CIVIL RIGHTS POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES
The Civil Rights Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with voter rights, police brutality, free speech, the right to privacy, and other human rights enshrined in our constitution. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and state legislatures. Our Principal Analyst is Rod Maggay who can be reached at email@example.com.
Latest Civil Rights Posts
Policy Summary The Confrontation Clause contained in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right...to be confronted by the witnesses against him." On September 29, 2019, it was revealed...
Facebook Political Ads Letter” Highlights Need To Pursue Sweeping Changes Beyond Social Media Platforms; November 2019
On October 28, 2019 the New York Times published a report and a copy of the letter directed to Mark Zuckerberg that a number of Facebook employees signed. The letter contained criticisms of Facebook’s recently announced policy concerning misinformation in political advertising on the social media platform. The letter was prompted by recent comments from Mr. Zuckerberg himself who said that Facebook will no longer ban advertisements with “false or misleading content” and will not “fact check” the content of political ads. Mr. Zuckerberg reasoned, “We think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.” And he also stated “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.” LEARN MORE
The letter signed by a number of Facebook employees highlights the complexities of dealing with political speech from politicians and their groups (political action committees (PAC’s), and the national political party on social media platforms and in determining if the speech may be false and misleading. Mark Zuckerberg does get it right when he stated that Facebook should not be in the business of censoring politicians or in monitoring their content. People must decide for themselves the merits of the message that politicians are putting forth.
But the letter highlights a problem with political speech that pre – dates the rise of social media platforms that is not necessarily restricted to digital activities. In this article about the 2008 presidential campaign from TIME magazine Amy Sullivan charts the history of false and misleading statements from election candidates and shows that the United States has a long history of allowing falsehoods from candidates in the political arena. While false and misleading advertising can be regulated despite First Amendment Free Speech concerns, political advertising is categorized separately as political speech and that allows uncensored, misleading and false information to reach the public. The rationale for not censoring or regulating political speech is that it permits people to judge for themselves what appeals to them. This is a highly contentious position that has been made all the more difficult with social media platforms and the speed with which messages can spread, the ability to target specific groups and the amount of money being spent on political ads.
What needs to change here is not simply adding new rules for political advertisements on social media platforms alone but adding new rules and regulations that will apply to all kinds of media – new mediums such as social media and podcasts as well as old medium such as newspapers, television and radio. The proposals outlined in the Facebook letter – clear labels on what is political advertising, restrictions on ad targeting and spending caps – are all good steps that will undoubtedly help promote transparency on social media platforms. But change also needs to go deeper and change the American tradition of allowing misleading campaign statements and advertising that face no repurcussions. Mark Zuckerberg in deciding to no longer ban false and misleading political advertising was likely just following the American rules concerning political speech as they have been applied to TV, newspapers and radio. And until America comes around and changes the landscape to those old mediums there is no reason for the new mediums, such as Facebook, to follow a different path. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- First Amendment Coalition (FAC) – non – profit group dedicated to advancing free speech in civic affairs.
- Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University – non – profit group addressing free speech on social media platforms.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.
Photo by Kon Karampelas
On October 25, 2019 President Donald J. Trump was interviewed by author Doug Wead for an upcoming book on President Trump’s presidency thus far and repeated a 2017 claim that the Obama Administration had been caught spying on his 2016 campaign. The President made clear that it was at the direction of President Obama and that he felt that he “had my wires tapped” in Trump Tower. The story continues to appeal to conservative and right – leaning voters and even prompted Attorney General William Barr to state during testimony before a Congressional committee hearing that he believed spying against the Trump campaign did occur. Mr. Barr’s comments also included statements that indicated he was open to investigating the charges of spying if there are other remaining issues to be addressed. LEARN MORE
President Trump’s continued assertion that President Obama spied on his 2016 campaign is simply false. What had occurred is a routine national security process, which President Trump is trying to twist into a scenario where he can lob accusations of treason against the former 44th President’s administration.
What had occurred is that U.S. intelligence agencies were monitoring calls and communications of foreign nationals as they are permitted to do under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). That statute permits secret intelligence courts to issue surveillance warrants against non – American citizens. Once the surveillance begins reports are written of the progress of the surveillance activities with the names of American citizens redacted if the activities of the foreign national surveillance target communicates or comes in contact with an American citizen. This safeguard procedure is implemented in order to prevent the government from spying on American citizens. However, a limited number of national security officials – including the National Security Advisor – are permitted to ask that the names of American citizens who have been redacted in a national security report be revealed in order to clarify the information in the report or understand the foreign intelligence value of the information. This is why a national security official would ask for American citizen names in a report to be revealed, or “unmasked.”
Prior to and during President Trump’s 2016 campaign and transition, properly issued surveillance warrants were issued and the United States was in the process of monitoring the calls and communications of Russian nationals. However, these foreign nationals soon made contact and communicated with Trump campaign and transition officials. National Security Advisor Susan Rice received the reports of the activities of the foreign nationals interacting with Trump campaign officials and, pursuant to law, requested that the names of Trump associates be revealed – unmasked – in order to get a fuller picture of what the foreign nationals were doing communicating with Trump associates. Susan Rice was authorized by law to do this in her position as National Security Advisor. What she was doing was simply following the activities of foreign citizens – Russian nationals – to determine if they were engaged in any sort of illegal activity. The fact that they ended up communicating with Trump campaign officials does not establish that the Obama Administration was spying on Trump officials. The only reason the American citizens from Trump’s campaign had their names revealed was because of communications they had with the foreign nationals. However, President Trump refuses to see and acknowledge this perfectly legal behavior even after it has been proven that the Obama Administration was not spying on his campaign. For him, it is just easier to try to accuse Ms. Rice and the Obama Administration in order to try and deflect from some of his own comments and activities, some of which raise questions about possible treasonous behavior in his own administration. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – non – profit group’s webpage on NSA surveillance.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – non – profit group’s webpage on NSA surveillance.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.
Photo by Markus Spiske
U.S. Attorney General William Barr Proposes “Back – Door” Access To Allow Government To Read Your Digital Messages
On January 25, 2019, it was reported that Facebook was planning to implement end-to-end encryption of messages across its Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Whats – App messenger platforms. Facebook said that the plans would help users talk to each other much more easily across the platforms. The target date for full implementation is 2020.
On October 4, 2019 Attorney General of the United States William Barr sent an open letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg titled “Facebook’s PRIVACY FIRST Proposals.” In the letter, which was also signed by the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for the Home Department Rt. Honorable Priti Patel MP and Australian Minister for Home Affairs Honorable Peter Dutton MP, the Attorney General asks Facebook to not continue with its plan to implement end to end encryption of messages across its messenger platforms and to include a means for law enforcement to access the content of communications sent through the messenger apps. This type of access is known as “back – door” access because it permits the government access to the digital communications without permission of the user or the social media platform. LEARN MORE
End-to-end encryption of messaging is the process where messages are sent digitally between persons which can only be read by the sender and recipient of the message. Even Facebook engineers cannot read the message while in transit or if opened prior to receipt by the recipient. Facebook’s plan to implement end-to-end encryption for the three messaging systems was designed to ensure a level of reliability and privacy when a user sent a message to another user. However, it is William Barr’s request for “back – door” access that has alarmed many privacy activists.
The trouble with Attorney General Barr’s request is that his request for tech companies to provide access to government officials would simply undermine the privacy and security of ordinary people who want to have a simple conversation online. Many people message their family and friends for all kinds of reasons, some of which many prefer to keep confidential. And confidential messages are not always illegal. Some confidential messages may be for a romantic purpose or even for a professional purpose like conversations between an attorney and a client. If a “back – door” is built into the messaging system, then ordinary people can no longer be sure if their communications are confidential or private.
What the Attorney General also overlooks is that there is still a way for law enforcement authorities to acquire the messages without the need for “back – door” access. In the United States, law enforcement can still apply for a search warrant and acquire the messages that are in the possession of the sender or recipient. Messages are routinely saved in “Sent” folders and “Inboxes” and would be available that way. The use of a search warrant would also ensure safeguards such as an unbiased judge’s approval for the search warrant and specificity in what the search would entail. What Attorney General Barr is suggesting is a way for law enforcement to actively read the messages while in transit and open them at the government’s discretion which is akin to government eavesdropping on phone calls while they are happening without probable cause or a warrant. Attorney General Barr’s proposal is in direct contravention to the purposes of the Fourth Amendment and a person’s right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects” and secure “against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Finally, Attorney General Barr’s proposal is disingenuous because he is trying to make this an issue of child pornography and terrorism in order to tug at the heartstrings of ordinary citizens. While child pornography and terrorism are terrible crimes that should be pursued and punished aggressively those crimes should not be used as a justification to ignore or erode other rights related to privacy. If child pornography and terrorism are used as a justification anytime the government wants to do something than they will always be used as a trump card to override any legal protection or any kind of dissent. The ability to conduct investigations and prosecute all kinds of crimes has worked together with the Fourth Amendment and that framework shouldn’t be ignored just because of new technology or appeals to truly terrible crimes. New technology is no justification to ignore long held rights and cherished civil liberties. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – blog post on letter to Facebook from AG William Barr.
- Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) – open letter sent by technology group to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in response to Attorney General William Barr’s open letter.
- Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) – non – profit group’s webpage on digital privacy issues.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.
PHoto by Christian Wiediger
On October 1, 2019 Judge Allison Burroughs of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued a ruling in the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed the case in November 2014. The group had brought previous cases aimed at challenging affirmative action policies at colleges and universities around the country. In the Harvard case, the group alleged that Harvard intentionally discriminated against Asian – American applicants to the school in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That title prohibits discrimination by programs and activities that receive federal funding. After a three week trial conducted at the end of 2018, Judge Burroughs ruled against all of SFFA’s counts and ruled that  Harvard’s admissions program was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest,  that Harvard did not engage in racial balancing,  did not use race as a plus factor,  that other race – neutral alternatives were not available and  that Harvard did not intentionally discriminate against Asian – American applicants. LEARN MORE
In this closely watched case, the district court issued a victory for supporters of diversity in higher education although the case is likely headed for a long appeals process that could very well end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. While that possibility is likely many years down the road, if at all, it is important to note the rationales for Judge Burrough’s ruling.
It is clear from previous cases that the Students for Fair Admissions Group and its director Edward Blum have wanted nothing but to discredit and dismantle affirmative – action programs around the country. In her ruling, Judge Burroughs was very careful in acknowledging that affirmative – action programs are “not perfect” and not meant to be permanent and showed that the admissions program at Harvard was constructed in a manner that was constitutionally sufficient. The “strict scrutiny” analysis applied to the program demonstrated that Harvard’s admissions program did enough to serve the interests of building a diverse student body and did not do more than was necessary to achieve that goal because race was used in a holistic fashion together with other non – race factors. And in all the remaining counts, she showed how race was never used as a deciding factor such as part of a fixed quota system and that the use of race as a “plus” factor still permitted the admissions committee enough flexibility to consider all other elements of the applicant’s application. In short, race, when used was constitutionally permissible according to the limits set by prior Supreme Court cases.
What also made this interesting was how selective the plaintiffs were in their use of statistical data while ignoring other facts that they found inconvenient to their arguments. As an example, SFFA tried to point to a Harvard recruitment program that sent recruitment letters based on PSAT scores. Those letters showed that Asian – American students received those unsolicited letters if they had a 1370 score while white males would receive those letters if they only received a 1310 on the PSAT. However, Harvard shot back that the letters are an invitation to apply to Harvard. Once a student enters the applicant pool different standards are used when reviewing an applicant’s application. And in another example, Harvard’s applicant rating system exposed SFFA due to the fact that their analysis omitted athletes and children of alumni. This led to accusations of SFFA trying to manipulate their statistics to fit their discrimination narrative. Again, Harvard pushed back and said that an entire review of the applicant pool was necessary and, more importantly, that their forthright statistical analysis showed that being Asian – American did not impact an applicant’s likelihood of getting accepted to the school.
Even though Judge Burroughs clearly demonstrated how this case was permissible within the limits of existing case law, the case will in all likelihood be appealed where it will be hotly debated more on a policy level than a legal one. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Harvard Admissions Lawsuit – webpage from Harvard about the case.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – statement from group on case with link to amicus brief filed by the ACLU on in support of Harvard.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao
The Confrontation Clause contained in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted by the witnesses against him.”
On September 29, 2019, it was revealed that an anonymous member of the U.S. intelligence community filed an internal “whistleblower” complaint with the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) regarding a conversation President Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint triggered an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee. After the incident was exposed by the Washington Post President Trump demanded in a series of tweets to meet his accuser, the whistleblower who filed the complaint that led to the inquiry from the House Intelligence Committee. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
While the allegations leveled against the President are serious on their own merits – President Trump speaking with a foreign leader and threatening to not release $400 million in aid unless the Ukrainian President performed a favor in digging up dirt on potential 2020 presidential rival and opponent Joe Biden – one thing that got lost in the scandal is the assertion President Trump made in his September 29, 2019 tweet storm.
When President Trump demanded in his tweet that he deserved to meet his accuser, just like every other American, he was most likely referring to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, the President, possibly due to anger and not being fully informed, misconstrued the true purpose of this constitutional right. The Confrontation Clause only applies to criminal prosecutions and helps to guarantee that a person will not be convicted without the chance to test the accusations made against him through cross – examination of the accuser under oath. While the incident of President Trump’s July 25th phone call is certainly troubling the House committee inquiry is not a criminal prosecution. Thus, there is no reason to require the clause to be applied to President Trump yet. In addition, the clause speaks to how an accused is to face the possibility of conviction for a crime and what is required during a trial in a court of law. The fact there is no criminal trial against President Trump makes his demands somewhat silly at this point. There is also the possibility that the President is demanding to know who the anonymous whistleblower is now in order to play the incident out in the press and to try to smear the person publicly in order to try to discredit his or her claims. But a constitutional right whose purpose is to ensure a fair trial for accused persons should not be used to support Trump’s political purpose in trying to smear a person, if that is his intent in wanting to know the identity of the whistleblower.
What is likely going on is that the President finally recognized the gravity of the situation he had put himself in – soliciting a foreign power to deal with a political rival – and lashed out in a similar manner that a person accused of a crime would react. While the consequences against President Trump can be severe – removal as President of the United States – what the President has demanded simply does not apply to his situation at the moment and confuses criminal procedure with political disputes which play out in very different ways. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Sixth Amendment Center – non – profit group dedicated to Sixth Amendment issues.
- Constitution Center – group’s webpage with background on the Sixth Amendment.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org
Photo by DXL
Historic Decision Handed Down on Digital Bias From The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); Discrimination
In July 2019 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handed down a series of rulings in cases that were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Communications Workers of America. The final rulings in the cases were not made available at the time. In September 2019 it was revealed that the set of cases had been filed against seven separate companies. Four of the companies that the EEOC ruled against – Capital One, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings and DriveTime Automotive Group – were age discrimination in hiring complaints. The three other companies that the EEOC ruled against – Nebraska Furniture Mart, Renewal by Andersen LLC and Sandhills Publishing Company – were for both age and gender discrimination in hiring complaints. The procedural rules of the EEOC now permit the companies to try to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs or continue to pursue the case in federal district court and further up on appeal. LEARN MORE
These set of cases from the EEOC are significant not because of their age or gender discrimination claims but because of where the discrimination occurred – on the Facebook online platform. Attorney Peter Romer – Friedman said, “This historic decision shows that our civil rights laws apply to digital advertising and recruiting.”
What makes these cases significant is that for the first time civil rights laws protecting discrimination against a person’s age or gender are being applied to actions taken by a company in the digital realm. What these companies did is advertise company job listings with their companies on their Facebook website. However, when they posted the job listings they also used tools provided by Facebook to filter who could and could not view the job listings. Facebook’s design and user interface allowed the companies to target the job listings to only young males. The tools provided by Facebook at the time prohibited women and persons over the age of fifty – five (55) from seeing the job listings posted by the companies.
This is clearly discriminatory activity but for the first time the cases were focused on the companies and not the Facebook platform itself. The fact that Facebook has tools that permit a user to filter out certain persons from seeing their ads based on personal characteristics (race, ethnicity, age, etc.) had already been exposed in a series of articles in ProPublica and the New York Times. That led to changes by Facebook prohibiting discrimination in future online advertising which are slated to go into effect at the end of the year. But these cases instead held the companies accountable. It had not been clear under the law whether the anti – discrimination and civil rights statutes would be applicable to behavior and activities that take place on social media platforms. These cases from the EEOC now provide the first legal basis for civil rights and anti – discrimination laws to be applied to a person or company’s online or digital activities. It is a welcome first step forward. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – press release on the EEOC rulings in the seven cases.
- Communications Workers of America – union’s press release on the EEOC rulings.
Photo by Marten Bjork
Policy Summary: On February 6, 2019 HB 1079 was introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives. The bill put forth additional requirements for voter registration drives that are performed in the state. Voter registration drives must register with the state, add disclaimers on their voting ad materials and turn in all applications within ten (10) days of collection. Additionally, civil and criminal penalties were added which were tied to the number of incomplete forms a registration drive submitted. The fines could go as high as $10,000 as well as subjecting certain persons to time in prison. The bill was voted on and passed by both the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate and Governor Bill Lee signed the law on May 2, 2019. The bill was slated to go into effect in October but a lawsuit was brought by the League of Women Voters to block the law from going into effect. On September 12, 2019, Judge Aleta Trauger of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction that blocked the rules from being enforced pending resolution of the case in court. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
Analysis: The bill in Tennessee is another example of the ways states go about trying to suppress votes. Registration drives have long been used as a way to reach out to people and encourage eligible people to register to vote. Some people might find it difficult to travel great distances to register at a government office or might simply be too intimidated to deal with the nuances and complexities of registering and dealing with a state official.
What happened in Tennessee was that a group called the Tennessee Black Voter Project organized a voter registration drive prior to the 2018 midterm elections and got 90,000 people to fill out voter registration applications. With so many applications coming in so close to Election Day election officials said they were overwhelmed with the number of applications and wanted to ensure that they would not be swamped with so many registrations again.
However, the reasoning of the election officials advocating for the new rules appears to have been at odds with the problems they said they encountered with the high number of applications. Having a voter registration drive submit all registration application materials within ten (10) days would not have helped to solve the problem of having to process a high number of applications. Nor would have disclaimers on a group’s voter registration drive ad materials or registration with the state elections office done anything significant to ease the problems the elections office said they encountered. These regulations appear nothing more than additional regulations added to intimidate voter registration drives especially since this law was passed immediately after the successful activities of the Tennessee Black Voter Project.
What is additionally troubling about the law was the civil and criminal penalties that the law imposed. Subjecting volunteers to a potential prison sentence merely for errors in the registration applications are nothing more than an intimidation tactic to pressure groups into not engaging in voter registration drive activities. And the same can be said for the potential monetary fines. Fines that could go as high as $10,000 would make people think twice before volunteering for a voter registration drive. Judge Trauger called the law likely unconstitutional especially since the law was making it burdensome for voters to exercise their right to participate in the political process. This was a voter suppression tactic and the court made the right call in granting the Preliminary Injunction and exposing the law for what it really was – an unconstitutional attempt to bar people from the polls. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Engagement Resources:
- Tennessee Black Voter Project – website of Tennessee voter registration drive group.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – infopage on League of Women Voters of Tennessee v. Hargett case.
- League of Women Voters – website of national voting rights organization and voting rights issues they champion.
On July 14, 2019 President Donald J. Trump posted on his Twitter account tweets that were directed at four prominent Democratic Congresswomen of color. The women had been critical of United States policies under the Trump Administration. The President’s tweets stated they should “go back and…fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” His comments were condemned as racist from both sides of the aisle.
In August 2019, a Trump campaign petition about the Electoral College slammed “Coastal Elites and Liberal Donors” and referred to Rep. Ocasio – Cortez’s comments and stand against the Electoral College. The petition then ended with the phrase “This is our country, not theirs.”
The four Democratic congresswomen are Reps. Alexandra Ocasio – Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). All of the women with the exception of Rep. Omar are American citizens who were born in the United States. Rep. Omar was born in Somalia and emigrated from Somalia to the United States at the age of twelve and became a U.S. citizen at seventeen. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
When President Trump posted the tweets that told four duly elected Congresswomen of the United States to go back to their countries it caused confusion, anger, charges of racism and debates about the nature of American citizenship and participation in the political process.
The confusion stems from the fact that three of the four women were born in the United States. How could three of these four women be “sent home” when they were born here in America? The women came from African – American, Palestinian and Puerto Rican families but were educated and spent their lives in the United States. The sadness of the President’s tweets show that he viewed the color and family ancestry of the women as a point to degrade them without regard to their backgrounds and contributions to America thus far. White persons with ancestry from Europe, such as Eastern Europe, are almost never singled out to return to their broken countries because of their ancestry or skin color, which demonstrates why President Trump’s comments were deemed racist.
The anger over the President’s tweets comes from the fact that the President has to resort to racist comments in order to deal with political opponents. President Trump’s racism is nothing new as evidenced by his comments about Charlottesville in 2017 but his comments here show that he has no problems resorting to racism when dealing with Members of Congress over simple policy differences. Not every politician is going to agree on every issue, like the Electoral College, but that is no reason to bring racist insults to the table to try and discredit and silence political opponents.
Finally, President Trump’s tweets shine a light on how these kinds of racist insults can affect the ideal of civil rights in America. There is no requirement that newly immigrated people’s vote or role in civil and political life is worth any less than any other person’s just because a person’s family may have been in America longer. There is also no requirement that a person of a white or European race has a greater say in civil life over other persons whose race may be from other places like Africa or Asia. That is why the phrase in the Trump campaign petition is so troubling. Rep. Ocasio – Cortez is neither a coastal elite (she was once a bartender) nor a liberal donor so the phrase may have been directed at her ancestry. Who is the petition referring to when it says “This is our country, not theirs[?]” What they are likely implying is that these women can have no say in the direction of the country. This is contrary to the civil rights ideal that everyone, regardless of how recent his or her families have arrived in America, has an equal say.
If America is to fulfill the goal of equality in American civil life, then the kind of posts telling other Americans to “love it or leave it” should be given no place in American political discourse. Those kinds of thinking and statements perpetuate the mentality that some votes and voices are not as equal as others. And it also implies that recent immigrants should not be viewed as equal with others yet and thus cannot fully participate on the same equal footing as other longer residing citizens just because their families have not been here as long as others. America is for all citizens, not just for a select few. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio – Cortez – House webpage on stances on selected issues.
- Rep. Ilhan Omar – House webpage with press releases on recent issues and policies.
- Rep. Ayanna Pressley – House webpage on issues affecting Congress.
- Rep. Rashida Tlaib – House webpage on issues affecting Congress.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo
President Trump Oversteps His Authority: He Cannot End Long – Standing Birthright Citizenship Rule With An Executive Order
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
In 1898, the United States Supreme Court decided the case United States v. Wong Kim Ark. In that case, Wong Kim Ark was a person of Chinese descent who had been born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrant parents. After traveling to China for a visit, Wong Kim Ark returned to San Francisco but was refused entry on the grounds that he did not have U.S. citizenship. Wong Kim Ark brought a case in federal district court that eventually was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6 – 2 decision that traced the history of the legal concept of “jus soli” (citizenship based on the place of birth) and set the legal precedent for persons born on U.S. soil the Court held that Wong Kim Ark did have United States citizenship because he was born on U.S. land despite his parents being foreign nationals. (There are exceptions to this rule that did not apply to this case.).
On August 21, 2019, President Donald Trump stated that he was going to end the rule that persons born on U.S. soil are given automatic United States citizenship. He stated that he was preparing to change the long – standing rule with an executive order. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
President Donald Trump’s statement that he would overturn the well – settled legal rule that gives persons born anywhere on U.S. soil automatic American citizenship simply cannot be done because of the strength of the legal authorities supporting the rule and the political structure of the U.S. Government.
First, what the President is proposing would go up against some solid legal authorities. The text of the Fourteenth Amendment specifically states in no uncertain terms that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States.” There is no ambiguity here about what these words mean. The President acknowledges this when he stated his intention to end the rule but the fact those words are included in the U.S. Constitution demonstrates that this is a rule meant to endure and withstand changing trends on immigration viewpoints in American politics. In addition to the language in the Constitution, there is also the Wong Kim Ark Supreme Court case that interpreted the Citizenship Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. That case ruled definitively to uphold the principle that a person born on U.S. soil acquires American citizenship. The fact that this case has never been overruled after one hundred twenty years gives it significant weight as a case that is legally sound and rightfully decided.
Second, the President’s statement that he will overturn the rule with an executive order gets it wrong on what powers he can yield as President. The use of an executive order by the President is used to direct the activities of executive branch agencies and personnel. The executive order must also be consistent with and not contradict existing U.S. law passed by Congress or set forth by the Supreme Court. What President Trump is trying to do is unilaterally change well – settled American law without Congressional approval. And his proposed executive order directly contravenes a rule that the Supreme Court has already ruled on. The American system of “checks and balances” government was designed specifically to prevent one branch of government from taking actions that might be entrusted to another branch or do something beyond the limits of the executive branch of government as the President is suggesting he will do here. Based on this, the President simply cannot issue an executive order and change the birthright citizenship law on his own.
The President has made a suggestion that may have been an attempt to appeal to his political base but his proposal is simply too far – fetched and likely unlawful from a legal standpoint. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – non – profit group’s infopage on birthright citizenship.
- American Immigration Council – non – profit group’s webpage on birthright citizenship with online resources.
Photo by Taylor Wilcox
Did FBI Director Wray Mislead Congress During Senate Committee Testimony About Domestic Terror Groups
On July 23, 2019, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray offered testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee stating that the FBI had abandoned use of the “black identity extremism” label and was instead using an overarching umbrella label called “racially motivated violent extremism.” This label was to include all domestic terrorism groups without distinguishing any group by race.
On August 8, 2019, investigative reporter Ken Klippenstein of the The Young Turks website revealed leaked documents that showed that the FBI did not abandon the “black identity extremism” label. The leaked FBI documents were “counterterrorism strategy guides” for the Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 – 2020 and showed that even though the new “racially motivated extremism” and “racially motivated violent extremism” labels were used, the FBI continued to define these terms in the same way that they had previously defined “black identity extremism.” LEARN MORE
The leak of the counterterrorism strategy guides and revelation by investigative reporter Ken Klippenstein not only discredits Director Wray’s Senate committee testimony in July 2019 but also is disturbing in what it reveals in terms of domestic terrorism priorities for the Bureau.
First, Director Wray’s statement that the FBI had abandoned the term “black identity extremism” label in favor of an umbrella term that included all forms of racially motivated extremist groups ignores the fact that the Bureau continued to use the definition of “black identity extremism” it had previously developed. Even though the new label mentions “white supremacy extremism” as being included, the new label is still defined using the “black identity extremism” label. This implies that black identity extremism is more of a threat than any other category such as white supremacist groups. In fact, the documents categorized black identity extremism as a “priority” threat while white supremacist groups were only a “medium” threat. This indicates that the Trump Administration places a higher priority on criminalizing Black dissent over confronting white supremacist groups.
Secondly, the threat guidance guide for 2020 expanded on the continued use of the so-called discarded black identity extremism label by referring to “violent black extremist attacks.” But nowhere in the document did it list a specific instance of a violent black extremist attack. Instead the guide listed attacks that had been perpetrated by white supremacists – the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, the attack in New Zealand and the San Diego synagogue attack. This indicates that President Trump’s FBI is trying to tie black protest movements to horrific white supremacist attacks even though the threat guide put out by the FBI could list no incident of a violent black extremist attack.
Finally, the documents mention a mysterious project called IRON FIST. Many details of this program have not been revealed yet but the leaked documents indicate that they are an FBI program designed to spy, investigate and infiltrate black activist groups through the use of undercover agents. This is disturbing news because it does not distinguish between legitimate black activist behavior and violent incidents and seems to simply group all black activist behavior as wrong. The IRON FIST program also does not indicate if and how the program will comply with protected civil rights and liberties. This is a real concern as the documents also reveal that black activist groups are considered a higher threat priority than white supremacist groups and even the foreign group Al-Qaeda.
The testimony by FBI Director Wray in July should have helped clarify the issues surrounding the priorities the Bureau would tackle in the future regarding domestic terror groups but these leaked FBI documents show that the Bureau is confused about its priorities. It is also disturbing because it illustrates how the Trump Administration is trying to suppress legitimate black activist behavior when statistics and recent incidents indicate that the more serious threat is from white supremacist groups. This is a terrible position for President Trump and the FBI to take and is clearly misguided on the real domestic terror threat that threatens America today. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – statement from non – profit group on the leaked FBI documents.
- Black Lives Matter – activist group against state sanctioned violence and anti – Black racism.
- Campaign Zero – group focused on advocating policy solutions to prevent police abuses on local communities.
Photo by Lianhao Qu