Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: October 12, 2018

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Senate fails to overturn Trump “junk” health plans

Senate Democrats were one vote shy in their effort to overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term health insurance plans that do not have to cover preexisting conditions and certain kinds of health care that the Affordable Care Act(ACA)  requires. Using regulations, Trump has moved to let individuals buy short-term insurance that could last one year — and up to three years if renewed, expanding the more limited three month version of these plans. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Democrats in voting for the resolution on these “junk” plans.NCJW opposes junk short-term health insurance which offer inadequate medical coverage and lack consumer protection, and would lead to increases for ACA-compliant plans and the destabilization of individual insurance markets.


Federal Courts

Brett Kavanaugh joins the nation’s highest bench

After a bitter, partisan, and incredibly divisive confirmation battle, now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the US Supreme Court on Saturday, October 6 in a50-48 vote. NCJW is devastated but will continue our decades-long hard work to ensure diverse, fair, and independent federal courts and judicial nominees. Read our full statement here. On October 10, all nine justices of the Supreme Court heard oral arguments inNielsen v. Preap, one of the cases NCJW is watching this term. In this case, the Court will determine whether federal authorities must detain immigrants who commit crimes, no matter how minor or how long ago, without a hearing. Unsurprisingly, Justice Kavanaugh took a hard line during oral arguments against due process rights for immigrants, insisting there should be no time limits on such detention.

Senate committee holds hearing on dangerous appeals court nominees 

On October 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Chad Readler and Eric Murphy, both of Ohio, to sit on the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. This hearing took place over the strong objection of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who withheld his blue slip, the paper used to signal home-state support of a judicial nominee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley used lack of blue slips to block several of President Obama’s circuit court nominees, but has ceased honoring them under President Trump. Readler and Murphy are enormous threats to health care access, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, and beyond.NCJW opposes both of these nominees, and sent letters (here and here) to the Senate Judiciary Committee in advance of the hearing

And, on October 11, Senate Republican and Democratic leadership struck a deal to fast track 15 nominees —  12 district and 3 circuit — before calling an early recess. Senators won’t be back until after the midterm elections. This brings total confirmations to 84 — more than double the number of judges confirmed in President Obama’s first two years. NCJW is outraged by this unnecessary deal that only serves to quicken the pace of putting more extremist Trump nominees on the federal courts.

Courts matter to voting

On October 9, a state court judge in Missouri blocked portions of the state’s law requiring registered voters to show photo identification in order to vote. This decision follows a lawsuit alleging that the law would, among other things, disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters. In contrast, on the same day, the US Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case regarding a North Dakota law that requires voters to present identification that includes a current residential street address. This will prevent thousands of Native American voters (and tens of thousands of other North Dakota residents) from voting in the midterm elections. NCJW strongly opposes voter identification laws that negatively impact the right to vote.

  • To learn more about why courts matter to voting, don’t forget to register for NCJW’s webinar with Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, next Wednesday, October 17 at 1:30 PM ET. Click here to register!

Courts matter to Native Americans

On October 4, a US District Court Judge in Texas found that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 illegally gives Native American families preferential treatment in adoption proceedings for Native American children based on race, in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. Additionally, the judge ruled that the law violated the 10th Amendment’s federalism guarantees, specifically the “anti-commandeering” principle, which bars Congress from “commanding” states to modify their laws. The same doctrine has been used by at least two federal courts to block the Trump administration’s crackdown on sanctuary cities. This potentially far-reaching ruling could endanger Native American children, who are more susceptible to being removed from their families than non-native children, and may also jeopardize decades of legal precedent affecting tribal sovereignty.

Census litigation continues

Ongoing litigation over the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census reached the Supreme Court this week. Those suing to remove the question seek depositions — aka sworn evidence — of high level Trump administration officials, including Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The administration opposes these efforts, and on October 9, Justice Ginsburg temporarily agreed to block the depositions. Plaintiffs are eager to hear Ross’ testimony because of documents made public during discovery, which indicate he lied about the justification for adding the citizenship question. All of the deposition arguments are building to the start of the actual trial, scheduled for November 5.

Major victory for TPS holders

On October 3, a federal judge in California temporarily blocked the Trump administration from terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 300,000 immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. In his ruling, he cited the administration’s own discriminatory statements toward people from Africa, Central America, and other nations. The TPS program allows individuals from countries suffering natural disaster, war, and other extreme conditions to live and work in the US legally. Many of the 300,000 people impacted by this decision have lived in the US for years, and have US citizen children. The decision does not cover individuals from Honduras and Nepal, who also had their TPS terminated, or a similar program for people from Liberia. The case will now make its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and from there could be heard by the Supreme Court. If the block is overturned, immigrants from these countries will be deported as their status ends, beginning with those from Sudan on November 2.

Victory for sanctuary jurisdictions

On October 5, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of the state in its suit against the Trump Administration’s efforts to withhold grants to cities in the state — known as sanctuary cities — which choose not to work with federal immigration enforcement. The case will be appealed by the federal government. Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles have also successfully sued the administration over the grants, and those cases are pending appeal.


Civil Rights

Administration targets same-sex partners

On October 1, the Trump administration began denying visas to unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees. As a result, partners must be married or leave the country within one year. However, many hail from countries in which same-sex marriage is criminalized. The administration announced it would offer limited exceptions, but only for diplomats.

Dreiband confirmed to lead DOJ Civil Rights Division

On October 11, Eric Dreiband was confirmed along party lines (50-47) to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the office tasked with enforcing the nation’s nondiscrimination laws. NCJW opposed his nomination due to his record on civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and beyond.


Human Needs

Congress lines up lame duck session priorities

Republican lawmakers are planning their agenda for the lame-duck session following the November 6 elections, recognizing it could be their last opportunity for a few years to pass legislation while in the majority. Top priorities include spending legislation (the continuing resolution expires on December 7), farm bill, extending expiring tax breaks, criminal justice reform, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and passing the Jobs Act 3.0. Also expected is a flurry of activity on executive and judicial branch nominees, including 36 federal district court and three circuit court judges.


Immigration and Refugees

Family Separation Update

As of September 27, 358 children were still separated from their parents, 16 of whom are under age 5. Of this total, 96 kids have parents outside the US because they were deported. The deadline to reunite all children with their families was July 26. Going forward, the government will provide monthly updates on these children instead of weekly; the next status report will be October 26.<

Proposed public charge rule open for comments

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its proposed public charge rule in the Federal Register Notice, formally opening the 60 day comment process before the rule is finalized. The rule would radically expand the list of programs that may be considered when the government determines if someone is likely to become a “public charge,” i.e. primarily dependent on the government. It would allow the government to consider whether immigrants use programs like Medicaid, food assistance, housing vouchers, or more. If the government deems an applicant a public charge under this new and broad definition, their green card will be refused. (Note: refugees, asylum seekers, and those covered by the Violence Against Women Act are not impacted by this rule.)

Keep your eyes peeled for an alert from NCJW in the coming weeks to submit a comment opposing this cruel and harmful rule!


Sign On Letters

  • On October 2, NCJW joined 96 organizations on a letter organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights to Secretary of State Pompeo on the dangerous deletions and scaled back reporting in last year’s Human Rights Reports.
  • On October 5, NCJW submitted a comment for the record supporting a rule proposed by the Internal Revenue Service that would close a tax loophole for donations to private school voucher programs.
  • On October 9, 26 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by the National Center for Transgender Equality to the Senate Judiciary Committee oppose the nominations of Eric Murphy and Chad Readler for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals due to their harmful record on LGBTQ equality.
  • On October 11, 23 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by the National Women’s Law Center thanking members of Congress for increased funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start and Early Head Start.


Amicus Briefs

NCJW sign on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals about Philadelphia’s decision to stop foster care referrals to the Catholic Social Services agency due to its policy against placing children with same-sex couples.

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