Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Friends Raise Funds to Honor Undocumented Trans Activist After ‘Suspicious’ Death

Friends Raise Funds to Honor Undocumented Trans Activist After 'Suspicious' Death

Zoraida “Ale” Reyes’s body was found an Anaheim, Calif. parking lot last Thursday. Reyes, who was 28, was a well-known undocumented and trans activist, working with groups like the DeColores Queer Orange County and the Orange County Dream Team. 

The local sheriff’s department is investigating Reyes’s death as suspicious. According to the Los Angeles Times, the local sheriff’s department says that despite an autopsy, the cause of Reyes’s death has yet to be determined, but it does appear that her body was moved after her death. Authorities are awaiting a toxicology report, which could take months to conclude. Transgender women are disproportionately the targets of violence and murder—and Reyes’s community is stressing that her identity is most likely connected to her death.

Reyes’s friends are raising funds for her farewell services this coming Sunday and Monday. Supporters aim to raise $15,000 to cover all of the associated costs—they’re about 80 percent funded so far. 

Georgia Immigrant Detainees ‘Riot’ Over Maggot-Filled Food

Georgia Immigrant Detainees 'Riot' Over Maggot-Filled Food

More than two dozen detainees at a notorious immigration detention center in Georgia staged a hunger strike and protest last week over inedible food, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called the protest at Stewart Detention Center a “riot” that required that detainees be “segregated for disciplinary purposes,” according to the AJC. 

The ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch filed a complaint raising alarm about a hunger strike that detainees began on or around June 12, during which hundreds of detainees threw their food away. Detainees have complained that their food is often filled with maggots, or that the same water used to boil eggs is reused to brew coffee. Detainees who work in food preparation have also complained of a roach infestation in the facility’s kitchen. Detainees were frequently served rotten food.

A state health inspector gave dining facilities at Stewart, located in Lumpkin, Ga., a 96 percent score in April, ICE told the AJC. 

In response to last week’s protest, detention administrators issued a 24-hour lockdown and even used pepper spray on some detainees, said the ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch. “This is symptomatic of the complete disregard for the basic human rights of detained immigrants at Stewart,” The ACLU of Georgia’s Azadeh Shahshahani said in a statement.

The problem is not an isolated one. In its 2013 report (PDF) Detention Watch Network detailed strikingly similar complaints from detainees housed on the other side of the country at Adelanto Detention Center in the southern California desert. It’s stomach-churning stuff:

At Adelanto there have been complaints that the food served is spoiled and has worms and maggots in it. “The kitchen staff is careless to say the least. … [T]he worst was on August 18, 2013, for dinner we were served ground turkey meat, but the meat was so badly spoiled, a very foul smell spread all over the dorm. It was so bad, some gagged at the smell, others almost threw up when they noticed maggots in the meat,” said an immigrant detained at Adelanto.

At Irwin [in Ocilla, Georgia] DWN members have received numerous grievances about food that is spoiled and water that tastes like urine. An immigrant detained at Irwin stated, “On March 29,
2013 I found worms in my food. I told the officials and they said I had to file a request for the kitchen. I don’t know how they can give us rotten food; I don’t think they would give this to animals.” At Glades immigrants have complained of bugs and roaches in their food trays. One individual at Glades even found a large stone in his dinner, which
resulted in a broken tooth.

Read more about conditions in Stewart Detention Center and others like in in Detention Watch Network’s 2013 report (PDF).

Central Park Five Settle With New York City For $40 Million

Central Park Five Settle With New York City For $40 Million

Five black and Latino men wrongly convicted as teens in the explosive 1989 rape case of a white Central Park jogger have agreed to a $40 million settlement. The confidential deal, disclosed by an unidentified source who is not party to the lawsuit, still has to be approved by the city comptroller and then a federal judge, The New York Times reports. If the settlement goes through, it’ll end more than a decade of civil litigation for the Five and underscore a case that has come to symbolize the worst of New York City’s racist mob mentality at the time. Interviewed by Colorlines’ Akiba Solomon last December, one of the five, Yusef Salaam—15 at arrest, about 7 years served—said:

We’ve been in this loop for 20 years. … Since the film, I really think we the people are that much more driven in wanting to make sure not just that there’s justice for the Central Park Five but that there will never be another. Yes, we’ve gotten something out our lives back, but we’re still fighting for that final piece. It’s crazy. People ask me all the time, “How do you keep moving after all of this.” Sometimes I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience.

The Five’s convictions were vacated in 2002 after a single man, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes’ jailhouse confession to the brutal 1989 rape and assault of jogger, Trisha Meili. To the end, the Bloomberg administration vigorously fought the ensuing civil suit’s allegations of false arrest, malicious prosecution and racially motivated conspiracy, maintaining that authorities in 1989 had acted with good faith and were therefore not liable.

Mayor Ed Koch, now deceased, had described what was then known as The Central Park Jogger Case, as “the crime of the century.” The events of that tragic night, as well as its impact on the Five and the city, were revisited by the Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five

A 2010 Associated Press investigation found that from 1999 through 2008, New York City had paid more than $1 billion to settle claims against the NYPD. This week, a state judge upheld a law allowing citizens to bring lawsuits against police officers for racial profiling. Also this week, Jonathan Fleming filed notice of intent to sue the city for $162 million. He was cleared and released this April* after spending nearly 25 years in prison for a 1989 murder he did not commit.

*Post has been updated.

 

$40 Million Settlement for Central Park Five, 50 Million Displaced and Fish-Eating Spiders

$40 Million Settlement for Central Park Five, 50 Million Displaced and Fish-Eating Spiders

Here’s what I’m reading up on this Friday morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Man Rescues Baby Girl; Still Can’t Lose ‘Ex-Con’ Status

Man Rescues Baby Girl; Still Can't Lose 'Ex-Con' Status

“An ex-con who turned his life around after spending a decade in federal lockup for drugs is being hailed as a hero after he saved a 15-month-old girl who wandered away from home to the edge of a Georgia highway.” That’s the first sentence of an NBC News story that’s helped draw national media attention to Bryant Collins and, according to the local station that first reported his story, given him “newfound fame.” But this feel-good story feels all wrong. Collins appears to be receiving national attention not just for rescuing a baby but for also acting out of character. 

“Hero Ex-Con Bryant Collins Was Wayward Baby’s Saving Grace,” reads the NBC News headline repeated in other outlets like Huffington Post. That and the story imply that Collins’ criminal past directly bears on his decision last Friday to help an infant. By his own admission, Collins manufactured cocaine and went to prison. It bears stating: Doing time for drugs is not the same as leaving the human family—which is the definition of not stopping to rescue an unaccompanied baby crawling by the side of the road. Why frame Collins’ story as though he’s done something extraordinary for an ex-con? 

More than 700,000 men and women leave our prisons and jails every year. Their price of re-admission into society, for putting an end to the stigma they face, can’t be something as extraordinary but also so basically human as stopping a baby from toddling onto a highway. Having done the time, a steady job, maybe even regularly paying taxes—just like everyone else—should suffice.

It’s worth noting that not every outlet focused on Collins’ criminal history. Some focused on the present-day act. “Hero Stops To Rescue Baby Crawling Along Georgia Highway,” reads the headline in People.

American Apparel Ousts Dov Charney, Another Black Man Executed and Facebook Disrupted

American Apparel Ousts Dov Charney, Another Black Man Executed and Facebook Disrupted

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

New York Man Cleared After 25 Years In Prison Plans $162M Suit

New York Man Cleared After 25 Years In Prison Plans $162M Suit

Jonathan Fleming, 51, did nearly 25 years for a 1989 murder in New York City that he did not commit. He was in Disney World on a family trip at the time. Now, according to his attorney, he plans to sue the city for $162 million. According to an early May Guardian article, Fleming was released with $93. He “doesn’t have a permanent place to live, a job or a clear path forward. The state of New York did not compensate him for his wrongful conviction…”.  An Indiegogo campaign, since closed, has raised $50,000.

(h/t Associated Press)

Is $10.10 An Acceptable Minimum Wage?

Is $10.10 An Acceptable Minimum Wage?

A higher federal minimum wage may be a pipe dream in a stalled Congress but with cities and states increasingly raising their own minimums and more workers protesting nationally, President Obama had to get in on the action. For workers employed by federal contractors only Obama issued an executive order this February raising the minimum wage to $10.10. But is that enough? Some of those workers didn’t think so. And now a new report from progressive think tank Demos is asking the president to issue another more expansive executive order. Many in America want a raise. Even the IMF is asking the U.S. to increase wages. The growing consensus opens the door to a new debate that takes on more importance with 2016 on the horizon: what’s a meaningful raise?

The report’s main ask echoes Good Jobs Nation’s: instead of proposing a number, like Seattle’s $15, the new executive order should require a living wage and that private employers “respect” collective bargaining among workers. Those estimated to benefit: 8 million workers in the “federally-dependent” low-wage economy who are largely women (61 percent) and people of color (35 percent).

Read the report, which defines the “federally dependent” economy as private sector employers where more than 10 percent of annual revenues depend on federal purchasing. Roughly 21 million people or 8 million workers and their families comprise this economy, it says, and stand to benefit from the proposed executive order. The president’s current executive order, according to the labor secretary, will affect an estimated 200,000 federal contract workers.

Is $10.10 an acceptable minimum wage? Or is collective bargaining the prize?

Iraqi Military Claims to Push Back ISIS, Hillary Clinton on Immigration, and St. Ochoa Memes

Iraqi Military Claims to Push Back ISIS, Hillary Clinton on Immigration, and St. Ochoa Memes

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Video: John Oliver Takes On That Washington NFL Team Name

Video: John Oliver Takes On That Washington NFL Team Name

Inspired by the “Proud to Be,” commercial last aired during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, John Oliver says, “The strongest possible pushback you can have after watching something amazing like that is, Yeah, well, but, ahh, you’re right.” 

Check it out.

Video: Muslim Woman Asks Question, Provokes Outburst At Heritage Foundation Panel

Video: Muslim Woman Asks Question, Provokes Outburst At Heritage Foundation Panel

Law student Saba Ahmed, who wears a head scarf, prefaced her question during a Heritage Foundation panel on Benghazi yesterday by saying, “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam. We have 8 million plus Muslim-Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.” Then she asked, “How is it possible to fight and win an ideological war against jihadists?” Reaction took an instructive turn, beginning at 4:15 with panelist Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America whose central theme—“The peaceful majority is irrelevant”—earned earnest rounds of applause. 

Watch above for Ahmed’s reply.

The clip ends with a question from panel moderator and conservative talk radio host Chris Plante to Ahmed: “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?” 

(h/t Washington Post)

 

Dallas Hospital Gives Workers Raise—Using Exec Bonuses

Dallas Hospital Gives Workers Raise--Using Exec Bonuses

Low-wage workers at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas are getting a raise—with money normally used to fund executives’ annual bonus packages. The minimum wage increase to $10.25-an-hour will impact about 230 employees working in “environmental, linen and dietary services.” Parkland’s wage increase puts it in line with Dallas County’s, which raised its minimum wage this March to $10.25—echoing similar increases being implemented by municipalities nationwide.

Whether the new $10.25 minimum wage will also be a living wage for a low income Dallas household is unclear. The hospital increase takes effect July 1. About 6 percent of all Texas workers earn $7.25 an hour or less, giving it one of the highest shares of low wage workers in the country. 

Seattle recently approved $15-an-hour, the highest minimum wage in the country.

(h/t ThinkProgress)

New York Lawmakers Propose ‘State Citizenship’ for the Undocumented

New York Lawmakers Propose 'State Citizenship' for the Undocumented

Congress is as yet unable to muster the will to face immigration reform. So New York state lawmakers are mulling an alternative. The New York Is Home Act would grant some rights and responsibilities of citizenship to some undocumented immigrants who’ve paid state taxes for at least three years, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Eidelson reports:

It would grant state citizenship to some noncitizen immigrants, including undocumented residents, allowing them to vote and run for office. Under the New York Is Home Act, noncitizen residents who have proof of identity and have lived and paid taxes in the state for three years could apply for legal status that would let some qualify for Medicaid coverage, professional licensing, tuition assistance, and driver’s licenses, as well as state and local—but not federal—voting rights. The responsibilities of citizenship would also apply, including jury duty.

The bill, an admitted long shot, could be vulnerable to legal challenge because its language borrows the term “citizen,” typically the exclusive purview of the federal government.

Notably, the notion of state citizenship only goes so far. States can’t guarantee protection from deportation. 

Escalating Violence in Iraq, Maternal Mental Illness, Malia Obama’s Summer Job

Escalating Violence in Iraq, Maternal Mental Illness, Malia Obama's Summer Job

Here’s what I’m reading up on today:

  • The first signs of sectarian reprisals are breaking out in Iraq. 
  • We’re finally hearing more about maternal mental illness. The stories, like this one in the New York Times, are heartbreaking. 
  • City College of San Francisco could get a two year reprieve on accreditation. 
  • The United States beat Ghana in a thrilling World Cup match on Monday.
  • McDonald’s — yes, McDonald’s — is opening up a so-called “tech hub” in San Francisco.
  • Malia Obama has a really, really cool summer job
  • New Emoji’s are on the way for all of your texting needs. 

Prisons’ Fastest Growing Population: Mentally Ill, Aging Inmates

Prisons' Fastest Growing Population: Mentally Ill, Aging Inmates

Aging inmates and those with mental illness constitute the bulk of the fastest-growing segment of prison populations, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a story about Marvae Dunn, a 64-year-old man who allegedly shot and killed his sister-in-law in 2007 but who spent years in declining health languishing behind bars, the Inquirer’s Melissa Dribben delves into the shifts in today’s prison population, which today function as “society’s psychiatric institutions,” she writes.

That shift has been driven by a lack of mental health care outside of prison:

In terms of his mental illness, Dunn was not unusual. Of the county’s 8,500 inmates, about 35 percent are mentally ill, 15 percent of whom are seriously impaired with schizophrenia, bipolar disease, or psychosis. If you include personality disorders, Herdman said, the percentage would be, perhaps, 80 percent.

Among women, he said, the percentages are even higher. About 80 percent of the women at the county’s Riverside facility are on psychiatric medicines, he said, and half have been diagnosed with serious mental illness.

“Nationwide, you will see similar figures,” said civil rights attorney David Rudovsky.

“Virtually everybody who has looked at this problem of seriously mentally ill people in prisons agrees that many are there as a result of a lack of mental-health care in the community,” Rudovsky said. “Despite the enormous cost of using prisons as the last mental-health catchment area, we don’t see much change in the system.”

h/t The Crime Report

Bank Denying You A Basic Account? Here’s One Reason Why

Bank Denying You A Basic Account? Here's One Reason Why

For the first time banks are being scrutinized for blacklisting vulnerable consumers from opening a basic checking or savings account. Alternatives to mainstream banking generally open consumers to predatory or more costly services with less consumer protections. New York’s attorney general this week becomes the first government authority according to The New York Times, to go after banks for using the ChexSystems database to weed out consumers who’ve bounced checks or overdrawn an account—mistakes frequently made by young people just starting out or those who are financially struggling.  The move signals increasing interest on the part of regulators to examine the many ways that companies are using Big Data to hurt consumers who often aren’t aware data is being collected, by whom and for what purpose. 

New York’s interest in at least six banks’ Big Data practices, including Capital One, comes little more than a month after the Obama administration drew attention through its first-ever report on companies’ data collection practices. It calls for increased privacy laws.

Says NYC’s consumer affairs commissioner to The Times about how banks are using ChexSystems data, “We are extremely concerned about it because people who have made small errors are driven onto the margins of the financial system, where they really can’t save for the future.” 

The ChexSystems database was originally intended to weed out serial fraudsters. Most people don’t even know they can order their ChexSystems report. Learn more using this handy Fool guide—and order a copy of that report.

Bloodbath in Iraq, Starbucks Offers Workers Discount Online Degrees, and Cali’s Whooping Cough Epidemic

Bloodbath in Iraq, Starbucks Offers Workers Discount Online Degrees, and Cali's Whooping Cough Epidemic

Here’s what I’m catching up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Sacramento Airport Bans Billboard Pushing Healthcare for the Undocumented

Sacramento Airport Bans Billboard Pushing Healthcare for the Undocumented

In Sacramento, Calif., a billboard similar to more than 100 like it that have gone up around the state has been banned from the state capital’s airport, reports Sacramento’s NBA affiliate KCRA. The billboard, a project of the California Endowment’s #Health4All campaign, is pushing for healthcare for all California residents, including undocumented immigrants who are excluded from Affordable Care Act coverage. 

“In-terminal advertising at Sacramento International Airport is managed by Clear Channel Airports under a contract with the Sacramento County Department of Airports,” the airport told KCRA 3 in a statement. “The California Endowment ad was declined because it did not meet the advertising display policy set forth in the agreement we established with Clear Channel, which requires that under no circumstances shall advertising be displayed that would ‘involve the country or the airport in controversial, social, moral, political or ethical issues.’”

According to estimates from the UCLA Labor Center, 1 million Californians remain ineligible for healthcare because of their immigration status. More than 100 #Health4All billboards have gone up around the state, and have been accompanied by radio and TV ads as well.

The campaign includes the faces of some of the most high-profile young undocumented immigrants, including Sergio Garcia, the state’s first known undocumented attorney; Steve Li, who was detained in Arizona amidst the 2010 federal DREAM Act fight before his own parents were deported to Peru; and Ju Hong, a prominent Asian-American immigrant rights activist who interrupted President Obama during a speech in San Francisco last fall.

(h/t Immigration Prof Blog)

Text and Phone Service Directs Callers to bell hooks Quotes

Text and Phone Service Directs Callers to bell hooks Quotes

Ladies, you’ve been there. Some man insists on getting your phone number. He’s annoying and the only thing that might make you feel safe is just giving him a fake number. But some self-absorbed men are left wondering why. 

669-221-6251—a feminist phone intervention project—is a quick solution that gets a point across. A phone call or text to the number acquires a bell hooks quote in return.

So the next time you’re rolling your eyes from some mactivist trying to talk to you, remember that 669-221-6251 can help. You can also donate to the feminist phone international project; all proceeds raised beyond the cost of the phone bill will benefit The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. 

Labor Secretary Responds to Federal Contract Workers Demands

Labor Secretary Responds to Federal Contract Workers Demands

The Department of Labor moved yesterday to implement President Obama’s executive order increasing the wage floor for federal contract workers to $10.10 beginning Jan 2015. While some workers are pleased, others are not. The new agency rule came as more than 200 self-identified worker leaders represented by Good Jobs Nation yesterday described $10.10 as poverty wages. Instead, they’re calling on the administration to require that contractors engage in collective bargaining with workers in return for a commitment not to strike. Yesterday’s action for low-wage federal employees signals growing momentum for an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage, although many disagree as to how much. A CNN poll cited on the labor secretary’s blog says that more than 70 percent of Americans favor a wage hike—but less than 40 percent think $10.10 is the right number.

When asked about Good Jobs Nation demands, The Wall Street Journal reports that labor secretary Thomas Perez said collective bargaining is not part of the February executive order and is therefore not a part of yesterday’s proposed rule. According to the Journal, Perez didn’t answer whether the issue of collective bargaining is under discussion at the labor department.

Obama’s new $10.10 minimum wage, according to Perez, will impact 200,000 federal workers. 

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