Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

Civil rights, immigrant advocacy groups condemn new Census question on citizenship; California sues

A wide array of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups are loudly condemning the Trump administration’s plan to include a new question in the 2020 Census about citizenship. This is from the good people at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“In no uncertain terms, we condemn Secretary Ross’s decision to incorporate an 11th hour citizenship question into the 2020 Census,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “This is a clear attempt to politicize the process by discouraging minority communities and immigrant communities from participating in the count. This decision comes at a time when we have seen xenophobic and anti-immigrant policy positions from this administration. This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires.”

Clarke continued, “while Secretary Ross claims that the citizenship question will help with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the reality is that the Justice Department has proven hostile to safeguarding minority voting rights. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has come to a grinding halt. Clearly, this is mere pretext to mask the discriminatory motives underlying this move.”

Advocates at the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) put it this way:

“The ramifications of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census is extremely anti-immigrant and intended to deter millions of immigrants from participating for fear of being targeted by this administration. If there is any question of just how radical this effort is, consider that every census since the first enumeration in 1790 included people living in the United States, citizens and non-citizens alike.

This is a direct attempt to undermine our democracy. We are going to fight this with everything we have. We will do everything within our power to ensure that this decision is reversed and that our communities continue to be counted.”

And this morning the state of California challenged the action in federal court. This is from a story at CNN.com:

Progressives, states and civil rights advocates are preparing a flurry of legal challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the next census, saying the move will penalize immigrants and threaten civil rights.

The late Monday move from the Commerce Department, which it said came in response a request by the Justice Department, would restore a question about citizenship that has not appeared on the census since the 1950s. The administration said the data was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The state of California immediately challenged the plan in federal court.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla trashed the move as anti-immigrant.

“The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility,” Padilla said in a statement.

“Now, in one fell swoop, the US Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols and years of preparation in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. The administration’s claim that it is simply seeking to protect voting rights is not only laughable, but contemptible.”

For more information on this development, check out Julianne Hing’s article at The Nation.

Commentary

The bad news and the good news in gun manufacturer’s bankruptcy filing

By all indications, the newly announced bankruptcy filing of Remington Outdoor, one of the oldest firearm manufacturers in the United States, is at least in part attributable to what some are calling a “Trump slump.” The international news site The Guardian explains:

“’They call it the Trump slump,’ said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland and the author of five books on guns.

‘Gun sales have become politicized to a great degree,’ he said. ‘Gun purchases recently have been made not just because someone wants a new product but to make a statement; not just because of fears that there might be tighter regulation but also to make a statement against Obama.’

With Trump in the White House, said Spitzer, gun sales had sharply defaulted to their long-term trend of declining ownership rates.

‘Gun ownership has been declining since the 1970s and there are now fewer gun owners than ever,’ said Spitzer. Fewer people are hunting, younger people are less interested in gun ownership and the gun industry has had little success in its attempts to appeal to women and minorities.

The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world with 88 guns for every 100 people. But just 3% of the population owns an average of 17 guns each, with an estimated 7.7 million super-owners in possession of between eight and 140 guns apiece.

The surge of gun purchases under Obama was largely driven by sales to existing gun owners. Sales spiked on Obama’s re-election and after his calls for new laws in the wake of tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.”

In other words, there is some bad news and some good news here.

The obvious bad news is that the explosion in gun sales of the recent past in the country was largely attributable to the irrational fears and twisted political desires of a group of Americans who have caused countless new killing machines to be injected into our society for no good reason. This is the kind of mad, lemming-like behavior of society at its worst.

The good news, however, is that this group is shrinking fast and that — as the Remington filing demonstrates — even irrational fearmongering can only so so far in suppressing the obvious truth that our society will be safer, healthier and freer as demographic trends continue to work their magic and gun ownership becomes more and more the exception than the rule.

Thanks goodness.

 

Commentary

Yet another editorial to Trump: Don’t drill off NC coast

The Fayetteville Observer posted a short and sweet editorial over the weekend that reiterates the point millions of North Carolininas are wanting to make to the Trump administration: Don’t drill here.

“The Trump administration’s plan to open up virtually the entire American coastline to oil and gas exploration has created an angry storm of opposition, as well it should. We read almost daily about the enormous amounts of oil and gas already being pumped from old and new oil patches across the country, thanks to new drilling techniques that include “fracking.” The U.S. is on track to become the world’s leading petroleum producer within a few years — without needing to open up new areas to offshore drilling.

As we know, offshore exploration can be risky. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is only our most recent example. And even with relatively well-managed offshore drilling, there are small accidents that foul beaches and marshes. Residents of coastal areas that support large fisheries and tourist industries are understandably reticent to consider the addition of oil to their economies. And while it appears Florida’s governor cut a quick deal to keep the drilling rigs away from his coastline, other states’ appeals haven’t gotten such a sympathetic response.

Several states — including South Carolina — are taking other measures to keep the drilling rigs away, introducing legislation that prohibits infrastructure related to oil or gas production from being built in or crossing their state waters. But especially in our neighbor to the south, there’s plenty of support for drilling as well. It’s going to be a battle royal. Yet the issue is already settled in virtually all coastal communities: Residents don’t want it. They see it as a threat to their very existence. And it is.

There may come a time when we need the oil and gas that are out there, but this isn’t it.”

Commentary, Defending Democracy

Supreme Court expert: Farr among Trump judicial nominees who are “hiding their records”

In case you missed it, U.S. Supreme Court observer Paul Gordon of People for the American Way recently posted another damning assessment of President Trump’s judicial nominees. In the post, Gordon dissects five of Trump’s most objectionable nominees, including North Carolina’s Thomas Farr and how each is withholding information from the senators who are supposed to vote on their nominations. The following is from “Trump’s Judicial Nominees Are Hiding Their Records”:

Justice is supposed to be blind. But in order to do away with that principle and transform our judicial system, the Trump administration is keeping the Senate blind to vital information about the president’s nominees.

Judges exercise an enormous role in our constitutional system, as they are tasked with protecting our fundamental rights and liberties, our nation’s democracy, and the rule of law. They have lifetime tenure, making it all the more important that we know their records in full before the Senate votes on whether to confirm them. That’s why the Judiciary Committee requires each nominee to respond to a lengthy questionnaire and submit copies of their past writings, media appearances, speeches, and so forth.

Yet the Trump White House is repeatedly sending nominations to the Senate without full disclosure of their records, omitting relevant and often inflammatory portions. Their agenda is not to maintain an independent judiciary committed to the Constitution and the rule of law. Instead, it is to populate the bench with narrow-minded elitists committed to a far right ideological agenda.

As Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein has said:

“These are lifetime appointments. The committee can’t do its job and review nominees’ records if the administration hides information, and both parties should be furious at this routine practice under President Trump.”

The five nominees Gordon examines are Farr, Wendy Vitter, Brett Talley, Gordon Giampietro and Ryan Bounds. Click here to read the entire piece. Here is the segment on Farr:

Thomas Farr –
When he was nominated for a district court seat, Thomas Farr had a widely known record of being the attorney North Carolina Republicans turn to when the legality of one of their voter suppression schemes is challenged in court. Farr had also worked as counsel to then-Sen. Jesse Helms’ reelection campaign, which in 1990 engaged in a notorious scheme designed to frighten African Americans out of exercising their right to vote. The campaign sent 100,000 postcards to African American voters suggesting they were not eligible to vote and could be criminally prosecuted if they tried to cast a ballot.

Concerned Democrats asked Farr if he’d been involved in the scheme, and he assured senators that he had not known of the postcards until after they were sent. But after the committee voted for him in a party-line vote, evidence surfaced seriously undermining Farr’s claim, indicating that Farr had been at a “ballot security” planning meeting where the postcards were discussed.  Chairman Grassley refused Democrats’ requests for a new hearing so senators could ask him about the new information in person. When the nomination had to go through the committee again in the new year (for procedural reasons), Grassley opted to hold a vote without the requested hearing.

If Farr isn’t hiding anything from the public, Republicans would not fear having him face senators in person to tell the full truth about his involvement.

Farr’s nomination is pending on the Senate floor.

Commentary

Mark your calendar for four important resistance movement events

Four items for your resistance movement calendar at the start of spring, 2018:

#1 – Celebrate the anniversary of the ACA. Despite endless attacks and efforts to undermine it, tomorrow, March 23 is the 8th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. If you’re in the Triangle, come celebrate at 10:30 AM at Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin Street, Raleigh. The ACA was signed into law eight years ago on March 23, 2010. Since that time, over 20 million people have gained coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace or Medicaid expansion, reducing the number of uninsured people in the United States to a historic low and providing unprecedented numbers with the opportunity for better health and a longer life.

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

#2 – March for our Lives this Saturday March 24. Inspired by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and in cooperation with the national March for Our Lives event in Washington, DC, a group of concerned Wake County high school students have organized a March for Our Lives event, where they will be conveying their demands for stronger gun control legislation to their lawmakers. Currently, over 2,000 people have already committed to joining the march, and organizers expect more than 3,000 people to attend. The March will be held on March 24, 2018.

The March will begin at 10 AM at City Plaza with a speech by US Congressman David Price and with a reading of the names of the victims of the Parkland mass shooting. Participants will then march to Halifax Mall, where organizers have planned a rally featuring speakers, musicians, and a video tribute to the victims of the Parkland shooting.

Click here for more information on the Raleigh event and here for details on other similar events throughout North Carolina.

#3 – Good Friday Vigil for Criminal Justice Reform. Join the NC NAACP, local branches of the NAACP and local leaders as they stand in unity as a community against wrongful convictions across the state and this nation on Friday March 30. Locations: Johnston Correctional Institution, 2465 US-70, Smithfield, NC 27577; Pasquotank Correctional Institute, 527 Commerce Dr, Elizabeth City, NC 27909; Piedmont Correctional Institute,1245 Camp Road Salisbury NC 28147;  Albemarle Correctional Institute,44150 Airport Rd, New London, NC 28127.

#4 – March for Science April 14. The Raleigh March for Science is a nonpartisan, family-friendly event that will attract scientists, students, activists and stargazers to celebrate and stand up for science. It will be held Saturday, April 14, at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh.

In 2017, more than 5,000 people from the Triangle gathered in solidarity with one million people at 600 locations worldwide for the March for Science, marking the largest event for science advocacy in history. This year, 200 cities have already signed on to unite in a day for science advocacy.

This year’s theme, Science for Everyone – Everyone for Science, highlights the importance of making science accessible to people from all backgrounds, while shining a light on the pivotal role that evidence-based science plays in protecting North Carolina’s natural resources

In addition to a program of prominent speakers, a Kids for Science Corner will host hands-on science fun, and there will be tables for voter registration and various advocacy groups. The Raleigh Kids March for Science kicks off the rally with a parade around Halifax Mall led by kids and accompanied by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

To learn more about the Raleigh March for Science, visit http://www.raleighmarchforscience.com/ or email raleighmarchforscience2018@gmail.com.