Things That Matter

Jeff Flake Called For An FBI Investigation Into Kavanaugh After Two Latinas Confronted Him With Their Stories

Since Dr. Ford came forward about her experience of sexual assault, women all over the country have been forced to vicariously relive their own experiences of sexual violence. In solidarity with the bravery of Dr. Ford, and second accuser Deborah Ramirez, the collective consciousness of women survivors have reared its head, and many women are sharing their stories.

I have my own story. Two Latina survivors went viral recently after cornering Arizona Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator and demanding his attention. They had never told their story before and their raw emotion in the video got the attention of millions of Americans and Sen. Flake. Here’s how things went down.

Jeff Flake mattered because he was undecided until moments before the Senate hearing vote.

CREDIT: @jfoosg / Twitter

Flake had already announced that he was retiring because he felt bipartisanship in the Senate was lacking and disrupting the ability to get any work done. He isn’t vying for Republican votes, therefore, he’s a bit of a wild card.

He was also the only Republican Senator on the Judiciary committee, which determines whether or not a nominee advances to the full Senate for a vote, who was undecided.

Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher met just minutes before their now infamous elevator encounter with Sen. Flake.

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadAct / Twitter

Archila had been showing up to protest Kavanaugh every day since the allegations came out. Gallagher is a 23 year old recent Northeastern University graduate who impulsively showed up to his office. The two had a common goal and quickly met it together.

Moments before the hearing, Sen. Flake published a statement that he would vote yes on Kavanaugh.

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadNY / Twitter

In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Archila said, “I had gone to his office because I thought that he might be willing to take a step beyond his party.” In a sense, he was the only shot anyone had of ensuring due process would be had to investigate Dr. Ford and other accuser’s claims before a Senate vote.

Just after the two read his statement, they heard him coming down the elevator and were filled with rage.

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadAct / Twitter

In one momentous emotional impulse, Archila told the world what came over her: “All of the emotions we had been holding for the last several weeks just came out pouring. He needed to understand that women feel incredibly enraged about the thought of our stories of surviving sexual violence being dismissed, laughed at, disbelieved. I felt a great sense of urgency.”

Gallagher spoke through tears for the very first time of her sexual assault.

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadAct / Twitter

Reportedly, Gallagher’s own parents found out for the first time after the video went viral. She has not gone public about her experience, and has been respectfully private since the incident.

Sen. Flake kept averting his eyes from the women demanding answers and justice.

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadAct / Twitter

But Gallagher wouldn’t have it. “Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.”

Preach.

Archila said, “He kept pressing the button in the elevator to try to close the door.”

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadAct / Twitter

All Flake could do was respond with “sorry” and “thank you.” Unlike Ted Cruz, it seemed that Flake would receive these women’s experience. We’ve all known that Flake has struggled with his decision more than any other male Republican on the council, and perhaps what we saw was remorse for his decision.

“Do you think that he’s able to hold the pain of this country and repair it?”

CREDIT: @MaketheRoadAct / Twitter

She continued, “Do you think that he’s able to hold the pain of this country and repair it? That is the work of justice. The way that justice works is you recognize hurt, you take responsibility for it and then you begin to repair it.”

The two have since been hailed as heroes after Sen. Flake announced that he would vote yes on the condition of a one week FBI investigation, halting the proceedings.

CREDIT: @AnaMariaArchil2 / Twitter

Flake himself has said that his experience in the elevator truly made him believe that these hearings were “ripping our country apart.” From the elevator, he walked straight into the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting and spoke with his friend, Senator Coons about his moral dilemma.

Behind closed doors, Coons then gathered more Democratic senators to join them, and soon enough, it became a private meeting of the entire committee seeking to sway Sen. Flake.

Folks have responded with unending support for la Marias that demand justice.

CREDIT: @eltarantula10 / Twitter

The last time a Supreme Court nominee was accused of sexual harassment, the Senate essentially ignored Anita Hill’s experience of inappropriate behavior from Clarence Thomas, who still sits on the Supreme Court today.

Flake has given women hope that we will be heard. Men can no longer get away with subverting women’s dignity for their own pleasure, without consequence.

Maria Gallagher has given the world one message since: take care of yourself.

CREDIT: @mgallagher822 / Twitter

Before Sen. Flake even shared his vote, she tweeted “I feel relieved that @JeffFlake seems to have heard my and @AnaMariaArchil2’s voices in the Senate elevator today. We absolutely need an FBI investigation and for him and all Senators to vote NO. #StopKavanaugh”

Thank you, Maria. Thank you for your courage.

Ann Coulter, on the other hand, did what she does and tried dismissing the moment.

CREDIT: @AnnCoulter / Twitter

It should be more upsetting to hear someone say things like this about immigrants. However, Coulter has built her career by hating immigrants and spreading lies to defame an entire community.

Archila legally emigrated from Colombia when she was 17 years old.

CREDIT: @NYDailyNews / Twitter

Today, she serves as the Co-Executive Director of non-profit Center for Popular Democracy, where she pushes for racial and economic justice alongside immigrant rights. For the last 13 years, Archila helped transform the once “Latin American Integration Center” into the “Make the Road New York” available to all low-income immigrants that come to the U.S.

She is a hugely successful activist and lobbyist for labor laws and immigrant rights.

CREDIT: @AnaMariaArchil2 / Twitter

In her bio for Popular Democracy, we know that Archila has helped “put millions of dollars in the pockets of low-wage workers by winning increases to the minimum wage, paid sick days, and strong protections from wage-theft; and they have led the ambitious campaigns to win public policies that make New York City one of the leading Sanctuary Cities in the country.”

Archila stands and fights for Puerto Rico.

CREDIT: @AnaMariaArchil2 / Twitter

She is intimately plugged into the conflicts that continue to arise in Puerto Rico, from the recent incident of police pepper spraying peaceful activists, and the continued lapses in aide after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Archila experienced sexual violence when she was just 5 years old.

CREDIT: @AnaMariaArchil2 / Twitter

It doesn’t matter how long ago it happened, once a woman has been assaulted, it stays in her consciousness forever. There’s truly no going back. You heal, but you never recover.

She had to tell her story, because our stories matter. Thankfully, they mattered to Flake. The New Yorker reported that after leaving the elevator, Flake “looked more withdrawn than ever, eyes wet, voice a little frayed, chin tucked down in the somber knot of his tie.”

Since then, Archila has been outspoken demanding a woman’s basic right to be heard.

CREDIT: @AC360 / Twitter

“I was so enraged that all these men in the Senate Judiciary Committee basically forced a woman to tell the story of the most traumatizing experience of her life and then proceeded to say, ‘Well thats fine we still like our guy.’ I just could not believe that was happening and really I wanted Senator Flake to look me in the eye and feel my pain and rage, and really it was the pain and rage of women across the country who could not believe this was still happening today.”

She wants you to help.

CREDIT: @senatorcollins @lisamurkowski / Twitter

If you have money: Donate alongside hundreds of others who have raised over $27k to the Center for Popular Democracy to help fund other survivors’ to tell their stories (i.e. transportation costs, etc.).

If you would rather share a story: “People across this country should take the opportunity to continue to share their stories, especially with @SenatorCollins and @LisaMurkowski: they must listen to our voices, look us in the eye, and #BeAHero.”

No matter what, remember how your Senators voted and vote this November.

CREDIT: @womensmarch / Twitter

In an interview with The New York Times, Archila shared her favorite literary sentence, “We cannot understand slavery or any great injustice by thinking about the masses. We have to think about it in the experience of one person.” She went on to ask, “What was this enslaved woman thinking when she woke up in the morning. Who did she miss that morning? Who did she talk to when she felt sad? How did she feel when her child was stolen from her? We have to think about…and especially the people who are creating laws in our country… have to think about the impact of their decisions by thinking about one person. How is that one person going to be shaped by me?”

Your vote matters. Make it count.


READ: Here’s How People Are Coming Together To Support Brett Kavanaugh’s Accusers After They Came Forward

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Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

Things That Matter

Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

customsborder / Instagram

On July 10, former senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora, 51, was arrested in Tuscon for sexually assaulting a junior agent. Zamora’s wife is Gloria Chavez, one of the agency’s highest-ranked female officers. Three weeks after he was indicted by a Pima County grand jury, the agency took the only action it has thus far: it allowed him to retire from the agency three weeks after being arrested. Customs and Border Protection defended its actions by telling The New York Times, it “holds its employees accountable and expects the entire workforce to adhere to the agency’s standards of conduct.” Zamora attended a pretrial hearing at the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson. He pleaded not guilty.

The victim, identified as R.W. in court documents, told police that she looked up to Zamora as a mentor, given their ten-year age difference and his seniority. Over the years, R.W. had ignored some of his advances, asserting her desire to remain friends. The night of the assault, they met up for dinner and Zamora bought her so many tequila shots, video surveillance shows her falling to her knees as Zamora brought her back to his hotel room where he would later sexually assault her.

Before their dinner, Zamora texted her to ask if she “dressed up” for him, according to The New York Times.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, Zamora bought them five rounds of tequila shots, and at one point, she moved away from him after he placed his hand on her left thigh. The Daily Mail reports that Zamora told investigators that he offered R.W. a ride home, to which she declined, saying she didn’t want to be alone. Zamora alleges that she initiated the sex. However, hotel surveillance footage shows Zamora holding R.W. up. At one point, she fell to her knees, according to police documents obtained by The New York Times. 

Those police documents detail how R.W. said she blacked out, only waking up a few times to find herself on the bed. She told police she didn’t feel like she had the capacity to give consent. The rape kit results have not been made public. 

A few days later, R.W. reported the crime to the police, who then recorded her follow-up call to Zamora.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, the detective on the case recorded a phone call during which R.W. informed Zamora that the sex was non-consensual. The detective wrote, “he told her to not go there and that it wasn’t like that,” that sex “was never on his mind. They had too many shots,” The New York Times reports. Effectively, Zamora tried to call him out and he just deflected the blame onto both of them. 

When Zamora was eventually called in for an interview, a detective told Zamora that R.W. was in no state to offer consent, to which he “said that he knows, but he wasn’t in a state to consent either,” according to The New York Times

Women make up 5 percent of Border Patrol agents.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The female agents who do make up the force have voiced their outrage at the agency’s inaction around sexual assault accusations. “There’s not a single woman in the Border Patrol who has either not been sexually assaulted, outright raped or at the very least sexually harassed,” former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd told The New York Times. Budd’s since become an immigrant rights activist, and urges women to reconsider joining the Border Patrol.

Two days before Zamora allegedly assaulted R.W., Tucson police arrested Border Patrol agent Steven Charles Holmes, 33, for sexually assaulting three women over seven years. 

The agency is already under immense criticism for its high rate of arrest charges brought against Border Patrol agents when compared to other law enforcement agencies.

Credit: @CBP / Twitter

In July 2019, Quartz reported that Border Patrol agents are arrested approximately five times as often as other law enforcement groups. With a budget of over $15 billion and over 60,000 employees, it’s the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. Many critics say the agency is not held to account for its unconstitutional means of coercing migrants to sign removal forms written in English, a language they often cannot understand. 

A Customs Border Patrol spokesperson told El Paso Times that its Office of Professional Responsibility “will review all the facts uncovered to ensure all allegations of misconduct … are thoroughly investigated for appropriate action by the agency.”

READ: US Border Patrol Sent This Man And His Child Back To Mexico And Hours Later They Were Thrown Into Trucks And Abducted

Hundreds Of Universities, Cities, And Businesses File Amicus Briefs Urging The Supreme Court To Defend DACA

Things That Matter

Hundreds Of Universities, Cities, And Businesses File Amicus Briefs Urging The Supreme Court To Defend DACA

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This week the Supreme Court went back into session, kicking off what’s expected to be one of the most divisive and controversial terms in recent history. Everything from LGBTQ and abortion rights, to yes, DACA, is on the docket, and America will get to see the impact of the addition of Trump-appointee Brett Kavanaugh.

Although judges are expected to be politically impartial, Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearing after being accused of sexual assault, left him charging Democrats with unfairly going after his character.

Now, some experts are bracing for a possible “conservative revolution,” after the court overturned two precedents (a highly unusual move) last term, and President Donald Trump has successfully appointed 150 judges to lifetime seats on the bench (whoever told said your vote didn’t matter, lied.)

In its newly started session, the Supreme Court isn’t shying away from hot topic issues – including a decision that will decide the outcome of DACA once and for all.

President Donald Trump’s signature issue is immigration, and in November the court will consider his administration’s decision to phase out DACA, an Obama-era initiative that protects nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. The eventual ruling will have a major impact on way or another in the presidential race.

At issue before the justices is not the legality of the program, but how the administration decided to phase it out.

Plaintiffs, including the University of California, a handful of states and DACA recipients argue that the phase out violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that governs how agencies can establish regulations. Lower courts agreed and issued nationwide injunctions that allowed renewals in the program to continue. The Trump administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, and at the time, the President predicted success: “We want to be in the Supreme Court on DACA,” he said.

Groups of all kinds are filing so-called Amicus briefs to the Suprme Court urging them to protect DACA.

More than 100 different cities from across the country, dozens of major colleges and universities, and some of the country’s largest companies all joined together to defend DACA.

The brief filed by some 165 educational institutions said: “These extraordinary young people should be cherished and celebrated, so that they can achieve their dreams and contribute to the fullest for our country. Banishing them once more to immigration limbo — a predicament they had no part in creating — is not merely cruel, but irrational.”

Even the Mexican government filed a brief with the court.

Mexico has had little legal recourse in it’s fight against Trump’s cruel and (as many consider) illegal policies targeting the migrant community. And a large part of the migrant community (including those attacked at the El Paso Massacre) are Mexican nationals. So the government has been eager to take a stand.

And with the upcoming legal battle regarding DACA, Mexico has staked its position in support of DREAMers by filing an Amicus brief with the court. The brief points out the commitment to human rights and the principles of dignity that should be afforded to all humans – regardless of their migration status.

Meanwhile, children advocates point out that eliminating the program would also harm more than a quarter million US-born children.

More than three dozen child advocacy organizations say White House officials failed to account for a quarter of a million children born in the U.S. whose parents are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when they repealed it in 2017.

“These children are endangered not only by the actual detention and deportation of their parents, but also the looming fear of deportation,” the groups wrote in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court last week. “The imminent threat of losing DACA protection places children at risk of losing parental nurturance, as well as losing income, food security, housing, access to health care, educational opportunities, and the sense of safety and security that is the foundation of healthy child development.”

Children’s health experts have been sounding the alarm on the impact of toxic stress inflicted on children impacted by the Trump administration’s immigration agenda. Studies have linked toxic stress to developmental issues with children’s brains and bodies and an increase in their risk of disorders ranging from diabetes to depression, heart disease, cancer, addiction and premature death.

DACA was created by an Obama executive order in 2012, and the Trump Administration announced in September 2017 it was officially ending the program.

When the Trump administration officially announced the end of the DACA program in September 2017, there were nearly 800,000 young immigrants around the country who benefited from it.

Three lawsuits challenging the termination of DACA filed in California, the District of Columbia and New York eventually led to courts prohibiting the government from phasing out the immigration program. Those lawsuits argued that ending the DACA program violated the rights of those covered by its benefits and ran counter to a federal law governing administrative agencies, according to SCOTUSblog. The Supreme Court consolidated those three lawsuits and will hear arguments on the DACA case on Nov. 12.

The justices will consider whether the court even has the authority to review the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA and, if so, whether the decision to end DACA is legal.

Predictably, President Trump has urged the court to strike down DACA.

As recently as Wednesday, President Trump said his predecessor had no authority to initiate the DACA program in the first place, and that if the Supreme Court overturns it, as it should, Congress would likely find a legislative solution to allowing DACA recipients to remain in the U.S.

“The Republicans and Democrats will have a DEAL to let them stay in our Country, in very short order,” he tweeted Wednesday. “It would actually benefit DACA, and be done the right way!”