Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
The Trump administration declared a national emergency in an attempt to increase funding for a wall at the southern border, while states and members of Congress work to stop him. Meanwhile, authorities uncovered plans by a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant to kill Democratic politicians and start a race war, and the Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment guarantee against excessive fines applies to the states.
16 States sue over Trump’s national emergency declaration. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, following Trump’s declaration that he would use emergency powers to fund a border wall. The states argue that the president does not have the power he seeks to use, and his plan is in conflict with Congress’ power to control spending. (New York Times)
House set to vote on overturning Trump’s national emergency declaration Tuesday. Legislation designed to reject the emergency declaration was introduced on Friday, and is expected to pass easily in the Democratic-controlled House. Trump has threatened to veto the measure. He added that he does not anticipate enough support in Congress to override his veto. (Washington Post)
Coast Guard lieutenant accused of being domestic terrorist with plan to start a race war. Coast Guard officer and white nationalist Christopher Hanson was arrested last week for illegal drug and weapons possession. Authorities allege that as part of a plot to start a race war, he planned to murder a number of Democratic politicians, journalists, academics and judges. Hanson was an active duty officer stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Vox)
Supreme Court rules that Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states. The case, Timbs v. Indiana, arose from a heroin conviction that led to government seizure of a Land Rover sports utility vehicle belonging to the defendant, Tyson Timbs. The Court reversed the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling that the ban against excessive fines did not apply to the states. This is the first time the Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that the constitutional protection against excessive fines applies to state and local punishment. (NBC News)
At least 245 children have been separated from their families after Trump administration claimed to end separation policy. In June 2018, a district judge issued a preliminary injunction stopping most family separations at the southern border, and ordering reunification of those that already occurred. Subsequently, the Trump administration announced it would end the practice of separating families at the southern border. A recent court filing alleges, however, at least 245 children have been separated since that claim. (CNN)
Judge rules against State Department’s citizenship denial in same-sex couple’s lawsuit. A federal judge in California ruled that the State Department could not deny a child U.S. citizenship based on his biological father’s Israeli citizenship. The State Department had granted U.S. citizenship to the child’s twin brother, who was biologically related to the pair’s other, American father. The judge emphasized that the law does not require a person born during their parents’ marriage to demonstrate a biological relationship with both married parents to benefit from birthright citizenship. (NPR)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged in connection with international human trafficking ring. Kraft was charged with two misdemeanors for allegedly paying for sexual services at a spa in Jupiter, Florida. The spa was linked to an international human trafficking ring. A spokesman denied Kraft engaged in any unlawful activity. (USA Today)
FBI launches civil rights investigation into Houston police after deadly drug raid. A January 28 drug raid in Houston resulted in two civilian deaths. The FBI announced it would investigate after news surfaced that a warrant used to conduct the raid might have been based on fabricated information. (ABC 13)
FBI investigates fire at Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri as potential hate crime. On February 10, surveillance video captured someone walking onto the clinic’s premises in Columbia, Missouri at 4:05 a.m. A minute later, a fire alarm was triggered by a small fire, which was ultimately deemed suspicious. The FBI released a statement announcing a hate crime investigation in response to the incident, looking into potential civil rights violations under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. (CNN)
Trump attacks director Spike Lee for acceptance speech promoting viewers to “mobilize” in 2020 election. In his speech accepting an Oscar award, director Spike Lee advocated for mobilization among viewers, adding that the 2020 election is right around the corner. Though Lee never mentioned him by name, Trump tweeted in response, characterizing Lee’s remarks as a “racist hit.” (New York Times)
Southwest Airlines blames labor union for chaos caused by company grounding planes. The airline took over 40 aircrafts out of service at four Southwest locations last week, then declared an operational emergency in response to the flight delays and cancellations that followed. The airline’s Chief Operating Officer implied the chaos was caused by labor disputes with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, the union that represents air maintenance technicians. The Association’s national director accused Southwest of trying to scapegoat its Aircraft Maintenance Technicians. (NPR)