Victory! U.S. appeals court rules against former Bolivian president and defense minister over 2003 massacre
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a trial court judgment that had been entered in favor of Bolivia’s former president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for the massacre of unarmed Indigenous people in 2003. A jury found the former officials liable under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and awarded plaintiffs $10 million in damages in April 2018, after a month-long trial that included six days of deliberations. The trial marked the first time in U.S. history that a former head of state sat before his accusers in a U.S. human rights trial. In an unusual move, a month later the trial court set aside the jury verdict and entered its own judgment holding the defendants not liable based on insufficient evidence.
In November 2019, two of the plaintiffs, whose young daughter had been killed by soldiers in the massacre, traveled to Miami to have their appeal heard. Last week the Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. In addition, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs were entitled to a new trial on related wrongful-death claims because the district court had abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence that was favorable to the defendants. Our co-counsel in the case are the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
“This is such wonderful news,” said Sonia Espejo, whose husband Lucio was killed in the 2003 Massacre. “We have fought for so long. We will continue fighting, but for today, I feel happy. I feel calm.”
Win! Appellate court blocks racist public charge immigration rule
On Tuesday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s October 2019 decision granting a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s domestic public charge immigration rule. That rule, which permits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to label immigrants as future “public charges” on the basis of expected future use of cash or non-cash benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid, was allowed to take effect in February 2020 after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the district court’s order blocking it nationwide. The government’s appeal of the October 2019 decision was in the case Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli, a federal lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Legal Aid Society, and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP to challenge the public charge rule, which would deny millions of immigrants lawful permanent resident status.
“DHS flouted Congress and issued a rule that would deny millions of people the ability to become lawful permanent residents because one day they might use supplemental benefits,” said Ghita Schwarz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The court rightly found the rule to be arbitrary and ignorant of an economic reality in which large numbers of full-time workers use SNAP, housing assistance, and Medicaid to help keep their families healthy and safe.”
Read more about this win on our website.
Thousands of asylum seekers now covered by lawsuit against Trump administration
A federal judge has granted class certification in Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s policy of turning back asylum seekers at ports of entry. The ruling provides that the challenge to the Turnback Policy will continue on behalf of all asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border who were or will be prevented from accessing the asylum process at ports of entry as a result of the government’s Turnback Policy. We are representing Al Otro Lado with the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Immigration Council, and Mayer Brown LLP.
“This ruling is a huge victory in a case that wouldn't have been necessary had the government not set out to punish asylum seekers for following the government’s own rules,” said Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado’s Litigation and Policy Director. “And while [the] ruling is an important win for asylum seekers, it is just one step in the effort to defeat the Trump administration’s war on asylum.”
Continue reading on our website.
Join us at Netroots Nation! Protecting The Vote: A Discussion With Secretaries of State and Vince Warren
Join Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, on August 13 at 2 p.m. at the 2020 Netroots Nation Conference as he moderates a discussion on key voting rights and election issues leading into the 2020 presidential election with the Democratic election officials on the front lines of protecting the vote. Voter suppression, election integrity and security, gerrymandering, and the upcoming census are at the forefront of our electoral conversations. And with COVID-19 looming, how can we ensure that November’s elections are safe and that everyone is able to exercise their right to vote? This panel provides an opportunity to have an open discussion with Democratic Secretaries of State about their roles in ensuring the 2020 election and all future elections are safe, accessible, and that all votes are counted.
Panelists include Jocelyn Benson, the Secretary of State of Michigan; Jena Griswold, Colorado’s 39th Secretary of State and the youngest Secretary of State in the country; and Denise W. Merrill, currently serving her second term as Connecticut’s 73rd Secretary of State.
For more information on this panel or the 2020 Netroots Nation conference, visit the panel page on the conference’s website.
We're hirking an Advocacy Program Manager!
Are you a political thought leader with a range of experiences in community organizing, campaigning, storytelling, and human rights defense? Our Advocacy Team is looking for an Advocacy Program Manager who will advance our mission through the development of dynamic advocacy campaigns, political engagement strategies, coalition, network and alliance building, cultural programming, and research, writing, and popular educating on issues of social justice.
Applications are due on September 1. Details, salary, and benefits on our website.