Week Nineteen: MALDEF

On May 22nd the current administration asked U.S. District Court Judge Orrick to lift an injunction he imposed against Trump’s January executive order denying federal funding to sanctuary cities. On April 25th, Judge Orrick had ruled that Congress, not the President, should decide how federal funds are spent and that the executive order to withhold funding for sanctuary cities likely exceeds federal law. The administration started an entire office VOICE (Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement) within the Homeland Security Department to investigate alleged crimes committed by immigrants. VOICE says it “serves the needs of crime victims and their families who have been impacted by crimes committed by removable criminal aliens.” Yet numerous studies have shown that first-generation immigrants commit less crimes than those born in the United States, and VOICE opponents argue the office is a means of racial profiling. A 2013 American Sociological Review study of 87 large cities found that immigration is strongly associated with less neighborhood violence, especially in sanctuary cities. A robust study in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice analyzed 4 decades of Census data for 200 cities and found that as immigration increased, crime decreased. Here is an urgent petition from a taxpaying mother of three with no criminal record, who was ordered by ICE to leave the county on June 30th.

This week we donated to MALDEF – an organization founded in 1968 that fights for civil rights for Latinos in the U.S. Their educational and political programs create civic opportunities for members of the Latino community. MALDEF’s immigration work includes research, public policy, and litigation. On June 15th MALDEF celebrated the 35th anniversary of a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a MALDEF lawsuit in Texas. The Supreme Court decision guaranteed all children access to a free public education from kindergarten through 12th grade, regardless of immigration status. The judges ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state to deny education to undocumented children, and the majority opinion further stated, “Education provides the basic tools by which individuals might lead economically productive lives to the benefit of us all.” More recently in Texas regarding sanctuary cities, MALDEF has filed suit against SB 4 which threatens removal from office and prosecution of local officials who refuse to comply with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. The lawsuit was filed on the grounds that the detainments violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure.

We applaud the vitally important work that MALDEF does, day in and day out — not only for the benefit of the immigrant community, but for the benefit of our nation as a whole. We are a nation of immigrants, founded on the principles of dignity and fairness for everyone. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The racial profiling of the VOICE office of the current administration is a threat to the freedom, respect and justice of all of us. It is crucial that we support organizations like MALDEF, fighting for our most vulnerable populations.


Week Eighteen: Ventana Wildlife Society

On Thursday March 2nd, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repealed a ban on using lead ammunition for hunting in areas under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service including wildlife refuges. The ban was put in place to prevent lead poisoning of animals, plants, and humans. There is significant fragmentation in used lead rounds that can potentially contaminate the ground and water. In addition, large birds of prey can accumulate lead when they regularly feed on carrion. Lead toxicity has been shown in humans to cause heart attacks, strokes, and brain damage. Proponents of lead bullets claim that lead-free bullets are more expensive and that lead bullets do not cause substantial harm to wildlife. Environmentalists claim that lead bullets put threatened species such as the California condor at risk, and that there are plenty of types of lead-free ammunition on the market that studies have shown perform and cost the same as lead bullets. To save the condor, the state of California is implementing their own lead ammunition ban which will phase out lead bullets entirely by 2019. Here is a petition asking for Secretary Zinke to reinstate the national ban.

This week we donated to the Ventana Wildlife Society, which we were introduced to through the Oakland Zoo’s California Condor Conservation Program. Not only does the Oakland Zoo supply veterinary care to injured condors, it also provides outreach to local students, connecting them with field biologists and teaching them how to use GIS mapping to analyze conservation challenges. In 1987, there was only a single wild California condor left, so it was taken into captivity to join the last 26 remaining condors to increase the population through a captive breeding program. The breeding was successful and in 1992 the participating zoos began reintroducing the condors into the wild. This reintroduction was also successful, and the population in the wild is now approaching a small but vastly improved 240 birds. The Ventana Wildlife Society, the Oakland Zoo, the aforementioned Fish and Wildlife Service, and other program partners re-established, monitor, and manage this once again wild condor population.

We see absolutely no reason that the ban of lead bullets should be repealed. There are a variety of lead-free bullets on the market and the consequences of using lead bullets are so detrimental to wildlife. The California condor is a thriving, inspiring example of what can happen when we humans band together and use our resources to help wildlife. In the face of looming extinction, the California condor rallied and is now soaring through the open skies. Lead bullets put progress like this at risk—not only harming animals, but harming humans, too. Our natural environment shows, time and time again, how we are all connected: humans, animals, plants, the water and the earth. If we pollute the environment, we will eventually poison ourselves as well. When we protect the environment, we are investing in our health and our future.

Week Seventeen: Donors Choose

As part of the proposed $10.6 billion cuts to the Department of Education, the White House is planning to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which currently erases student loan debts of public sector and nonprofit workers after 10 years of service and on-time loan payments. The program, started in 2007, uses debt forgiveness to compensate workers who seek nonprofit and government employment in lieu of the generally higher-paying private sector business jobs. Some of the common occupations among the 500,000 Americans who have signed up for the program include social workers, librarians, public defenders, teachers, and primary care doctors. The proposal would end the program for new borrowers, so those already paying off loans would still have their loans forgiven after meeting the program requirements.

This week, we donated to Mrs. Ward’s classroom at the Dawson Orman Education Center in Louisville, KY through the nonprofit organization Donors Choose, a website that allows individuals to donate directly to public-school classroom projects. Seventeen years ago, Donors Choose was founded by a public high school teacher in the Bronx named Charles Best, who found himself photocopying the one copy of Little House on the Prairie he could procure for his students. He thought about all the money that he and his fellow teachers spent on books, art supplies, and other materials for their classrooms, and came up with the idea for a website where teachers could post classroom project requests, and donors could choose the ones they wanted to support. Our donation to Mrs. Ward’s classroom helped fund a writing center learning station for her young students in the Head Start program, and our donation was matched by sponsor PNC Grow Up Great.

We believe that people who demonstrate a commitment to nonprofit and government careers through years of service should have an opportunity for student loan forgiveness. After all, to get a job in these fields, one needs higher education, which often requires taking out student loans. These people should not be punished for going into the public sector, taking lower-paying jobs that make it more difficult to pay off their loans. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is rigorous, requiring 10 full years of service and on-time loan payments. This program is a huge financial help to so many of our citizens working in vitally important jobs for the health and vitality of our nation: teachers, social workers, public defenders, primary care doctors, librarians. Where would we be without them? Why take away this program that is meant to demonstrate a small sliver of gratitude for their service?