Sunshine Is Still the Best Disinfectant: How the Cornell First Amendment Clinic and the New York Times Fought to Access COVID-19 Demographic Data

(Source) As the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep through the United States in the spring of 2020, outbreaks in cities with significant Black and Latino communities led some to question whether communities of color might be at a heightened risk of both infection and death from COVID-19. As the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) stated in its April 2020 letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert M. Redfield, “[c]ommunities of color continue to disproportionately suffer health inequities due to the history of racism and oppression in the United States,” making these communities particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. At the time, state public health departments had begun releasing data confirming these suspicions. Data from Wisconsin, for example, showed that in Milwaukee County, African Americans accounted for almost half of the county’s coronavirus cases and 81% of deaths, despite making up only 26% of the county’s population. This data provided only a partial picture of the outbreak, however, and critics argued that relying on states to release demographic data and the lack of publicly available national demographic data would continue to hamper efforts to develop a robust public health response in low-income communities and communities of [read more]

The Public Charge and the Pandemic: What Happens When the Dust Settles?

(Source) On July 29th, the Southern District of New York (“Southern District”) enjoined the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) from enforcing, applying, or implementing the Trump Administration’s new public charge rule from taking effect during the COVID-19 national health emergency. Responding to the injunction, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) stated that the 1999 public charge guidance will control the admissibility of immigrants on public charge grounds until the national health emergency ends. The concept of the public charge has been a part of the American immigration system since the late 1800s. It takes its origins from “poor laws,” which were designed to exclude foreign immigrants who would require public assistance. The modern understanding of what constitutes a public charge was formalized in 1999 to include immigrants who are “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” Traditionally, this meant that immigrants could not take advantage of monetizable programs, such as welfare. However, in 2019 the Trump Administration revised the public charge rule and expanded the rule’s impact by barring programs permitted by the 1999 guidance. This lowered the [read more]

From Smallpox Blankets to COVID Ballots: Understanding the Pandemic as a Fundamental Threat to Native American Voters

(Source) Introduction At 5 million positive cases, COVID-19 continues to devastate people across the United States. Due to pre-existing social inequalities, communities of color remain the hardest hit. Among these communities, Native Americans are contracting and dying from the virus at unmatched rates. Federal, state, and local action to mitigate the spread throughout Indian Country has been slow and fallen short of expectations. For example, when the Seattle Indian Health Board expressed an urgent need for testing and medical supplies, the local King County Public Health Department’s shocking response was to send body bags and toe tags. Horrifying? Yes. Far from sensible? Not if you look at death rates for states with sizable tribal communities. Consider the case of New Mexico. While Native Americans make up 10% of the state’s population, as of May, tribal members make up 50% of local COVID-related deaths. As the country prepares for the November presidential election, all eyes should be on the federal government and the steps, or lack thereof, that the Trump administration has taken to ensure a healthy and safe election season. Historical Suppression & Contemporary Barriers Native American voters have long been disenfranchised and excluded from local, state, and federal elections. [read more]

How Reparations Could Have Ebbed The Disproportionate COVID-19 Deaths of Black People in Detroit

(Source)   Reparations are a form of compensatory justice that governments have instituted when aiming to make amends for prior wrongs. Historically, in order for a group to receive reparations from the government, an affected party must show harm, must prove that the government is the cause of that harm, and must show that the recipient is a direct victim or one’s descendent. Reparations can be symbolic in nature, representing the depths of regret that the nation has for its role in the institutionalized oppression of a people. Paying reparations for historical wrongs is not a novel concept. The United States granted reparations in 1988 for the harm inflicted on Japanese Americans from wrongful internment during World War II and to former owners of enslaved persons after emancipation. Additionally, West Germany paid reparations in 1952 to make amends for the Holocaust. Interestingly, these reparations were not paid with widespread public support—most Germans did not believe that the nation owed Jewish people any redress. In the United States, the most abhorrent act the nation inflicted on its people was the institution of slavery. Subsequent to this historical atrocity, the government continued to discriminate against Black people. For instance, immediately after those [read more]

Next on The Trump Show: Trump Exploits the Coronavirus to Ban Immigrants

(Source) While the United States and the world glues their attention to the historic protests for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and the Trump Administration creates ever-growing casualties like exploding unemployment, rising death tolls, and public unrest, the cast of The Trump Show is drumming up a far more subdued spectacle behind the curtain. Using this historic moment as cover, the Administration has continued to move full-steam ahead towards dismantling the U.S. immigration system. On the heels of the Administration’s latest proclamations prohibiting travel for certain foreign nationals that have traveled to or been present in the People’s Republic of China, Iran, the Schengen Area of the European Union, the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and Brazil, President Trump, citing labor market conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, recently issued two significant Proclamations fundamentally altering the U.S. visa issuance process. In April, Trump signed Proclamation 10014, placing a “temporary” sixty-day ban on the issuance of certain new employment-based permits for lawful permanent residence (also known as green cards). And in June, Trump issued Proclamation 10052, extending the Proclamation 10014 bans until at least December 31, 2020 and issuing a new ban on foreign [read more]

Fraud and Shortages in the PPE Market and the Failures of the Trump Administration

(Source)   It has been five months since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Seattle, the epicenter of the outbreak in the US. As the virus spread, patients flooded into hospitals as hundreds of people got sick. The US soon realized that hospitals, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and the government alike were short of the gear that would keep the healthcare workers at the frontline of the pandemic alive and healthy. At a time when their expertise and care were paramount, their lives were put at risk in a way that was unprecedented in recent history. Suddenly, the government and healthcare facilities across the nation were in a frenzy, hurrying to find personal protective equipment (“PPE”) for healthcare workers. What they faced were empty warehouses, factories at capacity, and a market ridden with fraud. This supply chain shortage and fraud in the PPE market is unrelenting and has left practitioners finding alternative means to protect themselves. In March, nurses at Mount Sinai hospital were spotted wearing trash bags fashioned as protective gear. Medical practitioners around the country were forced to reuse PPE, even though the FDA has reported that “protective capabilities of [reused] single-use PPE cannot be assured.” One [read more]

COVID-19 and the Criminal Justice System: How Prisons and Prisoners are Impacted

  (Source)   “The closest thing I can equate it with is…when you’re locked in a cell in a giant, old, deteriorating jailhouse, is the fear that there will be a fire and no one will come in and unlock your cell. What caught my attention about this virus is that it really feels like there’s a fire in this prison.” An inmate at Washington State describes the inevitability of COVID-19 and the powerlessness he feels at remaining incarcerated as the virus rapidly spreads. When prisoners routinely lack access to soap, and when hand sanitizer is considered contraband in prisons, it is easy to imagine the rapid proliferation of the infection. Lack of access to sanitation is only part of the conditions that make prisoners particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Close quarters, frequently used communal spaces, and lack of adequate medical care are just a few other factors that make prisons and jails petri dishes for the spread of disease. Indeed, these factors have caused a huge spike in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past months. As the number of cases rise in the general United States population, the number of cases in prison skyrockets. Though New York City [read more]

Kids & Teens in Quarantine: Considerations for Navigating Co-Parenting During COVID-19

(Source) On April 9th, the ABA Center on Children and the Law, ABA Commission on Youth at Risk, and ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice hosted a webinar regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on child welfare cases. The webinar primarily focused on the federal Children’s Bureau’s March 27th guidance on how family courts and family law practitioners should proceed during these uncertain times. Now, more than ever, courts and practitioners play an integral role in ensuring the safety and welfare of children in our country. The Children’s Bureau’s guidance was written in part in response to concerns regarding court closures, postponement of hearings, and complications regarding visitation. Across the country, and even in the Q&A sidebar of the webinar, parents have expressed concern that their co-parenting arrangements will be disregarded by ex-spouses amidst the stay-at-home orders coming down left and right. The isolation and social distancing that the COVID-19 pandemic requires may give parents a greater ability to damage the other parents’ parent-child relationship through explicit and implicit behavior, which may ultimately contribute to a child’s estrangement from both parents. Damaging behavior can include denigrating the other parent in front of the child, encouraging the child to take [read more]