Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
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Senate Judiciary Committee holds sham hearings despite recess
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) scheduled two judicial nominations hearings on October 17 and 24 with controversial nominees for the Fourth and the Ninth Circuits after the Senate left for an early recess prior to the midterm elections. Never before has the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on judicial nominations while the Senate is in recess prior to an election. Sen. Grassley has refused to reschedule these hearings despite a written request from all ten democratic senators on the committee. There are 19 other Senate Committees that hold hearings; none of them are holding hearings during recess. These out-of-sight, sparsely attended hearings are a deliberate attempt to sneak some of the weakest and most flawed nominees through a sham process when nobody’s looking.
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The hearing on October 17 was on the nomination of Allison Rushing to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Rushing is 36 and has less than the 12 years of experience that the nonpartisan American Bar Association looks for when evaluating whether a nominee is qualified. Rushing is a member of the Federalist Society. She also worked at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a “hate group.” The hearing on October 24 will be on the nominations of Bridget Bade of Arizona and Eric Miller of Washington, both nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Neither of the home state senators have returned their blue slip for Miller, indicating their lack of support for his nomination.
The conservative activist behind recent affirmative action cases heard by the US Supreme Court (known as Fisher I & II) has brought another lawsuit, this time challenging Harvard’s admissions policies. The hearing started on October 15 in a federal district court in Boston and will continue for three weeks. The challenge alleges that Harvard’s policies discriminate against Asian American applicants.
Administration publishes regulatory roadmap
Each quarter, the federal government publishes a regulatory agenda, which lists all current and planned regulations for the next few months. Some on the list are ongoing rulemaking processes in which NCJW is involved (such as Title X funding), but others are new and could be harmful. They include:
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to make it harder for people to claim credible fear in asylum cases;
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to change its appeals process;
- Department of Justice (DOJ) will issue its own public charge rule that applies to people applying for citizenship;
- DOJ wants to make it easier for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to refer more immigration cases to himself;
- DOJ plans make it easier to deny asylum;
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to support state flexibility to administer Medicaid and CHIP;
- HHS will finalize its religious and moral exemption to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while the Department of Labor (DOL) pushes its own religious and moral regulations;
- HHS continues its efforts to roll back nondiscrimination provisions in the ACA;
- HHS wants to add work requirements to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program;
- HHS is proposing a rule for “Ensuring equal treatment for faith-based organizations;”
- DOL will introduce a new overtime pay rule after rolling back an Obama era regulation that would have expanded the pool of workers eligible for overtime;
- DOL will seek a rule to allow “religious-exercising organizations” with federal contracts to discriminate in hiring;
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will issue proposed rules to rollback an Obama era regulation affirmatively furthering fair housing;
- Department of Education (ED) will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to make changes to Title IX in November;
- ED is proposing two regulations to make it easier for faith-based organizations to receive federal grant money; and
- ED will rollback an Obama era regulation addressing the disproportionality of students of color identified as children with disabilities.
On October 17, President Trump announced his plan to ask every Cabinet secretary to cut 5 percent from their budgets. It’s unclear if this would apply to the current FY’19 budget given that Congress has passed the majority of the spending bills for this fiscal year. The comment follows a US Department of Treasury release showing that the FY’18 budget rose 17 percent to $779 billion largely fueled by the GOP tax plan. Trump will present his FY’20 budget request early next year.
Immigration and Refugees
Attorney General goes after bond hearings
On October 12, Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred a new case, Matter of M-S-, to himself that deals with whether immigration judges can hold bond hearings for asylum seekers detained at the border. Last month he had referred a similar case to himself, Matter of M-G-G-, but the person in the case was subsequently deported.
President Trump, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen, Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, and others in the administration are considering a new family separation policy. The plan would force parents to choose to be detained indefinitely with their children while their case is heard, or give up their child to the government. It’s not clear if this policy would be legal under the Flores settlement, a legal agreement that governs how long children can be held in detention. The administration is calling this new policy “binary choice.” NCJW opposes all efforts to separate families and the unwillingness of the administration to consider alternatives to detention.
Entry ban draws concerns
NCJW has been quite concerned for the past few years about various legislative and legal signs that democracy is being seriously challenged in Israel by the more extreme right wing who are in power. The Entry Ban Law is one of these recent laws, and for the past few weeks Lara Alqasem, a 21-year old student from Florida who was on her way to study for an MA degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was stopped based on charges that she was an activist and supporter of BDS, and then detained at Ben Gurion airport while she appealed the decision by the Interior Ministry. Many Jewish organizations, including NCJW, rose to support her, including the Hebrew University of Israel in an usual step in which they joined the appeal, highly concerned about the chilling effect on the exchange of ideas, and the damage to the reputation of all Israeli universities which attract many foreign students. Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided to allow her entry, saying that it seemed she was stopped because of her political opinions, not security concerns related to any major BDS activity.
Sign On Letters
- On October 15, 85 organizations including NCJW signed a comment organized by the Wilderness Society opposing a National Park Service proposal to charge for permits for free speech demonstrations.
- On October 15, NCJW joined eight organizations on a comment drafted by the National LGBTQ Taskforce for an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on its affirmative fair housing regulation.