A year and a half ago, people were appalled to know that the guests staying at Motel 6 in Arizona had their information compromised. It wasn’t hackers looking to score credit card information, but immigration officials aiming to track down undocumented immigrants.
When people realized that employees of Motel 6 gave away private information about hotel guests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a boycott ensued. Furthermore — because that tactic is extremely illegal — immigration advocates sued on behalf of thousands of people.
A year later Motel 6 faced two class action lawsuits, one in Washington and another in Arizona. Both cases have closed in huge settlements.
Motel 6 settled their cases out of court and agreed to pay $20 million to all guests with “Latin-sounding names.”
The guests in Arizona got a whopping $7 million settlement, while in Washington, Motel 6 guests there will get $12 million. Guests with Latino-sounding names faced undue stress from having to answer ICE agents knocking on their room doors unexpectedly. However, there is one problem facing attorneys and those in the class action lawsuits.
Attorneys don’t know how to find the guests impacted by the lawsuits.
Some people stayed at Motel 6 under fake names, others perhaps are not in the country anymore, so lawyers have one year to find patrons of the motel or else all of that money goes to waste.
Each guest — roughly 80,000 people — have to either come forward to get their money or else they will just lose it. However, it’s only natural that people are afraid to come forward because of their immigration status.
“The concern here is that this could be a victory in name only,” Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic told Bloomberg News. “It does create a situation here where the party is penalized, but how will it amount to restitution to compensate these victims if their clients have been deported, and any records of deportation are held by ICE?”
There’s no denying Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a passionate person. Some may have the false presumption that the Puerto Rican, Bronx-born judge would be biased toward liberal-leaning causes. However, one of the main reasons she stands in the most elite courtroom in the country is because former President George W. Bush nominated her as a judge on the United States District Court in 1991.
She moved up the ranks with each administration, and in 2009 was nominated for Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama. As the first person of Latino descent to serve on the Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor has brought a new perspective to the court. In this new term, Justice Sotomayor hit the ground running, even if she stepped in too soon. Turns out there is a new guideline for questions that the justice is still getting used to.
Lawyers who are arguing cases before Supreme Court judges were given a new guideline: they could argue cases without any interruptions for at least two minutes. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, however, forgot, apparently.
The high profile case that was being argued last week concerned a man named Ramos Garcia, an undocumented immigrant, who was convicted in Kansas for using a fraudulent social security number in order to obtain a job at a restaurant. The matter in question is whether the law that was broken was a federal crime or a state crime.
Garcia’s lawyer argued that he could not be convicted by the state of Kansas because all crimes committed by undocumented immigrants fall under federal law, not individual states. Officials in Kansas said they wanted to charge Garcia for stealing a social security ID number with their state identity theft law. A local court ruled in Garcia’s favor, so the state appealed the matter, which is why the matter is now in the Supreme Court.
Justice Sotomayor interrupted a prosecutor during his argument to ask a question about when a state has the jurisdiction to prosecute an undocumented immigrant, breaking the new two-minute room.
According to Fox News, the prosecutor posed the argument “whether states can prosecute immigrants using information obtained on employee verification forms.”
Justice Sotomayor jumped in and asked, “Even if they were applying to a college?” Chief Justice John Roberts interrupted the exchange by saying, “I’m sorry. You can answer that question after your time has …” Then Justice Sotomayor apologized, according to Fox News.
She apparently interrupted prosecutors for a second time, but some experts are blaming this mishap on the newness of the rule and the fact that the justices have to adapt to the change.
The new 2-minute rule was introduced in order to give lawyers a chance to make their first arguments before answering questions posed by the justices. According to NBC News, Justice Sotomayor is known to ask a lot of questions.
Here’s how the new 2-minute rule works, as NBC News reports: “The Court generally will not question lead counsel for petitioners (or appellants) and respondents (or appellees) during the first two minutes of argument. The white light on the lectern will illuminate briefly at the end of this period to signal the start of questioning. Where argument is divided and counsel represents an amicus or an additional party, the white light will illuminate after one minute.”
While the light is used to help the justices know when they can speak, Justice Sotomayor was eager to ask a question, which doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
A public interest litigator tweeted, “Seeing a lot of media reports that Justice Sotomayor ‘violated a rule’ in oral arguments today. But there is no ‘Rule.’ The Guide for Counsel explicitly states it is not a source of Rules and says ‘The Court *generally* will not question…during the first two minutes.’ ‘Generally.'” That means, she’s not really breaking a rule, but going against a new guideline. So why is there all of this fuss about this interruption? She’s only getting accustomed to this new guideline. She’s not trying to be a troublemaker. All of this is to note that Justice Sotomayor is just doing her job.
Fox News noted that perhaps Justice Sotomayor should take pointers from her colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas who, in 2016, asked his first question in ten years.
Maria Blancas grew up the child of farmworkers and saw the impacts of their work in real-time. She even worked on farms when she was in high school picking apples and onion seeds. It wasn’t until she got to college that she realized how little people truly understood about her community and their lives. So, she dedicated her studies to the lives and conditions of farmworkers and it paid off.
Maria Blancas is a Ph.D student at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.
Blancas grew up with migrant farmworker parents from Mexico. She helped on the farms and watched as the other farmworkers dealt with the physical nature of the job. However, in her undergraduate years, according to The Seattle Times, Blancas realized people had oversimplified the lives and struggles of the people she was working with.
Blancas has dedicated her education to improve the lives of her family and all others working in the fields.
According to The Seattle Times, Blancas wants to change the narrative around what is happening to the farmworkers’ community. Her aim is to create a fuller and more in-depth picture of the lives and “issues” within the community as the work in the fields.
Her work so far won her a $100,000 prize from the Bullitt Foundation to focus on furthering her work.
The Bullitt Foundation aims to “safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the website.
In that effort, the foundation is giving Blancas a significant grant to allow her to focus on her work.
“When people ask me why I do the work that I do,” Blancas told The Seattle Times. “I always think about my family: mi familia.”
The Bullitt Prize is different than most awards and prizes.
Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes told The Seattle Times that the prize a “reverse Nobel Peace Prize” in that it doesn’t reward people on their overall work. Instead, the foundation looks for people with potential and awards them at the early stages of their careers based on where their work could go.
Blancas has already done work within her community by surveying the community during her time working at the local community college.
The Seattle Times reports that Blancas noticed that some people would go to her community and conduct studies of the workers. However, the groups would leave and never share the results. So, Blancas teamed up with other researchers and did a survey of 350 farmworkers from Whatcom and Skagit to see what was happening, who they were, and what they needed.
The team discovered that “40 percent of the workers identified as indigenous peoples, mostly from Mexico, and about a quarter couldn’t read Spanish. Its findings, in keeping with academic conventions, quantified problems: 40 percent said they didn’t always have regular breaks, 20 percent lacked consistent access to water, and 60 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year.”
Blancas is planning a dissertation that will incorporate video of farmworker testimonials.
Blancas will be hosting a workshop to teach farmworkers how to create the videos for the dissertation.