Victories that raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick and safe time for workers continue coast to coast. We saw workers fight and win high impact campaigns in the last few weeks in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and San Diego.
The first of these victories came on May 27, when the Minneapolis City Council approved a new earned sick & safe time ordinance that will ensure that over 123,000 working people in the city can take paid time off to care for themselves or their loved ones. This is poised to be the first of a series of municipal earned sick time ordinances enacted in Minnesota in the coming months.
The ordinance guarantees Minneapolis workers: the right to accumulate 48 hours of sick and safe time per year and to bank up to 80 hours that can be carried over to a new year; paid time off to access medical care, to manage and recover from incidents of domestic violence or sexual assault, and to provide dependent care due to emergency school and daycare closings; and a strong system of enforcement for employers.
The effort to win earned sick and safe time in Minneapolis included numerous organizations who have made powerful and unique contributions to the campaign, including: CPD partners Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and TakeAction Minnesota, as well as Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), ISAIAH, Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Minnesota Nurses Association, SEIU, and Working Minnesota.
The good news just keeps on coming: This week we have two more victories to celebrate. On Tuesday, in our nation’s capital, a long-fought battle for a minimum wage raise—which included a lawsuit by opponents to strike down a ballot initiative—succeeded with the city council’s vote to institute a $15 minimum wage. This raise will improve the lives of 114,000 working people of Washington, D.C., and will go a long way to help closing the racial and gender wealth income gap. In the Mayor’s announcement, she and the councilmembers acknowledged that the pressure from the ballot initiative went a long way to securing the vote. Working Families, Restaurant Opportunities Center DC, SEIU 1199, 32BJ, Unite-Here Local 25, UFCW Local 400, The Fairness Project, Dr. Bronner, and CPD partner SPACES were leaders in this fight.
And in election primaries Tuesday night, June 7, San Diegans passed Proposition I by 63 percent, delivering an immediate raise to 170,000 workers, putting 260 million into the pockets of workers, and giving 279,000 workers five additional earned sick days. Raise Up San Diego, a diverse coalition led by CPD partner Center on Policy Initiatives, led this two-year effort.
We've seen great progress toward achieving living wages in cities and states across the country. There is an undeniable thirst and momentum for change, and CPD and its partners, led by working men and women, are making real headway on passing laws that will make a lasting impact for our families.
The Center for Popular Democracy's 2016 Annual Gala was a rousing success by any measure. On the evening of May 24 in Washington, D.C., we hosted partners, supporters, and our honorees, delivering an energizing evening that included moving speeches--including one by honoree Senator Elizabeth Warren that caused a sensation--and opportunities to see old friends and comrades on frontlines. And most crucially, 2016's fundraiser brought in 62 percent more revenue than in 2015, which will support the incredible growth we've experienced and expect more of in the future.
And Senator Warren's speech? In a fierce rejection of the politics of hate, Warren brought the house down. Video of Warren's speech quickly made headlines and became the topic among morning cable news outlets. In the end, Senator Warren's presence at our event was covered by over 70 media outlets.
There's no doubt about it: we are stronger together. CPD is grateful for the support from our partners and sponsors this year and in past years, and we look forward to building up our network's capacity to make lasting change for our communities nationwide.
Check out photos of the event.
Browse through our full list of media coverage:
1. New York Times: Elizabeth Warren Turns Up the Anti-Donald Trump Volume
2. Washington Post: Clinton has a new weapon against Trump: Elizabeth Warren
3. Wall Street Journal: Elizabeth Warren Steps Up Attacks on Donald Trump
4. USA Today: Donald Trump-Elizabeth Warren feud escalates
5. Politico: Warren escalates attack on 'small, insecure' Trump
6. CNN: Warren blasts Trump; he calls her 'Pocahontas'
7. Associated Press: Elizabeth Warren Goes Off on Trump, Again
8. Associated Press: Elizabeth Warren Emerges as Potent Clinton Ally, Trump Foil
9. New York Magazine: Elizabeth Warren Is Playing the ‘World’s Smallest Violin’ for Donald Trump
10. New York Magazine: Picking Elizabeth Warren As Veep Probably Wouldn’t Cost Democrats a Senate Seat
11. CBS News: Elizabeth Warren trashes Trump as a "small, insecure money-grubber"
12. CBS News: Trump hits New Mexico governor, calls Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas"
13. CBS News: Protesters clash with police outside Trump rally in New Mexico
14. Bill Moyers: Elizabeth Warren, Vowing to Stop Trump, Looms As a Democratic Unifier
15. PBS NewsHour: Warren, Trump trade barbs on housing crisis, tax returns
16. The Guardian: Can Elizabeth Warren unite a divided Democratic party to stop Trump?
17. Time Magazine: Elizabeth Warren Ramps Up Attacks on ‘Insecure Money-Grubber’ Donald Trump
18. Vanity Fair: Elizabeth Warren Ruthlessly Mocks “Small, Insecure” Donald Trump
19. Huffington Post: Elizabeth Warren Has Had It With Donald Trump
20. Boston Globe: Warren, Clinton on the same team when it comes to Trump
21. Christian Science Monitor: Who is really fighting for the middle class? Trump, Warren trade barbs.
22. Roll Call: Elizabeth Warren: Donald Trump 'Will Never Be President'
23. The Hill: Warren: Trump was ‘drooling’ over housing crash
24. The Hill: Trump: Warren a ‘total hypocrite’ on housing
25. The Hill: Minority lawmakers bash Trump over housing crisis
26. The Week: Elizabeth Warren is starting to sound like Hillary Clinton's anti-Trump weapon
27. Talking Points Memo: Warren Blasts 'Small, Insecure Money-Grubber' Donald Trump
28. RealClearPolitics: Elizabeth Warren Explodes on "Money Grubber" Trump: Doesn't Care Who Gets Hurt As Long As He Makes Money
29. Fortune: Elizabeth Warren Just Took Her Attack on Donald Trump to the Next Level
30. Business Insider: Elizabeth Warren slams 'small, insecure' Donald Trump in most fiery takedown yet
31. Vox: Watch Elizabeth Warren's epic 10-minute takedown of Donald Trump
32. Mic: Elizabeth Warren Calls Donald Trump a "Small, Insecure Money-Grubber" at Gala
33. Fusion: Elizabeth Warren just went after Trump’s manliness
34. Bustle: Elizabeth Warren's Avalanche Of Donald Trump Criticism Doesn't Mean She Should Be VP
35. Re/Code: Elizabeth Warren keeps pounding on Donald Trump with his favorite weapon
36. UPI: Elizabeth Warren attacks Donald Trump: 'small, insecure money-grubber'
37. Salon: “A small, insecure money-grubber”: Elizabeth Warren delivers a searing anti-Trump speech and brings down the house
38. Mother Jones: Elizabeth Warren's Anti-Trump Onslaught Looks Like It's Just Warming Up
39. AlterNet: Watch: Elizabeth Warren Trashes Trump Over 'Money-Grubbing' During Housing Crisis
40. Daily Kos: 'What kind of a man' is Donald Trump? Elizabeth Warren has answers
41. Mediaite: Warren Tears Into ‘Drooling Moneygrubber’ Trump Over Being ‘Excited’ For the Housing Crash
42. Uproxx: Is Elizabeth Warren Openly Campaigning To Be Hillary Clinton’s VP?
43. The Independent: Elizabeth Warren brands Donald Trump a 'small, insecure moneygrubber' who will 'never be president'
44. Daily Mail: Elizabeth Warren VILIFIES Donald Trump labeling him 'a small, insecure money-grubber who doesn’t care about people' as she takes her attacks off Twitter and on the road
45. Los Angeles Daily News: Protests at Anaheim Donald Trump rally result in arrests, unlawful assembly declaration
46. Boston.com: The 3 harshest shots Elizabeth Warren took at Trump last night
47. MassLive: Elizabeth Warren: Donald Trump 'will never be president of the United States'
48. Komo News: Defending the middle class, Warren helps Clinton fight Trump
49. Washington Times: Donald Trump calls Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas,’ a ‘total failure’
50. Washington Times: Donald Trump defends past comments on housing market: ‘I’m a businessman’
51. Breitbart: Elizabeth Warren Attacks Donald Trump: 'Small, Insecure Money Grubber'
52. Breitbart: Elizabeth Warren: 'Throw Donald Trump Down The Drain'
53. Washington Examiner: Warren: Trump is a 'small, insecure money-grubber'
54. New York Magazine: Hillary Clinton vs. Herself
55. NPR: Talk Softly, Swing A Big Tweet: Elizabeth Warren's Unconventional Messaging
56. The Nation: Why Hillary Clinton Benefits From a Genuine Convention Debate
57. The American Prospect: Can Democrats Avoid the Circular Firing Squad?
58. Christian Science Monitor: Donald Trump vs. Elizabeth Warren: The future of political campaigning? (+video)
59. Common Dreams: Good News: Turns Out Most People Don't Want to Give Their Business To A Small Insecure Money-Grubber
60. Salon: The Dems' Lethal Weapon: Is Elizabeth Warren the Only Democrat Who Can Cut Donald Trump Down to Size?
61. AlterNet: 11 of Liz Warren’s Best Trump Takedowns
62. Daily Kos: This week at progressive state blogs: Warren kicks ass again; Kasich back to not making Ohio great
63. Huffington Post: Elizabeth Warren Lays Waste to Donald Trump With This Epic Takedown (VIDEO)
64. MassLive: From debate back-outs to 'celebrating 1,237': Everything you need to know about the past week in the 2016 presidential race
65. MassLive: Donald Trump wins delegates needed to clinch GOP nomination; Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren blast news
66. Inquisitr: Elizabeth Warren Escalates Feud with Donald Trump
67. Inquisitr: Donald Trump Says Elizabeth Warren Has A "Big Mouth," Plans To "Stop" Her "Shouting"
68. Gloucester Times: Our view: Cheers, jeers for recent newsmakers
69. Diane Ravitch's Blog: Elizabeth Warren Rips into Donald Trump
70. Breitbart: Elizabeth Warren Throws Twitter Tantrum Against Trump: 90 Percent of Tweets Focus on the Donald
71. Village Sun Times: Trump is counting on Bernie's supporters!
72. Village Sun Times: Superdelegates should consider Hillary Clinton's email scandal: Bernie Sanders
73. Global Dispatch: Reporter Informs Donald Trump That Calling Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ Is Offensive
Democratic leadership supporting Fed Up's reform agenda--including today's announcement by the Hillary Clinton campaign--is making the news in a big way today!
Check out all of today's press:
The Week: Hillary Clinton just endorsed serious Federal Reserve reform
The Hill: Dems to Fed: Increase your diversity
Associated Press: Group of Lawmakers Says Fed Fails to Diversify Leadership
Bloomberg: Democrats Criticize Fed for Lack of Diversity in Leadership
Wall Street Journal: Democratic Lawmakers Say Fed Should Increase Its Diversity
Huffington Post: Hillary Clinton Embraces Progressive Federal Reserve Reforms
Huffington Post: Elizabeth Warren And Congressional Democrats Call Out Lack Of Diversity At The Federal Reserve
Business Insider: Hillary Clinton wants to shake up the Fed
Detroit News: Conyers presses Federal Reserve for more diversity
Reuters: U.S. lawmakers urge Yellen to diversify the Fed
Financial Times: Federal Reserve is too ‘white and male’, say Democrats
Los Angeles Times: #FedSoWhite? Lawmakers complain about Federal Reserve's lack of diversity
Vox: Elizabeth Warren and more than 100 House Democrats blast lack of diversity at the Fed
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton to support Federal Reserve change sought by liberals
In a letter to the Federal Reserve released at noon, 126 members of Congress– including every single Democratic member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Dean of the House and civil rights legend Rep. John Conyers, Senator Bernie Sanders, and House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters – criticized the Federal Reserve for its striking diversity problem and failure to properly represent and reflect the American people.
Simultaneously, the Hillary Clinton campaign released a blockbuster statement, commenting on Fed governance and policy for the first time: “Secretary Clinton believes that the Fed needs to be more representative of America as a whole and that commonsense reforms — like getting bankers off the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks — are long overdue.”
The developments constitute an enormous and rapid victory for the Fed Up campaign. Only a month ago, Fed Up asked Secretary Clinton and the other presidential candidates where they stood on Fed governance and monetary policy issues and we joined a former Fed advisor in releasing a detailed proposal for reforming the Fed.
The Federal Reserve’s governance is dominated by white men and representatives of major corporate and financial firms. And its powerful regional banks, which help set the nation’s monetary policy, are in fact owned by Wall Street and commercial banks. But these facts were excluded from public discourse until the Fed Up campaign injected the voices of working families and communities of color into the debates about America’s monetary policy.
The letter released by the members of Congress tied the Fed’s lack of diversity directly to its poor policy choices: “When the voices of women, African Americans, Latinos, and representatives of consumers and labor are excluded from key discussions, their interests are too often neglected . . . Given the critical linkage between monetary policy and the experiences of hardworking Americans, the importance of ensuring that such positions are filled by persons that reflect and represent the interests of our diverse country, cannot be understated.”
The letter cited a Fed Up / CPD report, “‘To Represent the Public’: The Federal Reserve’s Continued Failure to Represent the American People,” and an Economic Policy Institute report, “The Impact of Full Employment on African American Employment and Wages.”
Leaders of the Fed Up coalition from around the country called into their members of Congress offices in recent weeks, urging them to sign onto the letter.
The letter follows on the heels of Fed Up’s mobilization in Congress during Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s bi-annual testimony in front of Congress. There, we mobilized 100 leaders to attend the two days of hearings, receiving widespread attention in the press and enlisting 12 Representatives and 4 Senators to ask Chair Yellen questions based on our arguments. Because of our work, Congressional oversight of the Federal Reserve was dominated by questions of racial and economic equity for the first time in living memory.
Less than two years ago, when we launched the Fed Up campaign, Federal Reserve policy and governance was a minor issue ignored by most of the progressive movement.
Today, all of the biggest players in the Democratic Party – including the leading candidate for US President – just endorsed our vision for a central bank that reflects the American people and creates a strong economy for all communities.
Read more about our Fed Up campaign.
A cohort of Black community groups, leaders and allies gathered at the Minneapolis State Capitol in early April to announce the creation and release of the United Black Legislative Agenda, an ambitious program created by and for Black communities throughout the state. The agenda addresses issues of economic justice, criminal justice, and Black immigrant justice, and is a result of a collaborative effort and a growing movement for Black liberation in Minnesota.
Black community groups—led by Center for Popular Democracy partner Neighborhoods Organizing for Change—co-developed the agenda with partners throughout the state, including: Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Urban League, African American Leadership Forum, the Somali Community of Minnesota, and the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage.
The agenda expands on the $100 million that Governor Mark Dayton pledged to address issues of racial disparity in Minnesota in light of the $1 billion state surplus. The governor’s commitment came after a powerful community response to the killing of Jamar Clark by police in Minneapolis, which culminated in a month-long community occupation of a local Minneapolis police precinct. The governor's response also comes with recent evidence showing that despite economic growth for every other demographic group, Black Minnesotans are suffering from a drop in medium income and wealth.
The agenda includes the creation of a $75 million business capital fund, run by a community-based board of directors, which would allocate funds to African and African-American businesses. Additionally, the agenda includes funding for summer job programs, job training, and youth development for Somali communities throughout the state. Legislative components of the agenda include the passage of the Working Parents Act, which guarantees scheduling protections for workers; the end of Grand Jury proceedings for police involved criminal proceedings; a ban on private prisons; restoration of voting rights for those denied the right to vote due to criminal convictions; and penalty increases for hate crimes related to Islamophobic attacks.
According to local news sources, the press conference announcing the agenda had the highest turnout of Black Americans at the State Capitol in recent times. Additionally, this is the first time that so many Black civil rights groups have come together under a single united front to create and now advocate for a shared agenda. Following the press conference announcement, over a dozen legislators joined in a fishbowl discussion about legislative priorities.
“We are at a pivotal moment in this state,” said Anthony Newby, Executive Director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “With some of the largest racial disparities in the country, and in a movement when Black people from communities across the state are demanding not only equal treatment, but equal opportunity and investment.”
NOC’s work is an inspiring example of how communities are turning the grief of police violence and the horrors of economic deprivation into legislative vision and political power. NOC, with local and state partners, will work throughout this session and the next to realize the agenda and continue to build political power and opportunity.
On April 14th, the Center for Popular Democracy and the Center for an Urban Future released A City of Immigrant Workers: Building a Workforce Strategy to Support all New Yorkers, a report that makes clear recommendations to ensure that the city’s workforce development efforts address the specific needs of immigrant New Yorkers. Made possible by the Ford Foundation and the New York Foundation, the report comes a little more than a year after New York City Mayor de Blasio launched an ambitious new approach to workforce development.
A City of Immigrant Workers argues that the success of the city’s workforce development system depends on its ability to address the major barriers faced by immigrant New Yorkers, who make up nearly half of the workforce. Immigrants make up the vast majority of workers in the fastest-growing occupations in the city—from home health aides and construction workers to registered nurses and software programmers. They are disproportionately clustered in lower-wage jobs, have lower incomes on average, and often experience higher rates of poverty. A significant number of immigrants do not speak English well and have lower levels of formal education, while thousands of others are unable to utilize credentials and degrees because they are not recognized in the United States.
By providing an in-depth look at challenges that immigrants experience disproportionately, as well as those that immigrants face uniquely, A City of Immigrant Workers offers a comprehensive strategy to improve workforce services and workplace quality for the city’s large immigrant population. Specifically, the report finds that the city and private workforce funders should invest in English classes, adult education, and training and certification programs for workers with varied levels of educational background and English proficiency; ensure that immigrants have access to relevant services in the neighborhoods that they live and work, and; improve the quality of the low-wage jobs that so many immigrants fill.
To mark the report’s release, the Center for Popular Democracy and the Center for an Urban Future, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Ford Foundation, and the New York City Workforce Funders, hosted a convening to engage stakeholders in discussion around the report’s major findings and recommendations. The gathering drew nearly 100 attendees, including representatives from city government, leaders from community based organizations, and private workforce funders.
Read the full report here.
The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and its partner organizations continue to promote the community school movement as the public school solution to privatizing and subsequently de-democratizing public education in the United States. In April we spent nearly a week in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS)’s biennial conference to connect and plan for expanding, fortifying, and deepening community schools around the country.
CPD and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)—to which CPD belongs along with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and other organizing and policy networks—have been acknowledged for breathing fresh air into the community schools movement. In 2014, we brought hundreds of advocates and activists to the CCS conference in Cincinnati. This year, CPD partner organizations represented again among the 1700 community-schoolers from around the country.
In attendance were Neighborhoods Organizing for Change in Minneapolis, Wisconsin Jobs Now! in Milwaukee, Texas Organizing Project in Dallas, Communities United in Baltimore, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in LA, and friends and allies from AROS local tables in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Newark, New York City and New York State, and Colorado. Also representing were our many practitioner friends from Orlando, Baltimore, Kentucky, and others profiled in our recent report, Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools.
Highlights from this year’s conference included meetings of teachers, principals, organizing groups, practitioners, providers, school district and elected officials, grouped by state affiliation. Pennsylvania’s meeting featured newly appointed Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, who is moving to create a senior position in his office to specifically focused on building community schools statewide. Rivera stressed a joint commitment on the state level—including cabinet members from health and housing—prioritizing education at the state level. We’re now seeing additional top-down momentum complement the bottom-up work of our Pennsylvania partner organizations; Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is making good on his promise to Action United of 25 community schools by 2018 and the Pittsburgh Board of Education is poised to move a community schools resolution, while AROS groups, including CPD’s Action United and One Pittsburgh, continue to organize in multiple schools and communities.
To take full of advantage of networking and cooperative opportunities, AROS hosted an informal evening to build and consolidate relationships among our members from around the country, who gathered to discuss their successes and challenges within their local communities. AROS also ran a workshop featuring Executive Director Keron Blair and Barbara Gross from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Natasha Capers from Coalition for Educational Justice in NYC and Ken Zarafis from Education Austin offered presentations from a local organizing perspective.
Together, these workshops, speakers, and networking opportunities worked to inspire academics and practitioners—offering them new tools, research, and philosophies to build the shared dream of equitable, quality schools for all of our communities across the country.
For the past 18 months, the Center for Popular Democracy and our partners have been leading Fed Up, the national campaign calling on the Federal Reserve to promote full employment and rising wages and to reform its governance so that it actually represents the American people. This month, the campaign took a major step forward by unveiling a proposal for Congressional reform of the Fed.
The reform proposal was authored by Andrew Levin, professor of economics at Dartmouth and former advisor to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and then Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who has since replaced Bernanke as Chair. This proposal was released on a press call, outlining the points to multiple press outlets, with participation by the executive directors of CPD partners Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change.
The core of our proposal is simple: The Federal Reserve must become a fully public entity that serves the interests of the American people. Currently, the Fed is a semi-private institution that is actually owned by Wall Street and commercial banks around the country that appoint many of its most important leaders. It is the country’s worst example of regulatory capture: Wall Street banks literally own the institution that is supposed to supervise their behavior. We believe that has to change if the Federal Reserve is going to build an economy that serves the interests of working families.
Our proposal was greeted by extensive coverage in the financial and economics press, much of which echoed our calls for reform.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, millions of families have lost their homes due to Wall Street’s predatory practices. Many others still struggle every month to make their payments. But assistance is finally on the way. 50,000 families will soon be eligible for principal reduction on their mortgages — for the first time in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) history.
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), New York Communities for Change, and other Center for Popular Democracy partners have fought the FHFA and called out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for their refusal to do principal reduction for years.
In 2012, ACCE and other partners passed the California Homeowner Bill of Rights and made big banks pay $25 billion in penalties and borrower relief. Between 2012 and 2014, four big banks were forced to pay $38 billion in settlements with the US Department of Justice — some of which went to homeowner relief. And in 2015, our partners secured improvements to the Keep Your Home California program, which helps homeowners qualify for financial assistance.
The new plan from the FHFA is the latest win for homeowners, but the victory has its limitations. First, homes eligible for relief would have to be “underwater,” meaning the purchase loan has a higher balance than the free-market value of the home. The homeowners must also be behind on their payments, and the outstanding principal must be under a certain amount. Additionally, the plan would also require that the lender would lose more money from foreclosing than from reducing the mortgage amount.
Because of these specific requirements for relief, the plan won’t have a significant impact on the national housing market. But it’s a step in the right direction.
Over four million homeowners are still underwater and need relief. Some of the hardest hit, most vulnerable communities are still struggling despite financial relief plans like the new one the FHFA is rolling out. We won’t stop fighting until every owner has a fair shot to save their home.
As the legislative sessions in Illinois and Maryland swing into high gear this spring, the Just Democracy Coalition in Illinois and a voter coalition in Maryland are working to expand access to voter registration and the ballot box by advancing Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) legislation in their respective legislatures.
Ensuring a more inclusive democracy is central to the Center for Popular Democracy’s mission. So we are working with these state coalitions, along with partner organizations in Illinois—ICIRR and Action Now—and in Maryland—CASA de Maryland and Maryland Communities United—to address registration disparities that leave more than a million eligible citizens left out of the electoral process. Last year, Oregon and California adopted two versions of AVR, and now Illinois and Maryland are working hard to join these states in their commitment to expanding democratic participation by reducing the barriers to voter registration.
The Just Democracy coalition and the Maryland Voter Coalition have been active at the state house, mobilizing support for AVR in targeted districts across each state and launching a robust digital campaign to support organizing efforts. Notably, Illinois’ AVR effort got a boost when President Obama spoke to the Illinois state legislature, calling on them and other state legislators across the country to reduce the barriers to voting by making automatic voter registration “the new norm across America.”
AVR will increase political participation in Illinois and Maryland by reducing the procedural barriers to voting and enabling base-building organizations to invest more time and energy into voter mobilization and education programs. AVR shifts the responsibility for putting eligible citizens on the voter rolls to the government by electronically transferring voter eligibility information from government agencies that eligible citizens already interact with like the DMV, public assistance agencies or state health exchanges. AVR systems provide the opportunity for eligible citizens to decline registration and should include strong privacy and data security protections and safeguards to ensure that ineligible people are not registered to vote and are protected from legal consequences of inadvertent registration.
Members of Make the Road PA (MRPA) and the Shut Down Berks campaign continue fighting to shut down the family detention center in Berks County, PA. Run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Berks County Residential Center is one of only two in the country where immigrant families with children, often toddlers or younger, are imprisoned after requesting asylum.
In addition to the injustice of locking up asylum-seekers, consider their treatment while detained: Just last week, a six-year-old was diagnosed with the highly contagious shigella virus. She had been ill for weeks. Leaked documents showed that her mother had been seeking treatment for her daughter since December. In response to this mother’s plea for help, an immigration officer said that she should deport herself if she didn’t like the center’s conditions.
After months of coalition work to shut down the center by MRPA and allies, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services revoked the center’s license earlier this year, citing inconsistency in its use of a child residential center license for federal immigration detentions. Immigration and County Commissioners, however, have appealed the revocation—while continuing to hold families with children prisoners.
MRPA and allies organized a demonstration on February 21, the day the revocation would have taken effect. Imprisoned mothers and children joined as best as they could behind the gates, gathering under the watchful eyes of guards, local police, and ICE’s deportation officers. An eight-year-old girl courageously asked to take the mic, bringing the crowd of protesters to tears as she pleaded for her and her family’s freedom.
The partners from Shut Down Berks include the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and GALAEI. MRPA also had the support of Make the Road New York, Make the Road Connecticut, and Make the Road New Jersey, who sent delegations of their members and staff to the demonstration.
Our partner organizations’ efforts have gained traction: the license revocation, while caught up in appeal, is a significant development and sends a strong message to ICE and the county that locking up innocent men, women, and children seeking asylum is an unjust practice that we intend to shut down.