Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: September 6, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice 

Trump’s domestic gag rule forces providers out of Title X program 

On August 19, Planned Parenthood — which serves 40% of the 4 million patients who rely on Title X — was forced from the program rather than comply with the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule. At least four state health departments and dozens of independent providers have also withdrawn from the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Title X is legally designed to prioritize the needs of low-income families or uninsured people who might not otherwise have access to these services. However, now forced to rely on emergency funds, private donations, and state assistance, some providers are cutting staff and scaling back or charging fees for services that were once free 

Under the new rule, family planning clinics funded through Title X can no longer refer a patient for abortion and will be forced to maintain “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions. What’s more, providers are prohibited from discussing the full range of pregnancy options and are required to refer all pregnant patients for prenatal care. NCJW vehemently opposes the dangerous, unconscionable, and illegal gag rule which jeopardizes the health and lives of the people of color, young people, low-income people, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals who largely rely on Title X. 

Federal Courts 

Senate to resume consideration of extreme nominees 

After returning from a month-long recess on September 9, the Senate will continue to consider and advance highly partisan and ideological judicial nominees. On September 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Steven Menashi, of New York, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Menashi has made extremely offensive comments about what he calls “ethnonationalism,” among other issues. NCJW opposes his nomination; read our full statement here. On September 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a markup and vote on several nominees, including Justin Walker to the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky and Lee Rudofsky to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Read why NCJW opposes Walker and Rudofsky in our letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Gerrymandering win in North Carolina 

On September 3, a panel of judges on North Carolina’s superior court ruled that the state legislature’s districts were unconstitutional because they were severely gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. State lawmakers have until September 18 to draw new districts and cannot use existing maps as a starting point. Republican lawmakers are divided as to whether they will appeal the ruling.  

Victory for Gavin Grimm 

On August 9, a federal court ruled that a school district’s policy barring transgender students from using facilities aligned with their gender identities violated the Constitution. The case was brought by Gavin Grimm in 2015 and has already had a long journey through the courts. NCJW applauds this ruling, an important victory in the fight for the rights of transgender students. 

Ninth Circuit “splits the baby” 

On August 16, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the administration could not impose a ban on asylum seekers who have passed through a third country on their way to the southern border. However, the ruling only applies within the Ninth Circuit, meaning that border policies in California and Arizona will be different from those in New Mexico and Texas. While the ruling splits the border roughly in half in terms of impact, nearly 80% of migrants arrive at the border in New Mexico and Texas. On August 19, the ACLU asked the district court to restore its original nationwide stay on the ban. A hearing on the case will be held on September 5. NCJW opposes the third country asylum ban. 

Class action lawsuit over detention conditions 

On August 19, several organizations filed suit in the Central District of California challenging “horrific, inhumane, punitive, and unlawful conditions of confinement” in 158 immigration detention facilities across the US where ICE detainees are held for more than 72 hours. NCJW applauds the plaintiffs in this suit, the “first of its kind.” 

Federal court blocks Missouri eight-week ban 

On August 27, the District Court for the Western District of Missouri temporarily blocked implementation of a state law outlawing abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, including in the case of rape or incest, less than 24 hours before it was set to take effect. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region argued that the new law was an unconstitutional encroachment on the constitutional right to abortion and the judge agreed, writing that this restriction would severely impact hundreds of women. Nevertheless, the court allowed other provisions of the law to take effect, including those banning abortions motivated solely by the sex or race of the fetus or by a diagnosis of Down syndrome and those updating the state’s biased counselling requirements. NCJW opposes all measures that restrict access to safe abortion, shutter licensed clinics, and prevent patients from receiving care.  

Federal court upholds Illinois assault weapons ban 

On August 29, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an assault weapons ban in Cook County in the case of Wilson v. Cook County, et al. The county ordinance bans the possession, use, and sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines. NCJW supports a ban on assault weapons and other efforts to curb the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities. 

Civil Rights 

Department of Labor sanctions taxpayer-funded discrimination 


On August 14, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released a proposed rule that would allow religious contractors to discriminate in hiring. This means that a federal contractor — paid for by tax dollars — can discriminate against an employee because they are transgender, a single parent, have an abortion, or in any way vary from the employer’s religious beliefs. While most courts agree that the federal prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Trump administration has worked to erode the rights of LGBTQ workers. In September, NCJW and the ADL authored a Jewish organization sign on letter urging the Department of Labor to rescind guidance preceding this proposed rule. NCJW condemns the proposed rule and will continue to push back against government sanctioned discrimination. 

Gun Violence Prevention 

National Rally to #EndGunViolence 


Despite an increase in mass shootings, the Senate has yet to take action on two gun violence prevention measures passed by the House. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act (HR 8) would establish universal background checks on all gun sales while the Enhanced Background Checks Act (HR 1112) would provide additional time to allow a background check to be completed before a firearm sale. Beginning on September 10, the House Judiciary Committee will consider three gun safety efforts: Disarm Hate Act, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and banning high capacity magazines. 

  • Take Action! Urge senators to take the first step to expand background checks by passing S 42, the Background Check Expansion Act, a “clean” version of HR 8. 

NCJW is proud to co-sponsor the National Rally to #EndGunViolence on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 1:00-3:30pm on the West Lawn at the US Capitol in Washington, DCJoin NCJW in person and on social media to demand our lawmakers pass common sense gun safety measures.  

  • Planning to attend? Let us know here. 

Immigration 

Administration’s new rule is a wealth test for immigrants 


On August 12, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its public charge rule would go into effect on October 15. The rule radically expands the list of programs that may be considered when the government determines if someone is likely to become a “public charge,” i.e. primarily dependent on the government. DHS weighs whether an immigrant is a public charge when considering applications for legal permanent residence, like a green card. The rule states that applicants cannot use public benefits more than 12 months out of a 36 months period, and two benefits in one month counts as two months. Benefits include food assistance, housing assistance, and Medicaid (excluding children under 21 and pregnant women). This most harms immigrants of color, low-wage earners, non-English speakers, the young and elderly, immigrants with disabilities, LGBTQ immigrants, and those with health conditions. The rule does not apply to refugees or asylum seekers. Various lawsuits have been filed to stop the rule. NCJW condemns this latest attack on immigrants. 

Prior to the rule’s release, NCJW partnered with T’ruah to submit hundreds of comments in opposition to the rule. Your voices made an impact! The rule does not include the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as originally planned. But we must continue to fight this harmful policy. The No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act (HR 3222) would restrict federal funds from being used to implement or enforce the public charge rule.  

  • Take Action! Call your representative at 202-224-3121 and urge them to cosponsor HR 3222, the No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act, and speak out against this offensive policy. 

Administration aims to detain migrant children indefinitely 

On August 20, the administration released a final version of a rule that would gut the Flores agreement, which governs how long and under what conditions migrant children can be held in federal detention. Under Flores, children can only be held for a maximum of 20 days and must receive certain services. The new rule would remove that limitation and relax licensing standards for child detention centers. The rule will go into effect on October 22 unless stopped by the courts; 19 states and DC have filed suitNCJW denounces this harmful rule.  

Transfer request for more detention beds

In February’s FY19 continuing resolution, a deal was struck that gave Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding for approximately 45,000 detention beds so long as that number was reduced to about 40,000 by the end of this fiscal year (September). Last week, it was reported that detention numbers were at an all time high of approximately 55,000 beds. How will ICE square the funding? It’s rumored that on Monday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will notify Congress of its intent to transfer funds within the department for 16,000 additional detention beds; this is in addition to the nearly $5 billion supplemental funding award in July. Congress has given agencies wide latitude to transfer funds internally, so it does not need to approve the request. NCJW calls for increased Congressional oversight of DHS spending.  

State/local refugee veto 


NBC reported this week that the Trump administration is considering a new rule that would allow state and local jurisdictions to deny entry to refugees who have been approved for resettlement. In 2015, Vice President Pence tried and failed to ban refugees from Indiana while governor. NCJW vows to fight this rule when released.  

New attack on asylum seekers 

This week, Buzzfeed reported on a forthcoming regulation that would only allow those who applied for asylum at a port of entry to be eligible for a work permit. Further, those eligible to request work authorizations will need to wait a year after their asylum application to do so, meaning that they would have no way to support themselves in the US while legally seeking asylum. The regulation is in response to a request from the White House to limit work permits. NCJW opposes this cruel attack. 

Letters 

  • On August 12, more than 150 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by United We Dream urging the Senate to pass gun violence prevention legislation like S 42, the Background Checks Expansion Act, without anti-immigrant add-ons.  
  • On August 13, NCJW submitted a comment to the Department of Health and Human Services opposing its proposed rule to eliminate anti-discrimination protections in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. 
  • On August 15, 260 faith organizations and leaders including NCJW submitted a joint comment opposing an interim final rule that denies access to asylum to people who have passed through a third country before arriving at the US southern border. 
  • On August 19, NCJW joined 171 Jewish organizations on a letter calling for at least 95,000 refugees to be admitted in the next fiscal year. 
  • On August 23, more than 100 faith organizations including NCJW sent a letter demanding the administration restore the US refugee resettlement program.  
  • On August 23, NCJW joined 26 organizations on a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calling on him to address white supremacy and gun violence as means to improve school safety. 
  • On August 28, NCJW joined 91 organizations on a letter requesting that the Department of Labor extend the comment period on a proposed rule that would allow religious contractors to discriminate in hiring. 
  • On September 4, NCJW submitted a comment to the Department of Homeland Security opposing its proposed rule to expand expedited removal.  
  • On September 4, NCJW joined 135 organizations on letters to House and Senate leadership – as well as the leadership of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees – urging Congress to include in FY2020 appropriations bills provisions promoting health care access and ending the domestic and global gag rules. 
  • On September 4, more than 150 organizations including NCJW sent a letter to USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli calling for a full restoration of deferred action adjudications.  
  • On September 5, NCJW organized a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee signed by 6 other Jewish organizations expressing concerns about the nomination of Steven Menashi to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  

Amicus Briefs 

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in the combined case of California v. Trump and Sierra Club, Southern Border Communities Coalition v. Trump before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging President Trump’s attempt to build a border wall. 

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