News You May Have Missed: November 14, 2021

“Washington DC: Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – The Three Soldiers” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


1. An alternative to thanking them for their service

Veterans Day provides us with an opportunity to do right by current and former members of the military who have been unfairly deprived of access to benefits and, in cases, of citizenship. We can advocate for three paths of action to work towards this equity of treatment

1. We can support legislation that would pay families of Black service members from WWII for the housing and educational benefits those service members were denied or prevented from making full use of when they returned from war. Representatives Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Seth Moulton have announced that they are introducing the G.I. Bill Restoration Act, which would address these historical injustices.

2. We can support H.R.5139, the Military Justice Transparency Act, which calls for a thorough study of and responses to racial, ethnic, and gender dispartities in the military justice system. This legislation is currently with the House Armed Services Committee.

3. We can thank the Biden administration for the efforts it has made to provide a path back to the U.S. for military veterans deported under the Trump administration and call on Biden to both continue these efforts and to improve access to military naturalization. S-HP

ASK the President and your Congress members for active support of all these measures. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

2. CDC official: Title 42 is unnecessary and unfair

Title 42, the controversial policy barring asylum-seekers from the U.S. under the justification that they threatened to spread the Coronavirus was, in fact, not needed to contain the spread of the virus, according to Ann Schuchat, until recently the second-highest ranking official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She recently testified before the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis, reports CBS News. Previous reporting from multiple sources had indicated that then-CDC Director Robert Redfield approved Title 42 under pressure from Trump political appointees and over objections from public health officials. Schuchat identified the Director for the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Marty Cetron, as one of the officials opposing Title 42: Cetron’s view “was that the facts on the ground didn’t call for this from a public health reason, and that the decision wasn’t being made based on criteria for quarantine. It may have been initiated for other purposes. So I don’t think he was comfortable using his authority to [activate Article 42] because it didn’t meet his careful review of what the criteria are.”

At a recent forum, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained that “Under Title 42, one doesn’t even get to make a claim of credible fear. One is expelled and that is why as a matter of immigration policy, it is so vigorously opposed and quite frankly, why we do not embrace it as a matter of immigration policy,” according to CBS. However, since March 2020, Title 42 has been used to justify at least 1.2 million expulsions of asylum seekers, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and these expulsions have continued under the Biden administration in a somewhat scaled back form. Unaccompanied minors and some families with children are no longer stopped at the border under Title 42, but other families and almost all single, adult migrants continue to be barred. S-HP

If you want to demand an end to the disingenuous use of Title 42 to keep those arriving at the U.S. southern border from making credible fear claims that initiate the asylum application process, write to President Biden (@POTUS), Vice President Harris (@VP), and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas). You can also thank the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for its work to uncover how the Trump administration responded to the Coronavirus pandemic and urge the Subcommittee and your Congressmembers to call on the administration to end its use of Title 42. Addresses are here.

3. Federal contractors’ right to discriminate challenge

The Biden administration has announced that it intends to return to a more limited understanding of the kinds of religious exemptions to antidiscrimination law federal contractors may claim. A rule enacted by Trump’s Department of Labor allowed federal contractors to discriminate against workers and job applicants in the name of religion. The initial basis for this move was based on a George W. Bush era policy that allowed religiously affiliated non-profits to prefer coreligionists in hiring. The Trump administration extended that policy to include a broader range of employers, including some for-profit employers, and allowed federal contractors to use “religious” beliefs to fire LGBTQI+ employees, individuals using birth control, or “someone who is the ‘wrong’ religion or doesn’t practice the religion the ‘right’ way. As long as a corporation claims to hold religious beliefs, it could take taxpayer dollars and fire someone who doesn’t meet its religious test.”—as Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains.

Biden’s commitment here, however, could falter in the negotiations over the Build Back Better Act, according to the New York Times, given that the way the legislation is written, faith-based daycare and preschool educators would be defined as federal contractors if they receive federal money–and they want to preserve their right to discriminate. S-HP

You could thank the Biden administration for this move to ensure that freedom of religion doesn’t become freedom to discriminate for federal contractors and ask him to stick to this principal during the Build Back Better negotiations. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor, Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., Washington DC 20210, (866) 487-2365. @SecMartyWalsh.

4. Lesbians still prevented from serving as foster parents

Kelly Easter wanted to become a foster parent via a federal foster care program for immigrant children, one which is run by channeling funding through existing organizations arranging foster care placements throughout the country. Unfortunately, according to Church and State magazine, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which oversees the program, told Easter that only one foster care agency in her region worked with the program: Bethany Christian Services, a subgrantee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which received federal funds for foster care services. Bethany did not allow Easter to apply to be a foster parent because she is a lesbian. Easter reported this discrimination to the ORR.

Then, earlier this year, the national Bethany organization announced it had changed its policy and would accept applications from LGBTQ families, so Easter decided to apply again to her local Bethany organization. Surprisingly she was again told she could not apply to be a foster parent because she is a lesbian. Why? Because Easter’s local Bethany is, as noted above, a subgrantee of the USCCB, it is required to abide by USCCB rules prohibiting fostering by LGBTQ individuals. USCCB policy trumped Bethany’s stated policy.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has an ongoing relationship with the USCCB.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the federal government multiple times for providing health care funding to religious organizations (including the USCCB) that refuse access to birth control and abortion, even in cases of rape, and for funding foster care agencies refusing to work with LGBTQ individuals. These organizations serve unaccompanied immigrant minors and victims of sex-trafficking . Now Lambda Legal and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) have filed suit against Health and Human Services, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Administration for Children and Families and leadership on behalf of Kelly Easter. AU President and CEO Rachel Laser explains, “The foundational American principle of church-state separation promises freedom without favor and equality without exception for everyone. The federal government is reneging on that constitutional promise by allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Kelly Easter because she doesn’t live according to its religious beliefs. Our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others, and especially not vulnerable children and the commendable people like Kelly who want to help them.” S-HP

If you want to intervene in this issue, you can insist that federal agencies stop funding health care and fostering organizations that discriminate on “religious” grounds. Write to: President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111, @POTUS. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence SW, Washington DC 20201, (877) 696-6775, @SecBecerra. JooYeun Chang, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, Mary E Switzer Building, 330 C St. SW, Washington DC 20201. And Cindy Huang, Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement, 901 D St. SW, Washington DC 20447, (202) 401-9246.

ASK the President and your Congress members for active support of all these measures. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.


5. Spinal cord injuries in mice healed

Spinal cord injuries are notable for being debilitating and irreparable; now, researchers at Northwestern University have healed injured mice with just one injection. The injection consists of a nanofiber suspension which when “tuned” to the nerve cells aligns them with their damaged counterparts and allows signals to transmit which prompt a cascade of self repair responses. Without the nanofibers, the nerve endings are constantly in motion and firing which prevents them from being connected with the nerve fibers that were in contact with them before the injury. The angle of using the molecular motion as a catalyst to induce healing is new with much potential for possible therapies for humans–especially important because life expectancy for spinal injury survivors has not changed since 1980. JC

6. Richer countries should cut emissions first

As the New York Times asks in reporting on the current climate crisis talks, “Who gets to keep using fossil fuels, and for how long, during the transition to clean energy?” Until relatively recently the use of fossil fuels that has created the climate crisis has been the result of activity in North America and Europe, and North American and European use of fossil fuels has generated substantial wealth. As a result, nations in these regions are in a much better position to transition to renewable energy without experiencing economic crises. S-HP

You could remind key figures of the wealth that has been generated in the U.S. as a result of the use of fossil fuels and insist that those profits create a greater responsibility for the U.S. to take the lead in fighting the climate crisis by transferring to renewable energy and absorbing the costs involved. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy, Department of Energy, 1000 Independence NW, Washington DC 20585, (202) 586-5000. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.


To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.

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.