Appleseed Network Applauds Thursday’s Supreme Court Decision Upholding DACA

The Appleseed Network celebrates the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Thursday morning, June 18th, in favor of blocking the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Court found that the Trump administration’s September 2017 move to terminate the program was “arbitrary and capricious,” and that the impact of the program’s termination on DACA recipients – at least 650,000 young immigrants brought to the US as children – was not properly taken into account.

DACA is a program initially announced in 2012 by former President Barack Obama that allows undocumented young people across the country to harness their skills and education to work and contribute to their communities. Dreamers (those protected under DACA) are able to enroll in college, obtain driver’s licenses, and continue their careers in the place they know as home. Under President Trump’s termination of DACA, new applications to the program were no longer accepted. Thursday morning, the Court’s positive ruling reaffirmed that DACA recipients will continue to be able to live in the US without fear of deportation, as well as pursue higher education and gainful employment.

DACA recipients are highly involved in communities throughout the US, practice political and civic engagement, and have been woven into the economic fabric of America. The Center for American Progress reported that DACA recipients and their households contribute $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes annually. Additionally, according to the Migration Policy Institute, “55% of DACA recipients are employed, amounting to 382,000 workers [and] 62% of those not in the labor force are enrolled in school.” During the current COVID-19 crisis – which has taken the lives of at least 120,000 people in the US – it is crucial that we acknowledge the 29,000 Dreamers who are working as health care workers and home care providers on the frontlines, and the more than 150,000 Dreamers who are essential workers providing education, growing and producing food, and keeping shelves stocked. Appleseed works to promote equity, security, and justice for children and families across the US and Mexico, and we applaud the DACA program as both a pathway for young undocumented immigrants to achieve their educational and economic goals as well as a recognition of immigrants’ inherent human rights, no matter their citizenship status.

While the ruling is a huge win for immigrants and immigration justice activists around the nation, it is only the first step in securing permanent protections for Dreamers. The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, passed by the House of Representatives in Spring of 2019, would provide these protections and create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. We urge the Senate to pass this bill in order to recognize the right of Dreamers to live free of fear and to pursue their dreams on American soil.

The Appleseed Network stands in solidarity with immigrants when we say, #HomeisHere.

NJ Appleseed Statement on the Murder of George Floyd and the Ensuing Unrest

We condemn in the strongest terms the murder of George Floyd, who was suffocated to death last week by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he gasped for breath and pleaded for mercy, as well as the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, chased and shot by vigilantes in Georgia for jogging while black, and Breonna Taylor,  shot by police in her own Louisville home. The list of people of color who have been wrongfully killed, mainly by police who typically do so with impunity, goes on and on and it has to stop.

We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and every other group and individual who share that belief and have been exercising their First Amendment rights to proclaim it. The mass protests throughout the United States and around the world over the past week give voice to the anger and anguish of those whose cries for justice have gone unanswered for far too long. In a few instances, remarkably few given the provocations, both recent and historical, understandable frustration has boiled over into violence and property damage.

For the most part, people have stood, knelt and marched peacefully, keeping their eyes on the prize and demanding justice. In a number of instances, including some here in New Jersey, police have joined with protesters, marching and even kneeling alongside them. In too many places, however, most notably Washington D.C., in the shadow of the White House, protesters have been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and other forms of police violence, which we condemn as strongly as we do the murder of George Floyd. It is not only an egregious violation of the rights of the protesters but a betrayal of our values as a nation and a stain upon our country.

In our home city of Newark, NJ, where the beating of a black taxi driver by police in the summer of 1967, sparked four days of riots that left 26 people dead and hundreds injured, the past was not prelude. That was, at least in part, thanks to Mayor Ras Baraka who called a press conference on the steps of City Hall to express support for the protest, marched in the front lines and spoke before the crowd about his own experiences as a youth protesting the deaths of black people at the hands of police. The City’s top police officials likewise voiced support and denounced police brutality and the “senseless murder” of Floyd.  Much credit also goes to the organizers, People’s Organization for Progress, and its long-time leader, Larry Hamm.

For our own part, NJ Appleseed will continue to be part of the long-term, big-picture solution as we work to change institutional structures and public policies in areas that disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, including affordable health care, voting rights, community and environmental infrastructure and preserving public ownership or access to essential resources like water systems and hospitals.

Now is the time to move forward and demand structural change; we cannot return to the pre-Trump status quo.  The United States must face the ravages wrought by capitalism, and work toward establishing a just social and political order.

 

NJ NEEDS SAFER VOTING MACHINES

NJ Appleseed has been working for many years to protect the integrity of the voting process and continues to do so.

It played a key role in the passage of a 2008 bill requiring that election results be audited to insure that they are correct. That law has never been implemented because audits require paper ballots and until 2019, all but one county in NJ used purely digital paperless voting machines.

More recently, NJ Appleseed has supported replacing those digital machines with a system that voting security experts tells us in the most secure: auditable paper ballots that are hand-marked by the voter, rather than the machine, and read by optical scanners, to reduce the risk of tampering.

NJ Appleseed was part of a campaign in Essex County, led by the grass roots group SOMa Action (from South Orange and Maplewood), that recently succeeded when the Freeholders voted in January to approve the purchase of such a system, the first in New Jersey. It will be in place for the 2020 primary and general election.

The next step will be to try to persuade other counties to do the same.  Here is my op-ed  on the subject, which was recently published in the Star Ledger and posted on its website.

Remembering David Perry Davis

I was greatly saddened to learn a few weeks ago that David Perry Davis died unexpectedly on October 3, at the age of 55.

David was a passionate and principled advocate who, probably more than any other individual, improved the quality of justice in the New Jersey court system for poor people who fall behind on child support.

In addition to the countless clients and colleagues whose lives he touched and improved through his practice as a family lawyer, David won two landmark court decisions that protect parents who owe child support from being locked up or barred from driving just because they cannot afford to pay. Continue reading Remembering David Perry Davis

SCOTUS Asked to Decide re Hamilton Electors

A recent blog post discussed the case of Michael Baca, a Presidential Elector from Colorado who instead of voting for Hillary Clinton–as required by state law because she won the state’s popular vote–voted for moderate Republican John Kasich.

Along with other Electors in Colorado and elsewhere, Baca was trying to get Republican electors who might be similarly horrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency – it is hard to believe now but there were many in 2016–to help save us from that fate by diverting enough votes to throw the presidential race into the House of Representatives. The U.S. Constitution requires that  when no candidate reaches the 270 votes needed for an Electoral College majority, the House determines who gets to be President from among the top three vote-getters, as has happened on three occasions.

All but two states require Electors to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote in a winner-take-all manner. Throughout history, a handful of Electors have refused to do so and they have often been referred to as Faithless Electors. Baca, however, who launched his effort with Peter Chiafalo, a Democratic Elector from Washington State, dubbed his group the “Hamilton Electors,” a name with more contemporary cachet thanks to the Broadway musical. He named it after founding father Alexander Hamilton, whose Federalist paper No. 68, described the role of Electors in making the case for having the President chosen by them, rather than by the popular vote.

The State of Colorado refused to count Baca’s vote, removed him, and replaced him with someone who then voted for Clinton. It also threatened Baca with criminal prosecution but did not carry through on the threat.

Baca sued and on August 20, 2019, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that states, though they determine how Electors are chosen, cannot dictate to them how they vote, no remove them or punish them for their votes. “The text of the Constitution makes clear that states do not have the constitutional authority to interfere with presidential electors who exercise their constitutional right to vote for the President and Vice President candidates of their choice,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Carolyn B. McHugh, in Baca v. Colorado Department of State. She was joined by Judge Jerome A. Holmes in the 2-1 ruling, with the third judge on the panel, Mary Beck Briscoe, dissenting based on her view that the case was moot.

Now a similar challenge brought by three Hamilton Electors, Chiafalo v. State of Washington, aims to bring the question of Elector discretion before the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading SCOTUS Asked to Decide re Hamilton Electors

New Jersey Takes Step Toward Own Health Exchange

Next month, New Jersey will start reaping the benefits of a bill enacted earlier this year to establish its own health insurance exchange rather than continuing to rely on the federal one.

Lilo Stainton of New Jersey Spotlight reported on October 9 that the Trump administration has given the necessary approval for the state to take its first step in transitioning to a fully state-run exchange by 2021.

As a result, during this fall’s enrollment period, from November 1 through December 15, health plans for 2020 will still be sold through the federal healthcare.gov website but New Jersey will have more control over the process and has committed to spending much more than last year on public outreach and assistance with enrollment.

Read the New Jersey Spotlight article here.

RULING ALLOWS ELECTOR DISCRETION BUT MIGHT IMPEDE EFFORT TO CIRCUMVENT ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Donald Trump won the Presidency in 2016 despite being trounced by Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

Thanks to the Electoral College, the profoundly undemocratic body that actually elects our Presidents and Vice-Presidents, Trump’s slight margin of victory in a few key states outweighed the millions more votes cast nationwide by those who preferred Clinton.

The Electoral College has been enshrined in our system from the start, in Article II, section 1, paragraph 3 of the Constitution. It was modified in 1804, with ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, which requires separate votes for President and Vice-President.

Most years, the results of the Electoral College vote match up with the popular vote.  But after 2016, when it thwarted the will of the people for the second time in 16 years (and for two of our last three Presidents), many people realized that we must do something about it if we want to make sure that the person who wins the most votes is the one who becomes President. Continue reading RULING ALLOWS ELECTOR DISCRETION BUT MIGHT IMPEDE EFFORT TO CIRCUMVENT ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Thank you for expressing interest in the old Essex County Jail exhibit in the Newark Hahne’s Building. We are pleased to invite you to TWO upcoming events reflecting on this exhibit, its contents, and Newark history. ​We hope to see you there!​

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Incarceration- Rethinking and Reform

INCARCERATION: RETHINKING AND REFORM
Wednesday, September 18th, 6:00-7:30pm

This panel is comprised of criminal reform advocates to further explore the exhibit, In Search of the Just City: Rethinking the Old Essex County Jail. Panelists will discuss the relationship between social norms of punishment and the way society incarcerates its members judged to have violated the law. Using the 1837 Essex County Jail as a starting point, panelists will describe the criminal justice reforms they are currently involved in, such as voter enfranchisement initiatives, educational programs, and bail reform. This panel aims to stimulate discussion and provide opportunities for attendees to become involved in criminal justice and prison reform.

Speakers:
Alexander Shalom (Senior Supervising Attorney, ACLU-NJ)
Andrea McChristian (Law & Policy Director, NJ Institute for Social Justice)
Ronald Pierce (Democracy and Justice Fellow, NJ Institute for Social Justice)
Schneur Zalman Newfield (Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY)

Hosted By:
NJ Appleseed Public Interest Law Center and PLANewark

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0:00 Renee Steinhagen
9:01 Andrea McChristian
23:48 Ronald Pierce
35:16 Schneur Zalman Newfield
48:30 Alexander Shalom
1:07:11 Q&A
1:17:42 Concluding Remarks

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Preserving Newark- Past and Future

PRESERVING NEWARK: PAST AND FUTURE
Wednesday, September 25th, 6:00-7:30pm

What is the role of Historic Preservation in our growing city? How do we recognize our past wrongs while building a more vibrant future? In many ways, Newark’s long awaited Renaissance is here. But what will happen to the unique cultural and historic spaces that make our city vibrant? This panel discussion will delve deep into the future planning of our city and the role that historical places play in that development. Our panelists have a range of experience to help broaden the discussion beyond simply aesthetics and answer complicated questions about culture, finance, and urban planning. Please join us for an evening to open up the dialogue and build a path forward.

Speakers:
Dr. Marion Bolden (Former Superintendent, Newark Public Schools)
Bryony Roberts (GSAPP, Columbia University)
Craig Whitaker (Architect, City Planner, Author)
Liz Del Tufo (President, Newark Landmarks)

Moderated By:
Tyler Tourville (Chair of PLANewark, Architectural Designer)

Hosted By: Newark Landmarks and PLANewark

Yes, count me in.

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MORE VOTERS PURGED WHERE SUPREME COURT LIFTED RESTRICTIONS

When the United States Supreme Court weakened Voting Rights Act protections in 2013, many worried that it would open the floodgates to a new wave of voter suppression.

There was good reason to be concerned, as the Brennan Center for Justice has once again confirmed.

A report it released in July 2018 found that from 2014 to 2016—the two years following the 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529—almost 16 million people throughout the U.S. were removed from voting rolls.  That was almost four million more than the number who were removed from voter lists between 2006 and 2008, a roughly 33% increase that far exceeded the growth in total population (6%) and total registered voters (18%) over that same time frame.

The Brennan Center also found that the purging occurred at a higher rate in those areas, mainly in the South, that because of their history of discrimination had been subject to the protections abrogated by the Supreme Court in Shelby.  For the two election cycles between 2012 and 2016, those so-called preclearance jurisdictions, which were let off the hook by the Shelby ruling, had purge rates significantly higher than elsewhere. The Center calculated that if those jurisdictions had remained subject to the previous constraints, two million fewer voters would have been struck from the lists. Texas alone erased more than 363,000 voters in the first election cycle after Shelby.

Now, a follow-up report, made public on August 1, has found that the heightened rate of voter purges continued between 2016 and 2018. Continue reading MORE VOTERS PURGED WHERE SUPREME COURT LIFTED RESTRICTIONS

REFUSAL TO EXPAND MEDICAID KILLED 15,000+, NEW STUDY FINDS

More than 20 U.S. state governments betrayed the health and well-being of their residents five years ago when they decided against expanding Medicaid pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare. Now, thanks to a just published study, we have a good idea of the human cost: nearly 16,000 deaths over the four-year period from January 2014, when the expansion initially took effect, through the end of 2017.

The study, released on July 21, looked at what would have occurred if Medicaid had been expanded nationwide in 2014. Based on the differences in mortality between states that expanded and those that didn’t, the study found that 15,600 deaths in the non-expansion states would have been prevented if those states too had expanded Medicaid. Continue reading REFUSAL TO EXPAND MEDICAID KILLED 15,000+, NEW STUDY FINDS