Alabama and Abortions…
This week Alabama passed legislation that outlaws all abortions unless the mother’s health is at serious risk due to complications — meaning the ban also includes victims of rape or incest. The bill was partially written by the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition and was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion legal in the United States.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood have publicly stated they will file lawsuits against the state of Alabama, which will likely cause a long delay before the law will go into effect… if it does at all.
Regardless of which side wins the first case, the opposing party will likely appeal it to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals located in Atlanta which hears cases in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. From there, it could head to the Supreme Court if the court is willing to listen to the case (which is unlikely).
The Supreme Court receives over 7,000 petitions to hear arguments every year, but it only hears about 80 cases annually, requiring that they are exceptionally unique. There is however, nothing special about the case specific to this new legislation in Alabama. The only thing that has changed is the Supreme Court now leans further to the right. Even if it were to be heard by the Supreme Court, it likely wouldn’t be until after 2020.
That being said, five states have trigger laws — meaning if Roe v. Wade gets overturned, abortion would automatically be banned in North and South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Several other states have passed or are working to pass similar, but less restrictive bills considered “Heartbeat Bills” that would outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks after conception. (Many women do not even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, making it very difficult to get an abortion in this short timeframe!) Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia have all adopted these laws with Missouri passing an eight-week ban on Thursday of this week. All of these laws are being challenged by various non-profits such as the ACLU and will likely not go into effect as most judges block the bills while they’re being challenged. In the meantime, abortion is legal everywhere right now.
A New Immigration Plan…
In other news, Trump unveiled his plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system on Thursday. Developed by top White House advisor Stephen Miller and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the program appears to fall short on many fronts and likely will not get bi-partisan support. A primary focus of the plan is to drastically reduce the number of people who migrate through family-based immigration and dramatically increase the educational requirements for immigrants. Family-based immigration, which allows people to bring their spouses and children to the country after establishing residency, currently makes up about two-thirds of its qualifying cases. Trump’s plan would reduce this group to roughly 33% of the overall accepted immigration cases.
In contrast, today about 12% of immigrants to the United States carry a bachelor’s degree or other higher education degrees. Trump’s “merit-based” policy would increase this group to 57% of the accepted pool. With the average annual salary of an immigrant rising from $43,000 to $96,000, this move is in direct contrast with the desires of Trump’s base.
Increasing the number of immigrants who would more easily compete with Americans for higher paying jobs will incense people who are already concerned about immigrants taking their jobs — precisely because Trump’s proposal does not lower the number of immigrants allowed into the country every year.
Additionally, our current system allows 22% of immigrants to come into the country because of humanitarian needs (think refugees) and Trump proposes to reduce this to 10%.
It should be considered that if the merit-based system were to be implemented it would likely mean that immigrants from developing nations would have a harder time attaining a green card or residency. The top ten nations with college graduates all are caucasian majority countries with the exception of Korea, Japan, and Israel. This is likely by design considering Miller’s historically racist policies such as the Muslim travel ban and family separation.
Another significant component to this proposal would further fund the border wall and take aim at illegal immigration. The plan focuses on installing physical barriers at 33 locations along the southern border that authorities believe to be significant crossing points for drugs and human trafficking. There is nothing in the plan to support DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients or those who are brought to the country illegally as minors by parents or other family members — a non-starter for Democrats. Indeed, a contributing factor to why we had a government shut down a few months ago was because the Democrats wouldn’t agree to an immigration reform bill (which everyone agrees needs to happen) proposed by Republicans which didn’t address the Dreamers.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said: “The White House’s plan is not designed to become law.” It is assumed that it is more likely to be a starting point for negotiations. If last year’s shut down was any indication on how negotiable any of these points are for Trump, it’s improbable that immigration reform will happen before both houses of Congress and the White House are on the same side of the aisle.
Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.