ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties https://www.aclusandiego.org Tue, 25 Nov 2014 23:17:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ACLU Comment on Ferguson Grand Jury Decision https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-comment-ferguson-grand-jury-decision/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-comment-ferguson-grand-jury-decision/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 03:14:24 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11891  

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., has declined to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on charges in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. The following is reaction from Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri:

The grand jury’s decision does not negate the fact that Michael Brown’s tragic death is part of an alarming national trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable. While many officers carry out their jobs with respect for the communities they serve, we must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement.

The ACLU will continue to fight for racial justice. We must end the prevailing policing paradigm where police departments are more like occupying forces, imposing their will to control communities. This ‘us vs. them’ policing antagonizes communities by casting a blanket of suspicion over entire neighborhoods, often under the guise of preventing crime.

To build trust, we need a democratic system of policing where our communities have an equal say in the way their neighborhoods are policed. Collaboration, transparency, and communication between police and communities around the shared goals of equality, fairness, and public safety is the path forward.

Click here to check out your right to protest, and click here to learn more about your rights when interacting with law enforcement. Click here for a downloadable bilingual flyer stating the ACLU’s action steps to address this tragic and too common situation.

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Major Gifts Officer https://www.aclusandiego.org/major-gifts-officer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/major-gifts-officer/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:50:18 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11886  

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties seeks experienced applicants for a full-time Major Gifts Officer to play a key role in the new comprehensive campaign by developing and managing a portfolio of 125-150 donors/prospects, each with an estimated capacity to give $10,000 or more. The major gifts officer (MGO) is responsible for qualifying new prospects and building relationships between the people in his/her portfolio and the ACLU so as to maximize their financial support of our work. The MGO will participate in soliciting annual, campaign, and planned gifts from donors/prospects in the portfolio. The MGO will spend a significant amount of time in direct interaction with donors, both in and out of the office, helping donors fulfill their passions and interests through their giving to the ACLU.

The MGO reports to the director of development and works closely with other members of the team, the executive director, the deputy executive director, the development associate and development colleagues at the national ACLU, as well as with program staff and volunteers.

Responsibilities:

  • Create individual goals for each person in the portfolio based on the donor’s history of giving and the organization’s knowledge of that donor’s potential.
  • Create a comprehensive plan for each donor/prospect in the portfolio and execute that plan so that individual donors are retained and upgraded.
  • Secure visits with and directly solicit major annual and campaign gifts from donors/prospects in the portfolio, as well as planned gifts with support of our planned giving specialists. Partner with senior and program staff and/or volunteers on donor engagement opportunities.
  • Develop and execute plans for qualifying significant numbers of new prospects for assignment to the major gifts portfolio, based on both capacity and interest.
  • Work with the appropriate staff to secure project information and use this information to develop materials directed at individual donors/prospects, such as highly personalized proposals that are in line with donor interests and programmatic priorities, stewardship reports that detail progress made as a result of a particular gift, etc.

The ACLU is preparing to embark on a special fundraising campaign, tentatively set to run up through the organization’s 100 year anniversary in 2020. Nationwide, the ACLU currently raises more than $100 million annually, and is looking to significantly increase support throughout the duration of the campaign to expand the ACLU’s programs and strengthen its affiliate
network.

Assist with special cultivation and stewardship opportunities, such as small events for select donors/prospects in the portfolio, and participate in larger donor cultivation events.

  • Assist in the identification of potential leadership volunteers and other partners to engage in major gifts outreach.
  • Track portfolio activity and progress. Create reports as required by management that accurately reflect portfolio activity and performance.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Minimum of five years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, with progressive responsibility and a proven track record of securing visits with prospective donors, and soliciting, closing, and stewarding major gifts in the $10,000 plus range. The most competitive candidates also will have proven experience converting new donors/prospects into major donors. Experience soliciting special, multi-year campaign commitments and planned gifts also is preferred.
  • Excellent interpersonal, oral, and written communication and presentation skills. Demonstrated ability to simplify complex themes and activities into a short, compelling presentation or written piece. Familiarity with talking about utilizing litigation to promote social justice is helpful.
  • Strong organizational skills, ability to prioritize and manage multiple projects simultaneously and to meet deadlines. Ability to develop long-term plans, set objectives, and track progress towards achieving objectives. Familiarity with moves management preferred.
  • Personal initiative, curiosity about people, and a sense of humor.
  • Friendly, outgoing, and collaborative approach, and a strong team-oriented style.
  • Passionate about civil liberties and civil rights.
  • Proficiency with office technology and information systems (including Word, Excel, 
Outlook, PowerPoint) and donor databases.

Compensation: Salary depending on experience. Excellent benefits include four weeks paid vacation in addition to office holidays; medical, vision and dental insurance for staff members, their dependents and spouse/ domestic partner; life and long-term disability insurance; and 401(k) plan with employer match.

To Apply: Please mail a resume and cover letter describing: 1) your interest in this position, and 2) the ways in which you satisfy the qualifications specified above. Please also include a copy of one short piece that you wrote entirely, preferably for fundraising purposes. (If you submit a piece that you did not entirely write, please indicate the extent of input of others on it.)

Major Gifts Officer Position
ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131
jobs@aclusandiego.org

The ACLU is a nationwide, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights.

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and veterans.

]]> https://www.aclusandiego.org/major-gifts-officer/feed/ 0 ACLU of California Celebrates President’s Announcement of Expanded Relief from Deportation for 4 Million https://www.aclusandiego.org/adminrelief/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/adminrelief/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 02:51:31 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11883  

Tonight, the ACLU of California celebrates the President’s momentous move to keep millions of hard working families together by expanding administrative relief from deportation for four million undocumented immigrants, including an estimated 1.5-1.6 million in California.

For far too long, more than 2.5 million Californians have been forced to live in the shadows, trapped by our country’s broken and inhumane immigration system. “Today’s announcement is a significant step in the right direction and away from the criminalization of immigrant communities,” stated Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “But more importantly, today is a real victory for immigrant families who live, work and make significant contributions to our communities. Today we celebrate them.”

While we commend this significant advance towards affirming aspiring Americans their civil liberties, we recognize that this is just the beginning of a fight in addressing our broken immigration system.

“Though the President has taken an important first step to provide certain undocumented immigrants protection from deportation, that protection is fleeting and tenuous,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “It will depend on President Obama’s successor and the continued exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Real and lasting immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, can come only from Congress.”

The ACLU of California will continue to advocate for fuller recognition of all immigrants’ rights, including for those who do not benefit from today’s announcement. We applaud the president’s actions to address this decades-long problem, and call on both houses of Congress to stop putting up roadblocks and find a permanent solution that offers a pathway to citizenship for hard-working immigrants.

The ACLU of California will remain vigilant about any deployment by the administration of additional resources to the border to strengthen enforcement. Our border communities are among the safest in the nation. Border security benchmarks have long ago been met and exceeded.

“We will continue to push back against the over-militarization of our border communities, recognizing that border spending should be tied to the nation’s real national security needs and to facilitating bilateral and multilateral trade and tourism,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The ACLU of California will continue to seek greater transparency and accountability of our immigration enforcement agencies to ensure that border communities can thrive without the threat of heavy-handed enforcement that tramples everyone’s basic civil rights and liberties.

The ACLU of California also will continue to work to ensure that immigrants receive protections guaranteed under the Constitution, including the right to be treated fairly in court and to be free from discrimination based on race or national origin. The ACLU of California comprises the three California ACLU affiliates—the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

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Your Right to Protest https://www.aclusandiego.org/protestrights/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/protestrights/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:51:24 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11878  

The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy. But it is also unfortunately true that governments and police can violate this right—through the use of mass arrests, illegal use of force, criminalization of protest, and other means intended to thwart free public expression.

Standing up for your right to protest can be challenging, especially when demonstrations are met with violence. But knowing your rights is the most powerful tool you have against police abuse. 

These are suggestions, not complete legal advice. Be sure to consult a lawyer. 

FREE SPEECH RIGHTS

Q: Can my free speech rights be restricted because of what I want to say — even if it’s controversial?

A: No. The First Amendment prohibits restrictions based on the content of the speech. However, this does not mean that the Constitution completely protects all types of free speech activity in every circumstance. Police and government officials are allowed to place certain non discriminatory and narrowly drawn “time, place, and manner” restrictions on the exercise of First Amendment rights. 

Q: Where can I engage in free speech activity?

A: Generally, all types of expression are constitutionally protected in traditional “public forums” such as streets, sidewalks, parks, and plazas.  Additionally, some free speech activity may be allowed in certain other government-owned locations or facilities, for example public universities or colleges. You should check with the administrative or security offices of such locations or facilities to find out what is allowed, where, and when.

In California, certain forms of expression may be allowed in certain types of shopping malls. You should check with mall administration or security to find out what is allowed, where, and when. Otherwise, the general rule is that the owners of private property can set rules for speech on that property. If you disobey the property owner’s rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply). But your speech may not be restricted if it is taking place on your own property or with the consent of the property owner. 

Q: Do I need a permit before I engage in free speech activity?

A: Not usually; however, certain types of events require permits. Generally, these events are: 1) a march or a parade that does not stay on the sidewalk and other events that require street closures; 2) a very large rally; 3) activity which obstructs vehicle or pedestrian traffic. For example, the City of San Diego requires a permit for certain “[e]vents or organized activities for 75 or more people that involve street closures or include event components requiring the coordination of a number of city departments or other agencies such as the use of alcohol, on-site cooking, food sales, or large-scale temporary structures.

Many permit procedures require that applications be filed with the police department well in advance of the event.  However, a permit may be obtained on short notice, or may not be required at all, if the event is organized in response to unforeseeable and recent occurrences. 

Q: Can a speaker be silenced for provoking a crowd?

A: Generally, no. Even the most inflammatory speaker cannot be punished for merely arousing the audience.  A speaker can be arrested and convicted for incitement through speech only if s/he specifically intends to incite imminent illegal action and the speech is in fact likely to incite imminent illegal action. 

Q: Do counter-demonstrators have free speech rights?

A: Although counter-demonstrators should not be allowed to physically disrupt the event they are protesting, they do have the right to be present and to voice their displeasure. Police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within the general vicinity of one another. 

Q: Is heckling protected by the First Amendment?

A: Although the law is not settled, heckling should be protected unless you are attempting to physically disrupt an event or are drowning out the other speakers. 

Q: If organizers have not obtained a permit, where can a march take place?

A: If groups of individuals stay on the sidewalk and obey traffic and pedestrian signals, their activity is protected. They may be required to allow enough space on the sidewalk for normal pedestrian traffic and may not obstruct or detain passers-by. 

Q: Can police restrict the size or type of signs or how they are carried or displayed?

A: Yes, but only to the extent necessary to protect safety without excessively impairing the right to display signs. For example, as San Diego does, a city may prohibit the use of metal stakes, clubs, and pipes at rallies, parades, or demonstrations, and it may require that any wooden stakes used for signs must be 1/4 inch or less in thickness and 2 inches or less in width. But a city may not entirely prohibit the carrying of signs attached to any wooden or plastic handles. 

Q: What other types of free speech activity are constitutionally protected?

A: The First Amendment covers all forms of communication including music, theater, film, and dance. The Constitution also protects actions that symbolically express a viewpoint. Examples of these symbolic forms of speech include wearing costumes or holding a candlelight vigil. 

Q: May I distribute leaflets and other literature on public sidewalks?

A: Yes. Pedestrians on sidewalks may be approached with leaflets, newspapers, petitions, and solicitation for donations. These types of free speech are legal as long as entrances to buildings are not blocked and passers-by are not physically detained. No permits are required. 

YOUR RIGHTS DURING INTERACTIONS WITH THE POLICE

You cannot legally be arrested for refusing to identify yourself to a police officer if the officer does not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe you committed a crime or infraction.

You do not have to answer a police officer’s questions, except to identify yourself if you have been stopped on reasonable suspicion or probable cause you have committed a crime or infraction, or except in certain circumstances if you are on probation or parole.

Police may pat down your clothing for weapons only if they reasonably suspect you are armed and presently dangerous. A patdown is not automatically justified just because you are stopped. Don’t physically resist, but clearly state that you do not consent to be searched.

It is a crime to interfere with police action. 

Click here for more on your rights when interacting with police.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED OR TAKEN INTO CUSTODY

What you say can be used against you. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you talk to police about your case. Do not give any explanations, excuses, or stories. You do not have to give a statement or sign any statement you might give.

Your person and belongings can be searched, except that police must get a warrant to search your cell phone.

The police are entitled to basic biographical information — i.e., your name and address — and may take your fingerprints and photograph.

Ask to see a lawyer immediately. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Ask the police how a lawyer can be contacted.

Within a reasonable time after your arrest or booking, you have the right to make a phone call to a lawyer, bail bonds person, a relative, or any other person. The police may not listen to the call to your lawyer. Conversations with people other than your lawyer are not confidential.

You will be interviewed by a court agency so that bail can be assessed. You do not have to answer their questions, but giving accurate information will speed the process.

Sometimes you can be released without bail or have bail lowered. Ask the judge about it.

If you are arrested without a warrant, the police must release you within 48 hours after arrest unless a judge decides there is probable cause to hold you beyond that time. The judge may make that decision by looking at documents without holding a hearing. In California, you must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of your arrest, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Click here for more on your rights when interacting with police.

Click here to read our Activist’s Guide to Free Speech, Protests, & Demonstrations in California.

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Arizona Residents Sue Border Patrol Over Right to Protest Checkpoint Operations https://www.aclusandiego.org/arivaca-checkpoint-right-to-protest/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/arivaca-checkpoint-right-to-protest/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:28:02 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11857 TUCSON, Ariz.—Two southern Arizona residents filed a federal lawsuit today challenging U.S. Border Patrol’s obstruction of their efforts to monitor an interior checkpoint near the town of Arivaca.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson, plaintiffs Peter Ragan and Leesa Jacobson assert that Border Patrol agents have infringed and restricted their First Amendment rights by harassing, intimidating, retaliating against and threatening them with arrest for engaging in constitutionally protected speech. Mr. Ragan and Ms. Jacobson are members of People Helping People, a community group that has been attempting to observe, photograph and video record the actions of Border Patrol agents at the checkpoint on Arivaca Road in Amado, Ariz. Over the past year, in response to recurring reports of abuse by agents, the group has monitored the checkpoint from an adjacent public right-of-way.

The Arivaca Road checkpoint has been in operation for about seven years—despite being officially designated as a temporary operation—and is one of four interior Border Patrol checkpoints within 30 miles of Arivaca. Many Arivaca residents must pass through the checkpoints daily to go to work, school, or to run basic errands.

“Arivaca residents have to drive through this checkpoint every day, and every time they have to answer to an armed federal agent,” Jacobson said. “That’s not how this country is supposed to work, but as long as the checkpoint is here I want to do everything I can to document abuses and protest the ongoing militarization of our communities and the border region.”

In response to the checkpoint monitoring campaign, Border Patrol agents have erected barriers that restrict how close the People Helping People observers can be to the checkpoint, parked vehicles in the monitors’ line of sight, and threatened the monitors with arrest.

“They’ve cordoned us off far away from the checkpoint, parked their trucks to block our view and even threatened to arrest us,” Ragan said. “All of this is on top of the harassment and abuse community members were already experiencing at this checkpoint, which necessitated this campaign in the first place. Instead of responding to our concerns, by imposing these restrictions Border Patrol is doubling down on abuse and retaliating against community members who are just trying to hold them accountable.”

Many Arivaca residents have reported civil liberties violations at the Arivaca Road checkpoint, including prolonged interrogation and detention, invasive searches, false alerts by drug-sniffing dogs, racial profiling, verbal harassment and physical assault. Border Patrol refused to share information about the checkpoint or respond to residents’ complaints of abuse, compelling Ragan, Jacobson and other volunteers to document agents’ interactions with motorists.

People Helping People recently released initial findings from its monitoring efforts. Data collected from over 100 hours of monitoring and 2,700 checkpoint stops showed that agents at the Arivaca Road checkpoint systematically discriminate against Latino motorists.

“There couldn’t be a clearer demonstration of Border Patrol’s lack of transparency than literally preventing members of this community from observing the actions of agents in their own town,” ACLU of Arizona attorney James Lyall said. “Border Patrol has paid lip service to transparency and accountability, but our clients’ experience shows the agency’s promised reforms have yet to become a reality for border residents. Fortunately, people like Peter and Leesa are fighting to ensure the nation’s largest federal law enforcement agency is held accountable.”

Ragan and Jacobson are seeking a judicial order preventing Border Patrol from interfering with their monitoring campaign.

“There is a clear First Amendment right for residents to monitor and protest local law enforcement operations such as the Arivaca checkpoint, as confirmed by courts in the Ninth Circuit and across the country,” said Winslow Taub of Covington & Burling LLP. “That right is particularly important here, where the law enforcement activity being monitored raises other serious constitutional privacy and discrimination questions.”

In addition to the ACLU of Arizona’s Lyall and Covington & Burling LLP’s Taub, attorneys for Ragan and Jacobson include Dan Pochoda, Victoria Lopez and Joel Edman of the ACLU of Arizona; David Loy and Mitra Ebadolahi of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties; and Tracy Ebanks, Christina Dashe and Ethan Forrest of Covington & Burling LLP.

Click here for a copy of the complaint filed today. Visit our Know Your Rights resources page to learn more about what to do and not do at U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.

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Border Patrol Checkpoint Resources https://www.aclusandiego.org/border-patrol-checkpoint-resources/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/border-patrol-checkpoint-resources/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:40:25 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11850 By definition, Border Patrol checkpoints involve the “seizure” of innocent motorists without any suspicion of wrongdoing.  It is fundamentally impossible to reconcile these dragnet stops with the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Additionally, Border Patrol agents regularly ignore the limitations on their authority at checkpoints, resulting in a range of civil rights violations including unlawful searches, prolonged detention, racial profiling, and excessive use of force. Given the persistent lack of agency oversight, many of these abuses are never reported or addressed.

The ACLU is investigating and documenting checkpoint abuses, and fighting to hold Border Patrol accountable.  We hope the following information will assist others to do the same.

On January 15, 2014, the ACLU sent a complaint to DHS oversight agencies regarding widespread abuses at Border Patrol interior checkpoints in Arizona.

On April 28, 2014, the ACLU filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain records related to Border Patrol interior checkpoints in Arizona.

Visit the ACLU National site for additional resources and information on your rights in the U.S.-Mexico border zone.

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Is Your Community Making Smart Decisions about Surveillance? https://www.aclusandiego.org/community-making-smart-decisions-surveillance/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/community-making-smart-decisions-surveillance/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 19:36:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11846 “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

The saying has been around for decades, but it has never been truer in an era where technology so often seems to promise something for nothing. Dig deeper, and you’ll usually find there’s a hidden cost — and it could be one you’re not so happy to pay.

That’s why the ACLU of California has just released Making Smart Decisions about Surveillance: A Guide for Communities. It provides step-by-step assistance to help your community ask and answer the right questions about surveillance. It includes case studies from California and elsewhere highlighting smart approaches and missteps to avoid, as well as a model Surveillance & Community Safety Ordinance to ensure that public input, transparency and accountability are part of every discussion about surveillance technology.

Unfortunately, too often that’s not the case. As our interactive map on the state of surveillance in California illustrates, while many communities have adopted some form of surveillance technology, there is little evidence that community members had or have the opportunity to debate its adoption or the resources to evaluate its impact. Even courts are sometimes left out of the loop, blocking their essential oversight function.

Because each community and each surveillance proposal may present a different set of issues, there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to whether surveillance is the right choice. The key to making a smart decision is to thoroughly assess every proposal with the benefit of input from the entire community. We’re delighted that San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian have announced plans to introduce ordinances in their communities to ensure that happens every time. We hope our guide and resources will also help your community make smart decisions about surveillance going forward.

Chris Conley is the Technology & Civil Liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.

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ACLU Launches Statewide Campaign to Curb Secret Surveillance in California https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-launches-statewide-campaign-curb-secret-surveillance-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-launches-statewide-campaign-curb-secret-surveillance-california/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 16:41:14 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11839  

SAN FRANCISCO – Counties and cities across California have spent more than $60 million on invasive surveillance technology, with the vast majority being used by law enforcement agencies without any sort of public debate, consideration of costs and benefits, or adequate policies to safeguard against misuse, according to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

In response, the ACLU today launched a statewide campaign aimed at ensuring that communities have the resources they need to make smart choices when considering whether surveillance technologies, including drones, automated license plate readers, facial recognition and stingrays, should be used in their communities.

To kick off its campaign, the ACLU today released a first-of-its kind report that walks communities through the questions that need to be asked and answered when any surveillance technology is being considered. The centerpiece of the report is a model Surveillance & Community Safety Ordinance for communities to adopt that will provide necessary community participation, transparency, accountability and oversight. San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who chaired the state Assembly’s Select Committee on Privacy during his tenure as a state legislator, plan to introduce the ordinance in the coming weeks.

“Local law enforcement has been taking advantage of millions of federal surveillance dollars streaming into California to sidestep the normal oversight process of city councils and boards of supervisors and keep the public in the dark about important community decisions,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for the ACLU of California. “After revelations of mass surveillance by the NSA, the public isn’t buying the ‘just trust us’ approach anymore. The public expects to know why surveillance is being considered, how it is going to be used and what safeguards are in place to guard against misuse before any decisions are made.”

The ACLU’s research helped reveal this past August that the San Jose Police Department had secretly obtained a drone with federal funding, with no public debate and no policy safeguards in place. After   protests from community members, the police department apologized and has grounded the drone and initiated a public outreach process.

“Law enforcement agencies shouldn’t be deciding whether to use surveillance technologies in secret,” said Peter Bibring, police practices director for the ACLU of California. “Effective policing requires officers to be transparent and solicit feedback from their communities about the potential use of surveillance technology before making any decisions.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus have also both joined with the ACLU to endorse the need for ordinances like the one the ACLU is proposing. Unchecked surveillance often has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and religious minorities.

“Communities are increasingly concerned about making sure that time, energy and resources are not spent on expensive, ineffective and overly intrusive surveillance systems that create more problems than they solve,” Avalos said. “That’s why public transparency and engagement are key to any decision about whether to use surveillance technology. If surveillance technology is to be used, clear rules must be in place to ensure transparency, oversight and accountability.”

According to the ACLU’s research, only five of the 90 communities studied held a public debate each time they rolled out a new surveillance technology. And less than five percent of the communities the ACLU studied have a publicly-available use policy for every surveillance technology that they use.

Last year, the city of Oakland quietly tried to expand its “Domain Awareness Center” (DAC) beyond the Port of Oakland and into a citywide surveillance network without any meaningful engagement with the community. Public backlash ensued and the city abandoned its plan. The city council appointed a DAC Committee to develop safeguards for the existing program and recommendations to avoid problems in the future. The DAC Committee voted last week to recommend that the city council enact an ordinance similar to the one being proposed by the ACLU.

“Public safety and privacy protection are not mutually exclusive,” said Simitian. “We can protect and respect – protect the public and respect their privacy. The key is an open and public debate about the tradeoffs involved. The steady erosion of our personal privacy has too often occurred without the public’s knowledge or consent.”

 

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Drive California Coalition Welcomes Emergency DMV Regulations https://www.aclusandiego.org/ab60-emer-dmv-regs/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/ab60-emer-dmv-regs/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 20:28:25 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11830 SACRAMENTO – Today, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles issued emergency regulations that will determine how driver’s licenses are granted to undocumented immigrants under California’s AB 60 (Alejo). The DMV’s emergency regulations are effective for 180 days.

Responding to community suggestions raised at hearings in Oakland and Los Angeles, the new regulations expand the types of documents which immigrants may provide to confirm their residency and identity when applying for a driver’s license.

For example, survivors of domestic violence will now be able to provide letters, on letterhead, from domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, a nonprofit entity, a faith-based organization, an employer or a government within the U.S. attesting that the applicant lives in California as proof of residency.

Applicants will also be able to submit documents relating to a child to satisfy identity requirements under the secondary review process.

And although this isn’t the case yet for all applicants, applicants of Mexican nationality will be able to submit their consular identification card or their passport as their sole proof of identity rather than having to submit both documents to do so – which could have incurred costs of over $128 per person. The Drive California coalition will continue to work with the DMV to encourage that applicants of other nationalities are afforded this opportunity.

With the license’s design finalized and the regulations on the verge of completion, immigrant community members are eagerly preparing for the implementation of the new law on January 1, 2014.

“We welcome these emergency regulations so that after twenty long years, immigrants throughout the state can begin to prepare their documents to apply for driver licenses,” said Homayra Yusufi-Marin, with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The community’s hard work has also won strong protections from the state against abuse. Now, we need the Obama administration to follow California’s lead and respect the rights and privacy of all applicants. That means making sure that information in the DMV database is safe and secure.

AB 60, the Safe and Responsible Driver Act, will benefit all Californians by ensuring the all drivers are tested, licensed and insured. It is expected that 1.4 million undocumented Californians will become eligible to apply for driver’s licenses under this new law.

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The Drive California coalition includes, the ACLU of CA, American Friends Service Committee San Diego, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, African Advocacy Network / Dolores Street Community Services, Bay Area Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), C.A.U.S.E. (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), Council on American-Islamic Relations-CA, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Canal Alliance, CARECEN (Los Angeles), Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica (COFEM), Dolores Street Community Services, Dream Team Los Angeles, Educators for Fair Consideration, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Immigration Action Group (IAG), ILRC, Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition, Justice for Immigrants Coalition, KIWA (Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance), Korean Resource Center (KRC), Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Nuestra Casa East Palo Alto, Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), Mujeres Unidas y Activas, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), Presente.org, PICO California, Placer People of Faith Together, Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, Promotores of Humboldt, Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Sacred Heart Community Service, San Francisco Day Labor Program & Women’s Collective, Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), Thai Community Development Center, TODEC Legal Center, Voces Unidas Solano, Youth United for Community Action.

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This November: Voters said “Yes!” on Prop. 47! https://www.aclusandiego.org/yeson47/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/yeson47/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 00:40:33 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11648  

******* UPDATE *******

UPDATE: Voters statewide – as well as a majority of voters in San Diego and Imperial Counties – overwhelmingly endorsed Prop 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. Thanks to voters who passed Prop 47, California becomes the first state in the nation to end felony sentencing for drug possession (for personal use) and for petty theft. This historic initiative will focus law enforcement resources on serious and violent offenses and invest a billion dollars in the first five years alone into K-12 schools, drug treatment and mental health care, and crime victims services.

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September 23, 2014

Proposition 47 – the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014 – is a voter initiative for the November 2014 California ballot that will change sentencing for low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors and direct financial savings to K-12 schools, mental health and drug treatment, and crime victim services.

The ACLU strongly supports Prop 47 because it provides Californians a historic opportunity to bring about needed and long-overdue criminal justice reform, while investing in education, prevention, and rehabilitation that will make our communities stronger and healthier.

Help us achieve this historic reform! Contact us to get involved! 

If Prop 47 passes, California will lead the nation in ending felony sentencing for the lowest level, non-violent crimes, permanently reduce incarceration and shift $1 billion in the next five years alone from the state corrections department to K-12 school programs, mental health and drug treatment, and victim services. This reform maintains the current law for anyone with prior convictions for rape, murder or child molestation.

At the same time, Prop 47 will reduce the barriers that many people with low-level, non-violent felony convictions face to becoming stable and productive citizens, such as employment, housing and access to assistance programs and professional trades.

Prop 47 is supported by law enforcement leaders, crime victims, teachers, rehabilitation experts, business leaders, faith-based leaders and civil rights organizations.

This reform will focus our law enforcement resources on violent and serious crime, and use the savings in prison spending to prevent crime.

Vote YES on Prop 47 on Nov. 4!

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 20. You can register to vote online here

For more information on Prop 47, visit www.safetyandschools.com.

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ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties Recommendations for November 4th! https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-san-diego-imperial-counties-recommendations-november-4th/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-san-diego-imperial-counties-recommendations-november-4th/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 00:23:47 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11787  

******* UPDATE *******

UPDATE: Voters statewide – as well as a majority of voters in San Diego and Imperial Counties – overwhelmingly agreed with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties’ recommendations on both Prop 46 and Prop 47, resoundingly rejecting Prop 46 and endorsing Prop 47. Thanks to voters who passed Prop 47, California becomes the first state in the nation to end felony sentencing for drug possession (for personal use) and for petty theft. This historic initiative will focus law enforcement resources on serious and violent offenses and invest a billion dollars in the first five years alone into K-12 schools, drug treatment and mental health care, and crime victims services.

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October 28, 2014

YES on Prop 47

On November 4th, Californians have an historic opportunity to put schools before prisons! Vote YES on Prop 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.

Here’s why this reform matters. By changing the lowest-level, nonviolent crimes, such as simple drug possession and petty theft, from felonies to misdemeanors, Prop 47 will save $1 billion in just the first five years and direct those funds to K-12 schools, victims services, and mental health treatment.

This reform will focus our law enforcement resources on violent and serious crime, and invest prison savings into critical services proven to prevent crime. A vote for Prop 47 is a vote for more schools and fewer prisons.

No on Prop 46

Proposition 46 is a violation of privacy and breaks the single-subject rule for ballot measures. The initiative improperly asks voters to consider three different subjects under the guise of one initiative. Part of the initiative would requite physicians to submit to random, suspicionless drug testing. This kind of drug testing is unnecessarily intrusive and fails to deter drug use. Vote No on Prop 46.

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You Have Rights! https://www.aclusandiego.org/youhaverights/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/youhaverights/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:31:56 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11794 The American Civil Liberties Union works every day—in the courts, legislatures, and in the streets—to preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to everyone in this country. The U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the California Constitution spell out our hopes for the kind of society that we want to be, and protect our rights, including:

  • Right to equal protection, that is, the right to be treated equally, regardless of race, national origin, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
  • Right to due process, that is, the right to be treated fairly by the government whenever the loss of liberty (being arrested, detained, or questioned) or property (being searched) is at stake.
  • Right to privacy, that is, the right to be free from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private business.
  • Right to free speech, association, and assembly, that is, the right to speak your mind, to meet up with whomever you choose, and to call on your government officials, publicly if you like, to make changes if you have any concerns.

Below are our most important Know Your Rights materials.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE STOPPED BY THE POLICE OR OTHER LAW OFFICERS (resources in English)

QUE HACER SI TE PARA LA POLICÍA (recursos en español)

LGBT RIGHTS

YOUR FIRST AMENDMENT-PROTECTED RIGHTS

YOUR VOTING RIGHTS

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Ebola and Civil Liberties https://www.aclusandiego.org/ebola-civil-liberties/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/ebola-civil-liberties/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:14:59 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11783 The following statement can be attributed to Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

The government’s response to Ebola needs to be driven by sound medical science, not fear. It is absolutely crucial that we treat those exposed to this disease with compassion and dignity, and the minimum amount of coercion that public health officials recommend—especially when it comes to brave doctors and nurses who have put their own lives at risk to help contain the epidemic.

This is not only a matter of respecting civil liberties—it is a vital part of any effective response to the disease.

Public health experts say that measures like mandatory quarantine of people exhibiting no symptoms of Ebola will deter genuinely sick people who fear quarantine from seeking treatment, while also discouraging caregivers and first responders from helping sick patients who need their assistance.

The ACLU recognizes that when a threat to public health becomes serious enough, it may be necessary to infringe on people’s rights, but those infringements should be based on medical necessity, not politics.”

Design by bf5man from openclipart.org

Design by bf5man from openclipart.org

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ACLU Statement on Escondido City Council Vote to Reject Youth Facility https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-escondido-city-council-vote-reject-youth-facility/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-escondido-city-council-vote-reject-youth-facility/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:33:34 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11754  

The following statement can be attributed to the San Diego ACLU’s executive director, Norma Chavez-Peterson:

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is extremely disappointed—though not surprised—by last night’s decision by the Escondido City Council.

By refusing to accept the opening of a legal, humane, and safe housing center for immigrant youth, the City Council majority added another link to the chain of civil and human rights violations holding Escondido back from growing into the great city it could become.

Scores of Escondido residents carried signs and spoke in favor of the center, addressing the counterfeit land use arguments point by point, as did our detailed presentation to the City Council. The Planning Commission’s and now the City Council’s rejection of the facility because of alleged “noise, parking, traffic, and security concerns” is disingenuous, unsubstantiated, and, we believe, illegal.  Many of the speakers who opposed the facility cited unfounded fears, not facts substantiated by the evidence.  Rejecting the ACLU’s call to listen to facts and act with compassion, the Council majority buckled to xenophobic fears and turned its back on this country’s core values of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.

The proposed housing is for children fleeing violence, where they can be safe and secure while they wait to have their day in court.  It is a temporary home while our government follows the laws and guarantees due process. It provides a humanitarian refuge until the children can be reunited with their families or given other appropriate care while an immigration judge has a chance to hear their case. The children report a deep-seated fear of returning to their home countries because of sharp rises in the numbers of murders, rape, violence against women, kidnappings, extortion, gang recruitment, and other conditions fueled by political instability and the growing dominance of local and transnational gangs.

These children deserve to be treated humanely in a safe environment.

And not insignificantly, the proposed facility will help Escondido. Similar facilities have benefited the local economies in Lemon Grove and El Cajon. This one would add more than 100 jobs and millions of dollars in new money into the economy. How many communities would so casually turn down something that has a humanitarian upside and such a strong economic benefit?

The ACLU will not be letting Escondido off the hook and will consider every option on the table, including litigation if necessary.

 

 

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Join the ACLU: Fighting for Equal Protection For All https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-protecting-american-values-and-fundamental-freedoms-for-all-largest-defender-of-civil-rights-in-the-world/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-protecting-american-values-and-fundamental-freedoms-for-all-largest-defender-of-civil-rights-in-the-world/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:16:13 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/site/?p=6015 JenaOlson_ACLUSD_Americana_Nov2011-005.jpg (JPEG Image, 3594 × 2We invite you to join the fight to protect fundamental American values of freedom, fairness, and equality for all by becoming a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU. For more than nine decades, the ACLU has led the fight for equal protection under the law for all people.  The San Diego ACLU has been the region’s civil rights advocate since 1933.

The ACLU works daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the rights and freedoms our founders guaranteed in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the laws of the United States.

Join today!      ¡Únete a nosotros hoy!

WHO IS THE ACLU?

We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that reaches out to and represents anyone whose fundamental freedoms have been violated. We are the largest organization defending civil rights and civil liberties in the world.

The ACLU protects American values and preserves American freedoms. Our job is to conserve America’s civic values – as expressed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – and defend these rights even when its unpopular to do so.

Protecting the freedoms of those with whom the majority disagrees or despises is the only way to keep those precious rights alive for future generations. Sticking up for the little guy is fundamental to preserving the integrity of our democracy.

HOW LARGE?

The ACLU’s work is sustained by more than 500,000 members and supporters who play an active role in defending freedom.

-  Nearly 200 ACLU staff attorneys and thousands of volunteer attorneys handle
thousands of civil liberties cases every year.
–  Our legislative advocates are a constant presence on Capitol Hill and in state
legislatures working on civil liberties issues.
–  The ACLU has staffed offices in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

OUR WORK

We have been at the forefront of protecting freedom and fairness since our founding in 1920.

Teaching evolution
–   Censorship of James Joyce’s Ulysses
–  Japanese Internment

and more recently,

restoring the balance of powers, which swung too far to the Executive Branch in past
years and trying to uncover the whole truth and seek accountability for torture,
Guantanamo, rendition, and domestic spying
–  opposing Arizona’s racial profiling law
–  protecting our most vulnerable
–  helping students find their voice and stand up for what they believe in
–  helping all students gain access to quality education

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “FOR ALL”?

What does it mean to protect and defend fundamental freedoms for all? Here are just a few areas where the ACLU works hard to preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to everyone in this country:

- Religious Freedom For All. Religious freedom is the right to practice the religion of one’s choice or no religion at all. The First Amendment protects religious freedom by
keeping religion free from government interference or coercion.
ACLU’s representation of the religious beliefs of Christians and non-Christians.
– The American Flag.
 Our defense of free speech has included all kinds of speech,
including the right of people to display the American flag. This may come to the
surprise of some commentators, as blogger Conor Friedersdorf points out.
–  Defending Conservatives.
 Although our work to expand fair and equal treatment
of the law to all—including women, African Americans, Latinos, lesbian, gay, and
transgender people, and others—has led to the perception that the ACLU is liberal, we
have stood up in countless cases for the rights of political conservatives, including such
prominent figures as Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, and Senator Larry Craig.
Click here to read a sampling.
–  LGBT Rights.
 Tom Homann, San Diego’s LGBT champion and corollary to Harvey
Milk, declared, “Locally, there is virtually no other organization that has consistently
litigated the whole range of gay and lesbian issues and supported our cause whenever
we needed help, other than the ACLU…In San Diego, the ACLU has been the only
story in town as far as legal action to protect our rights.”
Read about our 70 years and counting defending the rights of LGBT Americans.
-  Immigrants’ Rights. As during other times in our nation’s history, the United
States is in a major debate over immigrants and their place in our economic and
political life. While the Bill of Rights doesn’t grant foreigners the right to enter the
United States, once they are here, they’re entitled to certain broad constitutional
protections. Read more about our work with immigrant communities.

WHY YOU SHOULD JOIN

It boils down to this: Joining the ACLU is the single best way to take pride in protecting fundamental American values of freedom, fairness, and equality for all.

Other reasons include:

-  For the sixth consecutive year, the ACLU has received a 4-star rating from
Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities.
–  The ACLU also meets the highest standards of The Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.
–  Your support goes to helping our advocacy on the most urgent issues and cases.
–  Your membership entitles to you the famous ACLU membership card so you can be a proud card-carrier.
–  Your membership also entitles you to newsletters from the local and national ACLU,
as well as invitations to special events.

Join today!      ¡Únete a nosotros hoy!

Thank you for supporting the protection of freedom, fairness, and equality for all.

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Who Will Run California’s Elections? https://www.aclusandiego.org/will-run-californias-elections/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/will-run-californias-elections/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 04:21:10 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11712 The right to vote is being challenged in various ways across our nation. And, despite the power the office holds, very few folks understand the role the Secretary of State plays in our elections.  California ranks 45th in percentage of eligible voters who are registered to vote and more than 6 million eligible Californians are not even registered to vote.

That’s why the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project, California Common Cause, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, and Rock the Vote, sponsored the last candidate forum.

The new Secretary of State will face serious challenges in running our state’s elections. ​In one of the most contested statewide office races in recent memory, Democrat Alex Padilla and Republican Pete Peterson, are vying to be our state’s chief elections official.

Hosted by the Center for Latino Policy Research, the candidates faced off in a live debate at University of California, Berkeley, on October 9th, 2014.  The forum was made possible through the generosity of the Color of Democracy.

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Another Banner Year in Legislation for the ACLU of California! https://www.aclusandiego.org/another-banner-year-legislation-aclu-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/another-banner-year-legislation-aclu-california/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 18:17:15 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11690 SACRAMENTO – This was another banner year in Sacramento for the ACLU of California, our coalition partners, and our members! The governor signed 14 of the 19 proposed laws we played a major part in getting to his desk. Although he vetoed legislation that would have protected and advanced civil liberties in our state, the governor also signed into law several critical priority bills of the ACLU of California.

The governor signed historic education, immigration, and racial justice legislation this year that the ACLU of California sponsored with powerful coalitions.

  • AB 420 (Dickinson) will eliminate the most extreme uses of harsh discipline under the category of “willful defiance.”
  • SB 1159 (Lara) will ensure eligible applicants receive professional licenses regardless of their immigration status.
  • SB 1010 (Mitchell) will end the discrepancies between sentencing, probation, and asset forfeiture for two forms of the same drug– powder cocaine and crack cocaine – that have resulted in a pattern of racial disparities in sentencing and incarceration in California.

Governor Brown’s signature on SB 1159 and AB 420 represents a huge step forward for immigrants and for students in California. And his signature on SB 1010 reflects growing political support in California to do what’s right and finally end racially unjust drug war policies.

The enactment of these and other laws places our state at the front of the pack. We are leading meaningful advancements in civil liberties, just as other states turn in the opposition direction. Other key pieces of legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by the ACLU of California include:

  • SB 1111 (Lara) will require basic due-process protections for students transferring to and from alternative schools known as community day schools.
  • SB 1135 (Jackson) will put an end to the involuntary sterilization of women in California prisons, after a report found unlawful sterilizations were still occurring in California.
  • AB 1522 (Gonzalez) made California only the second state in the nation to pass a mandatory paid sick leave law. We would have been more excited about this victory had the bill not been slashed in the last few days of session to exclude in-home support services workers. Paid sick leave is essential to ensure equal access to healthcare and we will continue to work with our partners to assure that all Californians are entitled to it.

As California led in 2014, we also fell far behind in some areas. The Governor vetoed AB 1327 (Gorell), which would have required police to get a warrant before using a drone to spy on someone. Another painful veto was  SB 1365 (Padilla), which would have extend the California Voting Rights Act of 2011 to single-member district systems in order to guarantee that all Californians can exercise their fundamental right to vote.

All told, the ACLU of California took a position on 142 distinct bills this year. Fourteen of our priority bills were signed and numerous other bills made significant progress in the legislature before ultimately failing. With the help of our coalition partners and our members, we look to next year and the possibility to create more headlines which name California as the national leader advancing our civil liberties.

For a listing of all the legislation we followed this year, click here.

 

 

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ACLU of California Commends Gov. Brown for Unaccompanied Migrant Children Bill https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-california-commends-gov-brown-unaccompanied-migrant-children-bill/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-california-commends-gov-brown-unaccompanied-migrant-children-bill/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:00:24 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11678 SACRAMENTO — On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 873, a bill which will set aside $3 million to provide legal aid to refugee children fleeing endemic violence in their home countries. In response, the ACLU of California issued the following statement:

“While the ACLU of California applauds California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown for taking important steps to ensure that some children aren’t forced to go unrepresented in immigration court, ultimately state efforts can only go so far: a comprehensive solution must come from the federal government.

The Obama administration must step forward and do what is right: provide legal representation to all children facing deportation. Leaving children defenseless in immigration court falls short of due process and betrays our core values as a nation.”

The majority of children in immigration court do not have legal representation and are navigating our country’s complex immigration system alone. Many of them are entitled to protection under our law and would be granted relief if given a fair hearing with representation.

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“For far too many years, we have had to watch harsh penalties applied disproportionately to Black and Brown urban communities,” said Susan Burton of A New Way of Life, who spent many years in prison herself for this offense. “This law is a beginning to fairer sentencing policies in California.”

“California is finally moving to the right side of history on this issue,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior policy advocate with the ACLU of California. “By signing the California Fair Sentencing Act today, Gov. Brown has chosen a more equitable criminal justice system over failed, racially unjust drug war policies.”

Crack and powder cocaine are two forms of the same drug. Scientific reports, including a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, demonstrate that they have nearly identical effects on the human body. Crack cocaine is a product derived when cocaine powder is processed with an alkali, typically common baking soda. Gram for gram, there is less active drug in crack cocaine than in powder cocaine.

People of color account for over 98 percent of persons sent to California prisons for possession of crack cocaine for sale.  From 2005 to 2010, Blacks accounted for 77.4 percent of state prison commitments for crack possession for sale, Latinos accounted for 18.1 percent. Whites accounted for less than 2 percent of all those sent to California prisons in that five year period. Blacks make up 6.6 percent of the population in California; Latinos 38.2 percent, and Whites 39.4 percent.

California is one of 13 states that have maintained sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Virginia.

SB 1010 is cosponsored by a dozen civil rights and criminal justice reform organizations across the state: the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of California, A New Way of Life, California State Conference of the NAACP, Californians for Safety and Justice, California Public Defenders Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Courage Campaign, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Friends Committee on Legislation-California, National Council for La Raza, and the William C. Velasquez Institute. The California Fair Sentencing Act garnered over 100 letters of support from across the state and the nation. Significantly, SB 1010 received support from four sitting district attorneys, Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey, Santa Clara DA Jeff Rosen, San Francisco DA George Gascón and Santa Barbara DA Joyce Dudley.

Coalition member quotes:

“The passage of SB 1010 moves California in the right direction by decreasing sentencing inequalities that have plagued communities of color for decades,” said Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “We are thrilled at this outcome and will continue our efforts to end mass incarceration by shifting resources away from punishment into real solutions.”

“We applaud Governor Brown for supporting and signing SB1010, a historic reform that will help end the ridiculous, racist sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, which unfairly punishes people of color more harshly than white people for using the same drug, and saving millions of taxpayer dollars in the process,” said Dr. Paul Song, executive chairman of the California-based Courage Campaign. “California’s prisons are broken, unconstitutionally overcrowded, and disproportionately filled by people of color serving sentences for nonviolent drug possession. Solutions like SB1010 are an important step towards a smarter, more humane, and cost-effective justice system in California. We call on Gov. Brown to continue this forward thinking and announce his support for Proposition 47, which would further help California reform its often-misguided sentencing laws.”

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Sign of the Times: Free Speech is Still a Thing https://www.aclusandiego.org/sign-times-free-speech-still-thing/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/sign-times-free-speech-still-thing/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 23:57:19 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11651  

SAN DIEGO – Citing viewpoint discrimination as “an egregious form of content discrimination,” the San Diego ACLU called on the Encinitas City Council to stop enforcing and amend an unconstitutional ordinance that restricts the right to post political signs on private property. By exempting religious symbols and governmental flags but not political signs, the ordinance discriminates based on the content or viewpoint of the message expressed—a core First Amendment violation. The ordinance also violates residents’ right to engage in political speech—which is afforded the highest degree of First Amendment protection—by excessively curtailing how many campaign signs can be posted and for how long.

“When the government regulates what viewpoints people can express and when, we’re getting deep into Orwellian territory, no matter how benign the intent,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The city has no right to favor some kinds of speech but not others. The First Amendment means nothing if it does not protect an open exchange of ideas, whether on our front lawns or in our public squares.”

By favoring “government flags” over all other flags and signs, the city is unconstitutionally differentiating between speech based on its content. And by allowing an unlimited number of religious symbols of any size, but restricting the number and size of nonreligious signs, the ordinance favors religious over nonreligious speech, regardless of the purpose for doing so. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause compels the government to seek neutrality towards religion—neither favoring one religion over another nor those who have a religious viewpoint over nonadherents. The ACLU calls on the city to revise its sign ordinance to make sure that its regulations neither favor nor inhibit religious speech.

Another constitutional concern is the ordinance’s time-based and numerical restrictions on political signs, restricting displays to only the thirty days before an election  and three days afterward, and for the remainder of the year allowing only two temporary signs, political or otherwise. The Supreme Court has endorsed residential signs as “a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important,” and courts have consistently found these kinds of restrictions to be unconstitutional.

“We look forward to the day when city officials will be championing the public’s role in creating a diverse marketplace of ideas,” said Loy. “This is well-established law, and we are long past the point where a city should be wasting time and money to restrict free speech.” In the ACLU’s demand letter to the city council, Loy respectfully requested an immediate end to enforcement of the ordinance and commencement of the process to amend it as necessary to comply with the First Amendment. “As in every case, I hope to resolve this matter without litigation, but I am prepared to litigate whenever necessary to defend the First Amendment,” Loy said in the letter.

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ACLU statement: San Diego Unified to Return MRAP https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-san-diego-unified-return-mrap/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-san-diego-unified-return-mrap/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:58:31 +0000 http://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11631  

SAN DIEGO – The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties congratulates San Diego Unified School District for announcing it will return the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (or MRAP) it had obtained earlier this year from the Department of Defense through Program 1033. MRAPs belong on the battlefield, not a place of learning.

Policing across the United States has become excessively militarized, mainly through federal programs that create incentives for state and local police to use unnecessarily aggressive weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield. San Diego County police agencies have taken receipt of a significant amount of military equipment from the Department of Defense in just the last several years.

In addition to the MRAP obtained by San Diego Unified Schools Police, the Sheriff’s Department took possession of 9 M-14 rifles, and the San Diego Police Department received 75 M-16 assault rifles. These transfers of military equipment to local police agencies have happened with almost no public oversight.

Excessive militarization damages communities, escalates the risk of violence, and erodes public trust in law enforcement. The risks of militarizing school police are even greater. We need to end the use of paramilitary tactics and equipment to conduct domestic policing and commit to demilitarizing our schools.

For more on the militarization of policing in the U.S., see the ACLU report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing

For your entertainment, hear the Colbert Report’s take on the tank.

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California Voting Rights Resources https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-rights-resources/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-rights-resources/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:58:21 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10690 letmevote_logo2

 

ELECTION 2014 MATERIALS! 

VOTING WITH A CRIMINAL CONVICTION 

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Voter Registration Opportunities at Covered California https://www.aclusandiego.org/upcoming-webinar-voter-registration-opportunities-covered-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/upcoming-webinar-voter-registration-opportunities-covered-california/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 05:43:33 +0000 http://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11642

After the threat of litigation the ACLU, Demos, and Project Vote reached an historic settlement agreement with the Secretary of State and Covered California that requires Covered California to provide voter registration to every health benefits applicant. California is the first state in the nation to maximize this historic opportunity to register historically disenfranchised individuals across the state.

Millions of Californians will be applying for, or renewing their health benefits with Covered California this fall. Each consumer will be offered the chance to register to vote whether they apply in-person with an enrollment counselor or insurance agent, or by phone, internet, or mail. The ACLU of California and the Western Center on Law hosted a webinar learn more about the second open enrollment period at Covered California and this historic opportunity to register Californians to vote.

Watch the webinar below or download the presentation slides here.

Additional Resources:

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ACLU Celebrates Constitution Day throughout San Diego County https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-celebrates-constitution-day-throughout-san-diego-county/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-celebrates-constitution-day-throughout-san-diego-county/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:53:17 +0000 http://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11626 San Diego – September 17, Constitution Day 2014 is a national holiday celebrated by all school children across the country, with a particularly organized and vibrant program here in San Diego. Today, 470 U.S. history and American government classes in the county will celebrate our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights with presentations by scores of volunteer attorneys and civic leaders coordinated by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

In its eighth year, the ACLU’s Constitutional Civics Program this year will reach 17,000 students in 48 schools. Scores of volunteer attorneys and business leaders will present the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights in a coordinated program to highlight the brilliance, complexity and wisdom of our foundational documents.

Speakers this year include an eclectic mix of perspectives and experiences:

  • Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz, Escondido City Council
  • City Attorney Morgan Foley, City of El Cajon, City of Poway
  • President Todd Gloria, San Diego City Council
  • Lieutenant Neal Griffin, Escondido Police Department
  • Representative Scott Peters, Member of Congress, 52nd District
  • Councilmember Amanda Rigby, Vista City Council
  • Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, Encinitas City Council
  • Current and retired federal magistrate judges for the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of  California
  • Prosecutors from offices of the U.S. Attorney, the California Attorney General, and the San Diego District Attorney
  • Defense attorneys from offices of the Public Defender and Federal Defenders and the California Innocence Project
  • Judge Advocates General from the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy
  • Law professors
  • Attorneys from the city’s top law firms, including our Constitution Day sponsoring firms: Cooley LLP and the McKenna Long & Aldridge Foundation
  • Attorneys and business leaders from Callaway Golf, Qualcomm, Sony, and State Farm

“With constitutional issues being raised in our nation and community on almost a daily basis, Constitution Day presents a unique opportunity to engage students in a discussion of this great and remarkable historic document and inspire their respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” said the Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit in an invitation to schools to join the program.

On Constitution Day, September 17 (and the days surrounding), lawyers and civic leaders across the county volunteer their time to give multimedia, interactive, nonpartisan presentations to middle and high school students.

The San Diego ACLU developed its program in response to a 2004 congressional mandate that all schools receiving federal funds provide educational programming on the Constitution on September 17, the date the document was signed in 1787.

The ACLU hopes the program will staunch the trend revealed by numerous surveys that young people have a dismally low level of knowledge about the U.S. government and our fundamental rights and freedoms.  Studies also show, however, that, when teachers and parents emphasize the importance of civic participation and discuss current events, twice as many students profess interest in politics.

A distinguished panel of judges, law firm partners and community leaders advises and supports the ACLU’s Constitution Day activities.  The Honorable H. Lee Sarokin (Ret.), U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd District, chairs the Constitution Day Council, and the Honorable James Stiven (Ret.), U.S. District Court, Southern District of California serves as program chair.  Law firm sponsors for Constitution Day 2014 are Cooley LLP and the McKenna Long & Aldridge Foundation.

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Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez presents at King-Chavez Community High School in 2013.

 

 

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Support for California’s Death Penalty Is in Rapid Decline https://www.aclusandiego.org/support-californias-death-penalty-rapid-decline/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/support-californias-death-penalty-rapid-decline/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:49:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11616  

By Gil Garcetti 

Support for the death penalty in California is at the lowest point in half a century. And not only that – a new Field poll shows that this level of support is falling rapidly.

In 2011, support for the death penalty was at 68%. Yet in just 3 years it has tumbled by 13% to a just a small majority. What’s even more striking is that support has fallen as much in the last 3 years as it has in the last 30. And when you consider that people generally favor alternatives to executions—such as life in prison without the possibility of parole, where inmates have to work and pay restitution to victims’ families—even those who might support the death penalty in principle are turning away from it in practice.

The tide is turning and today’s news offers more proof that Californians are quickly moving in the right direction on this issue. In fact, I am one of those very Californians.

As the former District Attorney of Los Angeles County, a county that sends more people to death row than the entire state of Texas, I know that the death penalty is deeply emotional, highly divisive, and very political. However, both sides of the death penalty debate can agree on one thing: California’s death penalty system is broken beyond repair.

In my 32 years with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, including eight years as the county’s elected District Attorney, I prosecuted the most egregious murder cases to the fullest. I sent many people to death row, believing that I had served the people of Los Angeles—that I had sought justice.

Fast forward to present day—nearly 15 years later—I view the death penalty in a different light. I know that the death penalty is a costly charade that doesn’t make us any safer or deter crime. What’s more, it will always carry with it one fatal risk: executing an innocent person.

The writing is on the wall: the death penalty is quickly losing support among Californians and it is high time we replace it. We can’t go on with a system that is riddled with insurmountable practical and legal problems and fails to deliver on the promise of swift justice.

The only workable solution is to replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. That’s justice that works for everyone.

Gil Garcetti

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An Important First Step in Fixing School Discipline in California https://www.aclusandiego.org/important-first-step-fixing-school-discipline-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/important-first-step-fixing-school-discipline-california/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:30:56 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11604

This video contains all-too common stories in California: young students, even kindergartners, kicked out of school for minor incidents, conduct labeled “willful defiance.”

Hearing these students tell their stories is jarring, particularly when students who are suspended are twice as likely to drop out of school and given the well-known racial disparities in suspension rates.  When we start kicking kids out of school this young, we set them up for failure and build inequality into our system.

One of the ACLU of California’s priority bills – AB 420, authored by Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento – represents an important first step in rationalizing school discipline policies in California and building safe, supportive school climates.

AB 420 passed the legislature with overwhelming support earlier this month and is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.  The bill will prohibit expulsions (between 500 and 600 each year) and suspensions in grades K-3 (around 10,000 each year) for the vague infraction of “willful defiance,” which can include something as minor as missing a homework assignment.

The bill requires reauthorization in three years, which will allow us and our coalition partners to push for additional grades based on the experience under the current provisions.  We will use that window of time to ensure effective implementation and to continue educating Gov. Brown, the legislature, teachers, district leaders, and other stakeholders about the harmful impacts of harsh, exclusionary disciplinary policies at all grades and the availability of effective alternatives.

We are hopeful that Gov. Brown will sign the bill into law.  But this is only a first step.  Much more work is necessary to curb rampant use of this subjective offense, which disproportionately affects students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities across grades.  We look forward to returning to the legislature when the bill is up for renewal to push for broader reform.

David Sapp is a Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. 

AB420

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ACLU Achieves Class Action Lawsuit Settlement That Ends Deceitful Immigration Practices https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-achieves-class-action-lawsuit-settlement-ends-deceitful-immigration-practices/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-achieves-class-action-lawsuit-settlement-ends-deceitful-immigration-practices/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:58:43 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11581  

* * * * *

IMPORTANT UPDATE –  August 28, 2014

On August 28, 2014, the federal court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of the class-wide portion of the settlement.  There will now be a 120 day notice period, during which time a third-party will perform undertake a number of measures to inform potential class members of the settlement agreement.  A hearing on final approval of the settlement is set for February 9, 2015 at 8:30 a.m.

* * * * *

August 27, 2014

SAN DIEGO — The American Civil Liberties Union and Cooley LLP today announced an historic settlement in a class action lawsuit, Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson, that alleged deceptive and coercive practices by immigration enforcement officers. Significant reforms to the process known as “voluntary departure” are in effect immediately, including major revisions to the information immigration officers must disclose to people choosing between voluntary departure and a hearing before an immigration judge. The settlement also includes class provisions that, if approved by the court, would allow certain Mexican nationals who have been expelled from Southern California pursuant to flawed voluntary departure procedures over the last several years to seek to reunite with their families here.

Leer este artículo en español.

The settlement relates to a lawsuit filed in June 2013 in which nine Mexican nationals and three organizations that work with immigrants challenged deceptive tactics used by Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to convince the plaintiffs to sign their own expulsion orders. All of the plaintiffs would have had strong claims to remain in the United States had they gone before an immigration judge instead of being pressured to choose voluntary departure.

“This is a substantial reform of how Border Patrol and ICE do business,” said Sean Riordan, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “If the agencies implement the agreement fully, never again should families be driven apart based on immigration enforcement practices that rely upon misinformation, deception, and coercion.” 

The complaint in Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson alleged that as a matter of regular practice, Border Patrol agents and ICE officers pressure undocumented immigrants to sign what amounts to their own summary expulsion documents. The procedure is formally known as “administrative voluntary departure,” but is often referred to as “voluntary return,” and has been used to summarily expel hundreds of thousands of non-citizens from Southern California in recent years. Because of the coercive and deceptive tactics immigration officers employ, it regularly results in the involuntary waiver of core due process rights. An individual who signs for voluntary departure forfeits his or her right to a hearing before an immigration judge and is usually expelled to Mexico within a matter of hours. The class action portion of the lawsuit (and settlement) addresses the limited number of persons who were given voluntary departure but would have had strong claims to stay in the United States if they had gone before an immigration judge.

“The United States derives its core strength from embracing the notions of fairness and due process under our Constitution,” said Darcie Tilly, an associate in Cooley LLP’s San Diego office who worked on the project with the ACLU. “We are heartened that this lawsuit should lead to the cessation of these forced ‘voluntary departures,’ the improvement of our critical border patrol policies and practices, and if approved by the court, a procedure for the reunification of aggrieved individuals with their families.”

If ultimately approved by the court, the settlement will provide potentially hundreds or thousands of people who meet the class requirement the opportunity to reunite with family members that they were torn apart from by voluntary departure.

The settlement will also impose key changes to how immigration enforcement agencies handle AVD procedures, including:

  • Requiring immigration enforcement agencies to give detailed information—in writing and orally—about what it really means to take AVD to anyone forced to choose between AVD and a hearing before an immigration judge.
  • Requiring immigration enforcement agencies to maintain a 1-800 hotline that gives information about an individual’s rights regarding AVD and the consequences of taking AVD.
  • Prohibiting immigration enforcement agencies from “pre-checking” the box selecting AVD on the forms the agencies provide to immigrants.
  • Requiring immigration enforcement agencies to allow people to use a phone, provide them with a list of legal service providers, and allow them two hours to reach someone before deciding whether or not to take AVD.
  • Requiring immigration enforcement agencies to give lawyers meaningful access to their clients who are detained by BP or ICE.
  • Preventing immigration enforcement agencies from relying on pressure or other coercion to convince someone to accept voluntary departure.
  • Requiring immigration enforcement agencies to allow ACLU attorneys to monitor compliance and ensure transparency and accountability for three years.

The class action lawsuit was filed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, and Cooley LLP on behalf of the aforementioned plaintiffs, none of whom has a serious or violent criminal background and many of whom were approached by immigration officers while doing routine daily activities, such as waiting for a bus. All of these individuals have close family members in the United States and could have obtained relief against removal from an immigration judge or under Department of Homeland Security programs, but immigration officers affirmatively misstated the consequences of voluntary departure and pressured them to sign their own expulsion documents.

The lawsuit is also filed on behalf of three organizational plaintiffs: the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, and the San Bernardino Community Service Center, which have been forced to divert their scarce resources in response to these unlawful practices.

The class action portions of the settlement must now go through an approval process before the court. The plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary approval of the class claims on August 18, 2014. A preliminary approval hearing is set in federal court in Los Angeles on September 8, 2014. If the court grants preliminary approval, there will likely be a final approval hearing in early 2015.

If the court grants final approval of the settlement, class members who meet the settlement’s criteria—Mexican nationals who signed administrative voluntary departure forms between June 1, 2009 and August 18, 2014 in the San Diego Border Patrol sector and the San Diego and Los Angeles ICE field office areas, and would have qualified for certain forms of relief from removal—will be able to apply to be a class member and seek to return to their families.

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ACLU Sues U.S. Government over Life-Threatening Deportation Processes https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-sues-u-s-government-life-threatening-deportation-processes/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-sues-u-s-government-life-threatening-deportation-processes/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:36:16 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11574

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center today sued the federal government to challenge its policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety.

The groups filed the case on behalf of mothers and children locked up at an isolated detention center in Artesia, New Mexico — hours from the nearest major metropolitan area. The complaint charges the Obama administration with enacting a new strong-arm policy to ensure rapid deportations by holding these mothers and their children to a nearly insurmountable and erroneous standard to prove their asylum claims, and by placing countless hurdles in front of them.

“These mothers and their children have sought refuge in the United States after fleeing for their lives from threats of death and violence in their home countries,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “U.S. law guarantees them a fair opportunity to seek asylum. Yet, the government’s policy violates that basic law and core American values — we do not send people who are seeking asylum back into harm’s way. We should not sacrifice fairness for speed in life-or-death situations.”

According to the complaint, the Obama administration is violating long-established constitutional and statutory law by enacting policies that have:

  • Categorically prejudged asylum cases with a “detain-and-deport” policy, regardless of individual circumstances.
  • Drastically restricted communication with the outside world for the women and children held at the remote detention center, including communication with attorneys. If women got to make phone calls at all, they were cut off after three minutes when consulting with their attorneys. This makes it impossible to prepare for a hearing or get legal help.
  • Given virtually no notice to detainees of critically important interviews used to determine the outcome of asylum requests. Mothers have no time to prepare, are rushed through their interviews, are cut off by officials throughout the process, and are forced to answer traumatic questions, including detailing instances of rape, while their children are listening.
  • Led to the intimidation and coercion of the women and children by immigration officers, including being screamed at for wanting to see a lawyer.

“Fast-tracking the deportations of women and children from immigration detention is an assault on due process. There is no way that justice can be served when so many people are being rushed through the system without any real opportunity to assert claims for relief. What we are seeing in Artesia is nothing less than a sham process that values expediency over justice,” said Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council.

The plaintiffs include:

  • A Honduran mother who fled repeated death threats in her home country to seek asylum in the United States with her two young children. The children’s father was killed by a violent gang that then sent the mother and her children continuous death threats.When she went to the police they told her that they could not do anything to help her. It is common knowledge where she lived that the police are afraid of the gang and will do nothing to stop it.
  • A mother who fled El Salvador with her two children because of threats by the gang that controls the area where they lived. The gang stalked her 12-year-old child every time he left the house and threatened kidnapping. She fears that if the family returns to El Salvador, the gang will kill her son. Some police officers are known to be corrupt and influenced by gangs. The mother says she knows of people who have been killed by gang members after reporting them to police.
  • A mother who fled El Salvador with her 10-month old son after rival gangs threatened to kill her and her baby. One gang tried to force the mother to become an informant on the activities of another gang, and when she refused, told her she had 48 hours to leave or be killed.

“The women and children detained in Artesia have endured brutal murders of loved ones, rapes, death threats, and similar atrocities that no mother or child ever should have to endure, and our government is herding them through the asylum process like cattle,” said Trina Realmuto, an attorney at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “The deportation-mill in Artesia lacks even the most basic protections, like notice and the opportunity to be heard, that form the cornerstone of due process in this country.”

The lawsuit, M.S.P.C. v. Johnson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Co-counsel in this case includes the law firms of Jenner & Block, and Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP; and the ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and ACLU of the Nation’s Capital.

“Any mother will do whatever it takes to make sure her children are safe from harm’s way,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Our plaintiffs are no different: they have fled their homes to protect their children, only to find that the U.S. deportation system is intent upon placing them back in the dangerous situations they left. We are filing this lawsuit today to ensure that each mother is able to have her fair day in court, and that we are not sending children and their mothers back to violence or their deaths.

More information about this case is available at: https://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/mspc-v-johnson

Artesia coalition image 8-22

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Escondido City Council to Consider Housing for Immigrant Children https://www.aclusandiego.org/escokids/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/escokids/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:12:22 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11569  

This summer, the Escondido Planning Commission denied a Conditional Use Permit to provide housing for unaccompanied immigrant children. The ACLU is concerned that the City is undermining the rights of immigrants and violating the law.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties appealed the Commission’s decision to the Escondido City Council, which will consider the appeal on Sept. 10, 2014. Learn more about the Escondido Planning Commission’s flawed decision here.

The Escondido City Council needs to hear from city residents and others who frequently visit. We believe the Council needs to understand three main points:

  1. The Planning Commission’s decision is not supported by the facts.
  2. The proposed facility will be a benefit to the local economy, and Escondido residents support it.
  3. On top of these practical, factual concerns, the people of Escondido are compassionate and believe that children fleeing to escape violence should have a safe haven while waiting to have a judge determine what’s best for them.

It will help the Escondido City Council members to hear directly from you. A more detailed examination of the arguments can be found here. But you can use these land use arguments as a starting point:

  • The impact of the housing would be virtually identical to the nursing home that operated on the site for 30+ years. Staffing and occupant numbers would be similar.
  • Issues of parking, traffic, and noise are bogus. They were based on fear, not fact. The immigrant youth housing would have no negative impact on the community.
  • The facility would add 100+ jobs and $8.5 million to the local economy.
  • An abandoned, neglected building isn’t good for Escondido.

You can send emails to each of the councilmembers at:

or send a letter to:

[Name of Councilmember]
Escondido City Council
201 North Broadway
Escondido, CA 92025

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ACLU Celebrates the Constitution and Bill of Rights! Constitution Day 2014 https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclus-constitution-day-2013/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclus-constitution-day-2013/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 08:20:28 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10104  

September 17th is Constitution Day! On September 17, 1787, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention held their final meeting. Only one item of business occupied the agenda that day: to sign the Constitution of the United States of America.

Ten years ago, Congress established September 17th as a federal holiday to recognize the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties celebrates the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights every day, but is especially pleased to place focus on these essential foundational documents of our democracy on Constitution Day.

For Teachers and Educators

The ACLU, in conjunction with attorneys from public and private sectors, invites educators to participate in our “Celebrate the Constitution” program on Tuesday, September 17th.

Scores of San Diego and Imperial attorneys will be volunteering on that day (and throughout the week) to engage students in a rich, interactive, multimedia dialogue on constitutional principles and interpretation, and on American law, from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The session can run in any block of time to meet your school’s schedule -anywhere from 20 minutes to a full block period. The volunteer attorneys can make several presentations at your school on that day or speak to assemblies if that better meets your school’s needs. Also, attorneys can present to classes on other days in the vicinity of Sept. 17, to accommodate block schedules or competing programs.

The attorneys bring nonpartisan brochures on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and on contemporary court interpretations of our rights and laws, with special emphasis on cases that engage and appeal to middle and high school students. A PowerPoint presentation and a student-created DVD are also available. Teachers are provided with a detailed document addressing the history and social science content standards that are met with this presentation.

Demand increases every year. This will be our 8th year coordinating speakers! Last year, attorneys from the offices of the U.S. Attorney, District Attorney, Public Defender, Federal Defender,and private law firms, including 2014 sponsors Cooley LLP, DLA Piper, Fish & Richardson, McKenna Long & Aldridge Foundation and Sheppard Mullin, and attorneys from the city’s largest firms, including Jones Day, Morrison & Foerster, Procopio Cory,  and Solomon Ward presented in more than 450 classrooms to more than 16,000 students!

Schedule a speaker for your classroom or school 
while they are still available! 
Send us an email with your contact info
!

We offer this program to help you provide mandatory instruction on the Constitution on September 17th. Congress mandated that all publicly-funded educational institutions must provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day. The United States Department of Education declared that any school that receives federal funding of any kind must conduct lessons on the Constitution on that day.

To guarantee that we will be able to match an attorney to your school’s schedule, please request a speaker by Friday, August 22nd. We typically, however, have been able to accommodate requests submitted before the last Friday in August.

To learn more or to schedule a speaker for your classroom or school while they are still available,send us an email with your contact info!

For Attorneys

If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer your services, please contact us today! Just provide us with your name, mailing address, daytime phone and email so we can be in touch with you. Also, if you have any date or geographic constraints that would help us in the scheduling, please let us know that too.

We’ll be offering two optional speaker training sessions to review Con Law and interesting cases that will help engage the students in the interactive dialogue we are all seeking. We have lots of background material on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and landmark Supreme Court cases, but all attorneys are welcome to develop their own curriculum–as long as it will get the kids talking and thinking! [A Saturday date and a weekday evening date are to be determined…they will be posted here soon!]

For Parents

If you are a parent and would like to know more about the program or would like us to contact a school or teacher, please email us or call 619.232.2121, ext. 260.

Constitution Day Council

A distinguished panel comprising judges, law firm partners and community leaders advises and supports the ACLU’s Constitution Day activities. If your firm would like to participate on this level,please email us or call 619.232.2121, ext. 260.

Constitution Day Council:
The Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, Retired, U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd District, Constitution Day Council Chair
The Honorable James Stiven, Retired, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, Program Chair

Founding Members
Mark Danis, Morrison & Foerster LLP
Eric Isaacson, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP
Anthony Stiegler, Cooley LLP
and
Past Presidents of the San Diego County Bar Association:
– Candace Carroll, Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel
– Todd Stevens, Keeney, Waite & Stevens

and 2014 Lead Sponsors
CooleyLLP logo_RGB

 

 

MLAFoundationlogo

 

 

 

 

 

List of Participating Legal Organizations 

American Bar Association Immigration Justice Project
Andersen Mann Hilbert & Parker
Appellate Defenders, Inc.
Office of the Attorney General – California
California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
Cooley LLP
Consumer Law Group
Crowley Law Group
Office of the San Diego District Attorney
DLA Piper
Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.
Fish & Richardson
Fisher & Phillips
Morgan Foley, City Attorney, City of El Cajon
Higgs, Fletcher & Mack
Jones Day
Joseph Mediations
Kohn Law Office
Latham & Watkins
Laughlin Falbo Levi & Moresi
Law Office of Adam Van Susteren
Law Office of Alex Landon
Law Offices of Eric Morton
Law Offices of Gerald Blank
Law Office of Isaac Blumberg
Law Office of Jennifer L. Coon
Law Office of Jonathan L. Willis
Law Offices of Lance Rogers
Law Office of Lilia S. Velasquez
Law Office of Rebecca P. Jones
Law Office of Stephen D. Lemish
Law Office of Steven Schorr
Law Office of Suzie Mindlin
Legal Aid Society of San Diego
Lincoln Gustafson & Cercos
MacLeod & Catalano
Majors & Fox
McDougal Love Eckis Boehmer Foley & Lough
McKenna Long & Aldridge
Mitchell Gilleon Law Firm
Morrison & Foerster
Multiple Conflicts Office of San Diego County
Neil Dymott
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd
Office of the San Diego City Attorney
San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association
Office of the San Diego Public Defender
Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith
State Bar of California
Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel
Suppa, Trucchi & Henein
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Turner Law Group
Office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of California
Van Dyke & Associates

and

Calaway Golf Company
Caltrans
Qualcomm
San Diego State University
U.S. Marine Corps, Judge Advocates General’s Corps
U.S. Navy, Judge Advocate General Corps

Constitution Day Resources for Attorneys, Teachers, Students and Parents

http://www.constitutiondaysd.com/

 

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Judge affirms CA’s duty to ensure vital instruction for thousands of English Learner students https://www.aclusandiego.org/judge-affirms-cas-duty-ensure-vital-instruction-thousands-english-learner-students/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/judge-affirms-cas-duty-ensure-vital-instruction-thousands-english-learner-students/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:09:43 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11558

Parents, students and a former administrator brought the lawsuit, D.J. et al v. State of California et al, more than 18 months ago against the State of California, the State Board of Education, Superintendent Tom Torlakson and the California Department of Education for failing to ensure that students with a native language other than English receive specialized EL instructional services. Such instruction enables English learners to overcome language barriers so they can access core classes like math and science, and greatly increases the likelihood of testing at grade level by middle and high school. Those students who receive no services are among the lowest performing and are more likely to drop out of school.

“State educational officials had created a virtual caste system in which tens of thousands of children—nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens—were denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal). “Today marks an important civil rights leap forward for all students and all residents of the state.”

The civil rights groups’ legal challenge was bolstered by a brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in mid-July stating that the state does not have discretion to ignore information provided by school districts that shows that they do not serve their EL students. The state has “the duty, the data, and the tools” to meet its responsibility under federal law, the brief noted, adding that “California’s (EL) students cannot afford to wait any longer.” The state, belying all the data, had argued in court filings that reports of the denial of English learner instruction are not reliable.

“Education is a basic civil right in California,” said Robert D. Crockett, a partner at Latham & Watkins. “Because of today’s ruling, each young student in California who has yet to master English as a spoken language will have an equal opportunity to understand the entire school curriculum.  This is a victory for parents and students.”

More than 1.4 million children—a quarter of all California’s public school students—are designated as English learners. They are more likely to be children of color and/or economically disadvantaged. More than 20,000 English learner students receive no English instruction of any kind. Targeted English learner instruction is essential to ensuring that students who are not proficient in English can succeed in mainstream classroom settings.

“More than 100,000 students of Asian origin are English learners, and Asian languages account for 80 percent of the top five home languages used by ELs,” said Nicole Ochi, staff attorney of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Today’s ruling means that these students—and all English learners—must be given the necessary tools to succeed in the classroom. They will be better prepared and equipped to contribute to California as part of its skilled, educated workforce and economy.”

“California was a national leader in K-12 education, but we’ve fallen behind because we’re not preparing students for their futures. This case is about making sure the state delivers the fundamental building blocks of education, and there’s nothing more basic than language,” said Gabriella Barbosa, an equal justice works fellow at Public Counsel. “Failing to educate English learners means too many of our state’s residents will continue to lose ground when they should be participating fully in our economy and our civic life.”

In early 2013, the ACLU of California released a report detailing the widespread failure of more than 250 school districts across the state to provide adequate English instruction to English learner students, with more than 20,000 students identified as receiving no English language instructional services at all. In spite of that report and subsequent attempts urging State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to address the deficit, the state still has not taken the necessary steps to ensure that districts deliver the services.

More information about D.J. v. State of California can be found here.

students raise hands-crop

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ACLU Appeals Escondido Planning Commission’s Shelter Denial https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-appeals-escondido-planning-commissions-shelter-denial/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-appeals-escondido-planning-commissions-shelter-denial/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 22:09:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11548  

*********UPDATE********

October 13, 2014: The San Diego ACLU submitted a packet of materials, including an 11-page memo, outlining its appeal to the Escondido City Council of the city’s Planning Commission decision denying a conditional use permit to operate immigrant youth housing. The City Council will consider the appeal at its October 15, 2014 meeting.

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ESCONDIDO – In a detailed analysis refuting the Escondido Planning Commission’s purported reasons for denying permission to operate a youth care facility, the San Diego ACLU today formally appealed the commission’s decision to the Escondido City Council.

The ACLU submitted a point-by-point dissection of the commission’s rationale for its 7-0 rejection of Southwest Key’s proposal to operate a 96-bed former skilled nursing facility as a housing center for unaccompanied immigrant children who are waiting to have their legal cases heard before an immigration judge.

[Lea este artículo en español, aquí.]

“The Escondido Planning Commission got it wrong on every count; none of its findings are substantiated by the facts,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We are appealing its ill-informed decision because when you do consider the specifics, the impact of the proposed facility would be virtually indistinguishable from that of the nursing home which operated on the same site for more than thirty years.”

The ACLU examined numerous arguments made against approving the youth care facility and addressed each one; the key points are included here:

  • Residential character: The proposed facility would have the same number of residents and provide services similar to the previous use. In fact, the neighborhood would be improved by preventing the vacant building from becoming an eyesore due to decay or vandalism.
  • Traffic: The youth shelter would generate less traffic than the previous use, and the Escondido city staff’s report raised no concerns about traffic.
  • Parking: The commission’s general concerns did not address how 53 parking spaces would prove inadequate, or why any concerns could not be addressed through appropriate and reasonable conditions.
  • Security: Since the police department’s statement on the youth facility said there were “[n]o apparent law enforcement concerns at this time,” and requested—and Southwest Key agreed to—only that a 6-foot fence be constructed, there is no plausible basis for the commission’s statement that “the fencing for the site appears inadequate for the anticipated security needs of the proposed facility,” especially given the undisputed fact that only 0.004 percent of approximately 9000 children served by Southwest Key made unauthorized departures in the previous year.
  • Noise: The Escondido city staff’s report raised no concerns about increased noise, and acknowledged that most of the activities would occur indoors; outdoor recreation would take place at nearby parks and schools.
  • Size: The commission inexplicably determined that the proposed facility had “too many people” in “too small a space” but gave no reason to believe that the staff or resident population would be greater than the previous use.  The proposed facility would have no more residents than the nursing home had.

The San Diego ACLU filed the appeal this afternoon on behalf of Southwest Key Programs. The Escondido City Council typically schedules a hearing for such an appeal within 30 days of receiving the request.

The ACLU has been monitoring Escondido closely since 2006, when the city passed a ban on rentals to undocumented immigrants that ACLU and others immediately challenged in court, resulting in the issuance of a temporary restraining order finding that the ban was unconstitutional, followed by a stipulated permanent injunction against enforcement of the ban.

“Because the city has a long history of trampling on the civil and human rights of immigrants in the U.S., and because this proposed shelter would serve unaccompanied immigrant children seeking refuge from increasing violence in their homelands, the ACLU seeks to ensure that the City of Escondido does not continue its history of discrimination by using unlawful pretexts to deny a permit,” said Loy.

Photo of a press conference

San Diego ACLU’s legal director, David Loy, speaking to the press the morning before Escondido’s Planning Commission unanimously rejected the shelter for immigrant children. Photo (c) Rebecca Rauber

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ACLU Apela el Rechazo de un Albergue por el Comité de Planeación y Uso de Suelo de Escondido https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-apelacion-pornegacion-refugio-por-parte-de-la-comision-de-planificacion-de-la-ciudad-de-escondido/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-apelacion-pornegacion-refugio-por-parte-de-la-comision-de-planificacion-de-la-ciudad-de-escondido/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 03:57:44 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11552 ESCONDIDO – En un análisis detallado que refuta las razones usadas para negar el permiso para operar un albergue para niños migrantes en Escondido, el San Diego ACLU apelo hoy formalmente la decisión del Comité de Planeación y Uso de Suelo.

La ACLU presentó una disección punto por punto de las razones usadas por el comité en su 7-0 rechazo de la propuesta de Southwest Key para operar lo que era anteriormente un centro de enfermería especializada de 96-camas como un centro de alojamiento para los menores inmigrantes no acompañados que están esperando a que sus casos legales sean considerados ante un juez de inmigración.

“El Comité de Planeación y Uso de Suelo de Escondido se equivocó en cada cuenta; ninguna de sus conclusiones se basan en los hechos “, dijo David Loy, director legal del ACLU de los Condados de San Diego y Imperial. “Estamos apelando la decisión mal informada porque cuando tomamos en cuenta los aspectos específicos, el impacto de la instalación propuesta sería prácticamente indistinguible de la residencia de ancianos que operaba en el mismo lugar durante más de treinta años.”

La ACLU examinó numerosos argumentos en contra de la aprobación del refugio de los niños migrantes y refuto a cada uno de ellos; los puntos claves se incluyen aquí:

  • Carácter residencial: La instalación propuesta tendría el mismo número de residentes y proporcionaría servicios similares a la utilización anterior. De hecho, el barrio se podría mejorar con el uso del plantel. Vacío es desagradable a la vista debido a la desintegración y suele ser propenso al vandalismo.
  • Tráfico: El albergue juvenil generaría menos tráfico que el uso anterior, y el informe del personal de la ciudad de Escondido no planteo preocupaciones sobre el tráfico.
  • Estacionamiento: Preocupaciones generales del Comité no especificaron como 53 plazas de estacionamiento resultarían inadecuadas, o por qué las preocupaciones no podrían abordarse mediante cambios apropiados y razonables.
  • Seguridad: Porque la declaración del Departamento de Policía dijo que el albergue para niños migrantes no causa “preocupaciones aparentes de la ley en este momento”, y solicitaron que Southwest Key construyera una cerca de 6 pies y Southwest Key estuvo de acuerdo, no hay base razonable para la declaración del Comité que “la cerca para el sitio parece inadecuado para las necesidades de seguridad esperados de la instalación propuesta”, especialmente dado el hecho indiscutible de que sólo 0.004 por ciento de los aproximadamente 9.000 niños atendidos por Southwest Key hizo salida no autorizada en el año anterior.
  • Ruido: El informe del personal de la ciudad de Escondido no planteó preocupaciones sobre el aumento de ruido, y reconoció que la mayor parte de las actividades que se llevarían a cabo estuvieran en el interior; recreación al aire libre, tomaría lugar en parques y escuelas cercanas.
  • Tamaño: El Comité determinó inexplicablemente que la instalación propuesta tendría “demasiada gente” en “un espacio demasiado pequeño”, pero no dio ninguna razón para creer que el personal o la población de alojados serían mayores que el uso anterior. La instalación propuesta no tendría más alojados que el hogar de ancianos tenía.

El San Diego ACLU presentó la apelación esta tarde en nombre de Southwest Key Programs. El Cabildo de la Ciudad de Escondido típicamente programa una audiencia para discutir la decisión dentro de 30 días de haber recibido la solicitud.

La ACLU ha estado monitoreando de cerca a Escondido desde el 2006 cuando la ciudad aprobó una prohibición de alquiler a los inmigrantes indocumentados, una prohibición que ACLU y otros desafiaron inmediatamente en la corte, lo que resulto en la emisión de una orden de restricción temporal al constatar que la prohibición era inconstitucional, seguido de un estipulado orden judicial permanente contra la aplicación de la prohibición.

“Debido a que la ciudad tiene una larga historia de pisotear los derechos civiles y humanos de los inmigrantes en los EE.UU., y debido a que este refugio propuesto será para servir a los niños inmigrantes no acompañados solicitantes de refugio ante la creciente violencia en sus países de origen, la ACLU busca asegurar que la Ciudad de Escondido no continúe su historia de discriminación mediante el uso de pretextos ilegales para negar un permiso”, dijo Loy.

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Madre de Joven Mexicano Asesinado en Frontera Inicia Demanda Encontra Patrulla Fronteriza https://www.aclusandiego.org/madre-de-joven-mexicano-asesinado-en-frontera-inicia-demanda-encontra-patrulla-fronteriza/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/madre-de-joven-mexicano-asesinado-en-frontera-inicia-demanda-encontra-patrulla-fronteriza/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:22:39 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11532  

TUCSON – Araceli Rodriguez, la madre del joven asesinado, José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, inició una demanda hoy en la corte federal en Arizona buscando justicia en el caso de su hijo, quien fue asesinado en octubre 2012 por agentes de la patrulla fronteriza del E.E.U.U., identificados en la demanda solamente como personas desconocidas (“John Does,” en inglés). La madre de José Antonio está pidiendo un juicio por jurado para que se presente evidencia en la corte sobre las acciones ilegales de los agentes.

“Los agentes que mataron a mi hijo en este acto de violencia sin sentido siguen libres y tienen que ser obligados a responder por sus acciones,” dijo Araceli Rodriguez, residente de Nogales, Mexico. “El gobierno de los Estados Unidos no ha responsabilizado a estos individuos, y es por esto que yo inicio hoy esta demanda.”

En la noche de octubre 10, 2012, después de jugar básquetbol con sus amigos en su vecindad en Nogales, Mexico, el joven de 16 años estaba caminando solo hácia su hogar cuando fue acribillado a balazos a travéz del muro fronterizo. Diez balas entraron al cuerpo de José Antonio por la espalda. El joven murio en la calle, en un charco de sangre a cuatro cuadras de su casa.

Cuando recibió los tiros, José Antonio caminaba en la Calle Internacional, una via principal que corre parallela al muro fronterizo. Estaba caminando más o menos a 8 metros de un acantilado sobre el cual sigue el muro. En el lugar donde murió el joven, el muro está más de doce metros arriba de la calle. Cuando fue acribillado, José Antonio no presentaba ninguna amenaza a los agentes o a nadie más.

“Desafortunadamente, la muerte de José Antonio no es aislada,” dijo Lee Gelernt, abogado de la ACLU, Proyecto Inmigrante. “La Patrulla Fronteriza está usando un nivel de violencia excesiva y innecesaria encontra de la gente a los dos lados de la frontera. Los agentes continuan violando nuestra Constitución con impunidad.”

Por lo menos 27 personas han muerto desde 2010 como resultado del uso excesivo de la fuerza por agentes de U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), sin embargo, a la agencia le sigue faltando un proceso razonable y transparente para llevar a cabo investigaciones y para responsabilizar  a los agentes por el mal uso de su autoridád, o cuando cometen un delito. La queja de la familia Rodriguez al Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (Department of Homeland Security)  fue rápidamente rechazada y la agencia ha reusado sacar a la luz los nombres de los agentes involucrados en la muerte de José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, lo que es costumbre revelar en casos semejantes.

“Este caso parece ser la única via para que Jose Antonio y su familia encuentren justicia,” dijo Luis Parra, de Nogales, Arizona, abogado de la familia. “Lo que le pasó a José Antonio nunca debe de occurirle a otra persona. Esperamos que este juicio sirva como una advertencia a los agentes que sí serán responsabilizados por sus acciones en asesinatos por arma de fuego a travéz de la frontera.”

Por la muerte injusta de su hijo, Araceli Rodriguez está pidiendo daños y prejuicios.

Además de Gelernt y Parra, la Sra. Rodriguez es representada por los siguientes abogados: Roberto C. Montiel of the Roberto Montiel Law Offices in Nogales, Ariz.; Dan Pochoda and James Lyall, ACLU of Arizona; Andre Segura, Dror Ladin, and Cecillia Wang del ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Mitra Ebadolahi del ACLU of San Diego and Border Litigation Project; Arturo Gonzalez and Hector Suarez de Morrison and Foerster LLP.

Para una cópia de la queja Rodriguez v. John Does en inglés, vea aquí.

 

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Mother of Slain Mexican Teen Sues U.S. Border Patrol Agents https://www.aclusandiego.org/mother-slain-mexican-teen-sues-u-s-border-patrol-agents/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/mother-slain-mexican-teen-sues-u-s-border-patrol-agents/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:43:02 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11527  

TUCSON – Araceli Rodriguez, the mother of slain Mexican teen Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, filed a federal lawsuit today in Arizona to pursue justice for her son, who was killed nearly two years ago by U.S. Border Patrol agents, identified only as John Does in the lawsuit. She is demanding a jury hear evidence about the unlawful actions of these unknown agents.

“The U.S. border patrol agents who killed my son in a senseless act of violence are still out there and they need to be brought to justice,” said Araceli Rodriguez, who lives in Nogales, Mexico. “The U.S. government has not held the agents who shot my son accountable and that is why I am bringing this lawsuit.”

[Lea este artículo en español, aquí.]

On the night of Oct. 10, 2012, after playing basketball with friends in his neighborhood of Nogales, Mexico, 16-year-old Jose Antonio was walking home alone when he was shot approximately 10 times through the border fence by unknown Border Patrol agents. Virtually all of the bullets that struck Jose Antonio entered his body from behind. He died on the sidewalk, in a pool of blood, about four blocks from home.

When he was shot, Jose Antonio was walking along Calle Internacional, a main road that runs parallel to the border fence. He was walking on the far side of the street, about 25 feet away from the sheer cliff on which the border fence is built. At the location where Jose Antonio was shot, the top of the fence towers approximately 40-50 feet above the street level. At the time he was shot, Jose Antonio posed no threat to U.S. Border Patrol agents or anyone else.

“Jose Antonio’s death is unfortunately not unique,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Border Patrol is using excessive and unnecessary force against people on both sides of the border. Agents continue to violate the Constitution with impunity.”

At least 27 people have died since 2010 as a result of use of force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, yet the agency continues to lack a reasonable, transparent process for reviewing agent-caused deaths and holding agents accountable for misusing their authority or breaking the law. Jose Antonio’s family’s formal complaint to CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was summarily quashed and the agency has so far refused to release the names of the agents involved, a customary practice.

“This lawsuit seems to be the only way to find justice for Jose Antonio and his family,” said Luis Parra, an attorney based in Nogales, Ariz. “What happened to Jose Antonio should never be allowed to happen again. We hope this suit will serve as a warning to agents that they will be held accountable for their actions in cross border shootings.”

For her son’s unjustified killing, Araceli Rodriguez is seeking damages, including punitive damages. In addition to Gelernt and Parra, she is represented by Roberto C. Montiel of the Roberto Montiel Law Offices in Nogales, Ariz.; Dan Pochoda and James Lyall of the ACLU of Arizona; Andre Segura, Dror Ladin, and Cecillia Wang of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Mitra Ebadolahi of the ACLU of San Diego and Border Litigation Project; and Arturo Gonzalez and Hector Suarez Morrison and Foerster LLP.

Click here for a copy of the complaint filed by today in Rodriguez v. John Does.

Read an account by our Border Litigation Project attorney, Mitra Ebadolahi.

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Grandmother holding portrait of slain boy.

Taide Elena, grandmother of Jose Antonio, at a protest in Nogales. Photo by Josh Morgan, Tucson Weekly.

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ACLU supports an increased minimum wage! https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-supports-increased-minimum-wage/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-supports-increased-minimum-wage/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:07:13 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11518  

The San Diego City Council will vote today on formally adopting an ordinance passed earlier this month to raise the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017.  The Council voted for the increase on July 14, 2014.

The ACLU has long recognized that poverty inevitably results in subjugation of the poor to violations of their civil liberties and civil rights. Poverty and wealth inequality are legacies of discrimination in the past and manifestations of discrimination in the present. The poor are denied due process, the right of privacy, the equal protection of the laws, and other constitutional guarantees far more seriously and far more frequently than the middle class and the wealthy.

The ACLU supports positive governmental action to reduce the ill effects of poverty and thus eliminate or reduce deprivations of civil liberties and civil rights.

An excessively low minimum wage has universal consequences, most notably its lopsided effect on women and people of color, who are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs due to historical and current patterns of discrimination in education, employment, and housing. With only dismal minimum wage salaries, many people in communities of color continue to be denied fundamental opportunities for social and economic equality.

Nationwide, people of color make up a majority of those living below the poverty level, while the median wealth of white households remains 20 times that of black homes and 18 times that of Latino homes. In large part due to their systemic economic disadvantage, communities of color continue to suffer persistent violations of their civil rights and civil liberties.

A minimum wage that fails to cover even the basic costs of full-time workers and their families is clearly insufficient.

Raising the minimum wage, an effort that could lift thousands of San Diegans out of poverty – especially women and people of color – presents a powerful opportunity for San Diego to take a step toward addressing the systemic inequality of opportunity faced by communities of color and by all communities living in poverty.

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2014 Fall Legal Internship Opportunities https://www.aclusandiego.org/2014-legal-internship-opportunity/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/2014-legal-internship-opportunity/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:27:03 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10943 The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties is a non-profit, nonpartisan, public interest organization devoted exclusively to protecting the basic civil liberties of all. The mission of the ACLU is to assure that the protections of the Bill of Rights are preserved and expanded. The ACLU is widely recognized as the nation’s premier defender of individual rights and fundamental freedoms.

Currently, we are seeking two legal interns.

2014 Bilingual Spanish-English Legal Intern

Position Description:  Part-time fall position(s). Minimum 10 to 15 hours per week. Duties will include interviewing individuals, observing proceedings, and writing reports in order to assist ACLU attorneys monitor the implementation of a judgment and/or settlement agreement in one or more class action cases concerning immigrants’ rights.

Internships are unpaid: However, the ACLU is willing to discuss cooperating with students in the grant application process.

Qualifications:  Bilingual fluency in English and Spanish is required. Second and third year law students with a demonstrated commitment to public interest work are preferred.

Application Procedure:  Individuals interested in applying for a legal internship at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties should send a cover letter, a resume, an unofficial transcript, the names and telephone numbers of two references, and a legal writing sample by email to jdauteuil@aclusandiego.org or by mail to:

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
2014 Bilingual Legal Internship
PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

DEADLINE: August 29, 2014

We encourage applicants to send materials as soon as possible, but applications will be accepted until the deadline.   Please indicate in your cover letter where you found this job posting.

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to apply.

2014 Police Practices Legal Intern

Position Description:  Part-time fall position(s). Minimum 10 to 15 hours per week.Duties will include reviewing public records and interviewing community members about problems they have had with law enforcement officers in San Diego for purpose of developing litigation concerning policies and practices of local law enforcement.

Internships are unpaid: However, the ACLU is willing to discuss cooperating with students in the grant application process.

Qualifications:  Second and third year law students with a demonstrated commitment to public interest work are preferred.

Application Procedure:  Individuals interested in applying for a legal internship at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties should send a cover letter, a resume, an unofficial transcript, the names and telephone numbers of two references, and a legal writing sample by email to jdauteuil@aclusandiego.org or by mail to:

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
2014 Fall Legal Internship – Police Practices
PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

DEADLINE: September 5, 2014

We encourage applicants to send materials as soon as possible, but applications will be accepted until the deadline.   Please indicate in your cover letter where you found this job posting.

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to apply.

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Community Meetings – Assessing San Diego Police https://www.aclusandiego.org/upcoming-community-meetings-san-diego-police/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/upcoming-community-meetings-san-diego-police/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 01:24:28 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11493 Due to recent sexual abuse and racial profiling scandals within the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), the US Department of Justice has contracted with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to perform an assessment of the SDPD and make recommendations for change and improvement.

PERF will be holding two meetings in San Diego during the month of July. The meetings will provide community members an opportunity to tell their stories of personal experience with the SDPD and to provide their own comments and recommendations for PERF to consider.

Come to support fellow San Diegans coming forward to share their experiences or to share your experience either by written or verbal testimony.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Tubman/Chavez Multicultural Center
415 Euclid Avenue
San Diego, CA 92114

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Sherman Heights Community Center
2258 Island Avenue, 2nd Floor, San Diego, CA 92102

In the column to the right, you will find flyers for each event in both English and Spanish. If you have any questions, please feel free to call 619-548-5464 or email cgriffin@aclusandiego.org.

IMG_7144-PA-room-sq-sm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ACLU’s NVRA Toolkit: How to Comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) https://www.aclusandiego.org/nvra-toolkit/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/nvra-toolkit/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 19:29:31 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11471  

NVRA agency VR toolkit-final coverThe ACLU of California’s NVRA Implementation Project works with public assistance offices and offices serving people with disabilities, county elections offices, and the Secretary of State to improve implementation of the NVRA across California. The NVRA Toolkit was developed for use by agency workers, NVRA coordinators, and county elections officials. The complete version of the toolkit can be downloaded here.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like assistance in implementing the NVRA at your agency or in your county, please contact us.

For Northern California counties, contact:
Raul Macias, Voting Rights Attorney rmacias@acluca.org
 
For Southern California counties, contact:
Jonathan Stein, Voting Rights Attorney
jstein@acluca.org
 

How To Use This Resource Manual

Answer the questions below to determine which sections of the Toolkit are right for you.

1. Do you help people
(a) Fill out applications for benefits or services…
(b) Recertify benefits or services… or
(c) Submit a change of address…

…at any of the following programs or in any of the following offices?

  • CalFresh
  • CalWORKs
  • Medi-Cal
  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • In-Home Supportive Services
  • Covered California, California’s health benefit exchange
  • Department of Rehabilitation – Vocational Services
  • Independent Living Centers
  • Department of Developmental Services Regional Centers
  • Offices contracting with the Office of Deaf Access
  • State and county mental and behavioral health departments, and private practitioners providing services under contract with those departments.

If so, you have an obligation to provide voter registration to clients under state and federal law. This toolkit will tell you how. Please read all content for agency staff.

2. Every office subject to the NVRA is required to identify one person who ensures compliance with the office’s voter registration responsibilities. Are you that person?

You are an “NVRA coordinator.” Please read the section titled, “When & How to Provide Voter Registration Services” and all content for NVRA Coordinators.

3. Do you handle NVRA compliance for your county elections office? Do you handle requests from agencies asking for voter registration cards? Do you prepare reports for the state on voter registration card returns?

You are the NVRA coordinator for the county elections office. Please read the entire toolkit. Also, in order to facilitate communication between NVRA agencies and county elections officials, we’ve included the sections for agency workers and NVRA coordinators to serve as reference materials.

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ACLU Challenges Government’s ‘Suspicious Activity Report’ Program https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-challenges-governments-suspicious-activity-report-program/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-challenges-governments-suspicious-activity-report-program/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:30:16 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11469 SAN FRANCISCO – On behalf of five Americans who had their information entered into a law enforcement database for innocent things like taking pictures, buying computers, or standing in a train station and were then subjected to investigation, civil rights groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the legality of the federal government’s controversial Suspicious Activity Reporting Program (SAR). The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the national ACLU, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus.

“This domestic surveillance program wrongly targets First Amendment-protected activities, encourages racial and religious profiling, and violates federal law,” said Linda Lye, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “The Justice Department’s own rules say that there should be reasonable suspicion before creating a record on someone, but the government’s instructions to local police are that they should write up SARs even if there’s no valid reason to suspect a person of doing anything wrong.”

A Justice Department regulation dating to 1978 prohibits the collection and dissemination of “criminal intelligence information” unless there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. However, the Justice Department’s standard for SARs doesn’t require reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, only behavior that “may be indicative” of terrorism planning “or other illicit intention.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have learned that such a low bar can cover virtually anything.

James Prigoff is an 86-year-old renowned photographer of public art who has lectured at numerous universities and had his work exhibited at the Smithsonian and other museums around the world. In 2004, he was in Boston taking pictures of a famous piece of public art called the Rainbow Swash, which is painted on a natural gas storage tank. Private secrainbow swashurity
guards told him to stop. Several months later, the FBI went to Prigoff’s home in Sacramento to question him about his activities in Boston and also contacted at least one neighbor about him – a clear indication that a report identifying him as a suspicious person with a potential connection to terrorism had been written about him and distributed nationwide.

“All I was doing was taking pictures in a public place, and now I’m apparently in a government terrorism database for decades,” said Prigoff. “This is supposed to be a free country, where the government isn’t supposed to be tracking you if you’re not doing anything wrong. I lived through the McCarthy era, and I know how false accusations, surveillance, and keeping files on innocent people can destroy careers and lives. I am deeply troubled that the SAR program may be recreating that same climate of false accusation and fear today.”

Another plaintiff, Wiley Gill, was the subject of a 2012 SAR that was obtained by the ACLU of California through a Public Records Act request. He was identified as a “Suspicious Male Subject in Possession of Flight Simulator Game.” At the time, he was likely looking at websites on his computer about video games. The SAR identifies Gill as “worthy of note” because he converted to Islam and has a “pious demeanor.”

The SAR was submitted to one of the nation’s 78 “fusion centers,” which are operated by state and local government agencies and are meant to collect and analyze threat-related information. If an analyst believes that a report meets the SAR program’s standards, he or she uploads it to one or more national databases, where it can remain for up to 30 years. In the case of Gill, the SAR was forwarded to the FBI, which then opened a file on him.

“The only reason that someone deemed Mr. Gill ‘suspicious’ is because he is a devout Muslim, not because he has done anything wrong,” said Nasrina Bargzie, attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. “With such a lax standard it’s not surprising that the result is religious profiling of this nature. Racial and religious profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities needs to stop.”

Last year, a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation found that the SAR program had failed to demonstrate any arrests, convictions, or thwarted threats, even though tens of thousands of SARs have been uploaded to government databases. In 2012, a bipartisan Senate subcommittee report found that fusion centers have not identified a single terrorist threat, and that similar intelligence reporting “potentially endangered the civil liberties or legal privacy protections of the U.S. persons they mentioned.”

“The SAR program is an intrusion into the privacy of citizens and is unwarranted,” said Jonathan Loeb, co-lead counsel in the lawsuit and a partner at Bingham McCutchen. “Furthermore, the program was implemented without the appropriate notice and opportunity for the public to comment.”

No changes to the SAR program have been made since the GAO and Senate reports were issued, despite repeated calls from a coalition of civil rights and other organizations.

Today’s complaint is at:

aclu.org/national-security/suspicious-activity-report-lawsuit-prigoff-v-department-justice-complaint

Read the ACLU of California blog about this case. Read more detailed descriptions of the plaintiff’s experiences here.

Learn more about almost two thousand Suspicious Activity Reports, released in 2013 and obtained by the ACLU of California.

 

 

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Groups Sue Feds over Lack of Lawyers for Kids in Deportation Process https://www.aclusandiego.org/groups-sue-feds-lack-lawyers-kids-deportation-process/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/groups-sue-feds-lack-lawyers-kids-deportation-process/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 16:46:39 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11463  

SEATTLE – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP today filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government’s failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them.

Each year, the government initiates immigration court proceedings against thousands of children. Some of these youth grew up in the United States and have lived in the country for years, and many have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. The Obama administration even recently called an influx of children coming across the Southern border a “humanitarian situation.” And yet, thousands of children required to appear in immigration court each year do so without an attorney. This case seeks to remedy this unacceptable practice.

“If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone.”

The plaintiffs in this case include:

  • A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.
  • A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.
  • A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.
  • A 16-year-old boy born in Mexico who has lived here since he was 12 months old and has had lawful status since June 2010.
  • A 16-year-old boy with limited communication skills and special education issues who escaped brutal violence exacted on his family in Honduras, and who has lived in Southern California since he was 8 years old.
  • A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent resident father in Los Angeles.

All are scheduled to appear at deportation hearings without any legal representation and face a very real risk of being sent back into the perilous circumstances they left.

While the Obama administration recently announced a limited program to provide legal assistance to some youth facing deportation hearings, this proposal does not come close to meeting the urgent need for legal representation for all children whom the government wants to deport. And there is no guarantee that additional funding proposed by the administration yesterday will materialize or meet the overwhelming need. In the meantime, children continue to appear alone in court every day.

“While our law firm, and others around the country, provide free legal services to children facing the injustice of appearing alone in court, we can help only a small fraction of the children in need,” said Theo Angelis, a partner at K&L Gates LLP.

Kristen Jackson, senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, a not-for-profit law firm that works with immigrant children, added, “Each day, we are contacted by children in desperate need of lawyers to advocate for them in their deportation proceedings. Pro bono efforts have been valiant, but they will never fully meet the increasing and complex needs these children present. The time has come for our government to recognize our Constitution’s promise of fairness and its duty to give these children a real voice in court.”

The complaint charges the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge. It seeks to require the government to provide children with legal representation in their deportation hearings.

“Deportation carries serious consequences for children, whether it is return to a country they fled because of violence and persecution or being separated from their homes and families. Yet children are forced into immigration court without representation – a basic protection most would assume is required whenever someone’s liberty is at stake. Requiring children to fight against deportation without a lawyer is incompatible with American values of due process and justice for all,” said Beth Werlin, deputy legal director for the American Immigration Council.

The case, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington.

“It is simply unacceptable that children are forced to stand alone before an immigration judge, pitted against trained attorneys from the federal government,” said Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “Any notion of justice or fair play requires that these children be provided legal representation.”

Read more about the children’s experiences here

Want to weigh in on this issue on our non-scientific poll? Scroll down to the bottom of our home page and click on the red “Vote” button.

juvenile holding cell-crop

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ACLU Withdraws Support for ENDA https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-withdraws-support-enda/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-withdraws-support-enda/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 22:53:22 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11457  

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it is withdrawing its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in a statement also signed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center. The ACLU and these allies object to a provision in the bill that would allow religiously affiliated employers to continue to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Federal legislation to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination is way beyond overdue, but Congress has no place giving religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT workers,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.

We can no longer support a bill that treats LGBT discrimination as different and somehow more legitimate than other forms of discrimination.”

President Obama has announced his intention to sign an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT people employed by federal contractors. The ACLU opposes any inclusion of a discrimination exemption in this executive order.

Read the full statement signed by the five organizations announcing the withdrawal of support here.

pride flagjoa + US flag-web

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ACLU Statement on Public Reaction to Plight of Immigrant Children https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-public-reaction-plight-immigrant-children/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-public-reaction-plight-immigrant-children/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:59:51 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11452  

The following statement is made by the ACLU of California, a collaboration of the three ACLU affiliates covering the entire state, based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

This country was founded as a beacon of hope for people seeking freedom. Our nation’s core values center on fairness, equal opportunity, and the defense of human and civil rights for all.

Our immigration system is broken. The ACLU joins millions of Americans in calling on our representatives to fix it in a way that stays true to those values.

However, with gridlock in Congress and a new wave of refugees fleeing sharp escalations of violence in their homelands, the current dialogue on immigration reform has taken an ugly turn. This week, scores of protesters blocked buses transporting women and children on their way to being processed at a Border Patrol station in Murrieta, California. The protesters blocked the road for hours, pounding on the buses, shouting obscenities and waving signs. The week before, hundreds of residents spoke against a proposed shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children in Escondido, California.

Many have recognized the current influx of unaccompanied children at our southern border as a humanitarian crisis. The ACLU is working to ensure that those children, and all other asylum seekers, are treated fairly and humanely, and in accordance with U.S. law and international human rights standards.

Our nation’s refugee laws were created in the aftermath of World War II to ensure that we would never again turn away refugees fleeing death in their home countries. They require that everyone who legitimately fears persecution must receive a fair opportunity to make their case before an immigration judge, who can decide each case on the facts presented. We also wish, though no law requires it, that refugees fleeing truly terrible conditions in their home countries would be greeted with sympathy rather than fear and xenophobia.

The ACLU is the nation’s staunchest defender of free speech—especially including the right to protest. We believe that the remedy for offensive speech is more speech, not less. That is why we are adding our voice to the debate, to call upon our fellow residents of California to respect the rights of these children, and all others fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries, to seek asylum in our country.

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Constitution Applies on Foreign Soil Says Federal Appeals Court https://www.aclusandiego.org/constitution-applies-foreign-soil-says-federal-appeals-court/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/constitution-applies-foreign-soil-says-federal-appeals-court/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 21:59:26 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11444 In a momentous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the Constitution applies outside of the territorial limits of the United States, in this case Mexico, squarely rejecting the government’s argument that constitutional rights end at the border. The court accordingly reinstated a lawsuit brought by the family of a 15-year-old Mexican boy who was fatally shot by a border patrol agent standing on U.S. soil shooting across the border.

The ACLU and its border affiliates filed an amicus brief arguing, that after the Supreme Court’s Guantanamo decision in Boumediene, there is no basis for the government’s position that the Constitution does not apply abroad.

The following can be attributed to Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of the National ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project: “Any other result by the court of appeals in this case would have meant that border patrol agents could continue to shoot Mexican nationals such as this 15 year-old-child with impunity, free from judicial oversight. The court properly rejected the notion that the federal government can monitor itself, especially in such an egregious case.”

As the court described the facts in the case, on June 7, 2010, a group of Mexican teenagers were playing on the Mexican side of the border when a border agent detained one of the boys. Hernandez, the victim in this case, retreated but was nonetheless fatally shot by the agent. The district court threw out the lawsuit but the federal court of appeals reinstated the suit, concluding that a Mexican national has Fifth Amendment constitutional due process rights to be free from actions that “shock the conscience” and other official abuses of power.

Contributing to the ACLU’s amicus brief in the case were Lee Gelernt, Esha Bhandari, Cecillia D. Wang and Steven Watt of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; James Duff Lyle and Daniel Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona; Krystal Gomez and Rebecca Robertson of the ACLU of Texas; Sean Riordan of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties; and Alexandra Smith of the ACLU Foundation of New Mexico.

The court’s ruling is available at:
aclu.org/immigrants-rights/hernandez-v-us-fifth-circuit-court-appeals-ruling

The amicus brief filed by the ACLU is available at:
aclu.org/immigrants-rights/hernandez-v-us-aclu-amicus-brief

sergio hernandez

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ACLU Investigating Escondido’s Hasty Decision on Shelter https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-investigating-escondidos-hasty-decision-shelter/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-investigating-escondidos-hasty-decision-shelter/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:02:59 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11439  

SAN DIEGO – Concerned that the City of Escondido may once again be undermining the rights of immigrants in its community and possibly violating the law, the San Diego ACLU requested a number of records related to the Escondido Planning Commission’s decision Tuesday evening to reject a proposed shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children.

In an official California Public Records Act (CPRA) request, the legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, David Loy, requested copies of all reports and records submitted to the commission relating to the proposed facility, the permit for the construction and operation of the intermediate care facility, and any video, audio, or written record of the Planning Commission meeting on June 24, 2014.

To comply with the CPRA, the City of Escondido has ten days to respond to the request.

The San Diego ACLU has been monitoring Escondido closely since 2006, when the city attempted to pass a ban on rentals to undocumented immigrants. Escondido has demonstrated a long history of trampling on the civil and human rights of immigrants in the United States.

The ACLU will be monitoring future actions by the Escondido City Council and other city entities on this proposed shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children, ages 6 – 17, many of whom are seeking refugee status after fleeing from increasing violence and insecurity in their homelands.

In the last year alone, almost twice as many asylum seekers  expressing fear of returning to their home countries have arrived at our borders. Political analysts attribute this sharp increase to dramatic rises in the numbers of murders, rape, violence against women, kidnappings, extortion, and other conditions fueled by political instability and economic insecurity, and the growing dominance of transnational gangs.

Detainers - hands on fence

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ACLU Reaction to Supreme Court Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Ruling https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-reaction-supreme-court-abortion-clinic-buffer-zone-ruling/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-reaction-supreme-court-abortion-clinic-buffer-zone-ruling/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 16:41:00 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11437  

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone outside abortion clinics in the state. The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upholding the buffer zone. Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction to the ruling:

This is a hard case and the majority opinion reflects the difficulty and importance of balancing two constitutional rights: the right of women to enter and leave abortion clinics free from the harassment, intimidation, and violence they have too often suffered in the past; and the right of peaceful protestors to express their opposition to abortion on the public streets outside abortion clinics.

We agree that a fixed buffer zone imposes serious First Amendment costs, but we also think the Court underestimated the proven difficulty of protecting the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions by enforcing other laws – especially regarding harassment – outside abortion clinics.

Today’s opinion makes it more important than ever that the police enforce the laws that do exist in order to ensure that women and staff can safely enter and leave abortion clinics.”

US Supreme Court Building

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ACLU of California Endorses SB 396 to Right Serious State Wrongs https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-california-endorses-sb-396-right-serious-state-wrongs/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-california-endorses-sb-396-right-serious-state-wrongs/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:54:07 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11428  

SACRAMENTO – Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the introduction of Proposition 187, the divisive initiative passed by California voters in 1994 that sought to deny many public services to undocumented immigrants. Most provisions of the unconstitutional law were rejected by federal courts, but portions of the law still remain technically on the books.

With scores of community, faith, labor and legal organizations, the ACLU of California enthusiastically endorses SB 396, a bill to repeal the unlawful and unenforceable provisions of Proposition 187 that remain in California statute today. These include sections impacting education, health care, social services and law enforcement.

“The ACLU of California was on the frontlines of defeating Proposition 187 when it was first introduced, and we remain committed to ensuring that that the last vestiges of this divisive law are erased,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “No one benefits if such laws are left in place to create confusion or, worse yet, fear among our immigrant communities.”

Proposition 187, which sought to create an immigration status screening system to withhold public services from undocumented immigrants, was struck down in federal court as unconstitutional in 1999. But its provisions can still be found in California statute, creating insecurity for many. For example, Penal Code 834(b), which required law enforcement to inquire into the immigration status of individuals they arrested, still appears in the statutes, and leads to confusion and violations of civil liberties.

The Senate also introduced a resolution, SR 51, to recognize the harm Prop 187 has wielded on untold number of California residents, and to call for a more united California.

“The ACLU was one of the organizations that opposed Prop. 187 and was also one of the many organizations to sue to stop the unconstitutional law,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “It’s time to finish the job and get this law off the books.”

“California celebrates diversity and the model with which our multi-ethnic state leads the nation,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Prop. 187 was xenophobic and represents one of the darkest points in our state’s history. We have seen this provision referenced in jail policies and legal memos pertaining to law enforcement with immigrants. When this statute is wrongly enforced, the rights of immigrants are violated. With violations come pain, harm, and real danger for community members across the state.”

The ACLU of California continues to work to ensure that immigrants receive protections guaranteed under the Constitution, including the right to be treated fairly in court and to be free from discrimination based on race or national origin. The ACLU of California comprises the three California ACLU affiliates—the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

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California: Let’s put a hold on ICE https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-lets-put-hold-ice/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-lets-put-hold-ice/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 18:55:17 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11426

How did this happen? Thanks to Secure Communities, federal immigration officials began issuing requests, also known as “detainers,” to local law enforcement officials to hold individuals while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigated whether they could be deported for civil immigration violations.

If this sounds wrong, it is. These so-called detainers violate a basic constitutional protection afforded to everyone. The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement from detaining someone simply to investigate whether they’ve done something wrong; they must first have probable cause to believe the person committed a crime, or, in this case, are subject to deportation. And if they are arrested without a warrant, the Fourth Amendment requires they be brought before a judge within 48 hours for a probable cause determination.

Yet, none of that happens here: they are detained for investigatory purposes, and they never get a hearing before a judge while they are held for ICE.  That’s why we brought lawsuits against Los Angeles County in 2012 and ICE in 2013 to stop these unlawful detentions.

Detaining people by the droves without justification in some of the worst jails in America, like those in L.A. County, is bad enough. But it gets worse. ICE consistently has said that it was using the Secure Communities program to identify “serious criminals” in our communities for deportation. But the federal government’s own statistics call such claims into question.

Indeed, the vast majority of people for whom ICE issued holds were people who were not deportation priorities.  More than half of people in California who have received immigration holds had no criminal history at all.  And, nationally,four out of five either had no criminal history or had been convicted only of minor misdemeanor offenses, such as traffic offenses.

Many of these people have stronger ties to the U.S. than they do to their home counties and would likely have benefited from immigration reform, if and when reform comes – like my client Isaura Garcia, a domestic violence victim with a young child, who was arrested in a mix-up after calling 911 for help and detained on an immigration hold, or my client Ruth Montaño, whom Kern County Sheriff’s officers arrested and subsequently detained on an immigration hold for having a chihuahua that allegedly barked too loud.

Moreover, ICE’s misguided policy of detaining people first and investigating later, has led to the unlawful detention of U.S. citizens such as our clients Gerardo Gonzalez, Simon Chinivizyan and Antonio Montejano, or individuals who have lawful immigration status and are not subject to deportation.

Thankfully, counties throughout California and the nation are beginning to question the federal government’s use of detainers.

In fact, in the past month, law enforcement agencies across the state have started to say “no” to warehousing people in their jails solely for deportation purposes.  These decisions follow in the wake of federal court rulings that held that immigration holds are voluntary and that they are not supported by probable cause. We need every law enforcement agency in the state, including county sheriff’s departments and city police departments, to stop participating in these unlawful and burdensome detentions. Check our statewide map to find out if your county has said “no.”

Jennie Pasquarella is staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. 

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U.S. Citizen Caught in Kafkaesque Immigration Nightmare https://www.aclusandiego.org/u-s-citizen-caught-kafkaesque-immigration-nightmare/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/u-s-citizen-caught-kafkaesque-immigration-nightmare/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 21:57:40 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11411  

SAN DIEGO – Citing Supreme Court precedent and existential Czechoslovakian literature, the San Diego ACLU sued top immigration officials for unconstitutionally preventing a born-and-raised U.S. citizen from returning to the United States from Mexico.

Like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Oscar Olivas, a 45-year-old natural-born U.S. citizen, has been detained but does not know why, is unable to access the court before which he stands accused, and has not been allowed to view any evidence used against him. Olivas was unlawfully exiled to Mexico in 2011 and has been trying for three years to convince Customs and Border Protection that if he would be allowed a hearing before a judge, he could demonstrate his citizenship and return to his home and work.

“In preventing Mr. Olivas from returning to his home country, the government has unlawfully disregarded both the practical and constitutional meaning of citizenship,” said Gabriela Rivera, staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The benefits of citizenship — including stability, mobility, political rights, and protection against arbitrary expulsion — are not theoretical. They have real life implications for people like Mr. Olivas and his family. The Supreme Court ruled nearly a century ago that a U.S. citizen facing removal must be allowed judicial review to determine his citizenship status.”

Olivas’s nightmare began in August 2011 when he tried to return to the United States from Mexico as he had done numerous times in the past without incident. CBP agents refused to allow him to cross the border. They disregarded the proof he carried with him—a birth certificate, Social Security card, and a California driver’s license—and apparently relied solely on the false statement that consular officials coerced from Olivas’s mother in December 2010. The officers exiled Olivas to Mexico and told him he would have to argue his citizenship claim in front of a judge, but it appears the officers never referred Olivas’s case to any court, depriving him of an opportunity to return to his home country.

Olivas was born in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County in 1969. His mother was unwed and did not have legal immigration status, though she later became a U.S. citizen. Fearful of giving birth in a hospital , she delivered Olivas at home with the assistance of a midwife. Births in private residences were not uncommon at the time. At an early check-up, a doctor advised that she register Olivas’s birth with the county. Olivas’s mother registered his birth when he was five months old and received a birth certificate from the county.  Olivas also has a certificate of baptism, a Social Security card, and a state-issued driver’s license, all of which corroborate that he was born in the United States.

In 2009, Olivas began the process of applying for an immigrant visa—a “Green Card”—for his wife and step-son based on his status as a U.S. citizen. This process can take months or years and required Olivas’s wife and stepson to live in Mexico while their applications were pending. The Olivas family planned to stay together in Mexicali, which would allow Olivas to cross the border for work, and his U.S. citizen daughter to attend school in the United States and receive treatment for her speech and language impairment.

Olivas’s wife was interviewed at the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexcio, as part of her visa application process. A consular official told her that they would need to interview Olivas’s mother as well. In December 2010, Olivas’s mother, Delia Perez, traveled to the consulate, expecting a brief and non-adversarial interview.

Instead she was confronted by three officers who told her that they believed her son’s birth certificate was fraudulent. One of the officers threatened that Perez would lose her citizenship and be prosecuted for fraudulently obtaining a birth certificate unless she admitted that Olivas was born in Mexico. Perez reasonably felt intimidated and that she would be detained until she signed the declaration. After several hours, she ultimately signed a pre-typed declaration, which was not read to her.

“Mr. Olivas’s unlawful expulsion was not an innocent mistake by immigration enforcement officers,.” said Rivera. “It was the predictable consequence of a system that relies on racial and ethnic stereotypes, empowers officers to act as judge, jury and executioner, and all but prohibits affected individuals from seeking judicial review. A judge should determine citizenship, not an immigration enforcement officer. The Government must prioritize preserving the liberty and security of its citizens to remain within their homeland.”

Olivas and his family are suffering extreme emotional and financial distress in Mexico. Because he is not a Mexican citizen, he cannot work in Mexico to support his family. Olivas’s young U.S. citizen daughter does not receive the special education and language and speech therapy she requires and which she would receive in the United States. Olivas and his daughter miss their home country dearly.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Diego, naming the port director of Calexico, the San Diego field director of CPB, Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and John Kerry, Secretary of State. The suit asks the court to allow Olivas to return to the United States, declare that he is a United States citizen, and affirm that the order exiling him violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

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olivas-1st haircut cert-FS   olivas-baby  olivas bday   olivas wedding-crop  olivas-wife-daughter-sm  olivas-daughter-sm

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Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Abused by U.S. Officials in Detention https://www.aclusandiego.org/unaccompanied-immigrant-children-abused-u-s-officials-detention/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/unaccompanied-immigrant-children-abused-u-s-officials-detention/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 16:06:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11406 Widespread abuse of unaccompanied immigrant children at the hands of U.S. border officials spurred a group of civil and human rights organizations to file a complaint today on behalf of more than 100 children, each of whom reported experiencing abuse and mistreatment while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the border enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“Border Patrol agents are committing appalling abuses of children all along the border,” said Ashley Huebner, managing attorney of the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Even worse, Border Patrol has been committing these abuses for years, and our organizations have notified the agency numerous times, yet nothing has changed. The recent increase in arrivals of young people at the border makes it especially urgent that CBP ensure all children in their custody are treated safely and humanely.”

“Border agents operate in a zone of impunity,” said James Lyall of the ACLU Border Litigation Project. “Given CBP’s recent promise to be more accountable and transparent, we call on the agency to finally address these systemic abuses in a serious and meaningful way.”

Today’s administrative complaint with DHS—the department’s only mechanism for seeking redress—was filed by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), the ACLU Border Litigation Project, Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice), Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project (Esperanza), and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (Florence Project).

Children detained by CBP across the country have reported scores of examples of verbal, sexual and physical abuse; prolonged detention in squalid conditions; and a severe lack of essential necessities such as beds, food and water.

The complaint describes Border Patrol agents denying necessary medical care to children as young as five-months-old, refusing to provide diapers for infants, confiscating and not returning legal documents and personal belongings, making racially-charged insults and death threats, and strip searching and shackling children in three-point restraints during transport. Reports of such abuse have been documented and reported for years, but no reforms have been implemented, nor have any actions been taken to hold agents accountable.

Children referenced in the complaint, many of whom fled violence and persecution in their home countries, include:

  • H.R., a seven-year-old boy, was severely developmentally disabled and suffering from acute malnourishment when he was apprehended, but CBP held him in custody for approximately five days without any medical treatment. He was eventually hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery.
  • D.G., a 16-year-old girl, was detained with adults. When CBP officials searched D.G., they violently spread her legs and touched her genital area forcefully, making her scream.
  • M.R., a 15-year-old girl, traveled from Guatemala with her two-year-old son. Both M.R. and her son became sick while in CBP custody, but M.R.’s requests for medical attention were ignored or dismissed for approximately five days, until she and her son were finally taken to a hospital.
  • K.A., a 14-year-old girl, had her asthma medication confiscated by CBP officials and proceeded to suffer multiple asthma attacks in the filthy and overcrowded CBP holding cells. After the first asthma attack, officials threatened that they would punish her if she were faking.
  • C.S., a 17-year-old girl, was detained in a hielera (freezer) in wet clothes. Her clothes did not dry for three and a half days due to the frigid temperature in the holding cell. The only drinking water available to C.S. came from the toilet tank, and the bathroom was situated in plain view of all other detainees with a security camera mounted in front of it.

“We have instances where CBP shackled 13- and 14-year-olds, infants became sick while held in cells maintained at freezing temperatures, and many children were held in CBP custody beyond the legal 72-hour period, without food or blankets,” said Erika Pinheiro, directing attorney for community education programs at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project.

“Children are fleeing untenable conditions in their home countries, including pervasive violence and persecution, and are often re-victimized in transit to the United States,” said Joseph Anderson, director of litigation for Americans for Immigrant Justice. “We need to ensure that these children are treated with dignity and respect and afforded all applicable legal protections while they are in U.S. custody.”

The complaint’s recommendations include:

  • Enhanced CBP oversight, including creation of an independent oversight body;
  • Binding and enforceable short-term detention standards;
  • Creation of a uniform complaint process at DHS that includes confidential, expedited processes by which children can safely report abuse and receive timely recourse;
  • Adequate training for all officers who may encounter unaccompanied immigrant children;
  • Timely investigation into the complaints of abuse;
  • Accountability for any agent who violates the law and/or agency guidelines; and
  • Publication of the results of any investigations. 

The complaint was filed with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties as well as the DHS Office of Inspector General. The complaint emphasizes that abuses of unaccompanied children by immigration officials have been documented and reported to DHS for years but the government has not implemented reforms or taken any action to hold agents accountable.

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SDPD, Addressing Police Misconduct, to Wear Body Cameras https://www.aclusandiego.org/sdpd-addressing-police-misconduct-wear-body-cameras/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/sdpd-addressing-police-misconduct-wear-body-cameras/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 21:09:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11404  

After months of scandal, we are pleased to hear that the San Diego Police Department is taking steps towards addressing police misconduct. As announced today, many of SDPD’s officers will now wear body cameras. While body cameras can do much to protect both citizens and officers, we have serious concerns with what is and is not included in SDPD’s draft policies for body worn cameras, as well as for the process of implementation.

The draft policy states that “officers are not required to give notice they are recording. However, if asked, officers shall advise citizens they are being recorded.”

One of the purposes of body worn cameras is to improve both officer and citizen behavior; an opportunity that is missed if a person is not informed the interaction is being recorded. The policy should require officers, where practicable, to notify citizens they are being recorded in a language they understand, including use of information cards in different languages spoken throughout the city.

The policy does not delineate how a citizen can make sure a recording is flagged and obtain a copy. Any citizen who is the subject of a recording should have the ability to flag such recording and obtain a copy without filing a formal complaint. This is necessary to assure citizens trust the system and to realize the full potential that the cameras have for increasing police accountability.

No disciplinary actions are laid out for an officer who violates his/her duties under the policy. We recognize that it will take time to implement this change, but given the amount of control that individual officers will have over the cameras, the policy should be clear that transgressions will not go undealt with.

We are troubled by the process to date. The Department has been running a pilot project with body worn cameras and is asking for approval for funding to expand the program citywide without having released a final policy for their use. Without transparency and public input, the Department is missing an opportunity to build trust with the public and ensure that all concerns are taken into account. The policy as written and process of approval do not reflect the potential of body worn cameras as a tool for rebuilding trust between the Department and the public.

We strongly encourage the City Council to ensure that the final version of the policy includes these and other recommendations we have previously expressed. As a city, we must ensure adequate privacy protections and realize the full potential of body worn cameras as a tool to strengthen trust with the community.

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Make Sure You’re Covered! https://www.aclusandiego.org/medical/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/medical/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 22:20:00 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11379 sheriff flyer

On January 1, 2014, Medi-Cal (California’s public health insurance program for people with low income) expanded to include many more people, including adults without dependent children. As a result, many people who were previously denied are now eligible for free health coverage. Medi-Cal will cover physical and behavioral health services, including mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Increasing financial ability to access health services through Medi-Cal will help people access healthcare in their communities and potentially reduce incarcerations related to unmet health needs. There is no deadline to apply!

To spread the word, the ACLU has teamed up with local health clinics and reentry providers to create Medi-Cal information flyers with referrals to clinics who provide free application assistance.

There are small, downloadable flyers for North County, South Bay, East County, and Central San Diego, and one with referrals for all regions. The flyers in the right column, above, are larger and are suitable for downloading for reproduction.

Please help us share this information!

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Development Director https://www.aclusandiego.org/development-director-2/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/development-director-2/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 20:11:47 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11351  

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties seeks a dynamic, sophisticated full-time fundraiser to support and enhance its development efforts.  The Development Director reports to the Executive Director.

The ACLU fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all, through education, litigation, policy advocacy, and organizing.  The ACLU promotes and defends civil rights and civil liberties, including First Amendment rights, equal protection, privacy, and due process. The San Diego ACLU works collaboratively with the National ACLU headquarters in New York, as well as with the ACLU affiliates headquartered in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Together, the three California affiliates have more than 100,000 members and 120 staff in California.

Located in San Diego, our ACLU affiliate covers the length of California’s border with Mexico.  It has 23 staff members, 20 board members, 9,000 members, and an annual budget of $3 million.  San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States and the second largest in California.  San Diego County has the third largest number of registered voters in California.  Imperial County is the poorest county in California.

The ideal candidate will have a deep commitment and passion to ensuring civil liberties for everyone and an understanding of what it takes to fight for equality and equal protection under the law for all.

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES

The Development Director is an important position at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.  Reporting to the Executive Director, the Development Director will be responsible for managing a comprehensive fundraising program including annual and planned gifts and is part of the senior leadership team.  The Development Director will secure major, mid-level, and planned gifts through a process of identifying, qualifying, strategizing, cultivating, soliciting, closing, and stewarding major gift prospects and individual donors. He/she will also play an active role in membership development. The Development Director will also work be responsible for grant fundraising.

Specific Responsibilities:

  • Produce and implement a fundraising plan to retain and renew current donors while identifying and acquiring prospective donors;
  • Manage a portfolio of donors at annual giving levels of $1,000 and above. Serve as a primary contact for donors and make direct solicitations. This includes phone, mail and direct face to face contact, attending donor meetings and events;
  • Maintain fundraising schedules and objectives; ensure that plans are implemented, goals achieved, timely reports generated and information shared; ensure that fundraising is done in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Participate in strategic and operational planning within the Development team.
  • Work collaboratively with program staff on fundraising activities germane to their policy area where opportunities exist for engaging donors;
  • Maintain and expand a portfolio of foundation/grant prospects and supervise the writing of grants and maintenance of a grants calendar.
  • Track, cultivate, and sustain the planned giving program.
  • Work collaboratively with ACLU national office to cultivate and solicit planned gifts from members and donors.
  • Attend ACLU functions, such as the annual membership meeting, occasional board meetings and other ACLU events as requested. Serve as a representative of the organization at external events and meetings, as needed.
  • Supervise the affiliate’s participation in national ACLU direct marketing efforts.
  • Lead communications and organizing teams in membership development activities.
  • Advise prospects on giving options available; develop gift proposals; and work with donors to complete transfers of funds;
  • In cooperation with the Executive Director, Deputy Director, and board leadership, organize face-to-face solicitations for major gifts. Manage senior affiliate and national ACLU staff fundraising travel, meetings, and calls, as appropriate;
  • Develop and direct donor stewardship efforts, including individual donor correspondence and contact; cultivation events; and the development of a calendar for regular communications with donors;
  • Working with program staff and the Deputy Director prepare grant applications and required reports.
  • Make full use of the organization’s databases and tracking systems to ensure appropriate donor stewardship and to evaluate and report overall program performance;

Additional Duties

  • Overseeing event planning, implementation, staffing and follow-up as needed;
  • Work collaboratively and cooperatively with other team members and volunteers to advance the goals of the organization;
  • Occasional public speaking.
  • Work evenings and weekends when necessary;
  • Other tasks as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Unwavering commitment to civil liberties principles;
  • Bachelor’s degree;
  • Five years demonstrated experience in not-for-profit fundraising, including major and planned giving;
  • A successful track record of identifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding major individual donors;
  • Excellent verbal, written and interpersonal skills;
  • Knowledge of and successful experience with e-philanthropy strategies;
  • Advanced computer skills including experience with database management;
  • Demonstrated experience in responding and adapting to opportunities that arise;
  • Highly self-motivated, organized, adaptable.

Salary & Benefits:  Competitive salary commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits.

Please send a letter of interest and resume with references by June 30, 2014. 

Application Procedure:  Interested individuals must send a cover letter, resume, list of references, and a writing sample (no more than 5 pages), preferably by e-mail to jobs [at] aclusandiego.org or by mail to:

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
ATTN: Development Director Search
PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and veterans.

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Sheriff Gore Will No Longer Comply with ICE Immigration Holds https://www.aclusandiego.org/sheriff-gore-will-longer-comply-ice-immigration-holds/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/sheriff-gore-will-longer-comply-ice-immigration-holds/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 19:03:55 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11346  

SAN DIEGO – In a surprising but welcome decision, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore’s office confirmed that effective immediately, immigration detainees will no longer be held in jail for extra time under unconstitutional immigration “hold” requests. The policy reversal is attributed to a recent federal court decision, which held that a local jail had violated the Fourth Amendment by granting the detainer request without probable cause or a court-approved warrant.

[Lea este artículo en español, aquí.]

“This is a huge policy reversal, and a major victory for our communities, one that advocates have been working on for years,” said Homayra Yusufi-Marin, policy advocate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We applaud Sheriff Gore’s action recognizing the important values of due process and equality under the law that are foundational to our justice system. This is another step on the path to reform our broken immigration system and promote trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.”

The sheriff’s decision also comes in the wake of California’s passage of the TRUST Act, a landmark law designed to decrease deportations and the breaking up of families and the restoration of trust in local law enforcement. The TRUST Act sets a clear standard for when local law enforcement may respond to federal immigration detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), by prohibiting detentions of undocumented immigrants for deportation in minor arrests.

San Diego is now the largest county in the country to decide to refuse all detainer requests from ICE. Sacramento County also announced today that it would discontinue honoring these requests. Other California counties now include Alameda, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Bernardino, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Riverside. Nationally, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Denver, and a number of counties in Oregon have likewise decided they will no longer help federal immigration authorities carry out deportations. A coalition of immigrant and human rights organizations coordinated requests to sheriffs across the western United States urging sheriffs to stop detaining individuals at ICE’s request to avoid damage liability.

“We still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform nationally and the administration needs to implement policies to put a stop to the mass deportations of our immigrant communities,” said Yusufi-Marin, “but this is an important, milestone step towards ending ill-advised immigration enforcement policies that break up mixed-status families, breach community trust in law enforcement, and result in billions of dollars of wasted resources.”

UPDATE: San Diego Sheriff’s Department statement, available 5/30/14.

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Silencio departe de la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza resulta en una demanda https://www.aclusandiego.org/silencio-departe-de-la-oficina-de-aduanas-y-proteccion-fronteriza-resulta-en-una-demanda/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/silencio-departe-de-la-oficina-de-aduanas-y-proteccion-fronteriza-resulta-en-una-demanda/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 23:19:15 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11340 SAN DIEGO – La ACLU de los Condados de San Diego y Imperial interpuso una demanda bajo la Ley de Libertad de Información (FOIA, por sus siglas en inglés)  esta mañana buscando inmediato acceso a el reporte Foro de Investigación Policial Ejecutivo (PERF, por sus siglas en inglés) analizando las pólizas y prácticas de uso de fuerza por Agentes de la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza (CBP, por sus siglas en inglés).Previamente, la ACLU había hecho  una FOIA  en el 21 de Febrero de 2014, pero hasta esta fecha no ha recibido ni una respuesta, ni si quiera una confirmación que la petición había sido recibida.

[Read this article in English, here.]

“El fracaso de la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza al ni si quiera responder a nuestra petición FOIA es un ejemplo de la agencia’s resistencia a ser transparente y responsable,” dijo Mitra Ebadolahi, abogada del Proyecto Fronterizo de Litigio del ACLU de San Diego. “El reporte PERF es un documento importante, una que detalla las problemáticas y potencialmente ilegales practicas y pólizas de uso de fuerza por CBP. El entero reporte debiera ser hecho público inmediatamente.”

El reporte PERF fue comisionado después de que dieciséis miembros de Congreso pidieron información acerca de las prácticas de CBP después de una serie de muertes que atrajeron mucha atención en la prensa involucrando oficiales de CBP. Desde 2010, por lo menos 28 personas han muerto en encuentros con oficiales de CBP. Por lo menos diez eran ciudadanos estadounidenses; seis estaban en México cuando fueron matados.

Ya en 2014, tres personas han muerto después de encuentros con oficiales de CBP, incluyendo un migrante aquí en Escondido cerca de Otay Mesa. La próxima semana marca el cuarto aniversario de uno de los fallecidos – Anastasio Hernández Rojas.

El CBP si mismo comisiono PERF, una organización sin fines lucrativos, a conducir una auditoría independiente de las prácticas y pólizas del uso de fuerza por CBP. Aunque el reporte fue escrito y entregado a CBP en 2013, el reporte no ha sido divulgado al público. El periódico Los Angeles Times escribió un articulo después de leer una copia del reporte que detalla una crítica severa confirmando lo que organizaciones de derechos civiles largo habían sospechado: que el uso de fuerza por CBP es a menudo excesivo y arbitrario. De acuerdo a LA Times, el reporte PERF sugiere que oficiales de CBP deliberadamente provocaron confrontaciones que resultaron en violencia.

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Radio Silence from Border Patrol on Use-of-Force Policies Leads to Lawsuit-UPDATED https://www.aclusandiego.org/radio-silence-border-patrol-use-force-policies-leads-lawsuit/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/radio-silence-border-patrol-use-force-policies-leads-lawsuit/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 20:30:04 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11335 *** UPDATE: CBP Releases Report, New Training Handbook 5/30/14 ***

This morning, Customs and Border Protection officials announced the release of a revised use-of-force policy handbook and the Police Executive Research Forum report the San Diego ACLU had sued to get just eight days earlier. We welcome the overdue public release of the PERF report, and hope this is a positive step toward achieving urgently needed CBP transparency that the agency has long resisted.

Today we call on the CPB to ensure that the agency fully incorporates all major reforms in:

  • agent training,
  • use-of-force incident tracking,
  • impartial investigation processes within CBP, and
  • effective oversight and accountability.

With new leadership at the Department of Homeland Security and CBP, it is time to seize the moment to enact rapid and thorough reform of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, with particular focus on protecting the civil and human rights of families and residents in border communities.

We will hold the CBP commissioner, R. Gil Kerlikowske, to his word, made in announcement of today’s release of the long-awaited documents, to view today’s release of documents as “…the beginning of a continuous review of our responsibility to only use force when it is necessary to protect people.”

* * *END OF UPDATE * * *

SAN DIEGO – Today, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties filed a complaint in court against Customs and Border Protection for the agency’s failure to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the release of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report analyzing the agency’s use-of-force policies and practices. The ACLU previously had filed a FOIA on February 21, 2014, but to date has received no response at all—not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the FOIA.

[Lea este artículo en español, aquí.]

“Custom and Border Protection’s failure to even respond to our FOIA request exemplifies the agency’s resistance to transparency and accountability,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, staff attorney for the San Diego ACLU’s Border Litigation Project. “The PERF report is an important document, one that details CBP’s problematic and potentially unlawful use-of-force policies and practices. The report should be made public in its entirety, immediately.”

The PERF report came after sixteen members of Congress sought information about CBP’s practices following a series of high-profile deaths involving CBP personnel. Since 2010, at least 28 people have died in encounters with CBP officials. At least ten of these were U.S. citizens; six were inside Mexico when killed. Already in 2014, three people have died after encounters with Border Patrol agents, including a migrant here in San Diego near Otay Mesa.

Next week marks the fourth anniversary of one of the people killed since 2010—Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a longtime San Diego resident whose wife and five U.S. citizen children continue to seek justice for his brutal killing by border agents, which was caught on video by several eyewitnesses.

The CBP itself commissioned the PERF, a nonprofit research organization, to conduct an external, independent review of the CBP’s use-of-force practices and policies. Though the report was written and delivered to the CBP in 2013, it has not been made public. The Los Angeles Times wrote a story after seeing a leaked copy of the report, and detailed a scathing review confirming what civil rights organizations have long charged: that the Border Patrol agents’ use of force is often excessive and arbitrary. According to the LA Times, the PERF report suggests that border agents deliberately provoked confrontations that led to avoidable violence.

Just last month, on April 7, 2014 the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee also submitted a FOIA request for CBP use-of-force records, including the PERF report.  Like the ACLU, the AFSC has also not received a response to their FOIA request.  Pedro Rios, director of the AFSC, said, “CBP is the largest domestic law enforcement agency in the country. The general public has a right to know what policies guide its agents and how those agents are held accountable for actions that lead to abusive treatment.”

The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), a coalition of 60 organizations from San Diego to Brownsville and of which ACLU and AFSC are a part, has also requested the release of the PERF report directly with the new leadership at CBP. “PERF is a widely respected, professional police review agency whose recommendations set the standard for best practices,” stated Andrea Guerrero, co-chair of SBCC. “There are no excuses for hiding or rejecting any recommendations that could prevent further deaths and abuses.”

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San Diego ACLU Urges City Residents: Vote Yes on Props B&C https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-urges-city-residents-vote-yes-props-bc/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-urges-city-residents-vote-yes-props-bc/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 00:20:32 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11333  

The San Diego ACLU doesn’t often take a public stand on local propositions. But we support Props B & C because they seek to fix inequities in environmental justice that have fallen disproportionately on people who live in Barrio Logan. 

Stand for justice in Barrio Logan. Pledge to vote YES on Props B & C.

Barrio Logan created a community plan, which was vetted and duly passed by the San Diego City Council last fall. Issues addressed by the plan include the need to create a buffer zone between their homes and the toxins and industrial pollution, which result in asthma rates at three times the rate of the county.

The plan is on the June 3rd ballot because some entrenched business interests were unhappy with the City Council’s decision.

Most of us can agree that we wouldn’t be too happy if people in all the other neighborhoods across the city got to decide what was best for our own neighborhood.

Join the San Diego ACLU: VOTE YES ON PROPs B & C!

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Healthcare Reform and Immigration Status in California https://www.aclusandiego.org/healthcare-reform-immigration-status-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/healthcare-reform-immigration-status-california/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 20:41:39 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11326

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Líderes comunitarios molestos con falla del condado para proporcionar información vital en varios lenguajes durante tiempo de desastre https://www.aclusandiego.org/la-aclu-exige-que-el-condado-proporcione-informacion-para-residentes-que-hablan-ingles-acerca-de-los-incendios/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/la-aclu-exige-que-el-condado-proporcione-informacion-para-residentes-que-hablan-ingles-acerca-de-los-incendios/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 20:11:52 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11320  

SAN DIEGO – En vista de estos desastrosos incendios, es de gran importancia que todos los residentes del Condado de San Diego sean proporcionados información actualizada acerca de los incendios que están rugiendo por todo nuestro condado.  Organizaciones y activistas de la comunidad latina y asiática y de las islas del Pacífico después de oír las historias de los afectados, imploraron a oficiales del condado desde ayer que información importante acerca de los incendios sea proporcionada en varios lenguajes al fin que los afectados puedan mejor proteger a sus familias y mantenerse fuera de las áreas de peligro.

“Muchos de nuestros clientes solo hablan chino, y cuando hay una emergencia, comunicación en nuestro propio lenguaje es muy importante,” dijo Sally Wong Avery, presidente del Centro de Servicios Chinos. “Confiamos en que nuestros oficiales del gobierno van a tener todos los lenguajes cubiertos para que nadie sea menospreciado.”

Esta mañana, la ACLU de los condados de San Diego y Imperial mandaron un carta vía correo electrónico a la Junta de Supervisores del Condado delineando su obligación legal a proporcionar traducciones de información pertinente a la emergencia, incluyendo tener un traductor en español en todos las conferencias de prensa. Desafortunadamente, el condado tuvo una conferencia de prensa hoy después de recibir el correo electrónico y la información todavía solo fue proporcionada en ingles y en lenguaje de signos americano, continuando a menospreciar a una gran porción de residentes que no hablan ingles que necesitan esta información critica para su bienestar y para poder evacuar.

“Es necesario que el condado se aseguré que durante desastres todos tengan acceso a información vital y servicios,” dijo Norma Chavez-Peterson, la directora ejecutiva de la ACLU de los Condados de San Diego e Imperial. “Sabemos que duro están trabajando los rescatistas para salvar vidas. Nadie debería quedar en áreas de peligro porque no entendieron que grave esta la situación.”

La carta que mando ACLU exige que el condado:

  1. Haga todas conferencias de prensa y comunicados acerca de los incendios en ingles y español;
  2. Se asegure que todos comunicados de prensa y notas para los medios sean emitidos en español, vietnamita, tagalog/filipino, chino, tal como el Condado hace para información electoral;
  3. Se asegure que los operados trabajando las líneas 211 quien hablan español, vietnamita, tagalog/filipino, y chino estén disponibles para responder a llamadas en esos lenguajes.

“Nuestros oficiales elegidos tiene una obligación a proporcionar información vital rápidamente, efectivamente, y en un lenguaje que todos los residentes del Condado de San Diego puedan entender,” dijo Christian Ramirez, director del Coalición de Comunidades de la Frontera del Sur. “No es aceptable que oficiales del gobierno permitan que barreras a lenguaje impidan la proporción de información vital.”

Leyes federales y estatales requieren que el Condado de San Diego proporcione información acerca de desastres naturales a sus residentes en el lenguaje que ellos entienden. La ley en California dice que “es una práctica discriminatoria” que el condado “falle al tomar los pasos necesarios para asegurarse que medios alternativos de comunicación sean disponibles para los últimos beneficiarios.”

Un número significante de residentes de San Diego necesitan urgentemente traducciones de esta información vital:

  • 35% de residentes del Condado de 5 años de edad o más hablan otro lenguaje en vez de ingles
  • 24% de residentes del Condado de 5 años de edad o más hablan español
  • 15% de residentes del Condado de 5 años de edad o más tienen un entendimiento limitado del ingles
  • 11% residentes del Condado de 5 años de edad o más hablan español y tienen un entendimiento limitado del ingles
  • Aproximadamente 15% de residentes del Condado Norte de 5 años de edad o más hablan español y tienen un entendimiento limitado del ingles

La carta cita varias leyes federales y estatales requiriendo que personas recibiendo servicios públicos tengan acceso a información en su propio lenguaje. Lea la carta en ingles aquí.

 

 

 

 

 

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Broad Concern with County’s Failure to Provide Language Access during Time of Disaster https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-calls-county-provide-language-access-wildfires/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-calls-county-provide-language-access-wildfires/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 20:07:08 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11318  

SAN DIEGO – During this severe fire disaster, it is imperative that all San Diego county residents are being provided with the most up to date information concerning the fires sweeping across our county.  Organizations and community leaders from San Diego’s Latino and Asian Pacific Islander communities hearing from scores of victims who could not access the most recent news about the fires, pleaded with county officials beginning yesterday to provide important fire-related information in multiple languages so that they can take care of their families and ensure everyone’s safety.

[Lea este artículo aquí en español.]

“Many of our clients are monolingual Chinese speakers, so when there is an emergency, communication in our own language is very important,” said Sally Wong Avery, president of the Chinese Service Center. “We trust that our government officials will have all the necessary languages covered so that no one is left behind.”

This morning, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties informed the county Board of Supervisors of their legal obligation to translate pertinent emergency information and provided recommendations to meet those obligations, including by having a Spanish translator at all press conferences. Unfortunately, the county again conducted its afternoon briefing and news conference in only English and American Sign Language, continuing to leave large portions of the county’s residents in the dark about critical safety and evacuation information.

“It is imperative that the County ensure language access to vital information and services during disasters,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We know how hard our first responders are working to save lives. No one should be left in harm’s way because they didn’t understand the extent of the danger.”

The ACLU letter requested that the County:

  1. Hold all press conferences and briefings regarding the wildfire in both English & Spanish;
  2. Ensure that all written press releases and advisories regarding the wildfires are issued in Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog/Filipino, and Chinese, as the County already is required to do for voting materials; and
  3. Ensure that 211 operators who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog/Filipino, and Chinese are available to answer calls in those languages.

“Our local elected officials have an obligation to provide life saving information quickly, efficiently and in a language that all San Diego County residents can understand,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. “It is unacceptable for  public officials to allow language to become a barrier that impedes the flow of life-saving information.”

Both state and federal law require San Diego County to provide its residents with natural disaster information in a language they can understand.  California law says, “it is discriminatory practice” for the county to “to fail to take appropriate steps to ensure that alternative communication services are available to ultimate beneficiaries.”

There are a significant number of San Diegans that are in need of translated, urgent information:

  • 35% of County residents age 5 and above speak a language other than English.
  • 24% of County residents age 5 and above speak Spanish.
  • 15% of County residents age 5 and above have limited English proficiency.
  • 11% of County residents age 5 and above speak Spanish & have limited English proficiency.
  • Approximately 15% of North County residents age 5 and above speak Spanish & have limited English proficiency.

The ACLU letter cited federal and state laws requiring language access to public services. Read the entire letter (in English) here. Loy attached a copy of “A Local Official’s Guide to Language Access Laws.”

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Conoce Tus Derechos Durante y Después de un Desastre https://www.aclusandiego.org/conoce-tus-derechos-durante-y-despues-de-un-desastre/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/conoce-tus-derechos-durante-y-despues-de-un-desastre/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 16:32:39 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11308  

¿Qué está pasando?
¿Donde recibo ayuda?
¿Cuales son mis derechos?

Durante y después de un desastre, los rescatistas y agencias gubernamentales deben actuar rápida y efectivamente para minimizar los daños y ayudar a los damnificados. Durante un desastre, no debemos olvidarnos de la Constitución. Si eres victima de un desastre, tienes los mismos derechos constitucionales de siempre, incluyendo igualdad de trato y las debidas garantías procesales.

Ultimos Detalles

  • Para últimos detalles sobre los incendios alrededor de San Diego y por información de recursos disponibles llame 211. Para las personas que usan twitter, sigan @sandiegolisto para ver las últimas noticias sobre los incendios.

Tienes derecho a albergue, comida, atención médica, y otra ayuda

  • Si puedes demostrar que perteneces al área afectada, los rescatistas cubrirán tus necesidades inmediatas. Puedes encontrar más información a: www.aclusandiego.org o llame 619.232.2121.

Mantén la calma y defiende tus derechos

  • Tienes derecho a atención médica, comida, albergue y ayuda financiera
  • No tienes que mostrar tu identificación para recibir ayuda
  • No te pueden discriminar.  Sin importar tu raza, color, etnia, nacionalidad, género, orientación sexual, edad, discapacidades o si hablas o no inglés.
  • No te pueden registrar sin razón
  • Tienes derecho a proteger tu información personal

No tienes que mostrar tu identificación

  • Ni la policía ni los rescatistas pueden pedirte ningún tipo de identificación, incluyendo tarjetas de inmigración o de seguro social. Si pueden pedir prueba que vives en la área afectada, pero si no tienes pruebas todavía tienes el derecho a servicios de emergencia y refugio. Si por algún chance, tienes una carta o cualquier prueba de tu vivienda, eso es suficiente. Si tienes un vecino, compañero de trabajo, etc. que tiene un tipo de identificación valido, ellos pueden verificar tu residencia.

Interrogación injustificado por la policía

  • Si llegan a ser víctimas de interrogación injusta, por agentes de policía o de inmigración, al tratar de evacuar o regresar a sus hogares, por favor llamen al 619-269-1823 para reportar el incidente.

Si la policía te detiene

  • Pregúntales si puedes irte
  • No tienes que contestar ninguna pregunta, solo dar tu nombre.

espanol icon

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Rights Leaders Urge County to Provide Emergency Info in Multiple Languages https://www.aclusandiego.org/rights-leaders-urge-san-diego-county-provide-emergency-info-multiple-languages/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/rights-leaders-urge-san-diego-county-provide-emergency-info-multiple-languages/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 22:35:33 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11307  

SAN DIEGO – As the county braces for another difficult day of wildfires, immigrant rights leaders are urging state, county and local officials and media outlets to provide updated emergency information in multiple languages in order to ensure the safety of all of San Diego county residents.

“It is imperative that local officials and local media are mindful that providing updated information in multiple languages during this state of emergency can save lives,” said Alor Calderon, chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.

During the 2007 wildfires that devastated the county, immigrant rights organization documented discriminatory practices and unnecessary searches which placed the lives of many at risk.

As a result, in September 2008, the California Legislature passed and the governor signed into law AB 2327, which requires any local or state public employee who provides disaster-related assistance to do so without asking for information or documents that are not strictly necessary to determine eligibility. This generally means that no relief worker or volunteers should ask for IDs of victims seeking shelter, food, water, medical care, or other assistance.

Gov. Code 8596(c) , the resulting law, reads:

Entities providing disaster-related services and assistance shall strive to ensure that all victims receive the assistance that they need and for which they are eligible. Public employees shall assist evacuees and other individuals in securing disaster-related assistance and services without eliciting any information or document that is not strictly necessary to determine eligibility under state and federal laws. Nothing in this subdivision shall prevent public employees from taking reasonable steps to protect the health or safety of evacuees and other individuals during an emergency.

The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium urges local media to:

  1. Communicate emergency information in the major languages of San Diegans (including spoken languages and sign languages).

The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium urges local and county officials to:

  1. Communicate emergency information in the major languages of San Diegans (including spoken languages and sign languages).
  2. Abide by Cal Gov Code 8596 to ensure that public employees (emergency personnel and others) are assisting evacuees and others affected by the fires without eliciting information or documents not strictly necessary under law to access emergency assistance.
  3. Do not involve Border Patrol in emergency service roles in which they might have a deterring effect that would discourage immigrant families from getting out of harm’s way or seeking emergency assistance.

The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium has set up a hotline to report any irregularities during the state of emergency 619-269-1823.

fire pic-sm

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Know Your Rights During San Diego’s Wildfires https://www.aclusandiego.org/fires-rage-throughout-san-diego-county/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/fires-rage-throughout-san-diego-county/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 23:33:18 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11290  

SAN DIEGO – At least six wildfires are burning across San Diego’s north county, including Carlsbad, Camp Pendleton, Fallbrook, Oceanside, Las Pulgas, Rancho Penasquitos, and along Route 76. Our thoughts are with all the families in harm’s way.

In 2007, wildfires ravaged huge swaths of San Diego County. In a series of breakdowns in policies, procedures, and standards, many of our county’s most vulnerable residents affected by the devastating wildfires were denied emergency services in their time of greatest need.

Within a week of the fires’ breakout, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Justice Overcoming Boundaries, and the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium released a report (aquí en español) detailing the problems. In concert with a number of allies, including the American Red Cross of San Diego & Imperial Counties, we then helped pass a bill, signed into law in 2008, that requires public employees to provide evacuees with disaster-related assistance without asking for information or documents not strictly necessary to determine eligibility for services. One of the chief concerns during the 2007 wildfires was that aid workers were asking evacuees for proof of identity in order to enter emergency shelters, access emergency food and water, and speak to a relief worker.

Your Rights During and After a Disaster:

– You cannot be discriminated against
– You are free from unreasonable searches
– Your personal information must be protected
– You have the right to medical care, food, shelter & financial aid
– You do not have to show identification
– Be calm and stand up for your rights

To ensure that everyone affected by a disaster is aware of his/her rights, the San Diego ACLU and the San Diego Red Cross created a series of “Know Your Rights During a Disaster” materials. These can be found below.

wildfires 2014

 

Please contact the ACLU if you hear of anyone being denied services during this current fire season.

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Blacks Twice as Likely to be Stopped, Three Times as Likely to be Searched https://www.aclusandiego.org/african-americans-twice-likely-stopped-three-times-likely-searched/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/african-americans-twice-likely-stopped-three-times-likely-searched/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 20:22:20 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11284 The San Diego Police Department has released the race/ethnicity data on all vehicle stops, from January to March 2014. Sad to say, the data reveals very troubling trends in stops and searches by the San Diego Police Department:

  • Blacks are stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation.
    Blacks account for 12.3% of vehicle stops, but only 5.8% of the driving age population (15 years and up).
  • Once stopped, blacks are searched at three times the rate of whites, and Latinos are searched at twice the rate of whites.
  • If searched, blacks and Latinos are significantly less likely than other groups to be arrested.
    Fewer than one in five searches of blacks is associated with an arrest. For Latinos, one in four searches is associated with an arrest.

The ACLU has received many community complaints about suspected racial profiling by the SDPD. In the absence of data, the agency’s response has consistently been that such concerns are merely a matter of perception. Now data, provided by the agency itself, suggests otherwise.

Today, the ACLU sent a letter to Councilmember Marti Emerald, the chair of the Public Safety and Livable Communities committee voicing our concerns about these disturbing trends. Tomorrow night, the SDPD will be presenting this data to members of the City Council.

Join us to voice your concerns!

Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee & Gang Commission
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 6 p.m. (Arrive at 5:30pm to get a seat!)
Cherokee Point Elementary School (3735 38th Street, San Diego, CA 92105)

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SAN DIEGO – The Drive California Coalition, comprising a broad range of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations, applauds members of California’s congressional delegation for urging U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to approve the California driver’s license proposed by the legislature in AB 60: “The Safe and Responsible Driver Act.”  The license is carefully designed to protect against discrimination and comply with federal law.

[Lea este artículo aquí en español.]

San Diego & Imperial counties’ Congressmember Juan Vargas, Representative for California’s 51st Congressional District and author of the letter sent to DHS, said, “At its core, this is a public safety issue. The fact of the matter is that all Californians stand to benefit from the successful implementation of California’s new driver’s license program for immigrants. Our roads will be much safer when all Californians understand the rules of the road, are trained, tested, licensed and insured.” Nineteen members of California’s congressional delegation signed Congressman Vargas’ letter (see full list, below).

The letter is a response to DHS’s inexplicable rejection of California’s design for its driver’s license program, since AB 60 was especially written to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005. Under AB 60, the driver’s licenses would have a marking on the front reading “DP,” instead of the traditional “DL.”  Additionally, the back of the license would clearly state: “NOT FOR OFFICIAL FEDERAL PURPOSES.”

Advocates maintain that California’s good faith effort to comply with federal law and discourage discrimination must be respected. “Immigrants are already primary targets for scams, discrimination, retaliation and extortion by unscrupulous individuals,” said Luis Nolasco of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition in San Bernardino. “We’re talking about people’s very real fears of being targeted during simple, everyday interactions like applying to rent an apartment, going to the grocery story, or returning an item at the mall.”

In accordance with Representative Vargas’ letter, advocates agree that the issue calls for more flexibility on DHS’s part. Jazmin Segura of Educators for Fair Consideration in San Francisco said, “It should not be difficult to train federal officials to recognize the distinctive marks on California licenses. Does DHS really have so little faith in the ability of TSA employees to distinguish a license with the statement ‘not for official federal purposes’ from one without?”

Priya Murthy of Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network stated, “We call upon DHS to respect the protections California has established, which carefully balance complying with the REAL ID Act and ensuring the greatest protections for community members.”

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About the Drive California Coalition

Drive California is comprised of a wide range of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations working to ensure to successful implementation of California’s landmark drivers’ license program for immigrants. Members include, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA), the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU-CA), the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Council on American-Islamic Relations California (CAIR-CA), Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), Justice for Immigrants Coalition in San Bernardino (JFIC), Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO), Presente, the Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), and TODEC – Training Occupational Development Educating Communities.

Members of California’s Congressional Delegation Who Signed On to Rep. Vargas’s Letter

  • Rep. Juan Vargas (51st CD)
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (34th CD)
  • Rep. Julia Brownley (26th CD)
  • Rep. Tony Cárdenas (29th CD)
  • Rep. Judy Chu (32nd CD)
  • Rep. Sam Farr (20th CD)
  • Rep. Janice Hahn (44th CD)
  • Rep. Mike Honda (17th CD)
  • rep. Jared Huffman (2nd CD)
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (13th CD)
  • Rep. Alan Lowenthal (47th CD)
  • Rep. Doris Matsui (6th CD)
  • Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (35th CD)
  • Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (40th CD)
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez (46th CD)
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (28th CD)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (15th CD)
  • Rep. Mark Takano (41st CD)
  • Rep. Mike Thompson (5th CD)
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DMV Releases Draft Regulations on Driver’s Licenses under AB 60 https://www.aclusandiego.org/dmv-releases-draft-regulations-drivers-licenses-ab-60/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/dmv-releases-draft-regulations-drivers-licenses-ab-60/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 14:38:00 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11272

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released draft regulations today that outline the potential process and requirements necessary for undocumented immigrants living in California to apply for driver licenses.

Since October 2013, when Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 60 (Alejo) into law, the DMV has been working with experts, immigrant rights activists and community members to draft a process that is accessible for applicants but also manageable for the state. An estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in California are expected to apply for licenses under this new law when it goes into effect no later than January 1, 2015.

The Drive California Coalition, comprising a broad range of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations released the following statement:

“We are glad to see the DMV move forward with the implementation of AB 60, which if successfully implemented, would ensure that all California drivers can be trained, tested, licensed and insured.

“We look forward to taking a close look in the coming days at the proposed draft regulations and analyzing them in detail to make sure they protect immigrant drivers. We will continue to work with the DMV in this public comment period to come up with final regulations that ensure that AB 60 licenses are accessible and protect the civil rights of all immigrants.

“However, these regulations do not resolve the issue of the license design. We urge the Department of Homeland Security to come to agreement with the 19 Members of the California Congressional delegation who just this morning sent a letter urging the Department to respect California law and the license design proposed by the Legislature in AB 60, which carefully balances complying with federal law and protecting immigrant community members from discrimination.”

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dmv logo

About the Drive California Coalition:

Drive California is a statewide coalition comprised of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations working to ensure to successful implementation of California’s landmark drivers’ license program for immigrants. Members include, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA), the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU-CA), the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), Central American Resource Center – Los Angeles, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Council on American-Islamic Relations California (CAIR-CA), Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), Justice for Immigrants Coalition in San Bernardino (JFIC), Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project, Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), PICO California, Presente.org, the Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), TODEC – Training Occupational Development Educating Communities, and Voces Unidas Solano.

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Judge Says State Unconstitutionally Stripped Thousands of Their Right to Vote https://www.aclusandiego.org/judge-orders-restoration-voting-rights-tens-thousands-californians/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/judge-orders-restoration-voting-rights-tens-thousands-californians/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:03:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11257 OAKLAND, Calif. – An Alameda County Superior Court judge today ruled that Secretary of State Debra Bowen illegally stripped tens of thousands of people of their voting rights two years ago. His ruling said people on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) and mandatory supervision under California’s Criminal Justice Realignment Act are eligible to vote.

[Lea este artículo en español.]

“Today’s ruling is a victory for California’s democracy,” said Michael Risher, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “By following the plain language of our state’s voting laws, the court’s ruling will help ensure that in California, one of the nation’s most fundamental rights – the right to vote – will be protected and not restricted.”

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said the fact that the California legislature passed the Realignment Act with the legislative goal of better facilitating the reintegration of people with felony convictions back into society suggests legislators would have wanted people on PRCS and mandatory supervision to retain their right to vote, writing that “the plain language of the statute suggests that the integration of adult felons into society would be facilitated by allowing” these individuals to vote.

”Our democracy belongs to everyone who lives in America, not just a select few,” said Dorsey Nunn, executive director of All of Us or None, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Democracy functions best when the largest number of citizens possible participate, including formerly incarcerated people.”

Judge Grillo also followed California’s longstanding rule that every reasonable presumption be given in favor of the right of people to vote.

“The significance of this victory cannot be overstated. The right to vote gives meaning to every other right we have as citizens, and it is for this reason that our laws require every reasonable presumption in favor of the right to vote,” said Meredith Desautels, staff attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The court’s decision affirms the voices of Californians returning to their communities, assuring them the opportunity to contribute as equal members.”

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children filed a lawsuit charging Bowen with unconstitutionally stripping tens of thousands of people of their right to vote.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three people who have lost or will soon lose their right to vote, along with the League of Women Voters of California and All of Us or None, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and their families.

“We should be expanding voting rights, not shutting out people of color,” said Jennifer A. Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California. “Our democracy is stronger when all who are eligible can express their values and shape their community by voting.”

According to the lawsuit, Bowen violated state law when she issued a directive to local elections officials in December 2011 asserting that people are ineligible to vote if they are on PRCS or mandatory supervision – two new and innovative community-based alternatives to parole created under California’s Realignment Act for people recently incarcerated for low-level, non-violent, non-serious crimes.

The lawsuit also argued that after California voters in 1974 approved Proposition 10, state law has been clear that the only people ineligible to vote in California are those who are in state prison or on parole.

Resources for people with past convictions

 

 

 

 

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Troubling New Evidence of Racial Profiling Culture at SDPD https://www.aclusandiego.org/troubling-new-evidence-racial-profiling-culture-sdpd/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/troubling-new-evidence-racial-profiling-culture-sdpd/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 21:27:27 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11252 The San Diego ACLU is deeply troubled by a recent report on KGTV in which several active duty police officers exposed several of their fellow officers in the Southeastern Division for complaining that a developing mural in the stationhouse had “too many black faces.” The officers who are reportedly uncomfortable with the faces of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, City Councilmember Myrtle Cole, and their own Captain Tony McElroy, are among the officers charged with protecting and serving San Diego’s southeastern neighborhood, which has the highest density of African American residents in the city.

The San Diego ACLU is concerned by how such biases could influence these officers in their day to day interactions in the community. One officer who was troubled by the comments said, “If they feel this way about a mural, how are they going to treat the public?”

This disturbing report is one more reason that the San Diego Police Department is in desperate need of a thorough audit that investigates the department’s incidences of racial profiling.

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Supreme Court Upholds Town Government Prayers https://www.aclusandiego.org/supreme-court-upholds-town-government-prayers/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/supreme-court-upholds-town-government-prayers/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 15:19:23 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11245

 

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court of the United States upheld today a New York town’s practice of starting town meetings with official sectarian prayer. The practice was challenged by residents of Greece, N.Y. who objected to hearing government prayers, the vast majority of which were expressly Christian invocations, as a condition of attending public meetings.

“We are disappointed by today’s decision.  Official religious favoritism should be off-limits under the Constitution,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Town-sponsored sectarian prayer violates the basic rule requiring the government to stay neutral on matters of faith.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief supporting the residents of Greece.

“The constitutional requirement that church and state must be separated rests, in part, on the understanding that when government supports one religion over others, people who are not members of the favored religion are made to feel like outsiders by their government,” said Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

No one should be treated like a second-class citizen by their local governments because they do not share a particular set of beliefs.  Religious freedom is alive and well in the United States precisely because the government does not take sides on matters of religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, reasoned that Greece had not violated the Constitution because the prayers were “ceremonial.” Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent said that the town’s prayer opening could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.”

torch-smWant to weigh in on this issue on our non-scientific poll? Scroll down to the bottom of our home page and click on the red “Vote” button.

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Failed Experiments: Stop All Lethal Injections Now https://www.aclusandiego.org/failed-experiments-stop-lethal-injections-now/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/failed-experiments-stop-lethal-injections-now/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 21:11:32 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11250

Assurances about lethal injection rest on the premise that inmates are sedated and unconscious before other excruciating drugs are administered. The horrifying experiences of recent executions make clear these assurances are false. The drugs used in recent executions produced not a sleep into death but many wakeful minutes of struggle and pain. Such executions are clear violations of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and require investigation and action.

In other words, no human being should be death’s guinea pig.

We were all reminded of this Tuesday night when the state of Oklahoma executedClayton Lockett in a gruesome experiment. Using an untested protocol, with secretly obtained drugs, the state started Lockett’s execution at 6:23 p.m. Ten minutes later, Locket was pronounced unconscious and administered the second and third drugs. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that Lockett was not unconscious as he writhed, breathed heavily, and mumbled. He clenched his teeth and tried to rise off the bed.

His lawyer said it looked “like torture.” The prison officials then dropped the blinds, blocking the view. The warden called off the execution, announcing the obvious: The doctor had observed a problem. He said Lockett’s “vein had blown,” and they did not know how much of the drugs he had received. Lockett died shortly thereafter of a heart attack when his heart literally burst in his chest. As the White House acknowledges, Lockett’s execution fell short of the humane standards required when the death penalty is carried out.

This was not the first failed experiment in new lethal injection protocols – and not even in Oklahoma. The main drug used in earlier years of lethal injection, sodium thiopental, is no longer available because its manufacturers object to the use of medication for killing. This has led states to concoct new execution protocols and to scramble for alternative drugs.

The new protocols are no more scientific. Recent executions have relied on pentobarbital or midazolam. Both have terrible track records. The reports from observers of Lockett’s execution, which used midazolam, have a strong resemblance to those from Dennis McGuire, whose botched execution in Ohio took place a few months earlier in January. After McGuire was reported by the prison as unconscious, he clenched his fist, heaved, struggled, and made horrible noises, according to witnesses. He was gasping, choking, and snoring in the 25 minutes it took to kill him. The Ohio death recipe is the same thatLouisiana wants to follow.

We know that pentobarbital, the other drug used in recent executions, will cause excruciating pain in poorly regulated or contaminated batches. Before its new protocol, Oklahoma relied on pentobarbital. This was what was used to execute death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, who cried out during his execution, “I feel my whole body burning.”

These botched executions raise critical questions: Why did the execution go so wrong? Is there any reason to think that these particular protocols and combinations of drugs would ever work? Where did the drugs come from, and were the drugs themselves contaminated?

Lockett’s lawyers had tried to get answers about the source and the quality of the drugs to be used well before his execution, and a lower court initially ruled that Oklahoma would have to provide these details. But after a wild and unbelievable litigation path – which involved a lawmaker threatening to impeach the state supreme court and the governor asserting that she was not required to follow the supreme court’s ruling – the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the execution could proceed in a cloud of secrecy.

Where the drugs come from is a critical question. Many of the drugs – including pentobarbital – are not available through traditional manufacturers and can only be obtained through compounding pharmacies, where reliability and safety are major concerns. Eric Robert was executed in 2012 by South Dakota using compounded pentobarbital. After he was injected, he gasped heavily, snored loudly with his eyes open, and his skin turned purple. An expert pharmacologist has described this reaction as consistent with contaminated drugs.

States have tried to fend off these critical inquires about the sources of their drugs by relying on secrecy statutes or litigation. The Supreme Court has yet to wade into this area, but a federal appeals court allowed a Missouri execution to go forward under a total veil of secrecy about where the drugs came from. As a dissenting justice described, the “pharmacy on which Missouri relies could be nothing more than a high school class.”

Last month, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a treaty ratified by the United States in 1992, expressed concerns regarding the use of untested drugs in lethal injections. The committee noted “with concern reports about the administration, by some states, of untested lethal drugs to execute prisoners and the withholding of information about such drugs.”

The committee recommended that the U.S. government “ensure that lethal drugs used for executions originate from legal, regulated sources, and are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and that information on the origin and composition of such drugs is made available to individuals scheduled for execution.”

These recommendations – transparency and oversight by the F.D.A. of all drugs used in lethal injections – are important ones, but we need full answers about what has gone so horribly wrong. Governor Mary Fallin has acknowledged the need for investigation, but so far, she has failed to appoint an independent investigation. Oklahoma has given us no reason to have confidence that an executive investigation will provide any serious inquiry.

Before Oklahoma, or any other state, engages in executions, we need real answers from an independent investigation. Only with that information can states formulate the effective and transparent standards that the Constitution requires.

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California Fair Sentencing Act Clears First Hurdle https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-fair-sentencing-act-clears-first-hurdle/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-fair-sentencing-act-clears-first-hurdle/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 00:04:12 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11238   

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Fair Sentencing Act (SB 1010), authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), passed its first hurdle in the Senate Committee on Public Safety. Senator Mitchell’s bill will correct the groundless disparity in sentencing, probation and asset forfeiture guidelines for possession of crack cocaine for sale versus the same crime involving powder cocaine that has resulted in a pattern of racial discrimination in sentencing and incarceration in California. SB 1010 now moves on to the Appropriations Committee.

“There is no rational basis for the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing, and instead it causes an unjustified and devastating racial disparity in our correctional system and in our communities,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior policy advocate with the ACLU of California.

Garnering over 100 letters of support, the California Fair Sentencing Act boasts support from national civil rights groups (including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Advancement Project), human rights advocates (incl. Human Rights Watch and The Children’s Defense Fund), over a dozen Latino and immigrant rights groups (incl. MALDEF and CHIRLA), faith based collaboratives (incl. Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches and PICO California), leading drug treatment experts (incl. California Society of Addiction Medicine and Tarzana Treatment Centers), constitutional attorneys (incl. Dean of UC Irvine School of Law Erwin Chemerinsky and UC Berkeley School of Law Warren Institute Senior Fellow Barry Krisberg), and so many other organizations and individuals who believe that the time has come for equal justice under the law.

“Same crime, same punishment is a basic principle of law in our democratic society,” said Senator Mitchell, Chair of the Black Caucus and member of the Senate Public Safety Committee. “Yet more Black and Brown people serve longer sentences for trying to sell cocaine because the law unfairly punishes cheap drug traffic more severely than the white-collar version. Well, fair needs to be fair.”

The Senate Public Safety Committee staff analysis noted that African Americans are imprisoned for possession of cocaine base for sale at a rate 43.25 times that for Whites. Moreover, it noted that, “despite the fact that white adolescents use drugs at much higher rates than minority adolescents, the US Department of Justice found that juvenile arrests disproportionately involve minorities.”

Crack and powder cocaine are two forms of the same drug. Scientific reports, including a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, demonstrate that they have nearly identical effects on the human body. Crack cocaine is derived when cocaine powder is processed with an alkali, typically common baking soda. Gram for gram, there is less active drug in crack than in powder cocaine.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, people of color accounted for over 98% of persons sent to prison for possession of crack cocaine for sale in 2005-2010. Blacks accounted for 77.4% of state prison commitments for crack possession for sale, Latinos for 18.1%, and whites for less than 2%. Blacks make up 6.6% of the California state population, Latinos 38.2%, and whites 39.4%.

The California Fair Sentencing Act is cosponsored by a dozen civil rights and criminal justice reform organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of California, A New Way of Life, California State Conference of the NAACP, Californians for Safety and Justice, California Public Defenders Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Ella Baker Center, Friends Committee on Legislation, National Council for La Raza, and the William C. Velasquez Institute.

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Online Voter Registration Now Available in 10 Languages https://www.aclusandiego.org/online-voter-registration-now-available-10-languages/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/online-voter-registration-now-available-10-languages/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:59:50 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11234 SACRAMENTO – California’s online voter registration website – launched in English and Spanish in 2012 – has now been expanded to include eight additional languages: Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. In addition, the new system now has improved access for people with disabilities. People who want to register to vote can now visit http://registertovote.ca.gov and fill out an online form in any of these ten languages.

In 2012, the ACLU of California sponsored Senate Bill 35 (Padilla, 2012), which, among other things, required the Secretary of State to translate online voter registration into all languages in which California counties are required to offer voting materials under the federal Voting Rights Act. Voting rights advocates across the country commend the bill’s author, Senator Alex Padilla, and Governor Brown for signing it into law.

Online voter registration offers a convenient alternative to filling out a registration form at the local DMV office, or downloading a form, filling it out, and putting it in the mail. Before the November 2012 election, over half a million people used the online voter registration website to register as new voters.

Advocates expect this to help increase registration among Asian Americans and Latinos in California who tend to have relatively low voter registration rates. While 72 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 69 percent of African Americans in California reported being registered to vote in 2012, only 58 percent of Asians and 57 percent of Latinos were registered.

“This is an exciting moment for California, which continues to work toward expanding access to the electoral process at a time when so many other states are restricting the right to vote,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of ACLU of California Voting Rights Project. “Californians will now have equal access to the state’s online voter registration system, regardless of language preference or a possible disability. If you have access to a computer or a smartphone, you can submit a voter registration application in just a few minutes.”

Californians who want to vote in the June 3 primary but are not registered to vote, must register by May 19. Those who are already registered voters do not need to re-register unless they wish to update their address or change their political party affiliation.

 

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Across the Digital Divide https://www.aclusandiego.org/across-digital-divide/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/across-digital-divide/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:19:13 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11230 Raising serious concerns about equal access the San Diego ACLU urged the Oceanside Unified School District to rescind any requirement for families to use an online system for enrolling students. To require families to enroll children online imposes a significant barrier to equal educational opportunity for low-income and people of color and people with disabilities, given the digital divide in access to the internet.

At least one school in the district, McAuliffe Elementary School, informed families that the district “is moving all school registration procedures to online starting May 1st, 2014,” and that parents would need to set up a portal account to register their student for the 2014-2015 school year.

“Many low-income families, especially people of color, simply don’t have access to computers, smartphones, or the internet, and people with disabilities also face obstacles to accessing the internet,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Given the state of funding for institutions that provide public internet access, such as libraries and community centers, there aren’t enough hours in the day that struggling families could easily use these resources. For something as fundamental as registering or re-registering a child for school, such a burden is indefensible.”

Regardless of whether it is limited to one school or widespread in the district, any requirement for online-only enrollment presents serious legal problems. As noted in the letter, it likely violates state law that says, “No person in the State of California shall, on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification…color…or disability, be unlawfully denied full and equal access to the benefits of, or be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that is…funded directly by the state, or receives any financial assistance from the state.”

Since people of color and people with disabilities often have less access to the internet than other people, the requirement to register online appears to constitute a discriminatory practice, regardless of the district’s intent, by:

  • Giving children of color an unequal opportunity to participate in public education
  • Giving people of color less effective means to reach the same level of achievement as others
  • Effectively discriminating against people based on their ethnic group, color, or disability

“Because access to a public education is a fundamental tenet of the California Constitution, any disparities based on wealth or race in the public education system are strictly prohibited, even if the district did not intend to discriminate,” said Loy.

The San Diego ACLU offered to engage the district’s superintendent, Larry Perondi, in a dialogue to address the issues raised in its letter, sent yesterday. The request called on the district to rescind any requirement to enroll students online, and to notify families that no such requirement exists.

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Guide to Requesting Legal Help from ACLU https://www.aclusandiego.org/guide-to-requesting-legal-help-from-acluhow-does-the-aclu-accept-cases/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/guide-to-requesting-legal-help-from-acluhow-does-the-aclu-accept-cases/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:09:35 +0000 http://s.elayers.net/aclu/?p=844 Because of our limited resources, the ACLU can only accept a small fraction of the cases that are presented to us. We therefore select cases primarily based on whether they will help make positive law.

Please read this information carefully to find out the kinds of cases we accept, and how to have the ACLU consider your case.

Esta infomación en español.

 

If after reading this, you believe your case may be the kind of case we can accept, please click here for our Legal Assistance Application Form. (If you have trouble accessing it, call our office at 619/232-2121, and press “4” to request that an intake questionnaire be sent to you.) We cannot accept intake questionnaires or information about your case via fax or e-mail.

Please do not submit additional documentation to our office. If we need more information, we will call you. We will let you know as soon as possible whether we can accept your case, although there may be some delay because of limited resources.

How do we choose cases?
The ACLU generally files cases that affect the civil liberties of large numbers of people, rather than those involving a dispute between two parties. The basic questions we ask when reviewing a potential case are:

  • Is this a significant civil liberties issue?
  • What effect will this case have on people in addition to our client?
  • Do we have the resources to take this case?

What does it cost?
In ACLU cases, the attorneys represent the clients free of charge. ACLU cases are handled by staff counsel and by volunteer attorneys, who are in private practice and volunteer their time for ACLU cases.

What are civil liberties?
The civil liberties we seek to protect include:

  • Freedom of Speech and Press. For example:
    – A student is suspended for writing a newspaper article critical of the principal;
    – A police officer is disciplined for speaking out against police brutality;
    – A group is charged for police protection when it applies for a demonstration permit.
  • Freedom of Religion. This involves both the right of individuals to religious beliefs and the separation of church and state.
  • Privacy. For example, reproductive rights.
  • Equal Protection/Discrimination. This could include, for example, a sheriff’s department that refuses to accept women deputies, or a refusal to allow homeless people to vote because they have no fixed addresses.
  • Due Process. For example, a community group is denied a permit by the police, and the town provides no appeal of the police decision.

What cases affect others?
Lawsuits can affect a large number of people in two ways. First, we sometimes challenge a policy or practice which directly impacts many people. Second, a lawsuit brought on behalf of one person can have a larger impact on others in the long run when it establishes or expands legal protections. For example, a lawsuit challenging drug testing of one employee, if successful, could set a precedent for thousands of workers in the future.

Why we prefer cases without serious factual disputes
We tend to take cases which do not involve complicated disputes of fact, but prefer to take cases where the issue is a question of law. An example of a factual dispute is an employment discrimination case where the employer claims he fired the employee because of poor job performance and has credible evidence to support that claim. The reasons we often decide not to accept cases involving factual disputes are:

  • our limited resources (it is often expensive to prove a case which involves substantial factual disputes);
  • a court might never reach the civil liberties legal issue if it resolves the facts against the client; and
  • the case is less likely to have a broad impact on others if the decision rests upon the specific facts of a case.

Types of cases the ACLU generally cannot accept
Types of cases the ACLU does not generally accept include:

  • A person was fired without a good reason or just cause;
  • A person is being denied benefits, such as worker’s compensation or unemployment benefits;
  • Criminal cases, or complaints about a person’s attorney in a criminal case. Only in limited cases, for example, when a person is being prosecuted for engaging in activity protected by the Constitution (such as participating in a political demonstration), do we consider accepting criminal cases.

Why the ACLU may turn down cases that fall without our guidelines
There are many cases and problems of unfairness and injustice which the ACLU is simply unable to handle. We receive hundreds of requests for help each month at this office alone. Therefore, we cannot accept many of the cases that fall within the guidelines discussed above. We must select those cases which we believe will have the greatest impact on protecting civil liberties.

Can the ACLU advise me about my case, even if you can’t take it?
The ACLU is unable to give you advice about your case, or provide other types of assistance (for example, reviewing your papers, or conducting legal research to assist you) if we do not accept your case. This policy allows us to direct the necessary resources to those cases that we do accept.

Important Note About Deadlines
All legal claims have time deadlines. The deadlines may be different depending on who violated your rights and depending on what rights were violated. For some kinds of violations, you may need to file a claim with a government agency before you can sue, and these agencies usually have their own time deadlines.

The ACLU cannot give you advice about the deadlines that apply to your case. To protect your rights, please consult with an attorney promptly to find out what deadlines apply in your case.

Legal Disclaimer
The information and materials on this web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The information is general in nature, and may not apply to particular factual or legal circumstances. Neither the web site nor the use of information from the web site creates an attorney-client relationship.

Unsolicited emails and information sent to the ACLU and ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties do not create an attorney-client relationship.

Legal Intake Forms:

Legal Assistance Application Form – English

Applicación para solicitar ayuda legal -Espanol

Guide to Requesting Legal Assistance

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Guía para Solicitar Ayuda Legal de la ACLU https://www.aclusandiego.org/complaint/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/complaint/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:02:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11210 POR FAVOR LEA esta información con cuidado para informarse acerca de como la ACLU decide qué tipo de casos aceptar y cuál es el criterio que utilizamos para escogerlos. POR FAVOR NO MANDE DOCUMENTACION ADICIONAL A NUESTRA OFICINA.

La applicación para solicitar ayuda legal.

Si necesitamos más información le llamaremos. Le avisaremos lo antes possible si podemos aceptar su caso, aunque puede tomarnos algo de tiempo debido a recursos limitados.

¿CUÁNTO CUESTA?

Los abogados de la ACLU representan a sus clients gratuitamente. Los casos que la ACLU acepta y litiga son llevados por nuestros abogados de planta o por abogados en el sector privado que donan su tiempo a la ACLU.

¿CÓMO ELEGIMOS CASOS?

Por lo general, la ACLU acepta casos que tienen un efecto directo en las libertades civiles de grupos grandes de personas. Nosotros no aceptamos casos en los cuales se trata de disputas entre dos individuos. Las preguntas básicas que nos hacemos cuando examinamos las solicitudes que nos llegan pidiendo ayuda legal, son las siguientes:

  • ¿Se trata de una situación en donde el tema central está directamente relacionado con libertades civiles?
  • ¿Qué efecto tendrá este caso en la communidad en general, no nomas con nuestro cliente?
  • ¿Contamos con los recursos necesarios para litigar este caso?

¿CUÁLES SON LIBERTADES CIVILES?

Libertad de Expresión: Un ejemplo de un tipo de violación en este área es cuando un estudiante se encuentra suspendido después de haber escrito un artícula en el periódico escolar en donde crítica al director de la escuela;

Privacidad: Esto encapsula derechos reproductivos (planeación familiar)

Libertad de Religión: Esto implica tanto el derecho de los individuos a tener sus propias  creencias religiosas, como el de la separación de la iglesia y el estado;

Igualdad de Protección/Discriminación: Un ejemplo valido de esto es si el departamento del Sheriff se negara a aceptar a mujeres como candidatas para ejercer una carrera dentro de ese oficina. También puede ser un caso donde no se les permitierar a personas sin hogar el derecho de votar por que no cuentan con una dirección fija;

Tutela Efectiva (Proceso Legal)-Due Process: Si un grupo comunitario se le niega un permiso por la policía y la ciudad no proporciona alguna  manera para apelar esa decisión.

¿COMO SE AFECTAN LOS CASOS ENTRE SÍ?

Nuestros casos legales afectan a la gente de dos formas. La primera es al cuestionar una práctica o politicá que implica a muchas personas. La segunda es cuando litigamos un caso de un individuo que puede llegar a tener un impacto significativo al establecer o expandir las protecciones legales para todos. Por ejemplo, una demanda en la cual se rete el llevar a cabo pruebas de anti-dopaje en el lugar de empleo, si resulta exitosa, puede establecer un precedente para miles de trabajadores en el futuro.

PREFERIMOS ACEPTAR CASOS EN LOS CUALES
NO HAYA DISPUTAS SERIAS DE LOS HECHOS

Aquí en el ACLU tenemos una tendencia a tomar casos en los cuales no haya disputas de los hechos y que la cuestión sea una directamente de leyes. Un ejemplo de una disputa de los hechos seria un caso de discriminación en el lugar del trabajo donde el jefe dice haber despedido a un empleado por no desarrollar bien su trabajo y tiene evidencia para apoyar sus acusaciones. Las razones por las cuales no aceptamos esos casos son:

  • Nuestros recursos limitados
  • Es posible que la corte no llegue a resolver el tema de libertades civiles si es que se resuelven primero los hechos en contra del cliente;
  • El caso tiene menos probabilidad de tener un impacto sobre todos si la decisión recae sobre los hechos de un solo caso en específico.

¿CUÁLES SON TIPOS DE CASOS QUE LA ACLU NO ACEPTA?

Hay muchos casos y problemas legales que son completamente injustos pero que nomas no podemos aceptar. Aquí en la ACLU de San Diego, recibimos cientos de solicitudes para proporcionar ayuda legal, desafortunadamente nuestros recursos son limitados y por lo tanto no podemos aceptar muchos de los casos que podrían llegar a calificar para nuestra ayuda. Tenemos la obligación de seleccionar aquellos casos que puedan llegar a tener un impacto mayor en las libertades civiles de la población. 

¿ME PUEDE ACONSEJAR LA ACLU CON MI CASO AUNQUE HAYA SIDO RECHAZADO POR USTEDES?

La ACLU no puede darle consejos sobre su caso o proporcionarle con otro tipo de ayuda (no podemos revisar sus papeles o llevar a cabo de la investigación legal) si no aceptamos su caso primero. Esta política permite que dirijamos los recursos necesarios a aquellos casos que si aceptamos. 

NOTA IMPORTANTE SOBRE FECHAS LIMITES

Todos los reclamos legales tienen fechas límites. Estas fechas límites pueden ser diferentes dependiendo de quién violo sus derechos legales y cuales fueron esos derechos que fueron violados. Existen ciertos tipos de violaciones en los cuales se necesita meter el papeleo con una agencia gubernamental antes de poder demandar y estas agencias tienen sus propias fechas límites.

La ACLU no puede darle consejo sobre las fechas límites que son aplicables en su caso. Para proteger sus derechos y averiguar cuáles son las fechas límites de su caso en particular, por favor consulte con un abogado lo más pronto posible. 

La applicación para solicitar ayuda legal.

OTROS RECURSOS

Para obtener más información o para recibir recomendaciones,por favor llame a los siguientes lugares:

Recomendaciones y Referencias para Encontrar un Abogado

San Diego County Bar Association
1-800-464-1529 o (619)-231-8585

Ayuda Legal Gratuita

Legal Aid Society of San Diego
1-877-534-2524

Ayuda con Casos de Inmigración

Casa Cornelia (619)-231-7788
CRLA (760)-966-0511

Discriminación en el Trabajo

(619)-521-1372

Cuestiones Criminales

San Diego Public Defenders
(619)-338-4700

Para más información sobre nuestra organización, por favor visite nuestro sitio Web en www.aclusandiego.org

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Affordable Care Act: A Primer for Advocates https://www.aclusandiego.org/affordable-care-act-primer-advocates/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/affordable-care-act-primer-advocates/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 21:37:55 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11198  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents a monumental opportunity to reduce unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness and substance use disorders. With new coverage options and the requirement that insurance cover mental health and substance use disorder treatment, the ACA finally allows society to treat these as issues of public health, not criminal justice. ACLU-SDIC works to ensure widespread enrollment of the justice-involved population into health coverage and development of systems for referral into appropriate health services, rather than harmful and wasteful incarceration. By doing so, we can strengthen the health and safety of our communities and reduce the likelihood that people will enter the justice system again.

Download our toolkitAffordable Care Act; A Primer for Advocates: Building Healthy and Safe Communities.

Toolkit ACA + CJ cover-sm

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Website Launched to Expose Border-Related Abuse and Litigation https://www.aclusandiego.org/website-launched-expose-border-related-abuse-litigation/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/website-launched-expose-border-related-abuse-litigation/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 23:46:45 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11187  

Washington D.C. – An alliance of immigration advocacy groups announces the launch of HoldCBPAccountable.org, a website that catalogues lawsuits and administrative complaints brought against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project joined forces to document litigation that exposes CBP abuses, including unlawful searches and seizures, removals based on coercion and misinformation, and the use of excessive and sometimes deadly force by Border Patrol agents and CBP officers.

Among the cases included on the website:

  • Laura Mireles, a U.S. citizen, works on the U.S. side of an international bridge in Brownsville, Texas. One day, she crossed into Mexico for 15 minutes to make a purchase. Upon her return, a CBP officer stopped Mireles and searched her car. The agent became agitated and reacted violently when Mireles questioned his reasons for searching her handbag. He grabbed her with both hands and threw her onto the ground with such force that her jeans ripped and she suffered a laceration to her knee and several cuts on her elbows; the officer then handcuffed her so tightly that the fire department later had to cut the handcuffs from her wrists. After being treated by paramedics, Ms. Mireles was released from custody without charges. Mireles seeks damages for the serious harm she suffered as a result of CBP’s unlawful actions.
  • In 2013, four women were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by Border Patrol agents. They were then taken to what the agents called a “hielera,” which is Spanish for “icebox” or “icemaker.” Hieleras are short-term holding cells which agents often maintain at very low temperatures. The women all describe cells in which dozens of detainees were crowded together. The cells had no beds, no chairs, and only a single toilet in plain view. The women were detained in the cells for as long as 13 days. All have filed administrative complaints for damages for the suffering they endured at the hands of CBP.
  • Gustavo Vargas was stopped by the Anacortes, Washington police, allegedly for failing to use his turn signal. He provided a valid license, registration and proof of insurance. Despite this, the police officer called Border Patrol to check Vargas’s immigration status. Although the Border Patrol agent found no history of immigration or criminal violations, he instructed the police officer to detain Vargas and subsequently placed him into immigration custody. Vargas was detained for almost ten weeks. He has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington seeking damages for his unlawful detention.

Details concerning these and other cases can be found at HoldCBPAccountable.org. The lawsuits currently posted were filed in courts across the country. Also included on the website are administrative complaints against CBP, documents received through Freedom of Information Act requests, and resources regarding CBP policies and procedures.

HoldCBPAccountable.org aims to reveal CBP’s widespread abuses against immigrants and U.S. citizens and ongoing efforts to promote greater accountability by one of the largest and fastest-growing law enforcement agencies in the United States.

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Intake Form / Cuestionario para Solicitar Ayuda Legal https://www.aclusandiego.org/intake-form-cuestionario-para-solicitar-ayuda-legal/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/intake-form-cuestionario-para-solicitar-ayuda-legal/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 21:49:46 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11186  

Because of our limited resources, the ACLU can only accept a small fraction of the cases that are presented to us. We therefore select cases primarily based on whether they will help make positive law.

For more information, click here to find out how the ACLU determines what cases to take.

Esta infomación en español.

If after reading this, you believe your case may be the kind of case we can accept, please download our Legal Intake Form (below).  (If you have trouble accessing it or are unable to print it, call our office at 619/232-2121, and press “7″ to request that an intake questionnaire be sent to you.  We will not be able to discuss your case until we have a completed intake questionnaire.) We cannot accept intake questionnaires or information about your case via fax or e-mail.

Intake Form

Cuestionario (Intake form in Spanish)

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California to Comply with Voter Registration Law According to Settlement https://www.aclusandiego.org/covered-ca-settlement/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/covered-ca-settlement/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 14:02:39 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11176  

SACRAMENTO – In a victory for voting rights, the state of California has agreed to mail voter registration cards to nearly four million Californians who have signed up for health insurance through the state health exchange, Covered California, and to ensure that Californians who apply for health benefits through the exchange going forward are provided voter registration opportunities.

The action is the result of a settlement agreement reached with a group of voting rights organizations, the ACLU of California, the ACLU’s Voting Rights ProjectDemos, and Project Vote, which threatened legal action over the state’s failure to comply with the National Voter Registration Act and state laws.

“Nearly four million Californians have applied for health insurance for themselves and their families and we applaud that incredible achievement. With this settlement agreement, Covered California will now offer these Californians the chance to register to vote or update their registration. California is on its way to healthier communities and a healthier democracy. It is exactly the result Congress intended when it passed the National Voter Registration Act more than 20 years ago,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of the ACLU of California’s Voting Rights Project.

The National Voter Registration Act is designed to make it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration. It requires states to make voter registration opportunities available at offices that provide public services, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and the state health exchanges. Although the enrollment period for Covered California began last October, voter registration has not yet been provided, prompting this possible legal action.

To avoid litigation, Covered California agreed that by no later than the next open enrollment period in the Fall of 2014, it will incorporate all required voter registration services into all processes by which a consumer engages with Covered California, including online, in person, by mail, and in telephone transactions.  Immediately, Covered California will do a remedial voter registration mailing to the nearly 4 million people who applied for health benefits since the launch of the Affordable Care Act on October 1, 2013 and it will continue these mailings until such time as full compliance is achieved.

“Ensuring that all eligible Americans are registered to vote is key to ensuring a robust democracy,” said Lisa Danetz, legal director of Demos. “Agency-based registration under the National Voter Registration Act is a critical tool in making voter registration convenient and accessible. California’s decision to properly implement the NVRA’s requirements for those enrolling through its health benefit exchange should serve as an example for other state-run exchanges around the country. If other states follow, millions more Americans will have the opportunity to join the voting rolls.”

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s national Voting Rights Project, said this settlement is a warning to other states that operate heath exchanges but have failed to provide required voter registration services. Those states include Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, and Washington D.C.

“It’s time to end the foot-dragging,” Ho said. “States have had months to make voter registration available through their health exchanges. A delay in offering voter registration is a delay for democracy. No more stalling.”

“Covered California is committing to comply with the law and fulfill Congress’s intent that voter registration services be easily available to individuals while they are seeking government assistance,” said Sarah Brannon, director of the Public Agency Voter Registration Program for Project Vote. “Other health benefit exchanges around the country should look to the system Covered California is setting up under the terms of this agreement as a model for how they can effectively comply with the legal requirements of the NVRA.”

The ACLU of California, the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, Demos, and Project Vote were representing the League of Women Voters of California, Young Invincibles, and several individuals who applied for health care benefits through Covered California.

“Many eligible voters fail to register due to lack of access and opportunity. Offering voter registration to the millions of people enrolling in health care is a simple step toward reaching out to them,” said Jennifer A. Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California.

This historic settlement could serve to engage a younger generation in their democracy. “Many young adults are obtaining health insurance for the first time, and this is a great opportunity to both insure young Americans and create a young generation of registered voters,” said Tamika Butler, California Director of Young Invincibles.

The agreement was approved by the California health benefit exchange board and was signed by Covered California’s executive director Peter Lee and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.​

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ACLU and PETA Sue San Diego Airport for Rejecting Anti-SeaWorld Ad https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-peta-sue-san-diego-airport-rejecting-anti-seaworld-ad/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-peta-sue-san-diego-airport-rejecting-anti-seaworld-ad/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 16:56:28 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11156  whale-flikr CC SAN DIEGO — “Welcome to San Diego!” proclaims actor Kathy Najimy in a new PETA ad designed to greet thousands of tourists arriving each day at the city’s airport. “If you love animals like I do,” she continues, “please avoid SeaWorld.”

Airport advertising vendor JCDecaux has refused PETA’s $17,500 to place the “vertical spectacular” because of its anti-SeaWorld message. But according to the ACLU and PETA, the agency cannot refuse to run PETA’s ad since it welcomes ads from other nonprofits and SeaWorld itself.

As a result of the rejection, PETA, represented by its own lawyers and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, has filed a lawsuit against the airport. “While the government has some authority to regulate advertising, this is an example of the government abusing that authority and unfairly discriminating against the message of a specific advertiser,” says Sean Riordan, ACLU senior staff attorney. “The First Amendment stands to protect against this kind of viewpoint discrimination.”

PETA has been campaigning aggressively against SeaWorld and recently its cruel capture, confinement, and treatment of animals was exposed to millions in the critically acclaimed documentary Blackfish. While orcas in the wild travel up to 100 miles per day, SeaWorld confines them to small tanks in chemically treated water. The orcas at SeaWorld also break their teeth and endure chronic pain from snapping and gnawing at the pool gates as a result of stress and aggression. At least 25 orcas have died in SeaWorld facilities since 1986.

“When I was growing up in San Diego, we didn’t know better and our folks took us to SeaWorld,” says Najimy, who is known for her roles in Sister Act and Hocus Pocus and can be found on King of the Hill and HBO’s Veep. “We were blind to the reality that these gorgeous creatures were being abused and belong in their natural habitat. My vegan daughter Samia’s generation is well aware of this and would much rather picket SeaWorld than actually go there. If you want a fun day in San Diego, then take your family to Balboa Park and ride the carousel, see a great play at The Old Globe theater, or get naked at Black’s Beach and hope you see a regal whale in her natural, compassionate, safe home!”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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Special Projects Associate https://www.aclusandiego.org/special-projects-associate/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/special-projects-associate/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 19:57:25 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11144  

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU) seeks a full-time, dynamic team-player to be its Special Projects Associate.

Founded in 1933, the San Diego ACLU is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization, which promotes and protects individual rights and fundamental freedoms, including First Amendment rights, Equal Protection, Privacy, and Due Process, through education, litigation, and policy advocacy.

Located in San Diego, the ACLU affiliate covers the length of California’s border with Mexico. It has twenty-three staff members, twenty board members, 9,000 members, and an annual budget of $3 million. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States and second largest in California. San Diego County has the third largest number of registered voters in California. Imperial County is the poorest county in California.

The San Diego ACLU works collaboratively with the ACLU affiliates headquartered in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as a lobbying office in Sacramento. Together, the three affiliates have more than 110,000 members and 120 staff people in California. 

Position Overview and Functions:

The Special Projects Associate will provide programmatic support to several areas at the affiliate, including the communications and development teams while also running the affiliate’s volunteer program. 

Specific Duties and Responsibilities Include:

  • Perform special research projects and other duties as needed or assigned by Executive and Leadership Teams.
  • Coordinate the affiliate’s annual Constitution Day program, including school and speaker outreach, planning, materials development, day-of coordination and trouble-shooting, and follow-up.
  • Coordinate the affiliate’s annual San Diego Pride contingent, including community outreach, event planning and staff communication.
  • Assist the development team in event planning and administrative support, including coordination of the quarterly Luncheon Conversations and Liberties at Night.
  • Recruit, train and manage the volunteers for the affiliate’s volunteer program.
  • Provide support to the communications team as needed, which may include the production of materials and other administrative tasks.
  • Assist the Youth Organizer in event planning and administrative support for the affiliate’s Inspire San Diego youth civic engagement program.

Qualifications:

  • Commitment to and knowledge of civil liberties. Familiarity with work and mission of ACLU.
  • Bachelor’s degree required.
  • Event planning experience preferred.
  • Proven attention to detail, ability to manage multiple tasks and finish projects within deadlines.
  • Excellent organizational, oral, written and interpersonal skills.
  • Highly self-motivated, organized, and adaptable.
  • Experience with Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and other computer programs.
  • Ability to work with diverse communities. Spanish bilingual strongly preferred.

Salary & Benefits:  Competitive salary commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits. 

Application Procedure:  By March 24, 2014, interested individuals must send a cover letter, resume, and a list of references, preferably by e-mail to jobs@aclusandiego.org or by mail to: 

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
ATTN: Special Projects Associate

PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and veterans.

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Senior Organizer https://www.aclusandiego.org/senior-organizer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/senior-organizer/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 17:10:06 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11137 The ACLU and ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU) seek a full-time, sophisticated, dynamic team-player to join its defense of civil rights and civil liberties as Senior Organizer.

Founded in 1933, the San Diego ACLU is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization, which promotes and protects individual rights and fundamental freedoms, including First Amendment rights, Equal Protection, Privacy, and Due Process, through education, litigation, and policy advocacy.

Located in San Diego, the ACLU affiliate covers the length of California’s border with Mexico. It has twenty-three staff members, twenty board members, 9,000 members, and an annual budget of $3 million. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States and second largest in California. San Diego County has the third largest number of registered voters in California. Imperial County is the poorest county in California.

The San Diego ACLU works collaboratively with the ACLU affiliates headquartered in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as a lobbying office in Sacramento. Together, the three affiliates have more than 110,000 members and 120 staff people in California.

Position Overview and Functions

The Senior Organizer oversees the organization’s efforts to organize and mobilize ACLU and community members, as well as to empower disadvantaged communities to protect civil liberties. This includes:

  • Overseeing the work of three community organizers working on criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, and youth leadership development and providing thoughtful, strategic direction.
  • Directing the organization’s organizing efforts and working collaboratively on issue and initiative campaigns.
  • Developing community leaders and activists to lead organizing, issue, and initiative campaigns.
  • Supporting communities organizing to build power to defend civil liberties and civil rights.
  • Mobilizing ACLU and community activists to pressure public officials to protect civil rights and civil liberties.

The Senior Organizer’s work style will foster teamwork among legal, policy, communications, organizing, and development staff, as well as work effectively with ACLU staff in other offices.

Other specific duties and responsibilities include:

  • Organize education and advocacy events that grow the organization’s strategic relationships, such as “know your rights” presentations, community forums, public hearings, rallies and trainings.
  • Forge and strengthen collaborative efforts with student groups, communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities, and the disability community.
  • Integrate technology as a tool to advance the organization’s program goals.
  • Represent the organization in the media and at public events.
  • Work evenings and weekends and travel when necessary.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Commitment to civil liberties.
  • Bachelors degree required.
  • At least five years in nonprofit or community-based groups, working on legislative, issue-based, and/or civic engagement campaigns.
  • Demonstrated leadership in supervising, challenging, motivating, and evaluating organizers or other staff.
  • Demonstrated leadership in designing and managing issue or civic engagement campaigns, including organizing and motivating allies, volunteers, and activists and working cooperatively with diverse groups.
  • Excellent writing, speaking, and analytic skills; the ability to analyze and articulate complex issues and to communicate them to a variety of audiences.
  • Experience with online organizing, communication and activism technology.
  • Ability to manage several projects and staff members simultaneously and to adjust to changing demands; excellent attention to detail.
  • A commitment to diversity; a personal approach that values the individual and respects differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstance.
  • Familiarity with and/or expertise in a broad range of civil liberties issues preferred.
  • Ability to speak Spanish strongly preferred.

Compensation: Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications. Excellent benefits.

Application procedure: Applicants should submit by April 4, 2014, a resume, cover letter describing the applicant’s specific interest in and qualifications for working for the ACLU, and list of references, preferably by email,  to jobs[at]aclusandiego.org or by mail to: 

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
ATTN: Senior Organizer

PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and veterans.

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ACLU Statement on Reported Audit of Border Patrol’s Use-of-Force Policies https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-reported-audit-border-patrols-use-force-policies/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-reported-audit-border-patrols-use-force-policies/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 02:12:25 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11122 Following today’s Los Angeles Times story on a report prepared last year criticizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection use-of-force policies and practices, the ACLU of SDIC urges Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to immediately release the full report and implement the report’s recommendations, which to date the agency has spurned.

The report at issue was prepared and issued by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), an independent nonprofit organization specializing in law enforcement best practices.  Although PERF provided CBP with the report in February 2013, the document and its recommendations have been withheld from the public. The San Diego ACLU recently filed a FOIA request to obtain a full and unredacted copy of the report but to date the agency has not responded to the request.

The scathing report—which was commissioned by CBP itself—confirms what civil rights organizations have been charging for years: Border Patrol agents’ use of force is often excessive and arbitrary.

Since January 2010, at least 28 people have died in encounters with CBP agents. At least ten of these people were U.S. citizens and six of them were in Mexico when fatally shot. In none of these cases has an agent or officer faced any public consequences. Just one week ago, a U.S. Border Patrol agent fatally shot a migrant near Otay Mesa; the agent alleged that the migrant had thrown rocks. According to the Los Angeles Times article, the PERF report suggests that border agents deliberately provoked confrontations that led to avoidable violence.

Importantly, the report appears to raise questions about Border Patrol practices that unnecessarily endanger federal agents and innocent bystanders alike.  Among other recommendations, PERF advised CBP to train agents to “get out of the way” rather than confront moving cars and rocks.

In addition to its recommendations on improved use-of-force training and steps to avoid lethal force except in life-threatening situations, the PERF report apparently cites Border Patrol for a “lack of diligence” in investigating agents who have fired their weapons. The report thus casts serious doubt on CBP’s internal investigation of use-of-force incidents, and recommends that immigration enforcement agencies revise their policies and procedures so that these incidents are properly investigated from the outset.

Border Patrol’s immediate response to the published news article was that implementing PERF’s recommendations would endanger agents. But the report does not recommend that agents always avoid using deadly force. Rather, it rightly recommends that deadly force be limited to those occasions when it is truly necessary.

It is troubling that CBP, which commissioned PERF’s review of the agency’s use-of-force policies, is now crying foul because it does not like the findings. This is a further indication of how important transparency and oversight within the agency is. It does not serve public safety or our democratic principles when abuses of authority are swept under the rug. The public has a right to read the PERF report and better understand the use-of-force policies and procedures used by the nation’s largest law enforcement agency.

Read the ACLU’s Use-of-Force Recommendations here.

anastasio-CBP

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San Diego ACLU Statement on Chief Lansdowne’s Retirement https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-statement-chief-lansdownes-retirement/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-statement-chief-lansdownes-retirement/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 17:19:23 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11115 The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties commends the Chief for his years of service to our city and for his immediate and serious response to recent allegations of officer misconduct and racial profiling. As he retires, we urge the City Council and our new mayor- elect to follow through on the Chief’s call for an independent audit of the San Diego Police Department.

Civil rights and civil liberties do not need to be sacrificed in the name of public safety. The San Diego Police Department will be more effective at keeping our city safe when the public knows that officers are held accountable and cannot act with impunity.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is committed to working with City Hall and Mayor-Elect Faulconer to ensure that our city’s police force serves and protects all San Diegans.

lansdowne thumbnail-sm

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Affordable Care Act and Immigrants https://www.aclusandiego.org/affordable-care-act-immigrants/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/affordable-care-act-immigrants/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:48:21 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11171 The ACLU of California created in collaboration with our friends at the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) a fact sheet which gives a summary of how the Affordable Care Act (also known as ACA and “Obamacare”) applies to immigrants and migrants in California.

The document describes what the ACA is, and then describes in detail what each group of immigrants or migrants can expect from the ACA, and what their responsibilities are.

There is a handy chart showing each group’s eligibility, and a lengthy list of resources for more detailed information.

Here’s the report in English.
Here is a “cheat sheet” with the main points for each immigrant/migrant group.
Aquí está el informe en español.
Aquí está una hoja informativa con los principales puntos para cada grupo de inmigrantes y emigrantes.

In addition, in May 2014 the ACLU of San Diego teamed up again with CIPC, along with National Immigration Law Center (NILC), to present “Healthcare Reform and Immigration Status in California.” A recording of the webinar and slides are available below. The presentation describes:

  • Basics of the Affordable Care Act, including Medi-Cal expansion, Covered California, the Individual Mandate, and Special Enrollment Periods;
  • Eligibility for Medi-Cal and Covered California, as well as applicability of the individual mandate, based on immigration status;
  • Challenges of enrollment for immigrant families, including fear of negative immigration consequences; and
  • Senator Lara’s Health for All Act (SB 1005), which would provide coverage options for undocumented Californians, and how you can get involved.

Here are the slides.

 

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Attempt to Repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act Fails https://www.aclusandiego.org/attempt-repeal-school-success-opportunity-act-fails/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/attempt-repeal-school-success-opportunity-act-fails/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 02:29:38 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11079 SAN FRANCISCO—Today, the effort to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act—California’s new law ensuring that all children have opportunities to do well in school—failed to qualify for the ballot.

The law—also known as Assembly Bill 1266—went into effect on January 1st, ensuring that schools have the guidance they need to make sure all students, including those who are transgender, have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate.

The law is modeled after policies and practices that are already working well in several schools, and gives important guidance to educators so they can work with students and families on a case-by-case basis.

Oakland’s Redwood Heights School is among the California schools with policies in place that provide transgender young people with fair chances. Like other schools with similar policies across the state, the policy has been successful since it was established five years ago.

“We want our students to know that when they walk onto this campus, they are welcomed for who they are,” said Redwood Heights Principal Sara Stone. “Every educator I know went into the education field because they truly care about young people and making sure they have everything they need to do well in school.”

The law helps students like Zoey, a 12-year-old transgender girl from the Los Angeles area who transferred out of her school after administrators there refused to acknowledge her as a girl or allow her to use the girls’ restroom. Her mom, Ofelia Barba, says that the law makes it easier for her daughter to go to school and be herself.

“I love my daughter and want the same things for her that other parents want for their children,” Barba said. “I want what’s best for her, for her to be happy, and for her to be able to do well in school. No one wants to see any kid singled out and excluded from school because of who they are.”

The Support All Students campaign is comprised of a broad coalition of nearly 100 state and national organizations supporting the new law. The coalition includes Equality California, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Gender Spectrum, LGBT organizations, racial justice organizations, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and others committed to ensuring that all kids have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate.

Said Transgender Law Center Executive Director and Campaign Chair Masen Davis: “This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn. We need to focus on creating an environment where every student is able to do well and graduate. This law is about doing what’s best for all students—that’s why it’s supported by school boards, teachers, and the PTA.”

To learn more about the School Success and Opportunity Act and the Support All Students campaign, visit www.SupportAllStudents.org.

ashton

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Community Organizer https://www.aclusandiego.org/community-organizer-immigrant-rights-focus/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/community-organizer-immigrant-rights-focus/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 19:00:51 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11063 The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU) seeks a dynamic Community Organizer with at least three years of experience in immigrants’ rights, labor, and/or political organizing. The Organizer will work on a range of community engagement projects, with particular focus in immigrant communities and on a range of local, state, and national policy change campaigns.

Located in San Diego, our affiliate encompasses California’s border with Mexico and shares the busiest border crossing in the world. It has twenty-three staff members, twenty board members, 9,000 members, and an annual budget of $3 million.  San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States and second largest in California. San Diego County has the third largest number of registered voters in California. Imperial County is the poorest county in California.

The ACLU fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all, through education, litigation, and policy advocacy. The ACLU promotes and defends civil rights and civil liberties, including First Amendment rights, Equal Protection, Privacy, and Due Process. The San Diego ACLU works collaboratively with the ACLU affiliates headquartered in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as a lobbying office in Sacramento. Together, the three affiliates have more than 110,000 members and 120 staff people in California. 

Position Overview and Functions:

The Organizer will be responsible for developing close relationships with a variety of individuals and organizations representative of local communities, with particular emphasis in immigrant communities.  The Organizer will develop and execute an annual work plan designed to promote participation in local, state, and federal campaigns; build an active base of community members who can be mobilized to participate in meetings, rallies, hearings, and delegations; build relationships with community organizations, faith leaders, business leaders, donors, and new and diverse communities throughout our region to advance our civil rights and civil liberties campaigns. The Organizer will work as part of the ACLU’s Advancing Immigrant Rights Team and across the policy, communications, and legal affiliate and statewide teams. 

Specifically, the Organizer will:

  • Develop organizing campaigns around key civil liberties and/or civil rights issues that are generated through community interest and vision and align with affiliate’s priority issue areas.
  • Represent ACLU in coalition meetings and develop strategic partnerships with community-based organizations working in diverse communities of the region.
  • Develop, conduct, and publicize widely Know Your Rights trainings that promote grassroots leadership, strategic issue campaigns, organizing, and coalition building on priority issue areas.
  • Galvanize support of community organizations, public officials, law enforcement officers, faith leaders, business leaders, donors, and new and diverse communities for organizing campaigns.
  • Work collaboratively with grassroots leaders, allies, and ACLU staff to execute large and effective community actions (hearings, rallies, etc.).
  • Work collaboratively with and provide leadership to the ACLU’s internal immigrant rights working team.
  • Identify, cultivate, and develop strong community leaders who will lead campaigns that pursue our civil rights priorities.
  • Complete and execute work plans.
  • Analyze, assess and make recommendations on direction of organizing campaigns.
  • Monitor and analyze local, state and national trends and issues related to civil rights and civil liberties as these impact our constituents.
  • Identify, recruit, and train ACLU members to participate in civil liberties campaigns and programs.

Qualifications:

  • Three years or more experience in base building, membership recruitment, and leadership and strategy development.
  • Deep understanding of this country’s civil rights and civil liberties, particularly in the area of immigrants’ rights; three years direct experience in this area strongly preferred.
  • Ability to and strong passion for working in and raising the profile of the ACLU in immigrant, refugee and low-income communities.
  • Strong interpersonal, facilitation, organizing, and communication skills.
  • Proficiency in Spanish language strongly preferred.
  • Valid automobile driver’s license and working vehicle required; this position will involve extensive travel through San Diego County and occasional travel to Imperial County.  Must be able to accommodate a variable work schedule.

Salary & Benefits:  Competitive salary commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits. 

Application Procedure:  Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, resume, list of three professional references, and a writing sample (no more than 5 pages) by March 7, 2014.  Application materials can be e-mailed to jobs@aclusandiego.org (please combine all materials into a single PDF file) or by mail to: 

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
ATTN:  Community Organizer Position

PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and veterans.

 

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Development Director https://www.aclusandiego.org/development-director/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/development-director/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 18:37:10 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11056  

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties seeks a dynamic, sophisticated full-time fundraiser to support and enhance its development efforts.  The Development Director reports to the Deputy Director.

The ACLU fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all, through education, litigation, policy advocacy, and organizing.  The ACLU promotes and defends civil rights and civil liberties, including First Amendment rights, equal protection, privacy, and due process. The San Diego ACLU works collaboratively with the National ACLU headquarters in New York, as well as with the ACLU affiliates headquartered in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Together, the three California affiliates have more than 100,000 members and 120 staff in California.

Located in beautiful San Diego, our ACLU affiliate covers the length of California’s border with Mexico.  It has 23 staff members, 20 board members, 9,000 members, and an annual budget of $3 million.  San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States and the second largest in California.  San Diego County has the third largest number of registered voters in California.  Imperial County is the poorest county in California.

The ideal candidate will have a deep commitment and passion to ensuring civil liberties for everyone and an understanding of what it takes to fight for equality and equal protection under the law for all.

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES
The Development Director is an important position at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.  Reporting to the Deputy Director, the Development Director will be responsible for managing a comprehensive fundraising program including annual and planned gifts.  The Development Director will secure mid-level, major and planned gifts through a process of identifying, qualifying, strategizing, cultivating, soliciting, closing, and stewarding major gift prospects and individual donors. He/she will also play an active role in membership development. The Development Director will work closely with the Deputy Director on grant fundraising.

Specific Responsibilities:

  • Produce and implement a fundraising plan to retain and renew current donors while identifying and acquiring prospective donors;
  • Manage a portfolio of donors at annual giving levels of $1,000 and above. Serve as a primary contact for donors and make direct solicitations. This includes phone, mail and direct face to face contact, attending donor meetings and events;
  • Advise prospects on giving options available; develop gift proposals; and work with donors to complete transfers of funds;
  • In cooperation with the Deputy Director, Executive Director and board leadership, organize face-to-face solicitations for major gifts. Manage senior affiliate and national ACLU staff fundraising travel, meetings, and calls, as appropriate;
  • Develop and direct donor stewardship efforts, including individual donor correspondence and contact; cultivation events; and the development of a calendar for regular communications with donors;
  • Maintain fundraising schedules and objectives; ensure that plans are implemented, goals achieved, timely reports generated and information shared; ensure that fundraising is done in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Participate in strategic and operational planning within the Development team.
  • Work collaboratively with program staff on fundraising activities germane to their policy area where opportunities exist for engaging donors;
  • Maintain and expand a portfolio of foundation/grant prospects and supervise the writing of grants and maintenance of a grants calendar;
  • Track, cultivate, and sustain the planned giving program;
  • Work collaboratively with ACLU national office to cultivate and solicit planned gifts from members and donors;
  • Make full use of the organization’s databases and tracking systems to ensure appropriate donor stewardship and to evaluate and report overall program performance;
  • Attend ACLU functions, such as the annual membership meeting, occasional board meetings and other ACLU events as requested. Serve as a representative of the organization at external events and meetings, as needed;
  • Supervise the affiliate’s participation in national ACLU direct marketing efforts;
  • Lead communications and organizing teams in membership development activities.

Additional Duties

  • Help with event planning, implementation, staffing and follow-up as needed;
  • Work collaboratively and cooperatively with other team members and volunteers to advance the goals of the organization;
  • Occasional public speaking.
  • Work evenings and weekends when necessary;
  • Other tasks as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Unwavering commitment to civil liberties principles;
  • Bachelor’s degree;
  • Five years demonstrated experience in not-for-profit fundraising, including major and planned giving;
  • A successful track record of identifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding major individual donors;
  • Excellent verbal, written and interpersonal skills;
  • Knowledge of and successful experience with e-philanthropy strategies;
  • Advanced computer skills including experience with database management;
  • Demonstrated experience in responding and adapting to opportunities that arise;
  • Highly self-motivated, organized, adaptable.

Salary & Benefits:  Competitive salary commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits.

Please send a letter of interest and resume with references by February 28, 2014.  

Application Procedure:  Interested individuals must send a cover letter, resume, list of references, and a writing sample (no more than 5 pages), preferably by e-mail to jobs [at] aclusandiego.org or by mail to:

ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
ATTN: Jeffrey Wergeles, Deputy Director
PO Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131

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Another Rock-Throwing Incident at the Border Ends in Death https://www.aclusandiego.org/another-rock-throwing-incident-border-ends-death/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/another-rock-throwing-incident-border-ends-death/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 00:26:53 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11043 After another incident involving a U.S. Border Patrol agent fatally shooting a suspect, possibly for throwing a rock at an officer, the San Diego ACLU calls for a full and open investigation. This latest incident occurred this morning in the Otay mountains southeast of San Diego, according to news reports. While the facts are not yet known in this case, the ACLU believes that the policy and practice of the Border Patrol should be to de-escalate violent incidents as much as is possible, and use non-lethal force whenever possible. The news reports indicated that the officer sustained minor injuries for which he was treated at the scene.

Despite the massive influx of Border Patrol agents in our communities, there has been an utter lack of transparency into Border Patrol shootings. At times, Border Patrol has published information about these incidents, as in the 2010 killing of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, that video evidence subsequently showed to be false. It is imperative that the agency behave honestly and transparently as to this latest incident.

The ACLU continues its call for independent oversight of federal law enforcement agencies and transparency to the investigation of these fatal shootings. The current system still allows investigating agencies and prosecutors to conceal the facts surrounding the incident and refrain from disclosing whether the use of force was justified.

In an open and democratic society, our government’s actions need to be transparent. If Border Patrol authorities believe a shooting was justified, the public should be able to judge whether the facts add up. Incidents should not be covered up because disclosing the facts might embarrass an agent or an entire agency.

The San Diego ACLU has been calling for reform of the Border Patrol’s use of lethal force policies and practices for nearly a decade, but the agency has refused to implement certain recommendations issued by an independent police practices foundation; it recommended that the agency stop responding to rock throwing with deadly force.

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Brown Administration Finally Agrees to More Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform https://www.aclusandiego.org/brown-administration-finally-agrees-comprehensive-criminal-justice-reform/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/brown-administration-finally-agrees-comprehensive-criminal-justice-reform/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 01:39:35 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11031  

Today’s order from the three-judge panel overseeing the standing federal court order to reduce the state’s prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity gives the state an additional two year extension to comply, and Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ are justifiably concerned about ongoing constitutional violations inside the prisons due to the continued overcrowding.

But today’s order is based upon important concessions by the state, including immediate changes to good-time credit and parole rules, a promise not to ship any additional prisoners out of state, an agreement not to seek further appellate review, and an express commitment to front-end sentencing reform.

It also contains significant new enforcement provisions, including mandatory benchmarks and the appointment of a compliance monitor with power to order prisoners released if the benchmark deadlines aren’t met. This all adds up to create the most specific, structured and enforceable inducement for the state to come up with sustainable population reductions since this litigation was initiated more than a  decade ago.

In the two-plus years since the California legislature passed the California Prison Realignment Act – which shifted responsibility for people who commit low level, non-violent, non-serious crimes from the state prison system to county jails – the ACLU of California has consistently said that much more needs to be done.

We have said repeatedly that comprehensive criminal justice reform must be part of any sustainable plan to achieve a lasting reduction in the number of people who are kept behind bars for far too long who don’t need to be locked up to keep the public safe.

Finally, the Brown administration is on record agreeing, with a federal court watching closely. Now it’s time for our political leaders in Sacramento to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The long history of the law enforcement lobby killing even incremental attempts to reduce sentences (like Mark Leno’s bill seeking to make personal possession of drugs a misdemeanor) must come to an end. If a sentencing commission is appointed, it cannot be dominated and controlled by the same interests that have blocked reform efforts for decades.

The commission also must have “teeth” – a sentencing commission relegated to merely “advisory” status can be worse than no commission at all, because all other proposals for changing sentencing laws will be put on hold for the months or years the commission operates and the ultimate outcome may be no sentencing reform.

Just ask Professor Gerald Uelman, who directed the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, created by the State Senate in 2004 to “study and review the administration of criminal justice in California, to determine the extent to which that process has failed in the past” and to examine safeguards and improvements.

After four years of exhaustive research and multiple public hearings, the Commission issued a comprehensive final report containing specific recommendations, and supported numerous pieces of legislation introduced in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Of all of these bills, only two were passed by the legislature but both were vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Twice. Ultimately, of all the commission’s recommendations, a single bill became law, modifying the way in which capital defense attorneys are compensated.

A similarly fruitless sentencing commission is unacceptable. One idea worth considering is to set up any sentencing commission so that its recommendations become law UNLESS a two-thirds vote of the legislature and government overturn them.

Today’s order is a significant step in the right direction.  Now it’s time to put politics and law enforcement obstruction aside and get to work.

By Allen Hopper
Director, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform
ACLU of California

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ACLU and LCCR Charge State with Illegally Denying the Right to Vote to Tens of Thousands of Voters https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-lccr-charge-state-illegally-denying-right-vote-tens-thousands-voters/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-lccr-charge-state-illegally-denying-right-vote-tens-thousands-voters/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 18:58:17 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11012 OAKLAND –  The ACLU of California and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR)  today filed a lawsuit charging the state with unconstitutionally stripping tens of thousands of people of their right to vote.

According to the lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the state’s actions clearly violated state law when the Secretary of State issued a directive to local elections officials in December 2011 asserting that people are ineligible to vote if they are on post-release community supervision or mandatory supervision. These are two new and innovative forms of community-based supervision created under California’s Criminal Justice Realignment Act for people recently incarcerated for low-level, non-violent, non-serious crimes.

[Lea el artículo, en español, aquí.]

Court intervention is necessary because a state official should not be able to disenfranchise 60,000 voters with the stroke of a pen.

“The Secretary of State should be working to increase voter participation, not to undermine it,” said Michael Risher, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “California has dismal rates of voter registration and participation. The Secretary of State is making this even worse by disenfranchising tens of thousands of California citizens who are trying to re-engage with their communities. With voting rights under attack across the nation, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s disappointing decision striking down a critical law that protected the right to vote for people of color and language minorities, California needs more protection – not less – for voting rights.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three people who have or will soon lose their right to vote, along with the League of Women Voters of California and All of Us Or None, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and their families.

“The law clearly establishes a presumption in favor of the right to vote, with only limited and specific exceptions,” said Meredith Desautels, staff attorney of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.  “The Secretary of State unilaterally expanded these exceptions, without any public comment or input, disenfranchising thousands of members of our community and creating confusion around the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people. This unconstitutional disenfranchisement particularly impacts communities of color, who are too often excluded from the democratic process.”

“Society is much more secure when all people feel they are fully part of it,” said Dorsey Nunn, executive director of All of Us Or None, one of the plaintiff organizations. “If we want formerly incarcerated Californians to be good citizens, we need to convince them that they are a part of society too. I have never met a graffiti artist who spray paints his own home or business.”

After California voters in 1974 approved Proposition 10, state law has been clear that the only people ineligible to vote in California are those who are in state prison or on parole.

“Voting should be part of a successful reintegration into one’s community, but the Secretary of State’s memo takes us in the wrong direction,” said Jennifer A. Waggoner, President, League of Women Voters of California, another organizational plaintiff. “People of color are being disenfranchised and thousands of voters and county officials are being confused about their voting rights. The strength of our democracy comes from allowing everyone to fulfill their civic responsibility to vote.” The League has been fighting for expanded voting rights for all since 1920, when it was founded by the activists who secured the right to vote for women.

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San Diego ACLU Mourns the Loss of Iconic Pete Seeger https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-mourns-loss-iconic-pete-seeger/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-mourns-loss-iconic-pete-seeger/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 05:52:10 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=11002 Pete Seeger–singer, songwriter, peace activist, and civil liberties champion extraordinaire–died Monday at a New York hospital. He was 94.

Seeger was a complex man who defined American activism. In his youth, he was briefly a member of the Communist party in its heyday because of his strong commitment to organized labor and workers’ rights. Though he “drifted away” from it several years later, his membership in the party and his outspoken calls for workers’ rights and racial justice haunted him–in the form of FBI surveillance and blacklisting–for decades.

He was subpoenaed to testify before the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). His commitment to First Amendment protections was so absolute that he alone, among HUAC’s many, many witnesses refused to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, our constitutional protection from self-incrimination. Instead, he refused to identify personal and professional associations on the grounds that doing so would violate his First Amendment rights:

“I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

His refusal earned him a conviction for contempt of Congress and a ten-year sentence, though an appeals court ruled the indictment to be flawed and overturned his conviction a year later.

Because he was blacklisted during these years and banned from bigger venues, Seeger performed across the nation in school auditoriums. When he came to San Diego in 1960 to play in a rented Hoover High School auditorium, the San Diego school board insisted that he sign a non-communist loyalty oath to use the building.

As in the HUAC hearings, Seeger refused to take the San Diego oath on principle. ACLU Attorneys Irwin Gostin and Lou Katz were contacted on a Friday, and, on Saturday morning, won an injunction against the school district. Seeger attended that hearing with a guitar and banjo in hand, planning to perform as part of his testimony. His attorneys were nervous that the judge, with a reputation for being conservative, would not take well to such testimony, but learned after the decision that Judge Clarence Harden was a big fan of folk music and would have loved it.

Just shy of a half-century later, the San Diego Unified School Board apologized to Pete Seeger for insisting he sign that loyalty oath at a meeting in February 2009. In a resolution that passed that evening, the Board offered an apology to “one of our dearest national treasures,” declaring that the board “deeply regrets its predecessors’ actions.”

In a written statement acknowledging the school board’s apology, Seeger said, “It is a measure of justice that our right to freedom of expression and association has been vindicated.”

Because of Seeger’s direct connection with San Diego, we feel his loss profoundly. Seeger served as the founding chair of the Artist Friends of the San Diego ACLU and occasionally surprised us with small, Pete-Seeger-original drawings. Our executive director had the pleasure of chopping wood with him at his home, when Seeger was 89 and still out-chopped the heck out of our 30-something ED.

As he always did, Pete Seeger knew the right words to say, and articulated the struggles of everyday Americans better than anyone:

Now, as I think of our great land
I know it ain’t perfect, but it will be someday
Just give us a little time.
This is the reason that I want to fight
Not ’cause everything’s perfect, or everything’s right.
No, it’s just the opposite. I’m fighting because
I want a better America, and better laws
And better homes, and jobs, and schools
And no more Jim Crow, and no more rules like
‘You can’t ride on this train ’cause you’re a Negro’
‘You can’t live here ’cause you’re a Jew’
‘You can’t work here ’cause you’re a union man.’

Pete Seeger, Presente.

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What Does the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 Mean for California? https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-rights-amendment-act-2014-mean-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-rights-amendment-act-2014-mean-california/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 04:56:13 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10997 On January 16th, Congress introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 — a modern-day bill to strengthen voter protections nationwide. The bill is in response to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that invalidated a critical part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA): the coverage formula that determined which states and political subdivisions were subject to the law’s preclearance requirement.

Although much of the discussion around proposed revisions to the VRA has focused on states that were subject to the Section 5 preclearance provision prior to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, it is important to remember that modernizing the VRA ensures that every eligible Californian is afforded a real and meaningful opportunity to participate in California elections.  The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) has been a powerful and critical tool in the ongoing fight against vote suppression and discrimination in California, where racial, language, and ethnic minorities continue to face huge barriers to participation in our democracy.

The new bill includes important provisions like a rolling preclearance formula that will cover jurisdictions with recent, egregious voting records, requiring voting changes be preapproved; an expanded judicial bail-in provision; an enhanced ability for plaintiffs to obtain preliminary injunctive relief for some voting changes; and requirements for jurisdictions to provide public notice of proposed voting changes.

A problematic provision in the bill we will seek to have improved treats violations arising from voter ID laws somewhat less seriously from other voting rights violations. The bill also fails to include more robust protections for minority and language minority citizens who are subject to highly-suspect voting changes. This should be addressed as the legislative process moves forward.

The National Commission on Voting Rights is giving voters an opportunity to testify about their voting experiences at the statewide hearing on the State of the Vote in California at UC Hastings on January 30th. At this hearing, they will receive testimony on ongoing voting rights and procedural barriers in order to evaluate the continued need for strong federal voting rights protections in California. Voting rights experts, academics, and elections officials from across the state will testify regarding the barriers to participation that Californians face, the applicability of the Voting Rights Act in California, and the need to restore the VRA. The testimony voters give will become a part of the federal record supporting the new amendment. The ACLU of California and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay are among the many voting rights and civil rights organizations sponsoring this event and we encourage the public to participate in this hearing.

Dolores Huerta, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation and Co-Founder of United Farm-Workers of America (UFW), will be in attendance as a National Commissioner. California Guest Commissioners include  Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause; Alice A. Huffman, President, California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP; Cruz R. Reynoso, (ret.) Justice of the California Supreme Court and Professor, U.C. Davis School of Law.

 

WHAT: National Commission on Voting Rights, California Statewide Hearing

  • Panels – There will be formal panels of witnesses representing voting rights organizations, community leaders, election officials, and other stakeholders. Witnesses are encouraged to submit written testimony in advance of the hearing. The panel of commissioners will also receive the testimony orally and may ask follow up questions.
  • Public Testimony – There will be opportunities throughout the event for California voters to testify about their experiences. The Statewide Hearing is nonpartisan, free, and open to the public; food and refreshments will be provided. The Hearing will also be accessible to the public in Spanish.

WHEN:    Thursday, January 30, 2014, 9:00-4:00 p.m. (registration starts at 8:30 a.m).

WHERE:  UC Hastings College of Law (Louis B. Mayer Room)

198 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Sponsors and Supporting Organizations Include:

Altshuler Berzon

American Civil Liberties Union of California

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles

Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

California Common Cause

California-Hawaii State Conference NAACP

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF)

Disability Rights California

Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

Morrison & Foerster LLP

National Action Network

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund

O’Melveny & Myers LLP

The James Irvine Foundation

The Greenlining Institute

UC Hastings College of Law, Center for State and Local Government Law

 

blog-votefeet-500x280For more information about the National Commission on Voting Rights or to RSVP, please visit: cahearing.lawyerscommittee.org

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San Diego Receives $1.9 Million Investment to Empower Residents https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-receives-1-9-million-investment-empower-residents/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-receives-1-9-million-investment-empower-residents/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 19:49:39 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10986 A team of organizations in San Diego County will receive $1.9 million over the next two years, to build upon efforts to empower the region’s most vulnerable residents. In a competitive process, San Diego was one of three locations selected to receive the grant from the Open Society Foundations. The other awardees were groups in Puerto Rico and Buffalo, New York.torrey pines beach

“This is really about making San Diego more open, just and democratic. It is time that we bring in those who have been marginalized in our community, as a means to make San Diego a more productive and thriving region,” explained Clare Crawford, Executive Director of the Center on Policy Initiatives.

Efforts funded by the grant will focus on the full integration of immigrants and people impacted by the criminal justice system into the region’s civic and economic life through increased access to key services, improvements in the workplace and better access to middle class careers.

“When you are an immigrant it is hard to meaningfully participate in the civic life, if you aren’t making a fair wage or you are afraid to speak up. This grant will help us build the infrastructure to include more residents in rebuilding San Diego in a more equitable and inclusive manner,” said Gloria Morales, a San Diego Organizing Project leader.

“This grant presents a new and exciting chance to expand the opportunities available to those impacted by the criminal justice system. By ignoring these individuals’ rights to participate in society, we don’t just harm the individuals, but we harm their families, friends, and the communities they are a part of. This grant allows us to create spaces for which those impacted by the criminal justice system can grow, learn, and give back to their own communities,” stated Paul Alexander, President and Founder of Pillars of the Community.

The Open Places Initiative was launched in response to profound changes in U.S. demographics, the economy, technology, and shifts in federal and state funding. These changes have dramatically affected local conditions, dynamics, and opportunities and impact how low-income families and communities of color are able to access political, economic, and civic opportunities.

“We hope that our investment in these places, over the years, will encourage people from diverse sectors – policymakers, residents, academicians, advocates, and business people – to come together to bring about positive transformational change,” said Ken Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations.

The local team’s proposal was based on three substantive goals:

  • Increasing access to key services that help immigrants and people impacted by the criminal justice system integrate fully into civic and economic life.
  • Decreasing workers’ rights abuses and improving workplace conditions.
  • Reducing barriers that prevent immigrants and people impacted by criminal justice system from having access to middle class occupations.

Organizations in the San Diego team include Employee Rights Center, Center on Policy Initiatives, San Diego Organizing Project, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Christie’s Place, San Diego Youth Development Office, Pillars of the Community and SEIU/Service Employees International Union, Local 221 and United Domestic Workers, Local 3930.

Foundation partners include The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The San Diego Grantmakers, The California Civic Participation Funders (The California Endowment, Color of Democracy Fund, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, James Irvine Foundation, Kapor Center for Social Impact, McKay Foundation, PowerPAC Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, Women’s Foundation of California) and The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.

 

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Lista de Auto-Identificación con Respecto al Caso Cuestionando “Salida Voluntaria” https://www.aclusandiego.org/lista-de-auto-identificacion-con-respecto-al-caso-cuestionando-salida-voluntaria/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/lista-de-auto-identificacion-con-respecto-al-caso-cuestionando-salida-voluntaria/#comments Sat, 11 Jan 2014 00:58:38 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10978 La ACLU, una organización de derechos humanos, interpuso una demanda colectiva en contra de la forma como los agentes de inmigración del sur de California administran las “salidas voluntarias.” Estas preguntas que aparecen a continuación nos ayudarán a determinar si puede formar parte de la demanda o si puede ser testigo en este caso.

¿Es usted un ciudadano mexicano que:

•  Firmó un ”formulario de salida voluntaria” presentado por el ICE o
la Patrulla Fronteriza en el sur de California?
y
•  Lo firmó en o después del 01 de enero 2009
y
•  Si no ha firmado el formulario, ha tenido una oportunidad de buscar un
estatus legal en los EE.UU.?

¡Si usted contestó “Sí” a todas las preguntas anteriores, por favor complete un breve formulario para que podamos contactar ha usted!

Haga clic aquí para llenar el formulario.

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New Guidelines Issued to Help End School-To-Prison Pipeline https://www.aclusandiego.org/new-guidelines-issued-help-end-school-prison-pipeline/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/new-guidelines-issued-help-end-school-prison-pipeline/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 00:27:08 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10959

 

WASHINGTON – The Department of Education and Department of Justice today released federal guidance to assist schools in administering discipline in a nondiscriminatory way and to provide alternatives to overly punitive school discipline practices.

In the guidance, the agencies have stated what we have known to be true for a long time: race discrimination in school discipline is a real problem. Students of color are punished more frequently and more harshly for the same infractions. Data from the 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection provide a national snapshot of the reach of punitive school discipline policies. For example, Black students make up 44 percent of students suspended more than once and 36 percent of students expelled, though they represent only 15 percent of students.

“With the rise of law enforcement in our schools, the proliferation of zero-tolerance policies, and misuse of suspensions and expulsions, our nation’s school discipline policies are pushing children, most of whom are students of color and students with disabilities, out of school,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “Today, the federal government has issued groundbreaking guidance that will help all school districts end misguided, discriminatory school discipline policies. This guidance makes it crystal clear for schools what their obligations are under our civil rights laws and provides examples of best practices so that they can easily implement positive alternative practices. This is a victory for all who care about creating environments where students can thrive.”

Though the guidance does not call for the elimination of law enforcement or school resource officers (SROs) in schools, it does provide important guiding principles for their proper role with respect to discipline. This includes improved training and a clear delineation of roles so that officers are not responsible for handling minor discipline.

The ACLU continues to advocate for additional measures to reduce over-reliance on punitive school discipline practices and to protect the civil rights of young people. This includes congressional passage of federal bills promoting positive behavior supports and ending corporal punishment, among others, and the administration collecting data on new categories of punitive school discipline that provide a more complete view of punishments administered to students, such as the total incidents of corporal punishment and reasons for referrals to law enforcement.

The development and release of the federal guidance is the result a collaborative project—the Supportive School Discipline Initiative—between the Department of Education and Department of Justice. It is also a result, in part, of the longstanding advocacy of the ACLU and other organizations committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

The full guidance is available here:
http://www.ed.gov/school-discipline/

Read our ACLU attorney’s blog post on Huffington Post.

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Students and Families Optimistic That AB1266 Will Remain Law https://www.aclusandiego.org/students-families-optimistic-ab1266-will-remain-law/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/students-families-optimistic-ab1266-will-remain-law/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 21:43:25 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10954

 

Transgender students, and their parents, educators, and friends today are relieved that the California School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which helps schools better understand how to provide a fair opportunity for transgender students to participate and succeed, failed to qualify for a referendum based on a random count of signatures. They remain concerned, however, that the challenge to the law may still qualify for the ballot depending on the outcome of a full count of the signatures.

The law went into effect on January 1st. Today, the Secretary of State announced that a referendum has failed to qualify for the ballot on the first spot count of the signatures, though that finding will be confirmed by a full count.

The referendum fell 22,178 signatures short of the 504,760 needed to qualify in the first count, a result that will be confirmed with a full count of signatures.

“I hope this measure won’t qualify because I think this is going to help students, including transgender students, have the chance to succeed” said Ashton Lee, a student in Manteca, California. “My family stood proud and strong throughout this whole journey, and I know that they will be there for me no matter what.”

“As a Mom, all I want is for my child, and all children, to participate fully in school, succeed, and become wonderful adults. That’s what this law is about,” said Catherine Lee, Ashton’s mother.

“In my experience, supporting transgender students based on their gender identity, including allowing them to use facilities or participate in activities, is just another way that schools work to ensure all students can be successful,” said Sara Stone, a principal at Oakland Unified School District. “This is not an issue that other students are bothered about, and is one that makes a tremendous difference for the transgender students we serve.”

The School Success and Opportunity Act helps schools across the state understand their obligation to provide a fair opportunity for transgender students to participate equally in all school programs, facilities and activities. The law has been welcomed by school officials, teachers, and parents for educating California schools about meeting the educational needs of these students. Both state and federal law already prohibits discrimination against transgender students, and many school districts, have had supportive policies in place for years. But before the School Success and Opportunity Act, many schools did not understand how to fulfill their obligations to support these students.

The new law has already had a significant impact. Since it was enacted last year, several school districts have already adopted new policies to protect transgender students, and the California School Board Association has issued guidance that instructs schools to handle each request by a transgender student, or his or her parent, on a case-by-case basis so that the unique educational needs of every student can be met.

These guidelines advise schools upon request to allow all students to use the gender-specific facility that matches their genuinely-held gender identity; to train and prepare staff on how to support the genuine needs of transgender students; and to allow all students to participate in interscholastic sports consistent with the California Interscholastic Federation bylaws.

To learn more, please visit www.SupportAllStudents.org.

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TRUST Act: Landmark Law Expected to Decrease Deportations in California https://www.aclusandiego.org/trust-act-landmark-law-expected-lower-deportations-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/trust-act-landmark-law-expected-lower-deportations-california/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 18:37:59 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10931  

The TRUST Act, a landmark law which is expected to decrease deportations in California and restore trust in local law enforcement, will go into effect this Wednesday, January 1st along with other pro-immigrant measures. These bills are expected to have a significant impact on the immigration debate nationally and improve the lives of immigrants in California.

[Lea el artículo, en español, aquí.]

The TRUST Act will set a clear standard for when local law enforcement may respond to federal immigration detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by prohibiting detentions of undocumented immigrants for deportation in minor arrests.

In California, since May 2009, ICE has operated Secure Communities (S-Comm), a federal deportation program that uses local law enforcement databases to  trap undocumented community members in local jails at local taxpayer expense.  S-Comm has been responsible for more than 100,000 deportations in California, resulting in massive family separation and wasteful spending of local resources.

The vast majority of Californians deported through this program have had minor convictions or none at all.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is part of a local working group of immigrants rights organizations formed to ensure that the TRUST Act is implemented properly in San Diego and Imperial Counties. The group will develop materials and organize a series of educational forums to educate the immigrant community about what the bill means and how this and other bills will affect their rights.  They will also monitor the effectiveness of the bill and will document cases of abuse by having a hotline that local community members can call if a loved one has been mistakenly sent to ICE by local law enforcement.

Special TRUST Act HOTLINE: (760) 239-7959

The bill goes into effect amid growing calls for President Obama to follow California’s example and use his considerable executive authority to halt deportations.

The working group includes the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Alliance San Diego, American Friends Service Committee, Employee Rights Center, Islamic Center of San Diego, Justice Overcoming Boundaries, North County Immigration Taskforce, the San Diego Immigrant Youth Coalition, and the San Diego Organizing Project.

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ACLU Comment on Ruling in NSA Lawsuit https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-comment-ruling-nsa-lawsuit/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-comment-ruling-nsa-lawsuit/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 21:27:04 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10916 WASHINGTON – A federal court ruled today that the NSA’s mass call-tracking program violates the Constitution. The lawsuit was filed in Washington by activist Larry Klayman. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently litigating a similar legal challenge in New York, ACLU v. Clapper.

Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia ordered the government to stop collecting data on the personal calls of the plaintiffs, and to destroy all records of their call history. The judge stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal.

In his ruling, Judge Leon wrote, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval…Surely such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, one of two ACLU attorneys who argued the case last month, had this reaction to today’s ruling:

This is a strongly worded and carefully reasoned decision that ultimately concludes, absolutely correctly, that the NSA’s call-tracking program can’t be squared with the Constitution.

As Judge Leon notes, the government’s defense of the program has relied almost entirely on a 30-year-old case that involved surveillance of a specific criminal suspect over a period of two days.

The idea that this narrow precedent authorizes the government to place every American under permanent surveillance is preposterous.

We hope that Judge Leon’s thoughtful ruling will inform the larger conversation about the proper scope of government surveillance powers, especially the debate in Congress about the reforms necessary to bring the NSA’s surveillance activities back in line with the Constitution.

The bipartisan USA Freedom Act, which has 130 co-sponsors already, would address the constitutional problems that Judge Leon identifies.”

Resources on NSA reform legislation and other legal actions are at: aclu.org/nsa-surveillance

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Federal Judge Orders Removal of Improper Government Religious Display on Mt. Soledad https://www.aclusandiego.org/federal-judge-orders-removal-improper-government-religious-display-mt-soledad/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/federal-judge-orders-removal-improper-government-religious-display-mt-soledad/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 22:17:42 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10909 SAN DIEGO – A federal judge, the Hon. Larry A. Burns, issued an order from the bench today declaring that the government’s display of a 43-foot Latin cross on Mt. Soledad in California violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

The federal display was challenged in a lawsuit by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents, all of whom were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “But we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”

The current cross was erected in La Jolla, California, in 1954 and was dedicated at an Easter Sunday ceremony describing the monument as “a gleaming white symbol of Christianity.” In 2006, the federal government, through an act of Congress, obtained the title to the cross and its surrounding property by eminent domain, and declared the cross to be a national war memorial.

“A national war memorial should stand for all of those who served,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional to declare a deeply religious symbol that excludes those outside of that faith as a monument to all veterans.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2011 that the cross violated the First Amendment. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, it was remanded back to federal court where today’s order was issued.

Attorneys on the case include Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; David Loy of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties; the law firm of WilmerHale; A. Stephen Hut, and James McElroy.

More information on the case can be found at: www.aclu.org/religion-belief/mt-soledad-latin-cross

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Public Safety Realignment and Crime Rates https://www.aclusandiego.org/public-safety-realignment-crime-rates/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/public-safety-realignment-crime-rates/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 19:58:35 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10898 The Public Policy Institute of California today released a report, “Public Safety Realignment and Crime Rates in California.” The following can be attributed to Allen Hopper, director of criminal justice and drug policy for the ACLU of California.

The report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California confirms that Realignment has not caused a public safety catastrophe in California. We now have independent data that confirms that California can successfully reduce our state’s reliance on incarceration.

The report finds there’s been a slight uptick in auto theft, which shows us that we still have room for improvement.  The state and counties must continue to reaffirm their commitment to implementing cost-effective smart on crime approaches to control crime.

Such practices include expanding the use of risk assessments to determine who should remain in jail while awaiting their day in court and who can be safely supervised in the community or released on their own recognizance, thereby freeing up valuable jail bed space while minimizing risk to the community.

Overall, this report finds that after the first year of realignment, crime rates remain at historically low levels and are substantially below those of even a decade ago.”

A summary of the report is attached. To read the full report, click here.

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Report Shows CA Can Reduce Reliance on Incarceration Without Jeopardizing Public Safety https://www.aclusandiego.org/report-shows-ca-can-reduce-reliance-incarceration-without-jeopardizing-public-safety/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/report-shows-ca-can-reduce-reliance-incarceration-without-jeopardizing-public-safety/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 05:27:26 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10894 The Public Policy Institute of California released a report ‘Public Safety Realignment and Crime Rates in California.‘ The following can be attributed to Allen Hopper, director of criminal justice and drug policy for the ACLU of California: 

“The report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California confirms that Realignment has not caused a public safety catastrophe in California. We now have independent data that confirms that California can successfully reduce our state’s reliance on incarceration.

The report finds there’s been a slight uptick in auto theft, which shows us that we still have room for improvement.  The state and counties must continue to reaffirm their commitment to implementing cost-effective smart on crime approaches to control crime. Such practices include expanding the use of risk assessments to determine who should remain in jail while awaiting their day in court and who can be safely supervised in the community or released on their own recognizance, thereby freeing up valuable jail bed space while minimizing risk to the community.

Overall, this report finds that after the first year of realignment, crime rates remain at historically low levels and are substantially below those of even a decade ago.”

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Mourning—but Celebrating—Nelson Mandela https://www.aclusandiego.org/mourning-celebrating-nelson-mandela/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/mourning-celebrating-nelson-mandela/#comments Fri, 06 Dec 2013 01:06:22 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10886  

American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero’s statement on the death of Nelson Mandela: 

The ACLU mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, the revered international symbol of freedom who meant so much to people across the world, and who inspired us to be our best selves.

Mandela fought against class and racial inequality, political corruption and the devastation of AIDS.  He fought for everything we Americans hold dear.  “We have waited too long for our freedom,” he famously said.

And his actions matched his words as he endured 27 years in prison for what he believed—that we are all equal regardless of our class or the color of our skin.

Although it seems unthinkable to imagine a world without Nelson Mandela, we must.

Our dedication to protecting freedoms for everyone—no matter what their race, gender, religion or whom they choose to love–is the precious legacy he has passed on to us.

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Merry Christmas from the ACLU! https://www.aclusandiego.org/merry-christmas-from-the-aclu/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/merry-christmas-from-the-aclu/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 17:03:42 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/site/?p=5164  

Every year at about this time, the ACLU begins receiving scores of Christmas cards, generally unsigned, almost always without return addresses.  Many are simple and nice.  But some call on us to have a “Merry Christmas—whether you like it or not!” and similar not-in-the-spirit-of-the-season wishes.

We welcome all cards and well wishes!  Many of our staff members are practicing Christians and celebrate a religious Christmas; in fact, our offices are closed on Christmas Day!   Our organization was founded to protect, among other liberties, the free exercise of religion. Although some claim that the ACLU is anti-Christian, the truth is quite the opposite: the ACLU has always stood up for the rights of all of us to practice our religion freely, and actively advocates for the right of all people to express and celebrate their beliefs, including, of course, Christians.

Read more about Celebrating Christmas in America.

Some members of the public may be surprised or confused by this.  It is no wonder, given the misinformation out there. But, sadly, the non-existent “War on Christmas” is in reality a cynical rallying cry for some fringe groups seeking attention.

In a Salon interview (“How the secular humanist grinch didn’t steal Christmas“), Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, “one of the foremost experts on the religious right,” says, “You have a dynamic here, where you have the Christian right hysterically over-representing the problem, and then anecdotally you have some towns where lawyers restrict any kind of display or representation of religion, which is equally absurd.  It’s a closed loop.  In that dynamic, neither the secular humanists or the ACLU are playing a role.”

In other words, the extremist groups have invented their own nightmare, and then feed off its effects.

Of course, meaningful freedom of religion is possible only because of a separation between government and religion. So, this Christmas, we ask those who wish a war in the name of Christmas to put down arms.  Instead, why not take up these few simple guidelines for respecting the interdependent principles of freedom of religion and separation of church and state:

  • Christmas displays, including nativity scenes, are perfectly acceptable at homes and churches.  This religious expression is a valued and protected part of the First Amendment rights guaranteed to all citizens.
  • Governments should not be in the business of endorsing religious displays.  Religion thrives best when government stays out of deciding which holidays and religions to promote.  Religion belongs where it prospers best: with individuals, families, and religious communities.

Lastly, as a seasonal greeting to all Christians: Merry Christmas from the ACLU!  And for nonbelievers and believers in all other traditions: Thank you for enriching our world!

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ACLU Settles Lawsuit Challenging Police Department DNA Collection Practice https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-settles-lawsuit-challenging-police-department-dna-collection-practice/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-settles-lawsuit-challenging-police-department-dna-collection-practice/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 19:19:43 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10867

In a case challenging fundamental invasions of privacy, the San Diego ACLU and Morrison & Foerster announced a settlement concerning the San Diego Police Department’s collection of DNA samples from five community members. The case settled in advance of a lawsuit that would have charged that police officers violated privacy rights under the U.S. and California Constitutions by taking the DNA samples without a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances.

The settlement provides for compensation and the destruction of all five individuals’ DNA samples, profiles, records and analyses from all databases maintained by the City of San Diego, including back-up files. The City of San Diego must certify that the DNA records covered by the settlement were deleted, and must request that any agency—governmental or otherwise—with which it shared the DNA samples also destroy all samples and delete any related records.

The case stems from an incident in November 2011, when numerous police officers arrived at the home of Delane Beaner in southeast San Diego. Her son, Chris Hill, was a parolee who listed the address as his residence. Although Hill was not there, the officers detained Beaner, her brothers Derick and Taron Beaner and her children Demairus Davis and Dewanya Sudduth for more than two hours while they searched the house, garage and yard. The officers handcuffed all of the family members except Ms. Beaner.

After completing the search and finding firearms in the garage, officers demanded DNA samples from all of the family members, although none of them was ever arrested or charged with any offense justifying the collection of their DNA,  and the city’s own analysis of the DNA samples did not link them to any of the firearms. All of the family members objected to the taking of their DNA, and they continued to object even when the officers erroneously claimed that because the home had become a “crime scene,” they were authorized by law to collect DNA samples from all present.

“Our bodies and our DNA belong to us,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The police officers had no business casting this kind of DNA dragnet. I’m glad the City of San Diego has agreed to take steps to cure this fundamental invasion of privacy. Although the city did not admit liability, this settlement shows the community that privacy matters.”

“DNA provides a treasure trove of information—the most fundamentally private information that any person possesses,” said Chris Dalton, attorney with Morrison & Foerster. “Absent unusual circumstances, a citizen is entitled to the very highest expectation of privacy with respect to his or her DNA.  The California Constitution recognizes an inalienable right of citizens to a legally protected privacy interest not only in our bodily integrity, but also in our biological and genetic profile information.”

If filed, the lawsuit would have stated that by unlawfully detaining the family members beyond the proper scope and duration of a legal parole search, and collecting their DNA without a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances, the police officers violated the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as their privacy rights under California law.

The ACLU and Morrison & Foerster note that once the incident was brought to the attention of the Office of the City Attorney, the city conducted a fair investigation and cooperated by working toward a settlement without resorting to litigation.  The city’s efforts in that regard are appreciated.

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ACLU of California Voting Rights Project https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-california-voting-rights-project/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-california-voting-rights-project/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 19:42:34 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10856 Shellenberger at BoS-flip

 

 

 

 

 

Lori Shellenberger, Director of the California Voting Rights Project, advocates for statewide and local election reform to reduce barriers to voter participation.

Since joining the ACLU in 2011, she advocated for the mapping of the first majority-minority supervisor district in San Diego County; worked to increase compliance with the National Voter Registration Act and Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act; and provided technical assistance to San Diego nonprofits to build capacity for civic engagement work.

Shellenberger brings a breadth of legal, nonprofit and community organizing experience to the ACLU. She began her legal career at the Alameda County Public Defender and was associate and capital appellate counsel at the Legal Aid Society of New York where she litigated cases before New York’s Court of Appeals, the 2nd Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. She graduated from New York University School of Law.

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Covered California Failing to Provide Voter Registration Services https://www.aclusandiego.org/covered-california-failing-provide-voter-registration-services/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/covered-california-failing-provide-voter-registration-services/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 17:41:06 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10844 Expressing strong concern that California’s healthcare marketplace is not offering required voter registration opportunities to the thousands enrolling in healthcare coverage, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter this week to the executive director of the state’s health benefit exchange, Covered California, demanding concrete steps toward compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

“The goal of the NVRA is to provide people who are underrepresented in our electorate more access to opportunities to register to vote,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project. “The decision to designate the state’s Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency is one of the most significant voter registration policy decisions in the state’s history and has the potential to bring millions of Californians into the democratic process in our state.”

Covered California was the first state-run exchange to be designated a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act and has had six months to implement voter registration.  This week’s letter from the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project, the national ACLU Voting Rights Project, and several national partners, emphasizes the need for transparency as to what is currently being done to ensure that the anticipated one million healthcare applicants receive access to voter registration during the open enrollment period. The letter urges Covered California executive director Peter Lee and the Board to appoint a coordinator to oversee and complete implementation by December 16, 2013, or be subject to possible legal action.

The letter comes in the wake of a separate letter of concern sent to Covered California, signed by more than forty organizations, that conveys widespread support for voter registration opportunities at Covered California. That letter was signed by a broad range of healthcare advocates, consumer advocates, and grassroots community organizations from across the state.

According to a November 13, 2013 New York Times article, Lee said that 30,830 people in California had enrolled in plans in October and 29,000 more enrolled through November 9. At the current rate of enrollment, 2,000 people each day are being deprived of the important opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration information as guaranteed by federal and state law.

The ACLU remains committed to assisting Covered California meet its NVRA obligations. The National Voter Registration Act is a 20-year-old law that has been implemented at state agencies in California and across the country and we are confident that Covered California will be able to successfully reach full compliance in the immediate future.

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Thousands Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses https://www.aclusandiego.org/thousands-serving-life-without-parole-nonviolent-offenses/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/thousands-serving-life-without-parole-nonviolent-offenses/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 01:05:59 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10836

In the first-ever study of people serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses in the United States, the ACLU found that at least 3,278 prisoners fit this category in federal and state prisons combined.

A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses” provides key statistics about these prisoners, an analysis of the laws that produced their sentences, and case studies of 110 men and women serving these sentences. Of the 3,278 prisoners, 79% were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes such as possession or distribution; 20% of nonviolent property crimes like theft.

“The punishments these people received are grotesquely out of proportion to the crimes they committed,” said Jennifer Turner, ACLU Human Rights Researcher and author of the report. “In a humane society, we can hold people accountable for drug and property crimes without throwing away the key.”

The ACLU estimates that, of the 3,278 serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, 65% are Black, 18% are white, and 16% percent are Latino, evidence of extreme racial disparities. Of the 3,278, most were sentenced under mandatory sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums and habitual offender laws that required them to be incarcerated until they die.

“The people profiled in our report are an extreme example of the millions of lives ruined by the persistent ratcheting up of our sentencing laws over the last forty years,” said Vanita Gupta, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU. “We must change our sentencing practices to make our justice system smart, fair, and humane. It’s time to undo the damage wrought by four decades of the War on Drugs and ‘tough-on-crime’ attitudes.”

Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr., who has served 22 years so far, told the ACLU, “It’s devastating, horrible, not being around to see [my children] graduate and go to school.” Dicky Joe Jackson, who has served 17 years, said, “I would rather have had a death sentence than a life sentence.”  

The federal courts account for 63% of the 3,278 life-without-parole sentences for nonviolent offenses. The remaining prisoners are in Louisiana (429 prisoners), Florida (270), Alabama (244), Mississippi (93), South Carolina (88), Oklahoma (49), Georgia (20), Illinois (10), and Missouri (1). The ACLU estimates that federal and state taxpayers spend $1.8 billion keeping these people in prison for life instead of more appropriate terms.

In addition to interviews, correspondence, and a survey of hundreds of prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, the ACLU based A Living Death on court records, a prisoner survey, and data from the United States Sentencing Commission, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and state Departments of Corrections obtained through Freedom of Information Act and open records requests.

A Living Death features comments from the prisoners’ family members, and in multiple instances, prisoners’ sentencing judges express frustration and outrage at the severity of the punishment the law required. Judge Milton I. Shadur told Rudy Martinez as he sentenced Martinez to life without parole: “[F]airness has departed from the system.”

The report includes recommendations to federal and state governments for changes in sentencing and clemency. The proposed policy reforms would help bring balance back to sentencing—crucial steps to reduce our nation’s dependence on incarceration.

“We must change the laws that have led to such unconscionable sentences,” said Turner. “For those now serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, President Obama and state governors must step in and reduce their sentences. To do nothing is a failure of justice.”

The ACLU has placed ads online and in print to raise public awareness of the prisoners serving life-without-parole for nonviolent offenses and the larger problem of mass incarceration. Featuring photographs of six prisoners profiled in A Living Death, the ads will appear multiple times in print and online in such national outlets as Jet, The Nation, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post.

 

The report is available here: www.aclu.org/fairandsmart.

 

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New ACLU of California Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy https://www.aclusandiego.org/new-aclu-california-report-protecting-consumer-privacy/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/new-aclu-california-report-protecting-consumer-privacy/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 21:48:52 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10828

 

From revelations of widespread NSA spying to high profile data breaches, transparency about how personal information is collected, used, and disclosed is more important than ever.  California has long been at the forefront of transparency efforts. With updates to the California Online Privacy Protection Act and data breach notification law passed this year and a bill to modernize the 2003 Shine the Light law up for a vote in January, the state is continuing to lead the way.

In our new ACLU of California policy paper, Losing the Spotlight: A Study of California’s Shine the Light Law, we take a close look at the state’s landmark transparency law as it turns a decade old. We examine why it’s important and whether it’s continuing to provide transparency about the “who, what, where, and when” of how a business handles personal information. We also highlight public support for transparency and draw specific lessons that can inform policymakers and businesses seeking to protect privacy and increase transparency about data collection, use, and sharing in the modern digital era.

Our major takeaways:

  • Transparency really does work, and in three important ways. It incentivizes companies to take steps that are good for consumer privacy and good for business, facilitates public knowledge about issues that leads to policy change, and empowers consumers to make more privacy-protective choices.
  • Consumers are very concerned about how their personal information is being collected and shared, and rightfully so because information landing in the hands of data brokers, third party advertisers, and applications has led to a wide range of harms. Seniors have been scammed. Americans have been denied jobs and mortgages. Pregnancies, health concerns, and sexual orientation have been revealed too.
  • Californians cannot effectively use the Shine the Light law to learn what is happening to their personal information due to obsolete provisions and large loopholes.

Our suggestions to ensure that transparency measures work effectively for both consumers and companies in the modern digital world:

  • Consumers should be able to learn what personal information companies collect and disclose about them.
  • Transparency rights should encompass a wide array of personal information, including location and sexual orientation information, and should reach businesses that consumers may not directly interact with, such as online advertisers and data brokers.
  • The process for learning how personal information has been collected and shared should be straightforward and quick for consumers.
  • Transparency requirements should be flexible for companies to implement and balance legitimate business and security concerns with fair enforcement.

We are encouraged that policymakers at the statefederal, and international levels are focusing on transparency’s important role in protecting privacy, and we applaud initial efforts by businesses to increase transparency about government demands for information.

Almost 100 years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that sunlight is the “best of disinfectants.” Echoing Justice Brandeis’ classic observation, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently emphasized the “need to move commercial data practices into the sunlight” in order to “empower consumers to make sure they are being treated fairly.” More needs to be done, and our study of California’s Shine the Light law seeks to help chart a path forward.

Click on the link in the right-hand column to read the full report and for more information and resources about California’s Shine the Light law.

Losing the Spotlight cover letter-size split final.pdf

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D.C. Circuit Rules on Companies’ Challenge to Contraception Rule https://www.aclusandiego.org/d-c-circuit-rules-companies-challenge-contraception-rule/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/d-c-circuit-rules-companies-challenge-contraception-rule/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 17:52:59 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10805 WASHINGTON – The U.S. Court Of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today issued a decision that the ACLU strongly disagrees with in a case challenging a requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for contraception. The case was brought by the fresh produce processor and packing companies Freshway Foods, Freshway Logistics, and their owners, who sought an injunction to to allow them not to comply with the federal rule requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The court reversed an earlier decision denying the injunction.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, as in several others, supporting the Obama administration’s rule requiring contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance plans. The challenge in this case was brought by for-profit companies and their owners, which argued that the rule violates their religious liberty.

“We disagree with the court,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Employers are using religion as an excuse to discriminate by denying employees coverage for contraception. Real religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether and when to use birth control, based on our own beliefs.”

This case is one of more than 70 across the country currently pending that address the rule requiring contraception coverage. In similar challenges, the Third Circuit and the Sixth Circuit previously ruled that a for-profit company cannot establish that it can exercise religion. The Tenth Circuit, in contrast, held that the rule substantially burdened the religious exercise of Oklahoma-based craft supply chain Hobby Lobby.

Petitions to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court are pending from the earlier three decisions.

For more information on the cases challenging the federal contraceptive coverage mandate go to our national website.

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Court Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas https://www.aclusandiego.org/court-protects-abortion-access-women-texas/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/court-protects-abortion-access-women-texas/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 21:46:26 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10802 AUSTIN, TX – After a three day trial, a federal court today permanently struck down one provision of a recently enacted law that would have made abortion services for one-third of women in Texas virtually impossible to access.

While U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel blocked implementation of a requirement that all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, today’s ruling has allowed another harmful measure to take effect on October 29 that severely restricts the use of medication abortion, a safe and effective method to end an early pregnancy.

More than a dozen women’s health care providers, who jointly filed suit last month on behalf of their patients, are currently considering options to protect women’s health in face if this ruling. The providers who filed the lawsuit are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and the firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

“The court was right to strike the admitting privileges provision.  It is unconstitutional and it would have shut down women’s health centers throughout the state,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director, ACLU. “We are disappointed by the ruling on the medication abortion restriction, which ignores accepted medical practice and will force providers to use less safe methods. But we will continue to fight and explore every option to protect women’s health.”

In blocking the law’s admitting privileges requirement, today’s court order protects access to s abortion services for women living in vast stretches of Texas, including areas surrounding Ft. Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen, and Waco, where one-third of the state’s licensed health centers would have had to immediately halt providing abortions if that part of the law were allowed to take effect.

“We have stood with the people of Texas from the start to oppose efforts to insult the intelligence and undermine the health and safety of women and their families,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “We will continue the fight until all Texas women have access to the care they need.”

As Judge Yeakel explained in his ruling, “admitting privileges have no rational relationship to improved patient care.”  They also place “an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion,”

By upholding the law’s restrictions on medication abortion, physicians in Texas will now be forced to go against years of research and their professional experience by requiring most of their patients to follow an outdated and less effective protocol for medication abortion.

“Today’s decision has averted a catastrophic health crisis for women across the state of Texas,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Politicians, not doctors, pushed for both of these unconstitutional restrictions—despite the best medical standards for women’s health care. We are committed to standing with Texas health care providers and our partners in taking every necessary step ensure all women in Texas have the same rights and access to essential health care as women living in other states.”

The provisions that were ruled on today were part of a package of legislation signed by Governor Rick Perry on July 18 following a series of special legislative sessions, but opposed by 80 percent of Texas voters, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Medical experts in Texas and across the country, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Hospital Association, also publicly opposed provisions in the law because they provide no medical benefit to women and will actually jeopardize women’s health and safety.

“Today’s ruling marks an important victory for Texas women and sends a clear message to lawmakers:  it is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws that take personal, private decisions away from women and their doctors. While this ruling protects access to safe and legal abortion for women in many parts of the state, but it puts ideology over science by banning a safe method of abortion for many women,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  ”This kind of restriction on early abortion takes a personal, private decision away from women and their doctors. Planned Parenthood nurses and doctors are taking every step we can to ensure that women in Texas have access to the highest quality health care no matter where they live.”

Courts have blocked similar provisions in other states across the country. Admitting privileges requirements aimed at shutting down all or most of the abortion providers in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have been halted before they took effect. State courts in North Dakota and Oklahoma have permanently struck down unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion.

For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/planned-parenthood-v-abbott

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Supporting all transgender students https://www.aclusandiego.org/supporting-transgender-students/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/supporting-transgender-students/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 22:47:11 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10800

This summer Californians celebrated a historic victory when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1266 – the School Success and Opportunity Act. The law makes sure that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to graduate from California’s public schools, by ensuring they can be themselves and fully participate in school facilities and activities such as sports and physical education that match their gender identity.

Unfortunately, anti-equality groups, who are frustrated at their unsuccessful efforts to stop marriage equality, have now taken to targeting transgender children and their families.

In an effort to overturn the law, they have filed a referendum. Fortunately, the referendum would have absolutely no impact whatsoever, as existing California law and existing federal law already provide that transgender students must be allowed to participate in all school programs and facilities consistent with their gender identity.  It is a waste of taxpayer time and money.

Parents and families know that every student should have a fair chance to fully participate and succeed in school so that they can graduate with their classmates. Anti-equality groups, who have lost again and again on issues like gay marriage, have turned to targeting kids as a last ditch effort but public opinion is squarely on the side of LGBT people – young people included.  Who benefits from ostracizing young people who are already struggling to fit in anyway?

We’re optimistic that both the law and the value of fairness will prevail. This bill ensures schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students. No parent wants to see their child excluded or discriminated against.

Learn more: supportallstudents.org

By: Melissa Goodman, ACLU of California’s LGBT Rights Project

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ACLU CALLS ON ICE TO HALT ARRESTS AT COUNTY COURTHOUSES https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-calls-ice-halt-arrests-county-courthouses/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-calls-ice-halt-arrests-county-courthouses/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 19:14:53 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10783

(Bakersfield)— The ACLU of California and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project sent a letter today demanding Immigration and Customs Enforcement stop its troubling practice of arresting people at Kern County Courthouses. Over the past year, ICE agents have taken advantage of unsuspecting individuals who were attempting to pay fines, appear for court appearances, get married or obtain restraining orders.

The letter details egregious instances of ICE conducting indiscriminate sweeps through Kern County Courthouses. In one of several examples, Gurvinder Singh was about to marry Kuldeet Kaur when ICE agents disrupted their ceremony and detained and arrested Singh. In another case, ICE agents arrested long-time resident Hector Esquivel Chavez in front of his partner and two year-old daughter, while he was attempting to pay a fine for driving without a license. The arrests have deterred residents from complying with the law and accessing essential court services.

“ICE’s tactics are reprehensible,” said Michael Kaufman, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “ICE is punishing people for attempting to comply with the law or access important court services, like marriage licenses and restraining orders. By scaring people away from courthouses, ICE is undermining the public health and safety of the entire Kern County community.”

“When ICE officers roam the courthouse hallways, many individuals are placed in the untenable position of choosing between protecting themselves or paying a traffic ticket,” said Gabriela Rivera, staff attorney at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “This is exactly the kind of perverse enforcement approach that causes immigrant communities to fear cooperation with law enforcement officials. It is misguided to discourage this population from meeting its civic responsibilities.”

The letter urges ICE to investigate the conduct of its Bakersfield office and take immediate steps to put an end to its harmful and illegal practices in Kern County. The letter further requests that ICE modify its nationwide policies and trainings clarifying that courthouses are sensitive locations where ICE agents are prohibited from conducting enforcement actions absent extraordinary circumstances. The letter details reports that ICE agents have conducted courthouse arrests in other locations, including Santa Clara, California demonstrating the need for reforms nationwide.

“Just as schools and places of worship are considered sensitive locations that are off-limits to immigration enforcement, courthouses should be safe and accessible for all Californians,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.

“When ICE agents arrest people at the courthouse, they are improperly interfering with the states’ judicial systems and undermining people’s basic right of access to the courts,” said Kate Desormeau, staff attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. ”ICE’s existing policy already recognizes that there are certain locations that are generally not appropriate for immigration enforcement operations. It should clarify that courthouses are on that list too.”

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ACLU Announces Blue Ribbon Panel Led By Newsom to Study Marijuana Legalization in California https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-announces-blue-ribbon-panel-led-newsom-study-marijuana-legalization-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-announces-blue-ribbon-panel-led-newsom-study-marijuana-legalization-california/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 18:29:59 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10771 SAN FRANCISCO – The ACLU of California announced Thursday that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will chair a blue ribbon panel to study the complex legal and policy issues that must be resolved as California considers legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.

Comprised of leading legal, academic and policy experts from across the state and nation, the blue ribbon panel will engage in a two-year research effort. The panel’s work will be designed to help voters and policy makers evaluate proposals for a strict tax and regulation system that will enable California to benefit from billions of dollars of new revenue while ensuring safe communities and protecting against underage use.

Recent successful marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Washington state and Colorado, and growing public support for such reform in California, indicate that a similar measure could succeed in California.

“The prohibition of marijuana has had an enormous human and financial cost in communities across this state,” said Lt. Gov. Newsom, the highest ranking elected official in California to publicly endorse taxing and regulating marijuana for adults. “It is far past time for Californians take a serious look at smarter approaches to marijuana, and it is imperative that happen before any marijuana ballot initiative gets underway.”

The ACLU of California Thursday also released results from a fresh poll conducted in the past two weeks by Tulchin Research which shows ever-growing support for taxing and regulating marijuana among likely 2016 California voters across political, racial and geographic lines.

The poll results make clear that voters offer strong support for legalizing marijuana when it is coupled with a comprehensive regulatory system and an ability to collect revenues to fund public services. Specifically, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of voters support a proposal to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in California for adults. In fact, nearly half (46 percent) of voters strongly support such a sample measure compared to less than a third of voters (27 percent) who strongly oppose it.

The proposal put to the 1,200 respondents likely to vote in November 2016 makes it clear that marijuana would still be illegal for minors and that there would be penalties for DUI. The sample measure also references the revenue that would be raised with a tax and the types of services that might be funded. When all of this is put together in a ballot measure, the poll finds strong support for legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana across a wide range of demographic groups.

Joining Newsom on the panel is a broad spectrum of policy, legal and academic experts, including, among others, Keith Humphreys, a Stanford Health Policy Associate who was a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2009-2010, Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Dr. Timmen Cermack and Dr. Peter Banys, both past presidents of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, Dr. Seth Ammerman, a Stanford University professor and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, Sam Kamin, a Denver University law professor who has been appointed to the Colorado governor’s task force for implementing that state’s marijuana legalization initiative and Alison Holcomb, campaign manager of Washington state’s successful 2012 ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana.

The panel will spend the next 18-24 months monitoring and analyzing the implementation of tax and regulate laws in Washington and Colorado, publishing a series of policy white papers, convening round-table discussions, panel presentations and town hall events for the public and for policymakers across the state.  The panel will also seek to identify, research and propose answers to the legal and policy questions that these public forums will address.

An ACLU report released in June showed extreme racial disparities in marijuana arrests throughout the country and in California, disparities that would be erased by sensible tax and regulate measure.

“Marijuana prohibition has harmed communities and families by needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the overburdened criminal justice system, with people of color far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted,” said Allen Hopper, director of criminal justice and drug policy for the ACLU of California. “California voters recognize that it’s time for change and will overwhelmingly support reforming marijuana laws provided it can be done responsibly with adequate safeguards and assurances that tax revenues will go to fund public schools and other important social services.”

Gavin Newsom

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Victory! CHP Upholds the First Amendment https://www.aclusandiego.org/victory-chp-upholds-the-first-amendment/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/victory-chp-upholds-the-first-amendment/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 00:14:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10752 The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has agreed to uphold the First Amendment right of individuals to protest the Escondido Police Department’s controversial traffic checkpoint program, in a settlement filed today in federal court.

The settlement concludes a case filed in May 2012 against Escondido and the CHP, in which the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties challenged interference by the City and CHP with the First Amendment rights of protesters who oppose checkpoints. The City of Escondido and the ACLU settled in October 2012.

Under the settlement, the CHP agrees to provide written instructions to CHP’s Oceanside office, which covers Escondido, that any alleged distraction of traffic arising from speech alone is not grounds to interfere with roadside protests from a sidewalk or other place pedestrians may lawfully be present. The CHP is also obligated to cover attorney fees and compensate the plaintiffS.

“The freedom to protest is a cornerstone of American democracy,” said David Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “I am glad that CHP has agreed to ensure its officers understand this fundamental principle.”

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Robust Year for Civil Liberties in California https://www.aclusandiego.org/robust-year-for-civil-liberties-in-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/robust-year-for-civil-liberties-in-california/#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2013 19:39:17 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10731 The ACLU of California made significant progress toward protecting the civil liberties of all Californians through the State Legislature in 2013.

This year the ACLU played a central role in getting to the Governor’s desk sixteen bills, dealing with a wide range of civil liberties issues including privacy, criminal justice and drug law reform, immigrant rights, and LGBT rights. We are pleased to report that the Governor signed twelve of those bills, most of which will become law on January 1, 2014. (See full list below.)

Of particular importance is AB 4 (Ammiano), the TRUST Act, which restores community relationships with police by making it clear that local jails should not hold people on immigration-based detention requests when they pose no threat to public safety; and AB 154 (Atkins), which expands access to early abortion care for women across the state while many states across the nation are restricting access to the legal procedure.

“In my twenty-five years leading the ACLU’s office in Sacramento, I have seen legislative years come and go, but this year stands as one of the most robust in advancing our civil liberties,” said Francisco Lobaco, legislative director for the ACLU of California.  The ACLU of California is a collaboration of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU of Northern California.

The governor also signed several other bills to enact critical civil liberties protections, including those limiting indefinite military detention (AB 351), requiring videotaping of some interrogations of juveniles (SB 569), and instituting some due process in gang databases (SB 458). He also signed ACLU-backed bills that protect the privacy of health records (SB 138), require public schools to respect students’ gender identity (AB 1266), and facilitate compensation of the wrongfully convicted (SB 618).

Sadly, the governor’s vetoes included three critical ACLU priorities for this year: SB 467 (Leno), which would have updated California privacy law so that our private email and online documents would finally have the same warrant protection as letters in our house and files on our computer; SB 744 (Lara), which would have prevented school districts from forcing students to be transferred to non-mainstream schools after actions for which they could have been expelled, placing a disparate impact on students of color; and SB 649 (Leno), which would have allowed counties to reduce the wasteful and counterproductive incarceration of people for low-level drug possession by revising the penalty to either a misdemeanor or a felony, instead of an automatic felony as it is now. In his SB 649 veto statement, however, the governor promised to “examine in detail California’s criminal justice system, including the current sentencing structure.”

“We have a lot to celebrate this year, and a lot more work to do,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior policy advocate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “In 2014, we’ll work to implement the protections that we won this year and will continue to fight for equal protection under the law for all people. In particular, the governor has signaled an historic opportunity for criminal justice reform and we are committed to keeping the pressure on Sacramento to follow through.”

Following is a brief run-down of the ACLU of California priority legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor in 2013.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

  • SB 618 (Leno).  Facilitates the process for exonerees to recover compensation through the California Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board for time spent wrongfully in jail. Since 2000, when the compensation law was enacted, only 11 exonerees have received any funds from the state, even though 132 people have been exonerated.
  • SB 569 (Lieu). Requires law enforcement to videotape all juvenile interrogations where the charge is homicide. Such taping will help reduce the likelihood of false confessions.
  • SB 458 (Wright). Requires that before a law enforcement agency designates a person as a gang member, associate, or affiliate in a shared gang database, the agency must notify the person or his/her parent or guardian and explain why the designation is being considered.
  • AB 351 (Donnelly). Prohibits any state agency or personnel from aiding an agency of the Armed Forces in any investigation, prosecution, or detention that could lead to a person’s indefinite military detention.
  • SB 380 (Padilla). Requires law enforcement to get a warrant before interfering or shutting down communication services in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system absent an emergency situation involving immediate danger of death or danger to public safety and there is insufficient time to obtain a court order.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS

  • AB 4 (Ammiano). Set clear statewide  limits on when local law enforcement will respond to federal immigration requests. “While the federal government has repeatedly promised to stop the unjust detentions and deportations, and to keep families together, this year, California took a major step in that direction,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We hope that the passage of this legislation highlights California’s belief that we can do better than the harmful collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement imposed on police and sheriffs throughout the country through the Secure Communities program.”

REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE

  • AB 154 (Atkins). Expands access to early abortion for women in California. The law authorizes trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants to provide safe, early abortion care across the state. The law addresses a serious shortage in the state, where more than half of the counties do not have an accessible abortion provider. It also allows women to receive care in their own communities from providers they already know and trust.
  • SB 138 (Hernandez). Starting on January 1, 2015, ensures that billing and other insurance documents for sensitive medical services from insurance and health care providers remain confidential for dependents up to the age of 26 unless they opt out, and for those over 26 if they opt-in.

EMPLOYMENT RE-ENTRY

  • AB 651 (Bradford). Allows people with low-level felony convictions who are sentenced under the new Realignment laws to petition for expungement after completing their sentences and remaining crime free for up to two years. (A similar remedy already exists for people sentenced to felony probation; this law merely extends that remedy to those convicted under the new Realignment laws.)
  • AB 218 (Dickinson).  Starting on July 1, 2014, bars state and local government agencies from asking job applicants about criminal convictions until the agency determines that the applicant meets minimum qualifications for the job. This removes unnecessary and unfair barriers to employment that keep ex-offenders locked out of the job market.

LGBT RIGHTS

  • AB 1266 (Ammiano). Ensures that transgender students have the chance to fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity. California law already prohibits discrimination, but transgender students have still been discriminated against and unfairly excluded.
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Governor Vetoes Historic Drug Sentencing Reform Bill https://www.aclusandiego.org/governor-vetoes-historic-drug-sentencing-reform-bill/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/governor-vetoes-historic-drug-sentencing-reform-bill/#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2013 23:11:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10729 Today is a frustrating day in California. Despite huge overwhelming support from California voters from across the state and political spectrum, Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed an historic sentencing reform bill that was sent to his desk with bipartisan support in the state Legislature.

By vetoing SB 649, Gov. Brown has thwarted the will of the voters and their elected representatives, rejecting a modest reform that would have helped roll back some overly harsh penalties in our state that continue to drive the mass incarceration crisis.

California voters and the legislature recognize the urgent need to re-evaluate our sentencing laws and enact smart reforms, especially for low level, non-violent drug crimes, to reduce the state’s reliance on incarceration and free up limited resources for the sorts of community-based treatment, education and job training programs proven to reduce crime and create safe and healthy communities.

Yet Gov. Brown remains inexplicably opposed to meaningful sentencing reform.

If a lengthy jail sentence kept people from becoming addicted, we wouldn’t have any drug problems. But California knows from experience that lengthy jail sentences for possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use just makes things worse – wasted lives, overcrowded jails, and devastating budget deficits.  California had a chance to turn the corner toward commonsense reform. But it was squandered.

The coalition of organizations and elected leaders that backed S.B. 649 is not giving up on sentencing reform!

Along with the ACLU of California, the bill was sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, the National Council of La Raza, the California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the California Public Defenders Association, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Californians for Safety and Justice, and the Friends Committee on Legislation-California. Many other organizations and individuals played an important role in our historic effort to put meaningful sentencing reform on the governor’s desk.

Our work isn’t finished.

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is the senior criminal justice and drug policy advocate for the ACLU of California

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Governor Signs Reproductive Health Bill to Improve Abortion Access https://www.aclusandiego.org/governor-signs-reproductive-health-bill-to-improve-abortion-access/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/governor-signs-reproductive-health-bill-to-improve-abortion-access/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 20:46:49 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10715

Sacramento – Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today that would increase access to safe, early abortion for California women. The bill, AB 154 was authored by San Diego’s Assemblymember, Toni Atkins.

“With his signature, Governor Brown is making a commitment to Californians to continue working to make abortion services a human right and not a privilege in our state and is also sending a strong message to the rest of the country that attacks on women’s health and rights stop in California,” said Laura Jimenez, Executive Director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “We are proud that California is the only state in the nation right now that is passing proactive legislation to improve access to abortion and we hope that this law can further efforts to expand access to women throughout the country.“

“With the Governor’s signature on AB 154, a significant barrier to reproductive healthcare for California women has been reduced,” said Assemblymember Toni Atkins. “Increasing the number of trained healthcare providers who can perform abortions on a timely basis without requiring significant travel will improve the lives of women and their families in many ways. I appreciate the Governor’s support.”

AB 154 improves access by authorizing trained and qualified nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physicians assistants to perform early abortions. The bill is based on a five-year study conducted by the University of California San Francisco which showed that specially trained health professionals can provide high quality early abortion care.

“The ACLU is committed to ensuring that all people have access to comprehensive reproductive health care. This law will ensure that people can access providers in their own communities who they know and trust,” said Phyllida Burlingame, Reproductive Justice Policy Director for the ACLU of California.

AB 154 was sponsored by ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, ACLU of California, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. The bill had the support of the California Women’s Health Alliance, which comprises more than 30 women’s health and rights groups that support improving access to women’s reproductive health care.

The California Women’s Health Alliance comprises more than 30 organizations that are dedicated to protecting and improving women’s reproductive health in the state.

California Women’s Health Alliance members:

ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, ACLU of California, ACT for Women and Girls, American Nurses Association/California, Bay Area Communities for Health Education, Black Women for Wellness, Business & Professional Women of Nevada County, California Church IMPACT, California Family Health Council, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, California Nurse-Midwives Association, California Women’s Law Center, Cardea Institute, Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, Choice USA, Forward Together, Fresno Barrios Unidos, Khmer Girls in Action, League of Women Voters of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, National Abortion Federation, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of Jewish Women – California, National Health Law Program, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Network of Abortion Funds, Nevada County Citizens for Choice, Nursing Students for Choice, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, Reproductive Justice Coalition of Los Angeles, Women’s Community Clinic, Women’s Health Specialists of California

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Gov. Brown signs TRUST Act Citing Congress’s ‘Waffling’ on Immigration Reform https://www.aclusandiego.org/gov-brown-signs-trust-act-citing-congresss-waffling-on-immigration-reform/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/gov-brown-signs-trust-act-citing-congresss-waffling-on-immigration-reform/#comments Sat, 05 Oct 2013 18:14:47 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10643 The ACLU of California applauds Governor Brown for signing AB 4, the TRUST Act, a bill that creates a clear standard for when local law enforcement will respond to federal immigration requests of local law enforcement to share fingerprints of anyone they arrest with immigration authorities. This policy results from a federal program called “Secure Communities,” (S-Comm) that often leads to the detention of immigrants in local jails solely based on their immigration status. This undermines due process and has resulted in decreased trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

The TRUST Act, AB4, a bill authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, will enhance school, workplace, and civil protections for California’s hard-working immigrant community.

“The TRUST Act will make all Californians safer. When local law enforcement jails members of our community solely on the basis on their immigration status, trust is undermined” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “This bill allows victims to report crimes with confidence, police to solve tough cases, and sheriffs to use scarce jail space more wisely.”

“The ACLU has seen the impact of S-Comm on California families and communities as over 100,000 immigrants have been deported through this program in our state alone. The TRUST Act will help to ensure that every Californian is afforded due process and not subjected to unlawful prolonged detention on the basis of their immigration status,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

The ACLU of California has worked with a number of individuals throughout the state who were mistreated because of immigration detainer requests:

  • CHP officers arrested a woman named Perla, a U.S. citizen born in Mexico, for a traffic infraction. Perla was held in the local jail on an ICE detainer for three days before immigration officials instructed the sheriff to release her, citing an error in “the database” as the cause for her immigration hold.
  • This also includes the unconstitutional three month detention acclaimed British film director Duncan Roy while he was awaiting trial in Los Angeles County.  County officials would not allow him to post his bail, in violation of state and federal law, based solely on an immigration detainer request.
  • LAPD officers responded to an emergency call from Isaura Garcia when her boyfriend became violent, but arrested her instead of him and placed her in deportation proceedings.
  • In Bakersfield, Ruth Montano, a farmworker and mother of three, was detained for a week because of an immigration detainer that was issued after she was arrested on charges that her dogs were barking too loudly.

“While the Federal Government has repeatedly promised to stop the unjust detentions and deportations, and to keep families together, today California took a major step in that direction,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “We hope that the passage of this legislation highlights California’s belief that we can do better than the harmful collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement imposed on police and sheriffs throughout the country through the S-Comm program.”

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Photo by Ryan Roderick Beller

Photo by Ryan Roderick Beller

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ACLU Supports Drivers Licenses for Immigrants, Urges Vigilance https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-supports-drivers-licenses-for-immigrants-urges-vigilance/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-supports-drivers-licenses-for-immigrants-urges-vigilance/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:24:34 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10601 Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 60: The Safe and Responsible Driver Act. Starting in January 2015, California residents who learn the rules of the road and pass a driving test will be eligible to obtain a driver’s license regardless of immigration status. The Safe and Responsible Driver Act is an important step forward for over one million undocumented drivers who live in California. Allowing people to earn a driver’s license regardless of immigration status is a practical and long-overdue step that improves road safety for all Californians.

“Since 1993, community members driving to work or school have been subjected to wrongful traffic stops, costly car impoundments, and sometimes even arrests and deportations simply because they were denied access to driver’s licenses due to their immigration status,” said Julia Harumi Mass, Staff Attorney for the  ACLU of Northern California. “Hardworking immigrants need driver’s licenses to do the basic things we all take for granted like going to work, church or school,” added Mass.

The ACLU is very concerned, however, that the new licenses for individuals who cannot prove legal status will carry a distinguishing mark on the front and the back of the license.

“For years the ACLU has advocated that driver’s licenses without any distinguishing marks would provide the strongest safeguard against civil rights violations. As California works to implement AB 60, the ACLU of California will work to ensure that law enforcement agencies do not use these marked licenses to facilitate the arrest and deportation of people who exercise their right to drive lawfully,” said Hector Villagra, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “We are committed to working with other stakeholders within the regulatory process and will vigilantly monitor AB 60’s impact on vulnerable communities.”

“To protect against potential discriminatory practices, the ACLU of California also calls on the Governor now to sign AB 4 (the TRUST ACT), a bill that is currently on his desk that  sets clear, uniform standards to law enforcement regarding who may be subjected to prolonged detention in local jails based on federal immigration detainer requests,” said Norma Chavez Peterson, the Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

“Governor Jerry Brown has said that he hopes AB 60 will ‘send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.’ The ACLU urges Congress and the President to follow California’s example and work to enact long-term solutions that will help all immigrants participate fully in their communities,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Photo by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.

Photo by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.

 

The ACLU of California is comprised of three affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union: the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the ACLU of Northern California, and the ACLU of Southern California.

The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, founded in 1987, is dedicated to expanding and enforcing the civil liberties and civil rights of non-citizens and to combating public and private discrimination against immigrants.

 

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Court Places Limits on Sheriff Arpaio to Prevent Future Racial Profiling of Latinos in Arizona https://www.aclusandiego.org/court-places-limits-on-sheriff-arpaio-to-prevent-future-racial-profiling-of-latinos-in-arizona/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/court-places-limits-on-sheriff-arpaio-to-prevent-future-racial-profiling-of-latinos-in-arizona/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 21:32:20 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10567 PHOENIX, Az. – A federal judge today set down far-reaching requirements to prevent continued racial profiling by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s order follows his ruling in May that Arpaio’s office relied on racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Latinos.

“Under the measures put in place by the court, Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies will no longer be able to run roughshod over people’s basic rights as guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “MCSO can no longer balk at reform.  Every person in Maricopa County deserves better than a sheriff’s department that commits pervasive civil rights violations at the expense of public safety.  The court’s order will make sure the agency actually enforces the law and will no longer go on wild goose chases based on racial stereotypes.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the lead law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, represented a class of Latino residents and a Latino community organization, Somos America, in the lawsuit, Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio.

“Judge Snow recognized that Sheriff Arpaio’s years of discriminatory practices and unconstitutional policies required major change—including appointment of a federal monitor, data collection and video recording for every vehicle stop,” said Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Working with the Latino community, the ACLU will seek to ensure that the MCSO’s abuses end.”

In addition to the appointment of a monitor to keep tabs on the MCSO’s behavior, the court insisted upon audio and video recording of all traffic stops, increased training for and monitoring of sheriff’s office employees and the implementation of comprehensive record keeping. Officers will also be required to radio in the basis for each traffic stop before making contact with the people in the vehicle.

“Thanks to the brave souls who came forward to tell their stories, the MCSO is being held accountable,” said Lydia Guzman of Somos America. “It’s not a crime to be brown and now we have the necessary tools to make sure that Sheriff Arpaio doesn’t forget that.”

Recognizing the need to repair the MCSO’s relationship with the public, Judge Snow also mandated the creation of a Community Advisory Board, the appointment of a Community Liaison Officer and the implementation of a community outreach program. The order’s requirements must remain in place for no less than three years, Judge Snow said. In May, the court found the policies and practices of Arpaio and his office are discriminatory, and violate the Arizona Constitution, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That ruling stemmed from a three-week trial in July and August of 2012, during which the ACLU and its partners provided evidence to the court that the MCSO was illegally pursuing Latinos. The plaintiffs proved—through the MCSO’s internal correspondence and public statements, and statistical analyses—that the MCSO had the intent to discriminate. Evidence also showed that the discrimination had harmful effects, including higher traffic stop rates and longer stop times for Latinos.

“The monitoring, training, recordkeeping and other provisions in the court’s order today should go a long way toward reforming the MCSO,” said Stan Young, a partner with Covington & Burling. “This reform will help prevent future racial profiling of the kind that Sheriff Arpaio’s past policies encouraged. These remedies were necessary to restore public trust and the principle of equal treatment under law.”

The MCSO’s widespread racial profiling created a culture of fear in Maricopa County, making Latinos anxious that getting in a car could lead to an interrogation by armed officers or incarceration at the county jail.

“The Latino community has waited a long time for the court-mandated reforms that will provide accountability and transparency to the sheriff’s office and prevent the abuse of authority that has been so prevalent,” said MALDEF Western Regional Counsel Nancy Ramirez. “We are hopeful that these long-awaited reforms will bring much needed change to the sheriff’s office.”

The ACLU and its partners will continue to fight if Sheriff Arpaio appeals, and will closely monitor the MCSO’s activities as the court’s order goes into effect. To see a copy of the court’s order, click here.  Regarding Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio:  Click here for more information on the case.

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ACLU Comment on House Immigration Reform Proposal https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-comment-on-house-immigration-reform-proposal/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-comment-on-house-immigration-reform-proposal/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 19:49:49 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10558  

WASHINGTON – Below is a statement from Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, on the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

“This bill is an admirable attempt to shake Congress free from its immigration logjam. Though mired in a fiscal stalemate, Congress cannot abdicate its duty to fix a broken immigration system that needlessly punishes aspiring citizens and their families. The ACLU will continue to work to make civil liberties improvements to whatever emerges from each chamber before final legislation heads to President Obama’s desk.”

Below is a statement from Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights, on the border provisions in this bill.

“Simply stated, the House bill’s border provisions are an improvement over the Senate bill’s. Whereas the Senate provisions are based on no concrete analysis of actual security needs, the House bill takes a more methodical approach, assessing border security needs before any resources are committed. This is the way sensible border policy should be crafted, horse before the cart.

“That being said, though things like ‘studying border needs’, ‘oversight’, and ‘accountability’, may not sound sexy, they are critical components to ensuring that the civil and human rights of border communities are protected, and the House bill still needs improvement in those areas. This is especially true given Customs and Border Protection’s massive increase in abuses and killings in the past several years.”

Below is a statement from Homayra Yusufi-Marin, policy advocate of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

“The San Diego ACLU is heartened by a renewal of the push for commonsense comprehensive immigration reform. We particularly endorse the vital element of an inclusive roadmap to citizenship that this new proposal reinstates, and the rejection of the unnecessary and expensive border surge provisions added to previous iterations. The House had been contemplating a piecemeal approach that likely would doom the roadmap to citizenship, and instead focus almost exclusively on wasteful spending to secure borders that are already secure. Bringing 11 million aspiring citizens out of the shadows would not only advance public safety, it would improve our economy.

The ACLU has committed its resources to a long-term struggle to ensure equal rights for our border communities.“

Read the ACLU of California’s Issue Sheet on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

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Voting with a Criminal History – Know Your Rights https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-with-a-criminal-history-know-your-rights/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-with-a-criminal-history-know-your-rights/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:07:20 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10621

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Williams “Report Card” https://www.aclusandiego.org/williams-report-card/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/williams-report-card/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 20:10:11 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10548 LOS ANGELES — Today, the ACLU of California celebrates the nine-year anniversary of the historic Williams settlement with the release of a report, “Williams v. California: Lessons From Nine Years of Implementation.” The report examines the continuing impact of Williams, a class-action lawsuit filed in 2000 by the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Advocates, and other civil rights organizations, along with the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP, on behalf of public school students in California. The case argued that the state and its agencies were denying thousands of students their fundamental right to an education by failing to provide them with the basic tools necessary for a student to learn: clean, safe and functional school facilities; enough textbooks for all students; and teachers who are trained and qualified for the classes and students they teach.

The findings, based on data from the lowest-performing 30 percent of California schools, reveal that the standards and accountability systems established by the 2004 Williams settlement have significantly improved conditions in schools throughout the state. Specifically, the report finds that:

  • More schools have teachers who are qualified for the classes and students they teach. In 2005-2006, 29 percent of teachers in California’s low-performing schools were misassigned, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. By 2010-2011, that figure dropped to 13 percent. The improvement is largely attributable to increased efforts to ensure English Learner students are taught by appropriately trained and assigned teachers.
  • School facilities are reportedly cleaner, safer and more functional. In the first four years of Williams’ implementation, county offices of education found 11 to 13 percent of low-performing schools had unsafe facility conditions. By 2012-2013, that figure dropped to 4 percent, even as most school facility officials expressed strong concerns about the future impact of disinvestment in facilities maintenance.
  • More schools provide sufficient instructional materials and textbooks. In 2004-2005, 19 percent of low-performing schools did not have enough textbooks to go around; by 2012-2013, only 5 percent of schools in this category lacked sufficient textbooks. Overall, more than 215,000 new textbooks and instructional materials have been distributed to students in low-performing schools across the state, after problems with missing or inadequate materials were identified through Williams site visits.

The documented progress is particularly remarkable in light of the devastating budget cuts in recent years and indicates that the Williams standards have provided a counterbalance against budget pressures to ensure students receive basic necessities for educational opportunity.  Examining trends and data from the past nine years, the report offers insights into the effectiveness of the accountability systems Williams put in place and identifies necessary improvements as California begins to implement its new school finance and accountability system. That system, called the Local Control Funding Formula, reaffirms the State’s commitment to the Williams settlement by establishing compliance with Williams as the first of eight statewide education priorities.

“This report demonstrates why Williams remains the foundation on which California must build to provide every child a high-quality education,” said Brooks Allen, the ACLU of California’s Williams Implementation Attorney. “The settlement has provided millions of students with the basic essentials they need to succeed. Now we must address the challenges identified by educators across the state and heed their lessons.”

Among the top challenges identified in the report is inadequate investment in school facilities. For example, school districts have been waiting for years for the State to deliver more than half of the $800 million promised in the Williams Settlement for “emergency” repairs.

“The State needs to make good on its long-overdue commitment,” said Sally Chung, educational justice research analyst for the ACLU of Southern California and author of the report.  “The longer funding is delayed for emergency repairs, the longer students and staff are exposed to critical dangers. School officials have made it clear that a crisis is looming if preventative steps aren’t taken swiftly.”

Nine years of implementation have led to significant gains, but still more must be done to sustain the progress achieved by Williams and ensure that all students receive the basic necessities of equal educational opportunity. The work continues.

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Deadly Force on the Border, Without Transparency or Accountability https://www.aclusandiego.org/deadly-force-on-the-border-without-transparency-or-accountability/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/deadly-force-on-the-border-without-transparency-or-accountability/#comments Wed, 25 Sep 2013 00:24:14 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10532 In April 2012, PBS aired a damning documentary about Anastacio Hernández Rojas, a 42-year-old father of five U.S.-born children who had lived in the United States for more than two decades. In May 2010, he was deported. Unable to endure exile from his wife and children, he tried to cross back into the United States. At the border, at least a dozen Border Patrol agents surrounded Hernández Rojas and brutally beat him as he lay handcuffed and prone on the ground. The agents Tasered him at least five times, even as he pleaded for help.

Hernández Rojas suffered a heart attack and lost oxygen to his brain. He died in the hospital; the San Diego County coroner ruled his death a homicide.

After the PBS report aired, 16 members of Congress wrote to the secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general, and the attorney general, seeking a thorough, public accounting of U.S. Customs and Border Protection‘s (CBP) use of force policies, training and disciplinary procedures, and investigations into misconduct. The congressmen observed that the federal agents involved in Hernández Rojas’ murder had intimidated eyewitnesses to the beating and tried to delete bystanders’ videos, and that the agency press release issued in the wake of the attack falsely claimed that Hernández Rojas had “become combative.”

Last Tuesday, DHS’s Office of Inspector General released its report on use-of-force incidents involving CBP personnel. (Read the OIG report here.) While the report has a small number of commendable recommendations regarding record-keeping and training, it is disappointing insofar as it fails to answer many of the public’s most pressing questions. And, consistent with CBP’s lack of transparency on uses of force, part of the report is redacted.

Still, the OIG report sheds some insight into the CBP black box that has thwarted public scrutiny of the agency’s troublingly frequent use-of-force incidents. Perhaps most significantly, the report reveals that CBP, the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, lacks any reliable, agency-wide mechanism to track the total number of excessive force allegations and investigations involving agency employees.

Given the lack of complete and accurate data, OIG relied on a partial subset of available records to try to assess CBP’s uses of force. It identified at least 1,187 records of possible uses of excessive force between 2007 and 2012, but does not address whether the uses of force were necessary or justified, and whether any CBP officers involved in these incidents were investigated or disciplined.

According to the report, a field audit team observed in 2012 that many Border Patrol agents and CBP officers “do not understand use of force and the extent to which they may or may not use force.”

The OIG report also indicates that in November 2012, CBP initiated its own internal review of use-of-force issues following several deadly force incidents. This portion of the report, however, is heavily redacted. (U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.), one of the 16 lawmakers who requested the OIG report, has expressed his disappointment about these deletions, adding that he “expected much more content.”)

Since January 2010, at least 19 people have died at the hands of CBP officers and Border Patrol agents. Five of these victims were U.S. citizens; seven were under the age of 21; six were in Mexico when fatally shot. Change is urgently needed not only to hold the officers and agents involved in these tragedies publicly accountable, but also to increase transparency throughout the agency.

The United States will appear next month before the U.N. to answer questions related to the lack of accountability for border killings, and to explain how CBP’s use-of-force policy complies with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty that was ratified in 1992. The ACLU will be in Geneva to observe the session and advocate for greater transparency and accountability for human rights abuses at the border.

In a shadow report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee earlier this month, the ACLU identifies five key recommendations designed to stop further killings along our borders:

  1. CBP should reform its use-of-force policies to conform with best practices recognized by the Department of Justice and other U.S. state and local law enforcement entities. For example, CBP enforcement officers should be required to wear body-worn cameras, accompanied by appropriate privacy protections for officers and the public; according to DOJ, the use of such cameras both improves the judicial process (by providing effective video evidence) and increases officer safety (both by deterring violent behavior and bringing individuals who attack officers to justice).
  2. Congress should establish meaningful oversight and accountability mechanisms to ensure that immigration officials, including CBP officers and BP agents, are held accountable for rights violations and abuses of authority.
  3. Congress should legislate measures to prevent the deaths and exploitation of migrants along the border.
  4. CBP should provide ongoing and improved training for personnel to prevent civil and human rights abuses.
  5. DHS should create enforceable standards applicable to all CBP short-term custody facilities and hold rooms.

The immediate implementation of these recommendations would provide a concrete starting point for a more just and humane border, and go a long way toward preventing any more tragic deaths at the hands of CBP or BP personnel.

 

By Mitra Ebadolahi

 

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ACLU of California Presentation to Bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-nvra-implementation-project/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-nvra-implementation-project/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 18:59:19 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10411  

The ACLU of California Voting Rights Project has been working with state and local agencies across the state to ensure voter registration is offered when people apply for services or benefits.

Lori Shellenberger, Director of the California Voting Rights Project, recently made a presentation to members of President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration to discuss the ways in which effective, modernized and collaborative state NVRA implementation can reduce election costs and increase the accuracy and integrity of voter rolls.  Read the report the ACLU of California submitted to the PCEA here.

For questions and information about the NVRA Implementation Project, email VotingRights@acluca.org.

 

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San Diego ACLU Celebrates Constitution Day! https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-celebrates-constitution-day/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-celebrates-constitution-day/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:18:46 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10396

San Diego – September 17, Constitution Day 2013 is a national holiday celebrated by all school children across the country, with a particularly organized and vibrant program here in San Diego. On Tuesday, 450 classes in the county will celebrate our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights with presentations by scores of volunteer attorneys and civic leaders coordinated by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

In its seventh year, the ACLU’s Constitutional Civics Program will reach 15,000 students in 53 schools in eleven school districts. Scores of volunteer attorneys and business leaders will present the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights in a coordinated program to highlight the brilliance, complexity and wisdom of our foundational documents.

Speakers this year include an eclectic mix of perspectives and experiences:

  • Mayor Sam Abed, Escondido City Council
  • Trustee Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified School District
  • Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz, Escondido City Council
  • City Attorney Morgan Foley, City of El Cajon, City of Poway
  • Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, California State Assembly
  • Lieutenant Neal Griffin, Escondido Police Department
  • Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, Encinitas City Council
  • Current and retired federal magistrate judges for the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of  California
  • Prosecutors from offices of the U.S. Attorney, the California Attorney General, and the San Diego District Attorney
  • Defense attorneys from offices of the Public Defender and Federal Defenders and the California Innocence Project
  • 17 Judge Advocates General from the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy
  • Attorneys from the city’s top law firms, including our Constitution Day sponsoring firms: Cooley LLP, DLA Piper, Fish & Richardson, The McKenna Long & Aldridge Foundation, and Sheppard Mullin
  • Attorneys and business leaders from Callaway Golf, Qualcomm, Sony, and State Farm

“With constitutional issues being raised in our nation and community on almost a daily basis, Constitution Day presents a unique opportunity to engage students in a discussion of this great and remarkable historic document and inspire their respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” said the Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit in an invitation to schools to join the program.

On Constitution Day, September 17 (and the days surrounding), lawyers and civic leaders across the county volunteer their time to give multimedia, interactive, nonpartisan presentations to middle and high school students.

The San Diego ACLU developed its program in response to a 2004 congressional mandate that all schools receiving federal funds provide educational programming on the Constitution on September 17, the date the document was signed in 1787.

The ACLU hopes the program will staunch the trend revealed by numerous surveys that young people have a dismally low level of knowledge about the U.S. government and our fundamental rights and freedoms.  Studies also show, however, that, when teachers and parents emphasize the importance of civic participation and discuss current events, twice as many students profess interest in politics.

A distinguished panel of judges, law firm partners and community leaders advises and supports the ACLU’s Constitution Day activities.  The Honorable H. Lee Sarokin (Ret.), U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd District, chairs the Constitution Day Council, and the Honorable James Stiven (Ret.), U.S. District Court, Southern District of California serves as program chair.  Law firm sponsors for Constitution Day 2014 are Cooley LLP, DLA Piper, Fish & Richardson, McKenna Long & Aldridge Foundation, and Sheppard Mullin.

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Norma Chávez-Peterson Takes the Helm at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties https://www.aclusandiego.org/norma-chavez-peterson-takes-the-helm-at-the-aclu-of-san-diego-imperial-counties/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/norma-chavez-peterson-takes-the-helm-at-the-aclu-of-san-diego-imperial-counties/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 14:10:04 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10388 SAN DIEGO – Effective today—the birthday of our Constitution—Norma Chavez-Peterson is the new executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the organization’s board of directors announced.  She will celebrate her new role by giving Constitution Day presentations at her alma mater Chula Vista High School at 8:15 a.m., and a presentation in Spanish at Lincoln High School at 10:30 a.m. (Open to the media; contact Jess Jollett for details.)  Also, this Thursday night, Chavez-Peterson will receive an award on behalf of the ACLU at the Center on Policy Initiative’s gala.

[Lea este artículo aquí en español.]

“We know Norma’s excellent work, and we were deeply inspired by her vision for the organization,” said board president and Qualcomm senior vice president Greg Rose.  “We are excited about the ACLU expanding its fight for civil rights and liberties for all people in San Diego.”

A search committee of the board conducted a national search and interviewed excellent candidates.  Chavez-Peterson, who started with the ACLU in February 2012 as organizing director, was promoted to associate director in charge of legal, communications, policy, and organizing programs in December 2012.

As organizing director, she led the organization’s Latino voter mobilization campaign in Escondido, which turned out seven percent of that city’s electorate, and the San Diego component of the statewide campaign to replace California’s death penalty (Proposition 34).   In Chavez-Peterson’s short time as the associate director, she has been instrumental in creating integrated advocacy campaigns advancing priority issue areas, such as criminal justice, immigrant rights, and voting rights.

She has also been a key leader for the ACLU of California’s efforts in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.  Chavez-Peterson was one of the leaders who created an unusual and groundbreaking coalition of San Diego leaders, which included law enforcement, business, and labor leaders, that called upon Congress for commonsense immigration reform.

Chavez-Peterson has nearly two decades of experience in community leadership and nonprofit management, advocating for affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization, and immigrant rights.  Previously, Chavez-Peterson served as a senior manager at MAAC Project, a social service nonprofit that promotes self-sufficiency for low- and moderate-income families.

Chavez-Peterson was the founder and director of Justice Overcoming Boundaries, a faith-based leadership development and community organizing nonprofit that addresses issues of people historically excluded from decision-making and political power.  She also played a lead role in previous fights for comprehensive immigration reform, leading to massive demonstrations, including a 2006 march of more than 100,000 people through the streets of San Diego.   At JOB, Chavez-Peterson worked closely with the ACLU during the 2007 wildfires when false reports of an immigrant family looting goods from the Qualcomm evacuation center led to abuses and intimidation of immigrants and people of color throughout the county.

Key allies shared enthusiasm for the decision.  Assemblymember and majority leader Toni Atkins said, “I’m excited for San Diego and California to have yet another strong woman in charge of such an important organization serving our communities.”  Nora Vargas, vice president of community and government relations of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, said, “Norma is one of those exceptionally strong, strategic, inspiring leaders who also draws on a depth of personal experience to inform her work.”

Former Assemblymember and Republican floor leader George Plescia said, “I got to work with Norma in bringing diverse voices together to support commonsense immigration reform at an unprecedented press conference at Qualcomm headquarters.  I appreciate her leadership in that effort, her advocacy, and her ability to look beyond labels to find common ground.”

“Building on the steadfast foundation created by our outgoing executive director, Kevin Keenan, I am eager to deepen our roots in communities directly affected by the civil rights and civil liberties issues of our day,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.  “It is tenacity and heart that makes our organization powerful, and I am excited to continue to work with our excellent staff, board, allies and community partners to build a better region and country for all.”

Chavez-Peterson succeeds Keenan who will move to New York City in December due to his wife being hired by the prestigious Union Theological Seminary as an assistant professor of social ethics.  During his eight-year tenure, Keenan helped grow the organization from seven to 24 staff and achieve other accomplishments.

In the role of strategic projects director, Keenan will assist with the organization’s transition during the coming months.

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What Does the City of Escondido Have to Hide? https://www.aclusandiego.org/what-does-the-city-of-escondido-have-to-hide/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/what-does-the-city-of-escondido-have-to-hide/#comments Tue, 10 Sep 2013 10:00:48 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10127 UPDATE: The City of Escondido has recognized the community’s right to know the details of its severance agreement with former police chief Jim Maher’s, and released the documents to the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties [copies of the documents to the right].

California courts have held that the public has a right to see documents relating to the departure of high-ranking public employees, whose limited privacy rights in the terms and conditions of their employment cannot trump the public’s interest in open government.

“The City made the right choice by disclosing this deal to the public,” said David Loy, legal director at the San Diego ACLU. “Good governance must always include transparency and accountability.”

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The citizens of Escondido deserve to know the details of their former police chief’s secret severance package, charged the San Diego ACLU in a letter sent today to the Escondido’s City Clerk.

[Lea este artículo aquí en español.]

Citing the California Public Records Act, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is requesting a copy of all “records containing any settlement, severance, or other agreement entered into between the City of Escondido and its former chief of police Jim Maher relating to his departure from City employment.”

The City of Escondido has ten days to respond.

The public has a strong interest in disclosure of the agreement.  As recently reported in the UT San Diego, former chief Maher “by all appearances received a severance package with a confidentiality clause,” and in “[Mayor] Abed’s opinion, which he arrived at after consulting with city staff, the legal restrictions built into Maher’s settlement practically preclude him from running” for elected office in the City.

“The City of Escondido is disregarding accountability and transparency in this case,” said David Loy, legal director at the San Diego ACLU. “We hope the City will respond quickly and allow community members to see what deals it has struck behind closed doors.”

The courts have a history of siding with transparency. California courts have held that the public has a right to see documents relating to the departure of high-ranking public employees, whose limited privacy rights in the terms and conditions of their employment cannot trump the public’s interest in open government. Interpreting a public records statute with a personnel exemption similar to California’s, the Washington Court of Appeals held that a city was required to disclose a severance agreement with its former fire chief in light of the “reasonable concern by the public that government conduct itself fairly and use public funds responsibly,” and noted that “if a public agency’s settlement agreement cannot withstand public scrutiny, it may be flawed in the first place.”

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Assembly Passes New Drug Sentencing Reforms for California https://www.aclusandiego.org/assembly-passes-new-drug-sentencing-reforms-for-california/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/assembly-passes-new-drug-sentencing-reforms-for-california/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 20:49:18 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10366 SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Less than a month after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the nation’s plan to scale back federal prison sentences for low-level drug crimes, the California Assembly today passed an historic drug sentencing reform bill that will allow counties to significantly reduce incarceration costs by giving local prosecutors the flexibility to charge low-level, non-violent drug offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

The bill, S.B. 649 and authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), also gives judges discretion to deem a non-violent drug possession offense to be either a misdemeanor or felony after consideration of the offense and a defendant’s record.

“We know we can reduce crime by offering low-level offenders rehabilitation and the opportunity to successfully reenter their communities,” said Leno. “But we are currently doing the opposite. We give non-violent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they’re incarcerated, and then release them back into the community with few job prospects or options to receive an education. S.B. 649 gives local governments the flexibility to choose reduced penalties so that they can reinvest in proven alternatives that benefit minor offenders and reserve limited jail space for serious criminals.”

If signed by the governor, the bill will significantly reduce jail spending and allow local governments to dedicate resources to probation, drug treatment and mental health services that have proven most effective in reducing crime. It will also help law enforcement rededicate resources to more serious offenders. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates reducing penalties for drug possession would save counties as much as $159 million annually.

“S.B. 649 is just the kind of commonsense solution to California’s incarceration crisis that voters have been demanding, and the legislature deserves credit for choosing to be smart on crime,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior criminal justice and drug policy advocate for the ACLU of California. “By signing this bill into law, Gov. Brown could give counties the flexibility they need to safely reduce their jail populations while freeing up resources for things like community-based treatment, rehabilitation and job training that are proven to prevent crime and create safe communities.”

“Based on my 35 years in the criminal justice system, including 5 years presiding over an adult drug court, I’ve seen firsthand how fundamentally unjust it is for simple possession offenses to be charged as straight felonies when many more serious and harmful offenses are prosecuted as misdemeanors,” said the Hon. Harlan Grossman, a retired Superior Court Judge from Contra Costa County. “It’s time to rethink how low-level drug offenses are prosecuted in California. As a judge, I can tell you that there is nothing fair or just about a punishment that does not fit the crime.”

Across the country, 13 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government treat drug possession as a misdemeanor. Crime is not higher in those states. A statewide poll conducted by Tulchin Research late last year showed that an overwhelming majority of Californians support this type of drug sentencing reform, with 75 percent of Californians favoring investment in prevention and alternatives to jail for non-violent offenders. In addition, nearly two-thirds of Californians agree that the penalty for possessing a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use should be reduced to a misdemeanor.

S.B. 649 does not apply to anyone involved in selling, manufacturing or possessing drugs for sale. The bill returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

The bill is co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, National Council of La Raza, California State NAACP, California Public Defenders Association, Californians for Safety and Justice, Drug Policy Alliance, William C. Velásquez Institute and Friends Committee on Legislation. Right on Crime, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the California Judges Association, the Conference of California State Bar Associations and the California Society of Addiction Medicine also support the bill.

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50 Years Later, Still Fighting for Voting Rights https://www.aclusandiego.org/50-years-later-still-fighting-for-voting-rights/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/50-years-later-still-fighting-for-voting-rights/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 00:21:24 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10343  

Among the biggest, but hidden, voter suppression issues of our times is the lack of access to voter registration opportunities and poor election administration systems. In a New York Times lead editorial this week addressing the March on Washington and the sadly ever-present attacks on voting rights, the editors proposed a new solution to the problem of the increasing unavailability of judicial oversight and legal remedies to address voting rights violations:

A more robust and lasting solution would include Congress requiring states to improve the accuracy of voter registration databases. Federal laws began this process in the 1990s and early 2000s, but many states’ voting rolls remain woefully unreliable. Making registration easier — for example, by obligating states to identify and register eligible voters or by allowing voters to update their registrations online — would also make a real difference.

This is exactly the work that our California Voting Rights Project is tackling. The ACLU of California is working to:

  • Ensure that online voter registration is broadly accessible to every eligible California voter; and 
  • Ensure all Californians are given the opportunity to register to vote or update their voter information when they interact with government, including interactions with the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange.

Find out more on our Voting Rights issues page.

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ACLU Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-50th-anniversary-of-march-on-washington-for-jobs-and-freedom/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-50th-anniversary-of-march-on-washington-for-jobs-and-freedom/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 01:38:56 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10311 WASHINGTON – American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero today released the following statement regarding the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:

“The ACLU is extremely proud to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and to reflect on the tremendous strides that resulted from that pinnacle moment of the civil rights movement. Yet a half century later, issues that gave rise to the March – racial profiling, voting rights, housing and employment discrimination – remain under attack. The ACLU stands with other civil rights organizations to continue the fight for universal equality, in a quest to finally realize Dr. King’s dream.”

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 Following is a reflection by Dennis Parker, Director of our ACLU Racial Justice Program.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

For me, few anniversaries inspire as much ambivalence as the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Billed as the “March for Jobs and Freedom,” the event stands as both a shining example of the promise of the civil rights era and a reminder of how we as a nation have, in many ways, betrayed the ideals and vision expressed by the scores of speakers and musicians who addressed the crowd of a quarter of a million people on August 28, 1963.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s prediction that the March would go down “as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation” has stood the test of time. Films of this gathering of people of different races and religions to demand that the nation address its history of discrimination and oppression remain moving today. The words of speakers like John Lewis and, of course, Martin Luther King, still speak to us today. And it is certainly true that the march ushered in a period of changes that would have been unimaginable just a few years before. The actions of courageous demonstrators and the passage of federal legislation outlawing discrimination in voting, housing, employment and public accommodations in the wake of the March helped transform the nation and bring us closer to realizing the ideals which we had often expressed but never truly followed.

And there is much to celebrate this week. We have come a long way from King’s 1963 dissatisfaction with the inability of Black people to vote in Mississippi and the belief of Black people in New York that there was nothing to vote for, to the fact that Black voters across the country could join with others to elect a black president in 2008. And numerous commentators have credited the passage of the mid-1960s civil rights laws and affirmative action with helping to create a Black middle class for the first time.

But the March’s emphasis on jobs and freedom is disquieting during a period when Black unemployment continues to be twice that of Whites and more Black people are incarcerated than at any time in our nation’s history. King’s observation that, 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, black people live on “a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity” continues to be an apt description given the large, and increasing, wealth disparities between Black and White families. Segregation in schools and housing has proven to be stubbornly persistent in a way that continues to limit opportunities for people of color.

Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, continue to fight to make King’s dreams a reality. Here at the ACLU, we are seeking to address the devastating impact of the financial crisis of 2008 on communities of color by suing Morgan Stanley for the role it played in encouraging lenders to issue extremely high risk, predatory mortgages for people of color, contributing to the higher risk of foreclosure and the stripping of assets from communities of color.

Throughout the country, the ACLU has joined other organizations in fighting the policies and practices that push children of color out of schools into the juvenile and criminal justice systems and that sanction racial profiling. We are litigating against jurisdictions that disenfranchise communities of color in their voting laws. We are working against overincarceration and the racial bias in marijuana arrests. But the task of litigating for equal opportunity has become increasingly difficult as the courts have relentlessly eroded the laws which had been the engines of much of positive changes over the last 50 years.

Decisions that limit the scope of voting rights, place increasing restrictions on voluntary school desegregation, limit the ability of civil rights plaintiffs to bring class action cases, and otherwise make the courts increasingly hostile places for those seeking civil rights demonstrate how incredibly fragile the gains we have made thus far are. And each of us should be active participants in efforts to restore the vitality of civil rights laws.

We each have a deeper responsibility to the 1963 marchers. King spoke “to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” Sadly, that sense of urgency has been blunted with the complacency that accompanies the passage of time and the false belief that America has reached a point where race no longer matters. We must revive that sense of urgency and realize that, as it was in 1963, “now is the time” to assure that all people are truly given the “riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

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ACLU Statement on Bradley Manning Sentence https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-bradley-manning-sentence/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-bradley-manning-sentence/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 16:14:24 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10285 A military court-martial today sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for giving classified material to WikiLeaks.

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, had this reaction:

When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system.

A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability.

This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

What do you think? Tweet us your thoughts @sdaclu.

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Three San Diego County Police Chiefs Back TRUST Act to Limit Deportations https://www.aclusandiego.org/three-san-diego-county-police-chiefs-back-trust-act-to-limit-deportations/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/three-san-diego-county-police-chiefs-back-trust-act-to-limit-deportations/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 22:32:09 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10273 SAN DIEGO –  Momentum for support of California’s TRUST Act, a nationally watched bill that would limit deportations stemming from low-level arrests, continues to grow with endorsements of three of the county’s top law enforcement officers: San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, and National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez. Each of the police chiefs released a letter declaring their support. [See the three letters by clicking links in right-hand column.]

Besides limiting deportations, which often tear families apart, the TRUST Act (AB 4) will rebuild community confidence in local law enforcement, which has been badly damaged by the federal deportation program, “Secure Communities” or S-Comm. “It is my opinion that “Secure” communities program has reduced the number of victims and witness in immigrant communities and thus made our communities less safe,” wrote Chief Lansdowne in his support letter.

The backing from the police chiefs—two of whom represent San Diego’s two largest cities—comes on the heels of a high-profile letter by 28 members of California’s Congressional Delegation urging Gov. Brown to sign the bill when it reaches his desk. Similarly, a letter signed by several scores of legal professionals and law professors published Monday urges the governor to sign the bill without adding harmful amendments.

Under S-Comm’s original purpose, local law enforcement  runs the fingerprints of people they arrest through an immigration database at the request of federal immigration agents to identify immigrants with criminal backgrounds. But in reality, the program has far more frequently held immigrants arrested for low-level, non-violent offenses—or no crime at all—at local expense, and led ultimately to their deportation. This results in costly, extended detentions of community members who would otherwise be released by local law enforcement agents. Even survivors of domestic violence and other crime victims have faced deportation as a result.

Nearly 100,000 Californians have been deported since the program’s inception, a decisive majority of whom had either no convictions or minor ones according to ICE’s own data. Proponents of the TRUST Act agree with the police chiefs’ assessment that S-Comm and other federal deportation policies make our communities less safe, because immigrants are less inclined to cooperate with law enforcement agents, either as witnesses to or victims of crime.

Chiefs Lansdowne, Bejarano, and Rodriguez, with nearly 90 years of shared law enforcement experience between them, join San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis, and a broad coalition of faith, labor, and community organizations in supporting the TRUST Act.

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Five Law School Deans, 46 profs urge Gov. Brown on TRUST Act https://www.aclusandiego.org/five-law-school-deans-46-profs-urge-gov-brown-on-trust-act/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/five-law-school-deans-46-profs-urge-gov-brown-on-trust-act/#comments Mon, 19 Aug 2013 16:49:23 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10256 Today, 51 leading legal scholars issued a detailed letter to California Governor Jerry Brown regarding the TRUST Act, a bill that seeks to limit deportations and rebuild community confidence in law enforcement.

In the letter, the experts urge the Governor to uphold a key feature of the bill as currently written by ensuring that prior brushes with the nation’s broken immigration system do not cause immigration “holds” in California’s jails.

The legal scholars urge against holding individuals simply because they have “prior removal orders” or “re-entry” offenses. The letter explains that these stem entirely from the nation’s  profoundly broken immigration system. They outline several devastating flaws in the nation’s immigration system which result in unjust deportations, including:

  • Serious procedural defects in the immigration court system. An unworkable immigration court system, with many long-time residents ordered deported without their knowledge or coerced into signing away their rights.
  • Inadequate relief from deportation in current U.S. immigration law and policy. Unjust federal policies which prevent immigration judges from considering all of the circumstances of a person’s case, including family ties

Key signatories of today’s letter include Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law; Christopher Edley, Jr., Dean of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law; Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law; John Trasvina, Dean of the University of San Francisco School of law; Frank H. Wu, Chancellor & Dean of the UC Hastings College of the Law; and Marjorie Cohn, past president of the National Lawyers Guild.

The letter comes on the heels of prominent TRUST Act endorsements from 28 California Members of Congress and the Police Chiefs of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City.

“We need immigration policies that uphold the principles of family unity and due process,” said Bill Ong Hing, Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco. “As a first step toward fixing the injustices of our immigration system and advancing common-sense immigration policy across the nation, I urge the Governor to sign the TRUST Act as currently written.”

“Due to this nation’s failure to establish a reasonable immigration process, many people who came to the United States for a better life and have deep family ties here have been swept up in a wave of aggressive enforcement with few legal options,” said Allison Davenport, a Lecturer and Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Law Clinic of UC Berkeley’s School of Law. “Caught in a deeply dysfunctional system where judges’ hands are tied and fundamental violations of basic due process principles are rampant, many are deported. They return to be reunited with their loved ones and contribute to this country. Channeling resources to deport them again after trivial or wrongful arrests undermines our values.”

The TRUST Act would ensure that people arrested for low-level, non-violent offenses are not held for extra time at local expense in response to  costly “hold” requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often without probable cause that a person is deportable. Such holds have unfairly trapped citizens in local jails for an extended period of time, including survivors of domestic violence and other crimes, and many aspiring citizens arrested for issues as minor as selling food without a permit.

The ACLU of California is one of the 5 organizational sponsors of the bill, which will restore trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, save resources, uphold civil liberties.

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Federal Judge Orders Major Reforms to NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Practices https://www.aclusandiego.org/federal-judge-orders-major-reforms-to-nypd-stop-and-frisk-practices/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/federal-judge-orders-major-reforms-to-nypd-stop-and-frisk-practices/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 05:15:42 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10219 NEW YORK —  In major rulings in two class-action lawsuits, a federal judge today ordered the New York Police Department to take a series of steps to ensure that its officers conduct stop-and-frisk encounters in a manner that will protect New Yorkers’ civil rights and civil liberties. The judge also ordered the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the implementation of these reforms.

The New York Civil Liberties Union hailed the decision by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin a major victory for New Yorkers and for fair, just and effective policing by the nation’s largest police force.

“We welcome the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the much-needed reform of NYPD stop-and-frisk practices and we look forward the broad process of community engagement that the court has ordered to formulate fundamental reforms of stop-and-frisk,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “With this step, the victims of this illegal and biased program have become central players in cleaning up the program.”

“Today’s decision ordering changes not only to the general stop-and-frisk program, but also to the separate program of trespass stops at private residential buildings shows that every aspect of stop-and-frisk must be reformed,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said. “This marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom revamping of stop-and-frisk.”

Today’s opinions by U.S. District Judge Shira Schiendlin cover two cases: Floyd v. City of New York, the class action lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging constitutional abuses in the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Ligon v. City of New York, a class action lawsuit filed by the NYCLU in March 2012 with The Bronx Defenders, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Shearman & Sterling, challenging the NYPD’s enforcement of Operation Clean Halls – a citywide program within the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk regime that allows police officers to patrol in and around certain private apartment buildings.

In a January 8, 2013, ruling in the Ligon case, Judge Scheindlin granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction ordering the NYPD to immediately cease its practice of unlawful trespass stops outside Clean Halls buildings in the Bronx.

In one ruling issued today in the Floyd case, Judge Scheindlin declared that the NYPD’s general stop-and-frisk practices have violated the civil liberties and constitutional rights of all New Yorkers, citing the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which protect individuals against unlawful searches and seizures and guarantee equal protection under the law. In a second ruling, she ordered remedies covering both the Floyd and Ligon cases, including the appointment of a monitor to implement broad reforms.

stop & friskRead the New York Civil Liberties Union’s report on the NYPD’s unconstitutional Stop and Frisk program.

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ACLU of California Responds to Attorney General Holder’s Criminal Justice Speech https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-responds-to-attorney-general-holders-criminal-justice-speech/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-responds-to-attorney-general-holders-criminal-justice-speech/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 22:42:34 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10213 meme-eric-holder-FINAL.peg

The ACLU of California commends Attorney General Holder for taking this important step to prevent the use of the most severe federal drug penalties for people convicted of low-level drug offenses.  This is a terrific development.

California must follow the Attorney General’s lead. We must abandon the failed and costly policies of the past that have left far too many people locked up for far too long who don’t need to be kept behind bars to keep our families and communities safe.  Now is the time to focus on front end sentencing reforms, especially for low-level, nonviolent drug crimes, that will reduce wasteful spending on incarceration and free up money for the kinds of rehabilitation, education and job training programs that will reduce crime and enhance public safety.

A crucial first step toward achieving the kinds of sentencing reforms in California that are so badly needed is passing SB 649, which would give local prosecutors discretion to charge simple possession of drugs as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.  

Click here to urge your legislator to vote YES on SB 649. We can help California shift its priorities away from incarceration as one-size-fits-all solution to crime and toward solutions that will truly create safety for our families and communities. 

 

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San Diego ACLU Board Pays Tribute to Board Member James McElroy https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-board-pays-tribute-to-board-member-james-mcelroy/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-board-pays-tribute-to-board-member-james-mcelroy/#comments Thu, 25 Jul 2013 18:00:34 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10189 The Board of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties recognizes esteemed board member Jim McElroy, for receiving one of the American Association for Justice’s top honors, the Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award this week. The Weinglass award is presented to the person “who has made a notable contribution to the defense of civil liberties by bringing, trying, or resolving a suit, or by otherwise protecting or advancing civil liberties, in a way that has had a significant impact in the past year or over the course of his/her career,” according to a statement by the AAJ, formerly known as the American Trial Lawyers Association.

McElroy has a long and storied history defending the rights of America’s most vulnerable, including years of service with the Southern Poverty Law Center as a cooperating attorney and as chair of the board of directors. He has fought hate, bigotry, and the denial of basic human rights in many forms. Among his notable accomplishments here in San Diego is his decades of work defending the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  Since the late 1980s, McElroy has worked to challenge the presence of the 43-foot tall Latin cross atop Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, claiming that the religious symbol’s presence on government land violates provisions of the U.S. and California constitutions prohibiting the government from favoring one religion over another. The San Diego ACLU partnered with him on this case for years, and later, in 2007, filed a companion lawsuit, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, et al. v. Robert F. Gates, requesting the court to hold unconstitutional the federal government’s continued display of the Mt. Soledad Cross.

“The First Amendment does not have a more dedicated or formidable defender than Jim McElroy,” said Greg Rose, chair of the San Diego ACLU. “Jim holds the principles of our founders foremost, unrelentingly, even when it is enormously unpopular to do so. He is an inspiration and a civil rights icon.”

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The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all through education, litigation, and policy advocacy.

Photo courtesy Southern Poverty Law Center.

Photo courtesy Southern Poverty Law Center.

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ACLU and Civil Rights Coalition Weigh In on New Education Funding Formula https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-and-civil-rights-coalition-weigh-in-on-new-education-funding-formula/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-and-civil-rights-coalition-weigh-in-on-new-education-funding-formula/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 18:12:05 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10181 (Los Angeles)—A broad coalition of education and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU of California, are sending a letter today to all California county and district superintendents and charter school administrators urging immediate action to direct additional resources to the state’s neediest children.

On July 1st, Governor Brown signed the most significant school funding legislation in a generation, called the Local Control Funding Formula.  The LCFF completely overhauls California’s finance system for K-12 schools and is designed to more equitably distribute funds to better meet the educational needs of low-income students, English Learners and foster youth.  Framed by the governor in his State of the State address in January as a matter of justice, the enactment of the LCFF has been touted by the governor and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as “revolutionary.”

The first test of the LCFF and the increased discretion given to local school officials will be how administrators and governing boards choose to allocate resources when finalizing their 2013-14 budgets over the next few weeks.  Citing this fact, the coalition letter highlights provisions in the new law that require increased or improved services for disadvantaged students and detailed implementation plans.  The State Board of Education is in the process of adopting regulations to implement these requirements, but the coalition believes the promise of the LCFF cannot be delayed.  The letter urges local officials to take specific steps to ensure the transition to the LCFF is successful and students receive additional support this year.

Coalition members will be monitoring local budget actions and continuing to participate in local and state discussions regarding the LCFF and how to improve educational outcomes for all children in California.

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A-G rally SDUSD 4-28-09 005

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San Diego ACLU Announces Departure of Admired Executive Director Kevin Keenan https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-announces-departure-of-admired-executive-director-kevin-keenan/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-announces-departure-of-admired-executive-director-kevin-keenan/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 18:28:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10149 SAN DIEGO – After eight years as executive director, Kevin Keenan will leave the local ACLU in December to accompany his wife to New York City, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties announced today.

Keenan’s family will relocate to Morningside Heights in Manhattan where his wife, Sarah Azaransky, has been hired as an assistant professor of social ethics at the prestigious Union Theological Seminary.  Azaransky is author of The Dream is Freedom: Pauli Murray and American Democratic Faith (Oxford University Press 2011) and editor of the book, Religion and Politics in America’s Borderlands (Lexington 2013).

The ACLU will open a search for Keenan’s successor imminently.  Keenan will be assisting the Board with the organization’s transition to a new leader.  He will be exploring opportunities in New York.

Read the job announcement.

Keenan leaves a thriving organization, which he grew from seven staff members in 2005 to 24 today and led many successful efforts to protect and expand civil liberties.  He developed the vision for and helped create the “ACLU of California” collaboration to leverage the full, statewide strength of the organization’s three California affiliates. He also developed the ACLU’s multi-state Border Litigation Project, which launched this year, to fight abuses by border enforcement agencies.  During Keenan’s tenure, the San Diego ACLU led major efforts on immigrants’ rights, border justice, voting rights, educational equality, criminal justice reform, and civic education and engagement.  A list of the San Diego ACLU’s highlights of the past eight years is below.

“Kevin has been a strategist and key player in so much of the organization’s substantive work,” said Board President Greg Rose, “but his greatest contribution has been setting an ambitious vision and delivering on it over and over again.”  Rose, a senior vice president at Qualcomm, became involved with one of the San Diego ACLU’s initiatives created during Keenan’s tenure, the Constitution Day program that mobilizes more than 200 volunteer instructors to teach 15,000 students about the brilliance and dynamism of our founding charter.

“I have been fortunate to work with an amazing group of leaders, especially on our staff team, but also on our boards and committees, among our allies, in the legal profession, and in the community,” said Keenan.  “A big part of my job is knowing when to get out of the way of great leaders on staff and focus on finding and funneling them more and more resources to do incredible work.”

In June, the ACLU of California has birthed the California Voting Rights Project, a statewide project led by its San Diego director Lori Shellenberger, with a $500,000 leadership grant from the Irvine Foundation to fight the de facto disenfranchisement bred by outdated election and registration policies and systems.  The Pew Center on the States recently ranked California 48th in the nation for its poor election systems.  But, the Voting Rights Project helped Senator Alex Padilla pass SB35 to strengthen voter registration practices and required the Obamacare health exchange to register voters.  The project  provided support to California’s Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, to designate the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency—the first state in the nation to do so. New York and Vermont have followed California’s innovative lead, giving millions of citizens much easier access to register to vote and participate in our democracy.

Keenan also led the San Diego ACLU in new approaches to civil liberties advocacy, including a Latino voter mobilization campaign in Escondido and a focus on relationship-building with lawmakers and community members.  In a 2012 media interview about the San Diego organization’s 80th anniversary, Keenan said, “We’ve changed from the local civil-rights powerhouse that you know to a more community-connected, relationship-based, comprehensive advocacy organization. I don’t have a good name for what that is . . .  It may just be the new ACLU.”

In addition to helping with the organization’s transition to a new leader, Keenan will use the next five months to help lead the Campaign for the Next Generation, a $15 million campaign to secure the long-term strength of the organization through new estate gifts as well as raise cash support for a comprehensive youth engagement program.  The campaign began on April 1, 2013 and is one-third of its way to its two year goal.

Rose said, “While we are sad to see Kevin leave, we have every confidence that our next executive director will continue to uphold this organization’s long tradition of a strong, disciplined fiscal operation, impeccable legal expertise, and aggressive, innovative advocacy to ensure fundamental freedoms and equal protection of the law for all people.”

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 KK at SB1070pc

2005 to 2013:  Accomplishments Led or Co-Led by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties during Keenan’s Tenure

  • Successfully challenged the City of Escondido’s rental ban ordinance, which required landlords to screen the immigration status of prospective tenants, with the leadership of legal director David Loy in 2006, as well as led adoption of a state law in 2007 to prohibit any other California cities from passing such an ordinance;
  • Rapid response to mistreatment of immigrants and people of color during the 2007 wildfire recovery, including a report issued ten days after the fires, a state law to limit public employees’ screening for immigration status during a natural disaster, and a guidebook and training on the rights of immigrants during and after a natural disaster;
  • Successful challenge to inhumane overcrowding conditions and denial of medical care to immigration detainees at the San Diego Correctional Facility, run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America;
  • Challenged in court the government’s warrantless NSA spying and lobbied San Diego federal representatives against extension of the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments; conducted extensive public education about these and other abuses of power; unearthed domestic spying emanating from an intelligence “fusion center” at Camp Pendleton, including the use of informants to spy on the annual banquet of the Council on American Islamic Relations;
  • Published a 75-page report with Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights on the humanitarian crisis of migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border, finding that more than 5,000 people have died because of the deadly practices and policies of both governments;
  • Challenged rampant Border Patrol abuse of power and urged for reform of lethal force policies, especially the fatal shooting of rock throwers;
  • Under the direction of now associate director Norma Chavez Peterson, led a “get out the vote” campaign to mobilize Escondido’s Latino vote in the 2012 Election and then establishing a long-term ACLU satellite office in Escondido staffed by a full-time community organizer to continue to respond to residents’ enduring civil liberties violations;
  • Helped mobilize a powerful, broad community response against Arizona’s racial profiling law, SB 1070; seconded a San Diego staff member to Arizona to assist its ACLU affiliate develop litigation challenging the law; and helped organize a strong community response to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning three parts of the law but upholding the “show me your papers” provision;
  • In conjunction with fellow border affiliates, and the generous support of the Price Family Charitable Fund  and Central America and Mexico Migration Alliance, launched the Border Litigation Project staffed by two new attorneys  in San Diego and Tucson, charged with pursuing legal strategies to combat persistent human right abuses at the U.S.- Mexico border;
  • Won a historic ruling  in a class-action lawsuit in which the federal government is now required to provide legal counsel to mentally ill immigrant detainees;
  • Led the effort to secure passage of SB 35, dramatically increasing opportunities for voter registration in the first voluntary expansion of voter registration agencies in California in 18 years;
  • Created a vibrant online presence that included a new website and active Facebook, Twitter (@sdaclu), and YouTube (sandiegoACLU) accounts and aggressive Spanish language communications and outreach; increased the San Diego ACLU’s e-news list from 135 subscribers to approximately 12,000;
  • Fought to ensure education equality, including support for English Learners, implementing the landmark Williams settlement, challenging teacher layoffs at struggling schools, protecting parents and students from unconstitutional school fees, and guaranteeing that all students have access to rigorous curriculum to be prepared for their choice of post-secondary education;
  • Continued the ACLU’s defense of the right to religious freedom in the public sphere as a core principle of our Constitution in both our challenge to the Soledad cross on government property and our challenge to a sweetheart city lease of land to the Boy Scouts who discriminate against gays, atheists and agnostics. The ACLU believes that it is civilians—not governments, legislators, or political majorities—who should have the choice to express their religious beliefs;
  • Fighting for LGBT rights, including fighting for marriage equality and against Proposition 8, promoting the right of LGBT students to be free from continual harassment ; increased ACLU’s contingent in the annual Pride Parade from 25 to well over 100;
  • Keenan served on the executive committee of the Proposition 34 committee, which raised nearly $7 million to replace California’s death penalty with life without the possibility of parole, securing support from 48% of California’s voters;
  • Documented the San Diego ACLU’s rich history, including its founding by city daughter Helen Marston in 1933, its representation of Chula Vista farmer Kajiro Oyama and his son Fred Oyama in the landmark Supreme Court victory Oyama v. California; and its representation in 1960 of Pete Seeger in his refusal to sign an anti-community loyalty oath just to be able to sing in a Hoover High School auditorium; secured an apology from the San Diego school board for its insistence Seeger sign the oath;
  • Conceived and led by communications director Rebecca Rauber, launched a unique and inspiring Constitution Day program, now in its seventh year, to bring the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights to life for thousands of San Diego and Imperial counties middle and high school students in nonpartisan, interactive presentations by hundreds of volunteer attorneys of all practice areas;
  • For more about our work, please visit our website: www.aclusandiego.org
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ACLU Statements on Not Guilty Verdict in Trayvon Martin Trial https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statements-on-not-guilty-verdict-in-trayvon-martin-trial/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statements-on-not-guilty-verdict-in-trayvon-martin-trial/#comments Sun, 14 Jul 2013 19:55:11 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10139 American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero today released the following statement on the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman:

Today, our thoughts are with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, whose young son was taken from them far too soon.

Last night’s verdict casts serious doubt on whether the legal system truly provides equal protection of the laws to everyone regardless of race or ethnicity.

There is still much for the federal government to do to prevent widespread racial profiling and help communities ensure incidents like Trayvon’s untimely death do not happen again.

  • The Justice Department should issue strengthened guidance on the use of race in law enforcement. It can also provide training to communities to help end the pervasive practice of racial profiling.
  • The Justice Department should commit itself to providing training and technical assistance to state prosecutors involved in cases where race is seen as a factor.
  • Congress should immediately pass the End Racial Profiling Act, a crucial piece of legislation that would, among other things, provide training to help police avoid responses based on stereotypes and unreliable assumptions about minorities.

We need solutions not only in Trayvon Martin’s case, but also systemic reform.

This statement may be attributed to Howard Simon, Executive Director, ACLU of Florida:

The tragedy in this case is that the needless death of a 17-year old is yet another example of the deadly consequences that come from seeing the world through racial stereotypes. “The confrontation that resulted in Trayvon Martin’s death occurred because, in a neighborhood that had experienced recent burglaries, George Zimmerman saw a young Black male as a threat to his community. “Following the verdict in the Zimmerman case, our collective task now is to hasten the movement towards racial equality and an end to racial profiling in Florida and throughout the country. It is necessary to increase not only the commitment, but the work to end the policies in our schools and in our criminal justice system that are responsible for removing people of color from school, robbing them of the opportunity for an education, arresting, incarcerating them, and destroying their future at alarmingly unjust and discriminatory rates.

“The deadly confrontation between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin is a horrific reminder of the toxic mix of an armed citizenry and a society that still makes too many judgments filtered through racial stereotypes.

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ACLU Border Affiliates Oppose Border Enforcement Provisions in S.744 Immigration Reform Bill https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-border-affiliates-oppose-border-enforcement-provisions-in-s-744-immigration-reform-bill/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-border-affiliates-oppose-border-enforcement-provisions-in-s-744-immigration-reform-bill/#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2013 16:34:17 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10055 The ACLU Southwest Border affiliates, including the ACLU of California, issued the following joint statement in response to the Senate’s vote to proceed on immigration reform:

The Southwest border affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union strongly oppose the provisions in the S. 744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that hyper-militarize U.S.-Mexico border communities without  adequate accountability and oversight of border enforcement resources.  The rhetoric of a military-style “surge” on America’s home soil, akin to U.S. military operations abroad, reflects how misguided and offensive the substance of the border enforcement provisions has become.

[Lea la declaración, en español, aquí.]

As amended, S.744 calls for billions of dollars of wasteful spending on border enforcement at a time when border communities are among the safest in the nation, net migration from Mexico is at or below zero, and apprehension rates are near historic lows. The proposal ignores the unprecedented level of investments already made to secure the border and does not provide basic protections that are necessary to prevent the continuation of human and civil rights violations in the border region, which include rampant racial profiling and systemic excessive use of force.

S.744 would appropriate $46.3 billion or $38 billion more than the funding included in the committee-approved version of bill. It will more than double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol at the Southwest border to more than 38,000 agents in 10 years at a cost of $30 billion, mandate the construction and maintenance of hundreds of miles of border fencing at a cost of $8 billion; and require a $3.2 billion high-tech surveillance plan using drones and other surveillance technology in border communities.

When America’s school budgets, safety nets, and other vital programs are being cut, we abhor this massive increase in already bloated border enforcement resources. Just last year alone, $18 billion in U.S. taxpayer’s money was spent in border and immigration enforcement—more than all the principal federal law enforcement agencies combined.

As the immigration reform debate continues, we will work to improve accountability and oversight of immigration enforcement and to ensure that robust civil and human rights protections are in place, including:

  • Checks and balances on Customs and Border Protection (CBP) use of force:  Requiring better training, public reporting, and prevention of CBP uses of force to prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths, including meaningful accountability and discipline for improper and unlawful use of force.
  • Humane detention:  Establishing short-term custody standards to ensure people in custody receive constitutionally guaranteed access to medical care, due process, and reasonable accommodations.
  • Accountability systems:  Improving the management and oversight of border forces and pushing for additional mechanisms for ensuring accountability for agents who abuse their authority. For example, by requiring CBP officials in the field and at ports of entry to wear lapel cameras that record all encounters with agents, protecting civilians from abuse and agents from false claims of abuse.
  • Reduce CBP authority to engage in warrantless investigative stops, which currently extends to 100 miles from the border, as well as authority to enter private lands within 25 miles of the border.
  • End the senseless and exorbitantly expensive prosecution and jailing of tens of thousands of migrants annually who pose no threat to public safety and could be processed administratively rather than sending them to abusive private prisons.

If immigration reform passes through the congressional process with this offensive “surge” in military resources and treatment of our border communities and without basic checks and balances, the ACLU stands ready to fight for justice and accountability through all legal means. With offices in Brownsville, Las Cruces, Tucson, and San Diego, a Regional Center for Border Rights, the coordination of a binational abuse documentation system, and a new Border Litigation Project—along with the partnership of allies and the backing of a strong ACLU National Office, we are committed to a long-term struggle to win back equal rights for our border communities.

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In a quote in today’s New York Times, the government of Mexico weighed in on the Senate’s compromise:

Its provisions, the toughest in the history of border-enforcement buildup, got Mexico to break its silence on Tuesday, when Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade told reporters: “Fences do not unite us. They are not the solution to the migratory phenomenon and are not consistent with a secure and modern border.”

]]> https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-border-affiliates-oppose-border-enforcement-provisions-in-s-744-immigration-reform-bill/feed/ 0 Marriage Fairness: A Win and a Win (for California)! https://www.aclusandiego.org/prop-8-decision-big-win-no-standing/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/prop-8-decision-big-win-no-standing/#comments Wed, 26 Jun 2013 14:57:44 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10014 In two historic rulings this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to marry the person they love.

On DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act: Unconstitutional

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples in determining federal benefits and protections. It is a historic victor for all Americans, and a tremendous step forward for the cause of equality.

It is also a momentous day for Edie Windsor and for loving, married same-sex couples and their families.  With today’s ruling the Supreme Court strikes down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act, section 3, recognizing that it is discriminatory for our federal government to treat legally married gay couples any differently than it treats legally married heterosexual couples. 

The court’s ruling said: “The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.”

The justices ruled in favor of Edith “Edie” Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer after Spyer’s death. Because DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing the marriages of gay people, Windsor was forced to pay almost $400,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if she had been married to a man. We argued in court that DOMA denied her, and other gay and lesbian married couples, the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

This is a tremendous step forward.  There are more than 1100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference—from eligibility for family medical leave, to social security survivor’s benefits, to access to health care for a spouse.  Today’s decision will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of legally married gay couples.  Married same-sex couples should now be eligible for these benefits and protections.

DOMA is the last federal law on the books that mandates discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay, and today’s decision takes down its core.  It’s a great day for equality and the beginning of the end of official discrimination against lesbians and gay men. 

On Prop 8: California Same-Sex Marriages Once Again Legal 

In its second historic ruling today, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the proponents of Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that declared marriage could only be between a man and a woman, for lack of standing. In doing so, the court effectively reinstated the trial court’s decision from 2010 that had struck down Prop 8 as violating the U.S. Constitution. This makes California the 13th state, along with the District of Columbia, to embrace marriage for everyone. With the addition of California today, fully 30% of the American public now lives in a freedom-to-marry state, up from just 11% last October.

A lot still remains to be done to bring the freedom to marry to everyone in America, but the momentum is clearly flowing to the banks of justice. In recent years, public support for the freedom to marry has been increasing at an unprecedented rate.  

The ACLU has been working for decades to secure the freedom to marry across the country.  Today, we renew our commitment to this effort and look forward to continuing our work so same-sex couples can legally marry across the country. As President Obama recently noted, the LGBT community is part of the American family.  It is time to treat loving and committed gay couples as we treat all families. 

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of Voting Rights Act https://www.aclusandiego.org/supreme-court-strikes-down-key-provision-of-voting-rights-act/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/supreme-court-strikes-down-key-provision-of-voting-rights-act/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 16:38:12 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10023 supreme_court_building

In a disappointing 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down Section 4, a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act that had protected the right to vote for people of color and language minorities since 1965.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of our nation’s most critical federal civil rights statutes. It ensures state and local governments don’t pass laws or policies that deny American citizens the equal right to vote. Section 5, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, requires certain jurisdictions that have a history of discriminatory voting practices to secure advance approval from the federal government before changing their election laws. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was used to determine which states and jurisdictions were subject to government review.

Importantly, today’s decision did not strike down Section 5 itself, which requires the Department of Justice to “pre-clear” any attempt to change “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting.” Instead, today’s decision struck down Section 4 of the Act, leaving it to Congress to devise a new coverage formula to determine which jurisdictions must get government clearance before making such changes. Section 5, therefore, is alive but for the moment dormant until Congress chooses to act.

In the jurisdictions that had been covered, voting remains divided along racial lines. These jurisdictions may “bail out” of Section 5 by maintaining a “clean record” – no evidence of discrimination in voting rights – for ten years.  More than 100 jurisdictions have done so in recent years, including California’s Merced County. However, three counties in California still fall under Section 5 coverage: Kings, Monterey, and Yuba. Nonetheless, the state still wrote a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold Section 5 to ensure that all Californians had equal access to the polls.

The court’s decision presents a serious challenge to Americans’ fundamental right to vote and represents a significant departure from the Court’s previous four decisions over four decades recognizing that Congress is in the best position to judge the value of the preclearance requirement and where it is most needed. As recently as 2006, Congress, with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, recognized that strong federal legislation remains necessary to ensure that all Americans can exercise the right to vote free from racial discrimination. This is as true today as it was seven years ago.

The Court’s decision today is especially disheartening in light of the spate of restrictive voting laws that were passed prior to the 2012 presidential election. This pattern continues. More than 75 restrictive voting laws were introduced in legislatures across the country in the first half of 2013 alone. The Court’s decision today does not change the fact that voting laws that discriminate against minority voters remain unlawful. The ACLU will continue to challenge laws that erect barriers to voting.

- By Lori Shellenberger, Director, Voting Rights Project of the California ACLU

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ACLU Statement on Supreme Court Decision in Fisher v. University of Texas https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-supreme-court-decision-in-fisher-v-university-of-texas/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-supreme-court-decision-in-fisher-v-university-of-texas/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 18:02:00 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10017 NEW YORK – In a 7-1 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court considered but did not resolve the constitutionality of the admissions program at the University of Texas, which considers race as one factor among many in choosing the incoming class. Instead, the court sent the case back to the lower courts in an opinion that accepted the importance of diversity in higher education, but directed the lower courts to look more carefully at the method by which the university sought to achieve that goal. The American Civil Liberties Union was one of many groups that filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Texas plan.

“Today’s near-unanimous decision leaves intact the important principle that universities have a compelling interest in a diverse student body, and that race can be one factor among many that universities consider in a carefully crafted admissions program,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “We believe that the University of Texas has made a strong showing that its admissions plan was necessary to achieve meaningful diversity, and that it can and should be upheld under the standard that the Supreme Court announced today.”

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Have We Become the “United States of Deceit”? https://www.aclusandiego.org/have-we-become-the-united-states-of-deceit/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/have-we-become-the-united-states-of-deceit/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 07:01:04 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9895 Have you or has anyone you know been coerced by immigration officials into signing voluntary departure papers?
If so, we need to know about it!

 

Call our HOTLINE: 619.398.4189

If you were a Mexican nationals with deep family ties in the United States and strong claims to reside here lawfully, would you “choose” to be immediately expelled from the country?  Of course not.  There’s a reason, though, that so many have: coercive and misleading law enforcement tactics that cause those in custody to waive their rights.  Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Southern California pressure mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens – some of whom have been here for decades – to surrender their right to seek legal status, virtually signing their own summary expulsion orders in a process known as “voluntary departure.”  Today, the ACLU and Cooley LLP filed a lawsuit challenging these practices.

 

While driving home from work, Gerardo Hernandez-Contreras called his wife to tell her he was bringing ice cream for their three-year-old son. Before he could make it home, he was pulled over by a San Diego police officer for talking on his cell phone. Read about this shameful practice, and learn how it has affected families, like Aide and her four-year-old son, Jesus.

“Our lives are broken now,” said Gerardo’s wife, Aide. “After my husband was deported, my son could not eat, he could not sleep. We still talk about that ice cream his daddy is going to bring him.”

Help us end this troubling practice! 

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ACLU Expands Capacity to Challenge Abuses at the Border https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-expands-capacity-to-challenge-abuses-at-the-border/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-expands-capacity-to-challenge-abuses-at-the-border/#comments Wed, 12 Jun 2013 21:10:14 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=10135 SAN DIEGO and PHOENIX  – In order to make America’s border agencies more accountable to the laws that protect us all, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today announced the launch of a new Border Litigation Project to investigate, document and litigate civil and human rights cases along the U.S.-Mexico border.  The new initiative will allow the ACLU to increase its legal capacity along the Southwest border by hiring two new full-time staff attorneys in San Diego and Tucson.

Today’s announcement comes as the Senate prepares to engage in lengthy floor debate over a proposal to reform the nation’s immigration laws. The proposed legislation would implement new, costly border security measures ranging from hiring additional border patrol agents to expanding Operation Streamline, a program in the Tucson-sector that prosecutes people en masse for unlawful entry into the United States.

“In the last eight years, as spending levels along the U.S.-Mexico border have increased dramatically, there has also been a significant increase in human and civil rights violations stemming from the lack of oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “For more than 90 years, the ACLU has worked to ensure that everyone in the United States enjoys the constitutional guarantees of due process and fair treatment. These long-standing legal protections must be defended for all people living and working in our border communities.”

The new initiative will allow the ACLU of Arizona, for the first time, to have one staff attorney in Tucson who will work exclusively on border-related issues.

The ACLU has responded to the increase in the number of serious abuses by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other federal agencies working along the U.S.-Mexico border by enhancing its presence in the region. In 2006, the ACLU of New Mexico founded the Regional Center for Border Rights, and, in 2011, the ACLU of Texas opened an office at the border in Brownsville.

“With the ACLU’s Border Litigation Project, we hope to address the root causes of abuse at the border—lax legal standards, lack of accountability and oversight, and a culture that has tolerated impunity for misconduct,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego.  “For the ACLU, the project also represents another important innovation in cross-affiliate collaboration,” that has drawn the attention of national foundations as well as elected officials across the country.

In recent years, ACLU staff in  Texas, New Mexico,  San Diego and Arizona have collaborated  in joint advocacy as the “ACLU’s Southwest Border Affiliates.”  In May 2012, the groups filed a joint complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Office of Inspector General to document 13  serious incidents of CBP abuse at ports of entry, including a May 2010 incident involving Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, a 42-year-old construction worker and father of five who died after being beaten and then shocked by a Taser by a group of CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry. The complaint also cited the tragic death of Sergio Adrían Hernández Güereca, a 15-year-old boy, who was fatally shot by a CBP officer in June 2010 after reportedly throwing rocks at officers near the El Paso port of entry.

The Border Litigation Project is made possible by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Price Family Charitable Fund in San Diego. Mitra Ebadolahi, an attorney previously with the ACLU National Office, began work on May 1 as the project’s new border litigator in San Diego. The Tucson position is being funded by a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Central America and Mexico Migration Alliance (CAMMINA), founded by Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Fundación AVINA, and will be staffed by ACLU of Arizona staff attorney James Duff Lyall, beginning in June. CAMMINA’s mission is to advance the rights of migrants and contribute to the economic sustainability of communities through long-lasting policy changes, making migration a choice rather than a necessity.  Both grants include resources for contract services to conduct in-depth investigations on border abuses and to organize meetings of strategic litigators and advocates focused on border issues.

“The success of this project will depend in large part on our ability to build strong working relationships and alliances with groups on both sides of the U.S. Mexico border,” added Soler. “Given the increased presence of both direct service providers and advocacy organizations along the border, coordination and collaboration will be critical, allowing us to learn from one another and develop best practices when it comes to information-sharing, communications and abuse documentation. Most importantly, though, collective brainstorming with groups in the U.S. and Mexico will help us develop concrete short- and long-term strategies that in the end will help us make an even greater impact.”

###

Biographies of Border Litigation Project Attorneys

James Duff Lyall (started in Tucson on June 12, 2013) joined the ACLU as staff attorney in September 2011 and has specialized in civil rights litigation, including the ACLU’s prisoners’ rights and immigrants’ rights dockets.  He is a former Georgetown Law Fellow at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles, where he provided pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants in removal proceedings.  Subsequently, as Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) Law Fellow, he specialized in representing unaccompanied immigrant children in state and federal court proceedings, including Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile cases.   Prior to joining the ACLU, he served as a volunteer with No More Deaths in Tucson, where he co-authored Culture of Cruelty, a report documenting widespread Border Patrol abuse along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Lyall is a native of Massachusetts and a 2007 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, where he completed a certificate program in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.

Mitra Ebadolahi (started in San Diego on May 1, 2013) was the inaugural Nadine Strossen Fellow with the ACLU’s National Security Project in New York.  Her areas of expertise include: constitutional and administrative law and litigation, particularly in the areas of immigrants’ rights and racial justice; international human rights law, especially economic and social rights; national security law and policy; and FOIA requests and litigation.  After attending UCLA as an undergraduate and the London School of Economics as a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Scholar, Ebadolahi completed her legal studies (JD ’08, LL.M. ’11) at New York University School of Law.  While at NYU, she was a Root-Tilden-Kern/Filomen D’Agostino Scholar and an Institute for International Law and Justice/Hugo Grotius Scholar.  Following graduation, Ebadolahi clerked for Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington and for Judge Margaret M. Morrow of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in downtown Los Angeles, California.

 

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ACLU and Border Coalition Seek Open Public Record in Anastasio Hernandez Rojas Civil Suit https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-and-border-coalition-seek-open-public-record-in-anastasio-hernandez-rojas-civil-suit/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-and-border-coalition-seek-open-public-record-in-anastasio-hernandez-rojas-civil-suit/#comments Wed, 12 Jun 2013 16:02:16 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9972 anastasio-CBP

SAN DIEGO – Noting that the death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas generated enormous public interest, the San Diego ACLU filed a motion late yesterday urging a district court judge to deny permission for the border enforcement agents accused of serious abuse resulting in the man’s death to remain anonymous. Representing the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the suit seeks to protect the public’s interest in open and transparent proceedings in cases involving serious questions of official misconduct.

In May 2010, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a 42-year-old construction worker and father of five, died after being beaten and then tased by a group of up to twenty Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The family of Hernandez Rojas believes his death was due to excessive force, and filed a civil suit against the federal government and individual officers.  The government and the officers have made an extraordinary request to seal all documents related to their pending motions for summary judgment, and have also requested that all public court records maintain their anonymity, citing only vague “security concerns.”

“The defendants’ extraordinary request to allow this case to proceed under full seal due to unspecified and unproven ‘security concerns’ violates both the First Amendment and the common law right of access to judicial records,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Openness in judicial proceedings is essential to creating public trust in the legitimacy of the proceedings. In this case, defendants have not met the strict standard for cutting public access to the court record.” The records of civil cases are usually open to the public.  The court cannot seal judicial records unless it finds that maintaining secrecy over limited portions of the record is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest.

The issue arose when the unidentified defendants made the motion to seal all court records related to the Hernandez Rojas civil case, citing unspecified “security concerns.” Their declarations to support this motion contained no facts suggesting that anyone made any threats against any of the defendants.  Lacking any evidence, defendants cannot claim reasonable fear of retaliation if their identities are allowed into the public record.

According to the San Diego ACLU motion, the district court judge must balance five factors in determining whether defendants should be allowed to remain anonymous:

  1. The severity of the threatened harm
  2. The reasonableness of the anonymous party’s fears
  3. The anonymous party’s vulnerability to such retaliation
  4. The prejudice to the opposing party; and
  5. The public interest.

However, since the defendants have not provided the court with any specific evidence demonstrating that any genuine threat exists, the motion argues the court has nothing to balance, and therefore, no seal should be imposed.

Other circuit courts have held that the First Amendment protects access to these types of court proceedings, especially at summary judgment hearings.  To seal court records, the court must make specific, on-the-record findings that sealing the proceedings is necessary to preserve a compelling government interest, and that the sealing is as narrow as possible to achieve that goal. Even without applying First Amendment protections, however, the San Diego ACLU brief argues that defendants did not meet the strict standard for shrinking public access to judicial records under the common law, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held imposes “a strong presumption in favor of access.”

The defendants’ blanket request to seal the entire summary judgment record is, as the motion says, “grossly overbroad.” A motion to seal has to take each detail, document by document, and determine whether that particular document needs to be shielded from the public eye. Litigation is a public business, and except under certain, specific, exceptional circumstances, the courts have ruled that all parties to a lawsuit must be identified.

The public interest in this case is particularly strong, because it raises serious questions of law enforcement misconduct. SBCC has identified 22 cases of individuals killed or seriously injured by border agents just since 2010. The public’s legitimate interest in the identity and activities of peace officers is even greater than those of the average public servant, because law enforcement agents possess the means and the authority to exercise force, and misuse of this authority can result in significant loss of constitutional rights and personal freedom, or, in the case of Hernandez Rojas, loss of life.

The court has an obligation to uphold the public interest in open courts, by requiring the defendants to identify themselves unless they can prove in substantial and specific ways justification for anonymity.

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ACLU Challenges NSA’s Patriot Act Phone Surveillance https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-challenges-nsas-patriot-act-phone-surveillance/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-challenges-nsas-patriot-act-phone-surveillance/#comments Wed, 12 Jun 2013 15:46:29 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9965 In the wake of the past week’s revelations about the NSA’s unprecedented mass surveillance of phone calls, today the ACLU filed a lawsuit charging that the program violates Americans’ constitutional rights of free speech, association, and privacy.

This lawsuit comes a day after the ACLU submitted a motion to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) seeking the release of secret court opinions on the Patriot Act’s Section 215, which has been interpreted to authorize this warrantless and suspicionless collection of phone records.

Last week, The Guardian released an order issued by the FISC that compelled a Verizon subsidiary—Verizon Business Network Services (VBNS)—to hand over, on an “ongoing, daily basis,” details for every phone call placed on its network for a prospective three-month period. Collecting those details—”metadata” that reveals who people talk to, for how long, how often, and possibly from where—allows the government to paint an alarmingly detailed picture of Americans’ private lives. The FISC order cited Section 215 as its legal basis, yet the breadth of the authority it granted to the government is simply incompatible with the text of the statute.

As an organization that advocates for and litigates to defend the civil liberties of society’s most vulnerable, the staff at the ACLU naturally use the phone—a lot—to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers, and ACLU members. And since the ACLU is a VBNS customer, we were immediately confronted with the harmful impact that such broad surveillance would have on our legal and advocacy work. So we’re acting quickly to get into court to challenge the government’s abuse of Section 215.

The ACLU’s complaint explains that the dragnet surveillance the government is carrying out under Section 215 infringes upon the ACLU’s First Amendment rights, including the twin liberties of free expression and free association. The nature of the ACLU’s work—in areas like access to reproductive services, racial discrimination, the rights of immigrants, national security, and more—means that many of the people who call the ACLU wish to keep their contact with the organization confidential. Yet if the government is collecting a vast trove of ACLU phone records—and it has reportedly been doing so for as long as seven years—many people may reasonably think twice before communicating with us.

Does this over-reach by the government disturb you?
You can speak up!

The kind of personal-data aggregation accomplished through Section 215 also constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Last year, in a case on GPS tracking by police, five members of the Supreme Court indicated support for the common-sense notion that government collection of individual bits of seemingly innocuous personal information over a long period of time could amount to such a complete invasion of privacy that it would be unconstitutional. The surveillance program that came to light with the release of the FISC order constitutes precisely that kind of unreasonable incursion into Americans’ private lives.

Finally, the ACLU’s complaint charges that the executive branch’s use of Section 215 violates the plain language of the statute itself. The statute requires that records seized under its authority be “relevant” to an authorized foreign-intelligence or terrorism investigation. But while that language imposes a real limitation on when the government can use Section 215, the FISC order coveringall VBNS customers demonstrates that this “relevance” restraint is shockingly inadequate. Similarly, the FISC order shows that the government—with the FISC’s secret approval—is acquiring future records of telephone subscribers based on the same “relevance” requirement, even though the statute uses words that clearly show it was only meant to cover “tangible things” already in existence.

By Brett Max Kaufman

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Drug Reform for A Healthy Community https://www.aclusandiego.org/drug-reform-for-a-healthy-communities/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/drug-reform-for-a-healthy-communities/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 18:10:17 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9958 Update: On May 1st, S.B 649, the Local Control in Sentencing Act, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was approved by the Senate in a 23-14 vote, and moves now to the state Assembly for consideration. Read the entire release here________________________________________________________________

When it comes to drugs, we should focus on the goals we agree on: protecting our kids, protecting public safety and preventing and treating drug abuse and addiction.

That’s why the ACLU of California is supporting legislation authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to reform California’s harsh drug possession penalties, so that we can help set people up for success rather than failure in overcoming a drug problem and returning to the community.

Senator Leno’s proposal (called Senate Bill 649) will allow personal drug possession to be charged as a misdemeanor, but will give the prosecuting attorney the discretion to charge drug possession as a felony. This is already an option in California for possession of methamphetamine for personal use. And 13 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government already treat drug possession as a misdemeanor. Crime rates are not higher in those states.

Creating an option to charge low-level drug possession as a misdemeanor rather than a felony will allow counties to reduce needless and costly incarceration in response to drug possession, freeing up money for programs proven to reduce recidivism, including drug treatment.

According to a 2011 analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, charging personal drug possession as a misdemeanor would save California counties $159 million annually statewide and well over half a billion dollars over five years. Counties could reallocate the savings to drug treatment, education, job training, housing and other proven recidivism-reduction programs.

A misdemeanor conviction (rather than a felony one) can itself help remove barriers to reentry, thereby reducing recidivism and preventing future crime and victims. A felony drug conviction inhibits people from getting accessing the kinds of things – like housing, employment, student loans, business licenses and even public services – that are so critical to an individual’s success in the community. SB 649 provides an important opportunity to avoid a felony drug conviction and the debilitating and life-long collateral consequences that come along with it.

Along with the ACLU, the bill is sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, the California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the California Public Defenders Association, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Californians for Safety and Justice and the Friends Committee on Legislation-CA.

 

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Scores of Privacy Groups to Government: Halt Secret Spying https://www.aclusandiego.org/scores-of-privacy-groups-to-government-halt-secret-spying/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/scores-of-privacy-groups-to-government-halt-secret-spying/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 15:31:51 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9947 spy eye-square

The ACLU of California joins 85 other leading privacy groups, academic institutions, and businesses to call on Congress to take immediate action to halt the secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. See letter below and take action today!

Letter to Congress

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a career intelligence officer showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;

2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;

3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

4Chan, Access, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of California, American Library Association, Amicus, Association of Research Libraries, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, BoingBoing, Breadpig, Calyx Institute, Canvas, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, Center for Media and Democracy, Center for Media Justice, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, CorpWatch, CREDO Mobile, Cyber Privacy Project, Daily Kos, Defending Dissent Foundation, Demand Progress, Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, Digital Fourth, Downsize DC, DuckDuckGo, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Entertainment Consumers Association, Fight for the Future, Floor64, Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom, Free Press, Free Software Foundation, Freedom of the Press Foundation, FreedomWorks, Friends of Privacy USA, Get FISA Right, Government Accountability Project, Greenpeace USA, Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), Internet Archive, isen.com, LLC, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Law Life Culture, Liberty Coalition, May First/People Link, Media Alliance, Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia, Mozilla, Namecheap, National Coalition Against Censorship, New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, Open Technology Institute, OpenMedia.org, Participatory Politics Foundation, Patient Privacy Rights, People for the American Way, Personal Democracy Media, PolitiHacks, Privacy and Access Council of Canada, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (Ottawa, Canada), Public Knowledge, Privacy Activism, Privacy Camp, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, reddit, Represent.us, Rights Working Group, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, RootsAction.org, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic, Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, TechFreedom, The AIDS Policy Project, Philadelphia, TURN-The Utility Reform Network, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, World Wide Web Foundation, and William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)

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SB 649: Drug Reform for Healthy & Safe Communities https://www.aclusandiego.org/sb-649-drug-reform-for-healthy-safe-communities/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/sb-649-drug-reform-for-healthy-safe-communities/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 11:15:44 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9693 If a lengthy jail sentence kept people from becoming addicted, we wouldn’t have any drug problems. But California knows from experience that lengthy jail sentences for possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use just makes things worse – wasted lives, overcrowded jails, and devastating budget deficits.  Fortunately, California may be about to turn the corner toward commonsense reform.

The California State Legislature is just one step away from sending a bill to the governor’s desk that would revise the penalty for drug possession for personal use after the Assembly Committee on Public safety voted 4-2 to advance a bill by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would allow personal drug possession to be charged as a misdemeanor at the discretion of the local prosecutor. S.B. 649 now moves to the full Assembly for consideration, where a vote is expected in late summer or early fall.

This modest reform will have major implications for California. Creating an option to charge low-level drug possession as a misdemeanor rather than a felony will allow counties to reduce needless and costly incarceration in response to drug possession, freeing up money for programs proven to reduce recidivism, including drug treatment.

As the LA Times put it in their recent endorsement of S.B. 649, “Counties have the opportunity and now the incentive to offer treatment and alternative monitoring, and inmates and outpatients alike are treated closer to the neighborhoods to which they will (one way or another) soon return.”

According to a 2012 analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, charging personal drug possession as a misdemeanor would save California counties as much as $159 million annually statewide. Counties could reallocate savings to drug treatment, education, job training, housing and other proven recidivism-reduction programs.

Along with the ACLU of California, the bill is sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, the National Council of La Raza, the California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the California Public Defenders Association, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Californians for Safety and Justice and the Friends Committee on Legislation-CA.

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is a Senior Policy Advocate at the ACLU of California. Follow @margdoosamm on Twitter.

Watch David’s story

 

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Hey! It’s Our 80th Birthday! https://www.aclusandiego.org/hey-its-our-80th-birthday/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/hey-its-our-80th-birthday/#comments Fri, 07 Jun 2013 18:14:07 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9940 Helen MarstonThe ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties has been in San Diego a very long time—since 1933. We have been fighting for equal protection under the law for all for 80 years. (Pictured: Helen Marston, our founder.)

Since it’s pretty rare for a couple to reach their 80th anniversary, there isn’t a traditional gift (like paper for your first, cotton for your second, etc.). But if you’re wondering what to get us…you couldn’t do anything better than beginning or renewing your ACLU membership! If you’re reading this today, June 7, 2013, you can come to our 80th anniversary cocktail party, where you’ll get free membership for the price of admission, and a drink and terrific appetizers.

Our predecessors were visionaries and pioneers.

  • Our founder endured vigilante threats (and beat-downs) in the early 30s.
  • Our first attorney faced the wrath of a nation caught in the trauma of Hitler’s advances, and challenged the internment of 120,000 Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens.
  • We became a formal ACLU chapter in the mid-50s, in the midst of ugly integration battles locally and nationally.
  • In the 60s, we took on McCarthy-era anti-communism hysteria, winning an injunction for Pete Seeger to perform to a packed house at Hoover High without first signing a non-communist loyalty oath.
  • We challenged racial and economic segregation in San Diego city schools resulting in an integration order and decades of monitoring.
  • Working with legendary San Diego attorney Tom Homann, we challenged the discharge of a transsexual from the U.S. Air Force in the 1980s.
  • To this day, we are fighting a decades-old battle over the use of public dollars to maintain Latin crosses on public property.
  • On behalf of all protesters past, present, and future, we successfully challenged the Republican National Convention to prevent the relocation of protesters to a distant “free speech zone.”
  • We won a permanent injunction against Escondido for its rental ban on immigrants, then helped pass a state law—the first in the nation— prohibiting localities form enacting similar anti-immigrant ordinances.
  • A priority is ensuring that people who are incarcerated—as violators of immigration laws or those convicted of crime—have access to counsel, medical care, and humane conditions.
  • In the last seven years, our staff has more than tripled. We have grown in strength and effectiveness because of our relationships with the community, lawmakers, the media, and supporters. We help all of these San Diegans move closer to their vision of a more just and fair society.

We’ve been in San Diego, fighting for 80 years now. But today, we think of ourselves as a new kind of ACLU. We are becoming a unique hybrid between a traditional civil liberties legal advocacy organization and a community based grassroots organizing organization. This means—with our affiliate and community partners—leading on immigration reform, border abuses, voting rights, educational equality, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.

We can only keep this up when we have informed, engaged, active ACLU members…like you! If you haven’t yet joined or your membership has lapsed, please get onboard!

Please note that by playing the YouTube clip above, YouTube will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see YouTube’s privacy statement on their website to learn more. To view the ACLU’s privacy statement, click here.

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GO ACLU – Get Organized, a Program for Youth https://www.aclusandiego.org/go/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/go/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:09:48 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9926 VOTE-youth-web

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACLU GO! (formerly known as Inspire San Diego), at the forefront of our youth empowerment work, has three important goals:

1 LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

  • Education: Interactive workshops led by GO leaders about the history and importance of civil rights, social justice, and relevant national, state, and local policy trends.
  • ACLU Sacramento Conference and Lobby Day: Each April, fifteen of ACLU GO youth leaders will join residents from across California to learn about the ACLU priority bills.
  • They will learn how to lobby effectively, and participate in legislative visits in the capital.
  • ACLU Campus Action Network: CAN’s college interns will participate in training and leadership development once a year with campus leaders from across the state.
  • Youth Leadership Meeting and Summer Retreat: All ACLU GO students will gather quarterly, and for an extended summer program, to learn, bond, plan, and strategize.

2 CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE CIVIL LIBERTIES

  • Students will be active participants in major ACLU priority campaigns in the San Diego area. This year’s priorities include passing comprehensive immigration reform, border justice, voting rights and civic participation, and criminal justice reform.

3 NONPARTISAN VOTER ENGAGEMENT

  • Working with San Diego area high schools, GO student leaders will run voter registration drives, aiming to register all eligible students in their school age 17 years and older
  • GO students will canvass for voter engagement programs of the ACLU and Engage San Diego partners organizations
  • Each campus group will organize one major civic engagement event each semester and outreach to media outlets to educate the broader public about their activities.
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Campaign for the Next Generation https://www.aclusandiego.org/nextgen/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/nextgen/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:02:03 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9921 joa + US flag-web

 

CNG KK logo

The Campaign for the Next Generation is built around two complementary components:
“Today” and “Tomorrow”

  • Funds from the “Today” component support a comprehensive program to engage young leaders today
  • Funds from the “Tomorrow” component are planned giving commitments to ensure the long term strength of the organization

The Campaign for the Next Generation is designed to build upon and tie together the past successes, the current dynamic growth, and the future potential of the ACLU.

Why support the ACLU today?

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is leading a statewide effort, under the ACLU of California banner, to improve voter registration rates. California currently ranks 48th in percentage of eligible voters who are registered to vote.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is at the forefront of criminal justice reform in our region, the only organization with the capacity to lead this important work through the changes brought on through realignment.

The Border Litigation Project is a new effort led by San Diego to provide legal muscle along the US-Mexico border to address human rights abuses and to seek proper oversight, accountability, and transparency of Customs and Border Protection activities within this region.

How can you join the campaign?
Take advantage of a $100,000 challenge match from Karen Fuson and Jim Hall. Pledge today to make a two-year donation to the ACLU, above and beyond your regular annual giving, and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar each year.

Make a planned gift to the ACLU. It’s easy! Include the ACLU in your will or estate plans, or name the ACLU as a beneficiary of your retirement account (e.g., IRA, 401(k)) or life insurance policy.

Sign up now.

If you’d like more information or would like to discuss the various options, contact Jeff Wergeles, jwergeles @ aclusandiego.org, or 619.398.4491

The Campaign for the Next Generation is led by co-chairs Greg Rose and Pat Wilson. We are grateful for their leadership.

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ACLU Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Immigration Enforcement Agencies’ Practices of Tearing Families Apart https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-class-action-lawsuit-challenges-immigration-enforcement-agencies-practices-of-tearing-families-apart/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-class-action-lawsuit-challenges-immigration-enforcement-agencies-practices-of-tearing-families-apart/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 16:41:50 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9849 PC-web iconSAN DIEGO — Using misinformation, deception, and coercion, Border Patrol and ICE officers have pressured hundreds, if not thousands, of Mexican nationals with deep roots here in the United States into forfeiting their right to a fair hearing and a chance to live here lawfully, alleges the ACLU in a lawsuit being filed today in federal court in Los Angeles.  The lawsuit, Lopez-Venegas v. Napolitano, alleges that as a matter of regular practice, Border Patrol agents and ICE officers pressure undocumented immigrants to sign what amounts to their own summary expulsion documents.  The procedure is formally known as “voluntary departure,” but it regularly results in the involuntary waiver of core due process rights.  An individual who signs for voluntary departure immediately surrenders his or her rights to a hearing before an immigration judge and is usually expelled to Mexico within a matter of hours.

[Lea el artículo, en español, aquí.]

“It’s unconscionable that immigration agents perpetually fail to tell individuals with the most to lose that there are direct and certain consequences of taking voluntary departure,” said Sean Riordan, staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “One of the most serious of those consequences is a ten year bar prohibiting return to the United States. No one should have to make such a critical decision without knowing all the repercussions.”

The class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of California, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, and Cooley LLP cites the experiences of seven individual plaintiffs, none of whom has a criminal background and many of whom were approached by immigration officers while doing routine daily activities, such as waiting for a bus. All of these individuals have close family members in the United States and could have obtained relief against removal from an immigration judge or under Department of Homeland Security programs, but immigration officers affirmatively misstated the consequences of voluntary departure and pressured them to sign their own expulsion documents.  The lawsuit is also filed on behalf of two organizational plaintiffs, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, which have been forced to divert their scarce resources in response to these unlawful practices.

Border Patrol was sued nearly thirty years ago for similar misconduct in its treatment of asylum seekers and children, but it disturbingly continues to pressure aspiring citizens to sign away their rights. This lawsuit demonstrates that those who are supposed to protect our borders and the values that America embodies instead too often demonstrate an acute disregard for human and civil rights.  In order to convince immigrants to sign their own expulsion papers, agents and officers have intimidated and physically abused them, threatened to retaliate against their families, held them incommunicado, and presented them with false information.  This is not how an American law enforcement agency should behave.

“The policy and practice of misrepresenting an individual’s legal rights to summarily deport them from this country is inconsistent with the fundamental notions of fairness and due process under our Constitution.  The United States derives its core strength because we embrace these values and abide by the rule of law,” said Anthony Stiegler, partner at Cooley LLP.  “We expect that this lawsuit will lead to the cessation of these forced ‘voluntary departures,’ the reunification of aggrieved individuals with their families and the improvement of our critical border patrol policies and practices.”

 

Plaintiffs’ Stories

Plaintiff Isidora Lopez-Venegas is the mother of an autistic U.S. citizen son.  Border Patrol agents arrested her and her son in 2011 and took them to a Border Patrol station.  Border Patrol agents threatened Ms. Lopez-Venegas that if she refused to sign for voluntary departure, she could be detained for several months, thereby separating her from her autistic son, without informing her that she could be released on her own recognizance or bond if she chose not to agree to “voluntary departure.”  The agents rushed her to make a decision and forcefully instructed her approximately half a dozen times to sign the voluntary departure form. The agents further misinformed Ms. Lopez-Venegas that it would be easier for her to obtain legal status through her son once in Mexico.  This statement was not true given her son’s age.  The agents also failed to inform Ms. Lopez-Venegas that she would not be able to reenter the United States for ten years if she left the country.  Under this pressure, she signed the “voluntary departure” form and was expelled from the country.  Ms. Lopez-Venegas’s U.S. citizen son was effectively expelled along with her.

Plaintiff Ana Maria Dueñas is the mother and grandmother of U.S. citizens.  She had lived in the United States for over thirty years before a Border Patrol agent arrested her in 2011 while she was waiting for a bus in El Cajon.  A Border Patrol agent presented her with a form in English even though the agent knew that Ms. Dueñas only spoke Spanish.  The agent misinformed Ms. Dueñas that she could not obtain relief from an immigration judge in the United States, but that she could easily and quickly obtain legal status through her adult U.S. citizen children once in Mexico.  In fact, Ms. Dueñas would have been eligible to obtain lawful status if she had seen an immigration judge.  The agent threatened Ms. Dueñas that if she refused to sign the form, she would be detained for a minimum of two months, without informing her that she could be released on her own recognizance or bond if she chose not to agree to “voluntary departure.”  Further, before presenting her with the form, the Border Patrol agent failed to inform Ms. Dueñas in Spanish that she could call the Mexican Consulate or an attorney.  The agent also failed to inform her that she would not be able to reenter the United States for ten years if she left the country.  Ms. Dueñas signed the form, even though it was in a language she could not read, and was expelled to Tijuana almost immediately.

Plaintiff Gerardo Hernandez-Contreras is a husband of and father to U.S. citizens.  In 2012, he was driving in San Diego and talking to his wife on his cell phone when he was stopped by a police officer who turned him over to Border Patrol.  Mr. Hernandez-Contreras’s wife rushed to the scene of the traffic stop and begged the Border Patrol agents not to take her husband, but they took him away and pressured him to sign for “voluntary departure.”  The agents threatened Mr. Hernandez-Contreras that if he refused to sign he could be detained for several months, without informing him that he could be released on his own recognizance or bond if he chose not to agree to “voluntary departure.”  The agents also failed to inform him that he would not be able to reenter the United States for ten years if he left the country.

Plaintiff Samuel Nava is the husband of a U.S. citizen wife.  Border Patrol agents arrested him after a traffic stop in 2011 and took him to a Border Patrol station.  Agents threatened Mr. Nava that if he refused to sign he could be detained for months, without informing him that he could be released on his own recognizance or bond if he chose not to agree to “voluntary departure.”  The agents further misinformed Mr. Nava that he could not obtain relief from an immigration judge in the United States, but that he could obtain legal status through his fiancée once in Mexico.  The officers also made threats against his family and failed to inform him that he could not reenter the United States for ten years if he left the country.  Under this pressure, he signed the “voluntary departure” form and was expelled from the country.  His fiancée was effectively forced to leave her life here in the United States and join Mr. Nava in Mexico, where they married and have been living.

 

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ACLU of California Takes Immigration Reform Workshops on the Road https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-takes-immigration-reform-workshops-on-the-road/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-takes-immigration-reform-workshops-on-the-road/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 16:11:51 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9818  

The ACLU of California is hosting a series of bilingual town hall-style meetings across the state to help community members learn about the Senate’s Federal Immigration Reform proposal and what it could mean for individuals and the community at large. The workshops will provide an analysis of the Senate’s legislation, S. 744, and many of the amendments being introduced, and opportunities for the audience to get involved.

The ACLU briefings will highlight how comprehensive immigration reform provides the potential to advance the civil rights and liberties of all Californians by setting the stage for a roadmap to citizenship for the two-and-a-half million undocumented immigrants living in the state. The sessions will provide background and analysis, and give community members a forum to learn about their rights and how they can affect the bill’s prospects.

ACLU of California Immigration Reform Workshop Dates and Locations:

  • May 21, 6:30 – 8:00 pm – San Diego, CA: Mercado Apartments,
    2001 Newton Ave., SD 92113  [contact Beatriz]
  • May 22, 6:30 – 8:00 pm – San Diego, CA: MAAC Community Charter School, 1385 Third Ave., Chula Visa, CA 91911 [contact Beatriz]
  • May 23, 6:30 – 8:30 pm – Santa Paula, CA: Casabella Apartments Community Room, 622 Main St., Santa Paula, CA 93060
    [contact Elvia]
  • May 29, 6:00 – 8:00 pm – Sacramento, CA: Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento, 2093 Arena Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95834
    [contact Angelo]

California is home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s immigrants, and one in ten workers in the state is undocumented. All Californians will benefit from immigration reforms that will lift up the economy by promoting trade and innovation, while at the same time upholding our constitutional values.

While the proposed legislation is long-awaited and is a good starting place, it contains some severe obstacles for many aspiring citizens. The “Roadshow” agenda will cover key ACLU asks that the organization believes should be incorporated into real, comprehensive reform, including:

  • Roadmap to Citizenship: Create a fair process for immigrants committed to the U.S. and contributing to its culture to become citizens.
  • Restore Due Process: Eliminate mandatory detention, and assure that everyone detained by law enforcement officers has access to counsel, hearings, and judicial review.
  • Ensure Privacy: Strike calls for mandatory E-Verify, which has the effect of creating a national ID card, and would harm the privacy rights of all Americans.
  • Federal Government Enforces Immigration: Allowing local law officers to enforce immigration laws harms their relationships with crime victims and witnesses.
  • Reform Border Enforcement: Establish safe and efficient border crossings and promote public safety while enhancing training, oversight, and accountability of immigration enforcement agencies.
  • End Reliance on Criminalization: Stop wasteful and inhumane overreliance on criminal prosecution of immigrants.

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California Makes Historic Leap to Bring Millions into the Democratic Process https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-makes-historic-leap-to-bring-millions-into-the-democratic-process/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-makes-historic-leap-to-bring-millions-into-the-democratic-process/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 21:03:50 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9803 In a move that leads the nation in reducing barriers and expanding opportunities for voter registration, California’s Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, is designating the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange, Covered California, as a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). In doing so, Covered California will reach millions of Californians who might not otherwise be given the opportunity to register to vote and participate in our democracy.

[Lea el artículo, en español, aquí.]   [View the ACLU Voting Right Project’s toolkit for implementation.]

“The timing could not be more ideal,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of the Voting Rights Project of the ACLU of California. “Covered California is already leading the country in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Secretary Bowen’s decision to include the state’s Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency is one of the most significant voter registration policy decisions in the state’s history and will bring millions of Californians into the democratic process in our state. We are hopeful that many other states will follow her innovative lead.”

The Secretary’s voter registration agency designation comes at a time when Covered California is developing its online, phone and in-person application process for an anticipated October 1st launch date. By incorporating voter registration services into all of its application processes, Covered California will lead the nation by offering voter registration services to millions of consumers from the outset.

To reduce barriers to and expand opportunities for voter registration for people who often slip through the cracks and are inadvertently excluded from our democracy, the National Voter Registration Act requires public assistance offices and state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities to offer voter registration services to applicants and clients at every agency and office in each state in the country. California is the first state to designate its Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency under the NVRA.

As many as six million Californians are eligible to apply for or renew their health coverage through Covered California. “Because of the Secretary of State’s leadership, we could see as many as 68 million people enfranchised across the country if other states follow suit and designate their Health Benefit Exchanges as voter registration agencies,” said Shellenberger.

The ACLU of California initiated its Voting Rights Project, in part, because the state has one of the lowest voter registration rates in the nation. Nearly six million Californians are eligible to vote but remain unregistered. The project’s staff members are eager to support the Secretary of State and Covered California to ensure full and meaningful implementation of the NVRA through our state’s Health Benefit Exchange.

Read more about the ACLU of California’s efforts to expand voter registration rates under the NVRA.

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Important Voting Rights Bill Clears Assembly Elections Committee https://www.aclusandiego.org/important-voting-rights-bill-clears-assembly-elections-committee/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/important-voting-rights-bill-clears-assembly-elections-committee/#comments Wed, 08 May 2013 22:05:57 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9799 letpeoplevoteSACRAMENTO – A bill that would uphold the constitutional right to vote for people sentenced under realignment was approved today by the California Assembly’s Elections and Redistricting Committee.

The bill, A.B. 938, would make clear that all people in county custody retain their right to vote.

“In my latest campaign, many community members mistakenly believed that they couldn’t take part in the electoral process because they’d been convicted of a felony,” said Assemblymember Dr. Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego), the author of the bill. “A.B. 938 will help clear up this kind of confusion which discourages voting.”

Under current state law, Californians convicted of a felony temporarily lose the right to vote if they are incarcerated in state prison or supervised by state parole. But Secretary of State Debra Bowen, in the absence of guidance from the legislature, has wrongly deemed that a person sentenced to a term in county jail and/or supervised by probation under realignment is ineligible to vote. This has resulted in substantial confusion for California voters, courts and county elections officials.

“California has among the lowest voter registration rates in the country, and the secretary of state would take us backwards by barring more people from the polls,” said Weber. “A.B. 938 provides our state an important opportunity to protect access to the franchise. This is a fundamentally American issue: ‘No taxation without representation.’ Civic participation is also a critical part of healthy and safe communities.”

This bill makes two important clarifications in the law. First, it clarifies that only people in state prison or on state parole are ineligible to vote due to a criminal conviction. Secondly, it clarifies the information that courts send to elections officials to ensure that eligible voters are not erroneously removed from the voting rolls.

“After the 15th Amendment extended the right to vote to former slaves, a variety of Jim Crow laws were passed to put up barriers to registration and voting,” said Trudy Schafer of the California League of Women Voters, one of the sponsors of the bill. “Among those Jim Crow laws were those that deprived people convicted of a crime of their right to vote. Now it’s 2013 and once again thousands of Californians have been stripped of their voting rights through a mistaken and misguided interpretation of the state constitution. The secretary of state’s determination that thousands of people sentenced for low-level felonies cannot exercise their fundamental right to vote disproportionately impacts the same communities that Jim Crow laws worked so hard to disenfranchise.”

The bill, which now moves to the Assembly for full consideration later this month, is also sponsored by the ACLU of California, the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights, the Greenlining Institute and All of Us or None.

 

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California Senate Approves Common Sense Drug Sentencing Reform Bill https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-senate-approves-common-sense-drug-sentencing-reform-bill/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-senate-approves-common-sense-drug-sentencing-reform-bill/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 20:50:08 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9759 capitol-croppedSACRAMENTO – The California state Senate today approved a bill that would reform California’s drug sentencing laws for simple possession, significantly reduce incarceration costs for counties and help the state end its ongoing incarceration crisis.

S.B. 649, the Local Control in Sentencing Act, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was approved by the Senate in a 23-14 vote, and moves now to the state Assembly for consideration.

“We commend the Senate for approving this bill at a time when lasting, sustainable and common sense solutions to California’s ongoing incarceration crisis are so needed,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior criminal justice and drug policy advocate for the ACLU of California. “This bill will help counties break the state’s addiction to incarceration by enabling them to invest their limited resources in the community-based treatment, rehabilitation and education programs proven to reduce recidivism, prevent crime and increase public safety.”

The bill, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Drug Policy Alliance and others, gives prosecutors the flexibility to charge low-level drug possession for personal use as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The bill also gives judges discretion to deem a low-level drug possession offense to be either a misdemeanor or felony after consideration of the offense and the defendant’s record. S.B. 649, which does not apply to anyone involved in selling, manufacturing or possessing drugs for sale, will give counties the flexibility to safely alleviate overcrowding in county jails, ease pressure on California’s court system and result in more than $100 million in annual savings for the state and local governments.

“One of the best ways to promote lower crime rates is to provide low-level offenders with the rehabilitation they need to successfully reenter their communities,” said Leno. “However, our current laws do just the opposite. We give non-violent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they’re incarcerated and then release them back into the community with few job prospects or opportunities to receive an education. SB 649 gives local governments the flexibility to choose reduced penalties so that they can reinvest in proven alternatives that benefit minor offenders and reserve limited jail space for serious criminals.”

S.B. 649 will allow counties to reduce jail spending and dedicate resources to probation, drug treatment and mental health services that have proven most effective in reducing crime. It will also help law enforcement rededicate resources to more serious offenders. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates reducing penalties for drug possession could save the state and counties about $159 million annually.

Across the country, 13 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government treat drug possession as a misdemeanor. Drug crime is not higher in those states. A statewide poll of Californians conducted by Tulchin Research late last year showed that an overwhelming majority of Californians support this type of drug sentencing reform, with 75 percent of state voters favoring investment in prevention and alternatives to jail for non-violent offenders. In addition, 62 percent of Californians agree that the penalty for possessing a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use should be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Along with the ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance, the bill is sponsored by the California NAACP, the California Public Defenders Association, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Californians for Safety and Justice and the Friends Committee on Legislation.

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Advocating for LGBTQ Youth https://www.aclusandiego.org/advocating-for-lgbtq-youth/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/advocating-for-lgbtq-youth/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 05:08:52 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9752 photo(31)By Joey Hernandez

Over the years, the north steps of the State Capitol have seen some fierce advocacy by queer youth from across the state of California. The ACLU of California is keeping that legacy alive in the 2013 legislative cycle. GSA Advocacy & Youth Leadership Academy (GAYLA) is a three-day intensive training in the legislative process and advocacy that brings the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) students to the forefront of the discussion. Today, it culminates with Queer Youth Advocacy Day, a day where youth speak their minds and voice their concerns directly to their representatives.

The ACLU of California regularly co-sponsors and plays an integral role in this event because we believe it is crucial that youth exercise their freedom of speech and right to petition the government to call attention to issues that affect their every-day lives. Youth speaking out and using their freedom of expression is critical not only for the LGBTQ rights movement but for all civil rights movements. Youth are not just the future leaders of civil rights movements; they are the movers and shakers of today.

LGBTQ youth face many serious civil rights violations every day at school, including bullying, harassment, discrimination, censorship, and disproportionate punishment. At Queer Youth Advocacy Day, queer youth climb the steps of the state capitol to say, “We won’t stand for it anymore.”

Today, these budding activists joined together to fight on two issues: equal access to all school programs and disproportionate and unfair discipline. The youth lobbied for two important bills that would create a welcoming and affirming school environment for all students:

  • The School Success & Opportunity Act (AB 1266) makes clear that California schools must respect a transgender student’s identity and give transgender students a fair chance to fully participate in all school activities, programs, and facilities. Every student should have a fair chance to meaningfully participate and succeed in school but in many cases, transgender students are currently prevented from participating, as themselves, in activities, including classes required for graduation.
  • Disruption and Defiance: Reducing Grounds for Harsh Discipline (AB 420) will limit the use of “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend or expel students. Currently, about 40% of suspensions involve “willful defiance,” a vague, subjective category that’s been used to punish everything from a gender nonconforming  student breaking the dress code to a lesbian student holding her girlfriend’s hand. Suspension takes students away from valuable learning time, making it more difficult for them to succeed in class and stay in school.

These bills must be a priority for California representatives. The queer youth participating this year are eager to share their stories to help legislators understand the bills’ importance. This year’s Queer Youth Advocacy Day will be another reminder that the LGBTQ young people in California are a force to be reckoned with.

Joey Hernandez is the LGBTQ Student Rights Advocate with the ACLU of Southern California.

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Students, Parents, and Teachers Sue the State of California For Abandoning Thousands of California’s English Learner Schoolchildren https://www.aclusandiego.org/students-parents-and-teachers-sue-the-state-of-california-for-abandoning-thousands-of-californias-english-learner-schoolchildren/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/students-parents-and-teachers-sue-the-state-of-california-for-abandoning-thousands-of-californias-english-learner-schoolchildren/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 18:11:03 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9733 students raise hands-cropLos Angeles—California has abandoned thousands of schoolchildren seeking to learn English despite legal obligations and earmarked funding for this instruction, charged the ACLU of California and allies in a civil rights lawsuit. The suit seeks to compel the state to take action in response to widespread admissions by school districts, published on the California Department of Education website, that they are failing to provide any English Learner services to eligible schoolchildren.

[Lea el artículo, en español, aquí.]

The suit is the first of its kind in California, where one out of every four public schoolchildren are English Learners.  Co-counsel include the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP.

Addressing the learning needs of English Learner students is critical to the productivity and long term economic health of our state, as well as to each child’s ability to fulfill his or her potential as an individual and participant in our democracy.  The California Constitution and numerous federal and state laws mandate the delivery of effective English language instruction to English Learner students.  While there need be no single approach to delivery of English Learner services, eligible schoolchildren must receive specialized instruction or intervention that gives them the opportunity to succeed academically.

Each year, the state distributes state Economic Impact Aid and federal Title III funds for English Learner services to districts that report that they are not providing the language instructional services required by law to all eligible students. The state has taken hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government and represents that, in fact, every eligible student receives English Learner services.  However, a review of the facts, including districts’ own public reporting, shows that thousands of children are not receiving any services.

“Our teachers already face the incredibly challenging task of teaching our young people,” said Jessica Price, staff attorney of the ACLU of Southern California. “When English Learning instruction is so critical to school success, why is the State actively enabling a system that allows school districts to receive funds for vital services they admit to not providing in violation of the law?”

The lawsuit follows the January 23, 2013 release of a report by the ACLU of California and APALC documenting that 251 California school districts reported that they failed to provide legally mandated instruction to more than 20,000 English Learner students.

“When districts publicly report that they are receiving funds for English Learner instruction but are providing no services, the state of California must follow up,” said Homayra Yusufi, policy advocate for the San Diego ACLU.

“English Learners have valuable and diverse contributions to make in their classrooms and communities,” said Nicole Ochi, staff attorney for APALC. “Yet many of them are unable to do so because the State fails to ensure that English Learner students are provided the tools necessary to learn English and access the full curriculum.”

In the 2010-2011 school year, the Grossmont Union High School District reported to the California Department of Education that 1,389 of 3,368 English Learner students received no English language instructional services—nearly half of all English Learner students in the district. One of the plaintiffs is “S.Z,” who is a senior at a school within the Grossmont district. The district identified S.Z. as an English Learner student since he enrolled in ninth grade. He has received no English language instructional services since the second quarter of the eleventh grade.

The ACLU of California, APALC, and Latham & Watkins LLP attempted to solve this issue without litigation.  In January 2013, they sent a letter to the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education advising them that the State’s inaction in the face of this crisis violated its duties under federal and state law. After more than three months, state education officials have chosen not to commit to any concrete plan of action to ensure that English Learner students receive legally mandated services, prompting today’s suit.

“There is a clear problem when 251 school districts in our state report that they are not providing academic services to some, or all, English Learners,” said Alex Padilla, California state senator.  “It is difficult to fathom how this is possible when these same districts are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help English Learners. It should not take a lawsuit to compel the State and our school districts to comply with state law.  We have a legal and moral responsibility to educate California’s 1.5 million English Learners.”  On-site monitoring reveals that some districts have used these specially allocated funds to hire a janitor, clerical workers, and even laptops for students.

The lawsuit, which names the State of California, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education as defendants, is D.J. v. State of California.

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ACLU Victory! Federal Court Orders Legal Representation for Immigrant Detainees With Mental Disabilities https://www.aclusandiego.org/legal-representation-for-immigrant-detainees-with-mental-disabilities/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/legal-representation-for-immigrant-detainees-with-mental-disabilities/#comments Tue, 23 Apr 2013 17:50:37 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9720 LOS ANGELES – A federal district judge has ordered the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Attorney General, and the Executive Office of Immigration Review to provide legal representation to immigrant detainees with mental disabilities who are facing deportation and who are unable to adequately represent themselves in immigration hearings.

The ruling in the class-action lawsuit is the first of its kind for immigrant detainees, who often languish in detention facilities for years without legal representation.

[Lea el artículo, aquí en español.]

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California today issued an order granting judgment in favor of plaintiffs in the case, Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, which applies to certain detainees in Arizona, California and Washington. The decision comes more than three years after a lawsuit was filed by José Antonio Franco-Gonzalez, a Mexican immigrant with a cognitive disability who was detained in federal immigration facilities for nearly five years without a hearing or a lawyer.  In 2010, Plaintiffs sought to expand the reach of the challenge to the government’s inadequate procedures by converting the lawsuit into a class action.

In the Court’s ruling, Judge Dolly M. Gee determined that for this class, appointed counsel “is the only means by which they may” defend themselves. Moreover, the Court criticized the government for not having any safeguards to protect this most vulnerable population:  “In this case . . . the very basis of Plaintiffs’ claim is the absence of meaningful procedures to safeguard” detainees with mental disabilities. As a result, the Court ordered that these detainees with serious mental disabilities be provided with qualified representatives at government expense and a bond hearing to avoid prolonged detention.

“Today’s ruling ensures that immigrant detainees with mental disabilities finally get the legal representation they need,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “As our country moves to implement common-sense immigration reform, we must insist that the rights of vulnerable groups caught in the immigration prisons are protected. Providing legal representation to people with significant mental disabilities is not only legally sound, but also the only humane way to run our immigration system.”

In addition to the ACLU, Public Counsel, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Mental Health Advocacy Services and the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell all represented the class of immigrants who benefit from the court’s ruling.

“The court’s order offers critical protection to vulnerable immigration detainees, which is particularly important here in San Diego where we have a notorious immigration detention facility with a large population of detainees with mental disabilities,” said Sean Riordan, staff attorney, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

Franco-Gonzalez, now 33, was forced to represent himself even though a psychiatrist determined that he had no basic understanding of the immigration proceedings, and did not know how to defend himself.

While judges regularly appoint legal counsel in the criminal court system, immigration courts and detention facilities have no safeguards to ensure representation of immigrants. About 34,000 immigrants are detained daily and government estimates indicate that well over 1,000 of them have mental disabilities of some kind. Prior to today’s ruling, none of these individuals were guaranteed legal representation even though they would have great difficulty trying to represent themselves in the complicated legal proceedings against them.

The ACLU’s principles for federal immigration reform include guidelines for addressing systemic due process issues in our nation’s growing immigration jail system, and point out the need for providing counsel in immigration proceedings. More than half of individuals in immigration proceedings are unrepresented, including 84% of those in detention.

For more information about Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, including a copy of today’s order: aclu.org/immigrants-rights/franco-gonzales-v-holder

For the ACLU’s framework on federal immigration reform: aclu.org/immigrants-rights/aclu-framework-immigration-reform

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ACLU Statement on Miranda Rights of Boston Bombings Suspect https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-miranda-rights-of-boston-bombings-suspect/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-statement-on-miranda-rights-of-boston-bombings-suspect/#comments Sun, 21 Apr 2013 00:06:22 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9716 NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union reacted to the apprehension of the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing and statements from federal officials that he would be questioned without being read his Miranda rights.

“The ACLU shares the public’s relief that the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been apprehended,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director.

“Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule. Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.

“Our thoughts remain with the victims of this tragedy and with the entire Boston community.”

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ACLU of California Responds to Gang of 8 Immigration Plan https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-responds-to-gang-of-8-immigration-plan/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-of-california-responds-to-gang-of-8-immigration-plan/#comments Wed, 17 Apr 2013 16:44:43 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9708 The statement below or any quotes from it can be attributed to Norma Chavez-Peterson, associate director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. 

[Lea la declaración en español, aquí.]

“The ACLU of California welcomes the federal comprehensive immigration reform bill announced late Tuesday night by the Senate Gang of 8. This historic bill has the potential to advance the civil rights and liberties of all Californians and to set the stage for a roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 2.6 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in our state.

From the lumber mills of Ukiah to the farmlands of the Central Valley to the factories along the San Ysidro border, immigrants contribute greatly to California’s quality of life, culture and economy. Our state is home the nearly a quarter of the nation’s immigrants, and one in ten workers in our state is undocumented. All Californians will benefit from immigration reforms that will lift up our economy by promoting trade, agri-business, and technological innovation and uphold our constitutional values.

While this legislation is timely and is a good starting place, it will have to be improved to address severe obstacles for many aspiring citizens, many of whom live in our state. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in California could be left out of this historic reform simply because of hefty fines and application fees. This would leave them vulnerable to continued mass deportation and detention programs such as the controversial program “S-Comm.” More than 90,000 Californians have already been torn from their families and deported as a result of S-Comm, accounting for the highest number of deportations in the nation.

Fair and effective immigration reform demands that we eliminate the contradiction of continuing to deport the people today who would otherwise become citizens tomorrow. The ACLU of California will continue to offer improvements to the current bill, and to champion model state-level bills like the TRUST Act (AB 4) that will end the harmful impact that occurs daily in tens of thousands of California families, communities, and businesses because of S-Comm.

The ACLU of California also questions the proposal to expand wasteful border spending at a time when law enforcement leaders from the Department of Homeland Security down to the San Diego Sheriff declare that our border communities are safe. Enforcement resources are already at record levels, and prior security benchmarks have all been met or exceeded. Furthermore, the mandate to use the job-killing, costly and privacy-invasive employment verification system “E-verify” raises significant civil liberties concerns that will have an outsized impact in a state where immigrants make 34.6% of the state’s workforce.”

ACLU and Immigration: The ACLU has defended the rights of the immigrants since its inception in 1920. In addition to advocating for a common-sense federal immigration plan, the ACLU has helped block most parts of the Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws, advocates against inhumane and abusive detention and deportation practices and continues to highlight a range of problems such as E-Verify. 

The ACLU released a framework for immigration reform (aquí en español) with core principles, urging policymakers to include critical priorities in order to ensure people’s civil rights and liberties are protected. 

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ACLU: Protecting Civil Liberties in Immigration Reform Legislation https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-protecting-civil-liberties-in-immigration-reform-legislati/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-protecting-civil-liberties-in-immigration-reform-legislati/#comments Fri, 12 Apr 2013 20:04:20 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9649 As President Obama and Congress take up immigration reform, the ACLU urges policymakers to endorse and promote the following principles for any reform:

  • Immigration reform must create a welcoming roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans living and contributing to the U.S.  Fundamental fairness as guaranteed by the Constitution requires it. American history teaches the repugnant consequences of creating an “underclass of people living without the Constitution’s full protections. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution are offended when aspiring citizens—who are primarily from communities of color—face a lifetime of disadvantage and vulnerability.
    — Aspiring citizens are productive members of their communities who often live in mixed-status families with U.S. citizen relatives.
    — The roadmap to citizenship must be just and fair, without exclusions for minor crimes or past removal orders.
  • Immigration reform must not create a national ID system or include measures that harm fundamental privacy rights. Error-prone identification systems endanger the rights and livelihood of all Americans in the workplace and in civic life.
    — E-Verify is an internet-based system that contains identifying information on almost every American, and calls for its usage are thinly disguised to require a virtual permission slip from the government that all employees would need in order to work.
    — These verification regimes would rely on massive and inaccurate databases.
    — E-Verify will lead to discrimination against those perceived to look or sound “foreign,” in which employers would avoid hiring individuals they fear will be ensnared in the error-prone system.
    — E-Verify increases the risk of data breaches and identity theft by making personal information on every American more widely accessible.
  • Immigration reform must end state and local intrusions into immigration policy and enforcement, as well as ban racial profiling at all levels of government.
    — State and local involvement in immigration enforcement has led to racial discrimination in policing practices.
    — Federal immigration enforcement programs like Secure Communities (S-Comm) and 287(g) that involve state and local police should be terminated.
  • Immigration reform must address systemic due process problems with immigration detention and deportation.
    – We must end the unnecessary and unconstitutional overreliance on costly and inhumane immigration detention, which led to 429,000 people being detained administratively last year—almost twice as many as in the entire federal prison system!—at a wasteful cost of $2 billion.
    — No one should be in immigration detention without a constitutionally adequate bond hearing, where the government must prove that detention is necessary to protect against danger to the community or flight risk.
    — We must eliminate mandatory and disproportionate deportation laws that needlessly separate families by restoring discretion to consider the particulars in every individual’s case. We also  need to ensure that everyone has access to counsel in immigration proceedings.
  • Immigration reform must transform border enforcement, which has grown wastefully without regard to genuine public safety needs.
    – Immigration reform must end the abuses committed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection by creating accountability within CBP and establishing robust and independent external oversight.
    — Border cities boast an exceptional safety record and a 40-year low in migrant apprehensions.
  • Immigration reform must include the ability of committed and loving couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor his or her spouse or permanent partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.
    — The discriminatory and unconstitutional so-called Defense of Marriage Act has caused these LGBT immigrant families to live in the shadows with the fear of separation and deportation for far too long. Family unity for all families is a critical component of any reform proposal.

The immigration reform bill has the potential to be a historic advance for the civil rights and liberties of immigrants and all Americans. Reform would allow millions of immigrants who contribute immeasurably to the vitality of this country to step forward on the road to citizenship.

While this legislation is certainly a breakthrough, it will have to be improved to address severe obstacles for many aspiring citizens. The roadmap to citizenship should not exclude people based on minor crimes or people who can’t afford hefty fines. The bill needlessly expands wasteful border spending at a time when border communities are safe, enforcement resources are at record levels, and prior benchmarks have been met. Furthermore, the mandate to use job-killing, costly and privacy-invasive employment verification (E-verify) raises significant civil liberties concerns.

The ACLU will fight every step of the way to ensure that immigration reform achieves citizenship and a fundamentally fair immigration system without harming anyone’s civil rights and liberties.

 

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National Wave of Complaints Highlights Rampant Abuse by U.S. Customs and Border Protection https://www.aclusandiego.org/national-wave-of-complaints-highlights-rampant-abuse-by-u-s-customs-and-border-protection/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/national-wave-of-complaints-highlights-rampant-abuse-by-u-s-customs-and-border-protection/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 20:44:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9588 border crosses-web Washington, D.C. – Over the past week, an alliance of immigration groups, private attorneys and a law school clinic joined forces in filing complaints targeting abuses by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) across the country. Ten damages cases have been filed alleging unlawful CBP conduct in northern and southern border states. These cases are the latest illustrations of an ongoing pattern of rampant misconduct against both immigrants and U.S. citizens in these states.

This effort, coordinated by the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, highlights CBP agents’ unlawful use of their enforcement authority. Border Patrol agents routinely exceed their statutory mandate by conducting enforcement activities outside border regions, making racially motivated arrests, employing derogatory and coercive interrogation tactics, and imprisoning arrestees under inhumane conditions. The cases include claims for unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery.

Among the cases filed:

  • CBP agents apprehended three women at the Texas-Mexico border and detained them in a freezing cold cell called the “hielera,” or icebox in English. The temperature in the hielera was so cold that the women’s fingers and lips turned blue. CBP held the women for up to six days in dire conditions. They had no beds, chairs, blankets, or toiletries, no access to bathing facilities, and were frequently fed only a single sandwich each day. CBP agents threatened to keep the women in the hielera if they did not sign documents in English that they did not understand because they only spoke Spanish. The women ultimately signed these documents to escape the hielera, only to learn that they had agreed to expedited removal.
  • CBP agents forced a 63-year-old woman with no criminal history off a Greyhound bus in Ohio, subjected her to hours of interrogation, and refused to let her use the bathroom for so long that she urinated on herself. After being detained all night in her urine-soaked jeans, CBP transferred her to an immigration detention facility, where she suffered an acute stroke. As a result of this trauma, she suffers from chronic pain, numbness, and partial paralysis on her left side.
  • CBP agents at Dulles International Airport unlawfully detained a four-year-old U.S. citizen child for more than twenty hours without adequate food and water, deprived her of any contact with her parents, and sent her back to Guatemala. CBP agents informed the child’s father that they could not return her to “illegals.”

Click here for more information about these and additional cases filed as part of the national litigation strategy.

“These cases exemplify the culture of impunity that has taken hold at CBP,” according to Melissa Crow, director of the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center. “The agency must take immediate steps to promote more effective oversight and accountability within its ranks.”

“CBP frequently acts as if it believes individuals have no rights near the border. Congress has failed to take meaningful steps to reform that agency,” said ACLU attorney Sean Riordan. “These cases call CBP to account for its cavalier attitude towards individual rights and operate as a call on Congress to take basic steps to prevent similar abuses in the future.”

Trina Realmuto, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild noted, “While these cases shed light on CBP misconduct, there are hundreds more such incidents that go unreported.”

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ACLU and Diverse Civic Leaders Form Initiative for Commonsense Immigration Reform https://www.aclusandiego.org/sducir/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/sducir/#comments Wed, 13 Mar 2013 23:08:14 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9569 San Diego leaders joined together to undertake a broad-based initiative calling for comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform. The group brings together leaders from the business community, law enforcement, labor groups, faith-based organizations and others who have diverse perspectives on how best to improve our immigration system but share a desire to break through a political problem that has defied solutions for decades.

Groups on all sides of the immigration debate agree that we are at an inflection point in history—we have a unique opportunity to achieve the type of reform that has eluded us for generations.

San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform hosted a press conference today to formally announce the effort and present its guiding principles:

  • Immigration reform must include a roadmap to citizenship
  • We should build a commonsense, streamlined immigration process that upholds the values we share—hard work, taking care of families, and looking out for each other
  • We should strengthen our border security by investing in smarter borders
  • Reform measures must protect civil liberties and civil rights embedded in the Constitution and laws of the land

The group comprises a broad cross-section and represents groups that have not normally worked together. Early endorsers include:

  • David Bejarano, Chief, Chula Vista Police Department
  • Malin Burnham, Co-Chair, Smarter Border Coalition
  • Bonnie Dumanis, District Attorney, County of  San Diego
  • Nathan Fletcher, Chair, San Diegans United for Commonsense Immigration Reform and Senior Director of Corporate Development, Qualcomm
  • Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer/CEO, San Diego & Imperial Labor Council
  • Bill Gore, Sheriff, County of San Diego
  • Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Qualcomm
  • Dr. Paul Jacobs, Chairman & CEO, Qualcomm
  • Kevin Keenan, Executive Director, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
  • William Lansdowne, Chief, San Diego Police Department
  • Eric Larson, Executive Director, San Diego County Farm Bureau
  • Mike McClenahan, Senior Pastor, Solana Beach Presbyterian Church
  • George Plescia, former California Assemblymember and Republican Floor Leader
  • Hon. James Stiven, retired, U.S. District Court Southern District of California

To add your name to the growing list, visit the SDUCIR website or click here

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Supreme Court Argument Highlights the Need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, ACLU Says https://www.aclusandiego.org/supreme-court-argument-highlights-the-need-for-section-5-of-the-voting-rights-act-aclu-says/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/supreme-court-argument-highlights-the-need-for-section-5-of-the-voting-rights-act-aclu-says/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:11:16 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9523 WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court heard arguments today in Shelby County v. Holder over the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a civil rights law that has protected the right to vote for people of color since 1965.

The American Civil Liberties Union intervened in the case on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and several Shelby County residents in order to help uphold the law.

“The court heard a powerful argument today about why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important tools we have against discriminatory voting laws,” said Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU legal director. “The recent wave of restrictive voting laws has again demonstrated why the need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is as great as ever in order to preserve our democracy’s fundamental right to vote. No law in American history has been as vital for ensuring that every American has a full and fair right to participate in the political process. We hope the court continues to uphold this critical civil rights legislation, as it has already done four times since its enactment.”

Why The Voting Rights Act Matters

During the signing ceremony of the Voting Rights Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson characterized the law as “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom.” Since that day, this landmark civil rights law has steadily and surely defeated and deterred countless discriminatory and varied barriers to the ballot.

Under constant review since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has continued to be found relevant and necessary to protect minority voting rights by the highest courts and lawmakers across the country. In 2006, Congress voted to re-authorize the VRA, extending its authority for the fourth time since its enactment. Before doing so, Congress held 21 hearings, heard from more than 90 witnesses, and compiled more than 15,000 pages of evidence. Support was overwhelming and the message clear; the VRA is still relevant and necessary to protect minority voting rights. Congress renewed it for another 25 years by a vote of 390 to 33 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. And in invoking its authority under both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to combat racial discrimination in voting, the D.C. Circuit Court just recently found that Congress had acted at “the apex of its power.”

When he signed this extension into law, President George W. Bush reminded Americans why we fight so vigorously to preserve the right to vote: “Eighty-one year old Willie Bolden was the grandson of slaves, and in the spring of 1966, he cast his first ballot in Alabama’s Democratic primary. He told a reporter, ‘It felt good to me. It made me think I was sort of somebody.'”

Voting matters. Its power lies not only in the practical, in giving people an opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing, but also through the sense of dignity that it gives to those who are able to exercise it. Withholding the right to vote was a reminder to those excluded that they were not whole; they were un-American; they were nobodies. Indeed, throughout our country’s history, the right to vote was denied to white men without property, African-Americans, women, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, and adults under twenty-one-years of age.

But that’s all history, some claim today, saying that we’re no longer plagued by the racial injustice of the civil rights era. Yes, Bull Connor is dead and our nation has elected a black president. But unfortunately, Connor’s legacy still lingers in modern day, less overt strategies to block African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities from the ballot.

Why we still need Section 5

Section 5 remains relevant in big ways and small. Throughout the jurisdictions to which Section 5 applies, voting remains divided along racial lines. Congress found that in 2000, only 8 percent of African Americans were elected from districts where white voters comprise the majority. At the same time, no Native Americans or Hispanics had been elected to office from a majority white district.

Knowing this, those in power not only attack the right to vote, but also diminish the value of each vote through all kinds of creative methods, including drawing boundaries of an election district to ensure that minority voters cannot constitute a majority, by “packing” minorities to insure they are a majority in only one or a limited number of districts, and by implementing majority vote and numbered post requirements which maximize the power of the white vote.

Leading up to the 2012 presidential election, politicians attempted to chip away at our fundamental right to vote – and overwhelmingly, people of color were the target. The Department of Justice recently rejected Texas’ congressional and senate redistricting plans because the legislature acted deliberately to ignore the dramatic growth in the Hispanic population. After failing to receive preclearance from the DOJ, South Carolina went to court to receive approval for its law to require photo ID for voting. Through the course of the trial, the state agreed to modify the law to comply with Section 5 and insure that it would not have had a disproportionate impact on that state’s African-American voters. And the preclearance process helped reshape Florida’s early voting period and defeat its restrictions on registration drives.

No less significant was the recent example of a Texas county that attempted to move a polling place from a school to a private club—one which had been historically segregated. After the DOJ sought more information before approving the change, the county withdrew its request.

To beat back this relentless desire to restrict minority voting rights, we need a robust law, one that doesn’t just allow piecemeal litigation as a remedy. And Section 5 provides this. Lest you think that all jurisdictions covered under this critical law are chafing under its purview, Mississippi, which has the largest portion of African-American voters of any state in the country, and North Carolina, which has the seventh largest, joined California and New York in voicing their steadfast support of the law. In their amicus brief to the Supreme Court, these states characterized the burdens Section 5 imposes as “minimal” and lauded the provision for helping their states move closer to their “goal of eliminating racial discrimination and inequities in voting.”

And jurisdictions that believe Section 5 should no longer apply to them already have a remedy. They can “bail out” from the statute’s coverage if they can demonstrate that they’ve remained free of discriminatory voting laws or policies within the preceding 10 years, have complied with the VRA, and have made efforts to ensure equal access to the ballot. Since 1984, the Attorney General has consented to every bail out application, including New Hampshire’s, in December 2012.

Why we fight

The Voting Rights Act remains an indispensable tool in our fight to preserve the right to vote; this law brings us one step closer to our dream of achieving our ideal of true egalitarian citizenship. It must be preserved.

Why the Voting Act Matters, by the ACLU’s Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project & Eunice Hyon Min Rho.

Learn more about Shelby County v. Holder and other Voting Rights Act cases, an interactive timeline on the Voting Rights Act.

Download a copy of our Voting Rights background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

 

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all people.

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Border Justice Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/border-justice-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/border-justice-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 20:23:43 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9507 Download a copy of our Border Justice background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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National Security Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/national-security-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/national-security-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 20:21:09 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9504 Download a copy of our National Security background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Reproductive Rights Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/reproductive-rights-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/reproductive-rights-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 20:18:52 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9501 Download a copy of our Reproductive Rights background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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LGBT Rights Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/lgbt-rights-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/lgbt-rights-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 20:16:08 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9498 Download a copy of our LGBT Rights background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Overincarceration Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/overincarceration-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/overincarceration-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:30:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9493 Download a copy of our Overincarceration background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Death Penalty Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/death-penalty-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/death-penalty-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:27:20 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9490 Download a copy of our Death Penalty background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Criminal Justice Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/criminal-justice-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/criminal-justice-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:24:02 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9487 Download a copy of our Criminal Justice background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Education Equality Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/education-equality-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/education-equality-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:21:29 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9485 Download a copy of our Education Equality background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Religion & Belief Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/religion-belief-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/religion-belief-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:11:35 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9482 Download a copy of our Religion & Belief background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Voting Rights Background Flyer https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-rights-background-flyer/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/voting-rights-background-flyer/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:02:08 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9476 Download a copy of our Voting Rights background sheet, part of our ACLU Issues in the Spotlight series.

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Women in Combat: Policy Finally Meets Reality https://www.aclusandiego.org/women-in-combat-policy-finally-meets-reality/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/women-in-combat-policy-finally-meets-reality/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 22:03:25 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9455 Until today, official United States policy banned all women from being assigned to ground combat units. The policy was military-wide and covered an entire gender – no exceptions for women who were fast, strong, excellent marksmen, good at keeping calm under fire, or able to take and give directions in a high-octane situation. It was one of the last remaining relics of official government exclusion of women.

“We are thrilled to hear Secretary Panetta’s announcement today recognizing that qualified women will have the same chance to distinguish themselves in combat as their brothers-in-arms, which they actually already have been doing with valor and distinction,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “But we welcome this statement with cautious optimism, as we hope that it will be implemented fairly and quickly so that servicewomen can receive the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts.”

Eliminating the combat exclusion policy is a huge step forward for our country and for our military. No longer will commanders be limited to a talent pool that excludes thousands of ready, willing, and more-than-able soldiers. No longer will an outdated policy interrupt operations and dictate who can do which job in the thick of the fight. No longer will women volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way, only to be told that entire career fields and more than 238,000 positions are off-limits to them. We can finally get rid of the brass ceiling that keeps the top military leadership overwhelmingly male.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP are representing four servicewomen and the Service Women’s Action Network in challenging the Defense Department’s longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions, known as the “combat exclusion policy.”

Women make up more than 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, yet the rule categorically excludes them from those more than 200,000 positions, as well as from entire career fields. Consequently, commanders are stymied in their ability to mobilize their troops effectively. In addition, servicewomen are:

  • denied training and recognition for their service
  • put at a disadvantage for promotions
  • prevented from competing for positions for which they have demonstrated their suitability and from advancing in rank.

Among the many problems with this policy was the fact that it bore little relationship to the reality of modern warfare. The people who shot down Major MJ Hegar’s combat helicopter during a rescue mission and engaged her crew with heavy ground fire in Afghanistan apparently had not read the policy. The military leaders who sent Marine Corps Captain Zoe Bedell and First Lieutenant Colleen Farrell to Afghanistan to command teams of women who would live, work, and fight with ground infantry troops in tiny combat outposts must have known about the policy, but got around it by assigning the women into so-called “Female Engagement Teams,” instead of to the infantry units themselves. And the commanders who plucked Army Staff Sergeant Jennifer Hunt from her regular job in Civil Affairs and put her in helicopters over the Afghan mountains, to be dropped off with platoons of ground soldiers going on door-kicking missions, seem to have disregarded the policy altogether because they had missions to accomplish.

Today, the Pentagon will finally get rid of the antiquated combat exclusion policy. This is a historic moment that came about because women like the plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the policy had the guts to do double duty for our country. First, they gave their blood, sweat, and tears in the military, slogging through the mountains and the deserts and, in the cases of Major Hegar and Staff Sergeant Hunt, sustaining combat injuries. Then, when they came home to find that official policy insisted that their combat service did not even exist, they performed a second service, by coming forward to tell the nation what they and other women have been doing on the battlefield, and to insist that the policy be changed.

We, along with our four clients, our client the Service Women’s Action Network, and thousands of servicewomen and veterans, will be keeping a close eye on the armed services as they implement this change. Now is not the time for foot-dragging or more games about which jobs women are officially permitted to do. For more than a decade, women have been risking and, in more than a hundred instances, giving up their lives in combat. It’s long past time for the policy to catch up.

The four servicemembers have all done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan – some deploying multiple times – where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen. Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts. The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs.

See the full profiles of the plaintiffs.

Two of the plaintiffs were awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in the course of their deployments.  Two led Marine Corps Female Engagement Teams, in which women Marines lived with and went on missions with Marine Infantrymen in active combat zones.  Two were awarded medals in recognition of their performance while in active engagement in combat zones.  One earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor Device for extraordinary achievement and heroism while engaging in direct ground fire with the enemy, after being wounded when her helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan.

By Ariela Migdal, ACLU Women’s Rights Project

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all. 

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California Failing to Deliver Vital Instruction to Thousands of English Learner Students https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-failing-to-deliver-vital-instruction-to-thousands-of-english-learner-students/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/california-failing-to-deliver-vital-instruction-to-thousands-of-english-learner-students/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 18:06:36 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9442 The ACLU of California, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP today warned state education officials of possible litigation if they do not act immediately to provide essential language instruction to thousands of underserved English learner (EL) students, as required by state and federal law.  The organizations have sent a demand letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and members of the State Board of Education urging them to fulfill their statutory and constitutional duties by taking specific steps detailed in a report the organizations also released today.

More than 20,000 EL students across 251 school districts —more than a quarter of California school districts that have EL students enrolled —have not been receiving any services to help them learn English.  The lack of instruction violates legal mandates and is in spite of studies showing that EL students denied those services are more likely to fail or drop out of school.

As detailed in the report, the California Department of Education itself posts data on its website revealing that 20,318 EL students —in districts including Los Angeles Unified, Fremont Union High in Santa Clara County, and San Diego’s Grossmont Union High—receive no English language instructional services at all, yet the state has taken no steps to ensure that districts deliver the services.  This inaction effectively denies these EL students equal educational opportunity, with the predictable results that they fall far below age and grade academic proficiency levels and drop out at disproportionately high levels.

“Each additional day an EL child goes without language instructional services is another day that child is effectively foreclosed from a meaningful education,” said Jessica Price, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.  “The children who are neglected today, in schools with no EL services, become the long-term English learners of tomorrow, sometimes struggling their entire school careers without anyone stepping in to make sure they have the tools to learn.”

“State educational officials are creating a caste system whereby tens of thousands of children—nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens—are denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians and are placed instead into linguistic isolation which prevents them from achieving academic proficiency in state-mandated curricula,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California.  “Affording no services whatsoever to these children ghettoizes them, imprisoning their hearts and minds by cutting them off from the essential tool of communication necessary to read, speak and learn in all our schools and communities.  And because English learners make up one quarter of all students in California’s public schools and one out of every four EL students in the nation are in California schools, the state’s no-services practices leave not only these children far behind, but also California along with them.”

In conjunction with the release of the letter and report, the ACLU and APALC are launching a public education campaign using social media, television and radio venues to educate parents and students about the importance of receiving appropriate services and how to advocate for their rights.  In many cases, parents may not know that their child has been designated EL because they have not received information about their child’s designation in a language they understand, as required by state law.

“In California, children from diverse backgrounds and districts are deprived of the foundational language skills necessary to succeed in school and life,” said Nicole Ochi, staff attorney with APALC.  “To address the diverse language needs of English learners in our state, we have set up hotlines in multiple languages to provide access to legal advice for parents and students who have been kept in the dark for far too long about their education.”

The organizations have requested a response from State Superintendent Torlakson and the State Board of Education within 30 days.

Parents and students interested in learning more, including how to request translated materials from their local school district, may call the ACLU/APALC EL hotline at:

Chinese:                       1-800-520-2356
Korean:                        1-800-867-3640
Spanish:                       1-213-977-5225
Tagalog/ Visayan:      1-888-349-9695
Thai:                             1-800-914-9583
Vietnamese:                1-800-267-7395

For all other languages, please call: 213-977-5225.

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State Leaders, Women’s Groups Mark 40th Anniversary of Roe by Introducing Bill to Improve Access to Abortion Services https://www.aclusandiego.org/state-leaders-womens-groups-mark-40th-anniversary-of-roe-by-introducing-bill-to-improve-access-to-abortion-services/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/state-leaders-womens-groups-mark-40th-anniversary-of-roe-by-introducing-bill-to-improve-access-to-abortion-services/#comments Tue, 22 Jan 2013 21:17:24 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9438 SACRAMENTO – On the 40th Anniversary of the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, state leaders, women’s health and rights groups, announced the introduction of a bill that would improve abortion access. The bill, AB 154, authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), improves access by expanding the types of health professionals who can provide early abortions.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez; Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Vice-Chair of the Women’s Caucus; and Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair of the Women’s Caucus, joined members of the California Women’s Health Alliance on the steps of the State Capitol to mark the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ensured abortion remains safe and legal. The California Women’s Health Alliance, comprising women’s health and rights organizations, is convened by ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, ACLU of California, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice California and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

“As a former administrator of a health clinic, I know how important timely care is for women,” said Assemblymember Atkins. “This bill will ensure that early abortion care will be available for women in California who need it.”

“For 40 years, Roe v. Wade has guaranteed that the women of America have the freedom to make the right decisions for themselves and their families, and I am proud to join my colleagues in affirming our commitment to protecting women’s rights for every Californian,” said Speaker John A. Pérez. “Roe, and reproductive rights across the country have come under a bare-knuckled attack in other states over the past few years, which is why it’s important that California continues to protect and expand women’s rights, and my colleagues and I are deeply committed to that effort.”

California has a long history of supporting a woman’s access to health care. Yet even in California, 52 percent of the state’s counties have no accessible abortion provider. In rural areas this can mean a woman has to travel five hours just to obtain services. Even women living in urban areas with local providers face overburdened clinics and long wait times that result in delays in care.

“Over the last two years, 135 laws restricting abortion were passed across the country. But here in California we do things differently,” said Amy Everitt, president of NARAL Pro-Choice California and emcee of the event. “Women in rural and urban areas around our state still face challenges in access to abortion. By passing AB 154 California can continue to lead the nation in supporting access to comprehensive reproductive health for women in their own communities by providers they know and trust.”

AB 154 would improve access by authorizing trained nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and physicians assistants (PAs) to provide early abortions. By increasing the number of trained and qualified health professionals that can provide care, this bill would allow women to obtain abortions locally from advanced trained practitioners they already know and trust. Broadening the types of health professionals who can perform abortions means women can receive a wide spectrum of reproductive health care – family planning, birth control, miscarriage management, abortion, post abortion follow up – from the same practitioner, allowing for continuity of care.

Last week the American Journal of Public Health published the results of a multi-year study that concluded that NPs, CNMs and PAs can be trained to competency and can perform early abortions as safely as physicians. Conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, the study also found that patients expressed high rates of satisfaction with the care they received from all practitioners.

By age 45 about half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy and nearly one in three will terminate her pregnancy. Seven in 10 women would have preferred to have their abortion earlier. But many women experience delays because they need time to raise money for transportation, childcare and the procedure itself.

*The California Women’s Health Alliance comprises more than 20 organizations that are dedicated to protecting and improving women’s reproductive health in the state. ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, ACT for Women and Girls of Tulare County, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Bay Area Communities for Health Education, Black Women for Wellness, California Church IMPACT, California Family Health Council, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Cardea Institute, Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, Choice USA, Forward Together, Fresno Barrios Unidos, NARAL Pro-Choice California, National Health Law Program, Nevada County Citizens for Choice, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, Women’s Community Clinic, Women’s Health Specialists of California
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Oceanside Unchains the Melody https://www.aclusandiego.org/oceanside-unchains-the-melody/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/oceanside-unchains-the-melody/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2013 17:15:27 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9433

Photo courtesy KGTV Channel 10.

When a street musician was cited and found guilty of violating an Oceanside municipal code banning any form of live music on any public sidewalk, he reached out to the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, believing his free speech rights had been violated. Just last week, after negotiations between the San Diego ACLU and the city of Oceanside, a district court judge approved a settlement that ensures the fundamental right to engage in speech in a public forum. The law firm Cooley LLP served as co-counsel.

The musician, Mark Mayville, occasionally plays an electric guitar with a portable, battery-powered amplifier, near the Oceanside pier. As street performers often do, Mayville displays a jar to accept voluntary donations from listeners and passers-by, but does not actively solicit tips, charge for requests, or sell any merchandise. In March 2011, two police officers insisted that Mayville stop playing his guitar and detained him, citing him for violation of Oceanside’s noise ordinance. At his hearing, he was found guilty, fined $275, which was suspended for a year as long as he was not cited for the same violation during that period. Mayville subsequently contacted the San Diego ACLU, which sent a letter to the city explaining that the noise ordinance violates the First Amendment. The city replied, suggesting that it had not intended to prohibit the playing of music nor use of amplified sound. After a series of negotiations, the City of Oceanside agreed to issue interpretive guidance on the city’s noise ordinance, stating:

  • “Musicians and/or singers shall be permitted to perform in the City, subject to all applicable requirements and laws, as follows:
    • Musicians…shall be permitted to perform, with or without reasonable amplification, unless the noise level…
      • injures or damages the health or safety of the public or, in…residential neighborhoods where tranquility [is] a legitimate concern; or
      • significantly or unreasonably exceeds the ambient noise level…”

In spite of this clarification, Mayville was harassed twice by officers as he tried to play music near the Oceanside Pier, and was told by a supervising officer on a separate occasion that he was not allowed to play music because that constituted conducting business without a license. Fearing harassment, detention, and arrest, Mayville has not returned to play music at the pier since June 2012.

Because the Oceanside Police Department continued to restrict Mayville’s free expression activities, the San Diego ACLU and Cooley LLP filed a complaint asking the court to declare Oceanside’s anti-solicitation ordinances, as applied to Mayville’s musical performances, unconstitutional, and instructing city officials to discontinue enforcement of any ordinance that restricted an individual from free expression activities such as those Mayville was engaged in. After negotiations, the parties reached an agreement, and the settlement was finalized and approved by a U.S. District Court judge this week, ensuring the right of performers to engage in free expression in public forums in Oceanside.

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Contraception Rule Case Advances https://www.aclusandiego.org/contraception-rule-case-advances/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/contraception-rule-case-advances/#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2013 18:10:00 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9423 Yesterday the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the first challenge to the federal contraceptive rule to reach an appeals court on the merits. The federal contraceptive rule requires health plans to cover contraception without a co-pay, and despite the plethora of lawsuits, the rule is clearly constitutional.

Yesterday’s case was brought by a mining company in Missouri, which for years has been providing contraceptive coverage to its employees. The company’s owner, however, objected to the contraceptive rule claiming that it imposed a substantial burden on his religious beliefs.

The district court disagreed, and held that the company owner’s religious practices were not substantially burdened. The judge held that by providing health insurance to his employees, the company’s owner was only providing “indirect financial support” of someone else’s possible behavior. In other words, he was simply providing a benefit to his employees – like salary – that some may choose to use to obtain contraception. But this cannot rise to the level of a substantial burden on the company owner’s religious beliefs. Importantly, the court also recognized that religious liberty claims cannot be used as a “means to force one’s religious practices upon others.” Here, that would mean denying women equal benefits. The court said that the law does not protect “against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own.”

The brief we filed yesterday urges the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the district court’s decision. We filed the brief on our behalf, as well the Anti-Defamation League; Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America; the Interfaith Alliance Foundation; the National Council of Jewish Women; the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; the Unitarian Universalist Association; and the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation.

We hope that the Eighth Circuit will affirm the district court’s decision.

By Brigette Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

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Warrantless Wiretapping: Here to Stay https://www.aclusandiego.org/warrantless-wiretapping-here-to-stay/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/warrantless-wiretapping-here-to-stay/#comments Wed, 02 Jan 2013 17:56:38 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9417 It’s official. The Senate voted 72-23 last week to extend the FISA Amendments Act another five years, which President Obama signed Sunday. Unfortunately, the public discussion of George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program may soon fade back into the shadows.

The heartbreak of another Senate vote in favor of dragnet collection of Americans’ communications, however, pales in comparison to the rejection of modest amendments in favor of more FISA transparency and accountability. These amendments would not have limited the government’s spying program in any way; they would have only compelled the government to tell the public what the law says and whether it protects us from government prying.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a long-time member of the Intelligence Committee, valiantly fought for a year- and-a-half for basic information about how this surveillance program affects Americans and put a hold on the bill until a debate and amendment process was scheduled. He finally got a vote to force disclosure of whether the National Security Agency is vacuuming up wholly domestic communications or searching through FISA taps for Americans, yet it failed by a vote of 42-52. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also went to the mattress over the secret FISA court opinions that determine whether we have constitutional rights to privacy in foreign intelligence investigations. He put the Senate to a vote on whether the administration should be forced to release the court opinions, supply unclassified summaries of them, or explain why they should be kept secret. That one went down 37-54. Simply put, if the public were to find out what the government is doing with our information, or how many of us are affected, the program would be “destroyed,” according to Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

If this news has you ready to throw yourself off of the FISA cliff, take in a few rays of hope from the Senate floor:

  • Broad support exists for making the FISA Amendments Act more transparent. Close to half of the Senate is on record demanding disclosure, and that should only help efforts to get basic information about how our rights are affected by this spy program.
  • Senate opposition to FISA is now bipartisan, thanks to Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). They represent an emerging caucus of libertarian opposition within the Republican Party to unchecked national security authority.
  • Feinstein agreed to work with Merkley toward release of the secret FISA court rulings, and possibly compel disclosure through the next Intelligence Authorization bill, if necessary. She also specifically offered to work with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on his requests, too.

Wyden will never, ever give up. Seriously.

So while FISA is done for now, we’ll be calling on you for your support again this year to follow up on these floor promises. Here’s wishing you more robust privacy rights in the new year.

By Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

 

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all people. The ACLU is a national leader in working to guarantee that individuals may determine how and when others can gain access to their personal information.

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What to Do in San Diego https://www.aclusandiego.org/what-to-do-in-san-diego/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/what-to-do-in-san-diego/#comments Tue, 01 Jan 2013 00:06:43 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9384 For our ACLU colleagues, following is a small sampling of San Diego offerings. We hope you enjoy your time here!

Must-Sees

Balboa Park. San Diego’s equivalent of Central Park, full of historical, Spanish-Renaissance buildings built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915.  It’s home to 15 major museums, The Old Globe Theatre, and the San Diego Zoo.

The Beaches. Chances are, wherever you’re from, you aren’t hanging out near a big body of water in January. But you can here.  Just head west.

Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888, this is the iconic setting for Some Like It Hot. You’ll feel like a true (wealthy) Southern Californian if you splurge on some appetizers and cocktails on the patio. To do it right, rent bikes and take a ferry from the Embarcadero in downtown, and bike along Coronado’s lovely, well-kept streets. Coronado’s beaches are family-friendly.

Tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument. Besides breathtaking views of the city from the lighthouse at the tip of Point Loma, if you head down the cliffs on the Pacific Ocean side, you can commune with nature in the most San Diego of ways. Plan to hit the tidepools at low tide and you can see anemones, octopi, sea stars, sea slugs (a.k.a. deadman’s fingers) and beautiful sandstone cliffs and crashing waves.

TijuanaIt’s so close, and really does give you a glimpse of our border justice issues within seconds of crossing over. The State Department still issues traveler alerts for Tijuana, so be advised. Sticking to Avenida Revolucion and doing a little shopping and taco drinking/tequila shooting is probably what we’d recommend, even for our most adventurous visitors. There’s a great Arts and Crafts Market just off the Avenida – head down Calle Segunda to Avenida Negrete. If time or tension makes you nervous, you get a tiny bit of the feeling of Mexico in San Diego’s  Old Town State Park, created for the city’s bicentennial in 1969.

Attractions

Belmont Park3146 Mission Blvd. | San Diego, CA 92109 | 858-488-294-1549

Birch Aquarium | 2300 Expedition Way | La Jolla, CA 92037 | 858-534-FISH

LegolandOne Legoland Drive | Carlsbad, CA 92008 | 760-918-5346

San Diego Zoo2920 Zoo Drive | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-231-1515

San Diego Zoo Safari Park15500 San Pasqual Valley Road | Escondido, CA 92027
760-747-8702

SeaWorld500 SeaWorld Drive | San Diego, CA 92109 | 619-266-3901

Casinos

Barona Casino1000 Wildcat Canyon Road  | Lakeside, CA 92040 | 619-443-2300

Golden Acorn Casino1800 Golden Acorn Way | Campo, CA 91906 | 619-938-6000

Sycuan Casino5485 Casino Way | El Cajon, CA 92019-1810 | 800-279-2826

Viejas Casino5000 Willows Road | Alpine, CA 91901-1656 | 800-847-6537

Bars / Clubs

Air Conditioned Lounge (North Park) | 4673 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-501-9831

Babycakes (Hillcrest) | 3766 Fifth Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-296-4173

Baja Betty’s (Hillcrest) | 1421 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-269-8510

Bar Pink (North Park) | 3829 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-564-7194

Bourbon Street (University Heights)| 4612 Park Boulevard | San Diego, CA  92116 | 619-291-4043

Brass Rail (Hillcrest) | 3796 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-298-2233

El Dorado  (Gaslamp) |1030 Broadway | San Diego, CA 92101 | (619) 237-0550

Flicks (Hillcrest) | 1017 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-297-2056

Lei Lounge (University Heights) | 4622 Park Blvd. | San Diego, CA  92116 | 619-813-2272

Martinis Above Fourth (Hillcrest) | 3940 4th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-400-4500

Meze (Gaslamp)  | 551 J Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | (619) 546-5060

Urban Mo’s (Hillcrest)   308 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-491-0400

Vin de Syrah (Gaslamp) | 901 Fifth Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-4166

Golfing

Balboa Park Golf Course2600 Golf Course Drive | San Diego, CA 92102 | 619-239-1660

Coronado Municipal Golf Course2000 Visalia Road | Coronado, CA 92118 | 619-435-3121

Riverwalk Golf Club | 1150 Fashion Valley Road | San Diego, CA 92108 | 619-296-4653

Torrey Pines Golf Course11480 N. Torrey Pines Road | La Jolla, CA 92037 | 858-452-3226

Harbor Cruise

Flagship Cruises990 North Harbor Drive | San Diego, CA 92101 | 800-442-7847

Hornblower Harbor Cruises | 970 North Harbor Drive | San Diego, CA 92101 888.329.1787

San Diego Harbor Cruises | 800-303-7197

Museums – Balboa Park

Mingei International Museum1439 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-239-0003

Museum of Photographic Arts1649 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-238-7559

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center1875 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-238-1233

San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum2131 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-4543

San Diego Museum of Art1450 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-7931

San Diego Museum of Man1350 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-239-2001

San Diego Natural History Museum1788 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-3821

Museums / History (outside of Balboa Park)

California Missions [Map of all California missions]
San Diego de Alcalá |10818 San Diego Mission Road | San Diego, CA 92108 |
619-283-7319
- San Luis Rey de Francía | 4050 Mission Avenue | Oceanside, CA 92057 | 760-757-3651

Chicano Park | National Avenue at Dewey Street (under the Coronado Bridge)  | San Diego, CA 92113 | 619-563-4661
Site of some of the best art in San Diego. The 50+ murals were painted primarily in the 70s and 80s, narrating the history of the neighborhood, Barrio Logan, which was bifurcated (and thus nearly destroyed) by the construction of Interstate 5 in the 1960s.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

  – Downtown | 1100 Kettner Boulevard | San Diego, CA 92101 | 858-454-3541
  – La Jolla | 700 prospect street | La Jolla, CA 92037 |  858-454-3541

Museum of Making Music (Carlsbad) 5790 Armada Drive | Carlsbad, CA 92008 | 760-438-5996 or toll-free 877-551-9976

The New Children’s Museum (Gaslamp) 200 West Island Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-233-8792

USS Midway Museum | 910 N. Harbor Drive  | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-544-9600

Music

4th & B | 345 B Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-231-4343

Belly Up Tavern | 143 S. Cedros Avenue | Solana Beach, CA 92075 | 858-481-8140

The Casbah | 2501 Kettner Blvd. | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-HELL

House of Blues | 1055 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-299-BLUE

San Diego Symphony | 1245 Seventh Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-235-0800
Showing while you’re here: Jackson Browne (1/26), The Magic of Mozart (1/27), and The Joffrey Ballet (1/29)

Nature

Anza Borrego State Park California’s largest state park, with five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and many miles of hiking trails. You’ve come this far– take a little time to experience the wonders of the California Desert. [Map and directions in link.]

Black’s Beach (clothing optional!) | 2800  Torrey Pines Scenic Drive | La Jolla, CA 92037 (see surf report)

Border Field State Park  | Southwesternmost corner of the U.S.! | 619-575-3613 |  Hwy. 5 south; exit Dairy Mart Road (exit #2). Head Southwest on Dairy Mart Road. Dairy Mart Road will curve right onto Monument Road. Turn right (West) on Monument Road until you reach the park entrance.

La Jolla Children’s Pool  850 Coast Blvd. | La Jolla, CA 92037 (tide pools and seal watching!)

La Jolla Cove1100 Coast Blvd. | La Jolla, CA 92037 (snorkeling)

La Jolla Shores | 8260 Camino del Oro | La Jolla, CA 92037 (see surf report)

Living Coast Discovery Center1000 Gunpowder Point Drive | Chula Vista, ca 91910 | 619-409-5900

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle | Kit Carson Park | 3333 Bear Valley Parkway |
Escondido, CA 92025 | 760-839-4691 (Sculpture garden by Niki de Saint Phalle)

San Diego Beaches

Surf Report:

  • Black’s Beach (see above): This is the spot for expert surfers, considered by many to be the finest beach break in the United States. It gets best at lower tides and features heavy barrels.  (Use access trails from La Jolla Farms Road or the Torrey Pines gliderport.)
  • La Jolla Shores (see above): Consistent surf in the winter with lots of room to spread your wings. Good spot for beginners.
  • Oceanside: Boasts a beach break that picks up as much swell as anywhere; head here when it’s small everywhere else.
  • Tourmaline Surf Park: Long soft waves at the north end of Pacific Beach. Good spot for beginners.
  • Windandsea (see below) and Big Rock in La Jolla: This is where surfing was born (we humbly like to think).  It sports crowded reef peaks with long walls and nice bowls.

San Diego Botanical Gardens | 230 Quail Gardens Drive | Encinitas, CA 92024 | 760- 436-3036

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park | Sunset Cliffs Blvd. between Pt. Loma Blvd. and Ladera Street San Diego, CA 92107

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve | 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego CA 92037 | 858-755-2063

Windansea Beach6800 Neptune Place | La Jolla, CA 92037
This is where surfing was born (we humbly like to think).  It sports crowded reef peaks with long walls and nice bowls.

Neighborhoods

Gaslamp Quarter
Revitalized Old San Diego, with more than 120 restaurants, nightclubs, live music venues, art galleries, and boutiques. Petco Park is here too.

Hillcrest
San Diego’s gay-friendliest neighborhood is home to scores of restaurants, bars, clubs, and hip stores.

Little Italy
This is where our hip, sophisticated folk hang. There are lots of great Italian restaurants and shops, beautiful home design stores, and lots of funky art galleries.

Normal Heights
Besides loving its name, we love its affordable pubs, restaurants, coffee houses, antique shops, book shops, and burgeoning arts community.

North Park
Are you a hipster? Then we’ve got a home-away-from-home for you! Forbes named North Park one of America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods.

Pacific Beach
If you want to experience the stereotypical San Diego upbringing, go to PB’s beaches and boardwalk (rent blades or bikes!) by day and stay and eat and party and any of the dozens of restaurants, bars, and clubs late into the night.

South Park
Our up-and-coming (actually, now arrived!) neighborhood; just a few small blocks filled with cafes, bookstores, pubs,  and boutiques.

Restaurants

Alchemy (South Park) | 1503 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92102 619-255-0616

Barrio Star (Bankers Hill)2706 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-501-7827

Bleu Boheme (Kensington) | 4090 Adams  Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-255-4167

Bread & Cie (Hillcrest) | 350 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-683-9322

Burger Lounge (Coronado, Gaslamp, Hillcrest, Kensington, La Jolla, and Little Italy) (grass-fed beef burgers, free-range turkey burgers, quinoa veggie burgers)

C Level  (Harbor Island) 880 Harbor Island Drive | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-298-6802

Cafe Chloe (East Villeage-near the Ballpark) | 721 Ninth Avenue| San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-3242 (breakfast and lunch)

Carnitas Snack Shack (Hillcrest)2632 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-683-9322

Casa de Luz (North Park) 2920 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-550-1857 (vegan; raw)

Cowboy Star (East Village)640 Tenth Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-450-5880

Craft & Commerce (Little Italy) | 675 W. Beech Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-269-2202

El Camino (Little Italy) | 2400 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-685-3881

El Zarape (University Heights) | 4642 Park Blvd. | San Diego, CA | 619-269-9662

Evolution Fast Food (Bankers Hill) 2965 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-550-1818 (vegan; raw)

Extraordinary Desserts (Bankers Hill) | 2929 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-294-2132; (Little Italy)  | 1430 Union Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-294-7001

Fidel’s Little Mexico (Solana Beach) 607 Valley Avenue |Solana Beach, CA 92075 | 858-755-5292

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto (Little Italy & other locations) | 1747 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-5094

Food Trucks:

Hodad’s (Ocean Beach & other locations)  | 5010 Newport Avenue | San Diego, CA 92107 | 619-224-4623 (many think this is home to the world’s best hamburger)

Indigo Grill (Little Italy) | 1536 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-6802

Jaynes Gastropub  (University Heights)  | 4677 30th Street @ Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-563-1011

Jyoti Bihanga (Normal Heights) | 3351 Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-282-4116 (vegetarian)

Lestat’s Coffee House (Normal Heights) | 3343 Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-282-0437 (open 24 hours)

The Linkery (North Park)3794 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-255-8778

Living Room Cafe & Bistro (Point Loma & other locations) | 1018 Rosecrans Street | San Diego, CA 92106 | 858-222-6852

Loving Hut (North Park) 1905 El Cajon Boulevard | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-683-9490 (vegan)

Lucha Libre (Mission Hills) 1810 West Washington | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619-296-8226 (contender for our favorite taco shop!)

The Mission  (Mission Beach & other locations) | 3795 Mission Blvd. | San Diego, CA 92109 | 858-488-9060

Monsoon (Gaslamp) | 729 4th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-5555

Peace Pies (Ocean Beach) 4230 Voltaire Street | San Diego, CA 92107 | 619-223-2880 (vegan; all raw)

Ponce’s (Kensington) | 4050 Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-282-4413 (our favorite taco shop)

Plumeria  (University Heights) | 4661 Park Boulevard | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-269-9989 (vegetarian)

The Prado at Balboa Park | 1549 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-557-9441 x 210

Prepkitchen (Little Italy & other locations)  | 1660 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-398-8383

Ritual Tavern  (North Park)  | 4095 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-283-1720

Sipz Fusion Cafe (North Park)  | 3930 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-795-2889 (vegetarian; vegan-friendly)

Smoking Goat  (North Park)  | 3408 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-955-5295

Snooze (Hillcrest) | 3950 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-500-3344 (breakfast and lunch)

Uptown Tavern (Hillcrest)  | 1236 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-241-2710

Urban Solace3823 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-295-6464

Vagabond (South Park) | 2310 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 619-255-1035

Shopping

Bazaar del Mundo Shops (Old Town) | 4133 Taylor Street | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619-296-3161

Fashion Valley Mall

Las Americas Premium Outlets (South Bay) | 4211 Camino de la Plaza | San Diego, CA 92173 | 619-934-8400

Little Italy Mercato  | Date & India Streets | Little Italy

Viejas Outlet Center (Alpine)  | 5005 Willows Road | Alpine, CA 91901 | 619-659-2070

Westfield Horton Plaza Mall

Westfield Mission Valley Mall

Theatre

Balboa Theater  (Horton Plaza) | 868 4th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-615-4000 Showing while you’re here: Mariachi Mania

Cygnet Theatre (Old Town) | 4040 Twiggs Street | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619-337-1525 Showing while you’re here: August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean

La Jolla Playhouse  | 2910 La Jolla Village Drive | La Jolla CA, 92037 | 858- 550-1010 Showing while you’re here: DNA New Work Series

Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company930 10th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-342-7395  (No shows while you’re here…but if you return, this is the place to see socially releveant, responsible theater!)

San Diego Civic Theater3rd Avenue & B Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-615-4000  Showing while you’re here: The Daughter of the Regiment (opera)

San Diego Repertory Theater |  79 Horton Plaza | San Diego, CA 92101-6144  |  619-544-1000 | Showing while you’re here: Clybourne Park

The Old Globe (Balboa Park) | 1363 Old Globe Way | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-5623 Showing while you’re here: Pygmalion and The Brothers Size

 

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Who Did We Kill This Year? https://www.aclusandiego.org/who-did-we-kill-this-year/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/who-did-we-kill-this-year/#comments Mon, 31 Dec 2012 17:48:17 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9415 At the end of the year many news sources review a year’s worth of obituaries, usually the passing of the famous. Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. Whitney Houston, Dave Brubeck. Joe Paterno, a reminder that people’s lives are complicated, and we don’t really know public people as we think we do. Rodney King. Sherman Helmsley. Tony Scott and Don Cornelius, powerful men in entertainment. Etta James, Donna Summer, and Levon Helm.

Less remarked are the people we killed: those executed under the laws of some of these United States. Except for the families of the executed and the survivors of the murdered, few of us really know much about the condemned: maybe a paragraph about the crime and the meal they chose as their last. (Except in Texas, where they no longer provide a last meal to those who are about to die).

There were 43 executions in the United States in 2012. The third was Edwin Hart Turner, executed despite severe mental illness by the State of Mississippi on Feb. 3rd.

Georgia and Ohio both spared condemned men with disabling mental disorders, but Texas did not, executing Yokamon Hearn, despite the fact that his lawyer at trial had not seen fit to tell the sentencing jury about his “clear and consistent evidence of brain damage,” evident to all since he was a young child. The criminal justice “system” not only failed to give him a trial lawyer, but his appeal and his habeas were botched too, and there is no evidence that the Board of Pardons or the governor gave his case a passing glance. Certainly not a vote of mercy, despite pleas from the United Nations.

Andy Griffith died in 2012. An actor with much work, none of it better known than his embodiment of the kindly and thoughtful sheriff of the fictional Mayberry. Robert Moorman, executed by Arizona this year, did not grow up in Mayberry. Moorman was born to a 15-year-old prostitute who drank heavily, which may have contributed to his mental retardation and her death, two years later. After his alcoholic grandfather gave him up, Bobby Moorman was placed in foster care with a sexual abuser. He was 13 the first time he was institutionalized for mental illness.

Oklahoma killed Garry Allen on the day the country re-elected President Obama, Nov. 6. Allen’s execution had been stayed many times on the grounds of his unquestioned mental illness. His final words were spoken in a slurred voice, and consisted of rambling incoherent comments about the election. He appeared startled when told that the execution was about to begin. Oklahoma executed 6 people this year, but the Pardon Board would have spared Allen. Not the governor though.

That’s the 2012 track record of the Big Four: Mississippi, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas. These four states are responsible for more than three-quarters of those executed. Only nine states in total carried out executions in 2013. One of the nine, Delaware, only appears in the roster because it executed one of the two “volunteers,” meaning men who gave up their right to appeal and committed suicide by state. The other 41 executed spent many decades on death row, a suffering that in itself has been found unacceptable in other countries.

The other death penalty news of 2012: executions are down, death sentences are down, and many people in the United States who once supported the death penalty are now convinced that it is too expensive, too fraught with error, and can never be free from race and class discrimination. Some have come to hope that the U.S. will join the majority of nations who see capital punishment as a human rights violation.

So perhaps the last thought of the year should be for those who did not get executed. While those of us who are dedicated to ending the death penalty will not forget the executed nor the victims’ families, we find hope in the names of those re-sentenced to life, or freed. In 2012, Marcus Robinson, Timon Golphin, Christina Walters, and Quintel Augustine, four North Carolina Death Row inmates, were resentenced to life in prison under the Racial Justice Act. LaSamuel Gamble in Alabama and Ray McNeil in North Carolina were both resentenced to life after thorough litigation. And Damon Thibodeaux, an innocent man freed from Louisiana’s Death Row, is starting his first free year.

These are seven names of seven living people – successful cases from the ACLU Capital Punishment Project’s year. All over the country, quietly and notoriously, other condemned persons have been freed, or resentenced to life in prison. We will end the death penalty in the United States by lobbying in the states to abolish; by seeking help from international law and partners; by litigating big systemic issues in the Supreme Court; by working with victims’ families and other allies to increase public opposition.

And we will bring an end to capital punishment this way. One life at a time.

Written by Denny LeBouef, ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project

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With ACLU’s Rapid Growth Comes New Leader, and Increased Emphasis on Latino Engagement https://www.aclusandiego.org/with-aclus-rapid-growth-comes-new-leader-and-increased-emphasis-on-latino-engagement/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/with-aclus-rapid-growth-comes-new-leader-and-increased-emphasis-on-latino-engagement/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2012 16:34:27 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9369 SAN DIEGO – Having grown from seven staff members to twenty-one in seven years, the San Diego ACLU today announced the promotion of Norma Chávez-Peterson to the new position of Associate Director supervising the organization’s entire advocacy portfolio.  Chávez -Peterson started as Organizing Director nine months ago and led the organization’s Latino voter engagement campaign in Escondido and the San Diego component of the statewide campaign to replace California’s death penalty (Proposition 34).

“This is a magnificent development.  Norma is a supremely talented leader and an invaluable team member,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the San Diego ACLU.  “She has deep roots in the community, an extraordinary ability to inspire people to action, and one of the finest strategic minds I have encountered.  With our organization’s rapid expansion, we need someone who embodies all these skills to help lead us in our next phase of growth and effectiveness.”

In addition to core liberties of speech and equality for women and the LGBT community, the San Diego ACLU’s key issues, which are also key areas of concern of the growing Latino community in the region, include voting rights, immigrants’ rights, educational equity, criminal justice reform, privacy rights, and border justice.

Chávez -Peterson was carefully selected in a national search that surfaced several exceptional candidates.  As associate director, she will supervise the ACLU’s program work, comprising organizing, policy, communications and legal teams.

“One of the things I am most excited about is the opportunity to leverage our different ways of making change—organizing, education, policy advocacy, and litigation—to reinforce one another,” said Chávez-Peterson. “We felt some of the tremendous potential of this collaboration during our get-out-the-vote campaign in Escondido.  I love coming to work every day and getting to do what I do—inspire the community to take charge of their lives, raise their voices and exercise their power to help realize our vision of an equitable and just society.”

Chávez-Peterson had an impressive resume before coming to the San Diego ACLU.  She was the founder and director of Justice Overcoming Boundaries, a faith-based leadership development and community organizing nonprofit that addresses issues faced by low-income people historically excluded from decision making and political power.  Chávez-Peterson played a lead role in the push for comprehensive immigration reform, leading to massive demonstrations, including a 2006 march of more than 100,000 people through the streets of San Diego. While quite young, Chávez -Peterson served as a senior manager at MAAC Project, a social service nonprofit that promotes self-sufficiency for low- and moderate-income families and communities of color.  Given the shifting demographics and growing power of the Latino community across the country, Chávez-Peterson’s new leadership position dovetails perfectly with the San Diego ACLU’s increased focus on empowering Latinos, ending discriminatory practices at all levels of government, and changing bad policies that encourage abuses along our southern border.

Norma’s leadership is being recognized tomorrow by the National Latina Business Women Association, which is presenting Chávez-Peterson with its Outstanding Advocate of the Year Award at an event featuring Mayor Bob Filner and former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

Despite the economic downturn across the country, the San Diego ACLU has experienced significant growth in size and advocacy strength.  Not only has the local affiliate itself grown, but it works more closely than ever with the two other ACLU affiliates headquartered in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and with the three other ACLU affiliates along the U.S.-Mexico border.

2013 will mark the San Diego ACLU’s 80th year in San Diego and 25th year as an ACLU affiliate.  The ACLU was founded in San Diego by Helen Marston, youngest child of city leaders George and Helen Marston, in 1933.  It hired its first staff member in 1979 and incorporated as its own ACLU “affiliate” in 1988.  The San Diego and Los Angeles ACLU fought for immigrants’ and farm workers’ rights in Imperial Valley during the Depression, fought California’s loyalty oaths for decades starting in the 1930s, won a historic U.S. Supreme Court victory stopping the enforcement of California’s Alien Land Act against Japanese Americans (Oyama v. California, 1948), and won the right of Pete Seeger to rent Hoover High School for a concert in 1960 without signing an anti-communist loyalty oath.

The National ACLU was established in 1920 to defend civil liberties, including First Amendment rights, the right to equal protection of the law, the right to due process, and the right to privacy.  Nationally, the ACLU has over 500,000 members; here in California there are more than 110,000 members.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Review Challenges to DOMA and Prop. 8 https://www.aclusandiego.org/u-s-supreme-court-to-review-aclu-challenge-to-doma/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/u-s-supreme-court-to-review-aclu-challenge-to-doma/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 22:14:38 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9347 Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review Edie Windsor’s challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (Windsor v. United States). The ACLU brought the case forward because it is fundamentally unfair that the legal marriages of couples like Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer are not respected by their own government. The Court also agreed today to hear the challenge to Prop. 8’s ban on same-sex marriage (Hollingsworth v. Perry), and will decide the constitutionality of California initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman.

Edie’s case illustrates the harms caused by DOMA in a very human way. Edie and Thea built a life together over four decades. But when Thea died and Edie lost her soul mate, Edie had to pay a hefty penalty of more than $350,000 in estate taxes just because she was married to a woman, instead of a man. That should never happen to any committed couple. If Edie had been married to a man, no estate tax would have been owed.

The ACLU won its case in the Second Circuit Court this past October, with a ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  The circuit court decided that when the government discriminates against lesbians and gay men, the discrimination should be presumed to be unconstitutional and the government has to have a very good reason for the discrimination. This was the first federal appeals court to decide that a higher standard of review applies to sexual orientation discrimination. Even though the ACLU won that case and is thrilled with the appellate decision, only the Supreme Court can correct this injustice once and for all.

Prop. 8 and DOMA are both important injustices that need to be fixed.  But they are also different problems. Prop. 8 prevents lesbian and gay couples in California from getting married at all. The Court granted view on two essential questions: does California’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution; and do the backers of Prop. 8 have standing to defend it in court in the first place?

Edie’s case challenges the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples who are already married.

Both Prop 8 and DOMA violate the Constitution by treating gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens, and we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will strike both down. Arguments in the cases most likely will take place by March 2013, with a decision expected by the end of June.

The recent election was a watershed moment in the fight for LGBT equality. For the first time, voters explicitly said yes to the freedom to marry. And they did it not once, but in three states, while voting to prohibit discrimination in a fourth. These votes, along with the fact that 54% of all Americans support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, are strong evidence for the Court that the country is ready for this.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all.

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ACLU Challenges Defense Department’s Policy Excluding Women from Combat https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-challenges-defense-departments-policy-excluding-women-from-combat/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-challenges-defense-departments-policy-excluding-women-from-combat/#comments Wed, 28 Nov 2012 00:30:32 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9326 SAN FRANCISCO – The Defense Department’s longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions was challenged today in a federal lawsuit by four servicewomen and the Service Women’s Action Network.

The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

The four servicemembers have all done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan — some deploying multiple times –where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen. Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts. The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs.

One plaintiff, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, is an Air National Guard search and rescue helicopter pilot who flew Medevac missions in Afghanistan. In 2009, her helicopter was shot down while rescuing three injured soldiers, and she and her crew were forced to engage in combat. Hegar, who returned fire after sustaining shrapnel wounds, was awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, and was returned to flying status within a week. Despite that, the combat exclusion policy prevents her from seeking some combat leadership positions.

“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an Air Force pilot, and I have proven my ability every step of the way,” said Hegar. “The ability to serve in combat has very little to do with gender or any other generalization. It has everything to do with heart, character, ability, determination and dedication. This policy is an injustice to the women who have come before us and who continue to put their lives on the line for their country.”

Women make up more than 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, yet the rule categorically excludes them from more than 238,000 positions. Consequently, commanders are stymied in their ability to mobilize their troops effectively. In addition, servicewomen are:

  • denied training and recognition for their service
  • put at a disadvantage for promotions
  • prevented from competing for positions for which they have demonstrated their suitability and from advancing in rank.

“These women served their country bravely and honorably and have demonstrated their ability to distinguish themselves under fire just as much as their male comrades,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “This antiquated policy doesn’t reflect the nature of modern warfare or the actual contributions of women in uniform.”

Two of the plaintiffs led the Marine Corps Female Engagement Teams (FET) in Afghanistan. The FETs lived with and conducted missions with combat infantrymen. Another plaintiff was sent on similar missions in the Army, accompanying combat troops in Afghanistan. Because these were considered temporary duties outside of the servicewomen’s official specialties, their combat experience is not given official recognition.

“It’s unfair that a serviceman can be promoted for putting his life on the line in a combat situation, but a servicewoman who performs just as well on the battlefield is told that her service doesn’t count,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

Other plaintiffs include:

  • Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell, who served in Afghanistan as the officer in charge of an FET. Her teams lived with infantrymen for several weeks and frequently encountered combat situations.
  • Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who served in Afghanistan, where she went with soldiers on combat missions in remote mountain areas, and in Iraq, where her vehicle was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Hunt was awarded the Purple Heart for shrapnel injuries sustained in that attack.
  • Marine 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell deployed to Afghanistan, where she led an FET that was regularly in danger of drawing enemy fire, being ambushed or hit by IEDs. Although the teams she commanded lived and worked alongside infantrymen, they were prevented from fully participating in training with those troops.

“Combat exclusion is an archaic policy which does not reflect the realities of modern warfare, the values which our military espouses, or the actual capabilities of our service women,” said Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women’s Action Network and former Marine captain. “Rather than enforcing a merit-based system, today’s military bars all women regardless of their qualifications from access to prestigious and career-enhancing assignments, positions and schools, and is thus directly responsible for making servicewomen second-class citizens.”

The full complaint can be found at http://www.aclu.org/womens-rights/hegar-et-al-v-panetta-complaint 

More information on this case, including biographies of the plaintiffs, can be found at http://www.aclu.org/womens-rights/hegar-et-al-v-panetta-plaintiffs.

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ACLU Files Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Mandatory Immigration Lock-up https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-files-class-action-lawsuit-challenging-mandatory-immigration-lock-up/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-files-class-action-lawsuit-challenging-mandatory-immigration-lock-up/#comments Thu, 15 Nov 2012 23:36:09 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9318 Gayle v. Napolitano is a class action lawsuit filed today on behalf of hundreds of immigrants in New Jersey subject to mandatory immigration detention. The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s policy of locking up immigrants in deportation proceedings without any chance for release on bail, even when they have strong arguments that they have a right to continue living in the United States.

One of the named plaintiffs, Garfield Gayle, is a 59-year-old green card holder from Jamaica who has lived in the country for 30 years. He raised two U.S. citizen daughters, and has long worked as a union carpenter in Brooklyn, New York. The government is now trying to deport Gayle based on an alleged attempted drug sale offense from more than 17 years ago, even though his long residence in the United States and close family ties make him a strong candidate for immigration relief that would allow him to keep his green card and continue living in this country. Nonetheless, the government has held Gayle in mandatory immigration lock-up since March 2012.

Immigrants subjected to mandatory detention are locked up with no opportunity for release on bond, for as long as it takes to conclude their deportation cases, even if they pose no danger or flight risk. The offenses that trigger mandatory detention are often very old and overwhelmingly minor and nonviolent — such as misdemeanor drug possession, shoplifting, or turnstile jumping. Moreover, individuals placed in mandatory detention are often not actually deportable — either because their alleged crimes turn out not to be deportable offenses, or because they are entitled to immigration relief allowing them to maintain or win lawful permanent residence in the country.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties celebrated significant court victories this year that place limits on the length of time that an immigrant can be detained. The first was an important district court ruling that “arriving aliens” should not be subjected to prolonged detention without a hearing.  The other was a successful effort to win asylum for a Cuban detainee who had been convicted of “terrorism” by a Fidel Castro court and held for more than a year even though the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Vatican recognized him as a political prisoner.

Mandatory detention is particularly irrational in these cases because these individuals have every incentive to fight their cases rather than flee the authorities and would pose no threat to the community. It also forces individuals with the strongest challenges to deportation to face a Catch-22: give up their cases to get out of detention, or languish for months or years in a jail cell in order to defend their right to stay in the country with their families.

Map: The U.S. Immigration Detention Boom from Frontline/PBS
Click here to view an interactive map courtesy of Frontline/PBS from Map: The U.S. Immigration Detention Boom by Gretchen Gavett

 

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all. 

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Marriage Equality Sweeps the Nation https://www.aclusandiego.org/marriage-equality-sweeps-the-nation/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/marriage-equality-sweeps-the-nation/#comments Wed, 07 Nov 2012 23:12:52 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9291 The nation has just had a marriage moment – a tipping point where voters in at least two states have affirmed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.  The vote illustrates that the country is getting squarely behind the notion that same-sex couples should be able to make the same legal commitment to each other that straight folks can.  And this marriage moment provides immeasurable support for the prospect of another one next June, when the Supreme Court is likely to issue its views on marriage for same-sex couples.

Yesterday, voters in Maine and Maryland approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, and voters in Minnesota rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have excluded gay couples from marriage.  And while there’s no final result yet in Washington state, a referendum supporting the freedom to marry there was also ahead in the vote count.

Put it all together, and you’ve got an indisputable watershed moment in the movement for LGBT equality:  the first wins after our side lost popular votes on marriage in 32 states.  While the rights of a minority group should never be put up to a vote by the majority, that’s the system we have in many parts of the country. In past years, it predictably worked against same-sex couples in those 32 states, which makes it all the more significant that popular majorities have now endorsed the freedom to marry in at least two states and rejected an anti-gay amendment in another.

The wins are not a fluke – they reflect the changing opinions of Americans all across the country. As more people think about the issue, they realize that loving couples who make the commitment that’s at the heart of civil marriage should be able to declare their vows before friends and family and have them protected by the state. National polls this year show that 54 percent of Americans support the freedom to marry for gay couples, and the view is becoming increasingly mainstream: President Obama, the Democratic Party and the NAACP have all endorsed marriage for same-sex couples.

To be sure, the freedom to marry is not a reality nationwide (30 states still ban it for gay couples in their constitutions), but the constitutionality of restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples is likely to be before the Supreme Court in 2013. Yesterday’s marriage moment should help create another, similar moment next June.

Although judges are sworn to uphold the Constitution, they do not decide cases in a public opinion vacuum. Courts are keenly aware that changing basic cultural institutions like marriage may lead to resistance that can strain their institutional credibility to the breaking point. Analyzing past court cases on marriage, the Washington Post concluded that judicial precedent limited how far courts could go, but “so did a cautious calculation that same-sex equality will ultimately be more durable if it is not seen as an imposition on an unwilling public by an unelected judiciary.”

That’s why yesterday’s elections are so important and how this marriage moment is related to the next.  This term, the Supreme Court is likely to hear a constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (petitions for review are pending in the ACLU’s Edie Windsor case and in three other cases now) and may take up the constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 as well.  Losses across the board yesterday would have flagged for the Supreme Court that the pro-marriage momentum of public opinion had stalled. And there’s no surer way to make the justices timid than to ask them to impose a ruling – no matter how righteous and constitutionally well-founded – that the people don’t support.

This is why the ACLU devoted an unprecedented level of resources to the 2012 state marriage campaigns, building on many years of working in each state’s courts, legislatures, and in their courts of public opinion for incremental improvements in state recognition of same-sex relationships. We took leadership roles in the state campaigns, serving on the governing boards to shape strategy, activating ACLU members, talking to undecided voters, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars for polling, organizers, and communications experts, and fundraising. In Maine we led the outreach campaign to enlist supportive Republicans, in Washington state we spearheaded the effort to engage communities of color, in Minnesota we organized phone banks, and in Maryland we ran the campus outreach program and partnered with HRC to lead the campaign’s communications team. All this because we knew that victories in these states would not only be significant progress in themselves, but also because we see the connection between success here and success eight months later in our litigation efforts before the high court.

Evolving public opinion and a lot of hard work have gotten us to this marriage moment.  With more work and a bit of luck, June 2013 will bring another one as well.

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project

 

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San Diego ACLU Seeks to Gag SDGE’s Gag Order Request https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-seeks-to-gag-sdges-gag-order-request/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-seeks-to-gag-sdges-gag-order-request/#comments Wed, 07 Nov 2012 22:01:10 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9284 SAN DIEGO – In a brief filed yesterday, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties defended the First Amendment against an unjustified attempt to impose a gag order on the parties to a controversial discrimination case against San Diego Gas & Electric Company.

In February 2011, Bilal Abdullah filed suit against SDG&E in San Diego Superior Court, claiming that the company unlawfully terminated him when he complained about racial discrimination. SDG&E denies the claims. Before trial was scheduled to begin on October 19, 2012, SDG&E asked the court to restrict the First Amendment rights of the parties and lawyers to talk about the case. SDG&E complained that pretrial publicity was unfavorable to its case, although SDG&E took full advantage of the opportunity to state its position in the press. SDG&E also offered no evidence on how many people in the San Diego jury pool actually saw the limited media coverage of the case, especially in the current news cycle dominated by election stories and other matters.

The court denied the initial request for a gag order but agreed to continue the trial until early January. Still not satisfied, SDG&E renewed its request for a gag order. The San Diego ACLU then joined the case to oppose this unjustified attempt to infringe First Amendment rights.

“First Amendment rights don’t stop at the courthouse door,” said David Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The public has a strong interest in hearing about this kind of case, and courts may not restrain the speech of lawyers and parties to litigation on mere speculation that it might influence potential jurors. Courts can ensure fair trials without violating the First Amendment.”

Dan Gilleon, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against SDG&E, believes SDG&E’s request for a gag order is consistent with the company’s retaliatory conduct in the underlying case.  “It’s ironic the way SDG&E is targeting me for speaking to the media just like it targeted my client for speaking out against racism at SDG&E,” Gilleon said.  “When will SDG&E learn that free speech is part of the Bill of Rights?”

The motion for a gag order will be heard in San Diego Superior Court before Judge Jeffrey Barton, Department 69, at 9:00 a.m. on November 9, 2012. The Mitchell | Gilleon and Simpson-Moore law firms represent Abdullah in his discrimination case against SDG&E.

 

 The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all people. 

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ACLU Advocates for the Right to Challenge Warrantless Wiretapping https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-advocates-for-the-right-to-challenge-warrantless-wiretapping/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-advocates-for-the-right-to-challenge-warrantless-wiretapping/#comments Mon, 29 Oct 2012 15:18:44 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9267 The ACLU appeared before the Supreme Court Monday morning to argue for the right of Americans to challenge a law that instituted a far-reaching and unconstitutional surveillance regime. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 dramatically expanded the government’s authority to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and emails, to store these communications indefinitely in huge databases, and to share them with other agencies with few restrictions.

The question before the justices was—from one perspective—a narrow one: whether ACLU’s clients have legal “standing” to challenge the law. But it is also about the ability of the executive and legislative branches to insulate a policy from meaningful judicial review.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Clapper v. Amnesty, include attorneys and human rights, labor, legal, and media organizations, and their work requires sensitive and at times privileged international communications. The FISA Amendments Act permits the government to conduct dragnet secret surveillance of Americans’ international communications—that is, surveillance that is not limited to a specific person and may go on for up to one year without any court approval. In this way, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 has created a new surveillance regime that is starkly different from the particularized surveillance of the past.

The consequences are dire for our clients, as the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer argued forcefully today (you can read the transcript here). Our clients engage in First Amendment-protected communications that are integral to their professional activities. For example, David Nevin has served as defense lawyer for accused terrorists. In connection with this legal representation, Nevin needs to be able to rely on secure telephone and email communications with experts, witnesses, family members, and his clients abroad. Jaffer explained to the court that such confidential communications are an essential component of any diligent lawyer’s work, required by a lawyer’s ethical obligation to preserve client confidentiality. By jeopardizing their abilities to engage in confidential communications, the FISA Amendments Act injures our clients, as at least some of the justices seemed to recognize.

The government argued repeatedly that our clients could not know for certain whether their international communications will ever be swept up by the government under the FISA Amendments Act and that, therefore, they could not sue. Several of the justices appeared rightfully troubled by this Kafkaesque position, expressing concern that, under the government’s interpretation, no one would be able to challenge the law—ever. Justice Breyer also noted that risk and certainty are just matters of degree: “It might not be a storm tomorrow. I mean, you know, nothing is certain.”

At its core, this is a case about fundamental privacy rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It is also about the proper balance of power within our constitutional democracy—specifically, the crucial duty our judiciary can, and must, fulfill in safeguarding and enforcing those rights.

As Jaffer co-wrote in a CNN.com op-ed with Alex Abdo,

The government’s argument is really about the role of the judiciary in patrolling the boundaries between the lawful measures that the executive should take in the defense of national security, and the unconstitutional and effectively unbridled discretion the government now has to acquire Americans’ international communications.

Whatever one’s views of the legality of the FISA Amendments Act, the government’s efforts to shield the law from any meaningful judicial review should be profoundly disturbing to all Americans.

 

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all people.

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More Cause for Shock and Concern at the Border, says San Diego ACLU https://www.aclusandiego.org/more-cause-for-shock-and-concern-at-the-border-says-san-diego-aclu/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/more-cause-for-shock-and-concern-at-the-border-says-san-diego-aclu/#comments Fri, 26 Oct 2012 21:51:42 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9259 The following statement can be attributed to Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

There has been yet another incident of fatal shooting of unarmed people at the U.S.-Mexico border—the third and fourth killings in as many weeks.  Reports indicate that yesterday, October 25, 2012, near La Joya, Texas, a Texas state police sharpshooter in a helicopter shot at a pickup truck with suspected undocumented migrants in an attempt to disable the vehicle and instead killed two people.

This is the latest in a string of lethal shootings of unarmed people at or near the U.S.-Mexico border.  We are concerned about the apparent and growing lawlessness of law enforcement in the border region.  We question the culture and training of agencies in the region that would lead an officer to think this is an acceptable tactic and whether this same cavalier disregard for human life would apply to other populations.

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More details can be found on the website of our sister affiliate, the ACLU of Texas.

 

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all people. 

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ACLU to Testify at the United Nations On Human Rights Abuses at the U.S.–Mexico Border https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-to-testify-at-the-united-nations-on-human-rights-abuses-at-the-u-s-mexico-border/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-to-testify-at-the-united-nations-on-human-rights-abuses-at-the-u-s-mexico-border/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 17:23:46 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9227 The American Civil Liberties Union is slated to present testimony today at the United Nations on human rights violations at the U.S.-Mexico border, including deaths as a result of the U.S. government’s border enforcement policy.

The testimony will include details of lethal shootings and excessive force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the U.S.-Mexico border. Since January 2010, 20 individuals have died or were seriously injured by CBP officials in use-of-force incidents. Of these, eight cases involve agents responding to individuals alleged to be throwing rocks and six involve individuals killed while standing on the Mexican side of the border. Six of those killed were under the age of 21 and five were U.S. citizens. A federal investigation has been concluded in only one of these cases, without corrective action, and these abuses are subject to minimal oversight and accountability.

“The frequency and regularity of CBP’s lethal use of force is alarming and demands a comprehensive, independent investigation of CBP policies and practices,” says Brian Erickson, policy advocate at the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, who will testify on behalf of the ACLU. “We look forward to the results of the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General’s pending investigation into CBP’s use-of-force protocols and practices.”

This summer, 16 members of Congress, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition of 60 non-governmental organizations, including the ACLU, condemned these deaths.

The ACLU’s testimony will also highlight other abuses by CBP agents, including sexual abuse, unwarranted and invasive personal searches, unjustified and repeated detention based on misidentification, and the use of coercion to force individuals to surrender their legal rights, citizenship documents, or property. The testimony also raises the criminalization of immigrants and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We are deeply concerned by these systematic abuses,” said Jennifer Turner, ACLU human rights researcher. “It is essential that the United States launch a comprehensive external investigation in addition to the Department of Homeland Security’s internal review. These reviews must examine CBP’s policies and practices in order to bring the United States in compliance with its human rights obligations to conduct thorough, impartial and transparent investigations and hold perpetrators accountable for human rights abuses.”

At the event, which is convened by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations, the ACLU will urge the U.S. government to implement the following reforms:

• CBP should adopt a zero-tolerance policy for abuses and conduct publicly-released investigations with disciplinary actions for agents who commit abuse.

• CBP should reform its use-of-force training and policies, including the incorporation of de-escalation techniques commonly used as best practices by U.S. police departments.

• Congress should establish a permanent external, independent oversight commission to investigate and respond to complaints about CBP abuses.

• DHS should record encounters between CBP agents and individuals in short-term custody or in secondary inspection areas at ports-of-entry and interior checkpoints. Dashboard cameras also should be installed on installed on CBP’s roving patrol vehicles and unmarked cars (including BP), as well as officer-mounted cameras for recording away from vehicles.

• Victims of CBP abuse should be ensured access to information about investigations and the right to judicial and administrative remedies to recover damages, especially in deadly-force incidents.

The event, including the ACLU’s testimony, will be webcast live at 1:15 p.m. ET at www.un.org/webcast.

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Freedom of Speech Upheld in ACLU Lawsuit Against Escondido https://www.aclusandiego.org/freedom-of-speech-upheld-in-escondido/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/freedom-of-speech-upheld-in-escondido/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 17:12:04 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9224 The City of Escondido agreed to uphold the First Amendment right of individuals to protest and record the Escondido Police Department’s controversial traffic checkpoint program, in a settlement filed today in federal court.

The settlement concludes part of a case filed earlier this year against Escondido and the California Highway Patrol, in which the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties challenged interference by the City and CHP with the First Amendment rights of protesters who oppose checkpoints.

Under the settlement, Escondido agrees not to interfere with the First Amendment right to protest, film, or record traffic checkpoints, except to the limited extent members of the public may be excluded from a narrowly defined “operational area” at the checkpoint.

The operational area may include the portion of the road where vehicles are stopped or secondary inspection is conducted. It may also include limited portions of the public sidewalk, if necessary to ensure a safe distance of 15 feet between observers and officers, or to allow the placement of generators, lights, and cables on the sidewalk during a checkpoint conducted after dark. Otherwise, individuals will have free access to public sidewalks to record checkpoint operations, in the interest of holding police accountable for their conduct. Escondido also agreed to pay $7300 in fees and costs. The court will reserve jurisdiction to oversee compliance if necessary.

“This is a fair settlement that protects the First Amendment and respects the City’s legitimate law enforcement interests,” said David Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “I’m glad the City came to the table to work out an agreement.”

The case continues against CHP, which has refused to agree to a settlement. A hearing is currently set for November 6, 2012 at 9:30 a.m., before Judge John A. Houston in federal district court. Judge Houston will decide whether to issue an injunction prohibiting CHP from enforcing its vague standard for restricting sidewalk protests due to unspecified concerns about “traffic or public safety.”

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Border Agents Harass Americans Taking Pictures, Threaten to Smash Cameras https://www.aclusandiego.org/border-agents-harass-americans/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/border-agents-harass-americans/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 17:51:30 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9211 SAN DIEGO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s policy and practice of prohibiting the use of cameras and video recorders at or near U.S. ports of entry is unconstitutional, said the American Civil Liberties Union Border Affiliates and the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP in a lawsuit filed late yesterday. Clients in the case, two U.S. citizens were attempting to document environmental harms and human rights abuses when border agents stopped, detained, and interrogated them and then deleted their photographs. The citizens hope that the court will order the Department of Homeland Security to end its policy of interfering with Americans’ free speech right to take photographs and make video recordings of matters of political and human rights interest.

Leer este artículo en español.

“The border is not a Constitution-free zone,” said David Loy, legal director of the San Diego ACLU. “Border agents are not above the law, and the law guarantees our right to hold them accountable by documenting their conduct.”

The suit charges that Ray Askins, a U.S. citizen who lives in Mexicali, and Christian Ramirez, a U.S. citizen who lives in San Diego, were stopped in separate incidents on the U.S. side of the border.

Askins was conducting research for a report about excessive pollution caused by the inspection system at the border for an environmental conference when he was stopped. Several border agents told him they would “smash the camera” if he did not delete photos he took of a secondary inspection area at the Calexico Port of Entry. He was attempting to demonstrate that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not make full and proper use of inspection areas, creating longer delays at the border crossing and thus causing more pollution from emissions of vehicles waiting in line to cross. Askins said that the officers who confronted him behaved aggressively even though Askins was not posing a threat or resisting. He was handcuffed and subjected to an invasive and embarrassing physical search. His camera was confiscated and, when it was returned to him, all but one photograph he had just taken at the port of entry had been deleted.

Ramirez, who works for Alliance San Diego, a nonprofit social justice group that, among other things, monitors human rights issues along the U.S.-Mexico border, had just crossed the border when he observed male CBP agents patting down women. He snapped several photos, because it appeared the agents were only searching women. Immediately, two men who appeared to be private security officers approached him, asked for his personal identification documents, and asked him to stop taking photographs. CBP agents soon appeared, confronted Ramirez and his wife, and asked why he was taking photographs.  When he refused, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent said, “Give me one other reason to take you down.” The officer took the Ramirezes’ passports and his phone, and deleted all the photos Ramirez had just taken.

Official CBP security policies prohibit visitors at CBP-controlled facilities from using cameras and video recording devices without prior approval from the senior CBP official or someone she or he designates. The ACLU lawsuit charges that the policies violate the First Amendment and that Americans have the free speech right to document the public operations of law enforcement agencies.

“Americans have a right to chronicle the activities of law enforcement,” said M. Andrew Woodmansee, partner with Morrison & Foerster. “The Department of Justice recently has stated that the right of a citizen to gather information about government officials –including photographs—‘serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.’  While the government has an interest in guaranteeing the security of the United States, it should have no role in stifling speech or violating our right to be secure in our person and our papers.”

The lawsuit seeks to stop the government from preventing or interfering with the public’s First Amendment speech rights and asks that Askins receive damages for the violations he experienced.

The ACLU Border Affiliates comprise the ACLU affiliates in San Diego, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties fights for equal protection under the law for all through education, litigation, and policy advocacy.

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Know Your Rights: A Californian’s Guide to Voting! https://www.aclusandiego.org/rights/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/rights/#comments Tue, 23 Oct 2012 19:38:00 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=8368

A Voting Checklist
Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th
 

You must be registered to vote.  You can check to make sure you are  registered to vote this November in San Diego county here.

If You Vote in Person, You Need to Know Your Polling Site. You can vote at your assigned polling place between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on November 6th. Your polling place is listed on the back of the sample ballot you receive in the mail a few weeks before Election Day, or you can find out where you vote here.

Leer este artículo en español.

Know Your Rights.  You can download a California Voter Empowerment brochure so that you can know all your rights as you head to the polls.  You can also download this Know Your Rights card you can take with you to your polling place on Election Day! Descargar el folleto en español aquí. Descargar la tarjeta en español aquí. Also available in Vietnamese: Chúng tôi cũng có thẻ bằng tiếng Việt.

Download a Smart Phone App.  Here is a cool, free iPhone app that tells you everything you need to know about voting!

Volunteer to Help Us Protect the Vote on Election Day! Click here to learn how you can get involved!

Also: Learn about the propositions on the November ballot.  You can download our ballot recommendation sheet so you can vote the civil liberties ticket all the way up and down the ballot!

If you feel like your right to vote has been threatened or violated, please email us at letmevote@aclusandiego.org.

Learn About Voter Suppression Across the Nation

Almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was enacted to put an end to widespread discriminatory voting practices that were disenfranchising millions of people, we again are seeing a nationwide attack on the right to vote.  As Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office puts it, “Feels like we are back in 1965 again.”  Learn more about how we can combat this effort on our national website.

 

 

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Federal Appeals Court Declares “Defense of Marriage Act” Unconstitutional https://www.aclusandiego.org/federal-appeals-court-declares-defense-of-marriage-act-unconstitutional/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/federal-appeals-court-declares-defense-of-marriage-act-unconstitutional/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 18:53:03 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9193 NEW YORK – A federal appeals court ruled today that the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples.

In striking down DOMA, the court held that government discrimination against lesbians and gay men now is assumed to be unconstitutional and that DOMA’s defenders could not offer any good reason for treating married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples.

This is the first federal appeals court decision to decide that government discrimination against gay people gets a more exacting level of judicial review, known as “heightened scrutiny.”

The law had been challenged by Edith “Edie” Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her pa rtner Thea Spyer, after Spyer’s death in 2009. Windsor and Spyer, who were a couple for 44 years, were married in Canada in 2007, and were considered married by their home state of New York.

“This law violated the fundamental American principle of fairness that we all cherish,” said Windsor. “I know Thea would have been so proud to see how far we have come in our fight to be treated with dignity.”

In her lawsuit, Windsor argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as strangers. Windsor’s lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

When Thea Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor, including the apartment they shared. Because they were married, Spyer’s estate normally would have passed to her spouse without any estate tax at all. But because DOMA prevents recognition of the otherwise valid marriages of same-sex couples, Windsor had to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes.

“Yet again, a federal court has found that it is completely unfair to treat married same-sex couples as though they’re legal strangers,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU LGBT Project. “Edie and Thea were there for each other in sickness and in health like any other married couple, and it’s unfair for the government to disregard both their marriage and the life they built together and treat them like second-class citizens.”

Windsor, a senior computer systems programmer, and Spyer, a clinical psychologist, met in the early 1960s, and lived together for more than four decades in Greenwich Village. Despite not being able to get legally married, they were engaged to each other in 1967. Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and Windsor helped her through her long battle with the disease. They were finally legally married in May 2007.

“We are pleased that the federal circuit that represents three states that provide their gay and lesbian citizens with the right to marry affirmed the decision of the district court,” said Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, counsel to Ms. Windsor. “Given her age and health, we are eager for Ms. Windsor to get a refund of the unconstitutional tax she was forced to pay as soon as possible.”

Windsor has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case. The court has not yet decided whether to hear her case, or any of several other challenges to DOMA.

“Edie and Thea’s home state of New York has long respected the marriages of same-sex couples and explicitly supports the freedom to marry,” said Mariko Hirose, staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It is only right that the federal government respect the state’s decision and treat all married couples fairly.”

For a copy of the decision, go to:
www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/windsor-v-united-states-united-states-court-app…

More on this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/edie

Background

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all through education, litigation, and policy advocacy.

The struggle for legal equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered and queer people rests on several fundamental constitutional principles. Equal protection of the law is guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Freedom of speech and association, including the right to form social and political organizations, to socialize, to produce works of art with gay and lesbian themes, and to speak out, is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

 

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San Diego ACLU Statement on Potential SDGE Gag Order https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-statement-a-potential-sdge-gag-order/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/san-diego-aclu-statement-a-potential-sdge-gag-order/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2012 21:49:22 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9180 We understand lawyers for San Diego Gas & Electric Company believe that recent publicity may impact the upcoming trial concerning alleged discrimination by SDG&E, which is set for October 19 in San Diego Superior Court. According to the lawyers, “SDG&E is prepared to take all actions necessary to protect its right to a fair trial.” That statement suggests SDG&E might seek a gag order prohibiting trial participants from talking to the press and public about the case.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties would have serious concerns about any potential gag order. Though the right to a fair trial for all parties in a civil case is fundamental, so is the right to freedom of speech. As the courts have made clear, gag orders are unconstitutional unless (1) the speech to be silenced imminently threatens the right to a fair trial, and (2) the court has no other alternatives for ensuring a fair trial.

In this case as in many others, other alternatives may ensure a fair trial, short of taking the extreme step of imposing a gag order. For example, the court and lawyers may question potential jurors about their exposure to pretrial publicity and its impact, if any, on their opinions. Potential jurors with bias may then be excused. Courts also routinely instruct potential jurors not to read the media or surf the internet about the case. Finally, in extreme cases, courts may consider change of venue motions. Such alternatives have ensured fair trials in cases far more inflammatory than this one.

Finally, SDG&E was given full opportunity to comment on the allegations against it. SDG&E advocated its position in the media, once again showing that the best response to speech is more speech, not censorship of speech.

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ACLU Victory: No More Shackles on Pregnant Prisoners https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-victory-no-more-shackles-on-pregnant-prisoners/ https://www.aclusandiego.org/aclu-victory-no-more-shackles-on-pregnant-prisoners/#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2012 00:38:11 +0000 https://www.aclusandiego.org/?p=9155 After years of work from the ACLU of California and our allies, dangerous shackles and restraints can no longer be used on pregnant women in our state’s prisons and jails. Last Friday, Governor Brown signed AB 2530, authored by San Diego Assemblymember Toni Atkins, after it passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support.

In 2005 California became one of the