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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.