Report: Feds Lock Children in Adult Immigration Detention

Report: Feds Lock Children in Adult Immigration Detention

New federal data released today by an advocacy group reveals that in the last four years,  at least 1,366 kids were locked up in adult immigration detention centers for more than three days. The majority were held in the jails for more than a week and 15 for more than six months. Federal rules require that minors be released from the facilities in less than three days.

The data, obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center, a Chicago-based non-profit, comes as Congress considers a number of reforms to the immigration detention system as part of the Senate’s immigration reform bill. The detention of minors is presumed already to be unlawful becuse of a 1997 legal settlement and the immigation agency’s own protocols.

Many of the young immigrants in the facilities were held in privately operated facilities or county jails that have contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 900 of those detained were 17-years-old and an additional 400 were 15 or 16 years old.  Two of the detained children were under the age of ten.

Currently, ICE us supposed to send children deemed to be unaccompanied, which means they have no legal guardian who can take them, to shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR often places the children in contracted foster care.  Children who are not unaccompanied, either because they were detained along with family or have clearly identified relatives, remain in ICE custody.  They are supposed to be released or placed in facilities appropriate for kids. As the LA Times reports, 3,800 immigrant minors are now held in juvenile detention facilities around the country.

But the new data reveals that in at least 1,366 cases, ICE has not followed its own rules and has locked minors in adult facilities.



TAGS: detention

North Carolina Republican Lawmaker Likens Civil Rights Protesters to ‘Crazies’

North Carolina Republican Lawmaker Likens Civil Rights Protesters to 'Crazies'

Over 1,600 protesters swarmed the legislative chambers in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina to voice opposition to a barrage of laws conservative lawmakers have proposed that would scale back benefits to low-income households and people of color. Over 150 people were arrested yesterday in the NAACP-led protests, which have been dubbed “Moral Monday.” 

“They [NC General Assembly] are making it harder for the poor and working poor, and those who are sick, to get health care; for children to get an education; for the incarcerated to be redeemed; for people to vote,” said North Carolina NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II. “But they are making it easier for the wealthy to get wealthier; for the sick to get sicker; for private schools to flourish; to implement the flawed death penalty and to get guns.”

The protests began in April when college students and clergy gathered in state legislative offices to pray and demonstrate. Back then, Barber said he hoped to prevent North Carolina governor Gov. Pat McCrory from becoming a “21st century George Wallace” by allowing the burdensome legislation — including a strict photo voter ID law and a felony disenfranchisment law — to pass. Over 300 peole have been arrested since then, including local mayors and elected officials.

Republican lawmakers mocked the protesters in the press — Rep. John Blust, who represents Greensboro where civil rights demonstrations against segregations were launched in the 1950s, said he saw the dissenters like “Carolina playing at Duke,” he told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I’m not going to let the Cameron Crazies throw me off my game.”

Grant Program May Incentivize More Weed Arrests Among Blacks

Grant Program May Incentivize More Weed Arrests Among Blacks

Black Americans were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana posession in 2010, even though the two groups smoke weed at similar rates, according to new federal data. The American Civil Liberties Union cites the Edward Bryne Justice Assistantship Grant Program as one possible reason for the disparity. The program incentivizes increasing drug arrest numbers by tying the statistics to funding. Law enforcement then concentrates on low-income neighborhoods to keep those numbers up. 

More at the Atlantic Wire:

The argument resonantes with criticism of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program, which overwhelmingly targets young, black or latino men in the city (and, indeed, demonstrates a racial disparity in arrests for marijuana possession). But as the ACLU and the Times show, the problem of racial bias in arrests for possessing a drug that is, after all,  gaining acceptance across the U.S., is a national one. the ACLU found a bias in “virtually every county in the country,” they told the Times,regardless of the proportional population of minorities in that county. 

Back in 2010 the NAACP called the racial discrepency in weed arrests a “civil rights issue.” One year later, to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. War on Drugs, author Michelle Alexander told a crowd of 1,000 at Harlem’s Riverside Church back in 2011, “The enemy in this war has been racially defined. The drug war, not by accident, has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color.”

To see just how that war has played out in communities of color, check out our infographic after the jump.

NPR Study Finds That Black Men Want Love, Too

NPR Study Finds That Black Men Want Love, Too

Despite high unemployment and a housing crisis that’s decimated black wealth, African-Americans are generally satisfied with their lives. That’s according to a new study released today by NPR in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s School of Public Health. Interestingly, the study found that when it comes to dating, black men are looking for long-term, committed relationships more than black women.

Gene Demby has more at NPR’s Code Switch blog:

[Harvard Public Health Professor Robert Blendon] speculated that this, too, might be tied in part to economic concerns. He pointed to studies in which black women are more concerned with the financial stability of their partners than Latinas or white women. And since black women are outpacing black men on a host of metrics that might determine their financial prospects — black women are more likely to attend and graduate college and receive advanced degrees — Blendon says they may be less likely to see much financial upside in pairing up compared to black men. “African-American women appear to have more security than men, and so women [might] see less men who see bring financial security to the table,” he said.

Demby also points out that it’s important to note that the pollsters asked specifically about long-term committed relationships, not marriage. But the numbers still complicate the belief widely held misconception that black women are desperately — and uniquely— looking for long-term love.

TAGS: dating NPR

Brittney Griner’s Nike Contract Just the Latest of Her Barrier-Breaking Moves

Brittney Griner's Nike Contract Just the Latest of Her Barrier-Breaking Moves

Brittney Griner is wasting no time in her barrier-breaking professional career. The #1 WNBA draft pick for the Phoenix Mercury made her professional basketball career debut last month with two dunks in a single game, setting a WNBA record at the same time. And this week she’s on the cover of ESPN magazine’s Taboo issue. In it, writer Kate Fagan reveals that Griner’s Nike contract breaks the mold for female basketball players’ endorsement deals.

Not only is Griner the first openly gay athlete to sign with Nike, her contract will allow her to wear clothes branded as menswear. It’s in keeping with Griner’s personal expression of her gender and sexuality, something she’s been forging since high school.

Fagan writes:

In the fall of 2005, the six-foot Griner showed up at Nimitz High wearing men’s sneakers, oversize jeans and a baggy shirt, trying the stud label on for size. Her friends looked her up and down and said, “All right, B, we see you,” putting her at ease. She also took up basketball that year, making the jump from volleyball, then grew six more inches before her sophomore season. The taunts didn’t stop — when she entered a gym, guys would yell, “Yo, you can untuck now!” — but Griner felt reborn. “I decided to just put myself out there,” she says. “When I’m in a dress, it’s like, ‘What am I doing in this?’ I feel trapped, like I’m in shackles and handcuffs and a straitjacket. So I was just like, F—- it, I’m going to wear what I want. I caught hell for it, but it felt so good being myself.”

Androgynous models are coveted in high-end fashion, but the trend toward gender-neutral clothing has only just begun to reach the sports world, with NBA stars Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade blurring the lines in their tight jeans and fitted sweaters. No sports apparel company has taken it a step further and expressly targeted the gender-fluid crowd — and whether Nike is willing to ride the edge with Griner remains to be seen. “We can’t get into specifics,” says Nike spokesman Brian Strong, “but it’s safe to say we jumped at the opportunity to work with her because she breaks the mold.”

Griner relishes the chance to show her evolved style, saying she doesn’t see herself as a certain “type” anymore. Others might call her a stud, but she’s just BG now. “It clicked for me,” she says. “I used to do the whole baggy, hard-core, I’m-a-boy look. Then I went through a preppy phase. Now I have the athletic, bow-tie look. I found my style.”

The article is a great conversation of gender, sexuality, style and sports icons. And it’s a beautiful portrait of Griner and her hard-won self-assurance. Read the rest at

Jessica Alba Shared Chemistry With Deceased Sen. Lautenberg

136dc7e2cc7e11e2ac5022000a9f18b3_7.jpgLatina actress Jessica Alba (“Machete”, “Sin City”) posted a photo on Instagram with the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg with a message mourning his death. She mentioned in her message her work with him on passing the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bill that Sen. Lautenberg introduced with Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana on May 22 that would “ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety to protect public health and the environment.” 

“My partner @christopher_gav & I r saddened by the passing of @FrankRLautenberg a true hero 4 children’s health & safety writing #ChemSafetyAct - lets get this bill on chemical reform passed…,” reads the message

Alba links to Safer Chemcials Healthy Families, a nonprofit coalition that raises awareness about toxic chemicals in products. The bi-racial actress Jennifer Beals is featured on the site as a supporter of the campaign to have the Chemicals Act passed.  

“When I read that chemicals categorized as potential carcinogens by the World Health Association (WHO) are used in our daily products, and that those chemicals are being found in our children and in women’s breast milk, I had to get involved,” says Beals in an interview on the site.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, which is supposed to allow the EPA to screen and test chemicals found in products used in homes, work places, schools and even the toys kids play with. The TSCA is bound, though, by legal restrictions that have prevented EPA from doing this effectively. Of the 84,000 chemicals identified in goods by EPA, the agency has been able to test only 200 and ban only five since 1976. 

The new CSIA would require safety evaluations for all active chemicals and frees the EPA from many of the legal restrictions that prevented the agency from doing proper chemical screenings.

Sen. Lautenberg had earlier introduced a similar bill with New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that had a tremendous amount of support from a broad group that included environmental justice groups. That bill had protections in it for vulnerable populations, including low-income communities, communities of color and those who live close to factories where chemical waste is prevalent. 

Since reintroducing the bill with Sen. Vitter, though, it seems that those environmental justice protections may have been weakened. Michele Roberts and Richard Moore of the Environmental Justice & Health Alliance said of the Lautenberg/Vitter chemistry bill “We are deeply disappointed that those most harmed by failed chemical regulations and those who have worked tirelesslyto support industrial chemical protections for all people will themselves be left inadequately protected under the Chemical Safety Improvement Act.”

Watch Arianna Huffington Tell Former Obama Adviser That Record Deportations Are a ‘Tragedy’

Watch Arianna Huffington Tell Former Obama Adviser That Record Deportations Are a 'Tragedy'

On ABC’s Sunday morning political affairs program “This Week,” Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington confronted former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe over the Obama administration’s record number of deportation.

Huffington called Obama’s record deportation numbers a “scandal here that neither Democrats, nor Republicans are talking about.”

More people have been deported under the Obama administration than over the whole two terms of George Bush. And we’ve had, for example, since 2010 200,000 parents of American citizens being deported for minor offenses,” Huffington went on to say. “This is a real tragedy. And if this was being done under George Bush, Democrats would have been up in arms.”

“We need some accountability, David, because right now, this goes right against what the president professes to believe in, that detention and deportation system, it is an absolute nightmare for families. It’s a bit like a gulag,” Huffington went on to say. 

Mobb Deep Rapper Launches New Book Imprint in Brooklyn

Mobb Deep Rapper Launches New Book Imprint in Brooklyn

Albert “Prodigy” Johnson is known widely as part of Mobb Deep, one of hip-hop’s most important groups of late-’90s. But now he’s got a new hustle: writing fiction. And even that’s understating it a bit. On Monday, Brooklyn-based publisher Akashic announced that the rapper has launched a new imprint called “Infamous Books.” Prodigy’s own “H.N.I.C”, co-written with Steve Saville, will be the imprint’s first title, due out on July 16, in the middle of Mobb Deep’s current international tour.

According to a press release from Akashic: 

Prodigy worked on his first fiction effort with award-winning British fantasy, horror, and thriller writer Steven Savile, whose popular thriller Silver was a best seller in Europe, topping at #2 in the UK in 2011 and becoming one of the biggest books of the year. Savile, who first made his name working in established franchises such as Star Wars, Stargate, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and Pathfinder, is also responsible for the story line for the international best-selling computer game Battlefield 3, which sold over five million copies in its week of release. This collaboration has delivered a truly captivating read that combines the uncompromising streetwise narratives of Prodigy’s lyrics with the literary expertise of Savile.

Akashic’s tag line is “reverse-gentrification of the literary world”, a nod to its dedication to publishing work by authors who usually aren’t given the time of day by mainstream publishers. One can only assume that that means black and Latino authors, especially ones who write so-called “street lit.” In any case, there aren’t too many people in general willing to invest in book publishing. So this is gonna be interesting. 

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) Dies; Cory Booker May Soon Fill His Seat

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) Dies; Cory Booker May Soon Fill His Seat

Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, a leading liberal voice in Congress particularly on transportation issues, passed away this morning “due to complications from viral pneumonia,” according to his office. He was the last World War II vet in the Senate, and at 89 years old, he was the oldest. He was the son of Jewish immigrants and it was because of “his hardscrabble childhood” that he grew up to become a “man well-suited to the state’s rough-and-tumble politics” who never lost an election, as written in The Star-Ledger newspaper today.  

Sen. Lautenberg was also known as a prosperous business executive whose ADP company is the leading payroll service in the country. His voting record in Congress around wages showed that he supported fair pay for women, and his ADP experience certainly provided the data to show how unequal pay is — women on average make 77 cents for every dollar men make. He voted for the LIly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, and also the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a bill from way back in 1996 that failed but would have extended federal civil rights protections to sexual orientation in the work place. 

Sen. Lautenberg is also known for creating the legislation that banned smoking on planes, environmental protections for chemicals, and preventing those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. He was a huge thorn in the side of the tobacco and oil industries and caused a lot of ruckus in opposing George W. Bush when he was president. 

But he was best known for his work on transportatin safety issues, particularly on rail and ensuring that Amtrak and other alternative transit systems remained in place especially along the northeast corridor. This has been helpful for people who don’t own or can’t afford cars, but still need to get to work. 

Sen. Lautenberg had fallen ill in recent months though and announced in February that he wasn’t seeking re-election in 2014. Political experts say that Senate Democrats loses a reliable vote due to Sen. Lautenberg’s death, which might impact upcoming votes on immigration reform legislation. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican (who’s been pallin’ around with President Obama lately) will likely appoint a Republican for the interim. However, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is a strong contender to retain the seat, as early as November when a special election is tentatively scheduled. 

Public Policy Polling said back in December that “the choice of New Jersey Democrats to be their next Senator is clear,” in reference to Booker, who at the time was contemplating a run for governor of New Jersey. But Democrats there picked Booker to win the Senate seat by a 59-to-22 margin. 

If Booker eventually filled Lautenberg’s seat, he would become the ninth African American to serve in the Senate, the sixth African American elected (unless he’s appointed by Gov. Christie). If he’s elected or appointed this year, he would join two other black senators, Tim Scott, a Republican appointed to serve in South Carolina, and Mo Cowan, a Democrat appointed to serve in Massachusetts. 

Correction: The Common App Hasn’t Changed Its College Application Materials for Undocumented Students

Correction: The Common App Hasn't Changed Its College Application Materials for Undocumented Students

UPDATE: 06/04/13 4:08pm EST Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson has confirmed to Colorlines that no changes have been made to their widely-used college application. “The Common Application has not made any announcement regarding undocumented students,” said Anderson. Anderson also confirmed that despite a splashy announcement to that effect made at a higher education conference by a person claiming to be named Daniel Vargas claiming to be employed by the organization, “There is no one named Daniel Vargas on our staff or Board of Directors.”

The announcement of the changes is a hoax. Late Tuesday activists revealed that Daniel Vargas is in fact David Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant and activist. Ramirez addressed participants at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education last week posing as a representative of the 35-year-old organization. Ramirez also claimed to be the communications director for the organization in a press release, which included a fabricated quote from Killion. An activist who claimed credit for the hoax said Ramirez and others staged the performance to call attention to barriers undocumented students face in education. Activists said they will release more information on Wednesday.



Undocumented students won a major victory in their fight for higher education access last week. On Thursday, The Common Application, Inc. the organization which organizes the unified college application students can use to apply to over 400 colleges, issued a formal apology to undocumented students who they’ve excluded from their work and materials for 35 years.

The apology came with two significant changes to the 2013-2014 version of the Common App. Unlike in past versions, those who are undocumented will have their own box to check in the application’s demographics section and the larger organization will add “undocumented status” to the group’s non-discrimination clause. Most importantly, it is a legally binding agreement for the 527 institutions which accept the Common App. The changes were announced at this year’s National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education.

“Private colleges inaccurately have been labeling undocumented students as international students which guarantees a separate and unequal admissions process. Until now, this discrimination has been permitted and facilitated by The Common Application, Inc,” Rob Killion, the group’s executive director said in a statement. 

Cheerios’ Biracial Family Ad Becomes Their Most Viewed on YouTube

The Cheerios commercial starring a white mother, a black father and their biracial daughter is the most popular ad on the cereal’s YouTube channel. The spot began airing on national television last Monday and was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday.

In less than a week the Cheerios ad became the most popular video on the company’s YouTube page with 1.7 million views. The second most viewed commercial on the Cheerios YouTube channel only had 173,165 views at the time this story was published—and that ad was released 10-months ago.

cheerios-scene.jpgThe black dad and the white mom were never even in the same room, people!

Shortly after Cheerios uploaded the commercial featuring the biracial family they had to disabled the commenting feature on the ad’s YouTube page because of negative comments. Despite the negative (and racist) comments the company says they’re standing by the commercial. 

Meredith Tutterow, associate marketing director for Cheerios and Multigrain Cheerios at General Mills, told the New York Times on Friday that the ad will “absolutely not” be withdrawn.  She added that the YouTube comments would be enabled again, but she did not know when. 

The commercial was produced by Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, part of the Publicis Groupe.

“It is important for us to make sure the work reflects the people we’re trying to sell products to,” a spokesperson for the agency told the Times.

Watch: HBO’s ‘Gideon’s Army’ Follows Public Defenders in the Deep South

Watch: HBO's 'Gideon's Army' Follows Public Defenders in the Deep South

We’ve recently marked the 50th anniveresary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark Supreme Court ruling that granted the right to an attorney to defendants who couldn’t otherwise afford legal representation. As Seth Freed Wessler reported for Colorlines, the past five decades have only deepened racial inequality in public defense.

It’s with that context in mind that HBO is set to release a new documentary that follows public defenders in the Deep South. And it’s no easy task. The attorneys are often juggling dozens of cases at a time with limited resources, not to mention the crushing law school debt that’s become a depressing feature of the profession. Tambay Obenson applauded it over at Shadow and Act in January, writing that the film “paints a rather sobering portrait of the lives” of the film’s central characters. 

Tune into HBO on July 1 to watch Gideon’s Army.

h/t Shadow and Act.

Connecticut Limits Cooperation With Secure Communities

Connecticut Limits Cooperation With Secure Communities

The Connecticut State Senate voted unanimously on Friday to substantially limit cooperation between local police departments and federal deportation officials. The House already approved the bill. It will now move to the governor, who has vowed to sign it. The state will be the first in the country to pass a version of the so-called Trust Act, which prohibits local authorities from detaining most non-citizens at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the individual has been convicted of a felony or was already ordered deported.

The bill comes in response to the Secure Communities program, a federal-state data sharing program that sends finger print records from local arrests to the federal government.  Though ICE has consistently claimed that it uses the program to target people with criminal convictions, over half of those removed from the country under the program were charged with no crime or a minor violation.

“It’s now unanimous in Connecticut: not one more innocent person should be racially profiled and turned over to Immigration Customs Enforcement,” Megan Fountain of the group Unidad Latina en Acción said in a statement. “Not one more worker should be unable to report abuse to the police.”

Critics say S-Comm feeds on unaccountable local policing, including the use of racial profiling and breeds fear in immigrant communities. A recent study by a University of Illinois Chicago professor found that 44% of the 1000 immigrants and Latinos surveyed said the program made them less likely to contact cops if they are the victims of crime. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said that local immigration enforcement programs make them fearful of leaving their home.

Since the S-Comm program was first rolled out in 2008, 140,000 of the 266,000 people deported through data sharing were convicted of no criminal charge or a low-level charge. The Connecticut legislation will limit local compliance with the program to cases involving serious convictions, as well as to people with outstanding arrest warrants, existing deportation orders, or who’ve been listed on federal gang and terrorism databases. The bill also permits local authorities to detain an immigrant at ICE’s request if cops deem them to “present an unacceptable risk to public safety.”

A verison of the Trust Act has been introduced in other states, including California, where California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill last year. A more limited version has been introduced in the California state legislature. As of March of this year, 80,000 people had been deported from California through S-Comm. In the two years it’s been operational in Connecticut, where Gov. Dan Malloy has said he will sign the bill into law, just 456 immigrants were removed from that state. Immigrant rights advocates say that’s hundreds too many. 

“This is a monumental victory for the immigrant rights movement, Ana Maria Rivera, of the New Haven group Junta for Progressive Action, said in a statement. “The fact that advocates, our Governor and the entire Connecticut legislature worked together to send the message to ICE that we will not allow our communities to be separated is historic.”

The Connecticut bill is the second in a week in that state to protect the rights of uncodumented immigrants.  On Thursday, the state legislature there passed a bill that let’s all residents, incuding those lacking immigration papers, to apply for driver’s licenses.

Ava DuVernay: Black Film’s Big Year Fueled by Indie Movement

Ava DuVernay: Black Film's Big Year Fueled by Indie Movement

This year is gonna be a big one for black films. At least ten are set to hit theaters in the last five months of the year, and they aren’t all directed by Tyler Perry. In fact, they’re a range in everything from musicals to romances to Christmas comedies. It’s a really big deal because they’re actually don’t reduce black folks to mere caricatures. Ava DuVernay had some great insight for the New York Times into how the indie circuit has been cultivating talented black filmmakers for years, and now we’re finally seeing the results. 

“The conversation within the black film community is about this new energy that was jump-started by the indie movement,” said DuVernay, who in 2011 started the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement to issue black-made films that were being overlooked by commercial distributors.

Among this year’s films to watch out for: Ryan Coogler’s Oscar Grant narrative, “Fruitvale Station”; Lee Daniels’ historical account of a White House butler called, not surprisingly, “The Butler”; and the romance “Baggage Claim”, written and directed by David E. Talbert, who likened this year’s crop of black films to a resurgence of the Harlem Reniassance in the Times. In addition to those, there are seven slavery-themed films hitting theateres this year.

Celebrities Don Fedoras to Push Immigration Reform

Celebrities Don Fedoras to Push Immigration Reform

Julianne Moore, Rosie Perez, Cynthia Nixon, John Leguizamo and Christy Turlington Burns are among the notable Hollywood celebrities adding their names to efforts to support comprehensive immigration reform in a photo project called “Fedoras for Fairness.”

The portraits were taken by fashion photographer Albert Watson, who immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1970. The photo series was commissioned by We Belong Together, a campaign focused on supporting comprehensive immigration reform and highlighting the experiences and needs of immigrant women. 

The campaign is using fedoras as both a metaphor and a symbol: a metaphor for women’s multiple roles and identities; and a symbol of support for reform legislation that is inclusive of the needs of women.  

We Belong Together is a national campaign anchored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. We Belong Together hopes supporters will also upload photos of themselves wearing fedora hats to their website.

Sherri Shepherd



Christy Turlington Burns:

“My mother immigrated from El Salvador in the late ’40s, and at that time you know she was separated from her father for probably about three to four years before the rest of the family came over. Where she comes from is such a part of who I am, and so her story is my story. … Really all of us are in this country connected to this issue.” - quote via NYT



Julianne Moore


Fast Food Workers Strike In Seattle As National Trend Begins To Show Results

Fast food workers shut down as many as six restaurants in Seattle yesterday as a national movement of service workers demanding wage hikes and union rights gains momentum and logs small victories. 

Seattle is the sixth city in two months where fast food workers have gone on strike. The walk-outs, which usually last one day, are organized by local community and labor groups with the support of national unions.  Similar efforts are underway with other service workers as well. Earlier this week, New York City carwash workers won a contract for higher wages, guaranteed sick days and the creation of a grievance process. The Huffington Post reports:

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said workers at the Astoria Car Wash & Hi-Tek 10 Minute Lube in Queens voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract, which increases wages from the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.18 after three years. The agreement also guarantees sick and personal days for workers and establishes a grievance process for complaints.

Unions, in concert with faith and community groups, have made a significant push in recent years to organize the mostly Latino immigrant workforces that clean cars in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Workers often toil for the minimum wage or less, handling potentially dangerous chemicals, with little or no job security.

The fast food strikers are hoping for similar victories. The same group that spearheaded the car wash union drive, New York Communities For Change, also organized the first fast food strike in New York last year. But so far, no fast workers in any of the strike locations have formed a union or won the $15 hour wages they demand. In addition to New York and Seattle, workers have staged walk-outs in Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago.

Though a significant victory, the $9.18 wage hike for the car wash workers does not amount to a living wage for a family in New York City. According to an MIT calculation, a single adult needs to earn more than $12 an hour to get by.  An adult with one kid needs to make twice that amount.

The struggles of low-wage service sector workers do appear to be getting some small attention from Washington, where the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced it would make low wage work one of it’s core issues.  Rep. Keith Ellison, D—Minn., told MSNBC this week that he another other CPC members would launch a national tour to “highlight the problem of stagnant and low wages for American workers.”

Graduation Rates at Historically Black Colleges Drop

Graduation rates at historically black HBCUs, which were already facing scrutiny under a national push to improve outcomes in higher education, have fallen over the last five years, according to U.S. Education Department data analyzed by The Associated Press.

The AP with more details:

The AP found graduation rates declined at 57 of the 80 four-year HBCUs that have complete data between 2006 and 2011. While total HBCU enrollment increased about 3 percent overall, the aggregate graduation rate for HBCU students fell from 37.7 percent in 2006 to 33.7 percent in 2011, the AP found.

That means of the 47,139 students who entered HBCUs six years before, just 15,885 had completed their degree by 2011, though the figures do not include transfers or part-time students.

Morehouse College, where President Obama spoke earlier this month, has one of the very highest graduation rates amongst HBCUs. An estimated 55%

Good News in Mississippi: School-To-Prison Pipeline Closes

Good News in Mississippi: School-To-Prison Pipeline Closes

The sealing of the school-to-prison pipeline in Meridian, Miss. has officially started after a U.S. District Court judge approved what the Department of Justice is calling “a landmark consent decree” that features a “far-reaching plan to reform discipline practices … that unlawfully channel black students out of their classrooms and, too often, into the criminal justice system.

In March, the Justice Department reached agreement with the Meridian Public School District to decrease excessive suspensions and expulsions of mostly young black students for trivial infractions like wearing the wrong colored socks. Kids were lucky if they were only suspended — in many of these cases, schools called the police to arrest the students, as young as 10 years old, and send them to juvenile facilities, as reporter Julianne Hing found last November.

This consent decree essentially cancels most, if not all, police intervention for any issues that ca  be “safely and appropriately handled under school disciplinary procedures.” This includes: disorderly conduct, school disturbances and disruptions, loitering, trespassing, profanity, dress code violations, and fighting that doesn’t include physical injury or weapons. Further, the school district can not share any information on students’ discipline records with any law enforcement agency unless court-ordered. It also requires schools to track discipline data, including by race, and then take corrective action if they find racial disparities. 

Last month, Jocelyn Samuels, deputy assistant attorney general for DOJ’s civil rights division, told Hing that Meridian “is just the tip of the iceberg,” and that this consent decree could be a model for tackling the national problem of excessive punishment of black students.

Yesterday, Samuels said in a press release: “The consent decree approved by the court today will propel meaningful reform in Meridian schools and serve as a blueprint for school districts across the country. We commend the Meridian Public School District for its commitment to keeping its students in safe and inclusive classrooms, and out of the school-to-prison pipeline.”

A separate lawsuit DOJ filed against the Meridian Police Department, Lauderdale County Youth Court and the State of Mississippi is still pending — the cops have not been let off the hook. 

Bad News in Mississippi: Rats-to-Prison Pipeline Opens

Bad News in Mississippi: Rats-to-Prison Pipeline Opens

A state prison in Mississippi is over-crawling with rats, and civil rights lawyers are suing the state over it — call it Master Splinter’s revenge. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections for their East Mississippi Correctional Facility for mentally ill inmates in Meridian, a city that’s also crawling with civil rights violations in its schools and police department. 

Ryan Nave at Jackson Free Press reports that the rat infestation is so bad there, “that some of the prisoners have adopted the disease-carrying vermin as pets, sometimes taking them on walks around the prison on leashes fashioned of paper clips and string.”

Writes Nave about the complaint:

“The complaint details numerous claims, including broken plumbing systems that result in people sometimes having to defecate in trash bags or food. It charges that chronic understaffing often leads to prisoner-on-prisoner altercations and rapes, as well as excessive use of force by corrections officers.” 

SPLC’s lawsuit against horrendous prison conditions in New Orleans led to a federal consent decree agreement reached in December. Under that agreement, a new prison currently being built in New Orleans is expected to enforce a number of reforms to improve conditions for inmates, including mental health and language translation services. SPLC recently asked a U.S. District Judge to review the new prison design to make sure it complies with that consent decree’s requirements.  

Connecticut to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Apply for Driving Licenses

Connecticut to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Apply for Driving Licenses

The Connecticut state senate on Thursday narrowly approved a measure that will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy has pledged to sign the bill, which passed the Senate by a 19-16 vote.

“This bill is first and foremost about public safety. It’s about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they’re operating registered, insured vehicles,” Gov. Malloy said in a statement. “There’s a reason these measures have been supported by local police and city leaders, and that other states are taking similar common-sense steps. They’re changes that benefit everyone taking a car out onto our roads and highways.”

Malloy also called on the federal government to allow all immigrants to apply for driving licenses.

“It should also be noted that, like many issues, action on the federal level would address this problem in an even more comprehensive and sensible way. I continue to support those broader efforts at national reform, and urge Congress to follow the example being set by Connecticut and other states,” Malloy went on to say.

Immigrant rights advocates are also applauding the decision. 

I know there are a lot of people who don’t think this makes sense but really it does benefit all of us in terms of reduced insurance premiums. The fact that you won’t have a bunch of uninsured drivers on the road, the fact they will be paying fee revenue to the state,” Angel Fernandez-Cavero of the immigrants right group CONNECT told WTNH.

The new law, which will make 54,000 undocumented immigrants eligible for a driving license, takes effect on January 1, 2015. (There are about 120,000 illegal immigrants in Connecticut, according to Reuters.)

Maryland, Illinois and Oregon adopted similar legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driving licenses this year.  New Mexico, Washington and Utah have permitted undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses for several years.

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