Big win for activists and environmental groups: racketeering lawsuit dismissed
Last week, a federal judge dismissed a sprawling racketeering lawsuit filed against Krystal Two Bulls, an Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne organizer, Greenpeace, and others, by Energy Transfer— the corporation behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The dismissal was unusually swift, coming just three days after the final defendant’s motion to dismiss was briefed.
“Loss. Defeat. Dismissal. This is what happens when greedy corporations go after Indigenous women grounded in the power of Prayer, the power of relationship building, and the power of collective organizing,” said Krystal Two Bulls after learning of her victory. “Not only was my right to free speech upheld by this decision, but also my rights as an Indigenous woman to steward this land. Now, more than ever, we ALL need our Rights to share our voices uplifted, supported and protected.”
American Muslims put on the No-Fly List can sue FBI for damages
Back in 2014, together with the CLEAR project, we filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan that cast unprecedented light on the FBI’s abuse of the No-Fly List to coerce law-abiding American Muslims into working as informants in their religious communities, spying on their friends and neighbors. Four American Muslim men with no criminal records were approached by the FBI in an effort to recruit them as informants, and some of them found themselves on the No-Fly List after refusing to spy for the FBI. Last Thursday, a federal appeals court stated that they can sue FBI agents for damages under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in response to a Supreme Court decision that made it harder to win exemptions from general laws to accommodate religious beliefs. But it's clear that Congress had more in mind when it passed RFRA than just restoring the status quo on accommodations; the statute itself says it was also intended to "provide a claim" to people whose religious exercise was burdened by government. And the model for the statute was the federal civil rights act that protected freedmen's rights against former slave-state governments, which allows damages. Every appellate court that has addressed the issue of whether RFRA permits damages has said it does, but the Trump Justice Department hoped to get at least one of the conservative judges on the Second Circuit to flag the issue as worthy of Supreme Court review despite that unanimity. In that they have succeeded, so we can expect to see the government ask the Supreme Court to overturn the circuits that have ruled that people like our clients can seek accountability for the FBI's attempts to force them to violate their religion.
Judge order stops ICE's force-feeding of detainees
In response to an evidentiary hearing called by a federal judge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have stopped force-feeding detained hunger strikers at the El Paso Processing Center. Louis Lopez, the attorney appointed by the court to protect the interests of two of the men, relied on the research and expertise provided by the Center for Constitutional Rights in advocating for his clients. The federal court has now terminated the force-feeding order.
Asylum seekers in ICE detention had engaged in a weeks-long hunger strike to protest their deplorable conditions and abuse and cruel, needless detention while they await hearings on their claims. In response to this act of conscience, ICE officials had strapped the hunger strikers down and driven plastic tubes from their noses into their stomachs to forcibly ingest them with liquid food, an extremely painful procedure that international human rights authorities characterize as torture.
Like family separation, force-feeding of at least nine detained Punjabi men in the El Paso Processing Center represents yet another escalation of the brutality against immigrants seeking refuge in the United States. As CCR has witnessed in Guantánamo, force-feeding is cruel and inhuman and inflicts extreme suffering. The torture of asylum seekers in immigration detention is one front in the Trump administration's war on immigrants and Black and Brown people, and cannot be justified under domestic or international law.
Trump's border wall "emergency" is fake
Trump’s power grab to build his pet wall violates the separation of powers, but, more to the point, there is no emergency. Attempted border crossings are at 40-year lows; the exclusion of migrants at the southern border is not because of any emergency, it is because of racism.
The real emergency is a petulant president invoking easily-abused powers intended for use during events like natural disasters and civil wars because he could not get his way legislatively. Like the internment of Japanese-Americans and Bush-era warrantless wiretapping—also undertaken pursuant to emergency executive power—history will condemn Donald Trump for abusing his power. This will, as emergency powers always have, devastate already vulnerable communities.
And neither the president's forces nor the president's pen will help to restore our values again.
We support Representative Ilhan Omar's fight for justice and commitment to people-centered politics
Since 1966, we have worked together with communities under threat to fight for justice and transform oppressive systems of power. Very often, movement leaders from these vulnerable communities are specifically targeted and maligned for daring to expose injustice, speak truth to power, and demand accountability for institutional harm. The attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim women serving in the U.S. Congress, are but the latest, often racist, efforts by state and corporate power to silence bold progressive voices and redirect public attention away from their own unjust policies and practices.
The current backlash facing Representative Omar – like that faced by many Black leaders, artists, and public intellectuals before her – is a direct response to her political coherence. Representative Omar has refused to make exceptions for the protection of human rights or the pursuit of justice. Her clear support for Palestinian human rights is directly aligned with her advocacy for the human rights of refugees, immigrants, and other marginalized communities. Similarly, her condemnation of the undue influence of the lobbying group AIPAC reflects the popular demand to keep all big-money out of politics.