Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s right to prevent immigrants from accessing public assistance, The Fifth Circuit struck down Mississippi’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban, and the Eleventh Circuit ruled that ex-felons in Florida cannot be barred from voting over unpaid court fees. Meanwhile, California issued an apology for its role in Japanese internment, and the ACLU decried a slew of bills targeting trans youth in state legislatures.
Massachusetts Chief Justices asked ICE to stop deporting defendants facing criminal charges without notifying prosecutors. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey had previously written to ICE with the same request in October after 13 defendants were deported while their trials in Massachusetts state court were ongoing. The latest letter from the same judges was spurred on by the deportation of Anibal Maldonado to the Dominican Republic by ICE officials prior to his scheduled February 11 trial for drug trafficking. (WBUR)
Greyhound, the largest bus company in the United States, announced that it would no longer allow Border Patrol agents to conduct immigration checks on its buses without a warrant. The announcement comes on the heels of the publication of a leaked ICE memo stating that agents cannot board commercial buses without the company’s consent. Prior to the memo’s publication, Greyhound had allowed agents to board its buses, stating that it had no choice but to comply with the immigration checks. (USA Today)
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration in Wolf v. Cook County, allowing the nation-wide implementation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which critics have argued constitutes a “wealth test” for immigrants. The Act seeks to prevent legal immigrants from obtaining public assistance such as Medicaid and food stamps while in the process of obtaining permanent status or citizenship. After the Court’s 5-4 ruling, Justice Sotomayor issued a strongly-worded dissent, accusing the court of bias towards the Trump administration. (The Hill)
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held unconstitutional a 2019 Mississippi “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban, which outlawed abortion after 6 weeks of gestation. The three-judge panel found that since the same court had previously ruled that a 15 week ban was unconstitutional, this ban was as well. Similar measures aimed at restricting abortion access were passed by Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio in 2019, all of which have since been blocked by the federal courts. (The Hill)
The California Assembly unanimously voted to apologize for its role in Japanese internment during the second world war. After the outbreak of World War II, 120,000 people of Japanese descent were interned against their will in camps across the west coast, including two in the state of California. California Governor Gavin Newsom also announced that February 23 would be memorialized as a day of remembrance, and decried internment as “a betrayal of our most sacred values.” (NPR)
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Florida may not prohibit ex-felons from voting if they have unpaid court fees. Amendment 4, which was passed by a majority of voters in 2018, sought to restore voting rights to 1.5 million people who were disenfranchised from voting under existing state law. Immediately after the amendment’s passage, the state legislature passed a bill barring ex-felons from voting if they had outstanding court fees or fines. In a scathing opinion striking down the law, the Court stated that it was akin to “wealth classification.” (Slate)
The ACLU criticized a recent slew of bills in state legislatures aimed at curtailing access to medical care and sports programs for trans youth. 10 states are considering bills criminalizing medical care for trans youth, all of which have been condemned by major medical organizations. Meanwhile, 16 states are currently attempting to pass bills barring trans athletes from participation in school athletics. (ACLU)
California Governor Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra condemned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for threatening to withhold billions of dollars of funding for state health initiatives, including abortion funding. HHS stated in January that a California law requiring insurers to cover abortion costs violated federal law under the Weldon amendment, which allows the federal government to withhold funding from programs that discriminate against health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or cover abortions. HHS announced it would give California 30 days to comply with the law before cutting off funding; Newsom decried the move as “extreme presidential overreach.” (USNews)
The ACLU and three other civil rights organizations have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prevent the agency from destroying immigrant detainment records. The FOIA requests come on the heels of a decision by the National Archives and Records Administration that allows ICE to discard records of civil rights violations after three years. (ABC)