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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 rod@usresistnews.org.

Latest Civil Rights Posts

 

A Renewed Emphasis on Sexual Harassment and Assault Incidents at DOJ In The Workplace and Beyond; Federal Agency Action; May 11, 2018

On April 12, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an expansion of an ongoing DOJ sexual harassment program. The initial program, announced in October 2017, is an initiative to combat sexual harassment in the housing market and protect women from harassment from landlords, property managers and other employees of rental property owners in the rental of housing units and properties.

read more

Updates on President Trump’s Policy On Transgender in the U.S. Military

On July 26, 2017, President Donald Trump announced on his Twitter account a reinstatement of a ban on transgender persons from serving in the United States Armed Forces. The President’s full statement reads, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity…

read more

Civil Rights; Congressional Bill Supporting Israel A Direct Attack On The First Amendment and Free Speech; Proposed Federal Legislation; March 3, 2018

On March 23, 2017, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) introduced Senate Bill 720, which was intended to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. The bill is popularly known as the “Israel Anti – Boycott Act” and was passed in order to “oppose restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by any international organization against Israel or requests to impose restrictive trade practices or boycotts by any international trade organization against Israel.”

read more

The Independence of DOJ and FBI Under Attack From Presidential Tweets and Insults; Presidential Communications; May 11, 2018

Re: Policy Brief No. 35

Policy Summary: After the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s President Jimmy Carter and his Attorney General Griffin Bell instituted policies that restricted communications between White House personnel and Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel. The intent was to permit DOJ personnel to carry out the duty of their positions without immediate political or partisan pressures. The policies have varied slightly with each Administration but the core of the communication restriction policies have remained the same – that communications from the White House to and about DOJ are to be limited regarding pending or potential criminal or civil investigations or cases. On January 27, 2017, White House Counsel Don McGahn issued a memorandum to all White House staff titled “Communications Restrictions With Personnel at the Department of Justice” that addressed these kinds of communications. LEARN MORE

Analysis: The words, actions and tweets of President Trump have run roughshod over this decades long policy. As a result of his feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at DOJ, displeasure with James Comey at FBI and unpredictable twitter storms, the President has eroded confidence in DOJ and FBI as agencies that would pursue justice in an even handed manner and apply it equally to all persons and parties. The rationale underpinning the restricted communications policy with DOJ is to ensure that any case or investigation brought is done according to standard procedures without regard to who the person is being prosecuted or investigated. And the communications restriction policies were designed to reduce the pressure of partisan politics on cases and investigations. However, President Trump has instead used Twitter to spew questionable comments about what cases DOJ are and are not pursuing. For the last year he has specifically asked why certain cases aren’t being brought (a crooked Hillary investigation, other Democrats and investigation of Andrew McCabe). These tweets by Trump are a serious ethical breach because of how it undermines the independence of the department. There are also his direct insults aimed at former FBI Director James Comey. The President seems intent on having a Department of Justice that pursues cases only he approves of and an FBI that investigates only those cases he personally wants investigated. This is not how a President is supposed to ensure the independence of these agencies. The President appoints personnel to lead the department but the lawyers and prosecutors have full independence to pursue and prosecute cases. Politics is not supposed to be a part of whether a case succeeds or not. With his ignoring of Counsel Don McGahn’s memorandum and relentless attacks on the Department of Justice and the personnel of the FBI, President Trump and his Twitter account have done the very thing that the restriction of communications policy should have done – he has politicized cases and investigations at these agencies and given the impression that they should be loyal only to President Trump. Even to the point of looking away from President Trump’s scandals, which would imply that this President is above the law. It remains to be seen if these two agencies can resist the politicization and unwarranted personal attacks by this complicated President. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Take Action:

Protect Democracy – non – profit group infopage on the danger of White House communications with independent federal agencies.

Democracy Fund – group that invests in organizations that seeks to strengthen American democracy and protect her institutions.

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.

Civil Rights; The Three Approaches To Saving Net Neutrality; Proposed Remedies To Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Agency Regulations; May 10, 2018

Re: Policy Brief No. 28

This brief updates a prior civil rights brief on the net neutrality issue. For more information please see the original April 26, 2017 brief and November and December 2017 updates here.

Update: On May 10, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission announced that they would file a notice in the Federal Register announcing the effective date of the modifications made to the Restoring Internet Freedom Report and Order, known as the Net Neutrality regulations. The repeal of the net neutrality regulations that were voted on in 2017 will now become effective thirty days from the May 11, 2018 publication of the notice – June 11, 2018. There is still popular resistance to the repeal of the regulations with numerous efforts to stall and/or overturn the regulations. Ed Markey (D-MA) has stated that 86% of the electorate are in favor of keeping the net neutrality regulations that were repealed. A vote in the Senate to disapprove of the repeal and prevent it from being implemented is still pending with significant support but still has to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by President Trump which is unlikely. The most promising options appear to be proposals in individual states to try and enforce net neutrality within their state borders which will likely result in a battle between individual states and the FCC in the coming months. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Policy Summary: On January 16, 2018, a lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by attorney generals of twenty-one states and the District of Columbia. The petition will seek to prevent the enforcement of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) “Restoring Internet Freedom” order that overturned Obama – era regulations. In the Senate, Democratic members announced that they had fifty votes of support and were one vote shy to vote to reject the FCC order. And finally, numerous states in the last two months have introduced bills in their state legislatures that would preserve net neutrality within their states regardless of the fate of the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: After the FCC’s 3 – 2 vote to rollback Obama – era regulations in its “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, many were up in arms and sought ways to prevent implementation of the order. As of January 2018, three options had emerged. In December 2017, numerous states began to consider state laws that would preserve net neutrality regulations in their state. The proposal in California, which mirrors net neutrality bills in other states, would require businesses to adopt net neutrality practices if their business is dependent on California funding or infrastructure. However, this does not guarantee that the law would reach every resident of California. The second option comes from the Senate. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has proclaimed that he has a majority of votes to disapprove of the order in that chamber. But even if that resolution passes, there would still be opposition in the House of Representatives and would not likely be signed by President Trump. The final option is the petition filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday. This option is the most substantial because it shows that there is widespread support (twenty – one states and the District of Columbia) to oppose Chairman Pai’s intent to do away with net neutrality. However, cases are not decided overnight. It may take months for the case to get a full hearing on the merits in addition to a few other legal obstacles that need to be addressed first. None of these options guarantee a total or an immediate success at the moment but it does demonstrate the widespread opposition to Chairman Pai’s efforts to do away with net neutrality. The fight continues. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Take Action:

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) – database of state efforts related to Internet service providers.

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) – research center dedicated to online privacy and civil liberty issues.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – local community efforts at digital privacy and net neutrality.

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.

The Independence of DOJ and FBI Under Attack From Presidential Tweets and Insults; Presidential Communications; May 11, 2018

Re: Policy Brief No. 35

Policy Summary: After the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s President Jimmy Carter and his Attorney General Griffin Bell instituted policies that restricted communications between White House personnel and Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel. The intent was to permit DOJ personnel to carry out the duty of their positions without immediate political or partisan pressures. The policies have varied slightly with each Administration but the core of the communication restriction policies have remained the same – that communications from the White House to and about DOJ are to be limited regarding pending or potential criminal or civil investigations or cases. On January 27, 2017, White House Counsel Don McGahn issued a memorandum to all White House staff titled “Communications Restrictions With Personnel at the Department of Justice” that addressed these kinds of communications. LEARN MORE

Analysis: The words, actions and tweets of President Trump have run roughshod over this decades long policy. As a result of his feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at DOJ, displeasure with James Comey at FBI and unpredictable twitter storms, the President has eroded confidence in DOJ and FBI as agencies that would pursue justice in an even handed manner and apply it equally to all persons and parties. The rationale underpinning the restricted communications policy with DOJ is to ensure that any case or investigation brought is done according to standard procedures without regard to who the person is being prosecuted or investigated. And the communications restriction policies were designed to reduce the pressure of partisan politics on cases and investigations. However, President Trump has instead used Twitter to spew questionable comments about what cases DOJ are and are not pursuing. For the last year he has specifically asked why certain cases aren’t being brought (a crooked Hillary investigation, other Democrats and investigation of Andrew McCabe). These tweets by Trump are a serious ethical breach because of how it undermines the independence of the department. There are also his direct insults aimed at former FBI Director James Comey. The President seems intent on having a Department of Justice that pursues cases only he approves of and an FBI that investigates only those cases he personally wants investigated. This is not how a President is supposed to ensure the independence of these agencies. The President appoints personnel to lead the department but the lawyers and prosecutors have full independence to pursue and prosecute cases. Politics is not supposed to be a part of whether a case succeeds or not. With his ignoring of Counsel Don McGahn’s memorandum and relentless attacks on the Department of Justice and the personnel of the FBI, President Trump and his Twitter account have done the very thing that the restriction of communications policy should have done – he has politicized cases and investigations at these agencies and given the impression that they should be loyal only to President Trump. Even to the point of looking away from President Trump’s scandals, which would imply that this President is above the law. It remains to be seen if these two agencies can resist the politicization and unwarranted personal attacks by this complicated President. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Take Action:

Protect Democracy – non – profit group infopage on the danger of White House communications with independent federal agencies.

Democracy Fund – group that invests in organizations that seeks to strengthen American democracy and protect her institutions.

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.

A Renewed Emphasis on Sexual Harassment and Assault Incidents at DOJ In The Workplace and Beyond; Federal Agency Action; May 11, 2018

Re: Policy Brief No. 36

Policy Summary: On April 12, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an expansion of an ongoing DOJ sexual harassment program. The initial program, announced in October 2017, is an initiative to combat sexual harassment in the housing market and protect women from harassment from landlords, property managers and other employees of rental property owners in the rental of housing units and properties. That initiative will now be expanded to include programs to increase awareness and reporting of sexual harassment incidents in housing. On April 30, 2018, DOJ set forth a separate and new set of directives to help “enforce the Department’s zero – tolerance policy for sexual harassment” among DOJ employees for their on – duty and off – duty conduct and in places outside DOJ workplaces. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: It appears that the Department of Justice is trying to  do its part to respond to the Me Too Movement and the wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations against men in leadership positions and positions of power The two separate initiatives put forth  are small steps but i a welcome effort by the DOJ  to confront sexual harassment. The current global movement seems to have now come to DOJ.

With the DOJ  program that looks  into sexual harassment and assault incidents in the housing arena the hope is that the highly successful reporting and awareness tools DOJ tested and utilized there (they were first implemented in pilot programs in Washington, D.C. and Western Virginia) can be used in other potential programs to combat other sexual misconduct incidents in other areas. The DOJ program helped made it easier to women to report incidents anonymously and they also emphasized ways to connect victims with resources to help them.

The DOJ hopes that its own internal sexual harassment policy  can serve as a model for companies and other government agencies. It hopes the policy will demonstrate that sexual harassment and assault allegations can be investigated seriously and resolved in an even – handed and consistent manner. That had not been the case before at DOJ and other workplaces. Prior incidents at DOJ were often ignored, and even if they were investigated, the punishments meted out varied wildly (ranging from two week suspensions to merely moving the accused to a different office/unit).

Take Action:

#MeToo Movement – website of movement geared to demonstrate prevalence of sexual harassment and violence and to help victims of those incidents.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – infopage on sexual harassment and allegations in housing.

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.

Is The Department of Housing and Urban Development Becoming Hostile To Racial Equality Efforts?

Policy Summary:

On March 28, 2018, a New York Times investigation reported that Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), had ordered the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Division at the federal agency to pause investigations into violations of federal fair housing laws. The next day two prominent Senate Democrats, Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein of California, and a number of U.S. Congressional Representatives sent a letter to Secretary Carson expressing their “deep concern” concerning a proposed change in the mission statement of HUD. An internal memo dated March 5, 2018 revealed that the proposed change would remove the phrase “free from discrimination” from the updated mission statement and instead describe HUD’s mission as “to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing.” LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis:

These two incidents should raise red flags about the direction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Secretary Carson. The Trump Administration has repeatedly been accused of being hostile to civil rights. These two incidents do not help in trying to erase those accusations towards President Trump and members of his administration. First, the pausing of investigations into violations of federal fair housing laws creates an impression that racial discrimination incidents in housing are unimportant. Mr. Jereon Brown, a spokesman for HUD, stated that sixty per cent of their complaints are disability related and that the department was going to now focus on new, neglected areas of discrimination. But this statistic misses the point. Even if the majority of complaints come from other areas that does not mean that complaints based on racial or national origin discrimination will simply stop occurring or are unworthy of an investigation. The message sent by pausing current investigations into racial discrimination complaints at HUD is that the agency could care less that they occur and are uninterested in helping American citizens be free from these types of behavior in the housing field.

The second incident from HUD regarding the proposed change in the mission statement of the agency only reinforces the theme that Secretary Carson is steering the agency in a direction that is hostile to civil rights. This incredible proposal is stunning because it seeks to remove the very words that prompted the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in the first place. The text of that act “prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race.” One of the non – profit organizations that helped to push for passage of the act was the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. The use of the new phrase “fair, affordable housing” in the mission statement has a very different meaning from “free from discrimination.” A minority citizen could be denied access to fair and affordable housing because of his race and be unsure if HUD would do anything to remedy the situation in his neighborhood. Reading these two incidents together shows a troubling policy shift initiated by Secretary Carson and deserves clarification from the agency to ensure that the agency’s fifty – years of work does not go down a different path than originally intended by Congress. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

National Fair Housing Alliance – non – profit group seeking to eliminate housing discrimination.

Fair Housing Justice Center – non – profit group seeking to strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein – book detailing the history of how laws and policies passed by federal, state and local governments promoted racial housing segregation in America.

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.

The Poorly Written Anti – Sex Trafficking Bill; Proposed Congressional Bill; March 21, 2018

Policy Summary

On February 27, 2018, the House of Representatives passed the “Allow States To Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” by a vote of 388 to 25. Three weeks later on March 21, 2018, the Senate approved the bill by an overwhelming 97 to 2 vote. The bill, which had been formerly known as the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act,” amends a 1996 telecommunications law that gave tech companies immunity from liability for publishing third – party communications on their online platforms. By amending Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, the proposed bill looks to create an exception in that statute that will allow technology companies to be held civilly liable if they “knowingly assist, support or facilitate advertising” that violates federal sex – trafficking laws. The only other categories that exempt technology companies from liability are federal criminal laws, intellectual property laws and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. LEARN MORE

Analysis

As can be seen by the results of the votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate on this bill, the proposal has widespread support across the political spectrum. Michael – Macleod Ball, a First Amendment advisor to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned that this bill could serve as a model as to how to restrict online speech in the future. The problematic aspect of the bill is with the language where a tech company becomes liable if they “knowingly assist, support or facilitate” sex advertising. These words are overly broad and it is uncertain as to what behavior a technology company can take so as to not engage in the prohibited conduct that the bill seeks to prevent. Would a technology company’s overly aggressive moderation of the content on its platforms be classified as “knowingly support[ing] [or] facilitat[ing]” a federal crime because of sex trafficking advertising that appear on their platforms that they failed to remove in a timely manner? This bill also runs into difficulties because of purely legal behavior – such as ads for medical professionals like sex therapists, exotic dancers and academic and medical research. Advertisements for sex – trafficking is certainly a problem that needs to be curtailed in the digital universe but this bill does a poor job of addressing only that issue. It encompasses a wide range of legitimate behavior and advertising and should be re – written so as to properly define the exact contours of the prohibited behavior. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

Polaris – non – profit group working against trafficking issues.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – ACLU letter to Congress in opposition to the current form of the anti – sex trafficking bill.

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.

Updates on President Trump’s Policy On Transgender in the U.S. Military

Policy Summary: On July 26, 2017, President Donald Trump announced on his Twitter account a reinstatement of a ban on transgender persons from serving in the United States Armed Forces. The President’s full statement reads, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” President’s Trump ban is a reversal of policy that had been approved under the Obama Administration and which was waiting to be implemented by the Defense Department. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: President Trump’s surprise decision is not supported by academic studies and medical research. His decision claims to be based on medical costs and disruption to military readiness but studies have disproven these claims. A Rand Corporation study in 2016 commissioned by the Department of Defense found that allowing transgender persons to serve would have a “minimal impact” on health care costs. The same study also examined 18 countries that permitted transgender persons to serve and found “no negative impact on operational readiness, effectiveness or cohesion.” President Trump’s decision simply ignores the facts to reach an arbitrary decision. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Update: On August 29, 2017, Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued a statement that he is in receipt of President Trump’s Memorandum banning transgender peoples from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and its directive to comply with the statement President Trump made regarding this on July 26, 2017.

The Secretary of Defense’s statement that a study and implementation plan will be developed appears to be another attempt to distort facts to reach a conclusion the President and his team prefer. While it is admirable that Secretary Mattis will allow current transgender troops to continue to serve, a new study will accomplish nothing. As previously written in this brief, transgender troops will have minimal impact on health care costs and their service, as found by 18 nations studying the issue, found no negative impact on combat effectiveness. Another study won’t change that conclusion unless President Trump and Secretary Mattis intend to fabricate the study to get the result that they want so they can justify their discriminatory action.

Update No. 2: On Monday, October 30, 2017, United States District Court Judge Colleen Kollar – Kotelly issued a preliminary ruling that blocked provisions of a policy that did not allow the enlistment and retention of transgender peoples from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. President Donald J. Trump had announced the controversial policy in a July 26, 2017 tweet. The most interesting portion of the ruling was the judge’s criticism of the President. In her ruling she stated, “All of the reasons proffered by the President for excluding transgender individuals from the military in this case were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions and judgment of the military itself.” Her ruling is just another repudiation of a boastful President who has offered questionable facts and statements far, far too many times for a person occupying the Oval Office. LEARN MORE

Update No. 3: On March 23, 2018, President Donald J. Trump issued a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense disqualifying from military service transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The memorandum revoked President Trump’s prior August 29, 2017 memorandum banning transgender persons from serving although this memorandum is not any different in substance. Mark Stern reports in an article on slate.com that the impetus for the move came from Vice – President Michael Pence, who has long been an opponent of transgender persons serving in the military. The Vice – President issued a report that shows how medical costs and operational readiness would become a burden because of transgender persons serving but the report is seen as being written to accommodate their pre-conceived notions against transgender military service. Luckily, some Republican leaders in Congress are refusing to fall in line and follow President Trump and Vice – President Pence’s new policy. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Armed Services Committee, has broken ranks and announced that she supports transgender persons serving in the armed forces. This new policy will likely be challenged in the courts so the battle is far from over. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – non – profit group supporting transgender rights.

National Center for Transgender Equality – non – profit group promoting transgender equality.

 

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.

Civil Rights; Congressional Bill Supporting Israel A Direct Attack On The First Amendment and Free Speech; Proposed Federal Legislation; March 3, 2018

Policy Summary

On March 23, 2017, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) introduced Senate Bill 720, which was intended to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. The bill is popularly known as the “Israel Anti – Boycott Act” and was passed in order to “oppose restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by any international organization against Israel or requests to impose restrictive trade practices or boycotts by any international trade organization against Israel.” Additionally, in conjunction with Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the bill provides that anyone who “knowingly violates…or attempts to violate any provision” of this bill by engaging in restrictive trade practices or boycotts against Israel would be subject to financial criminal penalties and may be “imprisoned for not more than twenty years.” Due to the controversial nature of the bill an amended version was introduced on March 3, 2018 by Senator Cardin and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) distinguishing the bill’s effects on First Amendment rights and freedoms. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis

This bill has been troubled from the start and should not become United States law for a variety of reasons. First, the bill directly takes a side on a contentious foreign policy issue. It criminalizes viewpoints that are not in agreement with the Federal Government’s decision to side with the State of Israel in the Middle East conflict. An American citizen who decides to participate in a political boycott is protected for exercising their rights because of the Supreme Court case of NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware. In that case, the Supreme Court held that “boycotts and related activities to bring about political, social and economic change are political speech” and are fully protected by the First Amendment of the United States. American citizens who wish to participate in protest movements that are critical of Israeli settlement activities and companies that do business in those regions should not be dictated by the government as to which side they should support. Nor should the government criminalize their behavior for simply deciding on which side of the Middle East issue they stand. A law on the books threatening financial penalties and time in prison for participating in boycotts does not encourage the concept of free speech. What this law does is intimidate people into not taking a particular side of an issue which is no different than suppressing a person’s speech.

Finally, in a famous Supreme Court dissent, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared, “the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas.” The ability to speak out and take an unpopular stance without fear of repercussion is a bedrock principle of free speech in the United States and this bill is a direct affront to that idea. The bill is a clear attempt to suppress a citizen’s right to boycott because of their viewpoint. An American citizen who sympathizes with the plight of the Palestinian people and abhors actions taken by the Israeli government should not face jail time or significant financial penalties for giving voice to those concerns. A better course of action, as best illustrated by Justice Holmes’ “marketplace of ideas” concept, is to permit the idea to be expressed, debated alongside other viewpoints and then allow the idea (for or against the State of Israel) to stand or fall based on its merits. However, the Israel Anti – Boycott Act does nothing more than try to suppress a person’s political speech because that speech is critical of Israel. The message this bill is sending is that American citizens do not have free speech, political speech and boycott rights when it comes to Israel, unless you support them. This bill is not consistent with prior American case law and should be voted down before it diminishes the values of free speech as enshrined in the First Amendment. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – webpage with info on unconstitutionality of Israel Anti – Boycott Bill.
Defending Rights and Dissent – non – profit group protecting right to political expression.
Defending Dissent Foundation – non – profit group promoting understanding of and value of dissent in a democracy.

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.

Proposed Amendment to the Americans With Disabilities Act – Favoring Businesses Over People

House of Representatives Bill
February 15, 2018

Summary

On February 15, 2018, the United States House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 620, popularly known as the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Education and Reform Act of 2017, by a vote of 225 – 192. The bill seeks to amend the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act by adding additional procedures that must be met before a business or company can be sued in court for non-compliance with the ADA. That law sought to require by law that public accommodations provide “equal access” and that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” to those people with physical or mental medical conditions. H.R. 620 will now be sent on to the Senate for a vote. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis

The bill passed by the House has been condemned by numerous groups and has critics from both sides of the aisle. Faiz Shakir, National Political Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), called the passage of the bill “damaging, unnecessary and ill-conceived” and stated that “the disability community should not have to fight through bureaucratic red tape to enjoy basic liberties that others freely enjoy.”

The main problem of the bill is that it does not encourage businesses to comply with the ADA. It instead establishes a “wait and see” approach for businesses. Instead of proactively making architectural changes to provide “equal access” businesses would instead have no obligation to make the changes unless they are served with written notice to make a change from a potential plaintiff. They are then given as long as one hundred twenty (120) days to show they have made “substantial progress” in making a change. This is different from actually making a change or removing an existing barrier. Because of this new standard, businesses can merely delay full implementation of changes and proceed on their own timeline. What this proposed bill does is give businesses a way to procrastinate compliance with the ADA on a timeline of their own choosing. It becomes very easy to see how businesses could manipulate this law to prevent full compliance with the ADA over time. Removing the ability of people to sue businesses for “equal access” is simply giving these places a way to not comply with the ADA and should be voted down in the Senate when it comes up for a vote. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

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.


 

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U.S. Department of Justice Closes Legal Aid Unit

Federal Agency Action
February 1, 2018

Summary

On February 1, 2018, numerous media outlets reported that an office of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) – was reassigning its personnel and that other services were being rolled back significantly. According to its website, the office was established in March 2010 to “address the access to justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system.” Additionally, the ATJ sought to “advance new statutory, policy and practice changes that support development of quality indigent defense and civil legal aid delivery systems at the state and federal level.” LEARN MORE

Analysis

This news concerning Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is just another example of the Trump administration’s approach to civil rights initiatives. Previously, the Trump Administration scaled back civil rights units, reduced funding to those sections and folded some units into other offices and units with the goal of de-emphasizing the priorities and effectiveness of those offices. The result is that programs dedicated to advancing civil rights and investigating abuses in that arena no longer had the resources or guidance to aggressively investigate and monitor incidents and complaints. According to the 2017 Justice Gap Report by the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation, eighty-six percent (86%) of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help. The ATJ was a valuable unit because it also advanced statutory and policy recommendations that could have been used at the federal or state level to address the problem of access to justice for low-income Americans. By re-organizing the unit and de-emphasizing its work, the Trump Administration is showing that not only do they not care about the access to justice issue but they did not even want to hear recommendations or have discussions about something Americans definitely want to be addressed. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

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.


 

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