Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: June 29, 2018

Federal Courts

Justice Anthony Kennedy Announces Retirement from US Supreme Court

On June 27, the last day of the 2017-18 US Supreme Court’s session, Justice Kennedy announced that he will be retiring from the Supreme Court effective July 31 of this year. For three decades, Justice Kennedy played a historic role as the deciding vote in many important cases, including in Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed everyone’s right to marry the person they love. Without Justice Kennedy, the balance on the Court could shift dramatically to the right, threatening a host of hard won rights and liberties secured over many decades, including the right to access safe and legal abortion. President Trump’s clear disdain for an independent judiciary, combined with his ongoing promise to nominate a justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade, makes it crucial that the Senate confirm only a fair-minded constitutionalist who will keep the White House in check and protect the rights of all Americans. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of our most cherished rights, and it is no place for someone who will rubber stamp the Trump Administration’s dangerous agenda.

NCJW is a leading organization in the campaign to #SaveSCOTUS. Take action TODAY:

  • Register here for NCJW’s special briefing call at noon EST on Monday, July 2, with Lena Zwarensteyn and Cedric Lawson of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights.
  • Call your senators (Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121) using this script:  
    • Hi, my name is ____ and I am an NCJW activist living in [your city, state]. Now that Justice Kennedy has announced his retirement, I am counting on Senator ____ to protect the Supreme Court. We need a justice who will be independent and not serve as a rubber stamp for this Administration’s dangerous agenda. With the future of Roe v. Wade and other issues at risk, the stakes are high. The Senate should follow the McConnell rule and wait to confirm a justice until after the  November midterm elections.

#CourtsMatter to Voting Rights

On June 25, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling 5-4 in Abbott v. Perez, holding that Texas’ racially gerrymandered maps are constitutional. The majority ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the maps were drawn with discriminatory intent.

#CourtsMatter to Reproductive Rights

On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in NIFLA v. Becerra, that fake women’s health centers can continue to mislead women about their services and intentions. The Court ruled that the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, passed in 2015, which requires crisis pregnancy centers to post signs conveying certain messages regarding abortion access, is a violation of the first amendment’s protection of free speech. NCJW does not support the right to lie to women about their reproductive options and health.  

#CourtsMatter to Immigration

On June 26, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision on Trump v. Hawaii, also known as the Muslim Ban, to uphold President Trump’s ban on US travel for nationals of several predominantly Muslim countries. The Supreme Court determined that Trump’s Muslim Ban was within his statutory authority as president. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts used Trump v Hawaii to finally overrule Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the right of the president to hold Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, called the formal repudiation of Korematsu v. United States long overdue, but noted the troubling parallels between the two cases.  

On the positive side, on June 26, a federal judge in California issued a classwide preliminary injunction to halt family separation at the border and reunite immigrant families that were separated due to the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy. The injunction stipulates that all separated immigrant families must be reunited within 30 days, and families with children under five years old must be reunited within 14 days of the injunction. Additionally, all parents must be able to communicate with their children within 10 days. The injunction went on to further specify that children can only be separated from their families at the border if they are in immediate danger and parents cannot be deported without their children. However, the injunction will not stop the prosecution of individuals who enter the US between ports of entry.

#CourtsMatter to workers’ rights

On June 27, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling 5-4, in Janus v. AFSCME, which allowed public-sector unions to collect fees in the workplace from non-union members who benefit from the unions’ ability to advocate on workers’ behalf for things such as healthcare and higher wages. This decision further limits unions’ ability to raise the capital necessary to defend workers rights by allowing non-members to benefit from unions without paying.

#CourtsMatter to LGBTQ rights

On June 25, the Supreme Court decided to send Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington back down to lower court in light of the recent decision by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, this case argues whether floral arrangements, as a form of artistic expression, is protected under the free speech clause and if being forced to sell art against an individual’s religious beliefs violates the free exercise clause, both protected under the First Amendment.


Civil Rights

Trump wants to end due process for immigrants

On June 24, President Trump tweeted that when undocumented immigrants come to the US they should be sent back “with no judges or court cases.” This amounts to a desire to end due process — a bedrock principle upon which our democracy is founded — for immigrants. While a tweet may not feel like formal policy-making, recent court decisions and administrative actions have treated Trump’s tweets as official policy, such as the ban on transgender individuals in the military.


Economic Justice

Senate passes bipartisan farm bill; battle ahead with House

The Senate passed (86-11) a $428 billion bipartisan farm bill (S 3042) on June 28 that reauthorizes and improves SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in ways that will protect and lift up vulnerable families.The House version of the legislation, HR 2, passed narrowly last week with no Democratic support and imposes strict new work requirements on able-bodied adults seeking food stamps. The bill now heads to conference where the Senate and House versions will need to be reconciled. NCJW urges lawmakers to come together on a farm bill that that protects the health and nutrition of our families.

Bill to strengthen unions introduced

In the wake of the recent Janus Supreme Court decision (see Federal Courts update above), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced a bill (S 3151/HR 6238) to establish collective bargaining rights for all state and local government employees. It does not include federal employees, whose unions are barred from collective bargaining over wages and benefits.


Human Needs

House committee passes harmful FY19 budget resolution

The House Budget Committee passed (21-13) its FY19 budget resolution that would maintain the 2017 tax cuts that largely benefit corporations and the wealthy, while repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and making deep cuts in health care and basic assistance for struggling families. The budget would make nearly $6 trillion in cuts over a decade to entitlements and non-defense discretionary programs, which include affordable housing programs. The resolution now awaits a vote on the House floor.


Immigration and Refugees

Activists rallying across the country on June 30

Immigrant rights groups and allies are planning rallies across the country on June 30 to protest family separation and detention.

Immigration bill fails in House

On June 27, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (HR 6136), Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Republican “compromise” bill, failed 121-301. The harmful bill would have damaged immigrant families and communities by limiting family-based immigration, funding the border wall and other interior enforcement measures, and supporting President Trump’s (and Senior Advisor Stephen Miller’s) deportation machine.

In the Senate, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced a bill (S 3093) to add 225 immigration judges, expedite court proceedings, and remove current protections for children held in detention, including the length of detention (known as the Flores settlement). NCJW opposes any legislation that would result in increased family detention and urges Congress to pass a clean Dream Act instead.

Family detention to replace separation?

At the beginning of May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for individuals apprehended crossing the border outside an official point of entry. The result was mass family separation, including nearly 3,000 children. On June 26, a federal judge in California issued a classwide preliminary injunction to halt family separation at the border and reunite immigrant families that were separated (see Federal Courts update above for more detail).

While the injunction is an important step forward, the administration’s zero tolerance policy is still active, resulting in ever-increasing numbers of detained families. Some Department of Homeland Security employees have said privately that they no longer have enough space to detain families, but Attorney General Sessions refuses to back down, ignoring the many alternatives to separation and detention. Further, Assistant Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler — also a Trump judicial nominee for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and opposed by NCJWformally requested changes to the rules governing child detention, known as the Flores settlement. If a federal court grants these changes, children could be held indefinitely in detention.

NCJW decries these inhumane practices and urges the administration to reunite families and end its zero-tolerance policy.

Temporary Protected Status at risk

On July 5, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will decide to extend or terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the more than 1,000 people in the US from Yemen; it was most recently redesignated and extended for 18 months in January 2017. A similar decision will need to be made for people from Somalia on July 19. In the past few months, DHS has terminated TPS protections for more than 300,000 people from Sudan, Nicaragua, Liberia, Nepal, Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, as well as refused to redesignate TPS for Syria.

On June 25, a judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that a lawsuit filed in March to reinstate TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan can go forward. The Trump administration had filed to dismiss the suit. NCJW supports a path to citizenship for those impacted by TPS terminations.


Sign On Letters

  • On June 13, NCJW joined more than 650 faith organizations on a letter organized by Church World Service to Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen urging her to extend and redesignate temporary protected status (TPS) for individuals from Yemen living in the US.
  • On June 19, 114 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by the ACLU to the Federal Bureau of Prisons requesting it reverse recent harmful policy changes to the Transgender Offender Manual.
  • On June 21, NCJW and the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to end Sexual and Domestic Violence, representing thousands of organizations, sent a letter to Congress denouncing the president’s Executive Order as it will continue to traumatize children and harm survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
  • On June 21, 13 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by OxFam urging the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to extend and redesignate temporary protected status (TPS) for individuals from Yemen living in the US.
  • On June 22, NCJW joined 47 organizations on a statement organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition condemning Attorney General Sessions’ recent use of the Bible as justification for forcibly separating families seeking asylum at the border.
  • On June 27, NCJW joined 464 organizations on a letter organized by the Tahirih Justice Center to Attorney General Sessions expressing concern about his recent decision about people seeking asylum in Matter of A-B.
  • On June 28, 23 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by the Leadership Conference to Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Ken Marcus urging him to use his position to protect the civil rights of all students.
  • On June 28, 27 LGBTQ organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by Lambda Legal opposing the nomination of David Porter to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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