Secrets and Lies: Comment NOW against proposed FOIA Regs

Do you want to know a secret? FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, gives private citizens the right to get information from federal agencies. It exists to promote transparency, accountability, and prompt access to a wide range of information. But under proposed revised regulations, the Department of the Interior (DOI) would be able to decide for itself whether it felt like giving out information – even information on whether the government was involved in possible criminal behavior. You have until January 28 to comment opposing these proposed regulations and preserve our right to get crucial information … [January 17: note that due to the shutdown the link may not be working, please keep trying if you get an outage message].

For example, information about government officials who have misused their positions … such as Ryan Zinke, Trump’s recently departed Secretary of the Interior. The Department of the Interior, rather like the interior of the country itself, is grand in scope, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and half a dozen other major departments. Zinke resigned at the end of 2018, after an unprecedented 18 separate investigations were launched into his misconduct. Some of these investigations are still pending at the time of this writing; ominously, several were closed only because of lack of cooperation by the DOI or failure to keep records.

In an amazing coincidence, just days before Zinke’s resignation, the DOI proposed revised regulations giving it broad discretion to avoid providing answers to FOIA requests for information — particularly from journalists and public interest organizations. Under these proposed regulations, the Department would be able to:

  • decide which media organizations “serve the public interest” and are therefore entitled to information, and
  • limit the number of requests media and other organizations can make during a month.

Extensive case law under FOIA governs what records must be produced. These proposed regulations are unnecessary, contrary to the statute and that case law, and inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress. They impede accountability and make further misconduct more likely.

The comment period for these proposed regulations ends January 28. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI_FRDOC_0001-0094 and click the “comment now” button at the upper right to leave an objection. Be sure to mention that you are commenting on Docket No. DOI-2018-0017.

You can use these points as a guide, but please use your own language; comments that are too similar may be grouped together and not considered individually.

  • The proposed changes to the Department of the Interior’s handling of FOIA requests are contrary to goals of the FOIA statute: transparency, accountability, and prompt access to information.
  • The proposed changes are contrary to the FOIA statute, 5 U.S.C. section 522, which allows “any person” to seek information. The proposed regulations allow Interior to deny access to a media organization or other organization that has recently asked for other information. Under this change, Interior could withhold information from media outlets it didn’t like, or anyone who asked numerous or embarrassing questions – the exact situation FOIA was intended to provide against.
  • The purported reason for the changes – an increase in FOIA requests – is the result of the conduct of the DOI itself: As reported by Outside Magazine (January 17, 2019) and Nada Culver, senior counsel with the Wilderness Society, FOIA requests at Interior are up because Interior stopped sharing information voluntarily that was routinely provided by prior administrations.
  • Other changes include stretching time “limits” into “frames,” making it easier to deny requests, and giving Interior discretion to decide whether media organizations are operating primarily “in a commercial interest.” These go directly against the intent of FOIA – to allow access to information and to prevent the government from prohibiting access.
  • Submitting these proposed regulations during a holiday week, in the midst of a government shutdown, just days before Director Ryan Zinke resigned while the subject of numerous investigations, is an outrageous effort by the government to keep the public from exercising their democratic rights.

Dean Gloster is a former clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court who now writes novels. His debut YA, DESSERT FIRST, is out now.

 

Don’t Let DeVos Gut Title IX

Deadline for public comments: January 28, 2019 – 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed regulations that would modify the implementation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Well, let’s call it what it is – Betsy DeVos has proposed a scheme to destroy an important part of Title IX. We have a chance to say NO.

The proposed regs, which have the outrageously misleading title “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” would gut Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools address sexual violence. Among other changes, DeVos’s proposed regulations would specify how institutions covered by Title IX must respond to sexual harassment incidents, and would also revise the availability of remedies for violations. Hint: all the changes remove protections for women …

You have until Monday January 28 to protest the proposed changes by submitting a public comment. Go to this link and click the “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex…” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions to submit a comment. Be sure to reference Docket ID No. Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments (personalize the language because copied & pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately). Several of these are adapted from the Equal Rights Advocates’ excellent comment guide. Submit your comments by the end of day January 28:

My name is _____ and I am [fill in relevant identifying info, if appropriate – such as teacher, student, advocate, sexual assault survivor, etc.] I am writing in reference to Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064.

I oppose the proposed regulations for the following reasons:

  • General:
    • They would allow schools to refuse to investigate online sexual harassment.
    • They provide for dramatically reduced liability for schools, allowing them to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or harassment and shielding them from responsibility if they ignore or cover up sexual misconduct.
    • They would drastically reduce the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual harassment.
    • They would encourage schools to reinstate an antiquated mediation process rather than investigating.
    • They would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, requiring schools to investigate only the most “serious forms of harassment and assault,” and only act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
  • Duty to Report:
    • I am concerned about how the proposed regulations narrow which school employees are required to act on reports of sexual harassment and misconduct in higher education settings (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30), as well as the regulations’ requirement of schools to dismiss reports of sexual violence that happen between students off campus (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)).
    • These rules would not balance the scales of justice between student complainants and student respondents, but would rather result in students’ reports and complaints being dismissed or ignored, which will very likely decrease reporting overall.
  • Burden of Proof:
    • Proposed regulation 106.45(b)(4)(i) requires schools to apply the higher standard of evidence to Title IX cases – Clear and Convincing Evidence. Application of this standard of evidence is inequitable and impractical, and contradicts decades of legal practice.
    •  The Department fails to consider and address the grave consequences to the victim of sexual assault when compared to other crimes. It is unfair for the Department to apply a higher standard of evidence based on its conclusion that the consequences to the respondent are “grave” without consideration of the grave consequences to the victim, whom the provisions of Title IX were designed to protect.
    • Application of this higher standard is impractical and seems intentionally designed to reduce the overall number of findings of sexual assault.
  • Deadline for comment period:
    • Please extend the comment period for these regulations for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.
    • Please schedule public hearings at schools and colleges campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

For more information, read the Equal Rights Advocates’ article. Also, this letter from the National Women’s Law Center, joined by more than 100 groups and 200 individuals, points out that the proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching and would drastically alter students’ rights and affect almost every aspect of schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment against students, and requests that the Department of Education extend the brief comment period.

Graphic © Equal Rights Advocates

 

 

Out of the mouths of babes

Deadline for public comments: December 10, 2018 

What could be meaner than taking food out of the mouths of children? The latest assault from the Grinch Administration is a proposed regulation that would change how the government evaluates legal immigrants for green cards and visas. If this regulation takes effect, it could literally result in immigrants foregoing necessary assistance for themselves, or for their kids, in order to keep their status. You have until Monday December 10 to protest this outrage by submitting a comment. Go to www.regulations.gov/document?D=USCIS-2010-0012-0001 and click the dark blue “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions for submitting a comment. Be sure to reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

The government already considers whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” before granting a green card and many kinds of visas. Until now, this has referred to receipt of cash benefits – and, despite what fearmongers would have you believe, only 3% of non-citizens use these benefits. Under the proposed change, the “public charge” analysis could include receipt of Section 8 housing and food assistance, potentially forcing legal immigrants to give up benefits that they and their families need in order to keep their immigration status. This is cruel and unreasonable, especially because:

What you can do:

From the official website:

You may submit comments on this proposed rule, including the proposed information collection requirements, identified by DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012, by any one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal (preferred): www.regulations.gov. Follow the website instructions for submitting comments.

  • Mail: Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20529-2140. To ensure proper handling, please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 in your correspondence. Mail must be postmarked by the comment submission deadline.

If your citizenship status is secure, please do this action. Please personalize this suggested language (because verbatim comments may be grouped together and not counted separately), and submit by December 10:

I am writing with reference to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012. I oppose the proposed regulation restricting green cards from families who use public assistance. This regulation would violate my state’s right to provide benefits to families in short-term crisis and increase federal meddling in local issues. I object to depriving more than 40 million children of food, health care, and shelter. I want my tax dollars to support and show basic decency toward aspiring Americans, not to keep out people who need temporary help on their journey toward citizenship.

 

 

Don’t Let the Government Destroy Important Environmental Documents

Deadline: November 26, 2018

The Current Occupant’s tradition of lying is by now well-known, but sometimes it’s easier if something just … happens to the truth, especially to documentation of the truth. And so Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of the Interior (at least as of this writing), has sent National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) a massive “Request for Records Disposition Authority” – or in normal language, a request to destroy a huge quantity of records concerning environmental protection.

What kind of records? The request involves documents about oil and gas leases, mining, dams, wells, timber sales, marine conservation, fishing, endangered species, non-endangered species, critical habitats, land acquisition, and lots more. Documents from every agency within the Interior Department, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and others. Documents going back more than 50 years. Thousands of cubic feet of paper documents. Gigabytes of digital documents.

And there’s more. Besides documents that already exist, the proposed schedule of destruction will also apply to all future documents created in these categories (whether on paper or born digital). In other words: Records supporting environmental concerns could, literally, vanish in favor of the administration’s industry supporters and financers.

More details about the NARA procedure in general and this request in specific in this excellent resource.

What You Can Do

(1) Contact your Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Sample Script:

My name is _______, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has asked the National Archives for a massive destruction of records that normally are kept for historical purposes. This is an unusual and troubling request. I am asking you to investigate this request and to stop the destruction of important and valuable records. The National Archives ID number is DAA-0048-2015-0003.

(2) Email to request.schedule@nara.gov with a Public Comment. Deadline: November 26, 2018.

Sample Script:

My name is _______, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am writing about action DAA-0048-2015-0003. I am against this massive destruction of records. This content would normally be kept and preserved by the U.S. Dept of Interior. I am asking National Archives to deny Secretary Zinke’s request so that these records are kept as they should be.

[Sign with your name, other contact info you wish to give out.]

 

Scary times at IEB’s October All Members Meeting

Halloween arrived early at the Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting on October 28, with many of us showing up in costume. Even the infamous Trump Chicken joined the festivities.

Unfortunately, the real scares are coming from recent news. From the deadly violence at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh to Trump’s avalanche of incendiary rhetoric — the stakes for the November 6 midterms are higher now, if that’s possible, than they’ve ever been.

Before we got down to national politics, Jodi Reid, Executive Director of CARA, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, led an informative discussion about some of the statewide propositions on the ballot. CARA has posted recommendations on all eleven props, including fact sheets for Props 1, 2, 8, and 10. Jodi walked us through the list and took our questions. In brief:

  • Yes on Prop 1. Passing Prop 1 would authorize $4 billion in bonds for housing related programs for low income residents, veterans, and other specialized populations. California has not had funds for housing in some time and local communities don’t have the resources to build housing themselves.
  • Yes on Prop 2. This would allow funding from Prop 63 to be utilized for mental health services in concert with homeless assistance. The two are needed in order for housing to succeed for the homeless. A “yes” on Prop 2 would  authorize funding already allocated to be used in this context and would not require new funding.
  • Yes on Prop 8. Authorizes state regulation of kidney dialysis clinics and limits charges for patient care. As of now, CARA stated that two major corporations provide all the kidney dialysis services, overcharging $150K more per patient than needed without the funds going to patient care. The proposition would set profits to a 115% cap above revenue.
  • Yes on Prop 10. This would allow local cities to adopt rent control and repeal the Costa-Hawkins rental housing act (1995). CARA points out that tens of thousands of housing units have been created since ’95 that have not fallen under rent control. In response to a question, Jodi noted that passage of Prop 10 would not establish vacancy control.
  • Several of the ballot proposals are controversial even among progressive groups that are usually allies. For example, CARA supports Prop 3, which authorizes almost $9 billion in bonds to fund various water and environmental projects, citing the need for safe drinking water to all areas of the state. However, the Sierra Club opposes the measure on the ground that it will mean building more dams, harming the environment; they also have concerns about the (lack of) oversight for how the funds are spent. At the Propositions breakout session (see more below), Governance Committee (GC) member Ted noted that Prop 3 affects only state-regulated water systems, and said that it won’t directly affect the East Bay’s water supply because we get our water from EBMUD.
  • Finally, check out calmatters.org to see their one-minute videos summarizing the pros and cons of each Proposition. There’s no faster way to get up to speed.

Next up, GC member and senator teams co-lead Linh highlighted the critical importance of a “boring” (her word) topic: rules changes for federal agencies. In particular, “any executive agency seeking to change any existing regulation has to invite and review public comments.” Public means YOU! Making comments may be our only chance to prevent or slow down the administration’s attempts to roll back decades of environmental, workplace and safety protections. Linh urged members to take advantage of this opportunity. Some proposed changes are anything but boring: for example, one such proposal would allow for indefinite detention of immigrant families with children! You have until November 6 to voice your opposition to this change, so speak up!

GC member and outreach team co-lead Nick reminded us that the 2018 Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort will likely not end on November 6, since that’s a primary day for one of the U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi. If no candidate receives a majority, which seems likely, a runoff will be held on November 27. Nick is lining up postcard events for the possible run-off.

Lastly, GC member Charlotte urged everyone to participate in one or more of the remaining GOTV events between now and next week’s midterms. The biggest is our  two-day all-day (9 AM to 9 PM) “The Last Weekend” Phone/Text Bank Extravaganza in Oakland. Whether you’ve already done tons of phone banking or have been quietly sitting on the sidelines, this is a must-do! Sign up here.

With the formal part of the meeting over, we enjoyed pizza courtesy of a generous donation from IEB member Nancy Olson. Three breakout sessions followed: Charlotte led people in writing postcards and also letters to voters through Vote Forward, GC members Ted and Toni engaged people in a more in-depth discussion about some of the state propositions, and GC member and volunteer team lead Andrea welcomed new members who wanted to know more about IEB and learn how to get involved.

Andrea with new members
Andrea at the new members breakout

Several of us came in costume! The clear Adorable & Clever winners:

NASA Space Force astronaut and assistant. Photo by Toby St John
NASA Kid & Dr. Horrible team up to save America! Photo by Toby St. John

Governance Committee members Ted and Ann (aka “Blue Wave”):

Ted and Ann aka Blue Wave

Henry the Indivisi-bulldog brought his family, IEB team co-leads Kristen and Tom!

Henry, Kristen and Tom

Scariest Costume winner was IEB and CA-11 team member George, who said: “Nnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnn”, which we translated as meaning: “Just because I’m a person of the undead persuasion doesn’t mean the electoral outcome isn’t important to me. A Blue vote is a smart vote. And smart brains taste better! Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!”

Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!

And finally: Blue Wave beats up Trump Chicken!

 

Andrea Lum contributed to this article.

 

It’s red or blue, not pink or blue

Deadline: Right Now! – His comments about grabbing women by the “private parts” inspired an airplane passenger to grope his unknown seatmate on October 21, 2018. Now, according to a Dept. of Health and Human Services memo obtained by the New York Times,* the Current Occupant is considering creating a rule to determine “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” as dictated by genitalia, original birth certificates, and genetic testing. In other words, everyone’s either male or female, registered according to what’s in their diaper, and how they’re registered is how they stay – and, no doubt, how their rights are determined. Banning trans folks from the armed services? We’re talking about banning them from legal existence. Non-binary? Nonexistent. Erasure.

What you can do: Be out about this. Which here means, whoever you are and however you identify – straight, LGBT, queer, cis, non-binary, whoever and however – talk about this. For some among us, this is a fight for existence, and it’s going to depend on visibility, acceptance into society, and normalization. So talk about this. Talk on social media and in your daily life. Talk with friends. Talk with like-minded people – this may not be on their radars, and it needs to be. Do you know people of faith? Ask them to talk to their fellow-congregants and even to preach about it. Here’s an amazing statement from a Lutheran minister; here’s a beautiful prayer from the Bay Area’s own Rabbi Reuben Zellman. Do you know scientists? Ask them to talk and write about it – science is on our side and people, we have to listen to the science.

What else you can do:

  • Use the hashtag #WontBeErased when you talk about this subject.
  • Are you on facebook? Want to add a #WontBeErased frame from the National Center for Transgender Equality to your profile photo, or a facebook cover photo? You can get them here.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality #WontBeErased page also has a printable signs, message tips and more, if you want to hold an event.
  • Read Hell No to the Memo, published by Out Magazine, for a list of more action items

And stay tuned – if this rule is proposed, we’ll be asking you to comment on it!

Graphic copyright National Center for Transgender Equality

* Because the New York Times is behind a paywall, we usually use alternative sources. However, when, as here, the Times’ investigative journalism is the source of a story and they are the sole source for a document, we think it’s important to provide a direct link.

 

ISO Happy Ending: Comment by 10/31 on Emissions Standards for Power Plants

Once upon a time, there was an administration that protected its people from dangerous modern fire-breathing dragons. Then in August 2018, the big bad wolf-ogre-gremlin-current administration announced plans to undo Obama rules limiting harmful emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The plot: to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and put in its place a wicked changeling, a watered down alternative dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

But as in all good stories, there’s time for a dramatic rescue! The law requires that the public can comment on this proposed change until Oct 31, 2018.

How to comment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept comment on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule through October 31, 2018.  Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the following methods.

Some things you can say in your comments:

  • The bottom line: oppose repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, because it’s imperative to reduce fossil fuel emissions and the ACE is much weaker than the CPP.
  • EPA evidence in the record shows the CPP would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • The EPA’s own calculations show that the proposed ACE would result in an additional 1,400 deaths and 48,000 new asthma attacks yearly compared to the CPP
  • Under the CPP the federal government sets emission targets for states, but the ACE allows states to set the targets themselves, which promotes a “race to the bottom”
  • The goal of the CPP (backed by evidence in EPA’s regulatory record) was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The EPA’s own calculations indicate the proposed ACE would only reduce emissions by somewhere between 0.7 and 1.5%
  • EPA’s proposed ACE uses deceptive accounting gimmicks to artificially inflate the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to minimize the health benefits of the original CPP. This means its cost-benefit analysis is flawed and unreliable
  • The Regulatory Impact Analysis shows that under every illustrative scenario EPA analyzed, the ACE would result in more CO2, SO2, and NOx than the CPP
  • The EPA’s analysis radically under-counts the deaths, illnesses, and climate damages from power plants’ soot, smog, and carbon pollution. This is contrary to sound science and economics
  • The ACE proposal drastically undercounts the real costs of climate pollution for all Americans by ignoring global impacts. Climate pollution has worldwide impacts, but the proposal counts only those impacts that are expected to occur within U.S. borders.
  • The EPA’s own estimates show that, compared to the Clean Power Plan, the ACE plan would impose up to $10.8 billion in annual net costs on Americans in 2030, when accounting for compliance costs and the loss of the CPP’s benefits for climate and public health. By contrast, the CPP was designed to save consumers hard-earned money on electric bills
  • We cannot afford further delay in confronting the threat of climate change by repealing the CPP and replacing it with the much weaker ACE. Even the current administration’s reports contain overwhelming evidence that we need to cut fossil fuel emissions, including:
    • The 11/17 Climate Science Special Report – the combined work of 13 federal agencies including the EPA – which contains overwhelming evidence that human-generated carbon emissions are the dominant cause of global warming with all of its effects on the U.S. and the world, including floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, hurricanes and storms
    • The 8/18 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks showing that with our present rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is expected to experience a disastrous warming of 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century

More info:

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015.  Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to regulate carbon dioxide from major sources in the United States. That’s why, in 2015, the EPA released its first standard aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The power sector is second only to the transportation sector as a source of emissions in the US.

The CPP aimed to cut emissions from the electricity sector by an estimated 32% below 2005 levels by 2030—a modest but important first step.  Cost-benefit analysis consistently showed a net economic gain from the CPP. It was adopted after a robust, years-long regulatory process in which the EPA held numerous hearings and received millions of comments.

The Trump Administration was hostile to the CPP from the beginning and solicitous of the coal industry and fossil fuel sectors generally. Trump directed the EPA to begin the process of repealing the CPP and replacing it with what EPA dubbed the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. That regulatory process is now pending and, as required by federal law, EPA is now accepting public comments on this proposed repeal and replace. The deadline for commenting on the proposed ACE is October 31, 2018.

Speak up for immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018, or write a letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security (must be postmarked by November 6, 2018).

In September we alerted you to new horrific steps the administration is taking to unfairly treat immigrant families. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed a rule that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit families to be detained in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so speak up and act now!

What you can do:

Use the suggested talking points below, and feel free to add your own thoughts, to either leave an online comment (option 1), or write and mail a letter (option 2):

  • Option 1: Click on this link to leave an online comment about Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.
    • You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov and include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line.
  • Option 2: Write and mail a letter to:
    • Debbie Seguin, Assistant Director, Office of Policy,
      U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
      500 12th Street SW
      Washington, DC 20536

Mix & match from these suggested talking points to include in your comment or letter, and feel free to use your own words and add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Also! A great idea suggested by Families Belong Together — hold a letter-writing party and get your friends to write together. Email info@familiesbelong.org for more information, or see the resources in FBT’s toolkit here.

If you missed our original article, here’s more background: The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants. Our September 12 article, when we first asked you to comment, is here.

Families Belong Together graphic by Instagram user @desdemona1

Help stop the jailing of immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018. Or copy the link into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas and Georgia, we learn that the administration has been stealing FEMA money to spend on jailing and deporting immigrants. Here’s another part of the unnatural disaster that is the administration’s immigration policy: a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit the administration to detain families in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so read up and act now!

The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Please speak up NOW. Leave a comment at this link (do not comment on this article, please click on the link, or type this into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 ) for Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children. You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov (include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line).

Mix & match from these suggested points to include in your comment, and feel free to add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants.

First he came for our auto emissions standards, now he wants to frack our federal lands . . .

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – submit comments by email by September 7, 2018. Note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116.
If email link doesn’t work, address is: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov  

In a coordinated attack on California, coming just after challenging our vehicle emissions standards, the Trump administration took the first steps toward opening up 1.6 million acres of public land and mineral estate in California to fracking and oil drilling. The Bureau of Land Management posted a notice of intent in the Federal Register on August 8, 2018:

the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bakersfield Field Office, Bakersfield, California, intends to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a potential Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment for the Bakersfield Field Office Resource Management Plan. The supplemental EIS will analyze the impacts of hydraulic fracturing technology on BLM-administered public land and mineral estate in the Bakersfield Field Office Planning Area exclusive of the California Coastal National Monument and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The notice seeks comments on the dangers of opening up 400,000 acres of public land and an additional 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. This would end a five year moratorium on leasing federal land to oil companies in California: no federal lands in the state have been leased to oil companies since 2013, when a federal judge found that the BLM had leased land in Monterey County without fully considering the environmental impact of fracking.

Environmentalists are concerned that fracking — an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rocks — can increase the risk of earthquakes and contaminate groundwater. The public lands in question here sit over groundwater that supplies neighboring areas with water for agricultural and human uses. In addition, fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, which means toxic chemicals are even closer to underground drinking water supplies than usual, with unusually high concentrations of chemicals, many of which are dangerous to human health and the environment.

In a state where water is more precious than oil, we can’t take this kind of risk with our groundwater.

Comment now! Comments close on September 7, 2018. More info on commenting here (but don’t use the comment link on that page – it appears to be broken!) Send an email instead to: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov and note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116. 

Notes you can include in your comment:

  • Do not open our beautiful public lands to fracking and drilling. Do not sacrifice our health, wildlife and climate to profit big polluters.
  • Fracking involves the use of very toxic chemicals, which we don’t want on our public lands.
  • The toxic chemicals will invariably spread to nearby cities and towns, and the people affected are often the very poorest people.
  • These toxic chemicals get into the groundwater, especially in California, where fracking is dangerously shallow.
  • In a state where water is so precious — to agriculture, human populations, and wildlife — clean water is worth more than dirty oil.
  • We desperately need to keep these dirty fossil fuels in the ground and focus more on developing cheaper and cleaner green energy technologies. The climate is changing and we need to take step to move away from oil, not pour resources into using the dirtiest and most difficult to extract.
  • Why despoil our environment to extract a resource we should be moving away from?

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.