On the Hill Updates: February 16
Reproductive Health & Rights
Justice for Jane Doe
Scott Lloyd, Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), is using his position to block young immigrants and refugees from accessing abortion care. The ORR is legally obligated to provide prompt access to safe medical care for all those within its charge. But Lloyd has used his position to shame, bully, and coerce young people instead of offering safe reproductive care. Since taking office, Lloyd has put his anti-abortion agenda above his obligation to young immigrants by:
- prohibiting undocumented minors in federal custody from obtaining abortions;
- instructing subordinates to prevent these minors from meeting with attorneys and from going to court to request abortion access;
- engaging in a lengthy (and ultimately unsuccessful) court battle to stop a teenager from leaving her shelter for an abortion; and
- publicly discussing requiring young immigrant women to undergo a medically-unproven process to “reverse” a medical abortion.
Sign our petition to demand that Scott Lloyd be removed from his position and the Trump Administration immediately restore access to comprehensive reproductive health care services and information, including abortion, for the thousands of young immigrants in ORR’s care.
Planned Parenthood Sabotage at HHS
On February 12, Politico published a letter from Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, detailing how Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been secretly coordinating with a designated hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom, to develop policies that deny women and others access to health care, specifically at Planned Parenthood health centers. The letter cites an HHS whistleblower raising “serious concerns” about HHS “taking orders” from Alliance Defending Freedom and that the group was “behind an effort by the Trump Administration on January 19, 2018, to help states terminate Planned Parenthood as a healthcare provider for Medicaid beneficiaries seeking to exercise their statutory rights to obtain family planning or other health care services.” While states are continually seeking to bar Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding, it is not federally mandated.
Immigration and Refugees
Senate Punts on Dreamers
This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opened the Senate floor for debate on proposals to address Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children. Under McConnell’s amendment process, each had to reach 60-vote thresholds to advance to debate. The amendments were:
- Amendment #1955, offered by Sens. Coons (D-DE) and McCain (R-AZ). This proposal would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers in return for moderate borde funding. NCJW urged senators to vote yes on this amendment; the amendment failed (52-47).
- Amendment #1948, offered by Sen. Toomey (R-PA). This provision would withhold funding from sanctuary cities, jurisdictions whose law enforcement choose not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. NCJW urged senators to vote no on this amendment; the amendment failed (54-45).
- Amendment #1958, offered by Sens. Rounds (R-SD) and King (I-ME). This amendment would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, appropriate $25 billion for border security, and prevent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients from sponsoring their parents for legal status. NCJW did not urge a yes or no vote, but expressed concern about funding for the wall and cuts to family immigration. The amendment failed (54-45).
- Amendment #1959, offered by Sen. Grassley (R-IA). This amendment included the White House’s “four pillars,” and would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for $25 billion for a wall on the southern border, an increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, family reunification limits, and an end to the diversity visa program. NCJW urged senators to vote no on this amendment. The amendment failed (39-60).
Majority Leader McConnell indicated that the debate on immigration would end this week, so the failure on these amendments means that for now, legislative attempts to protect Dreamers are at a standstill. Take action while the House and Senate are on recess next week and tell your elected officials to pass a clean Dream Act today!
Jewish Organizations Call for Stephen Miller’s Removal
On February 8, NCJW organized a letter signed by 16 other Jewish organizations to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly urging him to remove Stephen Miller from the White House due to Miller’s extreme views on immigrants and refugees. Stephen Miller is currently a Senior Policy Advisor to President Trump. See the full text of the letter here.
Department of Education Betrays Transgender Students
This week, a spokesperson for the Department of Education officially announced that Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity. This means that the Department will not investigate claims regarding access to bathrooms, locker rooms, or other facilities. Last year the Department scrapped guidance protecting transgender students, but this is the first time their new policy has been publicly stated. The policy is in opposition to growing case law, including decisions in the 6th and 7th Circuit Courts of Appeal, that discrimination based on sex includes gender identity. NCJW opposes this cruel decision to abandon the civil rights of transgender students.
House Passes Bill to Weaken Disability Protections
In January 2017, Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620). The bill would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by making it more difficult for people with disabilities to seek relief when denied access to public accommodations. On February 15, 2018, the bill passed the House of Representatives 225-192. There is not yet a companion bill in the Senate. NCJW opposes attempts to weaken the ADA.
#CourtsMatter to Immigration
On February 13, a federal district court judge in New York issued a nationwide order halting the Trump administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The decision requires the administration to continue to accept and process DACA renewal applications based on it’s failure to explain or justify the termination of the policy. This is the second ruling of its kind from a federal district court judge; last month, a California-based district court judge also ordered the administration to continue processing DACA applications. The administration has already asked the US Supreme Court to review the California case, thus attempting to bypass the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court has not yet agreed to hear that case. These rulings are vital reminders of the importance of federal courts and fair, impartial federal judges. NCJW joined an amicus brief in support of DACA recipients in this case.
#CourtsMatter to Religious Freedom
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on February 15 that the third iteration of President Trump’s Muslim ban is unconstitutional based on its clear anti-Muslim motivation. The ban, which limits entry into the US from six majority-Muslim countries and two others, is likely a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, according to the appeals court. This is the second time that the Fourth Circuit has ruled against a version of the Muslim ban. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has also ruled to invalidate the ban, citing limits on the President’s statutory authority. The US Supreme Court agreed to consider the case before Thursday’s decision and is expected to do so sometime next month. NCJW joined an amicus brief opposing the ban.
Senate Judiciary Committee Abandons Blue Slip Tradition for Circuit Court Judges
On February 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines (11-10) to advance the nomination of Michael Brennan to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Brennan was nominated by the White House for this lifetime seat on the federal bench despite not having met the standards of the bipartisan Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission. And, despite the fact that Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) did not return a favorable blue slip for Brennan, Chairman Grassley (R-IA) held a hearing and vote on the nomination. This committee vote effectively ended the blue slip policy for circuit court judges. Brennan’s nomination will now proceed to the Senate floor for a vote. NCJW strongly opposes Brennan’s nomination based on this severe policy shift and his extremist conservative record.
Sign On Letters
- On February 11, 48 faith organizations including NCJW signed onto a letter to Senate leadership laying out our priorities for this week’s debate on DACA legislation.
- On February 13, more than 250 organizations including NCJW joined a letter to Members of Congress supporting permanent protections for Dreamers and urging Congress to reject harmful, anti-immigrant policies.
- On February 14, NCJW joined 100 organizations on a letter urging Congress to vote against provisions that roll back protections or curb access to due process for unaccompanied immigrant children and asylum seekers.
- On February 14, 60 faith organizations including NCJW sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
- On February 14, NCJW joined 28 organizations on a letter asking Senators to oppose immigration legislation that includes funding for a wall on the Southern border.