Headlines: June 18, 2020
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The Supreme Court in a highly anticipated ruling, voted against the Trump Administration’s cancelation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The 5-4 ruling had a typical liberal to conservative split with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the deciding vote in joining with the 4 liberal justices. The ruling impacts the fate of about 650,000 undocumented immigrants who obtained a deferment of deportation after meeting stringent criteria, and who have been able to work in the US legally. A small group of immigrant rights activists celebrated outside the high court in Washington DC upon hearing the news of the ruling. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his joy over the ruling as well. While immigrant rights activists hailed the Supreme Court decision, the details of the ruling suggest the program remains vulnerable. In writing the majority opinion Justice Roberts said, “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies…We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.” In other words, Justices voted against the manner, not the merit, of the federal government’s cancelation of DACA. Still, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s written opinion made clear that Roberts was wrong to discount President Trump’s racist rhetoric on immigrants. According to Sotomayor, “I would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable mere months earlier.”
In other news, 1.5 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week according to the latest Labor Department data. While the number is lower than earlier weeks, it is still far higher than expected, 13 weeks into a pandemic that pushed millions out of work. The Wall Street Journal reports that in spite of government assistance, Americans had trouble paying down debts and that since March of this year people missed debt payments on more than 100 million loans, mostly student loans but also auto and personal loans. As Congress debates a new $120 billion relief package aimed specifically at restaurant owners, a University of California analysis found that black-owned businesses were the hardest hit during the pandemic. During the lockdowns in April more than 40% of black business owners reported being out of work compared to 17% of white business owners, even as whites are a far greater percentage of the population than blacks. And another study from Boston University has found that when employers are prohibited from asking the salary history of prospective employees, African Americans and women benefit the most and end up with salary offers that are 13% and 8% higher than if they are required to reveal previous salary levels.
As coronavirus cases continue to surge in several US states, some are now considering reversing their positions on mask wearing. In Texas, which has seen a huge spike in cases, several cities including the capital Austin, have moved to requiring the wearing of masks in some businesses and Gov. Greg Abbott has not stepped in to stop city mayors. Similarly in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey now says he will not stop city mayors from imposing mask requirements. Meanwhile a Republican sheriff in Arizona who had refused to enforce social distancing rules claiming they were “unconstitutional,” has now tested positive for Covid-19. Sheriff Mark Lamb was scheduled to meet with President Trump but when he took a mandatory Covid test ahead of the meeting, he found he was infected. Bizarrely Trump, who was saved from exposure to the virus because the Sheriff was tested, on Thursday defiantly claimed in an interview that, “testing is overrated,” because, “it makes us look bad.” Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is now considering imposing a state-wide mask order. And the FAA has said it will not make mask wearing mandatory on airplanes, leaving it up to individual airlines to decide on safety standards.
In the latest on racism and hate crimes around the nation, Los Angeles sheriffs deputies on Wednesday killed a black man named Terron Jammal Boone in the northern LA County town of Rosamond. Boone was coincidentally the half-brother of Robert Fuller Jr., the young black man whose body was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale and whose death is now being investigated. And yet another young black man – a teenager – was found dead by hanging in the parking lot of a school in Harris County, Texas, near Houston. His death too is being investigated. The police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Georgia was charged with felony murder this week as lawyers for Brooks’ family revealed a video of Officer Garrett Rolfe kicking Brooks’ body after he shot him and refusing to administer medical attention for more than 2 minutes. Showing their loyalty to Rolfe a significant number of Atlanta police officers refused to show up for work during the shift after he was charged. President Trump also showed his loyalty to police saying they have “not been treated fairly,” and implying that Brooks deserved to die because, “you can’t resist a police officer.”
The House Judiciary Committee this week approved the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a bill introduced by Democrats to address police brutality. During the Judiciary Committee hearing Representative Cedric Richmond ripped into his white male colleagues on the panel. Meanwhile in the Senate where Republicans have introduced weak reformist legislation, Senator Bernie Sanders slammed the GOP bill as “superficial,” and “bureaucratic,” adding, “Now is not the time for more studies. Now is the time to hold racist and corrupt police officers and police departments accountable for their actions.”
In other news, Facebook has finally decided to curtail President Trump’s inflammatory campaign rhetoric – but it took Nazi references to do so. In multiple Facebook ads, the Trump reelection campaign railed against “antifa” and “far-left mobs,” using an upside-down red triangle – the same symbol that the Nazi regime used to designate political prisoners in its concentration camps. A Facebook spokesperson said, “We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate.” However only recently Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg insisted that Trump’s hateful ads were acceptable to him.