News You May Have Missed: June 6, 2021

“grassy narrows” by howlmontreal is licensed under CC BY 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Legislation would address sexual assault in the military

Every year the U.S. military releases a report on sexual assaults in the armed services; every two years, that report is accompanied by an anonymous survey of service members asking whether they have experienced sexual assault in the armed services, reporting by the Associated Press explains. In 2018, the last year for which both a report and survey data are available, over 20,000 service members reported being sexually assaulted (a 37% increase over the 2016 survey), but only one-third of them filed a formal report. Men who have been assaulted are even less likely to report than women, according to the Military Times. A likely explanation for this discrepancy between the number of assaults and the number reported is armed services members’ lack of faith in the efficacy of current procedures for investigating and adjudicating allegations of sexual assault. Currently, such allegations fall under the purview of military commanders, a practice that would change if a proposed bill becomes law, according to NPR

 For years, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and other members of Congress have fought to have sexual assault allegations adjudicated by independent judge advocates, rather than commanding officers. Senator Gillibrand and others are concerned that in order to maintain unit cohesion, commanding officers often are reluctant to pursue charges, reduce charges, or overrule recommendations for courts martial in response to allegations of sexual assault, reporting in The Hill makes clear. In response, Congress has regularly considered legislation that would change the process by which allegations of sexual assault in the military are investigated and prosecuted, but this legislation has never passed.

 At last, however, GIllibrand’s proposed legislation has new support in the Senate, NPR notes, in part because of Iowa Republican senator Joni Ernst, who is a combat veteran. An advisory panel appointed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shortly after he was confirmed has recommended an approach similar to that advocated for by Gillibrand and others. The Hill now reports that Austin is days away from making a decision on whether to follow these recommendations. At the same time, legislation recently introduced in Congress could mandate that changes such as those recommended by the panel be initiated. In addition to sexual assault, crimes such as murder, manslaughter, child endangerment, child pornography and negligent homicide would be addressed by military prosecutors, not commanding officers. 

S.1520, the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, has 64 cosponsors: 20 Republicans, 2 Independents, and 42 Democrats. H.R.3224, To Improve the Responses of the Department of Defense to Sex-Related Offenses, is supported by 185 cosponsors, all of the Democrats. Text is not yet available for this legislation, but it is likely to be similar to that of last year’s I Am Vanessa Guillén Act (S.4600 in the Senate; H.R.8270 in the House), which was introduced, but never made it out of committee in either house of Congress. This legislation had three main provisions:

◉ A listing of sexual harassment as a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (currently rape and sexual assault are listed, but not sexual harassment);

◉ A requirement that the Secretary of Defense establish a process that allows service members to confidentially lodge complaints of sex-related offenses;

◉ A reassignment of such cases away from the chain of command to an Office of the Special Prosecutor in each service branch (if a branch does not have such an office, one would be established). S-HP

In the Canadian military, there were 581 incidents of sexual assault and 221 of sexual harrasment over the five year period in which there were supposed to be concerted efforts to address the problem, according to the CBC. Activists trying to address the problem note that sexual assault is drastically under-reported, since those assaulted have to report first to their commanding officer–who may have been their assailant–and since perpetrators can easily “plead down” to get only administrative sanctions. RLS/S-HP

To have a voice on this issue, you can urge not only the Secretary of Defense, the Armed Services Committees of both houses of Congress, and your Congressmembers to act now to create an independent system to address sex-related offenses in the military. Addresses are here. In addition, you can ask your Senators to vote for S.1520 when it comes to them.

2. American democracy at risk

“Is America heading to a place where it can no longer call itself a democracy?” This is the unnerving question that opened a recent piece in the Guardian. The writer references what has become, unfortunately, the “usual” round of concerns: legislation limiting voting, moves making it easier to replace the results of an election with an outcome chosen by a few officials, continuing false claims of election fraud, Senate Republican’s refusal to allow a bipartisan investigation of the events of January 6, and ill-informed, ill-run recounts of balloting in the 2020 presidential election. One hundred political theorists signed a letter arguing that “Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.”

The effects that changes to voting laws will have are clear in a piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the disparate impact of legislation in Georgia. Their findings include the following:

◉ Over 272,000 registered voters in the state don’t have a driver’s license or other ID or, if they have ID, they do not have it on file with election officials, which means they will either have to provide such ID in advance of the state’s next election or find themselves disenfranchised.

◉ Those who registered to vote before 2016, when Georgia began automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices, may be erroneously listed as not having ID, and this may continue to be the case with voters who register via mail, rather than through driver licensing

◉More than 55% of those without ID meeting the new requirements are Black, although just 30% of all voters in the state are Black.

◉The majority of the voters at risk of becoming disenfranchised live in urban areas, where Democratic voters predominate.

Recent changes to voting laws vary by state, but will have similar impacts for voters within those states.

Here is what’s desperately needed: A federal guarantee of voting-rights, more accessible and expanded voting opportunities, reasonable ID requirements, nonpartisan districting, limits on campaign contributions, and much stronger protection against international interference in elections. As we explained last week, the For the People Act would enact all of these—at least for federal elections, which would make it more difficult for states to justify limiting voting opportunities and fairness in smaller electoral contests. Unfortunately, with a 50-50 Senate and a 60-vote requirement for overturning a filibuster, the chances of the For the People Act becoming law are slim–especially since Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) wrote in an op/ed on Sunday that he would not support it. And Manchin, along with Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) is unwilling to consider eliminating the filibuster–meaning that, as the New York Times puts it, “the scale of the catastrophe bearing down on us and the blithe refusal of Manchin and Sinema to help is enough to leave one frozen with despair.” S-HP

You can urge the Senate Majority Leader to continue to bring voting rights legislation before Senate, forcing Republicans, and certain Democrats, to publicly cast votes opposing basic electoral protections. You might also remind Manchin and Sinema that a “democracy’ without full voting rights is not a democracy and insist that allowing the Republican party to disenfranchise low income, urban, and Black voters, and other voters of color, is not the kind of bipartisanship they should be supporting. Addresses are here.

3. Policing: Failure to protect

“Bias in criminal justice takes another form besides excessive force: failure to protect,” as Jane Manning, the Director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, observes in a Washington Post op-ed. As the Justice Department begins its investigations of police departments accused of racially motivated violence—as with Minneapolis and Louisville, for example—Manning also calls for the investigation of “how departments respond to sexual assault and other gender-based crimes, whose survivors encounter rampant misogyny, homophobia and neglect from law enforcement agencies throughout the country.” Manning cites investigative reporting revealing that both Minneapolis and Louisville have poor records of working with victims of sexual assault: botched investigations, failure to retain evidence and to interview witnesses, and demeaning treatment of victims. Over-policing is a problem; so is selective under-policing. S-HP

To address this issue, urge the Attorney General to be sure that investigations of police violence also examine the handling of sexual assault cases to identify disparate treatment based on gender and or ethnicity. Merrick Garland, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave.NW, Washington DC 20530-0001, (202) 514-2000.

4. Refugee assistance organizations to vet refugee admissions

A group of six refugee organizations have been selected to choose the refugees to be admitted to the US. While they have not been publicly named, sources say they are the International Rescue Committee, along with the London-based Save the Children; two U.S.-based organizations, HIAS and Kids in Need of Defense; and two Mexico-based organizations, Asylum Access and the Institute for Women in Migration, according to NBC News. Operating out of Nogales, Arizona, the IRC is prioritizing those who have been in “Mexico a long time, are in need of acute medical attention or who have disabilities, are members of the LGBTQ community or are non-Spanish speakers.” This effort, which is scheduled to continue only until the end of July, is intended to be a transition from the deeply problematic use of Title 42, under which asylum seekers are summarily deported under the guise of COVID precautions. The number of refugees who can be admitted to the US this fiscal year (which ends in October) was finally raised to 62,500 in May, after the Biden administration received fierce criticism for trying to hold it to 15,000, the Guardian explained. 


 We now have a way to avoid the kinds of draconian cuts to refugee admissions used by the Trump administration and temporarily continued under President Biden. The Lady Liberty Act, H.R.977, would require the U.S. to admit a minimum of 125,000 refugees each fiscal year. This legislation is currently with the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. It currently has 58 cosponsors. RLS/S-HP

To increase the number of refugees admitted, urge swift, positive action on H.R.977 by the House Judiciary Committee and its Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. Addresses are here.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

5. Finally, legislation takes on environmental racism

Since the 1970s, researchers and residents have known that communities of color are more likely to have toxic waste dumps situated near them, so that they bear the health consequences of PCBs and other industrial wastes leaching into their water and air. Indigenous communities have been devastated by nuclear and mining waste deposited on their lands. Fracking sites, toxins in water, and air pollution are more likely to affect. communities of color. And, as that radical rag National Geographic reports, communities of color that are also low-income are especially hard-hit. All of this results in more premature babies, lower birth weight babies, higher rates of lung cancer, and more heart disease–exacerbated by lack of access to nutritious food and good medical care. These health vulnerabilities contributed to the higher rates of COVID in communities of colour, as the journal Nature reported last year. Indigenous and Latinx people were 2.4 and 2.3 times as likely to die from COVID as white people, while Black people were nearly twice as likely to die from the disease, the CDC noted last week.

At last, this situation will begin to be addressed legislatively. The Environmental Justice for All Act is a ground-breaking and sweeping piece of legislation intended to address the historical inequity in negative health and environmental effects in communities of color and low-income communities. This legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress: in the Senate by Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), where it is listed as S.872, and in the House by Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), where it is listed as H.R.2021

The Environmental Justice for All Act would:

◉Prohibit disparate health and environmental impacts of federal laws and programs on the basis of race, color, national origin—and protect communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal or indigenous communities;

◉Give those affected by disparate health and environmental impacts to seek legal remedies;

◉Add environmental justice impact reports for major projects;

◉Expand the current requirements for ingredient listing and warning labeling on a range of products;

◉Establish grants for identifying alternatives to chemicals currently in use in consumer, cleaning, toy, and baby products;

◉Fund programs to increase parks and recreational opportunities in urban areas;

◉Create a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council responsible for creating environmental justice strategies and guidelines.

The Natural Resources Committee has a veritable library of resources on the bill and on environmental justice issues at their site. And Science Direct has a bibliography of solid information.

S.872 currently has 12 cosponsors—all Democrats— and is with the Environment and Public Works Committee. H.R.2021 currently has 55 cosponsors—again, all Democrats—and is with five committees: Energy and Commerce; Natural Resources; Transportation and Infrastructure; Agriculture; and Education and Labor. RLS/SHP

To bring about real change for communities of color, urge quick, positive action on S.872 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and on H.R.2021 by the appropriate House Committees. Addresses are here. Also at this link you can see whether your Senators and Representative are co-sponsors of these bills, and thank or nudge as appropriate.

6. Meanwhile, in Canada…


The impact of environmental injustice is also finally being addressed by the Canadian government, as the Toronto Star reported yesterday. Bill C-230 in the House of Commons would launch a national strategy to address environmental racism, including the documentation of environmental hazards in communities of colour and the enforcement of environmental laws. Many Indigenous communities do not have clean drinking water due to toxic waste such as mercury in the Grassy Narrows First Nations community, a contaminant which has led to three generations of people with neurological difficulties, the CBC reports. This is a pattern all over Canada, according to “Clean Water, Broken Promises, an investigative report from Concordia University that was published this year; the research team also publishes a series of blogs and scientific articles about specific instances. RLS

RESOURCES

Among the causes of forced migration is gender-based migration. A webinar from the Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild on June 8 will detail these issues.

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

Moms Rising has actions you can take to preserve paid leave, unemployment, and access to child care..

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: May 30, 2021

“Canadian Website Truth and Reconciliation” by Neeta Lind is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Canada celebrates Remembrance Day in November, not Memorial Day–except this year. Flags are at half-mast in Canada, the CBC reports, until further notice “in memory of the thousands of children who were sent to residential schools, for those who never returned and in honour of the families whose lives were forever changed.” Just last week, the graves of 215 children were discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School by ground-penetrating radar, an effort launched by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. Some of the children were as young as 3. In Canada, 150,000 children were required to attend residential schools from 1830-1996. The children suffered terribly and thousands never returned home. Indigenous leaders have said that there are likely many more unmarked grave sites which need to be found. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said “Today we honour the lives of those children, and hold prayers that they, and their families, may finally be at peace.”

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. A hundred years after the Tulsa massacre

May 30 was the hundred-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, in which at least 300 people were killed, 10,000 lost their homes, and a thriving Black community was destroyed–burned as well as bombed. Some of the dead were thrown in the river, while others were buried in a mass grave–so efforts to locate the graves of the dead have been halting. As the Washington Post describes it, a well-liked young Black man was accused of assaulting a white girl in an elevator. Though the girl herself did not accuse him, a newspaper headline did–and that was enough for the white mob.

As 107 year old Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the massacre, told the House Judiciary Subcommittee, ” “I still see Black men being shot; Black bodies lying in the streets,” she said. “I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day.”

The massacre was covered up until an undergraduate, Scott Ellsworth, did his senior thesis on it, ultimately publishing a book in 1982, Death in a Promised Land. As the Guardian notes, the white media ignored the story until the Tulsa Race Riot Commission began an investigation the year after the 75th anniversary. Ellsworth’s new book on the massacre and subsequent coming to terms, The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice, was just published. The LA Times details the pathways of others who attempted to uncover the story and keep it alive.

Proposed bans on the teaching of critical race theory may attempt suppress the story of the massacre once again, the Center for Public Integrity notes. But a great deal of documentary work should preserve the memory. The testimony of witnesses and others–including Viola Fletcher–is available on the House Judiciary Committee website. The New York Times has reconstructed photographs of what the Greenwood neighborhood that was destroyed looked like before and after. The first episode of the Watchman series reconstructed the events. And “Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street” premieres on CNN May 31.

2. For the people

It’s a good day to reread the Gettysburg Address: “…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” It’s also a good day to urge the Senate to pass the For the People Act.

The House has passed H.R.1, its version of the For the People Act; now it’s time for the Senate to pass its version of this legislation, S.1. The For the People Act would defend against the voter-suppression measures being passed in many state legislatures, including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. These measures vary from state to state, but have the general effect of making voting more burdensome, particularly for low-income, urban communities and for people of color. The measures include limits on access to absentee ballots (and, in at least one state, a requirement that absentee ballots arrive by the Friday before election day), shortening of early voting periods, and new voter ID laws.

The For the People Act would prevent these kinds of voter suppression measures by expanding registration and voting access in federal elections, and placing limits on the removal of voters from voting rolls. The For the People Act also addresses partisan gerrymandering, election security measures, and campaign finance laws.  Unfortunately, the fate of the For the People Act in the Senate is uncertain. The For the People Act was assigned to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, where it was not “favorably reported,” significantly increasing the difficulty of bringing this legislation to a floor vote in the Senate. Its situation is also precarious given Republican opposition and the requirement that a supermajority will be needed for its passage. S-HP

The Southern Poverty Law Center is putting on a webinar June 2 on voting rights in the south. You can urge your Senator to support voting rights by working to end the filibuster and to see to it the S.1 reaches the Senate floor and become law. Find your Senators here.

3. Deaths in police custody described as “medical emergencies”

When George Floyd was killed by police last year, the press release was headlined
“Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” As the Guardian reports, this misrepresentation of deaths in police custody as resulting from medical emergencies– ”without disclosing that officers had caused the emergencies through their use of force–” is common. Police have even used the sickle cell trait to account for deaths in police custody, according to exhaustive research by the New York Times–even though sickle cell would hardly account for the brain swelling and leg fracture one Black man experienced, or the blood on officers’ clothing. It was even used early on to account for the death of George Floyd. Sickle cell anemia, according to the Mayo Clinic, can cause fatigue, episodes of pain, chronic pain, and vision changes. Sickle cell trait, cited in some of the reports, is a genetic mutation that usually does not cause symptoms itself but can result in sickle cell disease in children if both parents have it.

The Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2021, HR 1347, would establish that the“application of any pressure to a person’s throat or windpipe, the use of maneuvers that restrict blood or oxygen flow to the brain, or carotid artery restraints that prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air (e.g., a chokehold) constitute a punishment, pain, or penalty” and would prohibit its use based on a person’s immigration status, color, or race. Eric Garner, who was arrested for selling single cigarettes, died when police used a prohibited chokehold. See Ross Gay’s poem about Garner to get a sense of the person who was lost when he was killed. RLS/S-HP

You can share your concerns about misrepresentation and falsehoods in police records and the continuing use of chokeholds: urge swift positive action by the House Judiciary Committee on  H.R.1347. You can also urge your Senators and Representatives to act, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland. Addresses are here.

4. Sexual assault in police custody

As of 2020, it was legal in 34 states for officers to have sex with those they have arrested, if they claimed it was consensual, according to USA Today. Although federal law prohibits sex between officers and inmates–given that inmates are not free to refuse, that prohibition does not cover those who have not been convicted. Sexual assault of people arrested happens all too often; between 2005-2015, an officer was accused of sexual assault every five days, according to an investigation by the Buffalo News. Those assaulted are often afraid to report–or are dissuaded by other officers from doing so, so the numbers are likely significantly higher. As Andrea Ritchie, a researcher with the Barnard Center for Research on Women, told The Crime Report, “Survivors of sexual assault by police are the only survivors of sexual assault who have to report the assault to the people that committed it.  That’s a huge reason they’re not reported.” As Ms. Magazine points out, the victims are often teenagers, or are otherwise vulnerable, particularly women of color. 

A bill now launched in the House would prohibit sex between officers and those they have arrested. As Jackie Speier (D-California) who co-authored the bill said, “There is no consent when one person is exercising the power of law enforcement and the other is handcuffed or in custody.” H.R.2172, the Closing the Law Enforcement Loophole Act, has bipartisan support and would, as the title suggests, close the loophole that allows “consensual” sexual activity between law enforcement officers and those in their custody. This legislation is currently with the House Judiciary. H.R.2172 currently has 24 cosponsors, but could certainly use more. RLS/S-HP

You can urge swift, positive action on H.R.2172 by the House Judiciary Committee. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. You can also check to see whether your Representative is a cosponsor of H.R.2172 and thank or nudge as appropriate. Find your Representative here.

5. Corporations pressured to donate to legislators who voted to overturn the election

Of the 252 House Republicans, 139 voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Eight Senators did as well. When polled in February by Reuters, only a few legislators (Gosar, Greene, Gohmert, Jackson) would state publicly that they believed Trump lost the election due to voter fraud. Others hedged and quibbled, as you can see on the Reuters site. Almost all Senate Republicans also voted against the formation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, CNBC reported.

As a result, various corporations suspended political donations to the Republicans who voted to overturn the election, among them Walmart, Amazon, and Morgan Stanley. AT&T pledged not to donate to these candidates, but according to the Dallas Morning News, the company donated to Political Action Committees (PACS) that supported them–an end-run likely to be used often. A third of Republicans who voted to overturn the election results have gotten more political donations since then than they did in the same period of 2019, the Washington Post reports, thanks to small donors. Indeed, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Georgia) has raised next to the highest amount of funds among House Republicans.

Now the National Association of Business PACs (NABPAC), the trade association for corporate PACs, is pressuring businesses to restart donations, suggesting that they should “move beyond” the storming of the Capitol, according to MSN News. S-HP/RLS


You may want to tell these business leaders that we haven’t forgotten the insurrection on January 6, the deaths, the injuries, and the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election and demand that they hold to their promise to deny those politicians funding—which means no work-arounds involving giving money to multicandidate PACs that fund any of the 147. Addresses are here.

6. Legislation would address the deaths of women in childbirth

In 2018, 17.4 American women died per 100,000 live births, according to the CDC. This puts the US 55th among those countries for which the WHO has data, VOX reported last year. By comparison, over the last 10 years in Canada, the maternal death rate has ranged between 4.5 and 8.7 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to Stats Canada. It doesn’t stop there: “For every maternal death, there are 75 to 100 more (American) women who suffer a life-threatening complication during pregnancy or childbirth,” the Woodrow Wilson Center noted. The most common medical causes are blood clots in the lungs, high blood pressure, and hemorrhage. Black American women are three times as likely to die in childbirth as white women, due to lack of access to medical care and racism in medical care, the CDC said last month.

Two important pieces of maternal health legislation have been ordered reported by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. S.1675, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act, would fund collection and dissemination of best practices in medical care for pregnant women and new mothers. It would provide grants for states, tribes, or public health officials to implement programs based on these best practices. The legislation would then require a report every two years (the first in 2024) assessing the impact changes in practice have had on preventable maternal health problems and on maternal deaths. S.1675 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines for medical, nursing, and similar training programs “to improve the provision of prenatal care, labor care, birthing, and postpartum care for racial and ethnic minority populations, including with respect to perceptions and biases that may affect the approach to, and provision of, care.” S.1675 was introduced by Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and has bipartisan support with 4 Republican and 2 Democrat cosponsors.

  S.1658, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which also has bipartisan support, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to expand access to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace. S.1658 also has bipartisan support. S-HP

If you want to lower the rate of women’s deaths due to childbirth, tell the Senate Majority Leader that you want to see S.1675 and S.1658 brought to the Senate floor and approved, the sooner, the better. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader, 322 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-6542. @SenSchumer. You can also urge your Senators, Republican or Democrat, to advocate strongly for these bills that bipartisan support. Find your Senators here.

7. Family Detention: steps forward, steps back

The family detention center in Georgia where women endured forced hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures is being closed, according to the Intercept.  Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to shut that center and another one under the same management in Massachusetts. Last fall, a whistleblower, a nurse working at the Georgia center, came forward to describe these abuses, along with inadequate responses to medical needs. Organizers in the area say that these practices had gone on for more than a decade; some of the women who complained about their treatment there were subsequently deported.

Two south Texas detention centers will also be turned into short-term “reception centers,” Mother Jones reported in February. The Karnes City facility had held families who were going to be deported without being permitted to make asylum claims and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley held families appealing deportation orders, some of them for over a year.

Meanwhile, after reports of neglect and abuse of Black mothers and children in immigration prisons, particularly at Karnes, RAICES (The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), the Cameroon American Council, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and the UndocuBlack Network filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demanding an investigation. That was two months ago. DHS has not taken action in response to this claim, so the organizations are now encouraging those concerned with abuse in immigration facilities to write to Secretary of DHS Alejandro Mayorkas to add to their calls for investigation—and to demand the immediate release of mothers and children in immigration detention. RLS/S-HP

You can sign the RAICES petition here. You can also join the call for investigation, release of mothers and children, and an end to the abuse of Black mothers and children in detention. Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, 3801 Nebraska Ave. NW, Washington DC 20016, (202) 282-8000. @AliMayorkas

8. Student loans and medical debt would be eased by Maxine Waters’ bill

In her statement about H.R.2547, the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act, Maxine Waters described the kinds of predatory lending and loan collection practices Americans cope with and talked about the need for protections that “will help the most vulnerable consumers, including servicemembers, student borrowers, people of color, and those struggling under the weight of medical debt during this unprecedented pandemic.” H.R.2547 applies the same protections for federally-backed student loans to private student loans; prohibits a consumer reporting agency from adding any information related to a debt arising from a medically necessary procedure to a consumer credit; and applies certain consumer protections regarding debt collection to debts owed to federal agencies, states, debt buyers, and businesses engaged in nonjudicial foreclosures. In simple terms, this legislation is intended to “level the playing field” for consumers with various types of debt. This legislation now moves on to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

A little nod to Canada: the government has suspended the accumulation of interest on student loans till March 31, 2022 and proposed to extend it till March 31, 2023. S-HP

You can urge swift, positive action on H.R.2547 by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee: Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, 503 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 225-2315. @SenSherrodBrown

9. Asylum-seekers deported under Title 42 assaulted, kidnapped

Although the Biden administration brought in 6,000 asylum-seekers who had been forced to wait for many months in rudimentary camps on the other side of the border, and although the administration has stopped deporting children–except those from Mexico, it continues to rely onTitle 42, which uses disease (in this case the COVID-19 pandemic) to justify summary expulsion of potential asylum applicants. The consequences are devastating: A human rights report last month found that of 1310 asylum-seekers who were interviewed and surveyed, 492 had been attacked or kidnapped. Black asylum-seekers were particularly targeted; 60% of them had experienced violence, according to the Intercept. The methods of deportation have been especially cruel; asylum-seekers were told they were being flown to another US city and then were flown to Mexico, where they may very well know no one and immediately become targets of violence, the Intercept reports. They have been dropped in border towns in the middle of the night, which agreements between Mexico and the US have prohibited.

The practice is particularly harmful for Central American asylum seekers who are fleeing multiple forms of violence and climate crisis-induced devastation. This policy disregards our U.S. obligations to asylum seekers under international law and the Constitution’s guarantee of due process. The ACLU has filed suit to end this practice; as of May 26, their lawyers had not reached an agreement with the government, but negotiations will continue until June 8, Newsweek reports. Meanwhile, the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project has been able to get 75 families in through humanitarian exception, and is continuing to apply for these exceptions for families in the most need. RLS/S-HP

You can write, call or tweet Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and President Biden and ask that they end the use of Title 42 to exclude Central American asylum seekers. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Alejandro Mayorkas, 202-282-8000. @AliMayorkas.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

10. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans who worked with US troops risk death

Here’s a math problem with life-or-death consequences. As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, Afghans who cooperated with the U.S. are worried that without visas allowing them to travel to the U.S., they will quickly become targets of the Taliban, which is already seizing areas previously held by U.S./Afghani coalition forces. According to Noah Coburn, a political anthropologist whose research focuses on Afghanistan and who is cited in AP reporting, there may be up to 300,000 Afghans who worked as translators and in other positions for U.S. forces. These individuals may be eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) as a result of their services, but the SIV application process currently takes approximately three years. Add to that the fact that, according to the AP, the U.S. has only 26,500 SIVs available for Afghans—and their family members—who worked with them. Almost half of those visas have already been allotted to applicants. The U.S. also has 18,000 visa applications currently being processed.

  So, here’s the math:

– A total of 25,500 visas minus the 12,000 already assigned (an estimate, but a lowish one in line with AP-provided data), leaves 13,500 visas still available.

– Subtract the 18,000 incompletely processed visas, and those the U.S. is offering, results in a shortage of 4,500 visas (assuming applicants are qualified)

– Given the number of Afghans who worked for the U.S. forces—the estimate the AP cited for the population of this group was 300,000, but let’s reduce it by a third to 200,000 to be conservative, then add in the 4,500 from above—as many as 204,500 Afghans who served the U.S. face the likelihood of being forced to remain in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has made it clear that it intends to kill those who served the U.S.

 The figure of 204,500 may well be high. Some Afghans who worked with the U.S. will choose to remain in Afghanistan, but it’s clear that the current SIV allocations are inadequate, particularly when one considers the fact that those applying for these visas will also be including family members in their applications. The Biden administration has promised to review the SIV application process, but that review and any changes it might result in almost certainly won’t be completed before the announced U.S. withdrawal date of September 11.

 This situation could be slightly mitigated with the passage of H.R.3513, which would add an additional 4,000 visas to this group. Unfortunately, 4,000 isn’t nearly enough. S-HP

If you feel strongly about preserving the lives of Afghans who worked for the US government, urge the Biden administration to speed up the review of its SIV program and any subsequent changes so that these can benefit Afghans who worked with U.S. forces and call for an increase in the number of SIVs while that review is underway. Addresses are here.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

11. Damage due to mining, jobs in other sectors for miners, addressed by legislation.

A set of three pieces of legislation that would address the ecological damage done by surface mining and help communities and individuals dependent on mining develop new economic possibilities have all been “ordered reported” by the committee considering them, which means they can now be brought to a vote of the full House.

H.R.1146, the Community Reclamation Partnerships Act, authorizes state-community partnerships to address the environmental damage done by abandoned mines.

H.R.1733, the RECLAIM Act, expands eligible uses for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund.- H.R.1734, Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments, would allow the Secretary of the Interior to delegate emergency reclamation activities to States and Tribes, expanding the possibilities for reclamation. S-HP

You can urge your Representative to support all three pieces of legislation—H.R.1146, H.R.1733, H.R.1734—both to heal the ecological damage done by mining and to help communities develop new economic alternatives. Find your Representative here.

RESOURCES

Among the causes of forced migration is gender-based migration. A webinar from the Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild on June 8 will detail these issues.

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

Moms Rising has actions you can take to preserve reproductive rights and trans rights.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: May 23, 2021

“COVID-19 Virus” by Trinity Care Foundation is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Scandalous dereliction of duty by OSHA around COVID

15 months after the beginning of the pandemic in the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finally sent draft workplace standards to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The standards should cover ways to prevent transmission of COVID in the workplace, but it is not known what they will include, Medscape reports. Under the Trump administration, OSHA refused to offer guidance to employers, even in high-risk industries such as meat packing and health care–to date, an estimated 3,758 health care workers have died of COVID, according to the Center for Public Integrity. 50,000 meat-packing workers in the US have been infected, according to ProPublica, and at least 250 have died. The day after he was inaugurated, President Biden told OSHA to decide by March 15 whether it was going to issue an emergency standard mandating mask-wearing and other measures, but the agency allowed the deadline to pass without doing so. Under Trump, OSHA had been virtually dismantled; it is not clear to what degree it has been restored, as badly needed as its work is. National Nurses United supports the emergency standard, saying that 81 per cent of their members surveyed were being required to re-use PPE–still. The AFL-CIO’s director of occupational safety and health said that Americans have a false sense of security, as if the pandemic were nearly over. “We’re now in a fourth surge,” she told the Center for Public Integrity. “We have variants wreaking havoc in some cities, and we know we’re not out of the woods.” RLS

2. Children suffering in detention centers

Over 35,000 children and teenagers who arrived at the border have been deported since the beginning of 2021, according to TracImmigration, which has interactive graphs revealing the status of juveniles at the border in various categories. Over 25,000 of these young people were not represented by anyone in hearings. Those who have been able to stay have been packed in Health and Human Services shelters–then reunited with sponsors in the United States. 40 per cent have been reunited with parents, another 40 per cent with other family members or friends, according to Vice. On May 2nd, there were some 22,000 children in HHS custody. Conditions in the shelters are sometimes dreadful, with bad food, few opportunities to bathe, and no clean clothes, according to the New York Times. A BBC report today describes kids wet from sleeping under leaking pipes, freezing at night with only one emergency blanket, suffering from lice, catching COVID, becoming ill on bad food. A number suffer from depression and told volunteers they are considering suicide.

It takes an average of 30 days to place a child or teenager with an appropriate sponsor–family member or friend, according to Vice–well over the legal limit of 72 hours. Still, according to HHS staff, it is time-consuming to vet sponsors, making sure that the sponsor is safe and that the child is not being trafficked. But parents describe the process of retrieving their children as arduous, and the children themselves have years of immigration proceedings ahead of them–after which they can still be deported. 

Earlier in May, at least nine busloads of children were kept overnight on busses, some for several days. They were supposed to be en route to reunite with their families, but the company relocating them could not account for why they were held for so long, according to NBC News. 

The Dallas Morning News quoted Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist who founded the nonprofit Every.Last.One, who said that the time it takes for children to reconnect to their families is damaging to them: “There is an enormous amount of clinical data to show that if you withhold from traumatized children the capacity to be in touch with their own family members, with their own parents, that you are absolutely damaging them,” she said. RLS

You can contribute to or volunteer for one of the organizations supporting children at the border, among them Every.Last.One. See the Resources, below. You can also speak up about conditions in detention centers and about the time it is taking to connect children to sponsors. Addresses are here.

3. Haitians granted temporary protected status

Haitians in the U.S. by May 21 will be granted temporary protected status by the Biden administration, according to Buzzfeed. With political instability in Haiti, residents have been fleeing gang violence and kidnappings, but have been rapidly deported from the US. Now, the 100,000 Haitians already here will be able to work, safe from deportation, but the TPS status will not cover new arrivals or anyone who was already deported. RLS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

4. Deaths of protesters in Colombia due to live fire from police

Last week, we described the protests by millions of people in Colombia, which originated in a flawed and punitive tax reform initiative (since withdrawn) but which were fueled by acute inequality and poverty–the poverty rate increased from 36 percent in 2019 to 42.5 percent in 2020. At least 42 people have been killed by police and 134 are missing. Protests are also responding to police violence; a 17 year old girl killed herself last week after being sexually assaulted by police officers, according to Democracy Now. Videos of the deaths of four of those protesters have been analyzed by the Washington Post, which has posted clips of the shooting on its site; they clearly show that three of them were killed by live fire, which police are only supposed to use if they are under “imminent threat of death or serious injury, or to prevent a particularly serious crime that involves a serious threat to life.” Charges have just been brought against the police officer who killed one of the protesters, according to CNN. RLS

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, along with other House members,  has called for the application of the Leahy Law to freeze U.S. assistance to Colombian security forces. You can use the link from the Colombia Scholars Network to ask your representative to invoke the Leahy Law in response to the situation in Colombia.

5. Thousands in Israel march for peace

As of Sunday, the ceasefire in Gaza has held, according to Reuters, and mediators are trying to persuade all sides to keep the peace. On Saturday, thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv calling for peace, according to the Jerusalem Post. Hundreds also protested outside the residence of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, calling on him to resign and accusing him of prolonging the fighting to advance his own interests.

Hospitals in Gaza are over-run by people injured in the fighting and by a surge in COVID cases, which was spread in crowded shelters, according to the Washington Post. Only 2 per cent of people in Gaza have received the vaccine, while 60 per cent of Israelis are vaccinated. Meanwhile, Gaza’s health-care system, which had already been fragile, has been further threatened by the destruction of a company that produces three-D printed medical products, the CBC reports. Under the blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel, medical supplies are impossible to import. The company was producing, among other things, face shields and ventilators. RLS

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

6. The WHO and the CDC finally acknowledge airborne transmission of the coronavirus

A new book on COVID’s Cassandras, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, by Michael Lewis, on how all the systems failed to preserve the US from the pandemic, says essentially that while Trump was a problem, the bigger problem was “The bureaucratic disease of under-reaction [which] runs deep in America’s fragmented, underfunded health system.” As one of Lewis’s sources puts it, “Trump was a comorbidity,” but the CDC was a particular culprit. Reviewed in the New York Times, the book describes how various scientists and public health experts who raised the alarm about COVID-19 were silenced, unable to prevent the catastrophe that happened. 

A particularly disastrous failure, as Wired points out, is that the WHO refused to listen to 36 scientists who pointed out that COVID-19 was likely spread through aerosol transmission–that is, particles hung in the air where they could be inhaled by someone else. The difference between airborne and droplet transmission is crucial, as Wired put it: “To combat droplets, a leading precaution is to wash hands frequently with soap and water. To fight infectious aerosols, the air itself is the enemy.” 

Like unpacking a mystery novel, the Wired story explains how an error in scientific calculation from the 1930s became gospel in medical thinking over the decades. The error–how small a droplet had to be before it could hang in the air–led to the WHO’s assertion that a 3-6 foot distance between people would prevent transmission, because the viral droplets would fall to the ground. Not until the winter of 2020 did the WHO begin to talk about airborne transmission, and even then not very clearly. On April 30, 2021 the New York Times pointed out, the WHO changed its website to read that particles that float could transmit COVID-19. The CDC followed suit.

The stakes here are massive. If it had been widely understood–if it were widely understood now–that crowded, unventilated spaces were the biggest issue, not surfaces, then the emphasis would have been on ventilation and on masks–better fitting masks much earlier. Many fewer people would be dead.  RLS

7. Millions of barrels of DDT decaying off the coast of Southern California

As many as half a million corroding barrels of DDT off the coast of Southern California are an environmental disaster in process, which is already leading to cancer cases in marine mammals, according to a recent story by CBS News. One in four sea lions have cancer, according to Frontiers in Marine Science, likely due to pesticide contaminants and a herpes virus. Humans are also at risk, as DDT moves up the food chain, ending up in ocean fish we eat. Largely due to the work of pioneering biologist, Rachel Carson, DDT–a pesticide used to kill mosquitos–was declared a “probable carcinogen” by the FDA in 1972.  As CBS reports, the dumped barrels were first identified in the 80s by a California Regional Water Quality Control Board scientist but then somehow forgotten. Then, last October, the LA TImes did a piece on David Valentine, a U.C. Santa Barbara scientist, who sent a deep-sea robot down and saw the leaking barrels. There is no clean-up strategy, the Times says–the EPA has one in progress but it is not expected to be completed for another four years. Women exposed to DDT as children are five times as likely to develop breast cancer as women who were not; a new study shows that the granddaughters of women exposed to DDT are more likely to develop obesity and to get their periods early, both risk factors for breast cancer, according to Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. RLS

You might want to tell the California State Environmental and Toxic Materials (ESTM) Committee that four years is too long for action on leaking barrels of DDT.

RESOURCES

Read Heather Cox Richardson’s column to keep up with how the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol is being blocked and how efforts to suppress the 2020 vote continue. And actually, read her every day to see how today’s events live in yesterday’s context.

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

Moms Rising has actions you can take to preserve reproductive rights and trans rights.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: May 16, 2021

A woman reacts while standing near the rubble of a building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on Saturday that housed The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media outlets, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana). Used by permission.

According to the Toronto Star, by Monday, May 17 over 200 Palestinians, including 59 children, had been killed by Israeli attacks. Rockets from Gaza had killed eight people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy. Journalist Shaun King reported that in a single hour late Sunday night, Israel dropped 100 bombs. Gaza’s power station is almost out of fuel, the Star reported, and there is no clean drinking water. Governments in the region are urgently trying to broker a ceasefire, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Monday that the U.S. would not pressure the two sides for an immediate ceasefire, the AP reported. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for both sides to stand down, and one of Canada’s opposition parties, the NDP, has demanded that Canada stop arming one side in the conflict. On May 5, the Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, according to the Washington Post.

On May 15, Israeli forces bombed the building that housed the AP, Al-Jazeera and other media organizations, saying that Hamas was using the space for military intelligence, but the U. S. Secretary of State said he had seen no evidence of this, the AP reported. Reporters Without Borders has called for the International Criminal Court to investigate the attack on 23 media outlets in the Gaza Strip as a war crime.

If you think the Secretary of State should press for a ceasefire, you can contact him at @ABlinken or via Amnesty International’s petition. J Street, which describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, has a petition you can click to ask Biden to call for a ceasefire in order to protect both Israelis and Palestinians. If you want to tell Justin Trudeau to stop arms sales to Israel, you can reach him here or at @JustinTrudeau. A UK organization, Medical Aid for Palestinians, is collecting funds for medical supplies for Gaza.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Teenagers held in indefinite ICE detention

An unknown number of teenagers have been held in ICE detention facilities for as long as several years, even though the Flores law forbids it, except in cases where the young person has committed a “chargeable offense.”  Recent revelations indicate that some of those being held have not committed such an offense, and ICE is not explaining why they are being held, according to the Nation. They are far from their families in the U.S. and they had not had legal representation until an attorney at the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights noticed teenagers otherwise unaccounted for were appearing on rosters and in hearings. A psychiatrist who was finally permitted to see them indicated that they were depressed, on medication that they didn’t know the name of, and were not receiving education to speak of. Small scuffles with other teenagers were used as evidence to keep them incarcerated, the Nation explains. Even with representation, involvement by the ACLU, and assistance from the immigration organization Every.Last.One., one young man was transferred to an adult facility anyway–and so he requested to be deported to Guatemala instead, having lost two years of his life to detention.

Teennagers are also at risk in a detention center in a Dallas emergency shelter, according to the Dallas Morning News, which reported that 2300 boys 13-17 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center “suffer from a lack of fresh air and sunlight, depression and limited access to phones to call their families.” While staff say the goal is to reunite them with family members within 7-10 days, the Dallas Morning News reported on one case where the teenager had been there for five weeks. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the Morning News that the teenagers stay there an average of 30 days before they are reunified with family. These emergency shelters were set up by Health and Human Services as a result of the influx of unaccompanied children and teenagers, as many as 19,000 seeking asylum without an adult family member in March. Still, the shelters are unlicensed, FBI checks have been waived, and the conditions there are distressing, with kids only allowed one ten-minute call a week to their parents. Some are hungry, imploring volunteers for food, according to the Daily Beast. Wendy Young, the lawyer who is president of the D.C.-based legal nonprofit KIND which is contracted to provide legal representation to  the teenagers, is concerned about their mental health: “These are kids who have obviously been traumatized in their own country, traumatized on the journey here and traumatized when they are taken into custody,” she said. RLS

You can write to appropriate officials–and to your senators and representatives–to ask them what they are doing about the teenagers who are being kept illegally, inexplicably, and secretly in long-term detention. You can also raise the issue of the conditions under which teenagers are being held before being released. Addresses are here. If you want to support KIND, you can do so at their site.

2. Biden picks Trump-era immigration judges

One of the things the Trump administration was quite effective at was the appointment of judges. His three Supreme Court appointments got plenty of media coverage, as did several appointments to the federal bench. What got very little coverage at the time was Trump’s effectiveness in placing conservative appointees in positions as immigration court judges.  Earlier this month, President Biden submitted his first slate of appointees to immigration judgeships, 17 individuals, all originally selected for those positions during the Trump administration, according to the Hill. The Hill characterizes the members of this group as “former prosecutors and counselors for Immigration and Customs Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as a few picks with little immigration experience,” noting that “Almost none have made their career representing migrants in court.” The Hill quotes Georgetown Law School Professor Paul Schmidt —who worked for 21 years as an immigration judge before moving to academia—expressing concern that, “No one on that list [of 17 nominees] is among the top 100 asylum authorities in the country, and that’s the kind of people they should be hiring—not prosecutorial re-treads.”

Immigration Impact notes that most of the 17 have backgrounds as either prosecutors or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees. And the only two who have experience working as defense attorneys have also worked for ICE. S-HP

If you want to make sure that Trump’s immigration policies are not enshrined into law, insist that the President and the Justice Department follow up on their promises to make our immigration system more fair and humane and emphasize that one way they can do that is by nominating individuals with backgrounds in immigration law who have worked previously defending immigrants, not those who were originally selected by the Trump administration. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW,Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Merrick Garland, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave.NW, Washington DC 20530-0001, (202) 514-2000. @TheJusticeDept.

3. Preserving global family planning

In 1984 the Reagan administration issued the “Mexico City Policy,” which stipulated that all foreign nongovernmental agencies getting U.S. family planning assistance certify that they neither perform abortion nor provide counselling about abortion procedures. When Trump was in office, his administration expanded that ban to apply to pretty much all global health aid—HIV, malaria, and mother and child health—not just family planning.

 In late January, not long after taking office, President Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy and took additional steps to expand global family planning access, including access to abortion. Associated Press reporting on Biden’s moves cites a memorandum Biden sent to his cabinet: “These excessive conditions on foreign and development assistance undermine the United States’ efforts to advance gender equality globally by restricting our ability to support women’s health and programs that prevent and respond to gender-based violence…. The expansion of the policy has also affected all other areas of global health assistance, limiting the United States’ ability to work with local partners around the world…. Such restrictions on global health assistance are particularly harmful in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.” President Biden has also restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund, which was eliminated under Trump. Biden also withdrew the U.S. from the Geneva Consensus, signed while Trump was in office, which committed the U.S. “pro-family,” anti-abortion policies—the other 33 signatory governments were almost exclusively authoritarian or autocratic.  As long as U.S. policies on global health policy are being directed by the White House, they may swing wildly from one administration to the next, meaning Biden’s successor could reverse Biden’s policies as Biden did with Trump’s. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, H.R.1670, would establish that U.S. global health policy—and the money provided for it—include comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion. H.R.1670 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. S-HP

To act on this issue, urge swift, positive action on H.R.1670 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and tell your Representative that you want to see active, vocal support for H.R.1670. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee. 2170 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-5021. @RepGregoryMeeks. Find your Representative here.

4. Health care protections for transgender people restored

The Biden administration has revived health care protections for transgender people that were eliminated under Trump. These protections involve interpreting the word “sex” in anti-discrimination protections to include protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, so that gender identity (or the lack thereof) and affectional orientation cannot be used as pretexts for denying medical services. The Washington Post describes this move as “the latest step Biden officials are taking to reorient the federal government’s posture on health care, the environment and other policy areas away from the conservative cast of the Trump era, replacing it with a more liberal stance.” S-HP

You can thank President Biden and the Secretary of Health and Human Services for return to fairness and respect for all. President Joe Biden, @POTUS. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, @SecBecerra. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, @HHS_ASH. Full addresses and phone numbers are here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

5. Protesters arrested, killed, disappeared in Colombia

In response to a draconian tax “reform,” which went into effect April 28 and which imposed a 19 per cent sales tax on essential products such as cereal, milk, and sugar, Colombians have been protesting in the streets. Protesters filled Cali, Bogota, Medellin, Pereira, and other cities. While President Duque rescinded these measures in the first week of May,  protests continued to rage, in part due to outrage over the government’s handling of the pandemic; fewer than 8 per cent of the population has received even one dose of the vaccine. The percentage of people living in poverty went up to 42.5 in 2020, seven per cent higher than in 2019. Even more inflammatory has been the police response, according to CounterPunch; police have used American-made weapons to terrorize protestors; The UN mission in the city of Cali was attacked as well. At least 24 people are dead and 168 are missing, according to the Toronto Star.  As a young nurse in Bogotá told the NY Times, “I am in pain for Colombia. I am in pain for my country,” she said. “All that we can do to make ourselves heard is to protest, and for that they are killing us.” RLS

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, along with other House members,  has called for the application of the Leahy Law to freeze U.S. assistance to Colombian security forces. You can use the link from the Colombia Scholars Network to ask your representative to invoke the Leahy Law in response to the situation in Colombia.

6. Legislation to protect Uyghurs in China

Chinese oppression of its Uyghur Muslim population, which begun in 2014 and expanded in 2017, continues. According to the Center for Foreign Relations, an estimated 800,000 to 2 million Chinese Uyghurs have been sent to detention camps during that period, most of them without any specific charges and with no means to challenge their detention. Another 11 million Chinese Uyghurs not under detention suffer under decades-long anti-Uyghur policies which can include surveillance, religious restrictions, forced labor, and forced sterilizations. The New Yorker had a remarkable article in April detailing these. The United States has labeled Chinese treatment of its Uyghur population genocide and crimes against humanity. Two pieces of legislation now being considered by the House would respond to Chinese abuses and attempt to provide protections for Uyghur Muslims.

1) The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, H.R.1115, would bar imports into the U.S. of goods produced in the area of China where Uyghurs are being detained unless Customs and Border protection (CBP) can certify that the goods were produced without the use of convict labor, forced labor, or penal labor. H.R.1115 would also require the President to regularly report to Congress on the foreign entities and individuals facilitating the forced labor of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups and to impose sanctions of these entities and individuals. H.R.1115 is currently with four House committees: Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Judiciary, and Financial Services.

2) The Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act. H.R.1630 identifies Chinese Uyghur Muslims as “refugees of special concern,” prioritized for admission to the U.S. It would also require regular reports to Congress by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding the number of Chinese Uyghur Muslim refugee applicants, the length of time spent processing these applications, and the number of applications rejected, along with the reasons for those rejections. H.R.1630 is currently with the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. S-HP

The most helpful thing you can do at this point is to urge swift, positive action on H.R.1115 and H.R.1630 by the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. Addresses are here.

7. Legislation to protect Saudi dissidents

As we noted then, on February 26, the U.S. published an intelligence report asserting that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, had approved the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a legal resident of the U.S. At the time of this publication, the U.S. also denied visas to 76 Saudis it identified as connected to the murder, but did not place any sanctions directly against Mohammed bin Salman.

The Guardian reports that as a result, sentences given to Saudi political prisoners have increased in number and severity over the past few months; it cites findings by the UK-based human rights group Grant Liberty connecting that increase to the Saudi government’s perception of the limited sanctions as “weak.” According to Grant Liberty, the number of sentences that were imposed on prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia in April was more than double the total number of sentences for January, February, and March of this year. The Guardian quotes Lucy Rae of Grant Liberty as observing, “The international community must demonstrate that the only way the kingdom can improve its standing is through genuine reform. That means we need the tough action [presidential] candidate Biden talked about, not the weakness President Biden has so far shown.”

 If the U.S. is being perceived as weak, Congress could signal its opposition to Saudi human rights abuses through the passage of H.R.1392, the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act. This legislation would strictly curb U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia for three years. To have these curbs lifted, the President would be required to provide proof that the Saudis have not forcibly repatriated, intimidated, or killed Saudi dissidents in other countries, unjustly imprisoned U.S. citizens or legal residents, or tortured detainees. H.R.1392 was passed by the House last month and is now with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. S-HP

If you want to engage with this issue, point out the increasing number and severity of sentences being imposed on Saudi prisoners of conscience, tell the President and State Department that more needs to be done to sanction Mohammed bin Salman himself, and urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and your own Senators to support quick passage of H.R.1392. Addresses are here.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

8. New legislation to protect mental health

In the last week, the House has passed eight pieces of mental health legislation, which now move to the Senate, where all have been assigned to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. This legislation addresses topics including youth/student mental health, law enforcement mental health, intimate partner violence, addiction, emergency services, and suicide awareness and prevention.

1) Pursuing Mental Health Equity, H.R.1475, would fund pilot programs and research directed at improving equity in mental health care for youth, particularly among youth of color.

2) The HERO (Helping Emergency Responders Overcome) Act, H.R.1480, is intended to “require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to improve the detection, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues among public safety officers,” as explained in the Act’s opening.

3) Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department, H.R.1324, “requires the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to hospitals to improve their capacity to identify patients in emergency departments who are at risk of suicide and connect those patients with mental health treatments and services,” according to the official summary.

4) The Bipartisan Solution to Cyclical Violence Act, H.R.1260, would provide grants to trauma centers and nonprofits addressing violent trauma, particularly intimate partner violence.

5) Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department, H.R.1205, would provide grants to increase mental health follow-up treatment for individuals for individuals entering hospitals through the emergency department.

6) Mental Health Services for Students, H.R.721, would support school-based mental health services.

7) The Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STAND UP) Act, H.R.586, would provide a range of mental health grants to states, tribes, and educational agencies in order to establish and implement best practices for suicide awareness and prevention.8) Family Support Services for Addiction, H.R.433, would provide grants to “family community organizations that provide support for individuals struggling with substance use disorder and their families,” as explained in the legislation’s introduction. S-HP

If you want to support these initiatives, urge swift positive action on this body of legislation (H.R.1475, 1480, 1324, 1260, 1205, 721, 586, and 433 by the Senate HELP Committee: Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, 428 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC20510, (202) 224-5375. @PattyMurray. You can also urge your Senators to support this legislation when it reaches the Senate floor. Find them here.

RESOURCES

Read Heather Cox Richardson’s column for May 13 on how the Heritage Foundation is writing voter suppression laws. And actually, read her every day to see how today’s events live in yesterday’s context.

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site reminds you to file your taxes in order to take advantage of your child tax credit.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. This week’s list will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections in a few quick actions.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: May 9, 2021

“Mother o’ Mine .. Happy Mothers Day” by Nick Kenrick.. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Writing in the Guardian, Rebecca Solnit has some bracing words for those who find Mother’s Day difficult, noting how many people and elements of the natural world can be our “mothers”: “May you locate the 10,000 mothers that brought you into being and keep you going, no matter who and where you are. May you be the mother of uncounted possibilities and loves.”

Mother’s Day reminds us of the many sorrows surrounding mothers as well. The press is starting to cover the reunions of those families who were separated at the border; the New Yorker has a strong piece on the reunion of one of the first families separated–in 2017. The New York Times sketches the story of a mother who had to leave her daughter behind–for seven years. The Washington Post reports that 20,000 children and teenagers are being held in Health and Human Services shelters and 2,200 are being detained in border facilities until there is room in shelters for them. 40% have a parent already in the United States, while others have other relatives waiting for them–but it takes the border services a month to release them.

To help the more than 10,000 mothers stranded along the Mexico border with their children and the thousands of children waiting in detention to reunite with their mothers, you can donate to Al Otro Lado, which provides legal and social services to families on both sides of the border. Every.Last.One also does advocacy work for detained children and families, as well as for children who have been deported.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Demanding action on murdered and missing Indigenous women

Indigenous communities in Canada held grieving ceremonies May 5 for the over 4,000 Indigenous women who have been murdered or have gone missing in Canada over the last 30 years, a phenomenon called genocide in a comprehensive report. May 5 is Red Dress day, which commemorates those losses and calls for action. Despite the release of the report a year and a half ago, no national action plan has been launched by the Trudeau government; its 231 recommendations have been somehow stalled by COVID considerations, according to the National Indigenous Times.

In the US, family members of missing Indigenous women are cautiously hopeful with the steps Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland is taking. She has stated that the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ recently-announced Missing and Murdered Unit demonstrated that the federal government is finally addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women and girls. At least 1500 Native American people are currently missing in the U.S., and thousands of homicides have been reported to a national database, the Guardian reports. In a press call reported on by The Hill, Haaland explained that “For too long this issue has been swept under the rug…. [however] I believe we are at an inflection point. We have a president who has promised to prioritize this issue and ensure that Native American leaders have a seat at the table…. for too long, Indian issues were relegated to tribal offices within federal agencies. Every federal agency is taking our commitment to strengthening tribal agency and self-government seriously. We’ll keep working until our people stop going missing without a trace.” S-HP/RLS

In the U.S, you can share your concern that this issue of missing and murdered Native American women and girls remain in the spotlight and that all branches of government be active in resolving this ongoing crisis. Canadians can find more information on this issue at the University of British Columbia library’s website, as well as a phone number for support; they can also let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know that COVID should not stall the implementation of an action plan. @JustinTrudeau.

2. Protecting incarcerated and detained people against COVID

Incarcerated individuals were infected by COVID-19 at more than three times the national rate, and an estimated 27,000+ individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers have been killed by COVID-19. Now, reporting by the New York Times estimates that among those numbers were dozens of individuals who had either been approved for parole or who had not yet been convicted of any crime. While some states—including California and New Jersey—sent selected inmates home early to avoid unnecessary infections and deaths, most states chose not to free inmates and also resisted calls to speed up parole processes.

One case discussed by the Times was that of a 62-year-old man who was paroled in 2019, but required to complete a six-month drug treatment program available only in prison. He would have finished that program in June or July of last year, but instead died as a result of COVID-19 on June 2. Another case involved a 76-year-old man, a diabetic with diabetes-associated amputations. According to his cellmate, he waited months to receive his insulin supplies, by which time he had lost so much weight and was so weakened, he could not administer injections to himself. He had planned to contest the charges against him on the grounds that a search of his auto was unlawful. He couldn’t afford bail, and because he requested materials like police body-cam footage, his trial date kept being pushed back. He died of COVID-19 complications on September 2.

Other federal prisoners who were released–those who were at high risk for COVID, low-risk for re-offending, and for the most part elderly–might have to return to prison under a policy established by the Trump administration, according to the Washington Post, which profiled a 75 year old woman serving a 24 year sentence for selling a kilogram of heroin. Those released–approximately 4,500 people–are closely supervised, some with ankle monitors.

 Congress is considering some legislation that could address the problem of prisoner and detainee COVID-19 deaths and the lack of accurate data regarding the numbers of these individuals, as well as possible future epidemic threats within the prison system:

1) The COVID-19 Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act—S.681 in the Senate; H.R.1861 in the House—would require immigration detention facilities and local correctional facilities that contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide COVID-related data to the federal government. The Senate version of this legislation is with the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The House version of this legislation is with three committees: Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Ways and Means.

2) The COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act—S.324 in the Senate; H.R.1072 in the House—would require the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal Service, and state and local correctional facilities to publish COVID-19-related data, including numbers of cas vaccinations, and outcomes, on their websites, as well as reporting them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Senate version of this legislation is with the Judiciary Committee. The House version of this legislation is with the Judiciary and the Energy and Commerce Committees.

3) H.R.831, the Health STATISTICS Act, would “encourage the rapid development of certain public health data standards, authorize epidemiological surveillance grants, and authorize a data linkage demonstration project.” This legislation is currently with the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. S-HP

If you want to address these inequities, you can call for expedited parole releases, for release of those awaiting trial for non-violent offenses during the current pandemic and for the reversal of the Trump-era policy which would require those released during the pandemic to return to prison. You can also urge the relevant Senate and House committee members to act on pending legislation. Addresses are here.

3. Should the history curriculum focus on diversity and critical literacy?

The Department of Education’s (DoE) Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, has invited public comments on priorities for the teaching of American History and Civics. The DoE’s first proposed priority is projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning and that “reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students [in order to] create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.” The second proposed priority is promoting information literacy skills, including standards of proof, individual biases, synthesis of information for communication, and “understanding how inaccurate information may be used to manipulate individuals, and developing strategies to recognize accurate and inaccurate information.”  Conservatives, including Mitch McConnell have been weighing in on the priorities. A letter to the DoE—on which Senator McConnell is the first signatory and which is cosigned by 38 additional Republican Congressmembers—warns that including materials like the New York Times’ 1619 Project (which looks at the history of this nation from the arrival of the first slave ship to the American colonies) that put “ill-informed advocacy ahead of historical accuracy” to create a “a politicized and divisive agenda.” S-HP

You can comment on the content of U.S. history and civics education, particularly on the ways in which students’ many cultures have contributed to this nation’s history and identity and discuss what topics and approaches you feel would best serve our diverse student population [note that all comments must be received by Wednesday, May 19, and should include Docket ID Number ED-2021-OESE-0033]. Write to Mia Howerton, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Room 3C152, Washington DC 20202 or use online comment submission button

4. An X-gender option for passports

While running for President, Joe Biden issued an LGBTQ+ policy document that included a proposal to add an X gender designation to passports, which would mean non-binary individuals would not have to declare themselves specifically male or female. Since President Biden took office, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been urging Biden to make that proposal a reality. According to the ACLU, many states already allow individuals to select an X gender identification and the ACLU has filed six cases on behalf of transgender individuals who want to see themselves accurately represented on IDs. Currently, 68% of transgender people report that none of their IDs accurately present both their name and their gender. As a result of this, they can find themselves, harassed, denied services, or attacked—by law enforcement as well as individuals and businesses. Life is also more complex for these individuals because of discrepancies among medical, financial, and personal records. President Biden has the power to issue an executive order adding an X designation to passports; the ACLU is asking for support in convincing Biden to take this action soon. S-HP

You can join the ACLU in asking President Biden to issue an executive order creating an X gender designation on passports. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. In addition, you can sign the ACLU’s petition: https://action.aclu.org/petition/they-people-access-accurate-ids-now.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

5. Making it safe for Hondurans to stay home

Aid to Honduras has been seen as essential to enable Hondurans to stay home rather than fleeing the effects of climate change, along with gang and police violence, and arriving at the US/Mexico border. However, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, would halt U.S. aid to Honduras “until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice,” as explained in the legislation’s opening. The legislation is named to honor Honduran indigenous rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who cofounded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Cáceres led campaigns in response to illegal logging, the plantation system, and the presence of U.S. military bases on indigenous land. After years of receiving death threats, Cáceres was assassinated in her own home. Those who killed her were linked to US-backed forces, according to the Guardian.

 Under H.R.1574, conditions for resuming aid to Honduras would include trial and conviction of Cáceres’ killers, the killers of over 100 activist small farmers, those responsible for post-election killings and arrests in Honduras. It would also require the withdrawal of the military from domestic policing in Honduras; protection of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, indigenous and Afro-indigenous Hondurans, LGBTI activists, and government critics; and the establishment of a justice system capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights violations. S-HP

If you support this move, you can urge swift, positive action on H.R.1574 by the appropriate committees. You can also insist to your Congressmembers and to Vice-President Harris, who has been charged with leading U.S. Central American policy, that justice in Central America must be a key component of U.S. policy in the region, particularly if we want to end pressure on individuals from the region to flee their home countries because of violence and lack of justice. Addresses are here.

6. Disappearing the opposition in Myanmar.

Thousands of people, primarily boys and young men, are being disappeared in Myanmar as the now three-month-long military coup there continues, the Associated Press (AP) reports. The AP reports at least 3,500 arrests—most without documentation, so that family members cannot be certain who has been taken, what charges they face, or where they are being held. According to UNICEF, there have been at least 1000 arbitrary detentions of children and young people. The AP quotes Matthew Smith, a cofounder of Fortify Rights, a human rights group, as saying that his organization has been gathering evidence of detainees being killed in custody: “We’ve definitely moved into a situation of mass enforced disappearances. We’re documenting and seeing widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests.” The military has been conducting sweeps both during night and also in daylight, often beating detainees in front of witnesses. The military is also using its own television channel to broadcast “photos of young people detained by security forces…. their faces bloodied, with clear markings of beatings and possible torture,” indicating that this is a campaign of deliberate intimidation. S-HP

If you want to intervene in this situation, you can insist that the Biden administration and Congress continue to pursue meaningful, effective responses to this violence—and not just resolutions that have little real-world impact. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State, Department of State, 2201 C St. NW, Washington DC 20520, (202) 647-4000. @SecBlinken. Find your senators here and your representatives here.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

7. Preventing drilling in the Arctic, reversing Trump’s environmental policies

The Hill reports on a decision by the Department of the Interior to withdraw Trump administration proposals that would have made it easier to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic. The Obama administration had placed a permanent prohibition on offshore Arctic Ocean oil and gas drilling, which the Trump administration sought to undo. In another significant move, the Environmental Protection Agency has asked that the Justice Department (DoJ) end any remaining cases in supporting Trump-era environmental rules. The Hill separately reported that Lawrence Starfield, the EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, has ordered his staff to step up enforcement of environmental regulations in communities particularly hard hit by pollution—communities that are disproportionally low income and inhabited by people of color. S-HP

If you want to thank the Secretary of the Interior for protecting the Arctic,
thank the EPA Director for asking for an end to Department of Justice defense of Trump-era changes to environmental protections, tell the Attorney General that you’re looking forward to an end to DoJ defense of remaining Trump-era environmental rollbacks and thank Lawrence Starfield for defending the rights and health of communities threatened by pollution, addresses are here.

RESOURCES

If you want to understand what is going on with the Republican attack on Liz Cheney and why Republicans continue to assert that Trump won the election, Heather Cox Richardson’s column for May 7 will explain. You’ll find it quite chilling, the way she adds it all up.

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site this week focuses on the rights and needs of mothers. See their list of quick actions you can take.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. This week’s list will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections in a few quick actions.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: May 2, 2021

“Women’s Bazaar (Afghanistan) [Image 3 of 3]” by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Racism as a public health crisis

The cases of 43 Black people killed by the police in the United States were investigated by an international team of experts, which found–unsurprisingly–that racism contributed to excessive force in policing. The ​International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence against People of African Descent in the United States has just released its report, in an extensive project developed in conjunction by the United Nations and produced with the National Lawyers Guild and other organizations. If you’re short on time, just read the Executive Summary: it is devastating. The Commission calls on the International Criminal Court to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity and urges the U.S. to be bound by the ICC’s findings. 

The Commission found violations in the rights to: “life, security, freedom from torture, freedom from discrimination, mental health, access to remedies for violations, fair trial and presumption of innocence, and to be treated with humanity and respect.”

Racism has become a public health crisis in other ways as well, as the pandemic has made ruthlessly clear. As the Harvard Medical School noted last year, “Between March and June of 2020, Latinx and non-Hispanic Black people were hospitalized for COVID-19 at a rate of up to four and a half times that of non-Hispanic white people. Indigenous people were hospitalized at five and a half times that of white people.” The reasons are structural: income inequality and job discrimination, which means in the U.S. an unequal access to health insurance; unsafe crowded housing; lack of access to education which relegates people of color to risky front-line jobs. The American Medical Association last year agreed, committing the organization to “…Recognize racism, in its systemic, cultural, interpersonal and other forms, as a serious threat to public health,” In April, the CDC made the same commitment. 

In this context, H.Res.344 – Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis is relevant. It has been referred to the  Committee on Energy and Commerce, and to the Committee on the Judiciary. We ordinarily don’t follow resolutions, but this one deserves attention. RLS

2. Trump officials signed agreements preventing Biden from changing immigration policy

Among the many reasons that the situation at the border has been so complex since the Biden administration has taken office are the strategies Trump officials used to hamstring Biden’s efforts to change immigration policy, the Dallas Observer explains. Before leaving his position as Secretary of Homeland Security, Kenneth Cuccinelli signed “Sanctuary for Americans First Enactment” (SAFE) agreements with Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, West Virginia, and a sheriff’s office in North Carolina. These agreements “allow participating states to halt nationwide immigration policy for 180 days by requiring DHS to communicate with states before taking actions or making decisions ‘that could reduce immigration enforcement, increase the number of [undocumented immigrants] in the United States, or increase immigration benefits or eligibility for benefits for [undocumented immigrants].'” Texas, Arizona, and Montana have all sued the Biden administration to block changes to immigration policy under the Biden administration.

 These agreements are illegal twice over. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the Government Accountability Office have both ruled that Cuccinelli was never properly appointed to his position, meaning he lacked authority to enter into agreements on behalf of the agency. Also, an outgoing administration “cannot agree to cede federal power to states, local jurisdictions, or other third parties before a new administration assumes office, because the executive branch cannot contract away the constitutional power of its successors. Such tactics are antithetical to the orderly transition of executive authority demanded by our Constitution,” as the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) explains. CREW has called for an Inspector General investigation of former Secretary of Homeland Security Kenneth Cuccinelli. S-HP

If you want to address this issue, you can support calls for an investigation of Cuccinelli’s illegal tenure in office and the last-minute agreements he signed in order to prevent the Biden administration from taking timely action in response to the arrival of undocumented immigrants. Joseph V. Cuffari, Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Dr., Building 410, Washington DC 20528, (202) 981-6000.

3. Some relief funds for Puerto Rico held up until last month, investigation quashed

$20 billion in hurricane aid to Puerto Rico following 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria was held up by the Trump administration, which then refused to cooperate with a Congressional investigation of the roadblocks it had put up. The Washington Post reports on a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General’s (IG) report on how the roadblocks were established under the aegis of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and appear to have been created in response to White House demands, as Trump made it clear he did not want to provide funds to Puerto Rico and instead wanted to increase funding to Texas and Florida. The OMB added new steps to the normal disaster-relief distribution process that significantly slowed release of the funds and prevented timely publication by HUD of a notice of the funding. The OMB also refused to allow HUD to issue a single funding notice that would have applied to all 16 jurisdictions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and instead required a separate funding notice for each jurisdiction. The White House demanded changes to Puerto Rico’s property-management records system and created a prerequisite for the release of funds to federal contractors that suspended federal minimum wage requirements. In fact, many restrictions were only removed in April, well after President Biden had been sworn into office. These requirements included incremental release of funds and oversight by several government boards that went beyond the oversight required under federal law.

The Inspector General’s report also documents Trump administration resistance to the Congressional investigation on the slow release of disaster relief funds. HUD officials refused to be interviewed by investigators. The Office of Management and Budget refused to provide information Congress requested regarding the ways decisions regarding the distribution of relief funds were made. In fact, the HUD IG Report noted “Delays and denials of access and refusals to cooperate negatively affected the ability of the [Office of Inspector General] to conduct this review.” As Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who requested the inspector general’s investigation, put it, Trump’s roadblocks were “a way to prevent the people of Puerto Rico from access to so much needed money to prevent people from dying.” S-HP

To make sure disaster relief funds cannot be withheld, you can insist to your congressmembers that procedures be put in place to prevent executive branch interference. Find your Senators here and your representative here.

4, Crucial legislation heading for the Senate

As has been true in the past, the House is passing legislation at a faster rate than the Senate.

1) H.R.1333, the No BAN Act, narrows the reasons for which the President can announce a travel ban blocking individuals of a specific nation from entering the U.S. and specifically bars the use of religion as the justification for a travel ban. H.R.1333 is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 2) H.R.1573, Access to Counsel, also with the Senate Judiciary Committee, provides protections for individuals entering the U.S., including U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, aliens in possession of a visa, returning asylees, and refugees, who are subject to secondary or deferred inspections. H.R.1573 would ensure that these individuals have access to counsel and others (such as family members already in the U.S.) within an hour of the initiation of any secondary inspection.

 3) H.R.7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would, as explained in the Congressional summary, “addresses wage discrimination on the basis of sex, which is defined to include pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics…. [and] limits an employer’s defense that a pay differential is based on a factor other than sex to only bona fide job-related factors in wage discrimination claims, enhances nonretaliation prohibitions, and makes it unlawful to require an employee to sign a contract or waiver prohibiting the employee from disclosing information about the employee’s wages. The bill also increases civil penalties for violations of equal pay provisions.” H.R.7 has not yet been assigned to a Senate committee.

4) H.R.51, the Washington, D.C., Admission Act, would, as the title indicates, make Washington D.C. the 51st state of the U.S., giving currently unavailable federal representation to residents of the district. H.R.51 has not yet been assigned to a Senate committee. S-HP

If you want to nudge the Senate to follow up on House legislation, you can write, call or tweet Dick Durbin, Chair or the Senate Judiciary Committee or Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer. Addresses are here.

GOOD NEWS

5. A few people to thank

As complicated and difficult as so many things are, the Biden administration has been chipping away at Trump policies and launching its own projects.

 1) NBC reports that the Department of Homeland Security is placing limits on civil immigration arrests and other enforcement actions in or near courthouses, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday. Mayorkas explained that the Trump administration’s policy of using courthouses as arrest locations “had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement.”

 2) Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has launched a new effort to uncover and eliminate right-wing extremism in the military, according to the New York Times.

 3) The Department of Agriculture, reports Axios, is extending a pandemic program providing meals to children through the summer.

4) The New York Times reports that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is withdrawing a Trump-administration-proposed rule that would have allowed single-sex homeless shelters to turn away transgender individuals. HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge explains “We are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity…. HUD is open for business for all.” 

5) We have two items we can thank President Biden for—no doubt there are more. First, according to the New York Times, President Biden is creating a White House task force to promote labor organizing in hope of ending a steady decline in union membership. Second, as the Hill reports, President Biden has cancelled the Trump administration diversion of Department of Defense funds to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Instead, the funds will be used as originally intended by Congress. S-HP

If you want to thank the people behind these initiatives, addresses are here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

6. How to help in India

You won’t have missed the catastrophic COVID situation in India; as we explained last week, with some 20 million cases, the country’s infrastructure is overwhelmed, with shortages of everything from oxygen to kindling to burn the dead. 218,959 people have died, according to Worldometer. The situation in India will have ripple effects; it will not be sending its AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada, which has counted on it, and it cannot contribute to COVAX, the world-wide vaccine-sharing mechanism sponsored by the WHO. At long last, the US is considering lifting patent restrictions on the vaccines in order to permit developing countries to make their own, the Washington Post reports. Indian novelist Arundhati Roy has a devastating essay in the Guardian on what people in India are experiencing and what the political context is that made this surge of cases inevitable: “So here we are now, in the hell of their collective making, with every independent institution essential to the functioning of a democracy compromised and hollowed out, and a virus that is out of control.” RLS

Avaaz is collecting funds for oxygen and other supplies; Canada’s MacLean‘s magazine has a list of reliable organizations where you can contribute to oxygen, PPE, and food.

7. Women and Children Last

Women and children are especially vulnerable to policy shifts, and in three areas of the world this dynamic is especially pressing. In a much delayed move, President Biden has declared that the U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan by the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when the U.S. retaliated for the attacks on the Twin Towers by commencing a bombing campaign in October of 2001. Among the weapons used were cluster bombs, leading to substantial civilian casualties both in the moment and as a result of unexploded ordnance; according to Human Rights Watch, in the first week alone, “the US dropped fifty CBU-87s (cluster bomb units), containing 10,100 bomblets, in five missions.”

Successive US administrations believed that the Taliban, which had held off foreign invaders since at least 1979, could be defeated and that a Western-friendly government could be installed. As the BBC explains, however, the Taliban seems likely to inherit that earth, and the concern is whether gains in women’s education and employment will be sustained. In none of the peace talks have women’s rights been central to the discussion and Biden has not made the withdrawal of troops contingent in any way. Girls in Afghanistan told the Guardian that they are scrambling to finish their academic programs, as they fear they will not be allowed to do so if the Taliban takes power again. Fatima Ayub, an eloquent policy analyst who is herself a refugee from Afghanistan, writes in the Conversationalist that the American decision is an “acknowledgement of absolute failure.” that the entire war in/against Afghanistan was “a carnival of bad faith, bad choices, bad actors, and death.”

Women’s gains in employment and education are at risk in Iran as well, as a result of sanctions the US has imposed on that country. As Azadeh Moaveni and Sussan Tamhasemi wrote recently in the New York Times, though the US has been full of rhetoric around women’s rights in Iran, the way that sanctions have demolished the economy has made it increasingly difficult for women to make a living; during the pandemic, women lost 100,000 more jobs than men did, although only 17.5% of them participate in the workforce. Young women who had been able to live independently, with rising rents and inflation–30% at this writing–now have had to move back home. Women in abusive situations have been unable to leave. The Times writers quote Faezeh Tavakoli, a historian with the Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies in Tehran, as saying, “The pressure on women, on the middle class, is utterly oppressive. I just don’t find the justifications for sanctions at all persuasive, certainly not from a feminist perspective. You can’t tell people, ‘Starve and then seek freedom.’”

Elsewhere, as a video posted by Vice illustrates, the battle against Isis in Iraq continues. You need only to look at the first few minutes to see how vulnerable women and children are in these conditions. Tens of thousands of women and children once connected to Isis are in refugee camps in Syria, according to the Guardian, camps which are fraught with political tension and risk. Small groups of women and children have been repatriated to their home countries, although the women in one group sent to Tunisia were interrogated and beaten when they got there, according to Human Rights Watch. To understand why women might have affiliated with Isis–voluntarily and not–in the first place, you can watch an interview with Azadeh Moaveni, or read her book Guest House for Young Widows. RLS

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

8. Environmental legislation to watch

The Trump administration rolled back around a hundred pieces of environmental policy, with devastating effects, as the New York Times noted on Biden’s inauguration day. Now, a number of pieces of environmental legislation are working their way through Congress and will begin to reverse the damage.

  1) H.R.241, the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act, would extend a program that allows countries with debts owing to the U.S. to participate in “debt-for-nature swaps” to promote conservation in those nations. Analogous legislation, S.335, also titled the Tropical Forest and  Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act, has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, meaning that it can be brought to a vote of the full Senate.

  2) H.R.1144, the Puget Sound SOS Act, would support restoration and protection of Puget Sound, an environmentally important estuary off the coast of Washington. H.R.1144 has been approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and can now be brought to a vote of the full House.

  3) H.R.6479, the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex Establishment Act, would direct the Secretary of the Interior to create such a complex and to announce its establishment in the Federal Register. H.R.6479 is currently with the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Waters, Oceans, and Wildlife.

  4) S.806, the MPH (Monarch Pollinator Highway) Act, would create grants through the Department of Transportation to carry out pollinator-friendly practices on roads and highways, including the planting and seeding of native, locally-appropriate grasses, wildflowers, and milkweed. S.809, the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act, would establish a fund for the protection of Monarch butterflies. Monarchs are currently under consideration for endangered species status as their population has been dropping precipitously in recent years. Both S.806 and S.809 are with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. You can also sign a National Wildlife Federation petition to governors in Monarch regions calling for increased creation of and support for Monarch habitats. S-HP

If you are inclined to take action on these items, addresses of appropriate people whom you can call, write or tweet are here.

RESOURCES

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site this week focuses on paid leave, trans rights, support for immigrants, and the needs of breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. The site has varied important actions that you can take quickly.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. They will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections and how to fight systemic racism, among other issues.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: April 25, 2021

“sinixt” by kootenayvolcano is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Asylum-seekers kidnapped, miss court date, cannot reapply

Thousands of people fleeing violence and starvation in Central America were turned away at the border and forced to wait for months for their court dates in dangerous camps like Matamoros. Some were kidnapped and held for ransom. Because they were not in court on the designated day, their cases were closed. 28,000 people lost their opportunity to apply for asylum under circumstances like these, according to the Washington Post. They had medical emergencies, could not travel, were attacked-or were kidnapped. Those who are now in legal limbo–and in danger–include the most vulnerable asylum seekers: those who suffered terribly in their countries of origin, many of them women and children. Though the Biden administration has ended the program, no provisions have been made for this group of applicants. RLS

If you want to intervene, ask the Biden administration to issue an executive order allowing those whose cases were closed because they missed their court dates due to unavoidable circumstances to reopen them. President Joe Biden, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Vice-President Kamala Harris, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. Online contact form here. @VP. Also contact Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Washington, DC 20528 202-282-8000. @SecMayorkas.

2. Conspiracy charges for those involved in the Capitol insurrection

Whether an independent commission will ever investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol is in doubt. Nancy Pelosi has been trying to establish one, according to the BBC, but her first efforts were rejected as too narrow. Republicans are reluctant to admit that supporters of Donald Trump were behind the attack and so a bipartisan initiative is difficult to launch, the Washington Post noted.

A new independent report auditing the Capitol police found that they had earlier advance warnings of violence than had previously been acknowledged, and that higher-ups had directed them to hold back on using aggressive tactics against the rioters, according to the New York Times, which noted that the FBI and the Capitol police had received this anonymous posting on a social media thread the day before the insurrection: ““Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled,” the message read. “Get violent … stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”

Meanwhile 410 charges have been filed, with more to follow, CBS reports. About 30 people so far have been charged with conspiracy. You can track the progress of the case against the Capitol rioters here: https://twitter.com/seditiontrack. It may be difficult to see the significance of these tweets at first, but they lead to profound revelations. Look at this one from emptywheel, a blog by Marcy Wheeler, who wrote Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. Wheeler identifies how charging Proud Boy Matthew Greene with conspiracy widened the possibility for conspiracy charges in the case as a whole. S-HP, KCB

If you want to see an investigation of the events of January 6 by an independent commission, you can tell your Congressmembers, Republican and/or Democrat, that the American people insist on it. Find your Senators here and your representative here.

3. Preserving religious freedom, prohibiting religious discrimination

We’re all too familiar with how religious freedom legislation has been used to discriminate against others. Unmarried women teaching at religious schools have been fired when they became pregnant; pharmacists have declined to provide women with birth control; wedding venues have refused to serve LGBTQ2S+ people, the ACLU reminds us. However, new legislation may put a stop to at least some of these practices.

As explained by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was established to protect religious freedom, particularly for members of minority faiths. Rachel Laser, AU’s president and CEO observes that “Despite the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect free exercise and religious minorities, some are misusing what they call ‘religious freedom’ to ignore nondiscrimination laws and deny people access to health care, jobs and government-funded services. This exploitation of religious freedom especially harms LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and the nonreligious by undermining their civil rights and equality.”

The Do No Harm Act, H.R.1378, is written to ensure that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used to justify discrimination and specifically bars its use to violate child labor laws, deny access to healthcare, refuse to provide government-funded services, or refuse to perform specific parts of duties as a government employee—as did Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that the right to marry could not be denied based on the gender of the two people entering into the marriage. During the Trump administration the RFRA was used to allow government-funded sectarian adoption/fostering agencies to refuse to place children in homes of non-Christians, LGBTQ individuals and individuals of specific Christian denominations that the agencies found unacceptable (for example a refusal to place children in homes of Catholics because the placement agency supported only protestant denominations). The Do No Harm Act has 118 cosponsors. It is currently with the House Judiciary Committee. S-HP

To get involved in this issue, you can urge swift, positive action by the House Judiciary Committee on H.R.1378. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. You can also check to see if your representative is a cosponsor of H.R.1378 and praise them or prod them as appropriate. Find your representative here.

4. Consent degrees revived, more to come

Consent decrees allow an administration to respond to violent, discriminatory, or unethical actions within law enforcement. These are, as the New York Times explains, “court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governmental agencies that create a road map for changes to the way they operate.” Consent decrees are powerful tools, reports New York Magazine in a recent article, which noted that the Newark, New Jersey police department has been under a consent degree since 2016. As a result, in 2020, ”no Newark police officer fired his or her weapon, a feat that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.” Although the Trump administration had a policy against using consent decrees, eliminating the federal government’s strongest tool for addressing localized abuses by law enforcement, some consent degrees already in force continued to be enforced, a practice which testifies to their stability. Now, in the context of the murder of George Floyd, Attorney General Merrick Garland has rescinded that policy and signaled the Justice Department’s intention to investigate and respond to racist or illegal behavior by law enforcement–notably in Minneapolis, where police used force against Black people seven times more often than against white people, according to the New York Times .S-HP

Consider thanking Secretary Garland for this important policy reversal. Merrick Garland, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20530-0001, (202) 514-2000.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

5. Canada’s Supreme Court upholds Indigenous rights across borders

A descendant of the Indigenous Sinixt people just won the right to hunt on his ancestral lands, even though the Sinixt have been described as “extinct” and even through he is an American hunting in British Columbia. Hunter Rick Desaute, who is also a conservation officer, shot an elk on traditional Sinixt lands and turned himself in, the Guardian explains, signing himself up for an eight-year court battle. The last Canadian member of the Sinixt people died in 1956; earlier generations had been killed in smallpox epidemics. The Court ruled that as a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, who are descended from the Sinixt, Desaute had a constitutional right to hunt in his traditional territory. As the B.C. judge who initially supported his claim said, “I am left with no doubt that the land was not forgotten, that the traditions were not forgotten and that the connection to the land is ever present in the minds of the members.”

The Court’s decision opens the door to many significant claims having to do with Indigenous rights to ancestral land, claims which could have implications not just for hunting but for water rights and pipelines, as an earlier piece in the Guardian notes. There are, however, no comparable rights in the U.S.–Indigenous Canadian people’s rights to their ancestral lands stop at the American border. But the Court’s finding has enormous substantial and symbolic significance. As Desaute told the Globe and Mail, “It’s a declaration of non-extinction. A declaration that your homeland is now your homeland again.” RLS

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

6. Biden proposes to lower carbon emissions, provide alternative jobs. Activists caution against “climate cages.”

At last week’s climate conference, the Biden administration pledged to lower carbon emissions to half of 2005 levels, according to NPR, double the reduction specified under the Paris climate accord. Simultaneously, he proposed to move jobs currently in fossil fuels to alternative forms of production, saying “I see autoworkers building the next generation of electric vehicles. I see the engineers and the construction workers building new carbon capture and green hydrogen plants.” Other world leaders made their own proposals and pleaded with the world community to address the needs of those whose lives are upended by the climate crisis, the Washington Post reported.

As Heather Cox Richardson noted in her column on Sunday, this moment may finally be one in which the fossil-fuel based economy can change. Despite Trump’s support for coal, the coal mining industry lost 10% of its workforce between 2016 and 2020. The United Coal Workers, she said, supported Biden’s proposal as long as coal workers can be moved into comparable jobs. Over the last four years, the U.S. lost ground in terms of alternative energy and any viable climate policy requires a worldwide effort. China, however, has been working on solar energy during the years when there was no government support for it in the U.S., and so nations hoping to move from fossil fuels to alternative energy will be dependent on China to provide the technology.

Activists are the real heroes of this story, Vox points out. Without their pressure, these commitments might still be far away. Xiye Bastida, a 19 year old climate justice activist who is herself an Indigenous climate refugee from Mexico, gave an eloquent speech at the conference, insisting that climate actions must not continue to target the global south. Bastida is an organizer with the Re-Earth Initiative and with Fridays for the Future, both of which have future climate actions planned. Common Dreams also has a strong piece by Nadia Ahmad ,a law professor at Barry University School of Law, about how important it is to see the issues at the border as connected to the climate crisis, to see people incarcerated in the border as climate refugees. She writes, ” I use the phrase, climate cages, to describe how public policy responses to climate change limit mobility, worsen prison conditions, and increase incarceration. These public policy responses can include immigration detention, deportation, self-deportation, and harsh sentencing guidelines.” RLS

7. One in four people in high-income countries have been vaccinated–compared to one in 500 in low-income countries.

High-income countries have only 16% of the world’s population but have administered 47% of the world’s coronavirus vaccine. Low-income countries have given only 0.2 percent of the world’s doses, Al Jazeera reported, drawing on data from the United Nations. Twelve countries have delivered no doses of the vaccine at all: Tanzania, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Chad, Burundi, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Vanuatu, Samoa, Kiribati, North Korea and Haiti. There are still disparities among high-income countries; a chart of the percentage of the population that is vaccinated in various countries is available on the New York Times website. In the U.S., 41% of the population is vaccinated, while in Canada only 29% are.

Among the most acute situations is in India, which is facing a catastrophic surge in cases and shortages of medical supplies; there, only 8.9% of people are vaccinated and people are suffocating for lack of oxygen, according to the Independent. On April 26, the US finally agreed to send “therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear” to India and to ease restrictions on exporting vaccine supplies to India so that it can continue to manufacture the vaccine. Without these, India cannot continue to vaccinate its own people and to export vaccine to Africa, according to the New York Times, which reported that in India, “Funeral pyres have lit up the night sky.” RLS

RESOURCES

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site this week focuses on justice for Adam Toledo, calling for “transformative change, real police accountability, and investments that address the root causes of violence and foster community-based alternatives to policing and incarceration.” The site has varied important actions that you can take quickly.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. They will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections and how to fight systemic racism, among other issues.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

News You May Have Missed: April 18, 2021

“Moms Demand Action against gun violence” by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Amidst continuous gun violence, the Senate still resists gun legislation

Two grandmothers were among the Sikh victims of the shooter at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, according to the BBC.Also killed were two nineteen-year-olds; each of the eight victims is being mourned by a circle of family, friends and co-workers. The New York Times also has pictures and bios of those who were shot. As the Times points out, the white nineteen-year-old man who ended their lives and then killed himself was able to purchase two rifles even after having had a gun taken away from him when his mother raised concerns that he was planning a “suicide by cop”; somehow, he was not thought dangerous enough to be covered by Indiana’s “Red Flag” law.

Even before the ghastly shootings of the last month, the House passed a bill, HR 1446,  to require background checks for gun purchases, but it is widely expected to fail in the Senate, according to Vox. Still, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) said at the end of March, “Don’t count us out,” the Washington Post reported, but even Murphy acknowledged that the House bill would have to be modified; among the points that Senate Republicans–and even some Democrats–resist is the extension of time that potential gun purchasers have to wait for the background check to be completed. Now, if it is not complete in three days, the purchaser can acquire the gun by default. This is precisely the situation that enabled the person who shot nine Black people during a service at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, according to the Giffords Law Center.  The New York Times notes that the bankruptcy of the NRA may make it more possible for gun control legislation to be passed. RLS

If you want to let your senators know that their political future depends on them passing–not blocking–legislation requiring background checks in any context where guns are sold, you can find their contact information here.

2. Legislation would stop “ghost guns”

Over 40% of the guns seized by police in Los Angeles are “ghost guns”–unregistered firearms produced by 3D printers, according to the BBC. The Ghost Guns Are Guns Act, H.R.1454, does exactly what its title suggests: makes it clear that firearm assembly kits—that allow the assembly of a gun without any serial numbers—must be considered firearms. Biomed Central’s Injury Epidemiology lays out the current threat presented by ghost guns. An estimate by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives indicates that in just a single year, 2019, law enforcement confiscated more than 10,000 ghost guns. A GhostGunner3, a desk-top laser three-dimensional printer which can be purchased for just over $2000, can produce “nearly finished” firearms frames at a rate of almost two a minute. These near-complete firearms are currently not regulated as firearms. The rise in armed extremist groups in the U.S. increases the already deadly possibilities offered by ghost guns. The Biden administration is exploring executive actions to deal with ghost guns, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. H.R.1454 currently has 88 cosponsors and is with the House Judiciary Committee. S-HP

If you would like to see swift, positive action on H.R.1454 by the House Judiciary Committee, write, call or tweet Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadlerYou can also check to see if your representative is a cosponsor of H.R.1454 and praise or prod as appropriate. Find your representative here. 

3. Police misconduct is costly–and untracked

As we await a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin and continue to see Black Americans killed by law enforcement, we can urge Congressional action that recognizes this deadly disparity in treatment of Americans. Even beyond equity and justice, huge sums are paid out of government bonds and tax revenues to compensate victims of police violence and corruption–when false confessions are coerced, for example, according to the Washington Post. The Cost of Police Misconduct Act, H.R.1481, would require that all federal law enforcement agencies report cases of alleged misconduct to the Department of Justice, and that rulings on those cases of alleged misconduct be made publicly available. A database would also include information on any settlements resulting from federal law enforcement misconduct. Failure to comply with the requirements of H.R.1481 could result in cuts to grants to law enforcement agencies. This legislation is currently with the House Judiciary Committee. It has no cosponsors.

  H.R.1470, the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, would address changes in the interpretation of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the filing of lawsuits as a result of denial of federal and constitutional rights by state or local officials. A 1967 Supreme Court ruling on the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act granted qualified immunity to those violating rights if they were acting under “good faith.” Initially the ruling applied only to actions by law enforcement, but later rulings expanded qualified immunity to include a wide range of government officials. The opening to H.R.1470 goes on to explain that “This doctrine of qualified immunity has severely limited the ability of many plaintiffs to recover damages… when their rights have been violated by state and local officials. As a result, the intent of Congress in passing the law has been frustrated, and Americans’ rights secured by the Constitution have not been appropriately protected.” H.R.1470 would eliminate the use of qualified immunity by holding accused violators to a standard of being held liable for actions that violate federal and/or constitutional rights. H.R.1470  is currently with the House Judiciary Committee. It has thirty-nine cosponsors. S-HP

If you would like to see these bills go forward, urge swift, positive action on H.R.1481 and H.R.1470 by the House Judiciary Committee. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. You can also check to see if your Representative is a cosponsor of H.R.1470 and praise or prod them as appropriate; you might urge them to become a cosponsor of H.R.1481 as well. Find your Representative here.

4. Raising refugee caps, protecting women and girls against violence

After a public outcry over its announced intention to maintain the record low Trump administration refugee caps, the Biden administration is backpedaling from its initial announcement that the U.S. would take in only 15,000 refugees this year, according to the LA Times. Biden justified the low numbers by saying that the entire system for vetting and accepting refugees had been dismantled by the Trump administration. The administration has now stated that it will raise those caps by May 15, but has not given additional specifics beyond a statement that the new caps would probably be lower than those Biden proposed while campaigning for the presidency and in initial proposals to Congress: 62,000 this year and 125,000 next year.

Meanwhile, legislation is before both houses of Congress that could make conditions for refugees outside the U.S. more secure. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Act, H.R.1158, would add a new paragraph to the 1994/1995 Foreign Relations Authorization Act calling for “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women, girls, and vulnerable populations.” The Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act, S.765, is intended to “improve United States consideration of, and strategic support for, programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence from the onset of humanitarian emergencies and to build the capacity of humanitarian actors to address the immediate and long-term challenges resulting from such violence.” S.765 would commit the U.S. to systematically fighting gender-based violence in emergencies through support of U.S. and international assistance organizations, training assistance workers in preventing gender-based violence, establishing standards for prevention of gender-based violence, and provision of services for both survivors of and those at risk of gender-based violence. H.R.1158 is with the House Foreign Affairs Committee; S.765 if with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. S-HP

If you want to act on these issues, tell President Biden that at a minimum we want to see refugee caps expanded to 62,000 for this year and 125,000 for next year as he had earlier proposed. You can also urge swift, positive action on H.R.1158 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and ask your representative and senators to co-sponsor. All addresses are here.

5. Poultry processing speeds endanger workers

Could you process 140 chickens per minute? What about 175? Because meat and poultry plant employees who have been designated as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic have been working dangerous jobs at close quarters throughout the pandemic, high levels of work-to-worker transmission of COVID-19 have resulted. In January, the Trump administration allowed 15 plants to increase their line speeds, and moved swiftly to make this provision permanent and more widespread, according to the Washington Post. Plants with faster line speeds–in the range of 175 birds per minute–have 10 times the rate of COVID 19, according to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, which points out that “nearly 90,000 workers have contracted the virus and 378 have died.”

The Biden administration rolled back the increase in line speeds, according to Safety and Health Magazine, and S.713, the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act, would suspend any line speed increases that have been instituted during the pandemic, Politico notes. It would also require an examination of whether actions by the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services have been effective in protecting animal, food, and worker safety. S.713 is currently with the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. It has twelve cosponsors. S-HP

To protect poultry and meat processing workers from COVID-19 and injuries from speed-up on the job, urge quick, positive action on S.713 by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, 731 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 225-4822. @stabenow. You can also check to see if your Senators are cosponsors of S.713 and praise or prod them as appropriate. Find your Senators here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

6. Biden negotiates with Guatemala and Honduras to use military force against asylum-seekers

People fleeing violence and starvation in Central America will find it harder to arrive at the U.S. border, under a deal that the Biden administration negotiated with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, according to the Guardian. Mexico has 10,000 troops already deployed, while Guatemala has set up 12 checkpoints along migrant routes and sent 1,500 troops to its border. Honduras sent 7,000 police and military officers to its border. However, “Security forces in all three countries have been frequently accused of using excessive violence against migrants, and targeting them for extortion and robbery,” the Guardian explained, pointing out that half the people traveling from Honduras and Guatemala are families with children. When they arrive at the US border, these families are being summarily deported to Mexico, where they face further violence and lack resources. See this New York Times story for a snapshot of what it means to families to be sent to Mexico after a desperate trek from Central America. In March, as we noted, Biden made aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador conditional on reducing corruption and enhancing human rights, according to Bloomberg, but it is not clear how those conditions are being monitored. RLS

The Access to Counsel Act, HR 1573, would give those who have made it to the border access to a relative and to legal advice. The bill has made it out of the House Judiciary Committee; if you would like to see it go forward, tell your representatives to support it when it comes to the full House. Find your representative here. 

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

7. COVID “catastrophe” in Ontario, chaotic provincial response

Seniors in long-term care homes in Canada previously have borne the brunt of the pandemic, with almost 70% of the deaths so far occurring among that group. However, an unexpectedly slow roll-out of the vaccines, an explosion of COVID variants and provincial mismanagement have led to a sudden escalation of cases among the general population in some provinces. In Ontario, the pandemic is at crisis level, with ICUs full and doctors exhausted. Dr. Kali Barrett, a member of the provincial health council, describes the situation as catastrophic, according to the CBC, with what she calls a “triage scenario” impending.

While the federal government has offered to send health workers and aid of various kinds to Ontario, the premier’s response to the problem has been contentious. In announcing a provincial shutdown, Doug Ford at first declared that playgrounds would be closed and police would randomly stop people to ascertain why they were not staying home. Given that outdoor transmission is the least of the problem and that random police stops tend to be imposed unequally on Black drivers, the resulting outcry led Ford to withdraw those policies. In fact, 30 Ontario police forces said that they would refuse to use those powers, the Toronto Star reported. Next, the Ford government announced plans to shut down the legislature, and then denied doing so, according to the CBC. NDP leader Andrea Horwath criticized Ford for imposing ineffectual policies but not offering paid sick leave to workers, so that people who had COVID could stay home; she said she would refuse to allow the legislature to cease work: “We are not prepared to help Doug Ford go home, leaving a police-state in place while he allows COVID-19 to run rampant, overrun hospitals, and steal the lives of Ontarians who would otherwise make it through this,” she told the CBC. RLS

RESOURCES

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site this week focuses on justice for Daunte Wright, pointing out that “Black people deserve to live and breath in a world where skittles, air fresheners, toys, cell phones or sleeping in your bed or opening your front door does not make you a criminal or someone whose life can be taken with no recourse or accountability.”

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. They will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections and how to fight systemic racism, among other issues.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

News You May Have Missed: April 18, 2021

“Moms Demand Action against gun violence” by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Amidst continuous gun violence, the Senate still resists gun legislation

Two grandmothers were among the Sikh victims of the shooter at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, according to the BBC. Also killed were two nineteen-year-olds; each of the eight victims is being mourned by a circle of family, friends and co-workers. The New York Times also has pictures and bios of those who were shot. As the Times points out, the white nineteen-year-old man who ended their lives and then killed himself was able to purchase two rifles even after having had a gun taken away from him when his mother raised concerns that he was planning a “suicide by cop”; somehow, he was not thought dangerous enough to be covered by Indiana’s “Red Flag” law.

Even before the ghastly shootings of the last month, the House passed a bill, HR 1446,  to require background checks for gun purchases, but it is widely expected to fail in the Senate, according to Vox. Still, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) said at the end of March, “Don’t count us out,” the Washington Post reported, but even Murphy acknowledged that the House bill would have to be modified; among the points that Senate Republicans–and even some Democrats–resist is the extension of time that potential gun purchasers have to wait for the background check to be completed. Now, if it is not complete in three days, the purchaser can acquire the gun by default. This is precisely the situation that enabled the person who shot nine Black people during a service at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, according to the Giffords Law Center.  The New York Times notes that the bankruptcy of the NRA may make it more possible for gun control legislation to be passed. RLS

If you want to let your senators know that their political future depends on them passing–not blocking–legislation requiring background checks in any context where guns are sold, you can find their contact information here.

2. Legislation would stop “ghost guns”

Over 40% of the guns seized by police in Los Angeles are “ghost guns”–unregistered firearms produced by 3D printers, according to the BBC. The Ghost Guns Are Guns Act, H.R.1454, does exactly what its title suggests: makes it clear that firearm assembly kits—that allow the assembly of a gun without any serial numbers—must be considered firearms. Biomed Central’s Injury Epidemiology lays out the current threat presented by ghost guns. An estimate by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives indicates that in just a single year, 2019, law enforcement confiscated more than 10,000 ghost guns. A GhostGunner3, a desk-top laser three-dimensional printer which can be purchased for just over $2000, can produce “nearly finished” firearms frames at a rate of almost two a minute. These near-complete firearms are currently not regulated as firearms. The rise in armed extremist groups in the U.S. increases the already deadly possibilities offered by ghost guns. The Biden administration is exploring executive actions to deal with ghost guns, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. H.R.1454 currently has 88 cosponsors and is with the House Judiciary Committee. S-HP

If you would like to see swift, positive action on H.R.1454 by the House Judiciary Committee, write, call or tweet Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. You can also check to see if your representative is a cosponsor of H.R.1454 and praise or prod as appropriate. Find your representative here. 

3. Police misconduct is costly–and untracked

As we await a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin and continue to see Black Americans killed by law enforcement, we can urge Congressional action that recognizes this deadly disparity in treatment of Americans. Even beyond equity and justice, huge sums are paid out of government bonds and tax revenues to compensate victims of police violence and corruption–when false confessions are coerced, for example, according to the Washington Post. The Cost of Police Misconduct Act, H.R.1481, would require that all federal law enforcement agencies report cases of alleged misconduct to the Department of Justice, and that rulings on those cases of alleged misconduct be made publicly available. A database would also include information on any settlements resulting from federal law enforcement misconduct. Failure to comply with the requirements of H.R.1481 could result in cuts to grants to law enforcement agencies. This legislation is currently with the House Judiciary Committee. It has no cosponsors.

  H.R.1470, the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, would address changes in the interpretation of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the filing of lawsuits as a result of denial of federal and constitutional rights by state or local officials. A 1967 Supreme Court ruling on the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act granted qualified immunity to those violating rights if they were acting under “good faith.” Initially the ruling applied only to actions by law enforcement, but later rulings expanded qualified immunity to include a wide range of government officials. The opening to H.R.1470 goes on to explain that “This doctrine of qualified immunity has severely limited the ability of many plaintiffs to recover damages… when their rights have been violated by state and local officials. As a result, the intent of Congress in passing the law has been frustrated, and Americans’ rights secured by the Constitution have not been appropriately protected.” H.R.1470 would eliminate the use of qualified immunity by holding accused violators to a standard of being held liable for actions that violate federal and/or constitutional rights. H.R.1470  is currently with the House Judiciary Committee. It has thirty-nine cosponsors. S-HP

If you would like to see these bills go forward, urge swift, positive action on H.R.1481 and H.R.1470 by the House Judiciary Committee. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. You can also check to see if your Representative is a cosponsor of H.R.1470 and praise or prod them as appropriate; you might urge them to become a cosponsor of H.R.1481 as well. Find your Representative here.

4. Raising refugee caps, protecting women and girls against violence

After a public outcry over its announced intention to maintain the record low Trump administration refugee caps, the Biden administration is backpedaling from its initial announcement that the U.S. would take in only 15,000 refugees this year, according to the LA Times. Biden justified the low numbers by saying that the entire system for vetting and accepting refugees had been dismantled by the Trump administration. The administration has now stated that it will raise those caps by May 15, but has not given additional specifics beyond a statement that the new caps would probably be lower than those Biden proposed while campaigning for the presidency and in initial proposals to Congress: 62,000 this year and 125,000 next year.

Meanwhile, legislation is before both houses of Congress that could make conditions for refugees outside the U.S. more secure. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Act, H.R.1158, would add a new paragraph to the 1994/1995 Foreign Relations Authorization Act calling for “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women, girls, and vulnerable populations.” The Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act, S.765, is intended to “improve United States consideration of, and strategic support for, programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence from the onset of humanitarian emergencies and to build the capacity of humanitarian actors to address the immediate and long-term challenges resulting from such violence.” S.765 would commit the U.S. to systematically fighting gender-based violence in emergencies through support of U.S. and international assistance organizations, training assistance workers in preventing gender-based violence, establishing standards for prevention of gender-based violence, and provision of services for both survivors of and those at risk of gender-based violence. H.R.1158 is with the House Foreign Affairs Committee; S.765 if with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. S-HP

If you want to act on these issues, tell President Biden that at a minimum we want to see refugee caps expanded to 62,000 for this year and 125,000 for next year as he had earlier proposed. You can also urge swift, positive action on H.R.1158 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and ask your representative and senators to co-sponsor. All addresses are here.

5. Poultry processing speeds endanger workers

Could you process 140 chickens per minute? What about 175? Because meat and poultry plant employees who have been designated as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic have been working dangerous jobs at close quarters throughout the pandemic, high levels of work-to-worker transmission of COVID-19 have resulted. In January, the Trump administration allowed 15 plants to increase their line speeds, and moved swiftly to make this provision permanent and more widespread, according to the Washington Post. Plants with faster line speeds–in the range of 175 birds per minute–have 10 times the rate of COVID 19, according to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, which points out that “nearly 90,000 workers have contracted the virus and 378 have died.”

The Biden administration rolled back the increase in line speeds, according to Safety and Health Magazine, and S.713, the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act, would suspend any line speed increases that have been instituted during the pandemic, Politico notes. It would also require an examination of whether actions by the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services have been effective in protecting animal, food, and worker safety. S.713 is currently with the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. It has twelve cosponsors. S-HP

To protect poultry and meat processing workers from COVID-19 and injuries from speed-up on the job, urge quick, positive action on S.713 by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, 731 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 225-4822. @stabenow. You can also check to see if your Senators are cosponsors of S.713 and praise or prod them as appropriate. Find your Senators here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

6. Biden negotiates with Guatemala and Honduras to use military force against asylum-seekers

People fleeing violence and starvation in Central America will find it harder to arrive at the U.S. border, under a deal that the Biden administration negotiated with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, according to the Guardian. Mexico has 10,000 troops already deployed, while Guatemala has set up 12 checkpoints along migrant routes and sent 1,500 troops to its border. Honduras sent 7,000 police and military officers to its border. However, “Security forces in all three countries have been frequently accused of using excessive violence against migrants, and targeting them for extortion and robbery,” the Guardian explained, pointing out that half the people traveling from Honduras and Guatemala are families with children. When they arrive at the US border, these families are being summarily deported to Mexico, where they face further violence and lack resources. See this New York Times story for a snapshot of what it means to families to be sent to Mexico after a desperate trek from Central America. In March, as we noted, Biden made aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador conditional on reducing corruption and enhancing human rights, according to Bloomberg, but it is not clear how those conditions are being monitored. RLS

The Access to Counsel Act, HR 1573, would give those who have made it to the border access to a relative and to legal advice. The bill has made it out of the House Judiciary Committee; if you would like to see it go forward, tell your representatives to support it when it comes to the full House. Find your representative here. 

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

7. COVID “catastrophe” in Ontario, chaotic provincial response

Seniors in long-term care homes in Canada previously have borne the brunt of the pandemic, with almost 70% of the deaths so far occurring among that group. However, an unexpectedly slow roll-out of the vaccines, an explosion of COVID variants and provincial mismanagement have led to a sudden escalation of cases among the general population in some provinces. In Ontario, the pandemic is at crisis level, with ICUs full and doctors exhausted. Dr. Kali Barrett, a member of the provincial health council, describes the situation as catastrophic, according to the CBC, with what she calls a “triage scenario” impending.

While the federal government has offered to send health workers and aid of various kinds to Ontario, the premier’s response to the problem has been contentious. In announcing a provincial shutdown, Doug Ford at first declared that playgrounds would be closed and police would randomly stop people to ascertain why they were not staying home. Given that outdoor transmission is the least of the problem and that random police stops tend to be imposed unequally on Black drivers, the resulting outcry led Ford to withdraw those policies. In fact, 30 Ontario police forces said that they would refuse to use those powers, the Toronto Star reported. Next, the Ford government announced plans to shut down the legislature, and then denied doing so, according to the CBC. NDP leader Andrea Horwath criticized Ford for imposing ineffectual policies but not offering paid sick leave to workers, so that people who had COVID could stay home; she said she would refuse to allow the legislature to cease work: “We are not prepared to help Doug Ford go home, leaving a police-state in place while he allows COVID-19 to run rampant, overrun hospitals, and steal the lives of Ontarians who would otherwise make it through this,” she told the CBC. RLS

RESOURCES

trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site this week focuses on justice for Daunte Wright, pointing out that “Black people deserve to live and breath in a world where skittles, air fresheners, toys, cell phones or sleeping in your bed or opening your front door does not make you a criminal or someone whose life can be taken with no recourse or accountability.”

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. They will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections and how to fight systemic racism, among other issues.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

News You May Have Missed: April 11, 2021

“‘I Can’t Breathe'” by sniggie is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

IDOMESTIC NEWS

1.. Keep people breathing: Banning chokeholds and carotid restraints

As we watch the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, appalled by the level of brutality involved in the killing, Congress has an opportunity to take some actions that would begin to address the use of deadly and excessive force by law enforcement. The Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Act H.R.1347 would ban the use of choke holds or other moves that apply pressure to the throat or windpipe, restrict blood oxygen flow to the brain, or carotid restraints that interfere with breathing—exactly the kind of excessive force that led to the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd. H.R.1347 is currently with the House Judiciary Committee and has 79 cosponsors, all of them Democrats.

 Presently, there is no national database of the use of deadly force by law enforcement, but H.R.1336, the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, would create one by requiring the Attorney General to issue rules regarding the collection and compilation of this data. This data would include race or ethnicity, gender, age, perceived or actual religious affiliations of both persons who are the target of deadly force and the law enforcement officers who use deadly force. These rules would also require written explanations for the use of deadly force, the deadly force guidelines under which any officer using deadly force was operating, and a description of all non-lethal efforts made to subdue an individual before the use of deadly force. States or localities that fail to comply with the rules for reporting use of deadly force data will have the Justice Department grants they receive reduced. H.R.1336 is with the House Judiciary Committee; it currently has no cosponsors. S-HP

If you want to make sure those suspected of a crime will survive to their trials and to make sure instances of deadly force are tracked, urge swift, positive action on H.R.1347 and H.R.1336 by the House Judiciary Committee: Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler.

You can also check whether your representative is a cosponsor of H.R.1347 and thank or nudge accordingly; you could also urge your Representative to become a cosponsor of H.R.1336: Find your representative here.

2. Child deported, kidnapped, released without his mother

If you want to grasp one element of the situation of children at the border, watch the video of ten-year-old Wilton Obregón explaining through sobs why he is walking alone through the desert. In March, Wilton and his mother Meylin left Nicaragua to apply for asylum in the U.S. Under Title 42, the Trump-era CDC rule requiring the deportation of asylum-seekers without due process on the pretext that they are a risk for COVID, they were immediately deported to Mexico, where both of them were kidnapped and held for ransom. Family members couldn’t gather the $10,000 ransom the kidnappers asked for, but did put together $5,000. So Wilton was released—on his own in a desert region of Texas. As of this writing (4/10) Wilton’s mother was still being held by the kidnappers.

Despite the fact that Title 42 disregards the U.S.’s Constitutional duty to provide asylum to those seeking refuge in our country, the Biden administration continues to use the rule to send vulnerable families to await hearings in dangerous border towns. S-HP

The most important thing you could do for families seeking asylum is to insist on an end to Rule 42. When you write, tweet or call, note that controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. does not require putting the lives of asylum-seekers at risk. Contact information is here. You can also sign the petition being circulated by Every.Last.One and support their work.

3. Pathways to citizenship

As we noted last week, the migrant “surge” along the U.S.’s southern border is the result of a number of factors: U.S. support for violent regimes in Central America, and a U.S. focus on military, rather than humanitarian aid; the increasing power of Central American gangs, whose growth reflects the increasing economic desperation of Central Americans; and changing and violent weather as a result of global climate change. Any humane, effective immigration policy in the U.S. will have to acknowledge and respond to these challenges in Central America—challenges for which the U.S. should take a significant part of the blame. H.R.1117, the U.S. Citizenship Act, attempts this sort of broad-based response by providing an earned pathway to U.S. citizenship; addressing the root causes of migration, responsibly managing the southern border, and reforming the immigrant visa system. This legislation includes:

◉ Protections for “Dreamers,” young, non-citizen Americans who were brought to the U.S. in infancy or childhood;

◉ A pathway to permanent resident status for those in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status, a status that can result from the devastation wrought by extreme weather;

◉ A lawful permanent resident status for agricultural workers and their families;

◉ Adjustments to immigration-related judicial procedures and elimination of immigration court backlogs

◉ A renewed commitment to aid for Central American nations that focuses on economic development, working around corrupt systems within Central American nations, and strengthening democracy in the region;

◉ Improved status for permanent partners, fiancés, spouses, and children of permanent residents:

◉ Elimination of visa backlogs.

Not surprisingly, given its scope, H.R.1117 is currently with multiple House committees: Judiciary; Ways and Means; Armed Services; Education and Labor; House Administration; Financial Services; Natural Resources; Oversight and Reform; Foreign Affairs; Homeland Security; Intelligence; and Energy and Commerce. The Central Coast’s Jimmy Panetta is a cosponsor of this legislation. S-HP

If you would like to urge these committee members to act on H.R. 1117 and provide pathways to citizenship, the addresses are here.

4. Hondurans temporarily protected by TPS

Under the Trump administration, on January 4 people from Honduras were scheduled to lose their Temporary Protected Status, which protects from deportation and allows them to work legally in the U.S., Vice reported in December. Under the Biden administration, their eligibility has been extended through October of 2021, while the hope is that that American Dream and Promise Act, which has already passed the House, and/or HR 1117, would enable them to regularize their status.

The Honduran Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act, S.388, attempts to address some of the same problems addressed by H.R.1117, but with a more limited focus. S.388 is intended to enable Hondurans to stay safely at home by addressing the conditions that lead them to flee. It would “suspend certain United States assistance for the Government of Honduras until corruption, impunity, and human rights violations are no longer systemic, and the perpetrators of these crimes are being brought to justice.” In addition to addressing corruption and governmental violence, S.388 would set up a partnership with the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights to document and respond to human rights violations in Honduras. This legislation is currently with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. S-HP

If you would like to help Hondurans stay home, you can urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move S. 388 forward. Call, write or tweet Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 423 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-4651. @SenatorMenendez.

5. Public housing repairs at last in sight

The Trump administration had wanted to eliminate the fund that pays for repairs of public housing in the United States, according to a 2019 NPR story. Families in public housing all over the country deal with black mold, overflowing sewers, electrical systems not up to code, and more; a series the Houston Chronicle ran in March detailed the long struggle of tenants to challenge their living conditions. Now, some legislation is in progress that would at last address these problems.

As the proposed legislation itself points out, as of October, 2019, the U.S. public housing repairs backlog was at $70 billion. These repairs would address problems like leaks and poor ventilation, which can lead to respiratory conditions, and lead paint, which harms the development of infants and children. The COVID-19 pandemic affects communities differentially, with communities with inadequate housing suffering higher illness and mortality rates than those with adequate housing. In response to these issues, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has introduced S.598, the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, which would earmark $70 billion for upgrading public housing in the U.S. S.598 is currently with the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. S-HP

If you want to see these long-overdue repairs funded and finished, you could urge swift, positive action on S.598 by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, 534 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-7391. @SenSherrodBrown.

6. Restoring the right to vote

69% of Americans agree that those convicted of felonies should regain their right to vote once they’ve completed their sentences; yet, in the majority of states, a felony conviction means permanently losing the right to vote. The Democracy Restoration Act, S.481 (DRA), would establish a nation-wide right to vote regardless of conviction, with a provision pausing that right for convicted felons while they serve their sentences and restoring it upon completion of sentences. S.481 has been endorsed by many civil rights and criminal justice reform organizations. As Myrna Perez, Director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and elections programs explains, “The DRA is a critically important piece of civil rights legislation. The DRA makes our country more just, our democracy more inclusive, and our elections more participatory. The DRA makes space in the public square for second chances, for forgiveness, for redemption, and for love.” The Democracy Restoration Act is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee. S.481 currently has 23 cosponsors; the Senators from California are not among them. S-HP

If you’d like to see the right to vote restored for those convicted of felonies who have served their sentences, encourage swift, positive action on the Restoration of Democracy Act by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee, 224 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-7703. @DickDurbin. If your senator is not a co-sponsor, encourage them to sign on. Find their contact information here.

7. First responders to mental health crises

One of the goals of the Defund the Police movement—which isn’t about ending all police funding, but is about having other, better-qualified professionals take on duties currently assigned to police—is to have mental health professionals, rather than law enforcement officers, dispatched as first responders in emergencies involving one or more persons with a mental illness or an intellectual or developmental disability. The Mental Health Justice Act, H.R.1368, introduced by Representative Katie Porter, would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, along with the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, to set up a program to fund training and employment of mental health first responders and to study the impact of such programs. We’ve repeatedly seen the deadly consequences of asking law enforcement to respond to situations involving those with mental illness or intellectual or developmental disabilities. H.R.1386 would give us a chance to see what safer, better alternatives are available. H.R.1386 is currently with two House Committees: Judiciary and Energy and Commerce; it has 78 cosponsors. S-HP

To make sure appropriate people show up in a mental health emergency, you can urge swift, positive action on H.R.1386 by the appropriate House committees. You might also thank Katie Porter for introducing this legislation. Addresses are here. You could also check whether your representative is a cosponsor and thank or nudge accordingly.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. Children, poets, journalists killed by Myanmar military

Aye Myat Thu, an eleven-year-old in Myanmar, was shot while her father was handing her a piece of coconut on his own land,. She was buried on March 28 with her drawing of Hello Kitty. You can read more about her in this Times story.

She was one of 700 civilians who have been killed since the coup in Myanmar, according to NPR, 100 of them in the week of March 29. Seven of them were children under 16, the Washington Post reports. Thirty-five children have been killed in the last two months, according to UNICEF.

The military junta has tried to keep information about its atrocities out of view. Journalists were told by the Myanmar Ministry of Information to stop referring to the “State Administration Council” as a junta, according to Myanmar Now. Security forces began arresting and imprisoning journalists, and shutting down the country’s independent press, until no newspapers remained. At least 30 journalists face lengthy prison sentences, Columbia Journalism Review reports. Citizen journalists are trying to fill in; as one told CJR,“I know I might get killed at some point for taking a video record of what is happening. But I won’t step back.” 

Nine poets have also been arrested by security forces, and two have been killed, Vice reports. On April 1, the military government shut down the internet, according to the Post. RLS

If you are appalled by the deaths of civilians and by the threats to free information and to democracy in Myanmar, you can urge swift, positive action on H.R.1112 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You can also insist to Congress and the Administration that we want them to keep finding and acting on ways to support democracy in Myanmar. Addresses are here. You can also donate if you’re able to Myanmar Now so that it can continue to publish outside the country.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

9. Perma-pandemic

Many of us are quite desperate to have the pandemic restrictions and fears ease, to return to a world which–with all its profound flaws–permitted smiles and hugs outside the household, in-person work and school, more economic options, cross-generational visits, and a brief break from contemplating death or disability.

However, according to an article in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), “the public and health systems need to plan for the possibility that COVID-19 will persist and become a recurrent seasonal disease.” Partly because “herd immunity” is unlikely (since a quarter of people in the US are likely to refuse vaccination) and partly because of the variants, the virus is not about to go down in defeat.  Indeed, Canada–where the vaccination roll-out is far behind the US–is in the middle of a third wave of cases driven primarily by the UK variant, the CBC reports. ICUs are full and Ontario is under a stay-at-home order.

In addition, mainly wealthy countries have received the vaccine, as the United Nations points out; 75% of all vaccines have been delivered by just 10 countries. “130 countries have not received a single dose,” the secretary-general of the UN said:  “If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the global South, it will mutate again and again,” he warned. As Bloomberg points out, the virus could mutate to become less virulent but more contagious, or just as contagious but less severe. RLS

10. And the next virus is…

Meanwhile, an article to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on April 13 makes it clear that variants of COVID-19 are not the only challenge ahead. The authors have developed a risk-assessment tool that can evaluate viruses originating from animals in terms of how likely they are to move to human populations–in scientific terms, their  “zoonotic spillover and spread potential.” Originally developed at the University of California Davis, the tool–called SpillOver–”can help advance our understanding of viral health threats and enable us to act to reduce the risk of spillover before pandemics can catch fire,” as one of the authors–Jonna Mazet, a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine–told EurekaAlert, which is put out by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. High on the list of viruses to worry about is a new coronavirus, provisionally named PREDICT_CoV-35. 

The theory is, of course, that if we are forewarned, we are forearmed. However, in September 2019, science writer Laurie Garret alerted the world about a United Nations report, “A World At Risk,” compiled by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, which raised an alarm about the likelihood of “a rapidly spreading, lethal respiratory pathogen pandemic.” The World Health Organization launched many initiatives in response, but noted that various countries’ research and health care infrastructure was not nearly prepared to deal with it.  RLS

RESOURCES

A trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.

The Moms Rising site is packed with information about how to access benefits from the American Rescue Plan, quick actions you can take to address COVID relief and to encourage Congress to pass tax cuts for families, not corporations–and more.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

News You May Have Missed: April 4, 2021

“Easter Egg Tree” by cobalt123 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As the holidays celebrating liberation and resurrection come to a close, we note that both Passover and Easter are steeped in the symbolism–and the substance–of food. Yet access to food is becoming increasingly unstable, driving refugees to the border and Americans to food banks. A sweeping policy initiative will help feed Americans; elsewhere, putting food at the center will address a myriad of other concerns. Preserving people’s access to food quite literally preserves the future

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. At the border: refugees from the climate crisis, failed US policies, hunger

Severe malnutrition is one reason children and their families arrive at the US border. In Guatemala in particular, there are over three times as many documented cases of acute malnutrition among children in 2020 compared to 2019, according to a report from the Guatemalan government. Seventy percent of Indigenous children in Guatemala have chronic malnutrition. The reasons have to do with failed harvests, a consequence of climate change, according to the Washington Post; a series of (un)natural disasters and an inadequate national infrastructure are also responsible. The Post quotes 12-year-old Oscar, who told an Agence France-Presse videographer, “I came because we didn’t have anything to eat.”

In an interview Salvadoran journalist Roberto Lovato gave to Democracy Now, he explained that the economic crises and violence that children and their families are fleeing in Latin America were caused by decades of catastrophic economic policies and by disastrous military interventions by the very country they are fleeing to, As he puts it, “the border is the ultimate machete of memory. It cuts up our memory so that we forget 30 years of genocide, mass murder, U.S.-sponsored militarism and policing, failed economic policies, neoliberal policies backed by the IMF, the World Bank…The new animal and the new beast in the room is climate change.”

Thinking of the problem of people arriving at the US border as one that the US created–by being an instigator of climate change and a driver of political violence–shapes our responsibility to those people. Kamala Harris could begin addressing the enormous numbers of people attempting to cross the border by providing food assistance to the countries hardest hit by Hurricanes Eta and Lota, which displaced 590,000 people in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, the Hill suggests. RLS

The International Rescue Committee has an explainer detailing the many issues that bring people to the border and the policies that–for better and for worse–are being applied to them. You can use the form on their page to write to your member of Congress.

2. New bill would protect kids in immigrant detention

We’ve spent the last four years hearing horror stories about five-year-old children representing themselves in immigration court. And, even with the change in administration, we are a long way from providing effective care for children in immigration. Pramila Jayapala’s (D-WA) PROKID Act—short for Protection of Kids in Immigration Detention Act (H.R.1238)—would create an office of the Ombudsperson for Immigrant Children in Government Custody charged with preventing family separation; honoring the Flores Agreement, which limits the time children can be held in immigration detention; establishing and maintaining safe, nurturing environments when children are in immigration custody; prioritizing release to and with family members; and advocating for immigrant children. This office would function separately from the Office of Health and Human Services and the Office of Homeland Security, although the ombudsperson would report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Currently the PROKID Act is with the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees. This legislation has only two cosponsors in addition to Representative Jayapala: Delegate [in other words, non-voting House member] Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Delegate Michael F. San Nicolas (D-GU). S-HP

If you think this would be a viable way to help protect children, you can urge swift, positive action on the PROKID Act by the appropriate committees. You can also ask your Representative to become a cosponsor of the PROKID Act if they aren’t already and tell them you want to see them actively support this legislation when it makes it to the House floor. Addresses are here.

In addition, RAICES represents children arriving at the border in Texas. You can support their work here.

3. Biden addressing hunger in America

Before the pandemic, one in ten families in the U.S. did not have enough food. In 2020, that number rose to one in four, according to NPR. (A recent study from Northwestern University explains how food insecurity and food insufficiency are calculated.) More than a million more people would have become food-insecure if a federal court had not allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop a Trump policy which would have imposed impossible work requirements–at a time when jobs were disappearing, businesses were closing, parents had no access to childcare, and 31,420,331 people had COVID-19–on families applying for food aid, Truthout reports. A new Biden initiative will increase funds for food stamps to a billion dollars a month, according to the New York Times, provide more fruits and vegetables to pregnant women and children, and vastly expand summer food programs for children. The long-run difference for Americans will be profound: as the WHO points out, malnutrition in children has severe consequences for brain development and for health, with concomitant behavioral difficulties and loss of earning potential. RLS

Biden is already receiving pushback from critics of these programs, who say that these kinds of programs “increased single parenthood and reduced marriage.” If you believe otherwise, you might send a message of support to @POTUS.

4. Who supports the right to vote in Georgia?

Some corporations have begun to speak out against the recently passed voter suppression measures in Georgia, including Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines. In a memo to company employees, the CEO of Delta wrote: “Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting reform act that could make it harder for many Georgians, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities, to exercise their right to vote…. The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.” Coca-Cola’s CEO stated in an interview, “Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal. This legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backward and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity.”

 After Delta’s opposition to the Georgia legislation became public, the Georgia House voted to strip Delta of millions of dollars in tax breaks—a move that will not take effect because the House vote came at the end of the Georgia’s legislative session and could not be taken up by the Georgia Senate. The quick attempt to penalize Delta makes it clear that Georgia is committed to these new voter suppression tactics. If you would like a close-up look at what the Georgia legislation would do, the New York Times has an analysis. Three voting rights groups have sued Georgia over the bill.

The Major League Baseball Association has taken the most dramatic action in response, pulling the All-Star game from Georgia. More corporations need to be speaking out against Georgia voter suppression—and voter suppression efforts across the nation—in the way Coco-Cola, Delta, and MLB have. And corporations, including these three, can go further by refusing to offer financial support to any politicians attempting to make voting more difficult. S-HP

You can thank Major League Baseball for its quick response to Georgia’s voter suppression legislation: Major League Baseball, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, (866) 800-1275. @MLB. You can also thank Coco-Cola and Delta for speaking out against voter suppression and urge them to follow their statements with action by refusing to fund politicians supporting voter suppression legislation. You can also urge other Georgia-based corporations to speak out against voter suppression, not just with words, but with actions that directly affect politicians willing to suppress voting rights. Addresses are here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

5. Biden declares Uyghur Muslims to be victims of genocide

The Biden administration has acknowledged human rights abuses against China’s Uyghur Muslims, declaring China’s actions genocide in an annual human rights report, according the Washington Post. In presenting the report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also cited human rights abuses in Russia, Uganda, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Belarus. The report refers to “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians; forced sterilization, coerced abortions, and more restrictive application of China’s birth control policies; rape; torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained; forced labor; and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.”

Naming human rights abuses is a minimum response to the Uyghurs’ plight. Legislation in the House would add concrete actions to the administration’s statement. A currently unnamed and unnumbered bill (language can be found here) is identical to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, H.R.6210, passed by the House, but not voted on by the Senate, in last year’s session of Congress. A summary from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) highlights five of the bill’s provisions:

– A prohibition on “all imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China unless the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection can certify that the goods being imported to the U.S. are not produced, either wholly or in part, with forced labor”;

– Authorization for President Biden to “apply targeted sanctions on anyone responsible for the labor trafficking of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities”;

– A requirement of “financial disclosures from U.S. publicly traded businesses about their engagement with Chinese companies and other entities engaged in mass surveillance, mass internment, forced labor and other serious human rights abuses in the XUAR”;

– Directions to the Secretary of State to “make a determination whether the practice of forced labor or other human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the XUAR constitute crimes against humanity or genocide”;

– Directions for the Secretary to “develop a diplomatic strategy to address forced labor in the XUAR.”

If you want to engage with this issue, you could insist to the Secretary of State that you want to see a response involving actions, as well as words, to the violation of Uyghur rights: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State, Department of State, 2201 C St. NW, Washington DC 20520, (202) 647-4000. @SecBlinken. You could also urge your Congressmembers to support the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Find your Senators here and your representatives here–or you can use CAIR’s online form.

6. Famine in Yemen

More than half the population in Yemen is living in “crisis” or “emergency” food conditions, with 16,500 in a “catastrophic” situation–that is, in imminent danger of starvation, CNN reports. Food aid trucks are lined up outside the border, but lack fuel to enter the country, due to a fuel blockade imposed by the Saudi government. The Saudis blame the rebel Houthis for the situation. Over three years ago, CNN points out, UN Security Council criminalized “intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare,” and demanded that “access to supplies that are necessary for food preparation, including water and fuel” be maintained in Yemen.

Medical supplies, too, cannot be transported, according to the WHO, which told CNN that “From March 2021, WHO will have to stop distributing fuel to 206 facilities across the country, over 60 percent are hospitals providing services not available at the already fragile primary level. This will lead to the stoppage of life-saving services, such as emergency rooms and intensive care units, including COVID-19 ICUs.”

The Biden administration is apparently developing a new strategy for Yemen, having withdrawn military support for Saudi Arabia in its offensive; however, the Houthi rebels have since intensified their air strikes, according to the Washington Post. Foreign Policy in Focus has a series of articles detailing the conflict and the American role in it. RLS

Doctors without Borders announced on March 25 that there has been a drastic increase in the numbers of COVID-19 patients. The organization continues to provide care to patients in Yemen, although its hospitals have been bombed. In part because international donors have withdrawn, Doctors without Borders says that medical care and humanitarian aid are collapsing in Yemen, and is asking for funds to save lives. Avaaz is asking for funds to feed the children at risk of starvation in Yemen.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT7.

7. Keeping Black moms alive, supporting all pregnant workers

In March, the number of Black women looking to give birth outside of a hospital setting rose, the New York Times reported. Why? The Times offers two primary reasons: racial inequities in health care and COVID-19—also related to racial inequities in health care. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal mortality among industrialized nations, largely as a result of racial inequities that permeate our medical system. Black women are four times more likely to die giving birth than white women. In New Jersey Black women giving birth face a risk of mortality seven times greater than that faced by white women.

  The Black Maternal Momnibus Act (H.R.959 in the House, S.346 in the Senate) addresses a number of those disparities. Among the provisions of the House version of this ambitious piece of legislation are a housing for moms grant program; investments in community-based organizations addressing Black maternal outcomes and mental health; prenatal and postpartum childcare; support for veterans giving birth; grants to grow and diversify the perinatal workforce; protections for incarcerated moms; funding for data collection, analysis and studies to determine causes and solutions to the race-based differences in maternal outcomes. In the House, this legislation is with a number of committees and subcommittees: Energy and Commerce; Financial Services; Transportation and Infrastructure; Education and Labor; Judiciary; Natural Resources; Agriculture (and its Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Departmental Regulations); and Veterans’ Affairs (and its subcommittee on Health Actions). The provisions of the Senate legislation are essentially similar, though differently organized in places. The Senate version is with the Help, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

  The House is also considering Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, H.R.1065, which is currently with Education and Labor, Oversight and Reform, Judiciary, and House Administration committees. The official House summary explains that this bill “prohibits employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable accommodations for qualified employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. A qualified employee is an employee or applicant who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position, with specified exceptions.” S-HP

If you want to support Black moms and pregnant workers, tell your Congressmembers that we need immediate action on Black maternal health and ask them to cosponsor the legislation in their house of Congress. Urge quick, positive action on both H.R.959 and H.R.1065 by the appropriate House Committees. All addresses are here.

8. Potential catastrophe in Florida years in the making

400 million gallons of polluted, radioactive water from a former phosphate plant are poised to flood Tampa Bay. As of Saturday night, evacuation orders for 300 households had been ordered and a state of emergency declared, according to the Bradenton Herald. Under an emergency order, 22,000 gallons of the contaminated water a minute are being released into Tampa Bay, in order to prevent a complete collapse of the storage site. While the focus has been on keeping neighborhoods from being flooded, the nutrients in the water–phosphorous and nitrogen left over from mining–will lead to a red tide that will kill fish or make them too dangerous to eat.

The problem began in 1966, when the Borden Chemical company began mining in the area for phosphate to use as fertilizer, according to the Miami Herald.. Subsequent owners of the property simply added to the mix of toxic waste; the company that bought it in 2006 was supposed to clean it up but did not. Meanwhile, families are being housed in motels and are anxiously waiting to see whether their homes survive the next few days or whether they will be filled with twenty feet of water laden with heavy metals and radioactive particles. RLS

RESOURCES

On April 4, Heather Cox Richardson meditated on the response of corporate America to voter suppression, and the panic in the Republican party over what Americans appear to want. See her nightly letters for historical context on contemporary events.

The Americans of Conscience checklist this week suggests that you take just 10 minutes this week and do three things to protect the midterm elections.