Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: June 28, 2019

Federal Courts 

SCOTUS rules out defending democracy in partisan gerrymandering case

On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek that federal courts are powerless and have no role in hearing challenges to partisan gerrymandering, deeming such issues non-justiciable political questions. These are combined cases from North Carolina, an appeal from a district court decision holding that the state’s 2016 congressional districts were drawn based on partisan gerrymandering, and Maryland, concerning a 2011 redistricting plan that resulted in the Sixth Congressional District being designated as a “likely Democratic win” by the Cook Partisan Voting Index. These machinations were surely not what our founders had in mind when they crafted a representative democracy. In Justice Kagan’s dissent, which she read from the bench, she declared that “[t]he partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.” NCJW has worked for more than 100 years to defend and advance the right to the vote, and in the face of this decision, we will work all the harder. 

SCOTUS defers on census count; lower court rules on related case

On June 27, the Supreme Court in Department of Commerce v. New York deferred final action on the insertion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, remanding the question to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts noted that the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.” However, the Court’s decision leaves open the possibility that the government could revise its position and provide adequate justification. While the administration had previously insisted that June 30 marks the printing deadline for census forms, it is possible that this could be delayed to allow time to provide such justification. NCJW signed on to an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case and included it on our list of cases to watch this term.

Relatedly, just last week, a federal judge in Maryland ruled that new evidence warranted reopening a case focused on whether the proposed 2020 census question violates minorities’ rights. Newly discovered documents from a Republican gerrymandering strategist revealed that his conclusion that adding a citizenship question would benefit “Republicans and non-Hispanic whites” made its way wholesale into the documents Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross used to justify adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. NCJW opposes adding a citizenship question to the census. 

Religious Freedom

House panel discusses the manipulation of “religious freedom”

On June 25, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing examining the pervasive misapplication of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), particularly on the part of the Trump administration. For instance, RFRA has been employed to justify denial of prospective parents by government-funded foster care and adoption agencies, to decimate the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage benefit, and to authorize refusals of care based on the religious or moral beliefs of health entities and providers. Witnesses included Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), one of the sponsors of the Do No Harm Act (HR 1450/S 593), who presented the bill as a federal solution to end the abuse of “religious liberty” and to restore RFRA to its original intent: to serve “as a protective shield for religious minorities.” NCJW endorses the Do No Harm Act to clarify that “religious liberty” cannot be used to harm others and submitted testimony for the record in support of the bill.



Human Needs

Spending bill passes that would bar citizenship question

On June 25, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR 3055) passed the House of Representatives 227-194. The bill funds the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Interior, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as other related programs. Included in the bill were two amendments NCJW supported: one would provide back-pay to federal contractors impacted by the shut down, and the second would block the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Unfortunately, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) amendment to remove language preventing people in federal prisons from accessing abortion was rejected by the Rules Committee. The administration has threatened to veto the bill. 


Immigrant trafficking and abuse survivors latest target of the Trump administration

The US Department of Labor has halted certifying visas that grant temporary status to immigrants who were illegally trafficked to the US or face other forms of severe mental and physical abuse. This effort began in May, freezing a lifeline for trafficked workers and those who have suffered mental or physical abuse in their home countries.While protections currently provided under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and US asylum laws help some of these particularly vulnerable survivors, NCJW believes that clarifying and strengthening forms of protection is urgently needed. Instead of penalizing survivors, we must ensure that no one falls through the cracks.

Musical chairs at DHS

This week brought further leadership changes to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). All three homeland security agencies responsible for immigration enforcement — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CPB), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — are led by acting directors, as is DHS itself. On June 25, the White House announced that Mark Morgan, current acting head of ICE, will take over CBP in place of Acting Director John Sanders, who announced his resignation in the wake of reports of widespread neglect at child immigrant detention facilities. Once Morgan assumes leadership of CBP, current ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence will become the acting director. All of these positions will need to be confirmed by Congress before becoming permanent. The turnover is in part the result of White House Advisor Stephen Miller urging DHS to take ever more aggressive stances on immigrant detention and deportation. NCJW has formally opposed Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli and Stephen Miller

Immigration enforcement raids

Last weekend, President Trump walked back his threat of imminent immigration enforcement raids targeting families, tweeting instead that they would happen in two weeks. The intel says that target cities include (but are not limited to): Miami, LA, NYC/Newark, DC/Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans. Regardless of this specific threat, raids happen across the country all the time. They are an important part of the administration’s efforts to instill fear in immigrant families and communities while riling up the President’s base.

  • Take Action! Find ways to respond to the raids individually, in your communities, and in your congregations.


  • On June 25, NCJW joined more than 60 organizations on a letter supporting two bills which would codify protections for children who may be separated from their parents by immigration enforcement actions in the interior.
  • On June 28, NCJW and Catholics for Choice sent a letter signed by 40 national faith-based organizations to members of Congress in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

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