Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: June 5, 2020

Our country is in pain — we are mourning the senseless murders of Black Americans including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. We continue to hear stories of violence against people of color at the hands of the government, the police, and average citizens. If you are angry, outraged, or heartbroken, you are not alone. As NCJW advocates, we must commit to antiracist work for the long-haul. To keep us moving forward during this frightening time, here are some helpful resources to educate yourself and to take action.

Federal Courts

Anti-health care judges moves forward

On June 4, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance the nomination of Justin Walker to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Walker, opposed by NCJW, has an egregious record of opposition to what he called the “indefensible” decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, bemoaning the fact the Supreme Court did not strike down the law. Like Trump’s other nominees to the DC Circuit, Walker also supports broad executive power, a particular concern as President Trump has threatened to deploy the military against peaceful protestors throughout the nation. And, on June 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the nomination of Cory Wilson to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Wilson, also opposed by NCJW, has said that “[h]opefully the [Supreme] Court will overturn Obama” with regard to the Affordable Care Act and voted for a severely restrictive “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy and to defund Planned Parenthood as a state legislator. Amid the killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests as well as a global pandemic which disproportionately impacts communities of color, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is prioritizing judicial nominees who will gut access to affordable health care. Join NCJW on June 9 for a virtual Facebook rally to #StopWalker and #StopWilson.

Voter Engagement

Primary challenges

On June 2, eight states and DC held primary elections. Many states had made it easier to vote by absentee ballot in the months or weeks leading up to the elections, but long lines and confusion abounded. In Washington, DC, some voters waited in lines for more than five hours to cast their ballot. The elections showed that there is a great deal of work to be done before Election Day on November 3.

Civil Rights

Celebrating Pride in this moment

June kicks off Pride, a month-long celebration and commemoration of the ongoing fight for LGBTQ equality and inclusion. Pride is celebrated in June to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when Black transgender women led protests against police abuses. Given our nation’s current backdrop of a health pandemic and continued police brutality against Black people and communities, consider marking Pride this year by centering those who, for reasons of systemic oppression and racism, are forced to the margins in the fight for LGBTQ rights: transgender folks, queer people of color, indigenous queer folks, LGBTQ people with disabilities, and people who may hold all of those identities (and more).

Department of Education issues anti-transgender student ruling

In a ruling issued May 15 but only made public last week, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ruled that a Connecticut policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in sports that align with their gender identity violates Title IX. Previously, the Department’s position had been the opposite. The decision could force Connecticut and other states to change their transgender-inclusive athletic policies in order to keep federal funding. Idaho recently became the first state to ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports, a discriminatory policy which has been challenged in federal court.

Gun Violence Prevention

#WearOrange for Gun Safety 

NCJW is once again proud to be a part of #WearOrange on June 5 and throughout the weekend, calling for a future free from gun violence. Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor when she was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15 — just one week after performing at President Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013. After her death, they asked us to stand up, speak out, and Wear Orange to raise awareness about gun violence. Access the social media toolkit as well as specific racial justice resources, and learn more about what’s happening virtually in your community here.

Economic Justice 

EEOC Nominee Advances Out of Committee

On June 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to advance a number of nominees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Among the EEOC nominees is Jocelyn Samuels, a prominent civil right attorney. Ms. Samuels is currently the Executive Director of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA Law School dedicated to researching sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. Prior to that, she held roles in the Obama Administration and has also worked as a senior policy attorney at the EEOC, Labor Counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy, and as Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center. Given her extensive civil rights background, NCJW is proud to support her nomination to the EEOC, sending a letter in support of her to the HELP Committee. Ms. Samuels’ nomination was favorably reported out of committee by unanimous consent; however, three senators — Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) — asked that the record reflect that they would have voted no had the vote been recorded.

Small business loan program changes clear Congress

On June 3, the Senate approved by voice vote changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that would allow small businesses more flexibility in using the rescue loan funds. The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (HR 7010), which passed (417-1) in the House last week, now heads to the president’s desk for his signature. Approximately $130 billion remains from the second round of $320 billion that Congress approved for PPP.

Mobilize to speak up against poverty, racism, and injustice

NCJW is proud to once again sponsor the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC) summer mobilization. PPC is a movement that aims to shift the moral narrative, impact policies and elections at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor people. Sign up here to join NCJW’s virtual delegation at the virtual Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March at 10:00 AM ET on Saturday, June 20, to highlight the crisis of poverty and interlocking injustices in America. The program will be broadcast again on Sunday, June 21st at 6:00pm ET.

Immigration and Refugees

Administration continues its cruelty against immigrants and asylum seekers

In the past few weeks, the Trump administration has continued to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to implement the harshest anti-immigrant policies the nation has seen in decades. A recent ProPublica investigation found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is rushing to deport unaccompanied children back to their home countries, where their parents may no longer live, and/or where they or their families faced physical and sexual violence. Also, in April, the judge in charge of the Flores agreement, which governs how immigrant children must be treated in federal custody, said that given the unhealthy conditions in detention centers, children must be released. Arguably, the judge intended for children to be released with their families. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly asked parents to fill out a form forcing them to choose between being separated from their children (i.e. they would remain in custody while their children were released) or be detained with their children indefinitely. The administration has labeled this bizarre approach “binary choice.” Zero parents elected to be separated from their children. NCJW continues to condemn the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers by this administration.

Sign-On Letters

  • On May 27, 250 organizations sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the administration to restore humanitarian protections required under US law and treaty obligations and to implement practical, science-based safeguards endorsed by public health experts while processing unaccompanied children and asylum seekers asking for a refuge at the border.
  • On May 29, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) led 17 Senate Democrats in a letter, endorsed by the National Council of Jewish Women, to the Department of Homeland Security demanding they halt the transfer of people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • On June 1, NCJW joined 70 organizations on a letter led by Muslim Advocates to the Department of Homeland Security opposing its latest iteration in federal Countering Violent Extremism programming.
  • On June 2, NCJW joined 59 organizations in a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee supporting the nomination of Jocelyn Samuels to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • On June 2, NCJW joined more than 130 organizations in the Jewish community relations network on statement of solidarity with the Black community.
  • On June 3, NCJW joined 26 organizations in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA) in support of the Inspector General Access Act, common-sense legislation that would allow the Department of Justice inspector general to investigate allegations of misconduct by federal attorneys.
  • On June 4, NCJW joined a letter from the Policy Committee of National Muslim COVID-19 Taskforce and other organizations to Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), Majority Whip Cornyn (R-TX), Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), and Minority Whip Durbin (D-IL) in support of the SNAP provisions in the HEROES Act.
  • On June 4, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center sent letters to the House and Senate signed by more than 100 organizations including NCJW asking that Congress does not fund enforcement activities in the event they bail out US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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