The increasingly slippery news cycle means that not only is it easy to miss news, but it is hard to keep track of where it went. This week we are circling back to a few key stories. By the way, you may have missed that our site is searchable and has a month-by-month archive; of course any good newspaper will be more comprehensive, but you might find you get a flavor of the times that are a-changin’ so quickly.
1. What to do if voting rights legislation fails
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to schedule a vote this week on the Freedom To Vote Act (S.2747), according to the New York Times, a vote Republicans are expected to filibuster. At the insistence of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the bill now only requires states to “allow a minimum of 15 days of early voting, ensure that all voters could request to vote by mail and make Election Day a national holiday, among other provisions.” Historian Heather Cox Richardson sketches the history and the stakes in this legislation, pointing out that “If the Democrats do not succeed in passing a voting rights law, we can expect America to become a one-party state that, at best, will look much like the American South did between 1876 and 1964.”
News You May Have Missed took a somewhat different position in August, when we suggested that it might be better to take up voting rights legislation piecemeal, in small chunks that would have a better chance of passing. We drew up a database of voting rights legislation already in the works and provided a contact list of committees which have these pieces of legislation in their purview. If the Freedom to Vote Act fails, this strategy will be essential. S-HP/RLS
2. Thousands of deported asylum seekers assaulted, killed
The right-wing myth of millions of migrants entering the U.S. with COVID has been entirely refuted by new data published on Friday. Since March 2020, 1,163,000 people seeking asylum were not screened for humanitarian assistance but expelled immediately under Title 42, the Trump era rule preventing asylum-seekers from entering the country under the guise of COVID 19 protection. Only 3,217 were considered for asylum and only 8% of those were allowed to stay–those who could prove they had a reasonable fear of being tortured, according to CBS News.
As CBS points out, Title 42 contravenes U.S. and international refugee laws, which establish that people are allowed to seek asylum if they fear persecution in their own countries. Others have been allowed to stay under other rubrics; in particular, the Biden administration stopped deporting unaccompanied children. However, it continues to deport families with children, a policy which is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and others; recently an appellate court gave the administration permission to continue summarily deporting families with children while the case proceeds, according to the LA Times.
Human Rights First and a long list of associated organizations have documented 6,300 instances of violence against those turned away at the border–murders, rapes, kidnappings, assaults. The groups have asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop the Biden administration from expelling asylum-seekers under Title 42, calling it a form of genocide. They point out that border officials assess and admit millions of travelers at the southern border every year, so the prohibition against entry by asylum-seekers is discriminatory. RLS
3. Afghan family mistakenly targeted will receive compensation, relocation assistance.
In September, we highlighted the story of the Afghan family killed in a drone attack, which the US government eventually admitted was a mistake. As of mid-September, no one from the military or the Biden administration had contacted the family. Now the US government has agreed to make “condolence payments” in an unspecified amount to the families of the 10 civilians killed, according to Slate. Zemari Ahmadi, the man mistakenly targeted, had worked for years as an engineer for Nutrition & Education International, a California company, providing assistance to farmers in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, the State Department is assisting family members who wish to relocate to the US, as the family is now visible as having worked for a US company. As Common Dreams points out, likely the family is being offered assistance and compensation because Ahmadi’s company got involved and is being represented by the ACLU. Too often, civilians suffer from the actions of the US military, which takes no responsibility. Common Dreams quoted Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA, as saying “President [Joe] Biden should show real concern for civilians by taking more meaningful steps to prevent civilian casualties as a result of all U.S. lethal operations, as well as to investigate and assist those harmed.” RLS
If you’d like to see this and other atrocities stopped, you can ask President Biden what the U.S. is doing to prevent civilian casualties in drone strikes and urge swifter, more transparent, and more humane responses to killings of civilians by the U.S. military. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
4. Climate Change: Are we there yet?
The climate crisis, of course, is always news. At Biden’s request, 23 agencies listed their top climate concerns and their intended approaches to them; all agencies were asked to keep social justice in mind as they drew up their reports, according to the New York Times. The Times article provides a sketch of what we need to worry about, from food security to transportation challenges to climate refugees.
The Guardian points out what we must know, that the crisis is already here. From fires to floods to severe heat waves to drought, the evidence is all around us. The Guardian piece meticulously details the relationship of these changes to apparently infinitesimal rises in temperature, quoting Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy as saying, “We have built a civilization based on a world that doesn’t exist anymore.”
Building on a 2019 article in Nature, a piece in Grist frames the issue differently, around tipping points in sea, ice and land; tipping points, as Grist sees them, are those moments that trigger others–along with contributing to climate change itself: “Warming increases the frequency of wildfires, which in turn increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning trees, which leads to an increase in global temperature, which means, you guessed it, even more wildfires.” Grist sees social tipping points as the solution, as scientists writing in PNAS last year suggested, a rapid shift in social mores that could bring about change quickly. RLS
You can view federal agencies’ Climate Adaption Plans at https://www.sustainability.gov/adaptation/. Then you can urge swift action on these plans and remind them to act in ways that address social justice concerns. Addresses are here.
5. Migratory birds again (partially) protected
In September, 2020 and earlier, we described the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce protections for migratory birds when he attempted to institute a policy to block penalties for killing them if the deaths were incidental to something else–e.g., an oil spill. Now, the Biden administration has completely reversed Trump’s policy, restoring century-old protections, according to the Washington Post, which pointed out that the oil and gas industry benefited the most from Trump’s policy. Industry officials objected strenuously to the restoration of protections and hinted that the policy would be held up in court. The Post quoted Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, as celebrating the policy but calling for the cancellation of the oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico: As Weiss put it, “How many migratory birds are going to die from the effects of pollution when they are about to auction off the rights to a billion barrels of oil?” RLS
You can see live maps of migratory birds’ routes at a site developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
You might thank President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland for reinstating migratory bird protections and point out that they could go even further in protecting migratory birds by cancelling oil and gas leaks in the Gulf of Mexico: President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden. Deb Haaland, Secretary of Interior, Department of Interior, 1849 C St. NW, (202) 208-3100. @SecDebHaaland.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.
The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.
Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.
Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.
The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.
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.
Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.