News You May Have Missed: March 21, 2021

“A Vigil Against Hate Crime – 7” by lewishamdreamer is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Compounding the heartbreak of the murders in Atlanta–six Asian American women, one white woman, and one white man–are the stories that have emerged since. The husband of one of the murdered women was kept handcuffed by police, not given any information about his wife, and treated like a suspect–because he is Latino, he suggests. Another woman, Hyun Jung Grant, was a single mother who left two sons behind–the only other family members are in South Korea and they cannot come. 33,500 people have contributed to a fundraiser so that the older son–Randy, age 23–can provide for the younger son; they would otherwise have had to leave their home in two weeks. Asked what he would tell his mom if he could, Randy Park told NBC News, “You did a good job. You’ve done enough and finally get some sleep and rest.”

As we noted earlier in March, Asian Americans have been targeted since the beginning of the pandemic. 3,795 incidents of anti-Asian hate were reported to the website Stop AAPI Hate between March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021. Verbal assaults constituted 68% of these; 11% were physical assaults. Most of the victims are women and many are older. An extraordinary 75 year old San Francisco woman fought back against her attacker and put him in the hospital, SF Gate reported; the same attacker assaulted an 83 year old man and may have broken his neck.

Independent journalist @SarahBelleLin has published a critical list of resources for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. You can message her on Twitter if you have resources to add. Electric Lit offers a reading list on the history and context of anti-Asian racism. And Hollaback, an organization committed to ending harassment in all its forms, worked with Asian Americans Advancing Justice to produce a training on bystander interventions. New York Magazine has additional information on the pattern of assaults as well as a list of where to donate to Asian American, South Asian and Pacific Islander organizations. And Cathy Park Hong’s insights in an Atlantic interview are very illuminating.


1. Family separation–still and again

Just across the border, tens of thousands of families are in tents, hoping to apply for asylum in the United States. Politico tells the story of one such family fleeing torture by a gang in Honduras. They have not been permitted to cross the border to make their case for asylum. The only option to preserve any of them seems to be to send the children, including a baby, over the border alone.

These are the costs of the Biden administration’s new policy–to cease deporting unaccompanied children but to refuse to admit or to expel families under the CDC’s “Title 42,” invoked in the name of the pandemic. The result is that thousands of children need to be housed and placed–as many as a hundred thousand this year, Mother Jones projects. Mother Jones includes a most informative interview with Jennifer Podkul, an international human rights lawyer who is also vice president for policy and advocacy at the national organization Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). She explains that “the administration needs to be working on two tracks. In the short term, they have to get those kids out of border patrol stations and into loving homes as quickly as possible. Simultaneously, they have to prioritize reimagining the system. Is the reception of migrant children the way it really should be, or could the US do better?”

Republicans–with the help of Trump–are predictably trying to use this situation as a way to regain political capital, the Guardian notes, refusing to acknowledging how much of it was caused by Trump’s dismantling of the asylum system. In addition, according to a former Border Patrol officer quoted by the Independent, some border guards loyal to Trump and the union that represents them are actively trying to undermine new policies at the border. The Independent quotes another Border Patrol official as saying, ““You have way too many scenarios where the secretary or the head of CBP issues a directive, and there’s just an absolute recalcitrance in the organization. There is a lack of command and control in a way that is dangerous.”

Biden appears to be trying to address the ways in which aid goes to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the LA Times, so that instead of sending funds to governments, which have not addressed the economic privation and violence which drive their citizens to leave, the administration will fund NGOs that support the most vulnerable people. RLS

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) asks people who care about this issue to sign their petition, write your members of Congress, and contribute to KIND’S work with children on both sides of the border. They connect children and those who care for them with essential medical care, mental health care, educational opportunities, and crisis intervention to ensure their well-being and safety. 

2. Citizenship opportunities for Dreamers and farmworkers

A major theme this week has been “Action in the House; Not So Much in the Senate.” It’s true that the Senate is spending a great deal of necessary time on confirming Biden’s cabinet appointments, but a number of pieces of important legislation now lie with the Senate, where the 60-vote requirement to override the filibuster means they’ll be difficult to pass. Two pieces of citizenship-related legislation are among the most critical of these.

The House has passed H.R.6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which would allow DACA youth, who were brought to the U.S. as children, to apply for citizenship. H.R.6 also repeals a restriction that makes providing financial support for DACA students difficult by requiring that any state education benefits DACA students may apply for must also be made available to all out-of-state students—which creates a much larger pool within which DACA students have to compete for financial aid. As of 3/20, H.R.6 has not been assigned to any Senate Committees.

  H.R.1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, has also been passed by the House. This is actually a piece of bipartisan legislation, bringing together both immigration advocates and representatives of agricultural states, regardless of their political party. H.R.1603 has four key provisions:

-Creates more predictable wages and reduces housing costs

-Streamlines the H-2A application process by consolidating processes and petitions

-Creates a 5-year renewable visa for farmworkers and their families

-Creates a pathway to optional permanent resident status.

One of the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is that farmworkers are truly essential workers and their status in the U.S. should reflect this. Like H.R.6, as of 3/20 H.R.1603 has not been assigned to any Senate committees. S-HP.

If you’d like to see this legislation move forward, ask the Senate Majority Leader to place H.R.6 and H.R.1603 with committees expeditiously and add (should you wish) encouragement for either returning to a “talking filibuster” or elimination of the filibuster altogether: Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader, 322 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-6542. @SenSchumer. You ca also tell your Senators you want their support for H.R.6 and H.R.1603 and (if you wish) for limitations on or an end to the filibuster. Find your Senators here.

3. Legislation for Black farmers and other farmers of color

In the past, Black and small farmers have had more difficulty receiving farm loans that did white and larger-scale farmers. A piece just out from the Center for Public Integrity recounts this history of discrimination. In reporting from WBUR, John Boyd Jr., President of the National Black Farmers Association, describes systematic discrimination by “a USDA employee in charge of giving Black farmers loans in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, who would only meet with Black farmers on Wednesdays and took more than 370 days to process Black farm loans, compared to less than 30 days for white farmers…. The employee spat on [Boyd], tore up and threw his application in the trash, and slept through the application period.”

To redress this, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has the opportunity to support truly historic pieces of legislation, Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color, S.278, and Justice for Black Farmers, S.300. S.278 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to provide assistance for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Provisions of the legislation include debt forgiveness, the establishment of a National Center for Minority Farmer Agricultural Law Research and Information, and support for students and programs at land-grant colleges and other colleges serving populations with a history of unequal treatment by the Department of Agriculture. S.300 calls for specific “reforms within the Department of Agriculture to prevent future discrimination,” including an Independent Civil Rights Oversight Board, and Equity Commission, and an Assistant Secretary of Labor for Civil Rights Reforms. 

This legislation is particularly important given Black and small farmers’ discomfort with the appointment of Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture has a long record of failing to serve Black and small farmers well, leaving them out of the farm subsidy and lending programs—a record that Vilsack did little to change during his years as Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture. In reporting by KQED, Secretary Vilsack cites provisions of the American Rescue Plan that earmark $4 billion of debt relief for “socially disadvantaged” farmers as proof of his commitment to Black and small farmers; the Plan will also create a racial equity commission within the Department of Agriculture. S-HP

You can urge swift, positive action on S.278 and S.300 by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Commission: Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, 731 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 225-4822. @SenStabenow.

It would be a good time to tell Secretary Vilsack that you appreciate the provisions of the American Rescue Plan that support Black and small farmers and insist that he continue developing programs to support farmers who have historically been ignored by the Department of Agriculture: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence SW, Washington DC 20250, (202) 720-2791. @SecVilsack.

4. Ending private prisons: Justice is not for sale

In 2019, 115,954 people–8% of the total state and federal prison population–were in private, for-profit prisons. The number of people in private private prisons varies state by state, with Montana incarcerating 47% of its prisoners in private facilities, while 19 states did not place anyone in for-profit prisons. In eight states, the number of people incarcerated in for-profit institutions has doubled since 2000, all according to a study by The Sentencing Project released earlier this month. A 2016 Department of Justice Inspector General study concluded that private prisons had a 28 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults compared with federally run or operated prisons, NPR reported.

Raúl Grijalva’s (D-AZ) Justice Is Not for Sale Act, H.R.994, would prohibit federal, state, and local governments from contracting with private prison companies, end immigrant family detention, prevent companies from overcharging inmates and their families for services like phone calls and banking, and increase oversight of immigrant detention centers. In a statement about the legislation, Grijalva explains “For too long, private prisons and detention centers have benefited from lucrative government contracts and taxpayer dollars to profit off the pain and suffering of adults and children. They created perverse profit incentives that helped facilitate a mass incarceration crisis that has disproportionately impacted immigrants and communities of color. Unfortunately, the private prison industry continues to expand its scope of operations and influence and spend millions of dollars in lobbying efforts to weasel its way into new profits streams that include providing ‘restorative’ services that are traditionally performed by community and nonprofit organizations.” H.R.994 is currently with four House committees: Judiciary; Energy and Commerce; Finance; and Homeland Security. S-HP, RLS

If you oppose private, for-profit prisons, you can call for an end to profiteering from incarceration and urge swift, positive committee action on H.R.994. Contact information is here.

5. Equality Act would prohibit discrimination based on sex, LGBTQI+ status

Last week, we reviewed the nearly identical legislation being passed by (and challenged in) various states, bills undermining rights of trans people, especially kids. Rather than targeting bathrooms, this new wave of legislation would prevent trans kids from accessing gender-affirming care–by making it a felony for their doctors to treat them. Non-partisan Freedom For All campaign has identified all this legislation and reports on its status. In late February, the House passed the Equality Act, H.R.5, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. H.R.5 would also allow the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. H.R.5 is now with the Senate Judiciary Committee. S-HP

To help this bill go forward, you could urge swift, positive action on H.R.5 by the Senate Judiciary Committee and point out that for some people, these protections will make the difference between life and death: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee, 224 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-7703. @SenatorDurbin.

6. Legislation would address discrimination and violence against LGBTQI+ people worldwide

In recognition of the violence, discrimination, hatred, and bigotry that LGBTQI+ people face globally, the International Human Rights Act, H.R.1201, would create a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Peoples within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. This envoy would serve as the principal advisor to the Secretary of State regarding human rights for LGBTQI+ people internationally, represent the U.S. internationally in regards to LGBTQI+ rights, and engage in the development and support of programs protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ people.

 In addition to creating the Special Envoy position, H.R.1201 would:

-Declare that the policy of the United States is “to take effective action to prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against all people on any basis internationally, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, and that human rights policy includes attention to criminalization, hate crimes, and other discrimination against LGBTQI+ people;

-Require that United States foreign policy integrate efforts to prevent and respond to criminalization, discrimination, and violence against LGBTQI+ people internationally;

-Encourage U.S. cooperation with LGBTQI+ NGOs (non-governmental organizations);

-“Enhance training by United States personnel of professional foreign military and police forces and judicial officials to include appropriate and thorough LGBTQI+–specific instruction on preventing and responding to criminalization, discrimination, and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity”;

-Require that all Federal contractors and grant recipients in the United States Government’s international programs ensure the protection and safety of their staff and workplace from discrimination and violence directed against LGBTQI+ people;

-Support HIV/AIDS responses globally that respect the rights of LGBTQI people;

-Work toward global decriminalization of homosexuality.

H.R.1201 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At the moment, this legislation, proposed by Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), has no cosponsors. S-HP

If equity for LGBTQI+ people is important to you, you might thank Alan Lowenthal for introducing H.R. 1201. @RepLowenthal. If you support this bill, ask the House Foreign Affairs Committee to stand up for the rights of LGBTQI+ people globally by moving H.R.1201 to a vote of the House: Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 2170 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3461. @RepGregoryMeeks. You might also urge your Representative to become a cosponsor of H.R.1202. Find your representative here.


7. People of color are more likely to die from COVID, less likely to get the vaccine

As we noted on February 7, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American peoples in terms of case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths. Research presented online this January in JAMANetwork (JAMA is the Journal of the American Medical Association) found that “as of July 20, 2020, the hospitalization rates and death rates per 10,000, respectively, were 24.6 and 5.6 for Black patients, 30.4 and 5.6 for Hispanic patients, 15.9 and 4.3 for Asian patients, and 7.4 and 2.3 for White patients.” Indigenous people were 2.4 times as likely to die from COVID-19 as White people, according to the CDC.

At the same time, White people have had disproportionate access to the COVID-19 vaccine as compared to other communities. Last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released state by state information on vaccinations by ethnicity, pointing out for example that “in California, 21% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 55% of cases, 46% of deaths, and 40% of the total population in the state.” Similarly, in the District of Columbia, Black people have received 31% of vaccinations, while they make up 49% of cases, 76% of deaths, and 46% of the total population. The COVID Community Care Act (H.R.1835 in the House; S.783 in the Senate) seeks to address these disparities by providing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with $8 billion in programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 in medically underserved areas. Of those monies, $60 million would be earmarked for the Office of Minority Health within HHS. H.R.1835 is currently with the Appropriations and Budget Committees. S.783 is currently with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. S-HP

To support communities of color in dealing with COVID-19, you can urge swift, positive action on H.R.1836 by the appropriate committees and insist that the health disparities revealed by the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S. be addressed. Addresses are here.


Heather Cox Richardson has an important analysis of the murders in Atlanta and continues to provide the history of the events we are living through.

The Americans of Conscience Checklist has a new list of quick, effective actions you can take to oppose gender-based violence, advocate for a distribution of the vaccines in an equitable way internationally, and work toward the mid-term elections.

Moms Rising urges us to act on universal background checks for gun ownership–and tells us how to do so.