Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: August 24, 2018

Federal Courts

Unite for justice on August 26

We are two days away from over 120 National Day of Action events in 45 states across the country to Unite for Justice in order to #StopKavanaugh. NCJW is proud to cosponsor of Unite for Justice, joining more than 50 organizations (and NCJW sections) to speak out about Kavanaugh’s terrible record on health care; reproductive health, rights, and justice; LGBTQ rights and so many other critical issues. Join an event today!

Already engaged in your community? Don’t forget to tag @NCJW on social media and share your efforts and pictures with Stephanie Cohen, NCJW’s Associate Director of Marketing and Communications (scohen@ncjw.org).

Senators call to delay Kavanaugh hearing after Cohen plea

In light of President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleading guilty to campaign finance violations (at the same time Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax and bank fraud), several Democratic senators including Sens. Markey (MA), Durbin (IL), Merkley (OR), Hirono (HI), and Jones (AL) are calling for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing to be postponed. In response, a spokesperson from Senator Grassley’s office said they will proceed as scheduled on September 4. NCJW opposes moving forward with Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing without the release of his full record.

“Settled law?”

In a meeting on August 21, Judge Kavanaugh told Senator Collins (R-ME) that he agrees with Chief Justice Roberts’ take on Roe v. Wade: that it’s settled law. However, Justice Roberts consistently votes against abortion rights, including joining the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which would have closed all but one clinic in Texas. Likewise, Judge Kavanaugh tried to deny abortion access to Jane Doe last year in the #JusticeForJane case. Similarly, now-Justice Gorsuch told Senator Collins he would “respect precedent” but still overturned a number of cases this past session. NCJW opposes Judge Kavanaugh on the basis that he would overturn women’s reproductive freedom, among many other concerns.

Cross-border killings could be decided by Supreme Court

A recent ruling has split the US Appeals Courts on whether parents of Mexican citizens, killed by US agents shooting across the border, can sue the federal government. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the mother of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, killed by a border guard, does not need permission from Congress to sue. However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the family of Sergio Hernández Guereca could not sue the border guard who killed him. This split means the US Supreme Court is likely to take up this question this term. In fact, Guereca’s case came before the Supreme Court during the 2016-2017 term, but it was sent back to the lower courts.

Parents impacted by family separation file suit

On August 17, Muslim Advocates filed suit in the DC federal district on behalf of a group of parents who failed their initial asylum interviews while they were separated from their children. The suit argues that the parents were debilitatingly traumatized by the cruel separations and should not have been interviewed in those conditions.


Civil Rights

Administration targeting health care for transgender vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is seeking comments on whether transgender veterans should be able to access comprehensive health care at the VA health system. Currently, the VA excludes many medical procedures for transgender veterans, including “gender alternations,” and advocates fear that the request for comment is a ploy to keep, or even expand, the exclusions. On August 24, NCJW submitted a comment supporting the elimination of transgender exclusions in the VA health care system.


Gun Violence Prevention

State judge blocks ballot initiative 1639 to curb gun violence

On August 16, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon sided with gun lobbyists and threw out more than 378,000 petition signatures submitted by Washington state voters in support of Initiative 1639 (I-1639), ruling that the formatting of the signature petitions “did not comport” with Washington law. I-1639, a sweeping ballot measure, would raise the age to purchase semi-automatic assault rifles to 21; create an enhanced background check for semi-automatic assault rifles, similar to what is required for handguns; require completion of a firearm safety training course within the last five years; and create standards for Dangerous Access Prevention to keep guns out of the hands of children and prohibited individuals. Last month, I-1639 was certified by the Secretary of State to be on the November ballot. The campaign has already filed notice of appeal with the Washington State Supreme Court and is requesting expedited review to ensure that Initiative 1639 will be on the ballot in November.


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 17, 565 children were still separated from their parents. Of this total, around 400 kids have parents outside the US because they were deported.

Sessions further limits immigration judges

On August 16, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a precedent-setting decision in Matter of L-A-B-R-, a case he referred to himself to review. This decision will make it more difficult for immigration judges to postpone hearings for immigrants while they wait for special petitions that could allow them to legally stay in the country. It’s the latest example of Sessions’ efforts to bend the immigration court to his anti-immigrant views.


Sign On Letters

  • On August 21, a coalition of 720 faith groups and individual leaders sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling for a refugee ceiling of at least 75,000 in fiscal year 2019.
  • On August 23, NCJW submitted a comment to the Department of Veterans Affairs urging them to remove the current exclusion on providing transgender-related health care to veterans.

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