Friends,

A growing tide of Immigration & Customs Enforcement horror stories is just the tip of the ICEberg this week. We’ve also seen attacks on transgender rights and press freedom, and more in the pipeline.

We’re fighting on all fronts with four substantial action items. As always, do as many as you can, and also take a few seconds to do our one-question survey.

And remember to keep recruiting more people to take the pledge both in person and online – we have strength in numbers!

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1) Support immigrants

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued two memos implementing two corresponding executive orders on immigration and border enforcement. This essentially puts into action Trump’s hard-line promises about aggressive deportation and border enforcement. The memos follow on the heels of ICE raids earlier this month that led to hundreds of arrests and created a climate of fear in immigrant communities.

The first memo calls for the hiring of 10,000 more ICE agents and essentially gives carte blanche to immigration officers to deport all the undocumented immigrants they can find. It urges an expansion of the 287(g) Program, which authorizes local and state police officers to act as federal immigration agents. It rescinds the privacy rights of undocumented immigrants and calls for the creation of a public database of deported individuals listing any criminal charges or offenses against them.

The second memo deals with border enforcement. It calls for expansion of detention facilities, “surge deployment” of immigration judges, and the hiring of 5,000 additional CBP agents. It indicates that CBP will immediately begin planning the construction of a southern border wall.

One group of undocumented immigrants still exempted from this crackdown are the DREAMers, children who were brought by their parents to the United States at a young age and who were granted some protections by the Obama administration. Trump is under pressure from his anti-immigrant base, however, so the status of these young people remains tenuous.

What can you do?

  • Contact your county sheriff, who is typically an elected official, to express your opposition to local law enforcement’s participation in this crackdown. Wall-Of-Us has the details.
  • If you live in MA, CA, NY or MD, you can contact your elected officials in state government to ask them to support the relevant legislation supporting your state becoming a sanctuary state.  (More info on these bills & phone numbers and call scripts).  If you live in another state, urge your local representatives to support sanctuary city legislation in your hometown.  
  • Contact your federal representatives and urge them to support protections for the DREAMers–if they already do, thank them!
  • Take additional actions such as sharing “Know Your Rights” information and volunteering with organizations which advocate on the behalf of immigrants in the US. List of suggested additional actions here.

2) Stand up for transgender students’ rights

On February 22, President Trump announced that the White House was rescinding the protections for transgender high school students which had previously allowed them to use the bathrooms corresponding with their true gender. The White House claimed that the right to use the correct bathroom does not fall within the scope of federal anti-discrimination laws and that such protections should be determined locally. In addition to impacting bathroom protections, it impacts protections in any single-gender space and on student clothing choice. The decision has had mixed reactions even within Trump’s administration; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been quoted opposing the decision. This action is a huge step back for transgender rights and the LGBTQ+ movement as a whole.

A variety of protections exist in some states, including Massachusetts, but many states still do not have any protections for transgender students.

What can you do?

  • Call your representatives and senators in your state government using this script. You can find your local representatives by inputting your zip code here, or you can search your state government’s websites. For reference, here are how various states are shaping up with transgender protections and anti-trans bathroom bills.
  • Research the school district where you went to school, and find out what transgender protections they offer. Call or email the superintendent, your high school principal, the district board, or other officials to inquire about what protections they offer to transgender students, and to urge them to add more as necessary. Sample emails available here. Alternatively, take these actions for the school district where you are currently a voter, if that’s not where you went to school.
  • Talk to an older relative to spread awareness about this issue. Polls find that millennials much more likely to support transgender people’s access to the bathroom corresponding with their gender identities.  Bonus points if you can get someone >50 to make a phone call.
  • Educate yourself on the upcoming Gavin Grimm Supreme Court Case.

3) Fight reproductive rights restrictions

While it may not have received much coverage yet, there are powerful legislative forces gathering against reproductive rights.

Most menacing right now is H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act. This act would make the ban on federal funding for abortions permanent (except in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the mother), making it illegal for facilities owned or operated by the federal government to provide abortions, and forbidding people covered by the Affordable Care Act from choosing health plans with elective abortion coverage.  

This bill passed the House on January 22 with a vote of 238-183 with three Democrats in favor, and no Republicans against. The Senate version, S.184, already has 39 co-sponsors, all Republican, and is likely to pass (unless filibustered). The Trump administration has said they are in strong support of the bill and the President will sign the bill if it comes to him. While the date for the Senate vote has yet to be set, we need to take action now.

Another bill making its way through the House and Senate presents a new threat to Planned Parenthood. H.J. 43, approved on February 17 largely along party lines, would permit states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood. This would counteract a rule aimed at protecting this funding that was finalized in December by the Obama administration.

Even more extreme – and more frightening – are actions at the state level. A bill introduced in the Oklahoma state legislature would require men to give approval for their partners’ abortions, and the author of the bill actually referred to pregnant women as “hosts”.

All of this adds up to an environment of increasing threats against reproductive rights.

What can you do?

4) Learn why press freedom matters

There’s been a lot of discussion about the Trump administration’s relationship with the press, especially after last week.  On February 24, White House press secretary Sean Spicer held an exclusive press “gaggle” in lieu of the usual televised Q&A briefing. White House staff barred a number of mainstream news outlets, including CNN, the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and Buzzfeed, and admitted conservative-leaning outlets like Breitbart News, the Washington Times, and One America News Network.

Then, on February 25, President Trump announced that he would not attend the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which celebrates political journalism. The President is not required to attend this event, but none has missed the event since 1981 (when Ronald Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt).

The Obama administration also took steps to restrict journalistic access to the White House, but some of these actions by Trump are totally unprecedented forms of hostility towards a free press, such as labeling news “fake” if he dislikes the tone.  Criticism of these attacks is beginning to cross party lines: for instance, anchors Chris Wallace and Bret Baier at Fox News have spoken out against them.

Branding the press as an enemy of the people is a tactic used by dictators. Arresting journalists (even if they are not prosecuted) makes it more difficult, or impossible, for them to get real-time information about events.  Even if the press is not explicitly prohibited from conveying important information to the public, hostility or threats from those in power can intimidate the press into censoring itself.  If we don’t know what’s actually happening, we can’t reach informed conclusions or take effective action. Official investigations are no substitute for independent journalism, because politicians answer to particular constituencies, their parties, and lobbyists, rather than the public at large.

What can you do?

You can engage with people who express hostility towards the press and respond to specific attacks as they arise.

  • If you have access to information that you think the public needs to know, you also have the option of leaking it to the press yourself.  ProPublica and the New York Times have detailed guides on how to communicate with them as securely as possible.
  • Switch to encrypted communications technologies, like the Signal app (for texts, photos, videos, and calls).  The more people there are who use encrypted communications, the less government officials can infer who is leaking from who is using them.
  • Think critically about the news sources you consume. This guide by Assistant Professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College lists misleading news sources and gives helpful information about how to assess the reliability of an article or outlet. See also our previous critical media consumption action item here.
  • Consider purchasing a subscription to a news source which engages in real journalism.

For more information, some additional reading:

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That’s all for this week. As always, keep encouraging people to take the pledge, and please share any thoughts or questions with us at solidarity@mit.edu!

Until next week,

Solidarity MIT

solidaritypledge.com

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