Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the first installment of a new weekly series rounding up the latest news.

This week, immigrants’ rights are under attack on multiple fronts by the Trump administration, Florida delivers a surprising win for voting rights, and public debate over the Nunes memo continues to be a letdown.

Civil Liberties

The Nunes memo stunt is a missed opportunity to have a real public debate about surveillance abuse. “Nearly everything about Nunes’s reinvention as a champion of privacy and civil liberties reeks of disingenuousness,” writes Julian Sanchez. (Washington Post)

ICE will begin real-time tracking of license plates across the country. The agency’s contract with Vigilant Solutions gives it access to billions of license plate records and unprecedented surveillance abilities. (CNN, The Verge)

Criminal System

Philadelphia police are mining social media to build a suspected gang member database. Officers target young people in the database,  who may be included for “as little as flashing a gang sign in a Tweet,”  effectively  “criminaliz[ing] entire social networks of young black and brown people.” (In Justice Today, The Nation)

Data-driven pretrial risk assessment tools are less objective than we might think. “Policing and criminal justice has been racist for centuries…the data is too,” writes Hannah Sassaman. (Newsweek)

NYPD’s largest union is arguing that body camera footage constitutes a private personnel record. If the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association wins its lawsuit against the city, body camera footage could not be publicly released without an officer’s consent, defeating the purpose of greater transparency. (NY Daily News, NYCLU)


The Trump administration will not allow any more Syrian citizens to apply for Temporary Protected Status. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security extended TPS for Syrians already in the program for another 18 months. (AP News)

The 9th Circuit ruled that undocumented minors are not entitled to government-provided lawyers in deportation proceedings. Immigrant rights advocates fear the decision could lead to mass deportations of children vulnerable to violence in their home countries. (The Hill, LA Times)

Humanitarian border volunteer detained on preliminary felony charge of alien smuggling. Border Patrol agents arrested a volunteer for No More Deaths, an Arizona-based aid group, the day after the group released a video of agents intentionally destroying food and water supplies left for migrants in the desert. (Washington Post)

California’s Attorney General warned his state’s employers that they face prosecution if they assist federal immigration authorities in retaliating against California’s “sanctuary” policies. A new California law prohibits employers from voluntarily sharing confidential employee information without being  subpoenaed. . (Sacramento Bee)

Labor and Economic Justice

The Trump administration and Congress have decimated federal labor standards through deregulation since January 2017. The Economic Policy Institute reviews the past year in the rollback of regulations intended to protect workers’ rights on the job. (Economic Policy Institute)

Civil libertarians and eminent economists agree that the Supreme Court would be wrong to rule against unions in the upcoming Janus v. AFSCME case. Although the case “arrives at the Supreme Court in First Amendment wrapping,” it is nothing but a “bid to undermine America’s labour movement,” writes The Economist. (The Economist, On Labor)

Trump’s Department of Labor censored its own study showing that its proposed rule to allow employers to take tips would cost workers billions of dollars. This proposal could cost workers nearly $6 billion, and $4.6 billion of which would be taken from women workers. (New York Magazine, Economic Policy Institute)

LGBTQ Equality

Trump’s State of the Union address made no mention of the LGBTQ community or LGBTQ rights, in contrast to Obama’s seven previous SOTU addresses. Trump also failed to mention women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, or disability rights. (Metro Weekly)

For the first time since GLAAD began its annual Accelerating Acceptance report, support for LGBTQ people has dropped in all seven areas measured by the survey. “Week by week, tweet by tweet, Mr. Trump has normalized all of our worst impulses — and the routine expression of homophobia and transphobia not least,” writes Jennifer Finney Boylan. (GLAAD, New York Times)

Reproductive Justice

The Trump administration considered forcing an undocumented minor to undergo an untested, experimental “abortion reversal” procedure. Since October, four minors have said the administration tried to prevent them from accessing abortion while they were in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. (Vice, Slate)

Racial Justice

21st century algorithmic discrimination should be just as illegal as other forms of discrimination under existing civil rights laws. Discriminatory “ad targeting is and should be governed by existing civil rights laws” and their  disparate impact framework, according to the ACLU’s Rachel Goodman. (Federal Bar Association Civil Rights Insider)

Voting Rights

At least 144 bills to expand voter access have been introduced in state legislatures so far in 2018. In contrast, at least 16 bills making it harder to vote have been introduced in eight states, and 35 restrictive bills in 14 states have carried over from previous legislative sessions. (Brennan Center)

A district court judge struck down Florida’s felon disenfranchisement system. Although the ruling does not immediately restore voting rights to those convicted of felonies, it holds that right to vote is speech subject to protections and regulation of that right is subject to heightened scrutiny. (NPR, Mother Jones)

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating access to voting for minorities in North Carolina. “We need to deal with the fact that, 52 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, we’re going backwards. Not only did we have the worst voter suppression laws in the nation and the worst redistricting, we won against them, and the courts proved it was racism,” said Reverend William Barber. (WRAL)

Judicial Nominees

The Senate voted to advance President Trump’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Nominee Thomas Farr helped draft the North Carolina voter suppression law later struck down for targeting African-Americans, defended racially discriminatory gerrymandering, and may have lied to the Senate aiding a campaign to disenfranchise black voters. (Huffington Post)