Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nomination of S. Kyle Duncan to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, voting on April 23 to cut off debate and move forward on the vote. Duncan was approved (50-47) to fill the seat on April 24. NCJW strongly opposes this nomination as Duncan lacks the requisite impartiality and honesty to serve as a federal judge. He has demonstrated a clear bias against women and LGBTQ individuals. And, among other concerning pursuits, Duncan advocated against transgender rights as an attorney for the school board in GG v. Gloucester County School Board and against contraceptive coverage as lead counsel in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
Muslim ban at SCOTUS; NCJW sends petition to White House
On April 25, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in its final case of this session, Trump v. Hawaii, the third effort by President Trump to prevent immigration from designated, majority Muslim, countries. The travel ban, opposed by NCJW, is entirely about discriminating based on nationality and place of residence, and it’s part of the administration’s broader efforts harming marginalized communities, including Muslims and people of color. NCJW joined an Amicus Brief in the case and spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court on the 25th. Following oral arguments and the rally, NCJW sent an interfaith petition to the White House asking for White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller, chief architect of the bans, to be dismissed, with close to 3,000 names representing over 20 faith groups and 48 states.
A DC federal judge called the government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “virtually unexplained” and therefore “unlawful,” and ordered the government to both continue the program and reopen it to new applicants in NAACP v. Trump. The judge also gave the US Department of Homeland Security 90 days to provide a more sound legal explanation for ending the program. US District Judge Bates, nominated by President George W. Bush, is the third judge to rule against the Trump administration’s attempts to rescind DACA. NCJW supports DACA, which provides protections to “dreamers” brought to the United States as children.
#Courtsmatter to sex education
In the past two weeks, three courts have ruled that the Trump-Pence administration’s early termination of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) grants is unlawful. On April 20, a judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to cut funding for four recipients of the TPPP grants was “arbitrary and capricious.” On April 24, a judge in Washington state ordered the re-funding of three Planned Parenthood affiliates, and on April 25, a federal judge in Baltimore ordered the Trump administration to resume funding two entities receiving grants through TPPP.
A fourth lawsuit over the grant cuts is pending before a federal judge in Seattle.
In August, HHS abruptly cut funding for TPPP two years before the original grants — which fund programs providing comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception, and health opportunities for young people — were scheduled to end. Instead, HHS announced a new allocation of $10 million toward researching “more effective” methods of teen pregnancy prevention, with an emphasis on “sexual delay” and “sexual risk avoidance,” i.e. abstinence education.
Senator Tammy Duckworth makes history
Just 10 days after becoming the first senator to give birth while in office, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) made history again when she introduced a rule change that would allow children under one year of age on the Senate floor. The change was approved by unanimous consent on April 19. Senators are also now allowed to breastfeed during votes if necessary, ensuring that they will not have to choose between caring for their child and doing their jobs.The last time additional Senate floor privileges were granted was in 1977, when service dogs were allowed on the Senate floor.
Gun Violence Prevention
While lawmakers are out on a two week recess, check out the town halls and community events near you by clicking here. And, once again, NCJW is supporting #WearOrange, the 4th National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Friday, June 1 will kick off #WearOrange Weekend, with community events across the nation.
HUD targets low income and LGBTQ communities
In yet another attempt to restrict access to the safety net and reduce levels of assistance for the neediest households, US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed changes to federal housing subsidies on April 25, tripling rent for the lowest income households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements. NCJW opposes this war on the poor and urges the administration to view poverty as a systemic issue, not a personal failure.
In other disturbing news out of HUD, the agency removed online resources in March that were created to help housing providers protect LGBTQ individuals and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Further, Carson proposed removing HUD’s commitment to nondiscrimination from its mission statement. NCJW opposes these efforts, and opposed the nomination of Carson to lead HUD.
Separation of Religion and State
Bill to strengthen protections for religious minorities passes committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed S 994, the Protecting Religiously-Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017, offered by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), on April 19. The measure builds on the 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act, expanding it to include religiously affiliated institutions, such as schools and community centers, in addition to houses of worship and clarifies that threats against, as well as acts that result in damage or destruction of religious institutions property, are covered. S 994 is similar legislation to HR 1730, which passed the House (402-2) in December 2017.
The Trump administration has appeared to reverse its position on Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which allows immigrants under the age of 21 who are abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents to obtain green cards. Under the new and unannounced position, applicants in New York who were over 18, but not yet 21, when they began the application process no longer qualify — despite the fact that for the last 10 years, cases like theirs have routinely been approved. The Trump administration has focused on limiting all forms of immigration, and now seems to be targeting the special immigrant status; Trump often invokes fear that these immigrants could belong to MS-13, the transnational gang, and that they are committing fraud in their applications.
Trump ends protected status for 9,000 Nepalese immigrants
The Trump administration announced on April 26, that it would end the temporary protected status (TPS) granted to 9,000 Nepalese after a 2015 earthquake. The decision to terminate TPS for the Nepalese gives the immigrants a year to leave the country or to change their immigration status. After June 24, 2019, they would face deportation. In recent months, the Trump administration has ended temporary protected status for immigrants from several countries affected by disasters, including Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, leaving hundreds of thousands of people who had permission to live and work in the United States vulnerable to deportation if they remain. NCJW is disgusted by the administration’s termination of this critical humanitarian program.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
Sexual assault awareness month resolution introduced
Sens. Booker (D-NJ), Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Baldwin (D-WI) introduced a sexual assault awareness month resolution on April 26, “Affirming a commitment to elevate the voices, leadership, and needs of historically and currently disenfranchised and underserved communities in the effort to end sexual violence and support all survivors of sexual violence, including immigrant survivors, survivors with disabilities, survivors of color, American Indian or Alaska Native survivors, survivors of child sexual abuse, queer and intersex survivors, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender survivors.”