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August 8, 2016

White House Combats Religious Discrimination

On July 22, the White House hosted a Religious Discrimination Convening – culminating six months of community roundtables held across the country to highlight and institutionalize strategies to address religious discrimination.  Convening attendees heard from a number of federal officials, including Neil Eggleston, White House Counsel, Melissa Rogers, Faith-Based Office Executive Director, Jenny Yang, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Catherine Lhamon, Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Washington Counsel, Michael Lieberman, represented ADL on a panel on Preventing Religion-Based Hate Violence and Attacks on Houses of Worship.

(From left to right) John Walsh, US Attorney for Colorado Moderator;  Megan Mack, Department of Homeland Security; Robert Moossy, Department of Justice; Paul Montiero, Department of Justice; Michael Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League; Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates.

(From left to right) John Walsh, US Attorney for Colorado Moderator; Megan Mack, Department of Homeland Security; Robert Moossy, Department of Justice; Paul Montiero, Department of Justice; Michael Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League; Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates.

A number of new resources were unveiled at the event, including:

  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) released an excellent new report on religion-based discrimination,  The report presented findings from community roundtables, including disturbing trends of religion-based discrimination in education, employment, hate crimes, and land use.  Importantly, the report made a series of recommendations to address these issues and includes a comprehensive listing of federal resources to address religious discrimination.

 

DOJ has made fighting discrimination through the enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) a priority.  DOJ released an updated report on its enforcement of RLIUPA between 2010 and 2016.

  • The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights unveiled a new section of its website devoted to Religious Discrimination.  The website aggregates relevant resources on bullying prevention and religious harassment.  In 2015-2016, for the first time, every public school in the nation will report to OCR on the number of religion-based bullying or harassment incidents in schools through the OCR data collection tool, Civil Rights Data Collection. Though they have collected bullying information since 2009, this is the first year they are asking for religious-based data.

In addition, OCR unveiled a revised online complaint form to clarify when it can investigate complaints from individuals who believe they have experienced racial, ethnic, or national origin discrimination involving their religion.

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it will collect more precise data about the religion of the individual alleging discrimination.  EEOC released released a fact sheet, in English and in Spanish, primarily designed for young workers to educate them about their rights under the law.

The Obama Administration has made addressing hate crimes and religious discrimination a priority.  These new resources and programmatic initiatives will help pave the way for further progress.

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May 12, 2014

Schools Must Educate All Students, Regardless of Immigration Status

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) last week issued critical joint guidance to schools nationwide reminding them of their responsibility to provide quality education for all youths, regardless of immigration status.  Writing that they “have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status,” the Dear Colleague letter underscored for schools that denying education to students because of their immigration status violates federal law. plyer-guidance

Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, among other factors, respectively, by public elementary and secondary schools and by recipients of federal assistance.  In 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Plyler v. Doe that a state may not deny access to public education to any child residing in the state, no matter his or her immigration status.  The Court explained that denying “innocent children” access to public education “imposes a lifetime of hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status…By denying these children basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.”

In recent years some states and school districts have tried to require parents to disclose immigration status or provide documents unavailable to undocumented immigrants when enrolling their children in public schools.  Such requirements, as the new guidance reminds schools, violate federal law.  They also run afoul of our values as a nation of immigrants.  As the Supreme Court wisely recognized, education is the building block to success.  Providing children access to high quality education not only serves those children well, but is also good policy for our country.  Students who receive high quality education have the potential to become entrepreneurs boosting our economy, scientists researching cures for thus far incurable diseases, world leaders shaping global policy, and so many other possibilities.

Today, 16 states have legislatively extended in-state tuition to undocumented students and other state schools have extended in-state tuition of their own accord, making college a reality for many children who were brought to the U.S. as children, have studied hard, and have graduated from American schools.  As the Court recognized in Plyler, and the DOJ and DOE underscored with their guidance last week, all children should have access to high quality education, no matter their immigration status.  It is time to extend those principles nationwide from elementary and secondary schools to higher education as well.

 


 

Las escuelas deben educar a todos los estudiantes, sin importar su estatus migratorio

El Departamento de Justicia (DOJ) y el Departamento de Educación (DOE, por sus siglas en inglés) de los Estados Unidos emitieron conjuntamente la semana pasada una guía crítica para las escuelas a nivel nacional, recordándoles su responsabilidad de proporcionar educación de calidad a todos los jóvenes, sin importar su estatus migratorio.  Afirmando que “han encontrado prácticas de inscripción de estudiantes que pueden desanimar o desalentar la participación, o conllevar a la exclusión de  estudiantes basándose en la ciudadanía o estatus migratorio real o percibido de ellos o sus padres o tutores”, la Carta a los Colegas recuerda a las escuelas que negar la educación a los estudiantes por su estatus migratorio es una violación de la ley federal.

Los Artículos IV y VI de la Ley de Derechos Civiles de 1964 prohíben la discriminación por motivos de raza, color u origen nacional, entre otros factores, respectivamente, por parte de las escuelas públicas primarias y secundarias y los receptores de asistencia federal.  En 1982, el Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos sostuvo en Plyler v. Doe que un estado no puede negar el acceso a la educación pública a ningún niño que resida en el estado, sin importar su estatus migratorio.  La Corte explicó que negar a “niños inocentes” el acceso a la educación pública, es “imponerle una vida de penurias a unos niños que no son responsables de su condición migratoria… Al negarle a estos niños la educación básica, se les niega la capacidad de vivir dentro de la estructura de nuestras instituciones cívicas y se excluye toda posibilidad real de que contribuyan al progreso de nuestra nación”.

En los últimos años, algunos estados y distritos escolares han intentado exigir a los padres cuando inscriben a sus hijos en las escuelas públicas que revelen su estatus migratorio o proporcionen documentos que los inmigrantes indocumentados no tienen.  Esos requisitos, como le recuerda la nueva guía a las escuelas, violan la ley federal; también entran en conflicto con nuestros valores como nación de inmigrantes.  Como reconoció sabiamente la Corte Suprema, la educación es la piedra angular del éxito.  Proporcionar a los niños acceso a una educación de alta calidad no sólo le sirve a esos niños, también es una buena política para nuestro país.  Los estudiantes que reciben una educación de alta calidad tienen el potencial de convertirse en empresarios que impulsen nuestra economía, científicos que investiguen curas para enfermedades hasta ahora incurables, líderes mundiales que contribuyan a la política global, y muchas otras posibilidades.

Hoy día, 16 estados han extendido por ley la matrícula estatal a los estudiantes indocumentados y otras escuelas estatales lo han hecho por su propia voluntad, haciendo realidad la educación para muchos niños que fueron traídos a Estados Unidos cuando pequeños, han estudiado mucho y se han graduado de escuelas americanas.  Como la Corte reconoció en Plyler, y el DOJ y el DOE destacaron con su guía de la semana pasada, todos los niños deben tener acceso a educación de alta calidad, sin importar su estatus migratorio.  Ya es hora de ampliar esos principios a nivel nacional, desde las escuelas primarias y secundarias hasta la educación superior.

 

 

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March 11, 2014

President’s Civil Rights Nominee Rejected For Defending Civil Rights

Last week, on March 5, a majority of Senators voted to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s choice to be the next Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights – replacing Tom Perez, now Secretary of Labor. The vote to refuse to confirm Adegbile was 47-52 (with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) casting a “no” vote in order to preserve the possibility of bringing the nomination to the floor again).debo-adegbile

Adegbile’s nomination had attracted considerable support – including the American Bar Association and a number of leading conservative advocates who had been on the other side of legal arguments with Adegbile in the past. The Anti-Defamation League was among 86 national civil rights, religious, and law enforcement organizations that had endorsed his nomination in a letter to Senators

Adegbile was not defeated because he was unqualified for the post. To the contrary, Adegbile, a voting rights expert who had argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court, is one of the pre-eminent civil rights litigators of his generation. He had served as Director of Litigation and, later, as Acting President and Director-Counsel of the storied civil rights organization, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF). 

Instead, opposition to Adegbile was focused, almost exclusively, on the fact that the LDF became counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal during his tenure. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Far from “seeking to glorify an unrepentant cop-killer,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrongly asserted, LDF lawyers had not argued that Abu-Jamal was innocent or wrongly convicted. They argued, in post-conviction appeal proceedings, that his death sentence had been tainted by jury instructions that were flawed and improper – an argument that prevailed in the courts.  Adegbile was involved in the case tangentially, in a supervisory capacity.

As the controversy over Adegbile’s LDF involvement in the Abu-Jamal appeal grew, the President of the American Bar Association felt it necessary to write to Senators to remind them how the criminal justice system in America is supposed to work: 

I was alarmed to learn that there is some opposition to Mr. Adegbile’s nomination based solely on his efforts to protect the fundamental rights of an unpopular client while working at the Legal Defense Fund. His work, like the work of ABA members who provide thousands of hours of pro bono legal services every year, is consistent with the finest tradition of this country’s legal profession and should be commended, not condemned.

Following his defeat, many commentators have rightly labeled the Senate’s treatment of Adegbile unfair, contrasting his involvement in representing a highly unpopular defendant with similar legal representation by former President John Adams and Chief Justice John Roberts – who both, famously, represented individuals charged with murder.  In 1770, John Adams represented British soldiers indicted for murdering five people in what would later be called the “Boston Massacre” during British occupation of the colonies. Six of the soldiers on trial, including their commanding officer, were acquitted of the charges, and two others were convicted on manslaughter.   And when he was in private practice, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts represented a Florida death-row inmate who, with two co-defendants, had been convicted of killing eight people in 1978. 

The defeat of Debo Adegbile’s nomination sends a deeply disturbing message to lawyers who might now think twice before affiliating with advocacy groups or serving justice by representing controversial figures or causes.

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