Read This Public charge is racist and anti-poor. The Supreme Court just made it legal.
Carlos Aguilar is Chief Content Director at ChangeLawyers℠. He immigrated to California at the age of 4.
This week, the five conservative judges on the Supreme Court allowed the Trump Administration’s “public charge” rule to go into effect. This rule creates a wealth test to determine who is worthy of living in America. Permanent residency can now be denied to any and all immigrants who use government benefits for “basic needs such as food and housing”. This includes anyone who ever received Medicaid, Medicare, or SNAP (food stamps) benefits.
This rule is so broad, that nearly 70% of the people who were granted green cards in the past five years would now be considered ineligible.
In fact, this rule would have killed my family’s future in America.
When we first immigrated to California, my family used public benefits to secure our future. Today, my parents are small business owners, my sister and I are college graduates, and I’m the Chief Content Director at ChangeLawyers, a public foundation. The Supreme Court’s decision makes our lives — and our success — in America that much more improbable.
And we’re not alone. Close to 90% of the young people who receive ChangeLawyers scholarships are either immigrants or first-generation students. After law school, many of them become business owners, law firm partners, and judges. They are community activists; they run for office; they make and implement laws. These young people are, in every sense of the phrase, the American dream. In the words of U.S. District Judge George Daniels, who blocked the rule in October 2019, public charge is “repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success.”
So where do we go from here?
I believe we need our people — people who look like us, who talk like us, who have our lived experience — to assume positions of power and influence. We need our people in all federal and district courts. We need our people on the Supreme Court.
And we need all of this to happen now. Over 90% of Trump-nominated judges have been white and over 70% of all federal judges across the country are white. In California, where over 60% of us are people of color, over 70% of lawyers are white.
Clearly, the status quo is uninterested in extending human dignity, safety, and respect to immigrants, POC, and poor communities. Clearly, the status quo threatens our ability to live our lives and secure our future. Which is why I believe that the fight for our future starts with us — all of us — taking on the status quo and taking back power.
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Watch This Inequity Doesn’t Recognize Borders
Marjan Abubo is law student at UC Davis Law and a ChangeLawyers℠ Scholar.
Podcast of the Week The lawyer who wants American to face it’s racist past and present
The third Monday in January is a U.S. federal holiday honoring the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., but two Southern states — Alabama and Mississippi — also use the day to celebrate Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces during the Civil War.
Public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson lives in Alabama and is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to combat injustice in the U.S. legal system. The new movie, Just Mercy, is an adaptation of his 2014 memoir of the same name. He says that the fact that his state honors Lee at all — let alone on the same day as King — is a sign that America has not acknowledged the evils of its past.
Listen the story on NPR
More of This Incarcerated Transgender people challenge law that bans name changes
Alexandra Carson thought the interview had gone well. Her experience managing a restaurant more than qualified her for the server position at a buffet chain near her rural Texas home, she said, and the friendly conversation made her feel like the job was secure. But the hiring manager’s demeanor changed when it was time to fill out some paperwork, and Carson, a transgender woman, had to explain why the legal name on her ID is male.
“She became very closed-off and brusque,” Carson recalled of the manager. “Suddenly, it was, ‘We have other people we have to talk to.’” A friend of Carson’s who worked at the restaurant later told her the manager admitted she did not hire Carson because she is transgender. “She would never have known,” said Carson, if not for the name on her identification.
Carson, 32, wants to change her name legally, but Texas bars people with a felony conviction from doing so until two years after they complete their sentence—including probation or parole. Carson, who is on parole, won’t be eligible until 2025. She is one of three transgender women with past convictions who sued Texas officials last year, arguing that it’s unconstitutional to force them to go by a legal name that doesn’t match their gender.
Transgender people filed four such lawsuits in 2019 that challenge bans on those with certain types of convictions from changing their name. In addition to the suit in Texas, there are federal suits pending in Wisconsin and Illinois, and a state suit in Pennsylvania, where the first court hearing is next month.
The lawsuits detail stories that range from frustrating to chilling. Transgender people in prison in these states must use their birth name—sometimes referred to as a deadname in the transgender community—on official mail and on the prison phone system. In federal prison, this means that every five minutes during a call the phone system plays a recorded message with their former name. Several plaintiffs say they limit contact with family and friends to avoid this humiliation. Encounters with police once released can become fraught. During a traffic stop, police once accused one of the Texas women of stealing her own car because of the male name on her driver’s license and registration.
Read Story on The Marshall Project
More of This Too New bill would prohibit charging anyone under 20 as an adult
The latest in a slough of sweeping changes to the state’s justice system, a new California State Senate bill would prohibit prosecutors from automatically charging anyone younger than 20 years old as an adult.
The bill, SB 889, was announced Tuesday morning by the office of State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who has been on the forefront of justice reform in California. This announcement comes a year after the passage of SB 1391, which bans prosecutors from charging anyone younger than 16 as an adult.
“When teenagers make serious mistakes and commit crimes, state prison is not the answer,” Skinner said in a news release. “Processing teenagers through the juvenile justice system will help ensure they receive the appropriate education, counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation services necessary to achieve real public safety outcomes.”
Under SB 889, prosecutors who wished to charge anyone aged 16 through 19 as an adult would need to file a motion in juvenile court. What happens next is a trial in front of a judge, who is presented with aggravating and mitigating factors, and determines whether to approve the prosecution motion.
Currently, 18-and-19-year-olds can be charged as adults automatically under current state law. In a news release, Skinner’s office cited studies about adolescent brain development as a rationale behind the bill, arguing that the change was in-line with things like the current drinking age, or raising the tobacco-buying age to 21.
Judges shall consider the minor’s history of crime or lack thereof, the nature and sophistication of the crime, and whether juvenile rehabilitation would be sufficient. Anyone convicted as a juvenile can’t be incarcerated past their 25th birthday, including for crimes that would carry a life sentence in adult court, unless they’re deemed a danger to the public.
Within hours of Skinner’s news release, California District Attorney Association Legislative Director Larry Morse issued a statement saying the bill represented a “contradiction of great concern.”
Read the story on Mercury News
Perspective American law doesn’t take rape seriously
When Harvey Weinstein arrives at the New York State Supreme Court each day, frail, aged, sometimes hobbling on a walker, he settles into a courtroom crowded with spectators and freighted with a legacy of distrust.* On the prosecutor’s side sit two women alleging that the Hollywood producer sexually assaulted them; four others who would buttress their claims that he is a sexual predator; and, in spirit if not in fact, dozens of other accusers and legions of people who see in Weinstein the original villain of the #MeToo movement. Across the aisle, supporting Weinstein and his attorneys, are the skeptics of this and other rape prosecutions, those who cite the false allegations against the lacrosse players at Duke and the fraternity brothers at the University of Virginia. And permeating every moment of the proceedings, every motion and witness testimony, every cross-examination and jury instruction, is the disturbing history of rape prosecution in America.
What’s happening in the Manhattan courtroom is a watershed for Weinstein and, perhaps, for victims who almost never see their abusers held accountable. Rape is rarely investigated or prosecuted, making sexual assault the easiest violent crime to get away with. This is changing, but slowly—less like the tsunami of the #MeToo movement and more like a tide rising in centimeters. The trials of Weinstein, and Bill Cosby before him, surely mark progress. But as Tania Tetlow, a former federal prosecutor and the president of Loyola University New Orleans, observes, “It’s a sad sort of progress that we now believe victims when the 40th or 50th victim comes forward.”
Skepticism about sexual violence seems to be written into Western society, and certainly into Western jurisprudence. Lord Matthew Hale, a 17th-century judge in England, captured the sentiment when he instructed jurors to consider carefully the allegations of the victim before them. A rape charge “is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be prove, and harder to be defended by the party accused,” he advised, adding that the woman’s testimony should be examined “with caution.”
If those words seem prehistoric, then consider this guidance from the Model Penal Code, a blueprint for states to look to when writing their criminal codes. The code, a project of the American Law Institute, was published in 1962. It originally suggested that a woman must report an assault within three months, the so-called prompt-outcry rule that makes even the stingiest statute of limitations today look generous by comparison. The authors wrote that a prosecutor must not take the woman’s word at face value, but find external corroboration in “an attempt to skew resolution of … disputes in favor of the defendant.” They further noted the “dangers of blackmail or psychopathy” by a “vindictive complainant,” and recommended that jurors evaluate a woman’s testimony “with special care,” given “the emotional involvement of the witness.” States drew heavily on the code, and that’s how it read until 2012—that’s right, 2012—when lawyers began to make revisions.
“Rape laws in most states were written in such a way as to make rape virtually impossible to prosecute,” says Jane Manning, a former sex-crimes prosecutor in Queens, New York, and currently the director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, a nonprofit that advocates for survivors of sexual assault. First, she says, until a wave of changes beginning in the 1960s, the “corroboration requirement” meant that a woman’s testimony was worthless unless it could be proved by external evidence. If a man robbed and then raped a woman, her testimony could convict him of the robbery but not the assault.
Read the story on The Atlantic
Volunteer as a Poll Monitor
Poll monitors will ensure that immigrant voters receive the language assistance they are guaranteed by law, polling places are accessible to people with disabilities, voters are not being harassed or intimidated, and more.
We Keep Us Safe Book Release
Attend the official book launch of We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities, written by Zach W Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
February 4 in Oakland. Register here
February 12 in San Francisco. Register here
Free Financial Literacy Webinar
American culture is pre-occupied with money, but resources on financial literacy for black and brown communities are few and far between. What unique challenges do people of color, Queer folks, Womxn, and others face in building and protecting our assets and securing our future?
February 6 at 12:00 Noon. Register here
Free Mindfulness Webinar
We all hear about the importance of mindfulness for our wellbeing, but does anyone ever show us how to achieve a completely present state with minimal effort? What does mindfulness look like if you suffer from imposter syndrome? What unique challenges do people of color, Queer folks, Womxn, and others face on the road to mindfulness? And how can approaches to mindfulness help you in your day-to-day and at work?
February 20 at 12:00 Noon. Register here
Liberation Series co-hosted by ChangeLawyers℠
Featuring ChangeLawyers℠ ED, Chris Punongbayan, and ChangeLawyers℠ Chief Content Director, Carlos Aguilar.
Have you ever been a room full of people who don’t look like you? Do you code switch at work because you know you can’t be real in certain environments? You’re not alone. This is a two-part fireside chat that will dig into some hard truths about the challenges we face when we try to liberate philanthropy.
Liberate Your Foundation, February 4, 2020. Register here >