Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: August 17, 2018

Federal Courts

Kavanaugh Nomination Progresses

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley (R-IA) announced that US Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing is scheduled for the week of September 4, likely to go from Tuesday to Friday of that week. Even Grassley and his Republican colleagues have yet to see the few records that they requested from the National Archives, and instead are only privy to a small subset of records vetted by Bill Burck, President George W. Bush’s private lawyer who once worked for Kavanaugh himself. Read NCJW’s full statement on this corrupt, tainted process here. And, please continue to call your senators — even if your senator has been outspoken about Kavanaugh. How can senators ensure a fair, non-partisan review of Kavanaugh’s record without access to it?

As Judge Kavanaugh continues to meet privately with senators regarding his nomination, new polling shows that his personal ratings are poor, with just 15% favorable, 28% unfavorable, and 57% unable to give an opinion. While Republicans are more favorable than unfavorable toward Kavanaugh (by 36% to 8%), views are negative on net among Democrats (2% favorable, 44% unfavorable) and independents (5% to 29%).

Lower Courts Still Matter

On August 16, the Senate confirmed the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth circuit court judges to be nominated by President Trump: Julius Richardson and Marvin Quattlebaum, both to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In President Obama’s final two years in office, only two circuit court judges were confirmed. And, check out NCJW’s very own Lindsay Morris in a new video by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights on pay equity and the courts. As you are talking to senators about the Kavanaugh nomination, it’s a great opportunity to highlight the importance of the lower courts and the judges who sit on them.

Masterpiece part II?

Just weeks after the Supreme Court narrowly upheld baker Jack Phillips’ right to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding, Masterpiece Cakeshop is at the center of another legal battle. In June 2017, Phillips was asked to make a cake for a lawyer celebrating the anniversary of her coming out as a transgender woman. Philips refused, and earlier this summer the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled his refusal likely constituted discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Philips, represented by the Christian legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, sued Colorado officials in the US District Court in Colorado.


Religious Freedom

Department of Labor rolls back LGBTQ protections

On August 10, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a directive undermining an Obama-era rule that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The directive cites Trump’s religious liberty executive orders, as well as recent Supreme Court decisions in Masterpiece Cakeshop and Trinity Lutheran, as the catalysts for this change. It also states that formal rules will follow, providing an opportunity for comments. Simultaneously, DOL removed information from its website about nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals. NCJW opposes this action as the latest of the administration’s efforts to turn religious liberty protections into a license to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.


Immigration and Refugees

Family separation update

Every Friday, parties involved in Ms. L v. ICE, the family separation lawsuit, release a reunification report. As of August 10, 559 children ages 5-17 were still separated from their parents. There is no update on the dozens of children under age 5 awaiting reunification. Recent reports indicate that families crossing the border were targeted by the zero-tolerance policy, while many individuals escaped prosecution. There are also reports that children in custody were and are still not receiving adequate medical care, resulting in the death of at least one child after his release. So long as the zero tolerance policy remains in effect, and family detention is touted by the administration as the solution to family separation, these dangerous conditions and separations will continue.

ICE arrests target those without criminal records

One of the first actions President Trump took upon taking office was to reverse the Obama administration’s approach to immigration enforcement, which prioritized those convicted of serious crimes. In effect, anyone and everyone without documentation would be at equal risk. A recent report by NBC News found that “Federal arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have more than tripled under President Donald Trump and may still be accelerating.” Arrests of those without criminal convictions increased 203 percent for the first 14 months of Trump’s presidency compared to the final 14 months of the Obama administration. Arrests of those with criminal records increased just 18 percent.

In response, a class action suit was filed by Immigrant Justice Center on behalf of 100 individuals arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a seven day period in Chicago. Another suit tackling a similar issue was filed by the ACLU, which alleges that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) coordinated with ICE to alert the agency when certain immigrants eligible for deportation showed up at the CIS office for routine interviews. Similarly, these immigrants did not have criminal convictions.

ICE reopening closed cases

In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to cease administrative closures (temporarily removing cases from their dockets without issuing decisions). But the Trump administration did not stop there. On August 15, BuzzFeed reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyers were reopening thousands of administratively closed cases for reevaluation and possible arrest and deportation. So far, ICE has sought to reopen 8,000 cases, a pace roughly double than that of the Obama administration’s final two years.


Sign On Letters

On August 15, NCJW was one of 36 signatories on a Jewish letter organized by HIAS to President Trump urging him to set a refugee resettlement target of at least 75,000 for next year.

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