by California ChangeLawyers
News Brief is the newsletter for vigilant optimist. A curated collection of social justice stories, delivered to your inbox every Wednesday night. Thanks for reading!
by California ChangeLawyers
News Brief is the newsletter for vigilant optimist. A curated collection of social justice stories, delivered to your inbox every Wednesday night. Thanks for reading!
#ChangeLawyers In response to Trump, more young people are going to law school to study immigration law
Local law school instructors said there's been a rise in the number of students studying immigration law in response to President Trump's aggressive stance on immigration enforcement.
The increased interest started with the president's travel ban, which came down on Jan. 27, 2017, stranding travelers and creating chaos that lasted weeks in airports across the country. In Boston, protesters, journalists, politicians and lawyers flooded Logan Airport's international terminal.
Hemanth Gundavaram said Northeastern University's immigrant justice clinic was born that night.
"Northeastern looked and saw how many students were passionate about what was happening and decided to set into motion the immigrant justice clinic," he said.
Gundavaram who now co-directs the clinic, said it offers students the chance to work on real cases so they can learn firsthand about the complexities of asylum, deportation and the ever-changing rules governing U.S. immigration law.
Gundavaram said the clinic has attracted more and more students who not only see these policies playing out in the news, but also in their own lives.
"We've had people who have been undocumented themselves, students who had family members who are undocumented, many students who are immigrants themselves," he explained. "So I think it's a very personal thing for a lot of students."
Gathered in Gundavaram's office, a few of the clinic's students discussed an asylum case. Asylum has been arguably one of the areas of immigration law that changed the most under Trump.
"I started law school just before the  election, and that definitely kind of pushed me into immigration law after everything started happening," said Jessica Johnson, who recently graduated.
Johnson said she’s ready to jump into immigration full-time, especially as the Trump administration continues its tough stance on immigrant issues.
"It's definitely, you know, reinforced my passion for helping these people, seeing all the changes that are harming them and their families," Johnson added.
A 2017 poll from Gallup and the Association of American Law Schools asked about student motivations for entering law school. James Greif, communications director for the association, said social justice was a clear trend in survey responses.
"Public-spirited and civic-minded motivations led the list of reasons, and these are the students that are applying to law school today," he said. "Increased interest in pursuing a career in immigration law seems to be part of this overall trend."
Read the story on WBUR
More of This Reparations now
The following editorial was written by Roy L. Brooks, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law and University Professor at the University of San Diego Law School, and the author of “Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations.”
A commission to study government redress for the atrocities of slavery and Jim Crow — what is popularly referred to as “black reparations” — is the subject of bills headed to Congress. Most Democratic presidential contenders have also come out in support of HR 40, the House bill, putting the issue on the table for the 2020 election cycle.
For African Americans and the nation as a whole, the question of reparations is the most significant issue in the quest for racial equality since the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. With race relations today severely challenged and getting worse, black reparations can be an opportunity to turn things around — but only if we seize upon this moment with probity and intelligence.When he was convicted, D.C. law allowed prosecutors to charge him as an adult. The irony isn’t lost on him.
Black reparations is not a recent idea. Public calls for reparations were first made after the Revolutionary War and throughout the antebellum period. At the end of the Civil War, ex-slaves sought redress from Congress. In response, an ex-slave pension bill was introduced in Congress, but went nowhere fast. Since then, each generation of African Americans has asserted the need for redress.
Today’s call for and conceptualization of black reparations is heavily shaped by the Federal Republic of Germany’s response to the Holocaust after World War II. German political leaders took as the primary lesson of the Holocaust that atrocities can occur — even in a government run by highly educated and sophisticated individuals — when a nation’s leaders fail to identify with a segment of its society.
The fundamental purpose for redressing atrocities, then, is to accentuate a common humanity between perpetrator and victims. Properly understood, a reparation is the revelation and realization of this common humanity.
This same kind of understanding helped to persuade Congress to commission a 1980 study of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The commission’s report resulted in a redress program that, not unlike Germany’s program, extended a governmental apology and redress payments in various forms to those who were relocated and imprisoned in camps. Republicans and Democrats alike supported the authorizing legislation, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. President Reagan signed it into law.
Renowned philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed that every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first stage it is ridiculed, in the second stage it is opposed, and in the third stage it is regarded as self-evident. That our government must at long last redress the atrocities of slavery and Jim Crow has now reached the second stage. I have no doubt that it will reach the third if we can come to see reparations as not about our past, but about our future.
Read the story on LA Times
Speaking of… The case for gay reparations
The following editorial was written by Omar G. Encarnación, professor of political studies at Bard College.
The New York Police Department apologized last week to the gay community for the 1969 raid of the Stonewall Inn, the fallout of which is widely credited with spurring the contemporary gay rights movement at home and abroad. Timed to coincide with Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, the statement by Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in part: “The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong — plain and simple” and “the actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.” The apology is the culmination of a decades-old struggle by gay activists for recognition of wrongdoing on the part of the police — one that few activists thought could ever become a reality.
With the surprise apology, the United States has taken its most significant leap yet into “gay reparation,” or policies intended to address the legacy of state-sanctioned repression of homosexuals. Although relatively new to the United States, gay reparation has been debated and legislated around the world for close to two decades and is a logical progression in the maturation of the gay rights movement. Having largely secured rights once thought to be virtually unattainable — especially same-sex marriage — gay activists, especially in Western democracies, are turning their attention to addressing the historical legacies of homosexual repression.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to gay reparation, countries have taken three distinct approaches. The most common is “moral rehabilitation,” which entails a formal apology by the state and the expunging of criminal records of those convicted of a homosexual offense. There’s also financial compensation for loss of income and pensions. Finally, there’s “truth-telling,” or an official report on past wrongs that incorporates steps for reparation. These are not mutually exclusive approaches; in fact, as recent experiences show, they are often pursued simultaneously or sequentially.
One of the first countries to grapple with gay reparation was Spain, which is fitting given the country’s reputation — first won during the Inquisition, an institution infamous for burning “sodomites” at the stake — as one of the most hostile to homosexuality in the Western world. In 2007, as part of the landmark Law of Historical Memory, which recognized the victims of the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, including homosexuals, it became possible for anyone who suffered economic hardship because of their sexual orientation to seek compensation from the state and to petition that their criminal record be expunged. According to El País, approximately 5,000 people were detained and arrested on suspicion of being gay under the Franco regime. Many were sent to mental institutions to undergo “conversion therapy.”
But if history is any guide, gay reparation faces an uphill struggle in the United States. After all, American society is still debating the merits of reparations for slavery. Moreover, although polls reveal that the issue of gay rights no longer divides the American public, it remains salient to the Republican Party. Not surprisingly, social conservatives, who control the party’s social agenda, have already attacked the idea. In 2010, the radio show host Michael Medved said that “any campaign for gay reparations would fall flat because there’s no evidence whatever that today’s homosexuals are the heirs to a long, bitter heritage of discrimination that spans generations.” He added that unlike black people, homosexuals “exercise a great deal of choice about just how public they want to embrace gay identity — or to claim a victim’s status.”
Despite these daunting obstacles, gay reparation is a struggle worth pursuing. Although it remains a relatively new phenomenon, it has so far shown itself to be a useful tool for restoring dignity for those victimized by discriminatory policies and for allowing countries to close long and painful chapters of homosexual repression. At the same time, gay reparation can serve to familiarize and sensitize the public about the injustices of the past, especially a new generation of L.G.B.T. people in the West who have mainly known freedom in their lifetimes.
Read the story on NY Times
Even More of This Appeals court grants abortion rights to undocumented minors, in rebuke to Justice Kavanaugh
Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s old court rebuked his anti-abortion jurisprudence on Friday, compelling the Trump administration to allow undocumented minors in federal custody to terminate their pregnancies. The appeals court’s ruling rejects the administration’s blanket ban on abortion access for these minors as a violation of their constitutional right to choose. It should guarantee all undocumented minors control over their bodies, a right the federal government has spent more than two years seeking to revoke.
Friday’s decision is the latest chapter in a controversy that began in March 2017. That month, then–Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement Scott Lloyd announced that minors in federal custody could not obtain abortions without his permission, which he flatly refused to grant. Instead, Lloyd urged pregnant minors not to get abortions and called their parents—without their consent—to inform them that their children were pregnant. He also tracked minors’ periods and pregnancies on a spreadsheet, apparently to determine when they were too far along to obtain a legal abortion. Lloyd even barred abortions for minors whose pregnancies resulted from rape, declaring that forcing these teenagers to give birth was in their “best interest.”
The ACLU brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of these minors asking the courts to block Lloyd’s policy. It also represented individual minors, including a 17-year-old known as Jane Doe, who urgently sought abortions while the class action was pending.
In October 2017, then-Judge Kavanaugh refused to let Doe, who was housed in Texas, get an abortion—even though she was 15 weeks pregnant and had already obtained judicial bypass pursuant to state law. Instead, Kavanaugh gave the government more time to find a sponsor who could take custody of Doe and maybe let her obtain an abortion. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit swiftly reversed Kavanaugh’s decision, allowing Doe to terminate. In response, Kavanaugh penned a fiery dissent accusing the majority of permitting “immediate abortion on demand.” He described Lloyd’s ban as nothing more than “government efforts to help minors navigate what is undeniably a difficult situation” through “reasonable regulations.”
Following that decision, Doe quickly obtained her abortion. A furious Department of Justice then asked the Supreme Court to punish the ACLU attorneys who represented Doe, falsely accusing them of misconduct. SCOTUS declined this invitation, but also vacated the D.C. Circuit’s decision because it had become moot since Doe got the relief she wanted. So the ACLU pressed on with its class action. Meanwhile, Judge Kavanaugh became Justice Kavanaugh and continued to vote against abortion rights.
Now the D.C. Circuit has blocked the administration’s abortion ban altogether, permitting all undocumented minors in federal custody to access abortion care. Judges Sri Srinivasan and Robert Wilkins, both Obama appointees, agreed that minors could sue as a class, and held that the ban imposes an unconstitutional “undue burden” on their right to choose.
Read the story on Slate
Less of This The dangers LGBTQ Immigrants face in search for asylum
The journey north for migrants traveling through Mexico carries multiple risks—food insecurity, exposure to elements, assault, injury and more. Traveling with a caravan offers a measure of safety against some of these dangers.
But for LGBT migrants making the 2,400-mile journey north, there are yet additional risks like discrimination and harassment from homophobic government officials, service providers and even from within the caravans themselves.
“In different caravans, we’ve suffered a lot of bullying, discrimination,” said Irving Mondragón, a caravan leader. “People have suffered rape and kidnapping attempts, or had everything stolen, or were forced off the path.”
A network of support has emerged, somewhat spontaneously, to advocate for the safety and rights of migrants traveling in the caravans. This network is largely made up of organizations and agencies. There are also individual volunteers who simply take it upon themselves to travel with the caravans to offer support. To the migrants these individuals are surrogate guardian angels. They provide moral support through accompaniment and procure resources for migrants as needs come up.
Mondragón is one of these guardian angels. He has traversed Mexico with the caravans at least three times—upon completing his second round, he turned around the following day and headed back to Honduras to immediately continue his third journey. Through all this traveling, Mondragón, who is a gay man himself, has tried out different strategies to guard the safety of LGBT contingents.
“The people at the front of the caravans—generally men who are healthy, traveling alone, with no family, no responsibility—these were the ones who often bullied us,” he said.
To stay away from these types, LGBT contingents intentionally lag behind (at times for up to three weeks) along with other more vulnerable members of the caravan, like single mothers with young children. But when they finally reach the shelters and free kitchens scattered along the migrant route, most have been depleted by the first waves of the caravan. “Since we were always last, there was no more support, there were no more blankets, no more beds,” said Mondragón.
Read the story on El Tecolote
Less of This Too Linda Fairstein’s Carceral feminism is racist and classist
“She prefers rape,” declared the New York Times Magazine in a 1990 profile of Linda Fairstein.
In journalist Katherine Bouton’s profile of the now-infamous Central Park Five prosecutor, Fairstein is a heroine of sex assault victims, spurning homicides—“the aspiration of prosecutors”—for rape cases because “there are victims to be vindicated.”
The headline of the profile, “Linda Fairstein vs. Rape,” suggests that Fairstein was involved in a cause more profound than simply avenging women who have been sexually assaulted. For Bouton, from Fairstein’s perch as the head of the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, she was prosecuting the concept of sexual assault itself.
It was a rape case that brought the already prominent Fairstein even more fame—and, much later, infamy. On April 20, 1989, the body of a badly injured jogger named Trisha Meili was discovered in Central Park. Meili survived a brutal sexual assault and beating and within days, five African American and Latinx teens—Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam—confessed.
But the statements came after nearly 30 hours of interrogations conducted by homicide detectives and Fairstein herself. The actual perpetrator of the assault, Matias Reyes, later confessed to Meili’s rape while while serving a sentence of 33 and a third years to life for raping three women near Central Park and raping and murdering a pregnant woman. In 2002, a judge vacated the young men’s convictions.
Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series about the case, “When They See Us,” was released on May 31 and has already spurred a head-spinning sequence of long-delayed public reckonings for the prosecutors. To date, more than 200,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for retailers to stop selling books by Fairstein, who is now a best-selling crime fiction author. On June 7, Fairstein was dropped by her publisher. On June 12, prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer said she would no longer teach at Columbia Law School. And a recent New York Magazine feature recounted Reyes’s many victims who “were written out of their own story.”
It’s the nearly 30-year-old New York Times Magazine story about Fairstein, however, that accidentally tells us the most about Fairstein, the culture of true-believer prosecutors, and the profound failings of the criminal legal system. In Bouton’s account, Fairstein is at once a high-flying law enforcement figure toying with the idea of holding high-profile jobs like NYPD commissioner and Manhattan district attorney, as well as a prosecutor avenging rape victims “who spends her days thinking about vile and abominable acts.”
Like the Central Park Five prosecution itself, the profile of Fairstein is imbued with racism and classism. In the opening paragraphs, Bouton contrasted the “suburban born, classically educated, intelligent, impeccably dressed” Fairstein against the people she prosecuted such as “a stocky Hispanic man with a drooping mustache, charged with rape and sexual abuse.”
Read the story on The Appeal
Perspective The case for abolition
The following editorial was written by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and co-founder of many social justice organizations; and James Kilgore, a Media Justice Fellow at Media Justice. Since spending six and a half years in federal and state prisons, he has written widely on issues of mass incarceration, labor, and electronic monitoring.
Our belief in abolition is first and foremost philosophical. It grew from watching, experiencing, and opposing decades of reliance on concrete and steel cages as catch-all solutions to social problems. We want a society that centers freedom and justice instead of profit and punishment.
Locking people up does not provide adequate housing, proper mental health treatment or living wage jobs, nor does it make us safe in any other way. Moreover, reforms that embody electronic monitoring or other forms of e-carceration, build gender-responsive jails or broaden the scope of parole and other forms of carceral control only deepen our conviction that fundamental change is the only path.
While we value philosophy, we have also grown weary of worn-out debates over the feasibility of a world without prisons and whether we would like to abolish prison for Dylann Roof. We prefer to talk about what we do.
Ultimately, abolition is a practical program of change rooted in how people sustain and improve their lives, cobbling together insights and strategies from disparate, connected struggles. We know we won’t bulldoze prisons and jails tomorrow, but as long as they continue to be advanced as the solution, all of the inequalities displaced to crime and punishment will persist. We’re in a long game.
Authors of reforms claim expertise about what “the public” will accept, as if it were a single entity that’s already made its mind about everything. But people frequently broaden their commitments because they learn about, and link to, previously unfamiliar struggles. These are not the public experts invoke but a public resolved to pursue policies and plans to realize their goals.
In other words, a public is made. How do we know? Experience.
To forge such a public, for decades abolitionists have been doing everything we can imagine to bring about change. We stand on the frontlines to oppose all forms of state violence.
We work with communities sited for prisons to fight expansion, while organizing to secure decent wages and housing in the regional economy. We work with Republican ranchers worried about the water table, and with undocumented agricultural workers vulnerable to pesticides and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We work with city managers and residents of prison towns disappointed in lockups touted for economic development that never deliver.
We document the cultural and environmental degradation resulting from cities of incarcerated people deprived of their civil rights, write handbooks and advise rural and regional development experts on alternative projects. We work with unions, on strategy to develop long-term goals for job protection, environmental justice and membership growth—especially because half the U.S. labor force has some record of criminalization that makes employment insecure and depresses wages.
Read the story on The Marshal Project
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