http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/11/03/justice_department_declares_war_on_aclu_attorneys_who_oppose_trump.html Continue reading GONZO’S WORLD: WARNING — GONZO ATTACKS LAWYERS WHO DARE TO DEFEND THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS!
Mark Joseph Stern reports for Slate:
“On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted an undocumented minor in federal custody conditional access to abortion—within the next few weeks. The decision marks a compromise by two conservative judges keen to preserve their anti-abortion bona fides without transgressing Supreme Court precedent, which clearly protects the minor’s right to terminate her pregnancy. This ruling will force the minor at the heart of this case, who is referred to as Jane Doe, to continue her unwanted pregnancy for at least 11 more days.
. . . .
Thus, it is quite possible that Kavanaugh’s handiwork will fail, and the government will be back in court in a few weeks arguing against Doe’s abortion rights. By that point, Doe will be approaching the point at which she cannot legally terminate her pregnancy in Texas. The government’s intervention has already prevented her from getting a first-trimester abortion, a simpler procedure than a second-trimester abortion. Now HHS has been handed a strategy to keep her pregnant for weeks longer. Kavanaugh may think he has played the conciliator in this case. But in reality, he’s given the government another chance to run down the clock on Doe’s abortion rights.”
Read Stern’s complete article at the above link.
Looks to me like Judge Kavanaugh’s political instincts and desire to keep alive a possible nod for the Supremes trumps his responsibility to the Constitution, to litigants, and to the public to make tough decisions (which, after all, is what he actually gets paid for). Little wonder that trial judges (not as many places to “run and hide” at the “retail level”) often look at their “ivory tower” appellate colleagues with a jaundiced eye!
Mark Joseph Stern reports for Slate:
“Following his nomination to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch was packaged by his wealthy benefactors as the judicial equivalent of a carrot cake: mild and wholesome with the occasional hint of spice. Now that the justice has been safely installed on the court for life, he has revealed himself to be more akin to melted sorbet: sickly sweet and insubstantial with a tangy finish that induces slight nausea. Gorsuch’s abrupt pivot to arrogance has been on full display in his bumptious opinions and questions from the bench. But it also appears to be infecting his interactions with justices behind the scenes. Whispers emerging from the court indicate Gorsuch is more likely to alienate than influence even his conservative colleagues.
The latest sign of trouble comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg, who dropped in on the indispensable Supreme Court podcast First Mondays to dish some gossip about the newest justice.”
Read Nina’s “scoop” over on Slate at the above link.
Ah, the “Eddie Haskell act” is over, and the real fun begins.
Mark Joseph Stern and Perry Grossman report for Slate:
THE LAW, LAWYERS, AND THE COURT.OCT. 19 2017 6:32 PM
Trump’s Dred Scott
In a case about the abortion rights of undocumented minors, the Department of Justice evokes the worst Supreme Court decision of all time.
By Perry Grossman and Mark Joseph Stern
Jeff Sessions and Roger B. Taney
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, left, and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
Saul Loeb/Getty Images and Library of Congress
Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump maligned undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and sexual predators who deserved to be rounded up and deported. Once in office, Trump transformed this rhetoric into policy, implementing a nationwide crackdown on immigrant communities. Now, the president’s dehumanizing disparagement of undocumented people has now seeped into his administration’s legal positions. This week, the Department of Justice is arguing in court that undocumented, unaccompanied minors have no right to abortions—and that undocumented immigrants may have no constitutional rights at all. This argument does not only contravene Supreme Court precedent. It also draws upon an inhuman notion of constitutional liberty most notoriously espoused in Dred Scott v. Sandford.
The Justice Department’s radical new theory arose out of a disturbing case in Texas that revolves around a 17-year-old referred to as Jane Doe in court filings. Doe arrived in the United States several months ago, unaccompanied by her parents and lacking documentation. She was placed in a federally funded Texas shelter, at which point she learned she was pregnant. Doe requested an abortion, but under state law, minors cannot receive the procedure without either parental consent or judicial approval. So Doe obtained what’s known as a judicial bypass and asked permission to attend a state-mandated counseling session before undergoing the procedure.
Her shelter refused to allow her to attend that counseling session, citing federal regulations promulgated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a wing of the Department of Health and Human Services. In March, ORR announced that federally funded shelters could not take “any action that facilitates” abortion for unaccompanied minors, including “scheduling appointments, transportation, or other arrangement,” without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the agency’s director. A Trump appointee and longtime anti-abortion activist, Lloyd has refused to allow minors to access abortion services. Instead, he has directed shelters to take these women to “crisis pregnancy centers,” which “counsel” them not to get abortions. At least once, Lloyd himself called a pregnant minor to talk her out of terminating her pregnancy. If a minor still wants to get an abortion after navigating these obstacles, ORR instructs its shelters to block her from attending her appointment.
Doe’s shelter followed these guidelines, taking her to a crisis pregnancy center and calling her mother to tell her Doe was pregnant. But Doe persisted, and in October, her court-appointed attorneys filed suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal district court in Washington, where ORR is headquartered. Doe argues that ORR’s rules violate her constitutional rights by placing an undue burden on her access to abortion.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan held a hearing in the case. While defending the government, Department of Justice attorney Scott Stewart strongly implied that undocumented women do not have a right to abortion. Here, Stewart was echoing an amicus brief filed by the Texas attorney general’s office, which proclaimed that “unlawfully present aliens” living in the United States have no constitutional right to abortion access. Chutkan then asked Stewart whether Doe has any constitutional rights; Stewart declined to make that “concession.”
Chutkan ruled against the government and issued a temporary restraining order guaranteeing Doe the ability to terminate her pregnancy. (She is currently 15 weeks pregnant, and abortion is illegal after 20 weeks in Texas.) The DOJ appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will hear arguments in the case on Friday morning. In its motion, the agency argued that the government’s “interest in promoting fetal life and childbirth over abortion” justified its refusal to let a minor go to an abortion clinic. It also claimed that, even if undocumented minors have a constitutional right to abortion care, the administration was not unduly burdening that right, because minors who want to terminate their pregnancies can leave the country. This argument is merely another way of stating that women like Doe have no right to an abortion in the United States.
By excluding undocumented immigrants from the protections of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Trump administration is essentially asserting that they do not qualify as “person[s]” under the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and 14th Amendments. The Supreme Court has ruled that the liberty component of the Due Process Clause protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy without a substantial obstacle. If arbitrary regulations that severely burden clinics qualify as such an unconstitutional obstacle, as the Supreme Court has held, then surely self-deportation does as well. Thus, the sole plausible interpretation of the DOJ’s posture is that the Due Process Clause does not protect undocumented women like Doe. Put simply, undocumented women are not people for constitutional purposes.
If the government can force Doe to carry her pregnancy to term, what can’t it do?
This theory parallels the Supreme Court’s most infamous ruling. Dred Scott was a black man born into slavery who moved with his “master” from a slave state to a free state. Upon his master’s death, Scott sued for his freedom. In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney—a virulent racist whose statue was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House in August—wrote an opinion dismissing Scott’s suit. Taney held that black people were not “persons” based on the language of the Constitution and that Scott, as a black man, therefore had no right to sue in the federal courts. Black men, Taney wrote, were “so far inferior” to whites that they had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Following the Civil War, Dred Scott was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments. These amendments ensured that everyone born in the United States would be a citizen. They also granted all “person[s]”—not just citizens—due process and equal protection under the law. Trump has already raised the specter of Dred Scott through his call to end birthright citizenship, the constitutional command that lay at the heart of the Civil War amendments. Now his administration is invoking the decision again in its attempt to deprive undocumented immigrants of their personhood under the Constitution.
The government has rarely alleged that undocumented immigrants may be deprived of rights protected by the liberty component of due process, what’s also known as “substantive” due process. Its few attempts have been unsuccessful. In 2003, the Bush administration argued that substantive due process does not apply to immigrants who reside in the country illegally. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, emphatically rejected this claim, explaining
If excludable aliens were not protected by even the substantive component of constitutional due process, as the government appears to argue, we do not see why the United States government could not torture or summarily execute them. … [W]e do not believe that our Constitution could permit persons living in the United States—whether they can be admitted for permanent residence or not—to be subjected to any government action without limit.
Perhaps recognizing the extremism of its argument, the Trump administration has left open the possibility that undocumented immigrants are entitled to some unspecified “minimal standards” of constitutional protection. But if those minimal standards don’t include the basic right to bodily autonomy, then the 6th Circuit’s query still stands. If the government can force Doe to carry her pregnancy to term against her will, what can’t it do? The administration’s attempt to exert complete control over Doe’s reproductive system is a straightforward deprivation of constitutional liberty that opens the door to equally egregious future abuses.
On Friday morning, the Justice Department will return to court once more to argue, in effect, that Jane Doe is not a “person” worthy of due process protections. It might as well cite Dred Scott for the proposition that the government may strip undocumented immigrants of their constitutionally protected liberty. The 14th Amendment was designed to end such capricious discrimination against individuals living in the United States. But to the Trump administration, immigrants like Doe aren’t even people—just possessions of the state, awaiting deportation.”
Just when you think that Gonzo Apocalypto can’t sink any lower, he manages to achieve new depths!
Sen. Liz Warren was right!
Dominic Holden reports for BuzzFeed News:
“US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo on Wednesday sent to agency heads and US attorneys.
Sessions’ directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court.
“Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes. “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”
But Sharon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and now an attorney for the LGBT group Lambda Legal, countered that Sessions’ is ignoring a widespread trend in federal courts.
“It’s ironic for them to say this is law, and not policy,” McGowan told BuzzFeed News. “The memo is devoid of discussion of the way case law has been developing in this area for the last few years. It demonstrates that this memo is not actually a reflection of the law as it is — it’s a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were.”
“The sessions DOJ is trying to roll back the clock and pretend that the progress of the last decade hasnt’ happened,” she added. “The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
“The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
The memo reflects the Justice Department’s aggression toward LGBT rights under President Trump and Sessions, who reversed an Obama-era policy that protects transgender students after a few weeks in office. Last month, Sessions filed a brief at the Supreme Court in favor of a Christian baker who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple. And last week, the department argued in court that Title VII doesn’t protect a gay worker from discrimination, showing that Sessions will take his view on Title VII into private employment disputes.
At issue in the latest policy is how broadly the government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not address LGBT rights directly. Rather, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent agency that enforces civil rights law in the workplace, and a growing body of federal court decisions have found sex discrimination does include discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping — and that Title VII therefore bans anti-transgender discrimination as well.
Embracing that trend, former attorney general Eric Holder under President Obama announced the Justice Department would take that position as well, issuing a memo in 2014 that said, “I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”
But Sessions said in his latest policy that he “withdraws the December 15, 2014, memorandum,” and adds his narrower view that the law only covers discrimination between “men and women.”
“The Department of Justice will take that position in all pending and future matters (except where controlling lower-court precedent dictates otherwise, in which event the issue should be preserved for potential future review),” Sessions writes.
Sessions adds: “The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals. Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII to provide different or additional protections.”
Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, explained the decision to issue the memo, telling BuzzFeed News, “The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action. This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
McGowan, from Lambda Legal, counters, “The memo is so weak that analysis is so thin, that it will courts will recognize it for what it is — a raw political document and not sound legal analysis that should be given any weight by them.”
Virulent homophobia has always been a key element of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Agenda.” Check out this report from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate about how when serving as Alabama’s Attorney General Gonzo attempted to use an Alabama statute that had been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Judge to both publicly demean LGBTQ students and stomp on their First Amendment rights. (So much for the disingenuous BS speech that Gonzo delivered on Free Speech at Georgetown Law last week.) Here’s what happened:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech at Georgetown University Law Center in which he argued that “freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack.” As my colleague Dahlia Lithwick explained, the attorney general said this in “a room full of prescreened students who asked him prescreened questions while political demonstrators outside were penned off in ‘free speech zones.’ ” Ensconced in a safe space of his own, Sessions blasted the notion that speech can be “hurtful,” criticizing administrators and students for their “crackdown” on “speech they may have disagreed with.”
Mark Joseph Stern
MARK JOSEPH STERN
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.
Sessions’ hypocrisy on speech issues is not a new development. In 1996, the then–attorney general of Alabama used the full power of his office to try to shut down an LGBTQ conference at the University of Alabama. Sessions took his battle to court, asking a federal judge to let him block the conference altogether—or, at the very least, silence students who wished to discuss LGBTQ issues. He ultimately failed, but his campaign reveals a great deal about his highly selective view of free expression. Sessions claims to support freedom for “offensive” speech, but when speech offends him, he is all too happy to play the censor.
When Sessions served as Alabama attorney general, the state still criminalized sodomy. A 1992 law, Alabama Education Code Section 16-1-28, also barred public universities from funding, recognizing, or supporting any group “that fosters or promotes a lifestyle or actions prohibited by” the sodomy statute, either “directly or indirectly.” The law also forbade schools from allowing such organizations to use public facilities. Sessions’ predecessor, Jimmy Evans, had interpreted the statute to effectively outlaw the discussion or promotion of gay rights on public campuses, with that prohibition even extending to AIDS awareness campaigns.
In 1995, the University of South Alabama’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance sued in federal court to block Section 16-1-28. That summer, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that, under the First Amendment, public universities may not deny access to facilities or funding for student organizations on the basis of their viewpoints. This decision, the GLBA asserted, rendered Section 16-1-28 unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson agreed, holding the law to be invalid in a January 1996 ruling.
This decision was excellent news for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. The GLBA had planned to host the Fifth Annual Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Conference of the Southeastern United States in February 1996. Sessions, by now attorney general, was trying his hardest to shut it down.
“University officials say they’re going to try to obey the law,” Sessions said at the time, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported in December of last year. “I don’t see how it can be done without canceling this conference. I remain hopeful that if the administration does not act, the board of trustees will.” Sessions didn’t give up even after Judge Thompson struck down the law. “I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference,” he said.
In a last-ditch effort, Sessions returned to Thompson’s court and asked permission to ban the conference. “The State of Alabama,” he explained in court filings, “will experience irreparable harm by funding a conference and activities in violation of state law.” Failing a total ban, Sessions implored Thompson to let him censor any discussion of “safe sex and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” Sessions claimed that, by talking about LGBTQ issues, conference attendees were essentially conspiring to promote criminal activity, and Alabama should not be obligated to support their criminality. Predictably, Thompson rejected Sessions’ arguments, writing that the attorney general was endeavoring to violate students’ free speech rights. Sessions then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously ruled against Alabama. The conference went on as planned.
Cathy Lopez Wessell, a lead organizer and spokeswoman for the conference, told me Sessions’ intervention “was incredibly stressful. We got threatening phone calls. We were attacked from all sides.” She continued, “We were the abomination of the month. I didn’t feel safe in the world for a while. I started to internalize some of the judgment leveled at our group. I thought, there must be something deeply wrong with you if you need to be silenced.”
Lopez Wessell explained that Sessions’ campaign against the conference registered as a broader attack on LGBTQ students.
“If we can’t talk, do we have a right to exist?” Lopez Wessell asked. “If our speech is so dangerous that it needs to be stopped, then are we dangerous? We weren’t promoting any particular activity; we just wanted to talk—about our experiences, about our existence.”
Denying the humanity as well as the human rights of those he is biased against is a staple of the Gonzo Apocalypto agenda. Just look at his constant attempts to tie all members of the Hispanic ethnic community to crime, drugs, and gangs (even though all credible studies show that immigrants or all types have markedly lower crime rates than native-born U.S. citizens) and his false and gratuitous attempts to tie “Dreamers” to crime, terrorism, and loss of jobs!
There is no more certain way of knowing that a DOJ “legal” memo is all policy and no law than the statement: “This is a conclusion of law, not policy.“ In other words, “Don’t you dare accuse me of doing what I’m actually doing!”
Since assuming the office of Attorney General for which he is so spectacularly unqualified, here’s a list of the folks whose rights or humanity Sessions has attacked or disparaged:
Civil Rights Protesters
City Officials Seeking To Foster Community Law Enforcement
State Governors Who Disagree With Him
Federal Judges Who Find Trump Policies Illegal
State & Federal Judges Who Object To Migrants Being Arrested At Their Courts
Liberal Students & College Administrators
Unaccompanied Migrant Children
Whistleblowers (a/k/a “Leakers” in “Gonzopeak”)
DOJ Career Attorneys
I’m sure I’ve left a few out. Feel free to send me additions. The list just keeps getting longer all the time.
The only group that appears to be “A-OK” with Gonzo is “White straight Christian male Republican ultra rightists.”
Liz was right!
Mark Joseph Stern reports for Slate:
“NEW YORK—The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit had a burning question for Donald Trump’s Department of Justice on Tuesday: What are you doing in our courthouse? By the end of the day, the answer still wasn’t clear. Something else was, though: The DOJ’s new anti-gay legal posture is not going to be received with open arms by the federal judiciary.
The Justice Department’s latest wound was fully self-inflicted, as Tuesday’s arguments in Zarda v. Altitude Express should not have involved the DOJ in the first place. The case revolves around a question of statutory interpretation: whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws anti-gay workplace discrimination. Title VII bars employment discrimination “because of sex,” which many federal courts have interpreted to encompass sexual orientation discrimination. The 2nd Circuit is not yet one of them, and Chief Judge Robert Katzmann signaled recently that he would like to change that. So on Tuesday, all of the judges convened to consider joining the chorus of courts that believe Title VII already prohibits anti-gay discrimination in the workplace.
It’s important to understand some background before getting further into how those arguments went. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in 2015 that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination does protect gay employees. Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department took no position on this question. But in late July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ DOJ unexpectedly filed an amicus brief in Zarda arguing that Title VII does not protect gay people. The 2nd Circuit had not solicited its input, making the brief both puzzling and gratuitous. Its purpose only became apparent in September, when the DOJ filed a similarly uninvited brief asserting that bakers have a free speech right not to serve same-sex couples. Both anti-gay briefs were startlingly incoherent, seemingly the product of political pandering rather than legal reasoning.
Regardless, the DOJ’s decision to weigh in on Zarda ensured that oral arguments would include the weird spectacle of one federal agency opposing another in court. That doesn’t happen often—and really shouldn’t happen—because the executive branch is expected to speak with one voice on legal affairs. But the EEOC’s commissioners serve fixed terms and haven’t gotten the memo placing politics above the law yet. And so they were not exactly delighted to see political appointees at the Justice Department trash their theories in court on Tuesday when the two agencies faced off over what it means to discriminate “because of sex.”
. . . .
That set the stage for Mooppan’s appearance, which, to put it mildly, did not go well at all. Chief Judge Katzmann immediately wanted to know: Why didn’t the DOJ defer to the EEOC on Title VII, as it normally does? Mooppan’s basic reply was that the Justice Department is the nation’s “largest employer”—meaning, in short, that it has an interest in retaining its capacity to fire gay people for being gay.
“What is the process with regard to the EEOC and the DOJ in terms of filing a brief?” Katzmann followed up.
“That’s a complicated question,” Mooppan responded.
“Try to help us,” Katzmann implored. He also wanted to know what career attorneys at the DOJ’s civil rights division think about the agency’s position. But Mooppan wouldn’t answer: “That’s not appropriate for me to disclose,” he told the judge. Katzmann looked alarmed. Judge Pooler jumped in: “Does the Justice Department sign off on a brief that EEOC intends to file?” she wondered.
“That’s not appropriate for me to disclose,” Mooppan repeated.
“It’s procedure, not internal deliberations,” Pooler responded.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Mooppan said again, stonewalling. Now a majority of the judges looked irritated. As a general rule, attorneys are supposed to answer questions posed by the court, not dodge them as though they’re taking the Fifth. It was a terrible start for Mooppan, and both Pooler and Katzmann looked genuinely perplexed that a DOJ attorney would show such blatant disrespect. Finally, Judge Dennis Jacobs broke the impasse: “I, for one, am prepared to proceed on the assumption that you’re here,” he said.”
Read the entire rather amazing, if disturbing, article at the link. Accounts of the daily doings of “Gonzo’s Justice” could be ripped right from the headlines of The Onion. But, sadly they aren’t. Every day that Gonzo serves in the office for which he is jaw-droppingly unaqualified diminishes the American legal system and our country as a whole.
Liz was right. She might even have understated the case against Gonzo. Happy to be retired. Pity those still at the DOJ. Move over, John Mitchell, you’ve got some real competition for “Worst Attorney General In Modern American History.” I feel like asking for a recount when Betsy De Vos allegedly edged out Gonzo for “Worst Cabinet Member!” Could it be Russian interference?
“The Trump administration’s latest attempt to punish sanctuary cities hit a snag on Friday when a federal court ruled the Justice Department cannot withhold public safety grants from jurisdictions that refuse to assist federal immigration authorities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had attempted to prevent cities and states from receiving these funds unless they cooperatedwith immigration officials’ crackdown on undocumented immigrants. The court held that Sessions in fact has no power to attach new restrictions to the grants, rendering most of his new rules unlawful.
Friday’s decision marked the second time a court has blocked Sessions’ attempts to penalize sanctuary cities by depriving them of federal grants. It also comes on the heels of a sweeping ruling that froze the most controversial provisions of Texas’ new anti–sanctuary cities bill. Earlier this month, the White House declared that Donald Trump is “restoring law and order to our immigration system.” But in their haste to adopt a restrictionist immigration regime, Trump, Sessions, and their fellow Republicans have shown a consistent disdain for federal statutes and constitutional protections.
Consider Sessions’ latest sanctuary cities imbroglio. In July, the attorney general created new criteria for Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants, which dispense hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local law enforcement. Under these rules, jurisdictions would not be eligible for Byrne grants unless they collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Most pertinent here, law enforcement officials would have to give ICE agents access to local jails and, if the agency is interested in detaining an undocumented immigrant, notify ICE 48 hours before that person is set to be released. Chicago sued, alleging that the new rules were illegal.
Where does Sessions get the authority to impose these conditions on Byrne grants? Nowhere, as Judge Harry D. Leinenweber of the Northern District of Illinois pointed out in his ruling siding with Chicago. The Constitution grants Congress, not the executive branch, authority to impose conditions on federal funding. And Congress has never authorized the Justice Department, which is part of the executive branch, to force Byrne grantees to work with ICE. Sessions simply usurped Congress’ authority to make new rules.
When Chicago sued Sessions over the Byrne conditions in August, the attorney general put out a Trumpian statement asserting that the city “proudly violate[s] the rule of law” by protecting undocumented immigrants. But as Leinenweber explained on Friday, it was Sessions, not Chicago, who was acting lawlessly.
It’s surprising that Sessions would try to meddle with Byrne grants given that his first foray into sanctuary city–bashing failed so spectacularly. In Trump’s first days in office, the president issued an executive order directing the attorney general and Homeland Security secretary to withhold all federal grants and funding from sanctuary jurisdictions. Multiple cities quickly filed suit to defend their sanctuary policies. Sessions’ Justice Department, which apparently realized this order would violate multiple constitutional provisions, told a federal court that in reality, the order was nothing more than a narrow warning to sanctuary cities that the government would enforce current grant conditions.
In April, U.S. District Judge William Orrick blocked the order as an unconstitutional abomination. In his decision, Orrick essentially mocked the Justice Department, writing that he would not accept the DOJ’s “implausible” interpretation as it would transform Trump’s order into “an ominous, misleading, and ultimately toothless threat.” Instead, he analyzed the text of the order and found that it infringed upon constitutional separation of powers; coerced and commandeered local jurisdictions in violation of the 10thAmendment; and ran afoul of basic due process principles.
The White House promptly complained that Orrick “unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation” in an “egregious overreach.” Ironically, that is almost exactly what Trump had done through his executive order, illegally attaching new conditions to federal funds without congressional approval. Orrick had merely enforced the law; it was Trump who tried to change it unilaterally.
Neither of the Trump administration’s unlawful immigration power-grabs is as startling as SB 4, a Texas bill targeting sanctuary cities that Sessions’ Justice Department has defended in court. Confident in their measure’s legislative success, Texas Republicans turned SB 4 into a compendium of the most draconian possible attacks on sanctuary jurisdictions. The bill compelled local police to enforce immigration law, cooperate with ICE agents, and detain potentially undocumented immigrants; it also censored local officials who wished to speak out against the law. Law enforcement officers who ran afoul of SB 4 would face massive fines, jail time, and removal from office. Government employees who criticized the measure could also be fined and stripped of their positions.”
Let’s get this straight: the “rule of law” to Sessions means laws aimed disproportionately at Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, undocumented migrants, non-white immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, ethnic communities, jurisdictions that voted for Democrats, legal marijuana users and businesses, innocent victims of civil forfeitures, and “leakers” (many would say “whistleblowers”) who are career civil servants. In other words law enforcement that in some disturbing ways parallels the “Jim Crow” laws in Alabama and other Southern States to which Sessions would apparently like to return (only with a greater emphasis on targeting Latinos, rather than Blacks, although he has little use for the latter now that the confirmation process is complete during which he “conned” a couple of Blacks into saying he wasn’t a racist.)
I remember from my youth hypocritical Southern racists like George Wallace asserting the false mantle of “the rule of law” and “states rights” for enforcing blatantly discriminatory racial laws while stomping on the actual legal and constitutional rights, and often lives, of Black citizens. Sessions has little or no intention of enforcing laws relating to civil rights protections, voting rights, protections for LGBTQ individuals, protections against local police abuses, due process for migrants in and outside of the U.S. Immigration Court process, environmental protection, constitutional conditions of detention, and ethics. Sessions is clearly a liar, if not a perjurer (which he might be) under legal definitions.
We should all be concerned that this totally unqualified and disingenuous individual has been put in charge of the U.S. justice system. I’ve commented earlier on the glaring unsuitability of individuals like Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton to be governing a state with a significant Hispanic population.
And, Stern’s article didn’t even raise Trump’s greatest and most audacious abuse of the rule of law: his totally unjustified and inappropriate abuse of the Presidential Pardon authority by pardoning the unrepentant, unapologetic “Racist Joe.” Think about what “Racist Joe” stands for, as described by a U.S. District Judge who found him guilty of contempt of court after trial for his continuing, knowing, and intentional abuses of the constitutional rights of Latino citizens and prisoners, among others. In what way does “Racist Joe” deserve a pardon? How would you feel if you were a Hispanic citizen or a detainee who had his or her constitutional rights intentionally violated and was victimized by this arrogant, bullying, racist? The innocent suffer while the guilty go unpunished. What kind of “rule of law” is that?
Then think of all the GOP “politicos” who “palled around” with “Racist Joe” and his toxic sidekick Kris Kobach and even sought their endorsements! That’s because it would help with the racist, White Supremacist “core vote” that has allowed the GOP to gain control of much of the U.S. governing structure notwithstanding the party’s extremist views and generally destructive agenda.
This is very reminiscent of how the “White Southern racist base” helped the Democrats maintain a stranglehold on government for the bulk of the mid-20th Century. Assume that the “Trump base” is 20% of the electorate and only 15% fit my foregoing description. That means without the racist White Supremacist vote, the GOP and Trump would have polled around 31% of the popular vote, not enough to win even with the idiosyncrasies of our electoral system that favor the GOP minority!
Mark Joseph Stern reports in Slate:
“On Thursday afternoon, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission, a constitutional challenge to LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws. The DOJ urged the Supreme Court to rule that laws barring businesses from refusing to serve gay couples may violate the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. Its brief is an exercise in cynical dishonesty, one that’s difficult to read as anything less than politicized bigotry dressed up in inane legalese.
. . . .
Even worse, the brief does not explain why homophobia deserves special respect under the law. The Supreme Court has said that homosexuality is immutable, like race. Why, then, should animus toward same-sex couples be treated differently from animus toward interracial couples? And what about religious bigotry? Can a devout baker refuse to sell a cake to an interfaith couple, and can an atheist one say a Christian can’t buy cupcakes for a christening? Can a sexist baker refuse to serve a female customer? What if his misogyny is derived from religion? And why stop at a cake? Shouldn’t the preparation of other foods qualify as expressive conduct, too? Doesn’t every good or service involve some measure of expressive conduct or association that the First Amendment could theoretically protect?
In its brief, the DOJ implicitly raises all of these questions without answering them because it can’t answer them—not honestly, at least. The reality is that the courts cannot, with any logical coherence or consistency, deny civil rights protections to some groups but not others. Either nondiscrimination law are constitutional or they aren’t. The First Amendment does not grant greater rights to homophobic bakers than racist or sexist ones. Plenty of bigoted business owners wish they could assert a constitutional privilege not to associate with specific groups. If the courts open the door to one, they’ll open the door to all. Shopkeepers do not have a special right to turn away gays from their stores.
The brief strives to avoid this problem because it is, at bottom, a political document. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently gave a speech to ADF thanking the organization for its “important work” defending “religious liberty.” Through Sessions, President Trump is discharging his obligation to appease the bigots in his base. The DOJ’s efforts, however, may prove counterproductive. This brief will delight the court’s reactionaries who favor religious supremacy and disdain gay rights. But it can only estrange Kennedy—who notably, has allowed an LGBTQ nondiscrimination policy to trump a First Amendment claim in the past. Kennedy is always eager to protect the “equal dignity” of same-sex couples; the DOJ now seeks to undermine it. The Trump administration might score political points with this brief, but it won’t win enough votes at the court.
One more thing
The Trump administration poses a unique threat to the rule of law. That’s why Slate has stepped up our legal coverage—watchdogging Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, the Supreme Court, the crackdown on voting rights, and more.”
Under Sessions, the Department of Justice has become purveyor of racism, bigotry, hate, voter suppression, xenophobia, White Nationalism, homophobia, and some incredibly bad and intellectually dishonest lawyering. Gonzo is a disgrace to his position and an insult to American justice. Liz was right. And let’s not forget how she was treated by the GOP when she tried to speak truth about Sessions in the Senate!
Mark Joseph Stern writes:
“Many Republicans have made clear in recent weeks that they favor the basic policy DACA enshrined, and merely oppose its executive implementation. Sessions, who helped persuade Trump to kill the program, is not one of those Republicans. In his remarks, he directly denounced the very idea of granting any kind of amnesty to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. At the heart of his speech were two lies, straight from Breitbart, explaining why DACA must end:
The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.
Let’s examine these falsehoods in turn.
First: Sessions claimed that DACA “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border.” This allegation, often touted by far-right xenophobes, is false. A study published in International Migration, a peer-reviewed academic journal, found that the surge in unaccompanied minors actually began in 2008. (DACA was announced in 2012.) The authors pointed to a host of factors contributing to this phenomenon, including escalating gang violence in Central America, as well as drug cartels’ willingness to target and recruit children in Mexico. But the study found that DACA was not one of these factors. Its authors concluded that “the claim that DACA is responsible for the increase in the flow of unaccompanied alien children is not supported by the data.”
Even without the study, it should be obvious that DACA played no role in this surge of unaccompanied minors because the theory itself makes no sense. Undocumented children who arrived in the United States following DACA’s implementation would not qualify for the program. Only those individuals who “have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007” and “were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012” could receive DACA status. Why would parents send their children to the U.S. to participate in a program in which they are not legally permitted to participate?
Second: Sessions alleged that DACA has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” This line is obviously drawn from the false narrative that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. There is no actual evidence that DACA recipients have taken jobs from any Americans, let alone “hundreds of thousands.” There is, however, strong evidence that killing DACA will significantly damage the economy—a fact that Sessions conveniently omitted from his speech.
Once DACA is fully rescinded, its former recipients will lose their work permits (and thus their jobs) and face possible deportation. According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, about 30,000 people will lose their jobs each month as their DACA status expires. The loss of these workers could reduce the national GDP by $280 billion to $433 billion over the next decade. According to estimates by the libertarian Cato Institute, DACA’s demise will cost employers $2 billion and the federal government $60 billion. Trump’s decision to end DACA isn’t a job-saver; it’s a job-killer.
Toward the end of his speech, Sessions praised the RAISE Act, a Republican-backed bill that would tightly curtail immigration into the U.S. Sessions claimed the act would “produce enormous benefits for our country.” In reality, the measure marks an effort to return America to an older immigration regime that locked out racial and ethnic minorities. Sessions has praised the 1924 law that created this regime—a law whose chief author declared that his act was meant to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.” On Tuesday, Sessions revived this principle in slightly more polite language.
The attorney general’s utterly gratuitous defamation of young Latino immigrants tells you everything you need to know about the decision to kill DACA. Before Tuesday, the Trump administration seemed eager to frame its DACA decision as respect for constitutional separation of powers: Congress, it insisted, not the president, must set immigration policy. But after Sessions’ speech, it is difficult to view this move as anything other than an attempt to implement the white nationalism that Trump and Sessions campaigned on.”
Read the full report at the link.
It shouldn’t be news by now that “Gonzo Apocalypto” is a lifelong racist and White Nationalist totally unfit to serve as Attorney General. That’s what Liz Warren and others said during the confirmation process when Sessions’s GOP “fellow travelers” were so eager to brush over his un-American record and his anti-American views.
Latinos, Asians, Blacks, Jews and other American minorities need to unite with those of us who don’t want a return to the “Jim Crow” American South of the earlier 20th Century (which spawned the likes of Sessions and where the white GOP population is still racially and culturally tone deaf) behind some good candidates, get out the vote, and throw the White Nationalists and their GOP enablers and apologists (guys like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and most of the rest of the today’s GOP legislators who take responsibility for nothing while encouraging the Trump Administration’s outrageous conduct by refusing to join with Congressional Democrats to “just say no'”) out of office at the ballot box. Otherwise, there won’t be an America in the future. We’ve got to stop letting “the “30%” who either never knew or have forgotten what it means to be a real American run roughshod over our country and particularly our kids. It’s going to be a long four years. Feels like it already.