appeal the ruling to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. (Providence Journal)