Father’s Day this year is also World Refugee Day–and both are in the middle of a climate-crisis driven heat wave. As we write, it is 115 degrees in Phoenix. Increasing militarization on the border drives asylum-seekers to try more obscure desert routes, which can be lethal in the heat, Newsweek points out. And while volunteers from No More Deaths/No Más Muertes try to find and assist people lost in the desert, the Border Patrol undermines them at every turn, from slashing water bottles to refusing 911 calls. While we often write about asylum-seeking children, refugee organizations are suggesting we remember fathers as well. See the Resources section if you want to do so concretely, and see the environment and international sections for more on the heat waves, the drought in the Western US, and refugees.
1. Asylum seekers no longer barred for fleeing domestic or gang violence
There is some good—and potentially good—news to report on the immigration/asylum front, even if a great deal of work remains to be done. First, Attorney General Merrick Garland has reversed a Trump policy that barred asylum claims based on credible fears of domestic abuse or gang violence. As the New York Times explains, this decision may provide hope for thousands of asylum seekers.
Second, the House has the opportunity to consider legislation that would establish standards for immigration detention facilities. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, H.R.2222, establishes detailed standards for all facilities, both federal and private, at which the Department of Homeland Security detains immigrants/asylum seekers and requires an end to the use of private facilities within 3 years. These standards would be based on the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards. H.R.2222 requires biannual reporting on all detention facilities, along with annual, unannounced Inspector General inspections of all detention facilities, with consequences (transfer of all detainees, fines, and the possibility of civil actions) for any facility not in compliance. H.R.2222 requires updating of the online detainee database within 12 hours of the detention/release/transfer/ or removal of any detainee. Congress must be notified within 24 hours of any deaths in detention regardless of their cause. This legislation is currently with the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees; it has 78 cosponsors, all Democrats. S-HP
You can thank the Attorney General for returning to a broader set of credible fear criteria and urge swift, positive committee action on H.R.2222. Addresses are here. You can also check to see if your Representative is a cosponsor of H.R.2222 and thank or nudge as appropriate. Find your representative here.
2. Legislative assaults on transgender people
Pride month calls for an update on civil rights and treatment of LGBTQI+ persons in the U.S. with an emphasis on the T. The Guardian offers a map-based listing of this year’s anti-trans laws enacted through June 9.
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Alphonso David of the Human Rights Campaign noted “unprecedented legislative assaults aimed at trans people that have swept state houses this year, officially making 2021 the worst year for anti-L.G.B.T.Q. legislation in recent history.” By early June of this year, 20 state laws had been passed taking aim at transgender individuals—more than double the number passed in the period from 2018 through 2020. David warns us that “L.G.B.T.Q. Americans—and particularly transgender and nonbinary people—are not simply living in a state of emergency; we are living in many states of imminent danger. The usual calls to action aren’t enough against these threats; we are now firmly in the territory of needing those in positions of authority to actively defy these laws—especially those enforcement agencies and leaders tasked with carrying out the unconstitutional and un-American assaults on the civil rights of millions of L.G.B.T.Q. people.”
As an example of such defiance, David points to Nashville’s District Attorney General Glenn Funk who is refusing to enforce a new state law requiring businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multi-person bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms associated with their gender identity. Nashville Mayor John Cooper has also spoken out against the law on both civil rights and economic grounds, predicting that the state will lose tourist and business dollars as a result of hate-based legislation.
A piece in the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), Church & State, observes that “a huge number of these [anti-transgender] laws–and arguably the most damaging–seek to prohibit and/or criminalize gender-affirming health care for youth. Transgender, nonbinary and intersex youth make up a small fraction of the population, and receiving gender-affirming care is not just beneficial, but often life-saving for them from a psychological standpoint.” Gender-affirming healthcare eases gender dysphoria—the sense that one’s physical body and gender identity conflict. Given that, such legislation represents a deliberate to further isolate already-vulnerable transgender youth. AU cites materials from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the body that sets widely accepted standards of care for gender-affirming health care: “The preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that gender-affirming health care can greatly help transgender people … these laws will prevent young people from receiving beneficial, often life-saving services that have strong evidence of success and are supported by mainstream healthcare professional associations.”
One piece of hopeful news is that the Department of Education has affirmed that Title IX gender protections extend to transgender students, a reversal of Trump administration policy that actively opposed such protections. The New York Times quotes Education Secretary Miguel A. Cardona, who says “Students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity” and goes on to add that schools should “not wait for complaints to come to address these issues…. We need to make sure we are supporting all students in our schools.”
H.R.5, The Equality Act, which has been passed by the House 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.” This legislation is now with the Senate Judiciary Committee. S-HP
You can point out to your Congressmembers that these state-by-state infringements on the rights of transexual individuals demonstrate the critical need for federal-level protections barring any kind of gender-based discrimination. Urge your Senators in particular to support H.R.5: find them here. Find your representative here.
And urge swift, positive action on H.R.5 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. @SenatorDurbin.
3. Citizenship provisions for international adoptees
Currently, children adopted internationally by a U.S. citizen have a right to automatic citizenship, but that wasn’t the case before the passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. And while the Child Citizenship Act was written to include many adoptees in the U.S. at the time of its passage, it did not include international adoptees who reached the age of 18 prior to February 27, 2001. As is the case with “Dreamers,” those brought to the U.S. as young children without documentation, this group of pre-2001 adoptees are in a position of unexpectedly discovering they don’t have citizenship in the nation they have always considered home. The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 (H.R.1593 in the House; S.967 in the Senate) would close this gap, granting citizenship to international adoptees who came of age before February 27, 2001. H.R.1593 is currently with the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. S.967 is with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both pieces of legislation have bipartisan co-sponsorship. S-HP
To get this important legislation through, you can urge quick, positive action on H.R.1953 by the House Judiciary Committee and its Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee and on on S.967 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Addresses are here. You could also encourage your Representative to vocally support H.R.1953 and your Senators to vocally support S.967.
4. Refugee numbers soaring. Few arrive in North America.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement, in 2020 nearly 3 million people left their homelands to become refugees, reports the Associated Press. This is the ninth consecutive year to see an increase in the number of forcibly displaced people. The causes of this increase include war, human rights violations, famine, ethnic “cleansing,” and climate disasters. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) documents the steady growth in displacement around the globe. Globally, there are currently more than 82 million forcibly displaced people. Between 2018 and 2020, an estimated 1 million children were born as refugees. Over two-thirds of refugees come from just five countries, according to the UNHCR: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. And 40% are hosted in five countries: Turkey (which hosts 3.7 million refugees), Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda, and Germany. Canada accepted only about 50,000 refugees in 2019, 40% of whom were privately sponsored, according to Statistics Canada. The US capped refugee admissions at 30,000 in fiscal 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. S-HP/RLS
A Canadian professor has established the Refugee Story Bank of Canada, where refugees in Canada can submit their stories. Another site of refugee stories, 1000 Dreams, was just launched by Witness Change.
Miles4Migrants, which arranges transportation for people released from ICE detention–often with no money and no ability to get to family members–suggests that you might want to contribute your frequent flyer miles to help them enable refugees to reach home.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
5. Heat, drought, and heat illnesses in workers
A few days before the start of summer, the West Coast and Southwest–already in a mega-drought–are seeing record-breaking temperatures. According to the New York Times, a number of cities—including Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Billings, Montana—are experiencing triple-digit temperatures and some 50 million Americans face heat-related warnings. Some scientists believe that drought in the Southwest–and all that follows–is here to stay, according to the Guardian. NPR reports that, as of June 17, there were 33 active large fires across the West. The largest of these, east of Phoenix, involves more than 175,000 acres and is 73% contained. A 24,000-acre fire is burning northeast of Yellowstone National Park. Another major fire is burning outside of Helena, Montana. Still another, the Willow Fire, is burning in California near Tassajara, and the Backbone Fire, near Payson, Arizona, has just grown to 17,126 acres.
These conditions drive home the importance of the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, H.R.2193, which requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to set safety standards to prevent exposure to excessive heat, both indoors and outdoors. H.R.2193 defines excessive heat as “levels that exceed the capacities of the body to maintain normal body functions and may cause heat-related injury, illness, or fatality.” The text of this legislation explains that “Asuncion Valdivia was a California farmworker who died of heat stroke in 2004 after picking grapes for 10 straight hours in 105-degree temperatures. Instead of calling an ambulance, his employer told his son to drive Mr. Valdivia home. On his way home, he started foaming at the mouth and died.” H.R.2193 is currently with the House Education and Labor Committee; it has 14 cosponsors. RLS/S-HP
To address this issue, urge quick, positive—and life-saving—action on H.R.2193 by the House Education and Labor Committee: Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair, House Education and Labor Committee, 2176 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3725. @BobbyScott. You can check whether your Representative is a cosponsor of H.R.2193 and thank or nudge as appropriate. Find your representative here.
No More Deaths/No Más Muertes‘ three-part report, Left to Die, details how asylum-seekers in the desert are abandoned by the Border Patrol. Though 911 calls are routed to them, they did not respond in 63% of cases. Lee Sandusky’s piece of literary journalism, “Scenes from an Emergency Clinic in the Sonoran Desert,” eloquently describes the work No More Deaths/No Más Muertes does.
The National Lawyers Guild has a series of webinars on issues from the global repression of voting, the local suppression of voting and the detention of immigrants.
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 celebrate Juneteenth–specific ways to work against inequality.
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.