Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: February 21, 2020

Federal Courts

Series of voting rights victories in the courts

Despite continued efforts to suppress the vote, the courts have granted several voting rights wins over the past two weeks. On February 13, North Dakota entered into a consent decree with two Native American tribes over the state’s restrictive voter ID law. Consent decrees are legally binding agreements or settlements that resolve a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt or liability. The agreement requires the North Dakota Secretary of State to ensure that Native Americans can vote, even if they do not have a residential address (a requirement of the voter ID law). The state will also work with tribes to issue free IDs.

On February 18, the North Carolina Court of Appeals blocked the state’s voter ID law from going into effect during the 2020 elections, stating that it had been enacted with racially discriminatory intent. A federal court had previously blocked the voter ID mandate through the state’s primary election on Super Tuesday, March 3.

On February 19, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that found the state of Florida could not deny people with prior felony convictions the right to vote just because they can’t afford to pay outstanding fines, fees, and restitution associated with their felonies as required by the state’s 2019 law. Florida will next ask the case to be heard en banc (by all judges on the 11th Circuit). NCJW advocates in Florida were a crucial part of the coalition that passed the Amendment 4 ballot initiative, giving 1.4 million people with felony convictions the right to vote.

Judge rules in favor of migrants in case about inhumane facilities at the border

The National Immigration Law Center and other partners won a crucial victory in the Arizona District Court on February 19 in their case arguing that conditions in US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in the Tuscon Sector (which covers most of the state of Arizona) were inhumane and unsanitary. The judge ruled that CBP must provide a bed, blanket, and shower to any person held for more than 12 hours, and a medical assessment for every person held more than 48 hours in the Tuscon Sector. While the ruling impacts only a handful of CBP facilities, NCJW supports the outcome as it sets a good precedent for future suits in other locations.

Immigration and Refugees

Public Charge goes into effect next week

Last week, the US Supreme Court allowed the public charge rule to be implemented while lawsuits against the rule to continue. The cruel public charge rule will be effective beginning February 24 (except in Illinois, where the rule is blocked by a statewide injunction). The public charge, also known as a wealth test, radically expands the list of programs that will be considered as the government determines whether someone is likely to become a public charge (i.e. dependent on the government) to include food assistance, housing vouchers, and Medicaid. Under the rule, people can be prevented from entering the US, receiving a green card, or sponsoring family members. NCJW condemns this cruel, anti-immigrant wealth test, which disproportionately impacts immigrants of color, low-wage earners, and those with disabilities.

  • Take Action! HR 3222, the No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act, would defund implementation of this rule. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to tell your representative you oppose the rule and support this bill!

Sign On Letters

  • On February 18, NCJW joined 53 organizations on a letter organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association urging members of Congress to establish an independent immigration court.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW joined organizations on an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Tanzin v. Tanvir, a case before the US Supreme Court supporting the right of those who the government has targeted on the basis of their religion to obtain a full remedy in the courts.

Related Resources