RESIST Trump’s Disastrous Budget!

The preliminary budget released from the White House yesterday is a NIGHTMARE for the entire nation --- poor and low-income people, middle-income people, people of color, children, seniors, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, working people, those living in rural areas, those living in urban areas. EVERYONE.

The proposed budget bolsters attacks on immigrants, threatens the well-being of communities, and decimates the values that undergird this country, while prioritizing military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy. If the full budget proposal to be released in May has ANY resemblance to this draconian preliminary budget, it must be considered DEAD ON ARRIVAL.The people of this nation CANNOT allow Congress to pass anything close to what is proposed. Additionally, a mild step back from the proposed budget will not be tolerated. The budget ultimately passed MUST be fundamentally different from what is being proposed by this Administration and must uphold the longstanding values of the country, advance fairness and inclusion, expand opportunity, and protect the nation’s most vulnerable.

Believers in justice, fairness, and decency cannot be silent during these attempts to wipe away years of work toward a more inclusive and equitable society.  NOW is the time to unite and organize!! All people, faiths, associations, and organizations who care about people and the nation, must come together to resist this assault on the American people and the fundamentals of responsible governance. We encourage EVERYONE to get involved. Stay alert and watch what is happening with the Trump Administration and Congress, call your congressional members and hold them accountable for your concerns, join efforts in your community to advance important policies, and push back against harmful ones. Click here to find out what is happening in your community and GET INVOLVED today. And, to learn more details about the preliminary budget document released yesterday, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website has a number of resources.

This is a critical time in our nation’s history. We CANNOT allow the current Administration to destroy progress and inflict suffering on millions of people. Like you, PolicyLink will continue to resist and defend. Just earlier this week, we joined with our partners Public Advocates, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and Poverty & Race Research Action Council to launch CarsonWatch, a watchdog effort that will be fighting back against attempts to gut invaluable housing and community development programs and roll back the clock on civil rights protections, including important rules under the Fair Housing Act. We hope you’ll visit the website and join the effort by signing up for alerts.

In the days to come, PolicyLink will announce a framework for our broader resistance efforts that will provide additional ways to take action and be heard. Stay tuned. Be encouraged. We SHALL NOT be defeated.

PolicyLink Joins Public Advocates to Launch CarsonWatch

Will you help?

Today, PolicyLink is partnering with Public Advocates, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council to launch CarsonWatch to monitor activities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Too much is at stake to let HUD’s activities go unmonitored.

The agency is being led by Dr. Ben Carson, a fair housing skeptic with zero housing or federal agency experience, who was appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate to lead an agency whose impact will be felt among veterans, the elderly, and disabled as well as homeless families across the country. Already there are promises to cut $6 billion from the agency’s budget. Communities around the country are in jeopardy of losing flexible redevelopment funds that have received bipartisan support for decades.

Secretary Carson has the power to roll back the clock on civil rights protections – and has likened existing fair housing protections to “social engineering.” He could undermine programs that enable countless Americans to make their rent each month – and has called poverty a “choice.” The lives of many of the 100 million people in the United States currently living in poverty, which includes those living in rural and urban areas, will be further and unnecessarily disrupted by these cuts. Communities will face shortfalls for services they can’t cover. Families will be forced to struggle to further tighten insufficient budgets to make ends meet.

Secretary Carson also has the power to steer taxpayer support to Trump business interests, lining his boss’s pockets in the process. He even refused to rule out such unethical actions during his Senate confirmation hearing. We are deeply concerned about this appointment and worry that Americans may be at risk of losing their homes and watching their civil liberties dismantled before their eyes.

That’s why we’re proud to join Public Advocates, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council in the launch of CarsonWatch. We hope you will, too.

Sign up today to keep watch at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thank you for your support.

New Executive Order, Same Illegal Discrimination

Yesterday the Trump Administration released a new executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”  This order revises the infamous “Muslim Ban” executive order from late January, which was blocked by the courts.  We are confident that the courts will similarly block enforcement of the revised executive order.  

The new executive order makes some changes aimed at withstanding court scrutiny, but the basics of the order remain in place – including its illegal discrimination against immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, without any factual basis in national security needs. (The Administration has stated that the new executive order will advance “the same basic policy outcome” as the prior order.) The Administration’s changes constitute tinkering around the edges, while leaving in place the order’s central, discriminatory purpose and effect.

Following is more detail regarding the new executive order, including a short explanation of legal claims against the order that are likely to be addressed by courts.  We have also included a list of some of the national advocacy organizations advancing legal and non-legal strategies to protect immigrants and refugees from the devastating effects of the Trump Administration’s hasty and baseless actions.

PolicyLink stands with advocates for immigrant communities and families around the world in opposing the discriminatory and needless revision of our nation’s longstanding immigration and refugee programs. To better serve the Equity Network in these challenging times, PolicyLink has added a seasoned public interest attorney, Julian Gross, to our staff. The information below was prepared by Julian, PolicyLink James O. Gibson Innovation Fellow, based in the PolicyLink Oakland office.

Changes in the New Executive Order

The new executive order is drafted more carefully than the prior order, and contains some changes clearly aimed at helping the order withstand court challenge. The new order is somewhat more limited in scope than the prior order: it applies only to individuals who are outside the United States as of March 16, and who do not have or have not recently had a valid visa. In addition, there are explicit exceptions to the new travel ban for many classes of people, including lawful permanent residents, others permissibly in the country, certain dual nationals and diplomats, persons who have already been granted asylum or refugee status, and others. Finally, there is a new “waiver” section, allowing discretionary case-by-case waivers for several other categories of people, including those needing immediate medical care, those who have provided assistance to the U.S. Government, and those working for international organizations, etc.

This narrower version eliminates some situations in which the prior order was obviously overbroad and plainly unrelated to valid security concerns. However, the core provisions of the prior order are still in place, and the majority of the legal claims that were raised in multiple lawsuits challenging the prior order are just as strong with regard to the new executive order. These claims are described below.

Crucially, the legal claim that was the main basis of the nationwide injunction against the prior executive order is not affected by the changes made by the Administration. (The Ninth Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction against the prior order based primarily on a holding that the order violated individuals’ procedural due process rights.) This and other claims are sure to be raised against the new executive order, either in existing cases or in new litigation, on behalf of states and affected individuals. 

Legal Claims Against the New Executive Order

The following legal claims were raised against the January 27 executive order. These and others will likely be raised against the new executive order as well.

  • Equal Protection. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires “strict scrutiny” of government classifications based on national origin or religion. Strict scrutiny is the highest constitutional standard, making it very difficult for the government to justify its actions and have them upheld by courts.
    • Claim: The executive order explicitly discriminates against individuals based on national origin, without adequate justification.
    • Claim: Based on the choice of countries the executive order targets, the executive order discriminates against individuals based on religion, without adequate justification. Note that the Administration attempted to partially address this claim in the revised executive order by removing the original order’s “religious minority” exemption, which was seemingly aimed at benefitting Christians, given the countries at issue. This claim still applies to other aspects of the new executive order, however, including the choice of countries affected.
  • Establishment Clause. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing a state-endorsed religion, or limiting the free exercise of religion. Government actions that discriminate between religions can be challenged under the establishment clause.
    • Claim: By singling out majority-Muslim nations without legitimate basis, the executive order discriminates between religions, in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
    • As noted above, the Administration attempted to partially address this claim in the revised executive order by removing the original order’s “religious minority” exemption, which was seemingly aimed at benefitting Christians, given the countries at issue. This claim still applies to other aspects of the new executive order, however.
  • Procedural Due Process (Fifth Amendment). The Constitution’s due process clause requires a fair process before the government denies important personal rights and interests, often including adequate notice, court hearings, right to counsel, avoidance of arbitrary action, and so forth.
    • Claim: The executive order affects individuals’ protected rights without providing them adequate opportunity to defend themselves.
    • This claim is crucial, in that it focuses on the reality of how the order will be implemented, including the degree of access to courts and judicial oversight.
  • Immigration and Nationality Act. This law, passed by Congress in 1965, sets rules that the executive branch has to follow in dealing with immigration issues.
    • Claim: The executive order violates the INA, which prohibits the executive branch from discriminating between countries in issuance of visas, and which establishes rights to asylum for certain individuals.
  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This federal statute requires courts to apply strict scrutiny in reviewing actions that inhibit individuals’ free exercise of religion.
    • Claim: The executive order violates the RFRA’s prohibition of government substantially burdening exercise of religion.
    • This claim is based on the executive order’s exclusive focus on majority-Muslim countries, and other aspects of its design and implementation.
    • As noted above, the Administration attempted to partially address this claim in the revised executive order by removing the original order’s “religious minority” exemption, which was seemingly aimed at benefitting Christians, given the countries at issue. This claim still applies to other aspects of the new executive order, however.

In addition to the above claims against the executive order, there are crucial legal issues that courts will have to address based on the Administration’s defense of the executive order. These include:

  • how much judicial review is permissible with regard to the executive’s actions assertedly related to national security and the country’s borders;
  • the ability of states to bring claims on their own behalf or on behalf of others; and
  • which of the above legal claims may be raised by non-citizens

Details Regarding Content of the Executive Order

The executive order suspends entry into the United States of non-citizens from Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. (Executive Order Section 2(c).) The suspension initially runs for 90 days from March 16, 2017.

  • The order includes new provisions indicating that the travel ban applies only to individuals from the listed countries who meet all of the following criteria:
       (i) are outside the United States on March 16, 2017;
       (ii) did not have a valid visa at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time on January 27, 2017; and
       (iii) do not have a valid visa on March 16, 2017.
       (Section 3(a).)
  • In addition, the order includes new provisions indicating that the travel ban does not apply to individuals from the listed countries who meet any of the following criteria:
       (i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
       (ii) any foreign national who is admitted to or paroled into the United States on or after March 16;
       (iii) any foreign national who has a document other than a visa, valid on the effective date of this order or issued on any date thereafter, that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission, such as an advance parole document;
       (iv) any dual national of a listed country when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a non-listed country;
       (v) any foreign national traveling on a diplomatic or diplomatic-type visa, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visa, C-2 visa for travel to the United Nations, or G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa; or
       (vi) any foreign national who has been granted asylum; any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States; or any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
    (Section 3(b).)
  • The executive order includes a new waiver provision, allowing discretionary waiver, on a case-by-case basis, of the travel ban for individuals in any of several categories, including:
       (i) previously admitted for specific activities;
       (ii) previously established significant contacts with the United States but is outside the United States on the effective date of this order for work, study, or other lawful activity;
       (iii) seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry during the suspension period would impair those obligations;
       (iv) seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship;
       (v) an infant, a young child or adoptee, an individual needing urgent medical care, or someone whose entry is otherwise justified by the special circumstances of the case;
       (vi) employed by, or on behalf of, the United States Government (or is an eligible dependent of such an employee) and the employee can document that he or she has provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government;
       (vii) traveling for purposes related to an international organization or to conduct business with the U.S. Government;
       (viii) landed Canadian immigrant who applies for a visa at a location within Canada;
       (ix) traveling as a United States Government-sponsored exchange visitor.
       (Section 3(c).)
  • The executive order indicates that Iraqi nationals “should be subjected to thorough review,” but does not impose a presumptive ban, the way the order does with regard to the six listed countries. (Section 4.) This is a change from the prior executive order.
  • The executive order formally revokes the prior executive order, no. 13,769. (Section 13.)
  • The executive order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to request from other countries information it deems relevant to security evaluations of applicants for entry, and contemplates blocking entry of individuals from countries that do not comply with such information requests. (Sections 2.(a), (b), (d)-(f).)
  • The executive order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to develop a uniform, enhanced screening program “to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission.” (Section 5.)
  • The executive order suspends admissions under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. The order requires review of security procedures for screening individuals in the program, and indicates that the program may only be resumed “for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.” (Section 6(a).) The new order removes the prior order’s legally questionable provision that future refugee admissions be prioritized for individuals facing religion-based persecution, but only where the person’s religion is a minority religion in the country in question.
  • The executive order caps the total number of refugees that can be admitted at 50,000. (Section 6(b).) The prior order’s permanent suspension of admission for refugees from Syria has been removed.
  • The executive order suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program. (Section 9.)
  • The executive order contains other provisions relating to federal government reporting and reconsideration of certain programs and positions. (Sections 7 and 8.)
  • The executive order requires the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Attorney General to track and report a range of crimes and actions taken by foreign nationals. (Section 11.)


Advocacy Resources

Following are some of the many organizations working to protect our immigrant communities.


Oakland Attorney Angela Glover Blackwell Wages Fight for Equity

Cross-posted from The San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly 40 years ago, when San Francisco’s struggling Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood was losing yet another business to hard times — in this case, a grocery store — one attorney had seen enough.

Angela Glover Blackwell, an early believer in the need for fresh foods in the inner city, petitioned the governor’s office to intervene and make sure the community maintained a full-service grocery. The alternative was letting residents shop at liquor stores and gas stations.

The petition didn’t go as planned — a new store didn’t open. But the case marked the dawning of Blackwell’s long and distinguished career in social justice, which most recently had her working with the Obama administration to bring grocery stores to underserved cities nationwide.

“I think the last 10 years have been my best,” said Blackwell, now 71, as she sat in her window office on a recent weekday at PolicyLink, the Oakland research and advocacy group she founded 18 years ago. “We need to keep working to make sure we’re creating opportunities.”

From her desk, which sits beneath pictures and posters that sound rallying cries such as “Equity” and “Protect Oakland renters,” Blackwell oversees a staff of 70 public policy experts and attorneys in California, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her organization partners with communities all over the country to help disadvantaged people, often minorities.

The effort, which not only involves healthy food but issues ranging from housing to transportation to education, earned Blackwell a nomination for the 2017 Visionary of the Year award sponsored by The Chronicle and the School of Economics and Business Administration at St. Mary’s College.

“With shifting demographics, the big story is that the majority is becoming people of color,” she said. “The fate of our nation will depend on what happens to people of color.”

Among her organization’s recent work is helping implement the federal government’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. The program assists with planning in depressed neighborhoods; for example, making sure residents have basics like public transit and Internet.

PolicyLink is also helping with business development in poorer parts of Detroit, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It’s also aiding in the creation of community art projects from Alaska to Mississippi.

“We cross all the issue areas and all the work domains,” said Blackwell, as she clutched a copy of “The Equity Manifesto,” PolicyLink’s call to action that takes its employees to wherever they might find inequality.

While Blackwell frequently travels in the pursuit of social justice, as well for speaking engagements and fundraising, sometimes the need is right in her backyard.

PolicyLink recently helped create Oakland’s affordable housing strategy, a work in progress designed to protect 17,000 city households from being pushed out of town by rising real estate prices and to create 17,000 new homes over eight years.

“They’ve been a critical partner to me as mayor,” said Oakland’s Libby Schaaf, noting that Blackwell was a source of inspiration for her long before the two got to know each other and exchange cell phone numbers.

“As a young college student, I saw her speak at a League of Women Voters event, and it’s really the first time I felt inspired to get involved with local politics,” Schaaf said. “I remember almost feeling drawn, like you’d be drawn to a minister.”

Blackwell lives near Oakland’s Lake Merritt in a house she’s been in for four decades. She is married with two grown children, and three grandchildren, all of whom live locally. Trying to make time for work and family — her husband is an orthopedic surgeon — is tough, she said, but she manages, eating out a lot and waking up early to go to the gym.

Blackwell grew up in St. Louis, where her neighborhood was anything but the neglected communities she advocates for today. It was an economically diverse area with good schools, parks and a healthy mix of businesses, she said, though as she got older she saw it slide.

“Rather than walking to a grocery store, or driving, we were driving farther and farther into the suburbs,” she said.

Blackwell got her bachelor’s degree at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University before going to law school at UC Berkeley.

Before PolicyLink, she worked as a senior vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, overseeing the organization’s cultural activities. Before that, her career had a number of chapters, including 11 years practicing law at the nonprofit firm Public Advocates in San Francisco.

It was during her time there, in 1979, that she fought unsuccessfully for a grocery store in the Bayview, though her effort prompted Gov. Jerry Brown, during his first time around in the office, to form a commission to explore the problem of “food deserts.” The state Department of Agriculture followed up with money to support farmers’ markets in communities that lacked fresh food.

As chief executive officer at PolicyLink, Blackwell’s push for fresh foods continued when she helped the Obama administration launch the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which today provides funding for groceries and markets in low-income areas.

While she worries that government assistance programs may take a hit under President Trump, she tries to remain optimistic.

“It’s too early to say there’s going to be no opportunities,” she said.

This winter, Blackwell authored an essay called the “The Curb-Cut Effect” in a Stanford University journal about how assisting one group, say the disabled, benefits everyone. She hopes Trump’s moves to help red state voters who supported him out of economic concerns will also help those suffering in poor, urban areas.

“The good news,” she said, “is that the economic inclusive agenda that will reach people who are white, rural and working class is the same economic inclusive agenda that will reach people of color.”

Visionary of the Year award

This is one of six profiles of nominees for The Chronicle’s third annual Visionary of the Year award, which is presented in collaboration with St. Mary’s College’s School of Economics and Business Administration. The honor salutes leaders who strive to make the world a better place and drive social and economic change by employing new, innovative business models and practices. The six finalists were nominated by a distinguished committee that included Chase Adam, co-founder of the nonprofit Watsi and winner of the 2016 award; Greg Becker, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank; Emmett Carson, founding CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Ron Conway, angel investor and philanthropist; Zhan Li, dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration at St. Mary's College; Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland; Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker; and Michael Walker, executive vice president and regional executive of City National Bank.

Chronicle Publisher Jeff Johnson, Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper and Editorial Page Editor John Diaz will select the winner, which will be announced during a March 30 event.

To read more:

PolicyLink Joins Civil and Human Rights Organizations to Oppose Confirmation of Jeff Sessions

Civil and Human Rights Organizations Oppose Confirmation of Jeff Sessions

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 144 undersigned organizations, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the confirmation of Senator Jefferson B. Sessions (R-AL) to be the 84th Attorney General of the United States.

Senator Sessions has a 30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law, and hostility to the protection of civil rights that makes him unfit to serve as the Attorney General of the United States.  In our democracy, the Attorney General is charged with enforcing our nation’s laws without prejudice and with an eye toward justice.  And, just as important, the Attorney General has to be seen by the public – every member of the public, from every community – as a fair arbiter of justice.  Unfortunately, there is little in Senator Sessions’ record that demonstrates that he would meet such a standard. 

Read entire letter at LCCHR.