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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Files Lawsuit Challenging Georgia’s Unlawful Racial Gerrymander

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed suit against the State of Georgia and its Secretary of State to remedy an unlawful racial gerrymander. The suit, filed in federal court in Atlanta, claims that the redrawing of lines for Georgia House of Representatives Districts 105 and 111, in 2015, was done with a racially discriminatory purpose to favor the election of White incumbents. The complaint alleges violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Mid-decade redistricting has become another tactic used by those who seek to suppress the rights of minority voters in the face of racial demographic change,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Lawmakers in Georgia explicitly used race to reconfigure district boundaries to guarantee the reelection of white incumbents. This kind of racial gerrymandering is not only unlawful, but illustrative of the ugly racial discrimination that infects the political process in Georgia today.”

“The history of the struggle to disenfranchised people in the nation demonstrates that power concedes nothing without a demand. This litigation represents our demand that the 'we' in 'We the People' include all people,” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro Civil Rights Attorney, and Georgia NAACP President. “In the fight to secure the right to vote and elect the candidates of our choice, the NAACP will mortgage every asset we have. These rights are sacred. Hallowed no less by the blood, sweat, and tears of those who came before us."

“The people of Georgia deserve an electoral system that is fair and free of decisions based on racial gerrymandering and partisan gamesmanship,” said Jennifer Dempsey, Partner, Bryan Cave, LLP. “We hope this lawsuit will advance that cause.”

“As the authors of the Voting Rights Act knew, the right to vote is one of the most important rights of the citizens of this country,” said Gregory Phillips, Partner, Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP. “This lawsuit is brought in order to ensure that all citizens of the State of Georgia, irrespective of color or party, will be able to exercise that right freely and fairly.”

The Georgia House of Representatives is composed of 180 members, each of whom is elected from a single-member district. Traditionally, states adopt a new redistricting plan every ten years, after the decennial Census, so as to comply with the Constitution’s “one person, one vote” requirement. The Georgia legislature, however, has repeatedly sought to amend its post-2010 redistricting plan for its House of Representatives, even though there is no legitimate reason to do so. It most recently did so in 2015, when it passed House Bill 566 (“H.B. 566”) in ways that departed from normal procedures. For example, African American legislators serving on reapportionment committees were excluded from the process of determining the changes.

Most important, H.B. 566 used race as the predominant factor to allocate African-American and other minority voters into and out of House Districts 105 and 111, so as to reduce the ability of African-American and other voters to elect candidates of their choice. These changes were made against the backdrop of a growing African-American population in those two districts and recent elections that saw White Republican candidates just narrowly defeating Black Democratic candidates.

The Complaint alleges that the passage of H.B. 566, in the context of the historical discrimination against African Americans in Georgia and racially polarized voting, was intended, at least in part, to reduce the number of minority voters and increase the number of White voters to reduce minority voting strength in Districts 105 and 111, and was a racial gerrymander in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the Complaint alleges that the redistricting plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander as it creates political classifications without any legitimate legislative objective.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and several individuals who live in the contested Districts. Working with the Lawyers’ Committee as pro bono counsel are the law firms of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and Bryan Cave. The suit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.

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Advancing Justice-LA Expands Naturalization Services, Urges Eligible Immigrnts To Naturalize

LOS ANGELES, CA - After the election, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) witnessed a surge of clients interested in becoming U.S. citizens. Last month, temporary staff were hired to meet the demand and support expanding naturalization assistance to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrants living in Los Angeles County. Further, with anti-immigrant sentiment growing across the country, Advancing Justice-LA urges eligible individuals to not delay in applying for citizenship.

Southern California is home to an estimated 300,000 Asian immigrants eligible for U.S. citizenship. Of this, more than half live in Los Angeles County alone. In 2012, the number of legal permanent residents (LPRs) from Asia and the Pacific settling in Los Angeles was more than double that from Mexico.

Last year, Advancing Justice-LA launched Endless Possibilities, Citizenship Now! to encourage the AAPI community to naturalize.

“When we launched the Endless Possibilities, Citizenship Now! campaign last year, we knew that our communities were motivated to naturalize for increased job opportunities, family reunification, and access to benefits,” said Christine Chen, citizenship project staff attorney at Advancing Justice-LA who managed the campaign. “But in our current political climate, Protect Yourself. Citizenship Now! is the more relevant and urgent message we want our clients to hear.”

In the year prior to the 2016 presidential election, Advancing Justice-LA received nearly 2,700 calls for citizenship assistance. The calls have nearly doubled over the past year with close to 5,000 calls since April 2016.

“It’s clear there is strong motivation to naturalize among immigrants in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Nasim Khansari, director of Advancing Justice-LA’s citizenship project. “We want to seize this unique opportunity to encourage anyone eligible to naturalize to contact us or a reputable service provider who can assist you with becoming a U.S. citizen. Now is the time to not only protect yourself but to make your voices heard.”

“Naturalization is the ultimate and strongest protection against aggressive tactics from the federal government that undermine the value and importance of immigrants and their contributions to society,” said City of Los Angeles Councilmember David Ryu.

Advancing Justice-LA’s citizenship team is available Tuesday through Friday to help provide application assistance. All staff are supervised by an immigration attorney or accredited representative. Individuals are encouraged to call Advancing Justice-LA’s toll-free in-language helpline to schedule an appointment:

Chinese 800-520-2356

Tagalog 855-300-2552

Korean 800-867-3640

Vietnamese 800-267-7395

Thai 800-914-9583

Khmer 800-867-3126

English/Other 888-349-9695

*Live hotlines hours are Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Callers can leave a voicemail message all other times. Messages are typically returned within one to two business days.

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House ACA Repeal and Replace Plan Imperils Public Health

Washington, DC, March 7, 2017 - The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing nearly 3,000 local health departments, is disappointed that the “American Healthcare Act” eliminates funding for core public health programs that keeps communities healthy and safe.

The “American Healthcare Act” eradicates funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) in FY2019, which makes up 12% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) funding. Among the programs at risk at the CDC are the 317 Immunization Program, Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Diabetes Prevention, among others.

“The Prevention and Public Health Fund provides vital resources to governmental public health at the federal, state, and local levels, and its elimination will serve to further erode our public health system. Congress continues to invest the nation’s health resources in a sick care system, while severely scaling back investment in programs that prevent people from getting sick in the first place,” said NACCHO’s Chief of Government Affairs Laura Hanen, MPP.

In addition, the “American Healthcare Act” ends funding in FY2020 for the Medicaid expansion in 32 states, which has provided access to primary and emergency care to millions of Americans. The bill also caps federal Medicaid funding that will ultimately result in shifting responsibility to the states and counties ? leaving governors, state legislatures, and local governments facing tight budgets with no choice but to reduce coverage for millions of seniors, low-income families, people with disabilities, and children.

“The bill’s provisions would severely handicap seniors and working families that are struggling to meet basic necessities, including food and shelter, and would create an untenable situation where increased costs will put healthcare out of reach for these citizens,” said Hanen. “Our nation is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to be healthy. The House bill would severely impact access to care for low-income Americans and maintenance of a good quality of life for all.”

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Rep. Lee: Trump Administration’s Refugee Ban Do-Over is Still Dangerous & Un-American

Washington, DC - Congresswoman Lee released the following statement regarding President Trump’s executive order barring refugees and immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States:

“After the American people and the courts resoundingly rejected the Trump Administration’s xenophobic executive order, President Trump has once again closed the doors to refugees fleeing violence and persecution.

“As a proud nation of immigrants, founded as a haven from religious persecution, this heartless executive order violates our basic values. In addition, this islamophobic order alienates our allies around the world and makes us less safe.

“The hate on display in the Trump Administration is not representative of our nation as a whole. Once again, we must reject this dangerous and unconstitutional action that undermines our national security.”

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State Water Board Adopts Climate Change Resolution

(March 7, 2017)-Today the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution requiring a proactive approach to climate change in all Board actions, including drinking water regulation, water quality protection, and financial assistance.

“Today’s Board action is part of California’s continuing leadership on climate change,” said State Water Board Vice-Chair Fran Spivy-Weber, and co-chair of the Brown administration’s water-energy team of the Climate Action Team (WET-CAT). “As our dramatic swing from severe drought to record-setting precipitation shows, we are already experiencing the impacts of more extreme weather, and face significant challenges to improve the resiliency of our water systems, from our dams to our groundwater basins.

“The Water Boards have a critical role to play because our programs range across water conservation, recycling, stormwater management, groundwater management, and surface water allocation. We can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our infrastructure and our ecosystems,” said Spivy-Weber.

This action builds on a resolution adopted by the Board in 2007, which set forth initial actions it should take to respond to climate change and support the implementation of Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the landmark climate change law that was adopted in 2006. Since that time, the Brown administration developed the California Water Action Plan, a blueprint for achieving more sustainable water management by improving water supply reliability, restoring important wildlife and habitat, and making the state’s water systems and environment more resilient.

Since 2007, the State and Regional Water Boards have taken a variety of actions to respond to climate change impacts. Examples include funding the expansion of recycled water to increase drought resilience, adopting regulations to increase the collection of urban stormwater, and reducing flood risk and enhancing water supply.

In addition, the Water Boards are implementing legislative mandates to strengthen climate change resilience, including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which will bring depleted groundwater basins into balance to provide a buffer against future droughts. The Los Angeles Regional Board has been active as well. To learn more, visit their climate change portal.

The directives called for in today’s resolution include tracking and reporting on actions to reduce greenhouse gases, coordination with internal and external stakeholders to account for climate change, and development of recommendations for specific, enforceable actions over time. One of the directives requires collaboration with the California Air Resources Board and other agencies to reduce methane emissions from landfills, feedlots, and wastewater treatment plants, as part of the state’s goal of reducing short-lived climate pollutants.

The resolution also requires State Water Board staff to use current models and data to inform Board actions. State regulators can no longer rely solely on historical data to guide decisions under climate change. To increase regulatory consistency, the resolution also requires staff to use climate change policy guidance from other agencies. For example, for decisions relating to coastal infrastructure protection, staff must use guidance from the California Coastal Commission and Ocean Protection Council.

Additional Climate Change and Drought Resources

For more information on the state’s effort to combat and adapt to climate change, visit the climate change portal here. To follow the state and regional water board efforts on this, visit the climate change page here.

To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov.

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Assemblymember McCarty Names Tamika L’Ecluse

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D – Sacramento) today named children’s advocate Tamika L’Ecluse as the Assembly District 7’s 2017 Woman of the Year.

Ms. L’Ecluse was born in Sacramento and raised by a single mother. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at American River College in hopes of earning an Associate degree in Science, but later shifted her focus to Early Childhood Education, and attended Sacramento City College. In 2006, she completed her early childhood education certification through the National Center for Montessori Education.

Ms. L’Ecluse became active in her community and social causes at an early age. Following generations of women who took active roles in civil and women’s rights, she began her advocacy campaigning against Proposition 22 (marriage inequality) in 2000. She also became a respected advocate for reproductive health options for women, gender equity, LGBTQ rights, children’s rights and anti-violence measures. Her advocacy has most recently focused on supporting healthy growth in her community by empowering parents and school officials to promote positive discipline practices.

After thirteen years of teaching in Early Childhood and Early Kindergarten, she joined the Greater Sacramento Urban League as a program manager, working toward reducing African-American child mortality in the Oak Park community of Sacramento. Ms. L’Ecluse has served as board member, Vice President and President of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association, serves on the Board of Directors for the California Montessori Project, is an appointed member of the Sacramento Promise Zone Resident Council and is an active voice for community members who seek social justice, smart growth, and inclusive practices for all.

“Tamika L’Ecluse is a bright light in the Sacramento region, giving inspiration and hope to people in our community and throughout the 7th Assembly District,” said Assemblymember McCarty. “I am pleased to honor Ms. L’Ecluse for her commitment and dedication to help students maximize their potential, to build a strong and diverse workforce and to improve the lives of residents throughout Sacramento County.”

The Woman of the Year event was created in 1987 to recognize March as Women’s History Month and to individually celebrate the contributions and unique accomplishments of women in each of the Assembly’s 80 districts.

The 2017 Woman of the Year event took place in the Assembly Chambers of the State Capitol on Monday, March 6, 2017.

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Senator Tony Mendoza Appointed To The Joint Legislative Audit Committee

SACRAMENTO – Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León today appointed Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC). The Senate Rules Committee confirmed the appointment Wednesday afternoon.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is a Standing (permanent) Committee composed of both Senate and Assembly members. It is statutorily charged with ascertaining facts, and making reports and recommendations to the Legislature concerning the State, its agencies, departments, and political subdivisions of the State. Independently and through the State Auditor, the JLAC investigates, studies, analyzes, and assesses the financial practices and the performance of existing governmental and/or publicly created entities in California - in order to assist those entities in fulfilling the purpose for which they were created by the Legislature.

"It is a great honor to be appointed to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee," Senator Mendoza said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly in a bipartisan manner to ensure California's government is transparent and accountable."

Senator Tony Mendoza, a Los Angeles native and former elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles, represents the 32nd Senate District encompassing portions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. For more information about Senator Mendoza visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Dutton Holds Open House at Joshua Tree Office Recorder and Clerk services are now offered at the Assessor’s Joshua Tree Office

SAN BERNARDINO, CA (February 24, 2017) – Friday, February 24, 2017, Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Bob Dutton, in coordination with San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos held an Open House to highlight the addition of Recorder and Clerk services now offered at the Joshua Tree Office. In attendance were residents who had the chance to meet with staff and learn about the new services being offered.

By utilizing existing technology, community members from the Morongo Basin are now able to have documents recorded and request copies of birth, death and marriage certificates. Marriage licenses and ceremonies are also available by appointment.

“With the large geographic size of San Bernardino County, I am pleased that we are making it easier to connect area residents and small businesses with the services they need,” said San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder-Clerk Bob Dutton. “With the use of existing technology, county infrastructure, and staff, the addition of these new services at the Joshua Tree office means smarter use of our tax dollars, less driving for local residents, and better services to the community. We hope to duplicate these efforts in other locations in the near future.”

“The County of San Bernardino thrives when its residents and businesses are well equipped with the latest resources and services to further their goals and dreams,” said San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos. “Today’s announcement of the additional county services now offered in Joshua Tree expedites processes that would normally have taken hours to days to do. The County continues to progressively move forward through making services easily accessible to everyone."

The Recorder-Clerk services hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 10am – 3pm (Closed 12pm-1pm for lunch). To make an appointment for a marriage license or ceremony, please call (760) 995-8065.

The Joshua Tree Satellite office is located at 63665 29 Palms Hwy, 1st Floor, Joshua Tree, CA 92252. For more information on various Assessor-Recorder-Clerk services offered in San Bernardino County, please visit www.sbcounty.gov/ARC.

Facebook Video Highlighting the Event: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialBobDutton/videos/10154210867511681/

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ICYMI: Santa Cruz Police Chief Blasts DHS for Betrayal

Washington, DC - As we highlighted yesterday, law enforcement voices across the country are speaking out against Trump’s mass deportation. In a press conference held yesterday, Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel joined the chorus, big league.

Chief Vogel’s police department originally worked with the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an operation targeting suspected MS-13 gang members. During the operation, however, DHS also arrested approximately a dozen undocumented immigrant residents with no criminal record -- violating Santa Cruz’s sanctuary city policies.

As Chief Vogel noted, "This flies in the face of the values that our community holds very deeply. The community has an absolute right to be angry over this … The detention and the removal of these individuals based solely upon their immigration status flies in the face of the City Council resolution declaring Santa Cruz a place of trust and safety for all local immigrants, as well as the values our community holds very, very deeply.”

The chief declared that they will no longer work with DHS, stating: “We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust.” He added, "This has violated the trust of our community, and we cannot tell you how disappointed we are by the betrayal of the Department of Homeland Security," Vogel said.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Jennie Pasquarella, a senior staff attorney and director of the immigrants' rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California noted that the actions of DHS agents in Santa Cruz were symptomatic of a greater, nationwide issue: “ICE is completely unhinged from any of the prior policies that governed their enforcement actions. They’re going after everybody that they find including collateral arrests. It signals a dramatic shift in the way that ICE is doing their work.”

In his outrage, Chief Vogel joins Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who announced this week that the Houston county will opt-out of the 287(g) program, an effort to involve local law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement.

As Sheriff Gonzalez made clear on MSNBC this week, this would hurt his mission to police the community and solve crimes:

“[I]t really concerns me to see that kind of fear happen in communities. To me it leads to more mistrust of police at a time when we need to be growing more trust, more collaboration with communities to solve local crimes … I’m going to focus on what’s best for the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as well as what I can do each day to make sure the residents of Harris County are safe.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said, “Chief Vogel is part of a growing group of law enforcement professionals who view ICE as undisciplined and untrustworthy and view Trump’s new blueprint for mass deportation as a threat to their public safety mission. When immigrants see local police as extensions of Trump’s deportation force they stop reporting crimes, serving as witnesses and being the force multiplier local police need to take criminals off the streets. Trump and his white nationalist aides may think they can bully local law enforcement into colluding with their fear tactics and raids. But as Chief Vogel makes clear, the priority of local law enforcement is to put public safety first, and that commitment extends to all residents, including immigrants. Enforcing flawed immigration policy on behalf of the federal government undermines that goal.”

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice Education Fund on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America's Voice Education Fund – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform

www.americasvoice.org

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Congressman Aguilar To Tour Inland Career Education Center

Congressman Pete Aguilar will tour the Inland Career Education Center on Tuesday, November 1, a school where thousands of area adults receive much-needed training in a variety of fields.

Aguilar will learn about the school’s efforts to educate immigrants seeking to learn English and American history as part of the process required to become U.S. citizens. In 2014, the Inland Career Education Center (ICEC), which is run by the San Bernardino City Unified School District, received a $250,000 federal grant to educate immigrants who are legal permanent residents.

The grant funding, which was secured in partnership with Catholic Charities, is funding additional citizenship-preparation class, said Jesús Galdamez, vice principal of the school.

Congressman Aguilar’s visit will take place from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The Inland Career Education Center is located at 1200 North E Street in San Bernardino.

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