Essay of the Week It’s time to put the people back in government
The following essay was written by Eliana Kaimowitz, an immigrant integration lawyer at the California Department of Social Services.
I can still picture her sitting across from me, a Latinx woman with dark brown hair and dark eyes, who had risen to the top of her profession. A powerful California state director who made important policy decisions for over 40 million people. I was awed by her; that someone who looked like me could hold so much power and influence.
“I want to do what you do. I want to see how government really works from the inside,” I told her.
Her response shocked me.
“You are too young to work in a government bureaucracy. Go out. Get some on-the-ground experience, and then come back to government.” At the time, her words felt a stinging rejection. Several decades later, I see the wisdom of her words.
Many government workers have had limited interactions with people outside their own communities. This is problematic. People who have limited interactions with those outside their own communities have a very difficult, at times impossible, time designing good policies that actually benefit people on the ground.
More than educational credentials or work experience, policymakers at all levels should have some real-life experience with the problems they are asked to solve.. Or at the very least, policymakers should spend significant time with the people affected by the policies they create. They should developing meaningful relationships with community leaders and activists. They should spend time listening -- really listening -- to the people who live and work and give life to the communities they serve.
That’s why when I research, discuss, and draft immigration policies, I think about the angst in a mother’s eyes as she learns she may be deported far away from her children. I think about the years I spent representing immigrant clients. I think about my own personal experiences as a Latina woman. Human rights become more than a theory when you talk to a person who has been tortured or beaten because they protested a dictator or asked for clean drinking water.
In California, state government has used its power to give immigrants driver’s licenses, access to a college education, and lawyers to help in deportation proceedings. Before any of these policies became a reality, someone had to be that voice who brought the stories of real people to the government. And someone in government had to agree that government could help solve these problems.
We need more changemakers in government. We need more changemakers who have a visceral understanding of the problems they are trying to solve. We need more changemakers in government with connections to the communities they serve.
To all the young changemakers out there: go work in and with the communities you intend to serve, and then go work in government to ensure ours is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Story by California ChangeLawyers >
This Week on Twitter 19 Black women elected judges in Texas
Speaking Of… This lawyer just became the first Latina, the first immigrant, and the youngest person to win a Judge’s seat
County Judge-elect Lina Hidalgo did a bit more than score a big win for the Democratic party in her win last night. She also made a little history, becoming the first Latina woman to win the county judges seat, the first immigrant, and likely the youngest at only 27-year-old.
Hidalgo narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Ed Emmett, with barely 50 percent of the ballots and 590,524 to Emmett's 572,816 votes.
Hidalgo was born in Colombia and came to the United States as a child. Her story is the picture of the American dream in action, having come from a war-torn region as a child and realized she was finally safe and able to grow up, free.
Story by Patch >
More of This Lawyer becomes the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress
Former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib has become one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, after winning her race for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District on Tuesday.
Tlaib’s election to the House is a groundbreaking milestone for Congress, which currently has just two lawmakers who identify as Muslim, according to a Pew Research Center report. According to Pew, the proportion of Congress that identifies as Christian (more than 90 percent) hasn’t changed much since the 1960s, although there is more religious diversity on the Democratic side. As a point of comparison, only 0.4 percent of Congress is Muslim, while 1.1 percent of Americans are.
Tlaib, who was the first Muslim woman to be elected to the Michigan state legislature, is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and a Detroit native, according to her campaign website. She’s part of a wave of about 100 Muslim Americans who filed to run for Congress this year, a surge that one study has tied to pushback against rising Islamophobia during the Trump administration.
“I’m going to be a woman, a mom, a Muslimah, a Palestinian, an Arab and so many of these other layers of these identities depending on who I’m talking to and what they want to identify me as,” Tlaib told CNN.
Story by Vox >
Even More of This Lawyer becomes the first LGBTQ Native American woman elected to Congress
Sharice Davids has become Kansas's first openly LGBT woman elected to Congress, in a historic win for the Democratic Party.
Davids, an attorney, was raised by a single mother who spent some 20 years in the U.S. Army, The Shawnee Mission Post reported when she entered the race for Democratic nomination back in February. She went on to gain a law degree from Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York.
A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, which hails from Wisconsin, Davids has worked on community development on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She praised the role of generations of Native women in driving progress in the U.S., previously telling Native American web program Wassaja: “That’s part of why we’re seeing many Native women running now... we’re building off of the opportunities that our mothers and grandmothers helped lay out in front of us.”
Davids campaigned on a platform of affordable healthcare and quality public education. She has called out gun violence and certain tax credits, and voiced support for abortion rights and an expansion of Medicare.
“Sharice won the hearts of voters by putting forward a positive and solutions-oriented agenda while explaining how her experiences as a Native American LGBTQ woman influenced her policy positions and beliefs,” former Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement to NBC News. “Sharice’s victory tonight will become a model for other LGBTQ leaders considering a run for office in red states or districts.”
Story by Newsweek >
More More More Two lawyers become the first Latinas from Texas elected to Congress
In the nearly 175 years since Texas joined the union, the state has sent more 300 representatives to Congress, but none have been Latina — until now. As of 8:30 p.m., campaigns for El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and Texas state Senator Sylvia Garcia have declared wins in congressional districts 16 and 29, respectively.
Their election to Congress comes when anti-immigrant fervor is at an all-time high, with the president and many Republicans fanning the flames with xenophobic rhetoric. In just the last couple weeks, a caravan of immigrants more than 1,000 miles away fleeing poverty and violence has been branded by Trump as “an invasion,” and he has deployed 5,000 troops to the border. Escobar said she hopes to be a check on Trump’s worst tendencies.
“We’re living in an era under the Trump administration that is targeting communities like mine,” said Escobar. “During such a tumultuous time I think it’s beautiful that it’s the border that’s making history.”
Story by Texas Observer >
Second Chances More than 1 million Floridians just regained the right to vote
The following op-ed was written by Jennifer Rae Taylor, a Senior Attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
IN ONE OF TUESDAY’S most-watched races, Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum lost a bid to become Florida’s first black governor by less than 100,000 votes. In the same state, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson lost his re-election bid by a narrower count.
Yet more than 60 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to transform one of the nation’s harshest state felony disenfranchisement schemes, restoring the vote to many of its 1.4 million residents with past criminal convictions.
That latter win expanded the Florida electorate by an estimated 1 million new voters, many of whom are predicted to favor Democratic candidates, and a small fraction of whom could have easily swung the Senate and gubernatorial races.
According to 2016 data from The Sentencing Project, more than 1 in every 4 people disenfranchised in Florida is black, and more than 1 in 5 black people in Florida is disenfranchised. By some estimates, continued disenfranchisement paired with state trends in mass incarceration were predicted to soon yield a Florida “democracy” with 40 percent of black men barred from the ballot box. Forty percent.
And whatever we try to extrapolate from the race, age, class, or geographic backgrounds of those enfranchised by the new law, they all share one key characteristic not found on a census form: Each and every one has experienced criminal conviction and imprisonment. They have withstood the challenges of re-entry and discrimination and may be struggling through them still. And now, the power to vote brings with it the power to help remake one of the most powerful and complex forms of state control: criminal justice.
Story by the Marshall Project >
Funding Opportunity Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund
Administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund connects those who experience sexual misconduct including assault, harassment, abuse and related retaliation in the workplace or in trying to advance their careers with legal and public relations assistance.
Apply here >
Job Opportunity OneJustice Pro Bono and Immigrant Lawyer, Healthy Nonprofits Program Director, Pro Bono Justice Program Director
Since 2007, OneJustice has developed and launched a variety of effective projects with possibilities of replication during the Justice Bus Project, Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC), IMPACT LA, Executive Fellows Program, and Nonprofit Management Consulting.
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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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Fellowship Opportunity 2019 MTO Fellowship
Applications are now open for the 2019 MTO Fellows Program. This program is an important initiative designed to encourage, promote and support a community of individuals who contribute to the diversity of the legal profession.
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Fellowship Opportunity Soros Equaliy Fellowship
The U.S. Programs’ Equality team seeks applicants for its Soros Equality Fellowship, which aims to support emerging mid-career professionals who will become long-term innovative leaders influencing the racial justice field. The fellowship award provides individuals with a grant of $100,000 to support production of an innovative racial justice project over the course of 18 months.
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