World News 2020 Elections Politics The World

Voter suppression has long undermined the American democratic process. Here’s how it played out in 2020.

Throughout this election cycle, many points of concern have been raised by democratic political officials as well as the American populace. One issue of importance has been voter suppression which prevents people (mostly BIPOC communities) from voting via systematic negligence that ultimately causes votes to be lost or unaccounted for. 

Voter suppression in America resembles legislation that makes it difficult for people, particularly minority communities, to vote. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), voter suppression can take the form of cuts to early voting, oppressive voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls. These tactics have been used against citizens since the inception of the United States.

A survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, detailed in a BBC article, found that Black voters waited in line for an average of 16 minutes during the 2016 election. Comparatively, white voters only waited 10 minutes. Even the existence of the electoral college in itself acts as a system of voter suppression.

Since the American Civil War, statewide efforts have been made to discourage entire communities from having a voice in the democratic election process. For example, Jim Crow laws imposed poll taxes and forced Black Americans to pass literacy tests to be considered eligible to vote. More modern examples include making voting more inconvenient by shutting down polling stations, therefore forcing people to travel long distances in order to exercise their voting rights. These cases were especially highlighted during the midterm elections in 2018.

Particularly, the 2018 race between Stacey Abrams and Georgia’s republican governor Mike Kemp has been widely suspected of voter suppression tactics that resulted in Kemp’s unsavory win. After her loss, Abrams herself stated, “To watch [Kemp], who claims to represent the people in this state, boldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”

As a result, Stacey Abrams has since registered to vote an estimated 800,000 citizens to combat the suppression impacting minority voters within the state of Georgia.

Recently, however, due to the pandemic and Donald Trump’s overtly racist rhetoric, voter suppression has also taken the form of voter intimidation, the spread of voting-related misinformation, and mail-in ballots which have conveniently gone missing.

For the Trump administration, the tactful use of voter suppression has consistently been their 2020 election strategy.

During this election cycle, the president himself has anomalously and openly embraced the tactic as is highlighted in an MSNBC article stating, “Voter suppression has been a long-term problem in America, but having a president publicly invoke it is something altogether unprecedented.” Donald Trump has vehemently sought to use the pandemic to further disenfranchise voters across the country.

In one instance, the Trump campaign filed an emergency motion in Nevada, a swing state, to prevent mail-in-ballots from being counted and prosecuted an appeal to permit the state to review signatures. In addition, Trump has repeatedly encouraged his followers to vote in person to discredit the legitimacy of mail-in-ballots, despite the severe endurance of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

A polling station with voting related posters on the door
[A polling station with voting related posters on the door] via Elliott Stallion on Unsplash
Joyce Vance further details in her aforementioned MSNBC article, “The suppression has been widespread and at least partially successful.” Therefore, this unusual circumstance presents a newfound threat to the electoral process and the overall American democratic system. 

Correspondingly, in Florida, there have been ongoing debates regarding whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote. Even after convicted felons were granted sanctions to vote in 2018, new obstacles like taxes and fines were added to discourage them from legally voting. Notably, Florida has more than 700,000 felons who were unable to vote because they had remaining fines to pay off. A substantial number of these individuals were African American, a demographic which has historically and considerably voted Democrat – and been disenfranchised. 

Voter suppression of any kind is an affront to a complete and legitimate democratic process because it obstructs American citizen’s fundamental right to vote. What is more, it hinders election results from accurately reflecting what the people – all eligible people – want. 

[Image description: Hands holding up a cardboard sign that reads, "Our votes matter."] Via free images on Pexels
[Image description: Hands holding up a cardboard sign that reads, “Our votes matter.”] Via free images on Pexels
Here are some important facts to keep in mind for upcoming elections, courtesy of ACLU and When We All Vote – 

  • If you are still in line while the polls close, you are still allowed to vote. If they try to turn you away, you have the right to request a provisional ballot. Stay in line!
  • If you make a mistake on your ballot, you are allowed to ask for a new one. 
  • If your absentee ballot was rejected for verification reasons, you can still fix it before the deadline.
  • If the machines are not working at your polling station, you can request a paper ballot. 

Election Protection Hotline numbers in case of any problems:

English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683

Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682

Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287

Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese: 1-888-API-VOTE/1-888-274-8683


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USA The World

The Trump Administration continues to threaten women’s access to birth control

The Supreme Court had us fooled. Just a few weeks after SCOTUS struck down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana with a 5-4 vote, the justices upheld the Trump administration’s mandate that employers can refuse to let workers use birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) due to religious or moral objections. Only 2 justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor dissented. “between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services,” Ginsburg stated in her note of dissent, using a governmental estimate. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration – a government agency under the U.S Department of Health and Human Services – ruled that birth control is essential preventative care and that contraceptives would be free and covered under employer’s health insurance without any extra copays in 2012. Exceptions were explicitly made for places of worship, but not for religious controlled schools, hospitals, charities, and any other groups or businesses controlled by religious groups. However, both the Obama and the Trump administrations began to include a wider range of exemptions after pushback from religious groups. 

The U.S. government has always had a tumultuous and inconsistent relationship with birth control legislation since the creation of the ACA in 2010

In the 2014 case landmark case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court justices voted that for-profit organizations were exempt from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), although the RFRA was declared unconstitutional by SCOTUS in 1997 at the state level. 

The U.S. government has always had a tumultuous and inconsistent relationship with birth control legislation since the creation of the ACA in 2010. The inconsistencies in legislation have allowed for the Trump administration to further their attacks on women’s healthcare. The RFRA has already been dubbed unconstitutional for states, so why does the federal government and the Supreme Court continue to allow the RFRA as an excuse to revoke women’s right to healthcare?

In 2017, Trump drafted new rules under an Executive Order that for-profit groups were officially exempt. The State of Pennsylvania, including several other states with their individual contraceptive mandates, challenged the government under the Equal Protection Clause. Despite, this, SCOTUS upheld Trump’s attack on contraceptives in the recent case Little Sisters of the Poor Saint Peters and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. The Little Sisters of the Poor are a Catholic organization that provides homes for low-income elderly individuals. The nuns who run the organization are against contraception and abortion. Regardless of their religious rights, organizations and businesses should not have a say in what medication their employees are taking. It’s simply not their business. Now that SCOTUS has furthered these dubious exemptions, it will be easier for conservative businesses to regulate their female employees’ access to birth control under “moral” reasons. By revoking access to birth control, bosses are directly harming the lives of women. Contraceptives directly save female lives.

Bosses have no business deciding what happens in their employee’s private life, including what medication they are taking.

Birth control pills have a wide variety of different usages besides preventing pregnancies. Many women are prescribed birth control to regulate their menstrual cycles. Nearly 30% of women on birth control pills take them to make their periods less painful. Combination/multi-hormone pills also can prevent uterine and ovarian cancer. It can help reduce the effects of menstrual migraines, control endometriosis, and regulate PMS and PMDD, a severe form of PMS, symptoms. By upholding Trump’s mandate, many women will no longer have access to the medication that keeps them alive, especially poor women and women of color who cannot afford to pay for birth control out of pocket.

Just recently, SCOTUS also ruled that employers can’t discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers based on religious beliefs. Employers shouldn’t be able to decide the fate of women’s health and lives either.  Birth control shouldn’t be politicized. It’s necessary, preventative healthcare. The companies that are refusing to use company health insurance for contraceptives are silent on Viagra prescriptions. I’m sorry, but if your penis can’t get up, it’s probably “God’s will.” Bosses have no business deciding what happens in their employee’s private life, including what medication they are taking. 

Donald Trump and his administration have been attacking women’s health and the ACA the moment he stepped foot in the White House. He’s not an advocate for religious groups, he’s a tyrant who uses the guise of religious freedom to directly attack poor women of color. With Justice Ginsberg’s seat on the line, women’s health holds a terrifying future if Trump is re-elected. The government should not be pandering to the qualms of religious and conservative run businesses. Women’s healthcare is not a political tool, it’s a human right, and should be treated as such.

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2020 Elections Politics The World

We cannot excuse Joe Biden’s behavior even if we hate Trump

Opposition towards the Trump administration has skyrocketed in the wake of continual Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Many, even Republicans, have called out Trump’s handling of the protests problematic, inadequate, and even opportunistic. He has routinely called on the military to intervene in peaceful protests, blatantly incited violence, and taken advantage of the political climate to take favorable photos. Just as anger against Trump grows, so does appreciation for Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Recently, my social media feeds have been flooded with endorsements of Biden, often accompanied by images of him with protesters. I don’t mind this; I’ll be the first to admit that Trump proves himself more incompetent and bigoted each day. However, in our rush to disavow the Trumpian ideologies, we should be careful to embrace Joe Biden, and the Democratic party in general, as our savior.

For one, Biden still has sexual assault allegations against him that the Democratic machinery has conveniently swept under the rug. Tara Reade’s sexual assault accusations against Biden has not been met with the outrage it should have been. Reade’s accusations have been ignored for decades and we are continuing to dismiss her now.

In fact, at this point, it’s rare to see any articles or publications telling her story. Rather, Democrats have done their best to push it aside, make excuses, and maintain an idealistic image of Biden.

But we can’t pretend that Reade’s story is irrelevant, or an isolated incident. After all, let’s never forget that Biden voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas in the wake of sexual assault accusations from Anita Hill.

Staffers of his have even come out and voiced their discomfort about the environment that Biden creates.

Biden’s reputation with sexual assault has always been problematic, whether it be allegations against him or his support of other harassers.

But, with this along with growing political tension between civilians and the police, one of the most important issues on people’s minds right now is police reform. Both of these misgivings unsurprisingly go hand in hand. It is all about the maintenance of power. Trump has made his stance clear in that he continues to support the status quo of police departments and tactics. Consequently, hate mounts against him each and every day as he attempts to justify the violence of the police.

However, I’m hesitant to say that Biden is the opposite of Trump in his policies.

For example, Biden recently said that police need to be trained to shoot people in the legs rather than in more fatal ways. Why not teach them not to shoot at all, while upholstering any surviving racist tactics or training? Essentially, to Biden, police reform doesn’t mean changing the culture of authority in this country, or ensuring accountability. It just means making sure officers only maim, not kill.

Biden has a slippery reputation with racism. During his time as Senator, Biden played a major role in the rise of mass incarceration. And he was proud of it. 

He worked with segregationists on criminal justice policies that pushed the country towards the racist and troubling policies of today. 

And recently, in an interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Biden stated that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” 

It’s clear that Biden is using the fact that he’s a Democrat to excuse all his behavior and continue to market himself as the best choice for Black people and other marginalized groups. But we can’t avoid holding him accountable anymore. 

I don’t write this article to discourage voting or democratic political engagement. Obviously, if you are able to, please do vote. It’s undeniable that in our society voting is the most powerful tool that citizens have. However, we must not forget that voting alone is not enough. We must also hold Biden accountable for his actions, too. The lesser of two evils logic might justify us voting for him, but it does not, in any way, excuse his behavior. That is reprehensible.

When we are too fast to assume Biden as a hero, we fail to hold him accountable. Often, when I mention Biden’s flaws to people and the importance of making him confront his problematic views, I’m told that highlighting his flaws will only ensure another Trump presidency. Here’s what I say.

Hold them both accountable for their actions. What’s stopping us from doing that? Democrats are always racing to highlight how dangerous, bigoted, and supremacist Trump is. Republicans are always quick to highlight Biden’s precarious reputation.

But accountability shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We shouldn’t be ignoring the narratives of Tara Reade and Anita Hill just because we want Biden to secure the presidency, the same way Republicans cannot keep ignoring the incompetence and bigotry that Trump continues to display, even more so now amid a harrowing pandemic and widespread calls for civil rights reform.

Whoever our next president is, don’t we want them to be conscious of their problematic views, apologetic of their past, and open to true change? Because, if we don’t force our politicians to claim responsibility to their actions, can we really expect our society to change?

Biden may be the best choice for America at this point, but that doesn’t mean we should be excusing his actions for the sake of partisan politics. Being a democrat does not equate to a shield from accountability for highly problematic and unruly behavior.

USA Race Inequality

Violence against Native American women and children is finally being taken seriously

Oh, Trump, President Trump. You know, the orange racist who just so happens to be president of the United States?

Yeah, that guy.

I honestly still can’t believe that he is president some days, but hey… could he possibly have tried to do some good during his time as president?

It would seem so.

Recently President Trump signed into action an executive order that will establish a task force that will address the violence against missing and murdered Native American and Alaskan natives. This issue is one that the administration has actually been focusing on for the last few months. 

The White House official website even has a quote from President Donald Trump himself that states that “We remain committed to preserving and protecting Native American cultures, languages, and history while ensuring prosperity and opportunity for all Native Americans.” 

This task force will be overseen by the attorney general, William Barr, and interior secretary David Bernhardt. Specifically, this task force is tasked with developing protocols that will apply to new and old unsolved cases. This task force will also create a multi-jurisdictional team that will review cold cases. 

For years, Native American women have faced abuse on reservations by non-Indians without there being any negative repercussions to the non-Indians that inflict such abuse. 

Missing and murdered indigenous women and girls have been an epidemic in the United States for years. This epidemic is particularly bad in Alaska, which is one of the most dangerous states for women in the U.S. For, nearly 60 percent of women in Alaska have experienced intimate partner or sexual violence. Often times these women have experience both intimate partner violence and sexual violence. 

Rape in Alaska also takes place at 2.5 times the national average. 

In addition to this information, The National Institute of Justice estimates that 1.5 million Native American women have experienced violence in their lifetime. This includes the many of them who experience sexual violence during their lifetime. 

Native American women face this type of violence at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. 

This problem is particularly prevalent in native villages in rural Alaska. These villages are incredibly remote and lack access to necessary law enforcement. Alaska also lacks a uniform 911 emergency call system. This makes it very hard for residents of this area to access the necessary law enforcement resources, particularly in remote villages. 

Thankfully, Iowa senator, Joni Ernst introduced the Senate Republican’s version of the Violence Against Women Act. This was a reauthorization bill. This legislation includes provisions that address this epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women. 

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a catch to all of this supposed good news. 

If Ernst’s proposal were to be put into action it would give non-Native abusers who won’t comply a way out. So, this law essentially makes it easier for abusers facing prosecution to skip the appeal to federal court and process as a whole. 

The bill by Ernst also weakens sovereign immunity for tribes. The bill does this by allowing for these convicted abusers to sue if they feel that their civil rights are being violated. 

For, this move comes with the Republicans making an attempt to make it harder for these Native Americans to put non-Native abusers behind bars. 

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center stated that this type of legislation aims to destabilize tribal systems. This is done by putting “undue burdens and restrictions on tribal courts far beyond those imposed on federal and state courts.”

Does this come as a surprise to anyone at all? 

Considering the fact that this comes from the Trump administration, this comes as absolutely no surprise at all. 

USA LGBTQIA+ Gender & Identity The World

Supreme Court revives military transgender ban, yet policy remains blocked

On January 22nd, the Supreme Court approved the Trump administration’s request to move forward with their ban on military service for transgender officers. This was the first update on the matter since the president had first suggested such a ban almost two years ago.

Back in July of 2017, President Trump made an announcement on Twitter that affected as many as 15,500 members of our military in less than 240 characters. His tweet argued that “our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

He would go onto formalize that ban in August with a Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, and transgender individuals were barred from service. In doing so, the policy aimed to reverse a 2016 decision by the Obama administration that opened the military to transgender service members for the past 30 months.

In a rare show of defiance, the Pentagon spoke out against the policy. Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, aired the organization’s sentiments in an emailed statement. Gleason noted, “as always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity.” She continued, [policy] is not a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that [the Department of Defense] be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

Soon after, injunctions were put out by Federal District Court judges in California and Washington State.

Now, the Supreme Court has lifted those two injunctions which were the first line of defense against President Trump’s current ban. But there’s another one left.

That’s where Stone V. Trump steps in. Filed on August 28, 2017, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on behalf of Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, an 11-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, it boasts the longest lifespan of any lawsuit against the ban that came before it. The injunction argues that the new ban “violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process by singling out transgender individuals for unequal and discriminatory treatment.”

Trump’s new policy can’t go into effect while the Stone V. Trump injunction still stands.

One of the most important things to note is the social effect of such a policy. The American Civil Liberties Union, in establishing their lawsuits, said the policy was “transphobia masquerading as policy”. Their basis for the claim is found between the lines of Trump’s actual written policy. In Trump’s Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security entitled, “Military service for Transgender Individuals”, he stated his policy would “halt all use of DoD or [Department of Homeland Security] resources to fund sex re-assignment surgical procedures for military personnel.”

The less obvious effect of the ban is the president’s ability to halt the transitioning process for most transgender servicemen and women. It’s because of those benefits that famed whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to receive hormone treatments as part of her transition. With Trump’s new policy being put in place that healthcare provision won’t be in place for much longer.

Not to mention the risk of increased hate crimes towards transgender men and women. In putting forth his policy “based on uninformed speculation, myths and stereotypes, moral disapproval, and a bare desire to harm this already vulnerable group” as put best by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trump Administration shows that they will not stand by the transgender community.

A sort of “monkey see monkey do” form of governance is probable. If Americans see a transphobic administration, some might become more vocal about their own transphobia. 

The University of California, Berkeley, political scientist Gabriel Lenz notes in his book, Follow the Leader, that voters typically form their views based on elected officials and other people they trust. This notion is echoed in a study on the American Journal of Political Science. Researchers found that when a number of state legislators randomly sent out letters to constituents, the recipients often adopted the opinion of said representative, even when they had disagreed before.

It’s important to understand just how atrocious administration’s minority targeting initiatives are. No matter how different each policy is, they each show the rippling effects a single policy can have.

Money Now + Beyond

Betsy DeVos continues to fight against students in the US

Two years after ITT Tech closed in 2016, many students are still scraping together the money to pay for student loans that covered exorbitant tuition costs. These students were manipulated by predatory claims and lied to about accreditation. Not only are their diplomas invalid – but they’re still paying for them.

When President Obama enacted the Borrower Defense to Loan  Repayment in 2016, it was with these students in mind. The goal was to set up a system that would forgive the federal student loans of for-profit institutions that were marketed to students on false claims, like inflated employment numbers. In the final weeks of the Obama administration, Borrower Defense was awarded to former students of the family of schools under the Corinthian Colleges umbrella, including Everest, Heald, and WyoTech. However, in the two years since the Trump administration took hold – progress has slowed to a crawl.

A lawsuit filed by 19 states and the District of Columbia claim Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education is the one to blame.

DeVos is being sued for delaying loan repayment under borrower defense. Rather than moving forward with the existing legislation, DeVos has spent the past two years attempting to restructure the law. Multiple attempts at restructuring the repayment system have included only offering partial repayment, instead of the full repayment offered by the bill.  Partial repayment is the ultimate goal for the DeVos camp. They have been attempting to create a new formula to define repayment schedules that would be based on the earnings of students who had attended the same university. However, the information on earnings was obtained illegally from the Social Security Administration.

The Department of Education, in trying to build this formula, shared information like social security numbers with the Social Security Administration to get the earnings of students who attended for-profit universities. This sharing of information is forbidden by the Privacy Act. As a result, a San Francisco judge put a halt on the process – which in turn put a freeze on building the partial repayment system.

DeVos has been a vocal opponent of Borrower Defense, saying that it was built improperly by the previous administration. As a result, it’s not fair for the taxpayers, the students, or the schools.

The schools, in particular, are who DeVos is fighting for.

This is evident in even the staff that she chooses to surround herself with. Heading the loan repayment team is a former dean of DeVry University – a for-profit university that has thousands of claims filed against it. Students from DeVry have been seeking loan repayment as they were promised more gainful employment after attending the university. Students who attended the university could have paid up to $89,000 with no promise of employment after graduation.

In June of this year, the Department of Education released a plan to roll back regulations on for-profit universities. The regulations were put in place by the Obama administration to attempt to prevent for-profit universities from targeting students with the same fraudulent claims that make someone eligible for borrower defense.

The attempt to gut these protections came after they were delayed by the Department of Education for a year after the current administration took office.

It’s clear that the current Department of Education is not interested in supporting the students of this country. From stripping money from the public school system to allowing predatory universities to thrive, DeVos has made it clear that she wants to continue the divisiveness of this country – especially on the battleground of education.

This policy spits in the face of the original intent of the Department of Education, that was founded under President Johnson’s war on poverty. The Department’s roots are in empowering the most vulnerable among us.

The same people who are shackled by student loan debt paying for false degrees.

USA LGBTQIA+ Gender The World Policy Inequality

Trans rights will be at risk in Massachusetts if this law is repealed

Massachusetts has become an unlikely battleground for the future of trans rights. No, this traditionally blue state is not leading the way for increased protections for trans and gender nonconforming people. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Massachusetts voters will either vote to keep or repeal a law designed to protect trans people from discrimination in public spaces on Election Day 2018.

The law in question is Senate Bill 2407  is also known as Freedom Massachusetts. The law itself is quite new in the scheme of things, with Governor Charlie Baker having signed it into law in July 2016. Shocking, I know, a Republican governor seemingly supporting human rights, but stranger things have happened. Freedom Massachusetts is straightforward in its purpose: The law protects trans people in public spaces, such as in bathrooms, schools, restaurants, and hospitals.

If this sounds ridiculous to you, that makes sense. This is ridiculous. We should try and to protect marginalized populations, not get rid of protections that are already in place. Because everything sucks in 2018, Massachusetts voters are able to get rid of this trans public accommodations bill.

At a federal level, trans people have been put increasingly under attack by the Trump administration. In late October, it was reported that the Trump administration is considering narrowing the definition of gender to only reflect the biological sex that a person is assigned at birth. If the Trump administration won’t stand up for people who are discriminated against, then states need to step up with enacting state-level protections. This is why it is crucial that Massachusetts voters vote ‘Yes’ on Massachusetts Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum.

At  the surface level, it seems that Massachusetts Question 3 will allow Freedom Massachusetts to continue to exist. Ballotpedia lists that hundreds of Massachusetts based companies and associations support the existence of this law, and so does incumbent Baker. On the  ‘No’ side, there is only one association that supports this transphobic law, the Massachusetts Family Institute, which, unsurprisingly, also has tried to attack Planned Parenthood. If the 2016 Presidential Election taught us anything, simply supporting Freedom Massachusetts is not enough. Massachusetts voters need to go out and cast their ballot in order to work to keep trans people safe in the state of Massachusetts.

As a Massachusetts voter, I am concerned about the safety of trans people. Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot is the only reason why I am voting absentee in Massachusetts, despite currently living in New York. I went to public schools in Massachusetts, and I saw how my trans friends were discriminated against. At my high school, trans students were forced to use single-stall bathrooms in the nurse’s office. They were not allowed to use the other bathrooms that were in other parts of the school.  I don’t know how to view this as anything but discrimination. My high school did allow trans students to use other bathrooms my senior year, but this was only a few months before Freedom Massachusetts was signed into law. If Freedom Massachusetts is repealed, I see nothing from stopping my high school and other public spaces to go back to how they were.

If you are a Massachusetts voter and care about protecting trans people during this horrifying Trump administration, vote ‘Yes’ on Question 3.

USA Reproductive Rights Politics The World Inequality

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is in jeopardy – here’s everything you need to know

Immediately after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in June of 2018, people across the nation became fearful of who Trump would nominate to fill such a permanent position. Since his race for the presidency, Trump has continuously vowed that he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. After the administration announced it was nominating Brett Kavanaugh, there was an uproar from Americans across social media urging each other, and their representatives, to band together to #StopKavanaugh, #DefendRoe, and #SaveSCOTUS. This backlash stems from Kavanaugh’s ability and intentions to overturn Roe V Wade if he were to be elected into office. Many are also questioning Trump’s ability to nominate a candidate since he is being criminally investigated. And moreover, the recent allegations (and impending hearing) that have surfaced against Kavanaugh make the issue that much more pressing.

People all over the nation have already come together to protest Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Many showed up to demonstrate their fears towards Kavanaugh as a nominee to their representatives. People also partook in this march to protest the Trump administration’s ability to appoint a justice at this point in time. Above all, protestors seemed to ask for one thing. They appealed for justice and equality in America, which they currently feel this administration is strongly neglecting. The worry is that if Kavanaugh was accepted as a Supreme Court Justice he would only propel injustice and inequality across America.

Many Americans are distressed over Kavanaugh’s opportunity to serve as a Supreme Court Justice due to his real ability to overturn Roe V Wade. Although his predecessor, Justice Kennedy, was a Republican, he was considered a “swing vote.” Whoever fills the ninth seat will have the ability to control whether the Supreme Courts votes will swing conservative, or liberal.

This is especially true when looking at Roe v. Wade. Whoever takes the seat has the ability to overturn legal abortion on a federal level. Although Kavanaugh claims he’s not outwardly against abortion, his previous judgments say otherwise. Kavanaugh used his power as a Circuit Judge to rule that an undocumented immigrant teen in a detention center could not have access to the abortion she wanted. This, combined with his strong Republican beliefs, have left many women fearing for constitutional right to a safe, legal and accessible abortion.

If Roe v. Wade was to be overturned abortion would be immediately illegal in 33 states, which is not only destructive to the healthcare system but incredibly dangerous for women in these states. His ability to overturn this fundamental and crucial policy demonstrate the immense power Kavanaugh would have surrounding all other issues, including LGBTQ rights, immigrant and refugee rights, women’s rights, healthcare, education, and pressingly, the Muller investigation.

Many people feel that since there is a serious and federal investigation surrounding the 2016 election, President Trump should not have the authority to select a Supreme Court nominee until the investigation has been concluded. This is because whoever gets selected as the next SCOTUS will hold power long after the Trump administration does.

We are currently in the midst of midterm elections, which will determine who sits in the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Leading many to believe that the Trump administration should follow McConnell’s earlier opinion that the vote should wait until elections are over. And that the Senate should only be allowed to vote on Kavanaugh’s ability to be a Supreme Court Justice after the midterm elections.

While these beliefs are being expressed by demonstrators across the nation, it’s up to the US Senate to decide. Senate Democrats have officially asked to postpone Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing since Trump is currently being investigated for criminal wrongdoings. And now, in light of the impending hearing with Kavanaugh, we will hold our breath as we await the repercussions on his confirmation hearings.

If you haven’t called your senators yet, now is the time to do so. You can reach dispatch at 1-884-778-3056, where I urge you to demanded that the government of the United States protects a woman’s constitutional right to abortion by only confirming a nominee who will uphold Roe v. Wade, or to ask them to represent your belief as their constituent that the confirmation hearing should be postponed until after the Mueller investigation.

USA Editor's Picks Politics The World Policy

Trump isn’t satisfied with abusing undocumented immigrants. Now he’s deporting U.S. citizens.

Among all the news about migrants being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, it can be easy to lose track of how Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is cracking down on immigrants already in the U.S. And many of the immigrants being targeted are legally documented and have been in the U.S. for years.

Trump and his cronies like to claim that they are only trying to deport “criminals” to keep Americans safer.

But ICE has swept up green card holders (under American immigration law, having a green card indicates that an immigrant is a lawful permanent resident) in their raids. Some of the targeted immigrants have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years. They thought that their legal status would protect them from detention and the threat of deportation.

However, under President Trump, ICE is combing through documented immigrants’ records for decades-old misdemeanor charges as an excuse to target them for detention and possible deportation away from their families, homes, and communities.

In fact, for some immigrants, their legal status may put them more at risk: an ICE agent reportedly told his team as they set out for their raid that since some of the immigrants they were targeting had green cards, “we should have a good address on them.”

It turns out even citizenship can’t always protect immigrants to the U.S. these days.

An independent investigative media outlet called Unicorn Riot got hold of a handbook from the Department of Homeland Security’s secretive investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations, and found it to be a guide to stripping citizenship from foreign-born naturalized Americans.  Stripping people of citizenship like this used to be considered a drastic measure taken only in extreme situations, but a new policy memo from the current head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services means more naturalized citizens than ever before are being investigated for potential denaturalization and deportation. In the past, some of the people denaturalized were former Nazis. However, that particular demographic seems pretty safe in the U.S. these days. Instead, current denaturalization proceedings seem, unsurprisingly, to be focused on nonwhite naturalized citizens.

Meanwhile, border agents are turning back asylum seekers at official U.S. ports of entry, in violation of the international and national law. Border patrol agents have been accused of lying to asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. in order to keep them out.

In 1993, the United Nations defined ethnic cleansing as “the planned deliberate removal from a specific territory, persons of a particular ethnic group, by force or intimidation, in order to render that area ethnically homogenous.”

As Trump calls for deportations to be accelerated by denying migrants due process rights and ICE and the border patrol grow increasingly aggressive, multiple writers and analysts have begun to use the term ethnic cleansing to describe this administration’s approach to immigrants.

Trump’s language and actions set the stage for violence against immigrants and anyone his supporters believe don’t belong in their idealized version of a white America.

In my home city of Portland, Oregon, activists occupied the area around an ICE office and successfully shut it down for nearly two weeks before law enforcement cleared the entrance enough to allow ICE agents to return to work.

The occupiers remain on nearby land, and the protest continues.

And the movement has spread: there are occupations of ICE locations in 11 cities now. If you live in the U.S., see if there’s one near you and stop by for a few minutes, hours, or days to show your support. And take up the call with your lawmakers to abolish ICE, to end this draconian crackdown on immigrants, and to support the most vulnerable members of your community.

USA Politics The World

The United States proves once again that it doesn’t care about immigrant women

Recently, Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, announced new restrictions on the ability of persons who have suffered from gang violence and domestic violence to have their applications for asylum in the United States approved. This new action from the Trump administration is going to make it so much more difficult for people who have been victims of violence to resettle safely, and may impact thousands of people who have already applied for their asylum on those grounds.

Although the right to asylum has been determined under international law, both US and international law have defined certain categories that persons applying for asylum must prove their circumstances fit into. Those categories involved persecution on the grounds of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a certain “social group”.  Since the meaning of “social group” is so vague, victims of gang and domestic violence have been able to use that category to successfully gain asylum in the US. For example, immigrants from Central and Latin American have used their statuses as “married women unable to legally leave their spouses” as a “social group” category, or men and women not involved with gangs have claimed their status as a “non-gang member” makes them targeted for violence and therefore eligible to resettle in the States.

Now, asylum applicants “must establish membership in a particular and socially distinct group that exists independently of the alleged underlying harm, demonstrate that their persecutors harmed them on account of their membership in that group rather than for personal reasons, and establish that the government protection from such harm in their home country is so lacking that their persecutors’ actions can be attributed to the government,” Sessions wrote.

This is going to make it more difficult on asylum seekers because it places the burden of proof on them. Although Vox notes that certain governments have been known to do little, if nothing at all, against gang violence and domestic violence, asylum seekers will have to prove that this is a large-scale pattern and that the government was ultimately responsible for failing to protect them. Sessions noted that even though local police might not have acted on reports of a crime that “does not necessarily mean that the government is unwilling or unable to control crime.” Now, asylum seekers are going to have a harden burden to prove that their claim follows Sessions new rules.

Sessions new decisions regarding asylum are going to have a devastating impact on women in particular. Women are often targeted by gang members for sexual violence and denying those women asylum is going to place them in more danger. If governments are doing little to prevent gang violence, women face long-term risks by remaining in their home countries. Without asylum, women are left to continue to fall victim to physical and sexual harassment by gang members.

Victims of domestic violence are also left without many asylum protections under Sessions’ new rules. Most victims of domestic violence, who are primarily women, no longer qualify for asylum protections. Although governments might, again, do very little to protect the long-term safety of women against their abusive partners and husbands, they no longer qualify to leave and seek permanent refuge in the United States. The new decision from Sessions strips away an avenue of safety. Even now, immigrant women who had been granted asylum on the grounds of being victims of abuse may face deportation back to their home countries, where they could be in serious danger of facing more intimate partner violence or even be killed as a result.

More protection, certainly not less, is needed for victims of gang and domestic violence. Asylum could be the difference between life and death for thousands, and the new regulations are incredibly dangerous.

USA The World

How did the US government just lose 1,500 immigrant children?

The United States government lost 1,500 children. Let me repeat that. The United States government lost, or as they would put it, are “unable to determine [the] whereabouts” of 1,500 immigrant children that showed up on the U.S.-Mexico border. Let that sink in.

In late April, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, testified to Congress that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors that it placed with sponsors in the United States. The New York Times would go on to report that the agency learned of the missing children after placing calls to the sponsors who took responsibility for them, in which they found out that 6,075 out of 7,635 children remained with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been removed from the United States, and 52 had relocated to live with a non-sponsor. As for the fate of 1,475 immigrant minors, the government shrugs and states that they are not legally responsible for these children once they are released from the refugee office.

The news went unnoticed until it resurfaced shortly after the Trump administration announced it would implement a “zero-tolerance” policy that would refer anyone crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution. This policy would enforce the separating of children as young as 18-months-old from their families since minors cannot follow their parents into federal custody.

And when questioned whether children would be ripped from their mother’s arms for an undetermined amount of time, The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would defend the practice in an interview with NPR by saying that it would a “tough deterrent” for asylum seekers, and that “the children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”

The unknown whereabouts of the missing children have left many fearing that they were victims of human traffickers or turned into illegal child laborers having been placed with sponsors pretending to be parents or close relatives. Around the time of the discovery that the children were missing, Frontline released a documentary that described how Guatemalan teens forced to work on an egg farm in Ohio after being released into the custody of human traffickers during the Obama administration. The incident is not just a one-off blunder that has no bigger implications. According to a 2016 report from The Polaris Project, migration and relocation are listed as the top contributing risk factors for human trafficking cases, with Latinos making up a majority of survivors. So no, we cannot dismiss the disappearance of these immigrant children as a break in communication between the HHS and HHS appointed sponsors, nor on the willful diligence of minorswhose native language is Spanishnot wanting to be found.

To be fair, the backlash the Trump administration is facing is somewhat misplaced since the disappearance of these immigrant children would have occurred during the Obama administration. And yet, the callousness and total disregard towards the plight of these immigrant families is reprehensible. These aren’t “animals” sneaking into the country, they are people seeking asylum from the violence in their own. So when you implement a policy that encourages children being ripped from their parents’ arms and placed into a failed, system that lacks accountability, you are not representing the American way. Nor are you being consistent with the ideals and moral obligations of a party that considers itself to be family first.

The World Policy

These bills are harming people who engage in consensual sex work

On Wednesday, 11 April, Trump signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act into law. Known as SESTA/FOSTA, the bills ostensibly aim to reduce sex trafficking. What it actually does is harm sex workers.

These two bills amend Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which asserts that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The law makes it illegal for websites to contain advertisements for sex work, which means that sex workers can’t use internet platforms to keep themselves safe.

The problem with this law is that it doesn’t distinguish between people who consent to engage in sex work and sex trafficking. Conflating sex work with sex trafficking implies that consent isn’t an important issue to consider. It also means that users will struggle to access sites, even though they’re not involved in sex trafficking at all.

Many sex workers use the internet to do their work safely. With sites like Backpage or Craigslist, they could find clients and vet them. Since they are particularly vulnerable to harassment and abuse, it’s incredibly important that they get to run background checks on potential clients. Additionally, forums allow sex workers to share advice and offer support to one another. Many online platforms also allow them to engage in digital sex work, such as cam work, selling videos and photographs, selling Snapchat subscriptions, and more. Since the internet can help them find clients, some can rely less on pimps to find work.

Long story short, the internet helps sex workers stay safe. But these bills change that. Since SESTA/FOSTA was passed, Backpage was seized and the founders of Backpage were charged with promoting prostitution. Craigslist shut down their personal ads to avoid any legal troubles.

SESTA/FOSTA doesn’t prevent sex trafficking. Instead, it harms those involved in consensual sex work.

Without these tools, sex workers are made even more vulnerable. Many sex workers have publicly spoken out about the bills, pointing out that it can literally lead to sex workers dying. This isn’t an exaggeration: without these platforms, they might not be able to run background checks on abusive clients. They might have to rely on potentially abusive pimps or clients to make up for lost clientele. Digital-only sex workers might consider doing contact sex work – that is, doing sex work in person – which can be more dangerous for them.

This doesn’t just affect sex workers in the US. Many of these US-based websites are used by people all around the globe, which means they are affected too. SESTA/FOSTA has also affected digital platforms where sex workers do cam work. Certain payment processors used by international sex workers have been shut down or limited because of SESTA/FOSTA.

SESTA/FOSTA is both an attack on sex workers and an attack on internet freedom as a whole. Backpage isn’t the only website that could face legal ramifications because of this bill. As an article in Vox points out, “The bill’s language penalizes any websites that “promote or facilitate prostitution,” and allows authorities to pursue websites for “knowingly assisting, facilitating, or supporting sex trafficking,” which is vague enough to threaten everything from certain cryptocurrencies to porn videos to sites for perfectly legal escort services.” In other words, even websites that aren’t created for the advertisement of sex work can be affected.

Over the past few years, we have challenged internet censorship with campaigns like #FreeTheNipple. We’ve spoken out against sexual abuse and sexual harassment with campaigns like #MeToo. If we’re behind the message that humans deserve freedom of speech and freedom from abuse, we also need to oppose these bills.

Sex work is work, and criminalizing sex work puts lives at risk. As it is, sex workers are an extremely vulnerable demographic, and bills like these make the world even less safe for them. As an attack on freedom of speech and the rights of sex workers, SESTA/FOSTA should be vehemently opposed by everyone who claims to support human rights.