The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
UUSC Policy Round-Up for the Week of August 3, 2020
By on August 7, 2020
Welcome to our newest recurring feature on the UUSC blog. Each week, we will review key policy developments affecting UUSC’s human rights goals and our partners. This includes a look at recent Congressional negotiations, legislation moving on Capitol Hill, new regulations and other forms of executive action. We pay special attention to places where UUSC and our partners are having an impact—and where our members can play a key role in making progress happen. Check back each week for fresh updates.
One step closer to banning bans: On Wednesday, July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the NO BAN Act, a historic piece of legislation that would undo Trump’s racist travel bans targeting African, Asian, and Muslim immigrants. Among the crucial things this legislation would achieve if it becomes law: institute new protections against discrimination in U.S. immigration law; limit executive authority to issue sweeping travel bans that separate family members and deny humanitarian protection; end Trump’s Muslim Ban, African Ban, refugee ban, asylum ban, health insurance ban, etc.; and ensure that no similar unjust policies can be implemented in the future. This long-awaited victory came after a vote on the bill originally scheduled for early March was delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis. We thank the more than 1,470 UUSC supporters who took action to support this bill, as well as the 233 members of the House who voted to approve it, including members of both major parties. UUSC urges the U.S. Senate to take up this bill and uphold civil and Constitutional rights.
One day, we will BREATHE easier: UUSC also applauds Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), in partnership with the Movement for Black Lives, for introducing the The Breathe Act to Congress last month. This visionary legislation grows out of the nationwide movement to defend Black lives and work toward Black liberation that has gained renewed strength in recent months following nationwide protests against the extrajudicial murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people at the hands of law enforcement. In line with the spirit of recent calls to defund and transform the institution of policing in this country, the BREATHE Act would redirect federal resources away from institutions that arrest and criminalize Black people and immigrants, and toward bold new initiatives to fund community services, racial equity and anti-poverty goals, and environmental justice.
Decision-making may doom DACA…: As we celebrate these signs of progress, we note a worrying pattern of escalating authoritarianism and disrespect for the rule of law emanating from the White House and the rest of the executive branch. As is well known, the Supreme Court found in a landmark ruling on June 18, 2020 that the Trump administration erred in how it cancelled the DACA program in September 2017. As a result of this decision, the administration was legally obliged to reopen the DACA program in its original form, allowing new eligible individuals to apply for deferred action status. Shockingly, however, the administration has refused to allow new applications for DACA, even after a federal district court ordered them to do so (in line with the SCOTUS ruling). Instead, they have put forward a more limited form of relief that the administration argues constitutes an “intervening action” that allows them to sidestep the court’s ruling under their regulatory power. This new DACA Memorandum, issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on July 28, essentially amounts to a partial rescission of DACA, throwing immigrant youth back into a state of uncertainty and placing thousands at risk of losing status.
…and spells disaster for children in migration: These actions on DACA are only one of many ways DHS is currently playing fast-and-loose with the law, in pursuit of this administration’s radical anti-immigrant agenda. No less disturbing is DHS’ practice of holding unaccompanied children in secret locations without access to attorneys, as recently occurred in several hotel sites in Arizona, where the department was detaining children prior to their expulsion under a March 20 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order. This practice of expelling children without access to due process or humanitarian screening is a blatant violation of multiple U.S. laws, agreements, and international treaties, including protections for trafficking victims, the binding Flores settlement, U.S. asylum and withholding of removal statutes, and the Convention Against Torture (CAT). While advocates recently succeeded in bringing a legal challenge to the confinement of 17 children and families in the Arizona hotels, the administration’s larger expulsion policy remains in force. UUSC urges the government to immediately rescind the CDC order enabling these unlawful push-backs and to halt all Title 42 expulsions of asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children.
Authoritarian actions alienating asylum-seekers: At the same time the administration is blocking practically all avenues for asylum at the border, using allegedly “temporary” measures that have been extended indefinitely, it continues to work to limit protection permanently for asylum-seekers who are already working through the process. Two recent regulations proposed by the administration would gut the asylum system as we know it, making this form of humanitarian protection virtually inaccessible for people escaping violence and persecution in their home countries. While the public comment period for the first of these regulations has closed, the second remains open until August 10. We urge readers to submit comments in the Federal Register prior to the deadline opposing this heartless rule, which would invoke a public health pretext to deny life-saving forms of humanitarian protection to people at risk. The result, if this rule is allowed to go into effect, is that people would be sent back into the dangerous hands of the persecutors they fled.
Reps. ready to restore relief to immigrants: Meanwhile, Congress continues to negotiate measures to restore unemployment benefits and provide other forms of COVID-19 relief. Sadly, several of the proposals that have been floated would continue to deprive many tax-paying immigrants and U.S. citizens in mixed-status families of urgently-needed stimulus checks, despite the role these individuals play in contributing to the tax base and the fact that immigrants are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and more likely to be working in essential professions on the front lines of protecting all communities from the virus. UUSC notes that the House of Representatives has already passed the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), which would eliminate these cruel and unfair exclusions in the stimulus program, while also founding critical initiatives to increase access to rental and housing assistance, clean running water, broadband, and other services that are particularly vital for Indigenous, coastal, and rural communities in the midst of the pandemic.
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!
Photo Credit: iStock – drnadig