Category Archives: Civil Rights

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Smith County plans to sue Volkswagen over faulty emissions

Posted: Nov 27, 2015 3:23 PM PSTUpdated: Nov 27, 2015 3:43 PM PST

The Legal Definition Of A Refugee, Which Obama Pays No Attention To

A puzzlement about the debate over accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees next year and more in the future is the lack of discussion of a fundamental point: Does Obama have the legal authority to order their admission to the U.S. as a humanitarian measure?

The answer is “no.”

The dictionary definition of a “refugee” is “a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.”

This definition underlies most of the media discussions of the Syrian situation, with its emphasis on the humanitarian crisis, which is indeed horrendous. The definition also underlies the President’s uncontested authority to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees outside of the United States if he believes that such assistance will “contribute to the foreign policy interests of the United States.” [22 U.S.C. sec 2601(b)(2)] The U.S. has already spent over $4 billion on Syrian relief under this authority.for this purpose.

However, the meaning of “refugee” in U.S. immigration law is narrower than this dictionary definition.

In immigration law, for purposes of admitting someone to the U.S., the crucial factor is whether a person has a legitimate fear of persecution, not whether a humanitarian crisis exists. By statute [8 U.S.C. Sec.1101(42)], a “refugee” is: “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to . . . that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion…”

The statute then stretches this definition to include a person who is within his own country but who has the requisite fear of persecution. But the status of “refugee” can be granted only under “special circumstances” specified by the president. And before determining that special circumstances exist, the president must “consult,” in the form of in-person discussions between cabinet rank officials and members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees concerning all aspects of the situation. No agreement is necessary; just consultation [8 U.S.C. Sec. 1157(e)].

Section 1157 also provides for caps on the number of refugees admitted each year, and for presidential estimates of the likely numbers at the beginning of each year.

Nothing in the stretched definition changes the basic requirement that a refugee be someone who has well-founded fear of persecution.

The current controversy started on September 10, when the administration announced via press briefing a plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees next year. The next step was a formal Presidential Determination on refugee levels for FY2016, which projected admission of 85,000 total. The word “Syria” does not appear in the Determination, and the goal of resettling 10,000 Syrians appears only in news reports and briefings, such as a WhiteHouse.gov memo by DHS on How We’re Welcoming Syrian Refugees While Ensuring Our Safety.

Neither the press briefing nor the Presidential Determination nor the DHS memo mentions the statutory criterion of fear of persecution, and it is unclear why 10,000 Syrians will meet the standard. The State Department’s Report to Congress reviewing the section 1157(e) factors and explaining the reasoning behind the estimates does not explain why Syrian refugees meet the criterion.

Read Full Article – http://www.forbes.com/sites/jvdelong/2015/11/19/syria-who-is-a-refugee/

Court: Anti-Muslim slurs get legal protection

By Tresa Baldas

Detroit Free Press

8:45 a.m. EDT October 29, 2015

Marching around with a pig’s head on a pole while telling Dearborn Muslims they would “burn in hell” may have been loathsome and intolerable — but the First Amendment still protects and allows such activity, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

In a case that tests the limits of free speech, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a group of Christian evangelists who were evicted from a 2012 Arab-American street festival over their conduct. The demonstrators were marching around with a pig’s head mounted on a pole while carrying anti-Muslim signs and making anti-Muslim statements.

Sheriff’s deputies removed the demonstrators —  who were pelted with rocks, eggs and water bottles — to restore the peace.

But that triggered a lawsuit by a California group called Bible Believers, which claimed that Wayne County sheriff’s deputies failed to protect them, and instead unlawfully kicked them out to silence their protected speech.

The lawsuit failed twice, once in federal court in Detroit, then again before a three-judge panel with the Sixth Circuit, which concluded the sheriff’s deputies were justified in evicting the demonstrators.

The suit then went before the entire Sixth Circuit bench, which reversed course and ruled in favor of the Christian evangelists, concluding their speech was protected,

“Diversity, in viewpoints and among cultures, is not always easy. An inability or a general unwillingness to understand new or different points of view may breed fear, distrust and even loathing,” the justices wrote. “But … the First Amendment demands that we tolerate the viewpoints of others with whom we may disagree.”

The Sixth Circuit stressed that the First Amendment “envelops all manner of speech, even when that speech is loathsome in its intolerance, designed to cause offense, and, as a result of such offense, arouses violent retaliation.”

Attorney Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center, who argued the case on behalf of the Bible Believers, applauded the decision, saying it was  “solidly on the side of free speech.”

“If this went the other way, it would incentivize  violence as a legitimate response to free speech, and that is wrong in our country,” Muise said.  “Any freedom-loving American enjoys protections of the First Amendment.”

Read Full Article – http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/wayne/2015/10/28/court-evangelists-pigs-head-slurs-deserved-protection/74755074/