Essay of the Week The Muslim Ban decision is shameful, but history will remember the words of Sonia Sotomayor
The following essay was written by Christopher Punongbayan, the newly-appointed Executive Director of California ChangeLawyers.
Most Supreme Court dissents end with the words “I respectfully dissent”. But in Trump v. Hawaii, Justice Sonia Sotomayor left off the word “respectfully”.
That’s because Justice Sotomayor decided to tell the truth. And the truth is, there’s nothing respectful about this decision.
Like many people of color, Justice Sotomayor knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be excluded. She’s a latinx lawyer, which means she’s had to make her way through predominantly white spaces her entire career -- and she’s felt the sting of being made to feel like you don’t belong.
This is why her dissent is so strongly worded. For her, for me, and for all “disfavored groups”, this decision just affirms what many of us already know: we are not created equal. Liberty and justice is not for all.
If you’re reading this, you know why this decision is wrong. It clearly ignores the discriminatory motivations that underlie it. It “tells members of minority religions in our country “‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’”
And yet I can’t help but feel hopeful. Here’s why.
Trump v Hawaii will go down in history, like Korematsu and Dred Scott before it, as a deeply bigoted decision. And just like those other decisions, the issue will come before the Courts again. And when it does, it will be the words of Justice Sotomayor that will inspire its repeal and repudiation.
It will be the words of the only Brown woman on the Supreme Court that will live on in history, that will inspire a new generation of lawyers to fight back against bans, walls, and ideas that separate us. It will be the words of a Sonia Sotomayor that motivate us all to keep fighting until we have a justice system that serves us all equally.
Essay published on Medium >
Top Tweet Sonia Sotomayor is the heir to Thurgood Marshall
Speaking of… When you replace one injustice with another
The following editorial was written by Karen Korematsu, the founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.
During World War II, about 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent, including almost 40,000 foreign nationals living on the West Coast, were removed from their homes, forced to forfeit their possessions and then incarcerated on the basis of military orders authorized by the president.
My father, Fred, and others who defied the military orders were criminally charged and imprisoned. Defending themselves against the charges, my father, along with Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, all United States citizens, challenged the constitutionality of the orders. In a series of decisions, the Supreme Court upheld his and the others’ convictions in 1943 and 1944. In those now infamous decisions, which constitutional scholars on both sides of the political aisle have criticized, the Supreme Court deferred to the government’s assertions that its racially discriminatory policies were justified by military necessity. But history proved otherwise.
In extraordinary legal proceedings that vacated my father’s conviction nearly 40 years later in 1983, evidence of government misconduct showed that the “military necessity” on which the court predicated its decision was apparently nothing more than a smoke screen.
When President Trump used questionable evidence to issue executive orders last year banning immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, I heard the same kind of stereotypes that targeted the Japanese-Americans in World War II being used against Muslims.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court got it partly right. After nearly 75 years, the court officially overruled Korematsu v. United States. In the majority decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., citing language used in a dissent to the 1944 ruling, wrote that the court was taking “the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and — to be clear — ‘has no place in law under the Constitution.’”
But the court’s repudiation of the Korematsu decision tells only half the story. Although it correctly rejected the abhorrent race-based relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, it failed to recognize — and reject — the rationale that led to that infamous decision. In fact, the Supreme Court indicated that the reason it addressed Korematsu was because the dissenting justices noted the “stark parallels between the reasoning of” the two cases.
In rejecting a racist decision, then, the Supreme Court seemed to repeat the same bad logic of the 1940s decision by rubber stamping the Trump administration’s bald assertions that the “immigration travel ban” is justified by national security.
My father spent his life fighting for justice and educating people about the inhumanity of the Japanese-American incarceration, so that we would learn from our mistakes. Although he would be somewhat glad his case was finally overruled, he would be upset that it was cited while upholding discrimination against another marginalized group. The court’s decision replaced one injustice with another nearly 75 years later.
My father would still say, “Stand up for what is right.”
Story by NY Times >
#ChangeLawyer Former ICE lawyer switches sides
The following editorial was written by Laura Peña, a former assistant chief counsel at ICE and served as a senior adviser in the State Department during the Obama administration. A Harlingen, Texas native, she starts next month as a visiting attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
My face turned beet red when the immigration judge demanded I explain why a six-month old baby was being called to appear separately from his mother in a removal hearing. Though the mother was physically in the courtroom cradling her child, the infant’s case had been “administratively separated” from the mother’s. The infant had a hearing date; the mother did not. The judge was furious that administrative separation could potentially put the infant at risk for deportation without the parent.
The Obama administration distinguished between unaccompanied children and family units, supported asylum for victims of domestic violence, and worked within established case law.
Now, “tender age” facilities are imprisoning infants and toddlers far away from their parents.
I imagine a new attorney, as new as I was when that judge called me out over a six-month-old, sitting in a courtroom full of crying babies. Only this time, there are no mothers to cradle the children.
I imagine a traumatized 3-year-old being questioned on the record about why she fled her home country, and responding with cries for her mother or father.
I imagine a plane full of children landing in the deportation facility in Guatemala City. These children are stranded, vulnerable and at grave risk for human trafficking.
I became a lawyer because I believe in the rule of law and fundamental fairness, not to prosecute babies and send them traveling in planes alone. As our government cracks down on asylum-seeking families, we are witnessing mass violations of constitutional and international laws that uphold the right to family unity, the protection of asylum seekers from criminal prosecution, and the rights of children to live free from harm.
As a former ICE attorney, I am laying down the prosecution sword and picking up the shield to defend those most vulnerable in our society. Our integrity as a democracy relies upon it.
Story by USA Today >
More of This The law did not create this crisis, but lawyers will help end it
The following editorial was written by Brad S. Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Gary M. Wingens, chairman and managing partner of Lowenstein Sandler
President Trump’s recent executive order ending the unlawful and immoral policy of separating children from their parents advances another, equally lawless policy: prolonging the detention of families seeking asylum.
On Sunday, the President went even further, suggesting that the United States suspend due process for undocumented immigrants altogether: “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came.”
The problem, of course, is neither United States law nor the Constitution. It is the administration’s belief that both can be ignored. As long as this administration pursues a deterrence policy predicated on inflicting harm on children and families and disregarding settled constitutional principles, the crisis will continue.
We speak for a group of lawyers who lead 34 major American law firms. As a group, we cannot stand by as our government, under the pretext of enforcing the law, violates it and traumatizes children and their parents in the process. We are professionally obligated to safeguard the rule of law and to protect the poor and the vulnerable against targeted governmental abuses. We call upon the administration to develop an immediate plan for reunifying children with their families, to release families who pose no threat to our country and to terminate the policy of criminally prosecuting asylum seekers.
While it is the government’s responsibility, ultimately, to solve problems of its own making, we have coalesced our resources and joined forces with the legal services community to protect the rule of law. Our firms, which collectively employ about 30,000 lawyers in nearly every state, have pledged to help reunify families and ensure representation for legitimate asylum seekers. This outpouring of volunteerism depends on strong partnerships with the legal services entities on the front lines.
The firm Paul, Weiss, working with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, has sent a team of lawyers to represent parents detained near the border in Texas. The Lowenstein Sandler firm has been working alongside the Vera Institute of Justice and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights to secure access to counsel for the young, separated children held in New York State and to advise lawyers of their ethical obligations when they undertake such representation.
This crisis requires an army of lawyers to untangle because the immigration courts are flooded and detention centers across the country are bursting. The world is watching, and the private bar is mobilizing to serve the thousands who have been imperiled by the Trump administration — and to ensure that the rule of law is protected as well.
Story by NY Times >
Less of This Where are my client’s kids?
I sat across from my new client, a petite woman from Central America in her late 20s or early 30s, behind the plexiglass at the El Paso County Detention Facility. She had fled her country with her preteen son. Like many of the clients I’ve represented in the past four weeks, she had been charged with illegal reentry. She had no interest in discussing the charges, though. All she wanted to ask about was her son, who had been taken from her when she crossed the border.
“Where is my child?” She demanded. “Why did this happen? Who took him? When will they tell me anything?” She made no effort to be courteous as she fired one question after another at me.
To all of her questions, I had to answer: I don’t know.
She stared me in the eye, indignant. “Why don’t you know?” she asked. “You’re my lawyer.”
As an assistant federal public defender, I’m not used to being in this position. I take pride in being able to provide information to clients, who are relying on me.
I have to explain to these parents that I might never be able to answer their questions. I can’t promise that they’ll be able to speak to their children, or know their whereabouts or who is taking care of them, or whether they’ll be sent back home without their kids.
Why so many unknowns? This administration appears to have no infrastructure, policy or plan in place to deal with the destruction of families seeking refuge or a new life in our country.
During cross-examination of one agent, I asked if she was aware that my client was arrested with his 4-year-old daughter. She said no.
The judge just glared at her.
This is how it goes. I ask about the child; the government objects; the judge forces the agent to answer. The answer is always the same.
“Do you know the location of the child?” No or unknown.
“Did you provide my client with information as to the location of his child?” No or unknown.
“Did you provide my client with any information as to how he could go about finding his child?” No or unknown.
At another hearing before a different judge, as one of my colleagues asked the agent on the stand about the whereabouts of our client’s child, the prosecutor objected to the relevance of the questions. The judge turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this wasn’t relevant. At one point, he slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying. This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court.
Meanwhile our clients, these traumatized parents, remain in custody on felony charges, despite no criminal history and, in many cases, only a single prior contact with the United States. They have no answer to the question any parent would have: When do I get to hold my beloved child again? Despite Trump’s declaration that he is ending the policy, I have little confidence that answers will be forthcoming.
But after seeing parents whose children were stolen away by the government, with no plan to reunite them, I know I am not seeing justice at work. And I don’t know how this will end.
Story by Washington Post >
Watch This LGBTQ people in rural communities deserve lawyers, too
Ever since Lisa Cisneros was young, she's wanted to advocate for people. Lisa's passion is working with the LGBTQ community in rural, low-income, immigrant communities of California. California ChangeLawyers awarded Lisa’s organization, CRLA, a grant to hire a lawyer to work with LGBTQ farm workers in rural California.
Event Summer BBQ Mixer
Join MBC organizations for our annual summer mixer on July 12, 2018 at Everett & Jones for delicious BBQ, lots of appetizers, and drinks
Free admission for members of co-sponsoring organizations.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Sign up here>
Job Opportunity Latinx policy & research one year fellowship
California ChangeLawyers is partnering with the Network for Justice and Southwestern Law School to provide a one-year fellowship to a recent Southwestern law graduate committed to engaging in policy work and research focused on supporting Latinx civil rights. This position is based out of Los Angeles.
To apply, please send your resume, names of three references, 1-2 page writing sample, and a one-page cover letter to Bianca Sierra Wolff at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Network for Justice Fellow”.