Photo Credit: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times

Written by Annie Forestiere & Annie Wilt

This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: November 18, 2019

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a landmark case that will decide the future of DACA and hundreds of thousands of American DREAMers, Virginia elected the democratic-majority it needs to become the final state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and a shooting at a California high school has further fueled the debate on gun control across the country.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, better known as “the DACA case.” The Trump administration has repeatedly argued that it had no choice but to repeal DACA because it was both “illegal” and “unconstitutional.” When the administration issued its letter that it was repealing the program, those claims were the only reasons given for its decision. However, a handful of lower courts have ruled that when an administration repeals a program on which so many Americans have relied, they are required to supply more detailed reasons and policy arguments as to why they are repealing the program. The Trump administration did no such thing. The Supreme Court will decide in the coming months whether to uphold the administration’s decision to repeal the program or keep it in place. The decision will have far-reaching consequences of hundreds of thousands of DREAMers, including a Harvard Law student set to graduate this Spring. (NPR)

A recent federal court decision held that it is unconstitutional for border patrol agents to conduct suspicionless searches of electronic devices at airports and other ports of entry. This ruling comes after a recent series of searches by federal officers of people’s personal electronic devices for purposes unrelated to customs enforcement, which have sometimes led to individuals being denied entry into the United States based on information as trivial as social media posts criticizing the United States government. Now the government must prove reasonable suspicion before conducting such searches. (ACLU)

With a new Democratic majority in the Senate and the House of Delegates, it’s likely that Virginia will become the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and secure a constitutional ban on discrimination on the basis of sex. The Equal Rights Amendment seeks to amend the Constitution to proclaim that “[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA has experienced a contentious history, but is now only one state away from ratification. (NBC)

A school shooting in a Santa Clarita high school occurred at the exact moment that a Republican Senator blocked a bill proposing universal background checks as a form of gun control. A Democratic Senator was speaking in support of a bill that was the first major piece of gun-control legislation to have passed the House in over twenty years when an aide informed him of the ongoing school shooting in California. The Republican Senator in question claimed she was unaware of the shooting at the time she objected to the bill, but still stood by her decision. (Business Insider)

Vice President Pence recently expressed support for a rule that would stand in the way of LGBTQ+ parents seeking to adopt children. The rule, proposed by the Trump Administration, would allow the federal government to provide taxpayer funding to adoption agencies that refuse to allow children to be adopted into LGBTQ+ families to purportedly avoid penalizing such organizations for their religious beliefs. This rule would be devastating to the 100,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, who are far more likely to be adopted by LGBTQ+ parents than heterosexual parents. (NBC News)

The most recent poll out of Iowa shows the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren seem to have dominated the airtime and media coverage as to the presumed nominee for the Democratic party for the 2020 Presidential election; but Mayor Pete Buttigieg may be peaking at just the right time. If Mayor Buttigieg were to win the nomination, he would be the first openly gay Presidential nominee. (CNN) 

Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has released a proposal to go along with her Medicare-for-all health care plan. Warren had previously been criticized for only having released comprehensive plans on issues such as education and taxation, but the absence of a comprehensive plan on health care was particularly glaring. Warren supporters hope this plan continues to propel her forward in the polls. (Washington Post).

Potential late entrant into the Democratic Presidential field, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, apologizes for his role in the stop-and-frisk policies of the NYPD during his tenure. Bloomberg long defended the stop-and-frisk policies often employed by NYPD officers in a fashion that targeted African Americans and Hispanics at alarmingly high rates. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that such policies violated the constitutional rights of racial minorities, thus shaping Bloomberg’s legacy as defending these racially discriminatory policies. Often seen as his biggest weakness in a Presidential run, Bloomberg apologized for his role in supporting these policies at a Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn last Sunday, saying “[o]ver time I’ve come to understand something that I’ve long struggled to admit myself: I’ve got something important [really] wrong.” (POLITICO)

Rodney Reed, a death row inmate in Texas with a high likelihood of innocence, had his death sentence suspended indefinitely and his case reopened for examination. Reed’s case has attracted the attention of high-profile individuals across the country, including celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna, as well as Republican lawmakers and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. This decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas represents a potential ideological shift occurring in the state with the highest rate of prisoner execution. (New York Times)

With Missouri on the verge of being the only state without an abortion clinic, Democrats in Congress are holding hearings to examine the regulations on abortion clinics by Missouri state officials. This set of hearings comes directly on the heels of the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case of June Medical Services v. Gee, otherwise known as the Louisiana abortion law case. The justices are being asked not only to evaluate Louisiana’s restrictive abortion laws in light of precedent but also to reconsider whether Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court case in 1973 upholding a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, should still be considered good law. The implications of both the Congressional examination of Missouri’s abortion clinic regulations and the Supreme Court’s decision on Louisiana’s abortion law will deeply impact women all over the nation. (NPR)

Over a dozen disenfranchised people with felony records had their voting rights restored by a federal judge, in what will hopefully be the start of voting rights reform in Florida. Last year Florida’s government approved a measure that would restore the voting rights of over a million people with felony records, but shortly thereafter the State Legislature passed several restrictions, such as requiring full repayment of fines and court fees before they could vote. Recently, a federal judge in Miami temporarily blocked the law for 17 formerly incarcerated persons. (New York Times)

Students of color at Franklin & Marshall College are drawing the line on racism on campus. Students’ ongoing concerns about the administration’s failure to address racist incidents on campus boiled over into protests and rallies last week after several athletes from the men’s basketball and soccer teams dressed up in racist and culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. (Inside Higher Ed)

Major fraternity leaves national trade organization, the National Interfraternity Council, saying the organization needs to do more for student safety. Sigma Phi Epsilon (“SigEp”), a Richmond, Virginia based fraternity, announced the fraternity’s decision to leave the National Interfraternity Council last week. A spokesperson for the fraternity told the media that it was clear SigEp’s vision for how to enhance student health and safety was divergent from the NIFC’s. The implications of the fraternity’s decision to leave the trade organization remains to be seen, but it is likely the fraternity’s choice will spark a larger debate on the future of fraternity and sorority organizations on college campuses. (Inside Higher Ed)

Colin Kaepernick has been invited to an Atlanta Falcons facility for a workout with the team three years after all 32 NFL teams refused to sign him following his “take a knee” protest during the National Anthem several years ago. However, Kaepernick made a last minute decision to change the venue of the workout to a local high school in order to allow the media to attend. The NFL has responded by calling his unilateral change of venue a “no-show” to the scheduled workout. Despite the last minute venue change, 25 teams were in attendance and all 32 NFL teams will receive footage of the workout. (CNBC)