Former sex workers and community groups, along with sex worker, pro-immigrant, and LGBT advocacy organizations have launched a campaign to have sex work fully decriminalized in New York.
The coalition, which is calling itself Decrim NY, argues state and local authorities should provide services like legal assistance and housing aid to sex workers instead of embroiling them in the criminal justice system, which could particularly affect immigrant sex workers.
Many campaign members are current or former sex workers who describe being subject to summary arrest by police officers. Police still detain people on suspicion of loitering for prostitution, using things like having condoms in their possession as evidence.
While there are reform efforts aimed at only criminally pursuing pimps and johns instead of sex workers, Decrim NY is seeking full decriminalization of all aspects of the industry. The Appeal
Williams Elected Public Advocate
Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, was elected New York City Public Advocate. Williams has embraced the protection of immigrant communities around New York as a central tenet of his platform. He is among the elected officials who have called for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He has also endorsed a slate of local initiatives geared toward the protection and advancement of immigrants, including the state DREAM Act and efforts to bar ICE agents from performing arrests in courthouses. Williams, who has a history of advocating for criminal justice reform, will likely focus some of his efforts on New York’s supposed sanctuary jurisdiction. Read more at Documented.
NY DREAM Act Has Passed, Now Comes Implementation
Now that the state DREAM Act is awaiting the governor’s signature, attention turns to how to how undocumented students can take advantage of it. The bill allows students without legal status to access state financial aid they had previously been locked out of. Now, navigating these aid applications becomes one more thing overworked school counselors will have to deal with. Meanwhile, undocumented students may still be skeptical of essentially admitting to the New York State government that they do not have legal status. Trainings are now being held for school counselors and other officials on how to communicate with students about the measure. Chalkbeat New York
State Police Association Official is Opposed to Driver Licenses for Undocumented
Malverne Police Chief John Aresta, the president of the New York State Association of Police Chiefs, said he was opposed to recent state proposals to grant driver’s licenses to the undocumented. It’s the next big measure immigration activists are seeking from the Democratic state legislature after it passed the DREAM Act earlier this year, and Gov. Cuomo has said he would sign it. Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski also came out against the measure, calling it “silly.” GOP State Sen. James Tedisco has introduced a bill that would prevent the state from replacing any clerks who refused to issue licenses to the undocumented, even if they became legally available. CNHI News Service
In contrast, two of New York’s Congressional representatives — Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — came out in favor of the licenses at a Make the Road forum last week. In a video posted by the group to Twitter this week, Ocasio-Cortez says in Spanish that it would be a “very positive change for the state.” Velázquez said it was the right thing for the state to do.
Longtime Residents Worry About New Possibility of Vietnam Deportations
Vietnamese refugees remain concerned about the Trump administration’s efforts to force the deportations of thousands of people, whom Vietnam has so far refused to accept back. People who fled during and after the Vietnam War have lived in the United States for decades, but those with some minor convictions are facing the prospect of deportation. An agreement signed between the U.S. and Vietnam in 2008 specified that the U.S. cannot deport Vietnamese refugees who arrived prior to 1995. The Trump administration, however, has reinterpreted the agreement. Trump is now in Hanoi to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and could meet with Vietnamese leaders while he’s there Bloomberg Businessweek
Work Visas Continue Their Downturn
Processing times, requests for evidence, and denials continue to rise for H-1B work visa applicants, leading many to abandon their hope of living and working in the United States. Despite the occasional rhetoric from President Trump about wanting to incentivize legal immigration, his administration has made it considerably more difficult for U.S. employers to hire foreign workers. In one case, an immigration attorney said she had filed an 101-page H-1B petition in April 2017, followed by a 176-page response to a request for evidence. The application was denied, so the attorney filed a 282-page appeal, which was approved, only to receive another request for evidence. Associated Press
Data Shows Thousands of Sexual Abuse Complaints Involving Unaccompanied Minors
In response to requests for information made by the House Judiciary Committee, the Department of Health and Human Services prepared documents showing that it and the Department of Justice have received thousands of reports of sexual abuse involving children held in migrant shelters under HHS purview. From October 2014 to July 2018, HHS received 4,556 complaints, and DOJ received 1,303 complaints. Some of these may overlap. Among the complaints were 178 that said staff members had sexually abused children, including by inappropriately touching them and showing them pornographic material. The documents show many staff members involved were ultimately fired. Axios
Colorado Allows Undocumented Patients to Receive Regular Dialysis
Until recently, undocumented patients in Colorado and most of the rest of the country could not receive dialysis treatment unless it was on an emergency basis, meaning many had to wait until they were near death and then head to the emergency room, over and over again. Colorado becomes the sixth state to classify chronic renal conditions as an emergency medical condition, allowing undocumented people to receive regular dialysis, after its Medicaid Department concluded it was much cheaper and safer than forcing them to go to the emergency room. The Colorado Sun
Michigan ACLU Allege Racial Profiling in Case of Detained Marine
Communications obtained through public records requests demonstrate that ICE’s detention of U.S. citizen and Marine veteran Jilmar Ramos-Gomez in Grand Rapids, Michigan last year was prompted by racial bias, the ACLU of Michigan claims. In December of last year, an off-duty police captain emailed a local ICE agent asking him to check Ramos-Gomez’s legal status after seeing his picture in a news telecast. The ACLU argues this happened because the veteran is visibly Latino. The agent subsequently interviewed Ramos-Gomez at the jail in which he was being held, and was apparently told by Ramos-Gomez — who served in Afghanistan and has severe PTSD — that he was an undocumented immigrant, leading him to be taken into custody. He was released days later when his attorneys sent evidence to ICE that he was a U.S. citizen. Michigan Radio
Washington — Travel Ban Visa Denials, Subpoenas Over Family Separation, House Passes Anti-Emergency Declaration Measure
Data released by the State Department shows it denied over 37,000 visas in 2018 as a direct result of the Trump administration’s travel ban. The ban, after being upheld by the Supreme Court in its third iteration, now largely bars people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. Last year was the first year the ban was fully in effect. The denials included over 15,000 applications for immigrant visas, which would have gone to people seeking to permanently immigrate to the country. In addition, it denied nearly 22,000 non-immigrant visas for people seeking to travel to study, for tourism, and other temporary reasons. Reuters
The House passed a resolution Tuesday seeking to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration, issued to seize funds to build a border wall along the southwestern border. The measure now moves to the Senate, where enough skeptical Republican senators may vote with Democrats to pass it. Nonetheless, it is a largely symbolic exercise, as Democrats would not have the votes to overcome the presidential veto that would surely come if the measure passed the Senate. In the meantime, there is ongoing litigation about the declaration’s legality. Roll Call
Democrats in the House also issued subpoenas to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General William Barr, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in an effort to draw testimony about last year’s family separation crisis. House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sought the subpoenas after administration officials had repeatedly declined to voluntarily testify. None of the officials have yet announced whether they’ll comply with the subpoenas, though refusing to do so would likely set off a complex court battle. The New York Times
Over 50 former national security officials sent a letter to the Trump administration claiming there was no justification for the national emergency declaration and disputing the existence of any emergency at the southern border. The signatories include cabinet-level officials from administrations of both parties, including Madeleine Albright, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, and John Kerry. The letter was intended to be used as a supporting document in lawsuits challenging the supposed emergency. NBC News