Essay of the Week Jews and People of Color can build a resilient social justice movement together
The following essay was written by Bianca Sierra Wolff, a lawyer and Strategic Partnerships Director at California ChangeLawyers.
Living in this country as the daughter of Mexican immigrants, I’ve had countless conversations with my fellow Brown and Black Americans about the struggle of living as a person of color in a country with such a profound race problem.
People of color in America from all walks of life, particularly those with immigrant backgrounds, understand the struggle for social justice. We understand what it feels like to be told we don’t belong. We understand what it feels like to be treated as if we’ve done something wrong just because of where you were born or what you look like.
But for the past several years, I’ve also had similar conversations with a group of people I never expected: my husband and his Jewish family. What I’ve discovered when I married into a Jewish family is that Jews have a lot in common with Brown and Black Americans.
Like people of color, Jews have been made to feel like “others” in their our own country. Since 2017, anti-Semitic incidents have risen by 57%, the largest single-year increase ever recorded. The rampage at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is just the latest and most tragic example in the long history of violence against Jews.
Which is why many Jews have a viscerally, instinctual understanding of the struggle for social justice. It’s also why Jews have been on the frontlines of the social justice movement.
American Rabbis have been fearless critics of this Administration’s immigration policies. Just a few months ago, head Rabbi of the Tree of Life synagogue Jeffrey Myers forcefully came out against family separations.
Jewish lawyers in particular have been vigilant defenders of refugees. The Hebrew Sheltering and Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) has provided free legal representation to refugees from all over the world since the 19th century. In fact, the reason the Pittsburg shooter went on a rampage at a synagogue was because he heard of HIAS’ work on behalf of the Central American refugee caravan, the very same caravan of children and families that the Trump Administration has referred to as an “invasion.” The Tree of Life shooter Robert D. Bowers decided to stop this refugee “invasion” by murdering the Jewish lawyers who dared to fight for immigrants’ rights.
The tragedy at Tree of Life should serve as a call for radical inclusion. A call to build a social justice movement that brings together Black, Brown, Queer, Undocumented, Muslim, Jewish, and White Americans together to reject intolerance and demand that this country live up to its original value: justice for all.
The seeds for this kind of radically inclusive movement have already been planted. Our Muslim allies have raised nearly $200,000 in support of Tree of Life victims. Jewish lawyers at HIAS are still defending Central American immigrants, free of charge.
In the wake of this tragedy, we need to be resilient in the face of hate. And a radically inclusive social justice movement is a resilient social justice movement.
Story by California ChangeLawyers >
#ChangeLawyer This gay immigration attorney fled Ecuador. Now he’s taking on Trump.
Thanks to the Trump administration, being a part of any marginalized group in America today can feel like you’re under constant assault. When you’re part of two or more marginalized groups, that feeling compounds — and for Luis Mancheno, a gay Ecuadorian refugee and immigration attorney, the only answer is to face Trump and his disastrous policies head-on.
Having fled his hometown of Quito, Ecuador at 21, Mancheno has since helped hundreds of immigrants and asylum seekers navigate American courts. Currently working at Bronx Defenders in New York City, he famously represented a client who sparked the first temporary freeze on Trump’s Muslim travel ban in 2017.
What’s it’s like being an immigration attorney? Do you get a lot of queer clients?
I have been an attorney for five years. My specialty is deportation defense and helping those who are detained. To tour a detention center and see the desperation of the people there is heartbreaking — they’re mostly people of color who have been involved in the system because they’ve been overpoliced. Plus, there is no right to an attorney for immigration procedures. All of those layers, plus my own person story, helped me realize that that’s where I’m needed. I’ve heard some great stories, but also terrifying ones, like of trans women who are held in male facilities. I’ve seen illegal things happen all the time.
I happen to get a lot of queer immigrant clients, and a lot of them have a deportation defense because they are likely to suffer atrocities in their home countries. My docket has become more queer through referrals. There’s a moment I have with queer clients when I am able to tell them I am a gay man. To see the relief they feel knowing they aren’t being judged and that I can understand their experiences is very powerful for a lot of them. In a way, my job is to be a translator and to relay their stories in the fancy terms that the judges and those involved in the system need to hear. Their lives have value.
You've spent time in conversion therapy. Did your parents send you after you came out?
When I was 18, I was forced to come out to my parents. My aunt saw me hanging out with this guy I was seeing on the street, took me to her house, and did not allow me to leave until I confessed that I was gay. When I did confess, she told my parents. About a month later, my parents took me to see this evangelical psychiatrist. We sat down with him and he started explaining the reasons why people are gay; he said it’s a sin, and that there’s a cure for it. By the end of it, he said, “you will be a normal man, how you’re supposed to be and how God wants you to be.”
After all of this, there was an attempt on your life that caused you to move to the United States. Can you tell me about that?
I’m comfortable talking about this because, one, it’s so important to remember that people get murdered for being LGBTQ+, and sometimes people really forget about that. Two, because it’s about my immigration story — this country saved me from that.
There are only two gay bars in Quito, and of course there are no signs or anything, so you had to know where to go. The bar we went to was through a garage door. When we got there, he got distracted and started talking to other people. Then this very good looking guy came up to me and offered me a drink. I don’t really remember anything that happened after that.
The first thing I remember is waking up bleeding behind the steering wheel of my car. I realize that my car has crashed and my friend is in the backseat unconscious. Someone had written “maricón,” which is Spanish for "faggot," on the side of the car. So the first thing I do is wipe it off with my sweater, because I was afraid someone would see it. That’s when I finally realize that the car is near a cliff and we hit a light post. If we hadn’t hit the light post, we would’ve gone over the edge and died. It wasn’t until I was telling this story to an immigration judge as I was seeking asylum that pieces started to come back — like that I was taken to an ATM at one point. I went to the police and they laughed and told me they didn’t have jurisdiction over that bar, and that if I didn’t want that to happen to me again, I shouldn’t go there. That was my breaking point. I went to school and looked for opportunities to leave Ecuador and found an exchange program in Oregon. I was admitted, and from there, I was able to apply for asylum.
Story by Them >
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Reform Prosecutors How ending mass incarceration is driving DA races across the country
The Dallas County district attorney, Faith Johnson, often reminds voters that she recently won a rare murder conviction against a white police officer who shot into a car full of teenagers, killing a black 15-year-old boy.
But then her Democratic opponent took the microphone and pledged to be even tougher on the police. And he promised that if elected, he would reduce the number of Dallas County residents who end up behind bars.
“In the first 90 days, I’m going to give you a plan to end mass incarceration,” said John Creuzot, a former judge who hopes to unseat Ms. Johnson in November.
In the past, candidates running to be district attorney — if they were challenged at all — touted their toughness on crime. But now district attorneys’ races have become more competitive, attracting large donations and challengers running on pledges to transform the criminal justice system.
The push to rethink criminal justice practices has been embraced by liberals and some conservatives, and polls show a majority of voters favor reducing the number of nonviolent drug offenders who are sent to prison.
In Jefferson County, Ala., the Democratic district attorney candidate, Danny Carr, has floated the idea of treating the possession of small amounts of marijuana more like a traffic violation. In San Antonio, Joe Gonzales, also a Democrat, has pledged to rehabilitate more nonviolent offenders, rather than locking them up.
The push to overhaul prosecutors’ offices was pioneered by the billionaire George Soros, who in recent years has backed more than 20 candidates, including Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, vowing to upend the way prosecutors have traditionally approached their jobs.
The effort aims to achieve a single overarching goal, said Whitney Tymas, who heads Mr. Soros’s prosecutor initiative, which is separate from his philanthropic work.
“We want to end mass incarceration. That’s our North Star,” she said. “We’ve won twice as many races as we’ve lost. We’re not going to win them all. But we’re really trying to, because that’s the difference between people unjustly sitting in jail or not.”
The district attorney race in Dallas has attracted extra attention because the county has been rocked by high-profile police shootings and is home to one of the largest inmate populations in the country.
As demographics have changed — Dallas County is now 40 percent Latino and 23 percent black — so has the face of law enforcement. The county’s police chief, sheriff and district attorney are all black women.
But that has not stemmed the outrage over defendants who are forced to stay in jail for days or weeks before trial — often losing jobs or custody of their children — because they cannot afford to post bond.
Nor has it placated the bitterness over a shooting by a white off-duty officer, who killed her unarmed black neighbor in his apartment, claiming that she mistook it for her own. The officer, Amber R. Guyger, posted bond and walked free within hours; people protesting the death of the victim, Botham Jean, remained in jail for two days.
As the election approaches, liberal advocates of criminal justice reform are lining up behind Mr. Creuzot, who as a judge pioneered the first drug courts in Texas that sent addicts to treatment rather than prison in the 1990s.
Mr. Creuzot played an integral role in the bipartisan criminal justice reform movement that prevailed in Texas in 2007, when conservative lawmakers balked at spending $2 billion to build more prisons. He traveled frequently to the Capitol to convince lawmakers that alternatives such as drug treatment could reduce crime at a fraction of the cost.
In recent months, the Texas Organizing Project has been taking that message door-to-door in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, hoping to turn out 26,000 low-frequency voters in Dallas County.
“Right now, we have Republican legislators who think it’s O.K. for black and brown kids to rot in jail because they can’t pay bail,” Tempestt McHenry, 31, told voters in South Dallas on a recent Monday afternoon, reading off a script provided by the project. Ms. McHenry, who gets paid $15 an hour to canvass, said she does this work because her uncle is serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.
“This system is not for the black and brown community,” she said as she passed out literature for Mr. Creuzot. “I’m hoping he will change it.”
Story by NY Times >
Podcast of the Week Prison strikes are the frontline attack against mass incarceration
This fall, thousands of incarcerated people in dozens of states went on strike to protest harsh and exploitative conditions in America’s prisons. Prisons, and the cruel conditions they foster, are often the last thing with which the public wants to be confronted. But incarcerated people throughout the country are using the only leverage they have—their personal labor—to force the issue.
Listen to the Appeal Podcast >
More of This This law school is trying to reform policing
Rosa Brooks was on sabbatical from her job as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in 2016 when she decided to become a reserve officer with Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department—a decision she attributes to both an interest in police reform and a love of detective novels.
“One of the many things that struck me as extremely strange was that the entire country was talking about race and policing and use of force,” Brooks said. “The one place that conversation was not happening was at the police academy, where it was not acknowledged in any way.”
So Brooks collaborated with fellow Georgetown Law faculty to create the Police for Tomorrow Fellowship—an 18-month program in which a select group of early-career police officers attend workshops on topics ranging from use of force and over-criminalization to implicit bias, homelessness, mental illness, and race and policing.
Law schools have produced much research on police reform in recent years, but Georgetown’s program takes that work further by actually training officers in the societal problems like homelessness they encounter daily on patrol.
“We, our fellows, and the department’s leadership have been blown away by how much it meant to the participants and how much it changed their perspectives and made them better officers,” Brooks said. “And it really didn’t take all that much work, all things considered.”
Police recruits and officers in their first year on the job apply to the fellowship program—85 applied for the 26 slots in the second iteration. Part of the appeal is that officers with an interest in reform can find like-minded colleagues, Brooks said.
“One of the things they said to us is that it made them feel like they’re not alone,” she said. “It made them feel like, ‘Oh, I’m not the only person thinking about these things,’ because the culture very much tells you, ‘We don’t talk about this stuff. And if you want to talk about this stuff, you’re a weirdo.’”
Story by National Law Journal >
Speaking of… Police should embrace communities, not shut them out
The following op-ed was written by Cedric Alexander, a former chief of police in Rochester, New York, and DeKalb County, Georgia. He served as federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration and was a member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing. A past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Alexander is currently deputy mayor of Rochester.
On August 21, 2018, beginning at 5:29 p.m., Tamar Manasseh streamed live smartphone video to Facebook from the corner of 75th and Stewart in her Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. She narrates 20 minutes of a “police chase on the block,” saying, a police officer has “his gun out, and he’s chasing somebody. … Here come some more. They got guns out, and they’re chasing somebody. … If you’re chasing somebody with a gun, what happens when you catch him?”
A crowd gathers and grows, watching, as the police presence likewise gathers and grows. “They really mad,” Manasseh assesses the mood of the police. “They got the chopper out!”
“So, I’m just wondering what they’re down here for. Because I’ve heard no gunshots. I haven’t heard anything. … Is this what it looks like in your neighborhood when there’s no shots fired?”
We’ve all seen this before. Time and again, we’ve seen what happens when the police and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect do not communicate or trust one another.
In the early 1980s, I was an officer in the Miami-Dade Police Department. It was there I was introduced to a concept we now call “community policing.” It was so radically new it didn’t even have a name. Back then, policing in urban Florida was all about runnin’ and gunnin’, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. But Major Doug Hughes, the commanding officer of Central Precinct, was determined to build relationships with people not just on the neighborhood streets, but in places like the James E. Scott Homes, a grim, low-rise subsidized housing development that had become shorthand for drugs, gangs, intimidation and murder.
Fast forward to 2015. As a member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing, I listened when Camden County, New Jersey, Police Chief J. Scott Thomson explained that “community policing starts on the street corner, with respectful interaction between a police officer and a local resident.”
So what was happening in the police encounter caught in Manasseh’s video? I called Glen Brooks, the C.P.D.’s director of Public Engagement. He got back to me and explained it began when officers spotted a vehicle involved in a shooting. A flash message was sent to all cars. Officers went to stop the vehicle and the subjects threw a weapon out of the window. A subject was subsequently apprehended.
Brooks also said the department is acquainted with Manasseh, who has received national attention for her anti-violence efforts, and that they’ve been planning to meet with her. As of September, they hadn’t, due to “scheduling conflicts.” In a message relayed through her rabbi, Manasseh said police still have not told her the reason for the commotion she recorded.
I’m not sure they told me, either. The date Brooks gave for the encounter he described was Aug. 30, not Aug. 21, the date of the video that I asked about. Brooks did not return two follow-up fact-checking calls from an editor at The Marshall Project.
Whatever the date, if indeed it was about a bad guy misusing a gun, I’m glad they got their man (or woman). But I would have hoped they could have done so without traumatizing a neighborhood, let alone squandering the potential resource of neighbors who could have helped facilitate a far more peaceful apprehension.
But, based on the stats—more than 600 murders and 2,800 shootings in the city so far this year, and zero on the corner of 75th and Stewart since Manasseh and others began sitting there—I am convinced there is a better approach. And a community that should be embraced, not ignored by police racing off to apprehend someone.
Story by the Marshall Project >
Dessert The remarkable devotion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband
He was tall. She was short.
His family was well off. Hers wasn’t.
He had not a care in the world. She worried a lot.
If you looked up mismatch in the dictionary, this couple — Martin D. Ginsburg and Ruth Bader — fit the definition perfectly. And yet in the early 1950s, on Cornell University’s bucolic campus, they fell in love.
Mostly, they fell for each other’s brains.
He was, she later said, “the only young man I dated who cared that I had a brain.”
Their remarkable and ultimately heartbreaking love story is chronicled in historian Jane Sherron De Hart’s new 722-page biography, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life.”
It lands at a time when Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, has become a feminist icon and pop-culture sensation with her own nickname, “the Notorious RBG,” and even an action figure. She is the subject of two new biopics, and her public appearances draw huge crowds. Hundreds of people lined up Wednesday to hear her speak at the federal courthouse in Washington, forcing organizers to set up six overflow rooms with audio and video for her eager admirers.
Early on in coupledom, Ruth and Marty agreed that they should pursue dual careers in law and that they would never get in each other’s way — a novel idea in the 1950s, as traditional gender roles were still evolving.
“He was an extraordinary suitor,” De Hart wrote, “a man ahead of his time. . . . Neither of them thought about social conventions concerning women’s roles.”
Marty and Ruth married in 1954 not long after graduating.
A couple of years later, they were off to Boston to attend Harvard Law School. Marty wound up practicing tax law. Ruth took a headier path teaching constitutional law and working on women’s rights issues, racking up impressive legal victories across the country. She and Marty raised two children together.
By the early 1990s, Ruth was pegged as a candidate for the Supreme Court — a position she deeply coveted. She also knew, as De Hart wrote, that “a potential nominee could not be perceived as promoting herself” because doing so “would have been seen as a breach of decorum.”
Enter Marty, who had become a highly respected Georgetown University tax law professor.
“Marty’s effort to smooth the way for his wife’s advancement was characteristic of the couple and their relationship,” De Hart wrote. “No other campaign for a seat on the Court had been spearheaded by a male spouse.”
In closing her own remarks, Ruth turned her gaze to Marty, in the front row.
“Most closely,” she said, “I have been aided by my life’s partner, Martin D. Ginsburg, who has been, since our teenage years, my best friend and biggest booster.”
Marty died in 2010 at age 78.
Story by Washington Post >
Job Opportunity Law for Black Lives hiring membership director
This position is a unique opportunity to support and direct an emerging network of lawyers, law students and legal workers.
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Job Opportunity UC Berkeley associate campus counsel
The Office of Legal Affairs supports UC Berkeley’s teaching, research and public service mission by timely delivery of ethical, cost efficient and high quality legal services. These legal services include monitoring litigation, drafting and negotiating agreements, providing advice, counsel and interpretation of laws, regulations and policies, and assisting with development of effective compliance and risk mitigation strategies to facilitate the UCB’s complex operations.
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