Chrysostom’s elections round-up this week has comprehensive results and analyses of congressional, state and local races.
1. Trump: LGBTQ+ people can now be discriminated against in health care settings. Supreme Court: not so fast
Showing its usual impeccable sense of timing, the Trump administration on June 12—the anniversary of the murder of forty-nine LGBTQ+ people in the Pulse Nightclub shooting—announced that it was changing the understanding of healthcare-related prohibitions on gender-based discrimination. Under the Obama administration, “sex” was defined as “male, female, neither, or a combination of both,” and the Affordable Healthcare Act’s prohibitions on such discrimination were understood to include prohibitions on discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Department of Health and Human Services will now limit the interpretation of prohibitions on gender-based discrimination to the “meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”
Religious healthcare providers have been anticipating this move, which will limit their obligations to patients who are transgendered or nonbinary and to women who have had or are seeking abortion or sterilization. Making this change in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic will further marginalize many individuals who already have difficulty finding supportive healthcare and may prevent some from seeking any kind of medical care, NPR points out. The Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal have both announced that they will be filing a lawsuit with the goal of overturning this redefinition of gender-based discrimination. Lambda Legal invites LGBTQ+ people who have been discriminated against in health care to contact them. S-HP
In breaking news, the Supreme Court has found that discrimination on the basis of sex includes gay and transgender workers, under the provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Washington Post reports. News You May Have Missed does not know how this will affect the Trump administration’s law around health care, but we notice that they did not wait for the court decision before promulgating their rules.
You may want to write your members of Congress about this dangerous move that puts LGBTQ+ health at risk—particularly during this time of pandemic.
2. Legislative response in support of Black Lives Matter
The most substantive national legislative response thus far to the murder of George Floyd and in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement is H.R.7120, the Justice in Policing Act. This legislation–which has received almost no national news coverage, except on public radio–includes a number of provisions intended to increase police accountability, improve transparency and data collection, and eliminate discriminatory policing practices, NPR reports. Specific requirements of H.R.7120 include:
- a lower threshold to convict law enforcement officers of misconduct in federal court cases;
- limits on the use of a qualified immunity defense in civil actions against law enforcement and corrections officers;
- subpoena power to accompany Department of Justice investigations of discriminatory practices by police forces;
- a national police misconduct registry;
- implicit bias and racial profiling training;
- use-of-force incident reporting;
- use of police body cameras.
H.R.7120 is currently with three House committees: Judiciary, Armed Services, and Energy and Commerce. You can write the chairs of those committees.
3. Data on inequality reveal structural racism
CNN connects some dots in their article on inequality, with their charts on the disparity between American black and white people in income, employment, health care, health insurance and coronavirus diagnoses. Black people account for 23% of the coronavirus deaths, though they are only 13% of the population, attributable to higher risk factors due to conditions of poverty and differential access to health care. The New York Times, too, has a clear discussion of factors contributing to inequality: Graduation rates are lower among black students and student debt is higher. The gap in home ownership between black and white people is the highest it has been in 50 years. And unsurprisingly, black workers have been able to set aside less money for retirement than white workers. RLS
4. New asylum regulations would keep out almost all applicants
“Gender-based violence, gang threats and torture at the hands of “rogue” government officials” will no longer be grounds for asylum under new asylum regulations proposed by the Trump administration, CBS News reports. In addition, according to CBS, judges would be encouraged to deny asylum to anyone who “crossed or attempted to cross the border illegally, did not file taxes, worked without authorization or used fraudulent travel documents.” In addition, new court procedures and new definitions of eligibility would keep out most applicants for asylum. Among other changes, judges would be able to decide without a court hearing whether the evidence is too weak to proceed, according to Al Jazeera. As Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, told Al Jazeera, “The proposed changes would represent the end of the asylum system as we know it.” RLS
These proposals were just published in the Federal Register; the public has 30 days to comment.
5. Immigration updates
With so much going on inside U.S. borders, it is easy to miss what might be happening on the border. In a bit of good news, a federal judge has blocked ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants in and around courthouses, on the grounds that removing victims, witnesses, or defendants from court procedures makes it harder to prosecute crimes and impedes the process of justice, CNN reported.
In less hopeful news, Customs and Border Protection spent money allocated for medical care, food and supplies for immigrants in detention on “dirt bikes, dog food and leashes, boats and other unrelated items,” according to the LA Times. The Government Accountability Office report that called these expenditures in question found it necessary to define medical care and “consumables” to show that CBP had spent funds improperly.
The ACLU, along with the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Oxfam, have filed suit against the Trump administration for its ruthless removal of children arriving at the border fleeing unimaginable danger. The absence of due process is not academic, said Karla M. Vargas, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “In our name, the government used a dog to chase a girl into the river and never even bothered to check if she had a mother. Then sent her back to a country where she fears being killed. The administration’s racist agenda to end asylum for refugees means dismantling basic protections for the most vulnerable children in the world.” RLS
6. Education Department illegally seized student borrowers’ tax refunds
The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act provides a variety of relief funding to different groups, included student borrowers. One provision of the act suspended collections of defaulted federal student loans through September 30. The act also earmarked $6 billion in grant funding to be made available to college students to cover rent, childcare, food, and educational technology. As is the case with so many parts of the CARES Act, the means by which these provisions are being put into effect contradict the intention of the legislation. On May 29, a class action lawsuit on behalf of student borrowers alleges that, contrary to CARES Act requirements, over one million student borrowers have had tax refunds seized by the Department of Education. As reported in Forbes, a spokesperson for the Department of Education stated that these seized monies have been returned to students, but those involved in the law suit say that they have not received these monies.
On Thursday, Education Secretary DeVos announced a rule requiring that students receiving CARES grant monies must be eligible for federal financial aid. This might sound reasonable, but it actually leaves out a number of student cohorts that have been hard-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic including undocumented students, international students, students with existing loan defaults, students with minor drug convictions—and because of procedural issues—students who would qualify for federal financial aid, but who have never applied for it previously, the Washington Post reported. Democrats in Congress have called for DeVos’s new rule to be reversed. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has introduced S.3947, which would cancel DeVos’s rule. This legislation is currently with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP). S-HP
You can ask the Chairs of the House Education and Labor Committees to investigate the Department of Education’s illegal seizure of students’ tax refunds and urge the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee leadership for swift, positive action on S.3947. Addresses are here.
7. US to sell drone technology to countries previously prohibited from receiving it
In a June 12 exclusive, Reuters reported that the Republican administration plans a reinterpretation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a cold-war arms agreement among thirty-four countries, to allow the sale of U.S. drone technology to a number of governments—including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates—formerly barred from receive this type of U.S. technology. Reuters identifies this reinterpretation as being particularly beneficial for U.S. corporations General Atomics and Northrop Grummon. Interestingly, Business Insider reported in 2018 that both companies were among the top twenty defense contractors making political donations, with Northrop donating over $1.9 million to Republican candidates and organizations and General Atomics donating over $116 thousand to Republican candidates and organizations
If you wish to object this reinterpretation of MTCR and to the proliferation of dangerous technology for the sake of profits for a few corporations, addresses are here.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
8. WHO guidelines on masks
A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asserts that face masks may be the critical factor in slowing the coronavirus pandemic, Forbes. reports. However, the World Health Organization has issued new guidelines on masks, guidelines more stringent than those issued by the CDC. These are worth reviewing if you are making masks or using purchased cloth masks, as they describe a necessary three-layer structure which home-made masks may not have. Non-medical masks, the WHO reminds us, are not sufficient protection against the coronavirus and indeed, are more useful to protect others than oneself. A systematic program of physical distancing and handwashing, medical care for those who are ill, along with tracing and quarantining their contacts, is essential, according to Ars Technica, which has been reporting on the WHO’s recommendations. RLS
. The World Health Organization has issued new guidelines on masks, guidelines more stringent than those issued by the CDC. These are worth reviewing if you are making masks or using purchased cloth masks, as they describe a necessary three-layer structure which home-made masks may not have. Non-medical masks, the WHO reminds us, are not sufficient protection against the coronavirus and indeed, are more useful to protect others than oneself. A systematic program of physical distancing and handwashing, medical care for those who are ill, along with tracing and quarantining their contacts, is essential, according to Ars Technica, which has been reporting on the WHO’s recommendations. RLS
9. EPA decides states’ rights do not apply to clean water
The 1972 Clean Water Act was written to give states greater power than the federal government in protecting and restoring waterways. Among other things, states were authorized to create standards for projects above those required by the federal government and provided with an open-ended timeline for investigating proposed projects. In a 2019 executive order intended to limit states’ powers to protect waterways, Trump ordered all federal agencies to do everything possible to facilitate the development of “energy infrastructure” projects like pipelines.
On June 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a significant step to limit the power of states, tribes, and the public to object to federal permits for activities that could potentially lead to the pollution of waterways, according to the Washington Post. The EPA has announced that states, tribes, and the public will have only one year in which to certify or reject proposed energy projects, significantly shortening the previously unlimited timeline and potentially making certain types of studies and investigations impossible to complete before a state is required to make a certification decision. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new rule was intended to prevent energy projects from being “held hostage” by states or other groups, accusing states of holding up water and gas projects for reasons having to do with climate change, according to the New York Times. The response to this rule change from environmental groups has been highly critical and California Attorney General has announced that he and other State Attorneys General intend challenge this new rule by suing the EPA. S-HP
If you want to object to this move by the EPA to limit the rights of states and tribes under the Clean Water Act, you can write to: Andrew Wheeler, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20460, (202) 564-4700.
- The Americans of Conscience Checklist suggests ways you can plan your actions–and offers quick, straightforward actions you can take.
- Sarah-Hope’s whole list has some California-specific items you won’t want to miss.
- Rogan’s list suggests ways to stand up against militarized policing, advocate for an investigation of the New York police’s violence against legal observers, speak up against voter suppression in Georgia, and more.
- Martha’s list offers opportunities to comment for the public record on various proposals, which reduce protections for wildlife refuges, national forests, and undercut environmental regulations.