Things That Matter

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

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!”

The Supreme Court Issued A Landmark Decision Confirming That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Is Native American Land

Things That Matter

The Supreme Court Issued A Landmark Decision Confirming That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Is Native American Land

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Getty Images

The 2020 Supreme Court season will be one for the record books, as the court handed down several major decisions that impacted the lives of millions of Americans.

From outlawing discrimination in the workplace against LGBTQ people to allowing religious employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives, it’s been a very consequential Supreme Court season. Now, the court has handed down one of the most important decisions affecting Native American tribes in generations.

The Supreme Court says that the eastern half of Oklahoma is Native American land.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a major ruling that declared a huge swath of Oklahoma as Native American land for certain legal purposes. The ruling affects about half the state and will have major consequences for both past and future criminal and civil cases.

The court’s decision hinged on the question of whether the Creek reservation continued to exist after Oklahoma became a state.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of fed­eral criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

The decision was 5-4, with Justices Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in the majority, while Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented

The decision means that only federal authorities, no longer state prosecutors, can lodge charges against Native Americans who commit serious alleged crimes on that land, which is home to 1.8 million people. Of those people, 15% or fewer are Native Americans.

Ruling that these lands are in fact reservations doesn’t mean the tribe owns all the land within the reservation, just like the county doesn’t own all the land within the county. In fact, it probably doesn’t own very much of that land, according to several legal experts.

The ruling will have significant legal implications for eastern Oklahoma.

Credit: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

There will be several implications based on the Supreme Court’s decision. First of all, certain major crimes committed within the boundaries of reservations must be prosecuted in federal courts rather than by state courts, if a Native American tribe member is involved.

For example, if a Native American is accused of a major crime in downtown Tulsa, the federal government rather than the state government will prosecute it. Less serious crimes involving Native Americans on American Indian land will be handled in tribal courts. This arrangement is already common in Western states like Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.

The ruling will also affect past decisions – many of which are now considered wrongful conditions because the state lacked jurisdiction. A number of criminal defendants who have been convicted in the past will now have grounds to challenge their convictions, arguing that the state never had jurisdiction to try them.

The decision is a major win for Native Americans, but so much more work needs to be done.

“The Supreme Court today kept the United States’ sacred promise to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of a protected reservation,” the tribe said in a statement. “Today’s decision will allow the Nation to honor our ancestors by maintaining our established sovereignty and territorial boundaries.”

The same day that the court issued its landmark Oklahoma decision, a federal judge also ordered that oil must stop flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois. The deadline is August 5.

Of course, these are major legal victories. But taken together, they only highlight the ongoing legal issues and discrimination that Native American tribes face. To realize a complete vision of Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice takes people power — the kind that energized the 2016 Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline but that in fact goes back much further.

In 2007, the International Indian Treaty Council, alongside other international Indigenous organizations, helped draft the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although imperfect — declarations are, after all, aspirational and nonbinding — the declaration provides a universal mechanism for free, prior and informed consent with Indigenous nations over the decision-making process of development projects.

A major win for Native American tribes in the United States would hinge on Indigenous authority over lands that they control and landscapes that they have historic and cultural ties to.

The Supreme Court Ruled In Favor Of Allowing States To Punish Electoral College

Entertainment

The Supreme Court Ruled In Favor Of Allowing States To Punish Electoral College

Stefani Reynolds / Getty

News straight from the Supreme Court might just mean a more fair election this 2020. According to reports, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing states to reprimand members of the Electoral College should they break a pledge to vote for their state’s popular vote winner for presidential elections. The decision comes heavily on the heels of the looming election season.

The decision was sparked after 10 of the 538 presidential electors made their own decisions in 2016 and voted for candidates other than the one they’d pledged to vote for.

Up until Monday, only 32 out of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia had laws that discouraged “faithless electors.” At that time, none of the states had ever actually reprimanded or removed an elector based on their vote. The Supreme Court decision came with a 9-0 count.

“Today, we consider whether a State may also penalize an elector for breaking his pledge and voting for someone other than the presidential candidate who won his State’s popular vote. We hold that a State may do so,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote.”The Constitution’s text and the Nation’s history both support allowing a State to enforce an elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee — and the state voters’ choice — for President.”

In 2016, three presidential electors in Washington state voted for Colin Powell over the popular votes push for Hillary Clinton. Another voted for anti-Keystone XL pipeline activist Faith Spotted Eagle. At the time, Washington’s Supreme Court upheld a $1,000 fine.

In Colorado, during the 2016 election, Micheal Baca attempted to vote for John Kasich instead of Clinton but his vote was rejected. He was removed and replaced and referred for a potential perjury prosecution. No charges were filed, however. According to CNN, Baca “filed suit, and ultimately won when the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals held that while the state does have the power to appoint electors, that does not extend to the power to remove them.”

Oddly, Frodo Baggins, the beloved hobit from the Lord of The Rings trilogy became a part of the court’s historical record during oral arguments.

According to reports, Justice Clarence Thomas used Baggins as an example “The elector who had promised to vote for the winning candidate could suddenly say, ‘You know, I’m going to vote for Frodo Baggins. I really like Frodo Baggins.’ And you’re saying, under your system, you can’t do anything about that,” Thomas asked.

During the case, Justice Kagan went through the history of the Electoral College and spoke about the presidential election of 1796. The election was the first contested presidential election in the United States and saw John Adams come in first and Thomas Jefferson second. “That meant the leaders of the era’s two warring political parties—the Federalists and the Republicans—became President and Vice President respectively. (one might think of this as fodder of the new season of Veep),” Kagan wrote.

Kagan also referenced Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical “Hamilton” nothing that “Alexander Hamilton secured his place on the Broadway stage—but possibly in the cemetery too—by lobbying Federalists in the House to tip the election to Jefferson, whom he loathed but viewed as less of an existential threat to the republic,” she wrote. Justice Thomas agreed with Kagan writing “nothing in the Constitution prevents States from requiring Presidential electors to vote for the candidate chosen by the people.”

Here’s hoping this new change in the Supreme Court ruling ensures a better election outcome.