On the Hill Updates: July 13, 2018
Trump nominates conservative idealogue Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS
On July 9, President Trump announced the nomination of DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the US Supreme Court seat soon to be vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh is anti-abortion, anti-Affordable Care Act, anti-gun safety, and more. NCJW strongly opposes his nomination. Read our full statement here. And, if you missed us at the court on Monday night, watch the livestream of the rally NCJW cosponsored here.
Take action! Visit our #SaveSCOTUS page for education and action resources, including:
- #StopKavanaugh Talking Points
- Recording of NCJW’s second Special Briefing Call on July 10 with Daniel Goldberg, Legal Director at the Alliance for Justice
#CourtsMatter to immigration
On July 5, a judge for the Eastern District of California, rejected the majority of the Trump administration’s bid to block the state’s three sanctuary laws and upheld the California Values Act, allowing California to inspect detention facilities and prevent state law enforcement from sharing personal information with federal immigration agencies.This ruling affirms that it is within California’s rights as a state to prevent the facilitation of deportation of its community members by state and local officials. However, the judge did strike down one section of a California law that fined private employers for voluntarily working with immigration officials and from re-verifying immigration status.
On July 9, a judge for the District Court of Central California blocked the Trump Administration’s request to modify the Flores Settlement, part of the 1997 US Supreme Court Case Flores v. Reno, in order to close a legal loophole in the administration’s June 20 executive order for family separation of immigrants at the border. The Flores Settlement ensures that immigrant children are not imprisoned indefinitely during immigration proceedings by requiring that they be quickly released to a family member or family friend, or if necessary placed in a licensed facility within 20 days.
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Administration’s latest attempts to hamstring the ACA
The US Department of Health and Human Services announced on July 10 a cut of $27 million to the Navigator program, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), funding it at $10 million for the 2019 fiscal year — and only funding it for one year. This essential program has already been cut by almost half. Navigators are trained counselors who advise and ensure access to health care for individuals needing additional assistance, particularly the elderly, low income, limited English proficient, and those with low health literacy. They also help families enroll in Medicaid, and work throughout the year to ensure individuals resolve problems, understand complex insurance terms, and find in-network doctors. These cuts build on previous actions by the administration to reduce enrollment help for consumers, including the weakening of navigator standards in rules governing plans for the upcoming year and major cuts in outreach funding during the 2018 open enrollment period. Additionally, the administration plans to change the mission of Navigators, to include helping individuals enroll in health insurance plans that do not comply with the consumer protection standards — such as association health plans — and other requirements of the ACA. NCJW opposes changes to the Navigator program which will result in fewer individuals covered and a further weakening of the ACA.
Federal government reopens Emmett Till investigation
This week, the US Department of Justice announced it was reopening its investigation into the murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy brutally killed in Mississippi in 1955. Till’s murder and the subsequent coverage helped kick-start the modern civil rights movement, but no one was ever convicted for the crime.
Gun Violence Prevention
FBI to close background check system loophole
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is planning a major change to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Background check examiners will soon be allowed to query a massive database of criminal records called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx. The change comes after an FBI review found that access to N-DEx would likely have stopped the white supremacist who killed nine individuals in a Charleston church in 2015 from legally buying his gun. A pilot study highlighted two dozen buyers who would have otherwise slipped through. The new protocols are expected to take up to two years to become fully operational.
Competing visions for paid family leave
On July 11, the Senate held its first hearing in four years specifically about paid family leave, during which senators offered opposing approaches to the issue. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Mike Lee (R-UT) used the hearing to promote their idea (to be introduced as legislation next week), which would let individuals “borrow” from Social Security to pay for leave. This proposal would only benefit new parents, ignoring the multitude of reasons why individuals may need time to care for themselves or their families. Further, the plan would force people to jeopardize their retirement security, making it difficult for low-income workers to even access leave in this way. NCJW supports the FAMILY Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), which would provide millions of workers access to 12 weeks of paid leave to take care of their parents, children, spouses, or themselves.
Take action! Tell Congress to support working families by passing the FAMILY Act.
Amendments offered to appropriations bill
On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee passed a number of amendments to the Fiscal Year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Funding (known as Labor-HHS). Harmful amendments include:
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) joined all 30 Republicans on the Committee to pass (31-21) an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) that would allow the long-term detention of children and asylum-seeking families by overriding the Flores settlement agreement.
- An amendment passed (29-23) by Rep. Robert Anderholt (R-AL) that would allow foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate based on their religious views.
The House Appropriations Committee also passed (all by voice vote) a number of positive amendments to the bill, including:
- Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to submit quarterly reports on its child reunification efforts or face steep financial penalties;
- Mandating an inspector general’s report on the administration’s role in family separation and reunification;
- Prohibiting the administration of medication to unaccompanied immigrant children unless medically necessary;
- Supporting efforts to house immigrant siblings together;
- Funding mental health services for children separated from their families at the border; and
- Protecting personal and genetic information of children and adults if used in the process of family reunification.
The Labor-HHS appropriations bill will next move to the full House floor for a vote, but is unlikely to pass the Senate, which has already passed its own spending bill.
Immigration and Refugees
New barriers for those seeking asylum
On June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed long standing precedent granting asylum to those who could prove themselves persecuted by ‘private actors,’ such as survivors of domestic violence, victims of LGBTQ or religious persecution, or victims of gang violence. Sessions ended this practice by issuing an order in a case he referred to himself, Matter of A-B, for which NCJW signed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of the current practice.
On July 11, new guidance was given to the officers who interview asylum seekers and evaluate refugee applications implementing this decision. Going forward, claims based on fear of gang and domestic violence will be immediately rejected. In addition, officers should consider whether an immigrant crossed the border illegally and weigh that against their claim. This runs counter to international law, which says asylum claims can be valid regardless of how seekers enter the country. NCJW condemns this incredibly harmful policy.
Efforts to deport non-citizens continue
On June 28, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new policy that will increase circumstances under which USCIS officers can initiate deportation proceedings. Going forward, non-citizens who apply for a “benefit” — such as an extension or change of status, a green card, or citizenship — will be placed in deportation proceedings if that benefit is denied. Once in deportation proceedings, an individual may be held in detention without the right to a lawyer, bond hearing, or trial.
Children and families remain separated
On July 12, the Trump administration said it had reunited 57 of the 103 children under age five that had been separated from their families. The administration claimed the remaining children were ineligible for reunification because their parents failed background checks or been deported. An earlier court order mandated reunification for all children under five by July 10, and all older children (around 3000) by July 26.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
Improving access to health care services for sexual assault survivors
As of this writing, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Peter King (R-NY), are expected to re-introduce bipartisan legislation — Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act or SASCA — to expand access to qualified examiner services and develop national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) first introduced SASCA in the 114th Congress.
Sign On Letters
- On July 6, NCJW joined letters organized by the National Center for Transgender Equality to the Department of Justice and Jacksonville, FL local officials urging a strong and decisive response to a recent spate of unsolved murders of transgender women of color in Jacksonville.
- On July 11, 65 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by CLINIC to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an 18 month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalia.
- On July 11, 290 organizations including NCJW signed a letter organized by the National Partnership for Women and Families supporting the FAMILY Act, which would provide comprehensive paid family and medical leave to millions of people.
- On July 12, NCJW joined more than 200 organizations on a letter organized by Families USA urging Congress to reject proposals that would cut Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act.