The Trump Administration
Human Rights Tracker
A project by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review
supported by Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute
About this tool
It is difficult to keep up with all that the new administration is doing that threatens human rights. Each day brings fresh news of a damaging initiative by the President of the United States.
This tracker was designed to help journalists, civil society organizations, and the general public understand how the Trump Administration is impacting human rights.
By bringing together all the potential violations in one place, we hope to document and monitor the wide range of human rights being undermined by this administration at home and abroad.
Input from those using this tool is welcome at email@example.com.
Trump proclamation bars immigrants who cannot pay for healthcare
Trump signed a proclamation requiring visa-seekers to prove their ability to obtain private health insurance within 30 days of arrival in the U.S. or their ability to otherwise pay for health insurance as a condition of admission. Many visa-seekers will be unable to do so. This arbitrary hurdle is likely to sharply curtail legal immigration.
Justice Department argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect LGBTQ and transgender workers against employment discrimination
The Department of Justice reiterated its position, articulated by then-Attorney General Sessions in 2017, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply to protect LGBTQ and transgender workers from employment discrimination. The DOJ argued that while Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” this clause does not bar discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity. It contended that when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, “sex” was only intended to mean “biological sexes.”
If the Supreme Court accepts DOJ’s interpretation, it will be legal for employers to fire people due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, further eroding equality under the law for LGBTQ and transgender people.
Trump's Justice Department submits legal filing asking the Fifth Circuit to invalidate the Affordable Care Act
Department of Justice attorneys filed an official letter Monday, March 25, with the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, urging the court to affirm the lower court’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. If the DOJ’s position is adopted, all provisions of the ACA would be invalidated and over 20 million Americans may lose their health insurance.
U.S. government tracked and impeded journalists, attorneys, and activists working at the border
Government agencies kept a secret list of activists, journalists, and attorneys to impede, interrogate, and detain at the border.
Trump Administration asks Pentagon for space to hold 5,000 migrant children
The Health and Human Services Department has asked the Pentagon for space to house up to 5,000 migrant children this year, as the Trump administration continues to grapple with the border crisis.
US intelligence officials will no longer report the number of civilians killed in US airstrikes
The Trump administration removed an Obama-era requirement for intelligence officials to provide an “unclassified summary of the number of strikes” as well as civilians killed in these strikes outside areas of hostility.
Health and Human Services Office currently unable and unwilling to return migrant children to parents
In a federal court filing, the head of the Health and Human Services Office admitted that the office does not know the location or exact number of migrant children taken from their parents. In addition, they do not believe it is necessary that they be returned to their parents.
Federal workers forced to work during the government shutdown have not been paid
President Trump signed a bill to end a month long government shutdown until Feb. 15, at which time it will close again if he does not receive funding for a border wall. Some federal workers who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days have still not been paid. The administration has not set out a plan to compensate them in the event of a second shutdown.
Trump administration to start sending asylum seekers to wait in Mexico
US officials will send some asylum applicants back to Mexico as the Trump administration implements new measures preventing migrants from waiting in the US while their cases are processed.
Trump moves to freeze pay for federal workers amid government shutdown
Amid the current partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to freeze pay for federal workers in 2019. However, Trump and federal lawmakers are still collecting paychecks during the partial shutdown. This pay freeze also does not affect the military.
Trump administration suggest mercury limits on coal plants no longer necessary
The Trump administration has proposed that mercury pollution on power plants are no longer “appropriate and necessary” in another move to reverse Obama-era policy.
Trump administration gives itself more power to deport survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an update stating that immigrants applying for the U and T visas, as well as three other kinds of humanitarian relief visas, could be more easily placed in deportation proceeding if their applications are denied and they do not have an underlying legal status. Affected groups include, crime survivors, relatives of asylum seekers, young immigrants requesting the protection of a juvenile court, and women seeking protection under the Violence Against Women Act.
Trump blocks migrants from applying for asylum
Trump issued a statement banning undocumented migrants to the US from applying for asylum. This goes against federal law, which guarantees that anyone present in the US can apply for asylum.
A federal judge in San Francisco has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who cross the southern border illegally. The federal judge issues a nationwide restraining order barring enforcement of Trump’s November 8th policy.
Trump administration releases federal rules allowing employers to deny birth control coverage
Trump administration finalized interim rules it first released in 2017 granting employers exemptions from the Affordable Care Act. Many employers will be able to deny employees contraceptive coverage under moral and religious exemptions from the ACA.
Judge rules Trump administration must stop giving migrant kids psychotropic drugs without consent
U.S. government officials were found to be giving psychotropic medication-sometimes forcibly- to migrant children at a Texas facility without seeking and obtaining the consent of guardians. Staff members at the detention facilities admitted to signing off on medications in place of parents, although they were not operating on an emergency basis.
Migrant children allegedly forced to take drugs
A case filed in a California court alleges that children in US custody are being forcibly drugged to control them at detention facilities. The case focuses on children who are held by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Parents pressured into voluntary deportation in exchange for their kids
Trump Administration adopts a policy of offering migrant parents the option of signing voluntary departure orders in order to be reunited with their children before they are deported. In effect, undocumented immigrants are being forced to choose between waiting for frequently lengthy deportation proceedings are concluded before reunification can take place and immediate reunification and deportation.
Parents deported without their children
Immigration lawyers report that the federal government has deported parents without their children.
Over 2,000 children separated from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9
New statistics reveal that the government is separating 65 children a day from parents at the border and 2,342 children have been separated from 2,206 parents between May 5 and June 9 under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Reports also confirm that parents have been deported without their children.
Sessions says domestic and gang violence are not grounds for asylum
Sessions decided that people fleeing gangs and domestic violence will generally not qualify for asylum. To receive asylum, applicants must show they were persecuted because they were members of a particular social group. Sessions’ decision expresses skepticism that people targeted by violent gangs or victims of domestic abuse can be considered part of a “particular social group” and thus not eligible for asylum.
San Juan Mayor calls Trump’s ‘Total Neglect’ of Puerto Rico a violation of human rights
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz accused Donald Trump of violating Puerto Ricans’ human rights for his failure to take action after Hurricane Maria. Cruz cited the recent Harvard study reporting that the death toll after Hurricane Maria undercounted. While only 64 were officially reported, the study estimates that as many as 4,645 perished from the Hurricane and its aftermath.
ACLU reports abuses and neglect of immigrant children at the border
The ACLU and University of Chicago Law School International Human Rights Clinic released report based on 30,000 pages of records from a FOIA request documenting systemic maltreatment of children entering the United States across its southern border. This report is released amidst an ACLU suit against Trump’s administration for separating children from their families at the border.
DeVos: Schools should decide whether to report undocumented kids
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that it’s up to individual schools to decide whether to call USCIS if they suspect their students are undocumented. This policy would go against the Supreme Court‘s 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe guaranteeing the rights of students to receive a public education regardless of their immigration status.
Trump administration distorts data to justify draconian immigration policies
Department of Homeland Security put out a press release citing statistics that misrepresent Customs and Border Protection data in order to mislead and blame foreign nationals and foreign born Americans for terrorism in the U.S. These actions have prompted the Brennan Center and others to file a lawsuit under the Data Quality Act.
Trump administration launches a “zero tolerance” policy separating families at the border
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces a “zero tolerance” policy at the border directing federal prosecutors to criminally prosecute all adult migrants entering the country illegally, leading to the separation of families because children cannot be held in detention facilities with their parents.
New Report Documents Physical, Mental Health Care Deficiencies in New Jersey Detention Facilities
Human Rights First toured three immigration detention facilities in New Jersey, and found that “ICE has essentially stopped granting parole to asylum seekers, with a few exceptions, leading to unnecessary, lengthy, and prolonged detention. This, coupled with inadequate and delayed medical and mental health care and often inhumane conditions, exacerbates the suffering of traumatized individuals, many of whom faced violence or persecution in their home countries.”
The EPA allows increase in toxic air pollutants
The Environmental Protection Agency announces it will allow hundreds of U.S. industrial facilities to dramatically increase their emissions of toxic air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act. By dropping the “once in, always in” (OIAI) Clinton-era EPA policy aimed to lock in reductions of hazardous air pollution from industrial sources, the new policy may increase exposure to hazardous air pollution, with the greatest impact felt among the most vulnerable who live closest to industrial polluters.
Trump administration censors climate change content on government websites
Study reveals Trump administration is systematically censoring climate change web content. Words like “climate change” have been replaced with “sustainability”, and explanations of harmful environmental impacts of fossil fuels have been removed.
Trump ends TPS for 200K Salvadorans
The Trump administration announces the end in September 2019 to the Temporary Protected Status granted to nearly 200,000 Salvadorans by then-President George W. Bush following the 2001 El Salvador earthquakes.
Trump administration reverses protections for drilling in the Atlantic seaboard
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announces a plan to open up 90% of the U.S. coastline to oil drilling. The plan reverses protections put in place by the Obama administration and would introduce drilling for the first time to the Atlantic seaboard. The plan exposes more wildlife, fragile marine ecosystems and coastal communities to risk of damage.
U.S. embraces cluster munitions, a weapon banned by 102 nations
A Department of Defense policy memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan moved to end the previous U.S. policy of refraining from using unreliable cluster munitions. Cluster munitions operate by dispersing multiple bomblets over a large area. Many of these bomblets fail to explode upon impact, and essentially act as landmines unless found and cleared. This reversal departs from the widely accepted international ban on these deadly weapons, due to their disproportionate harm to civilians.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security terminates the TPS designation for Haiti
The Trump administration is ending a humanitarian program that has allowed some 59,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States since an earthquake ravaged their country in 2010, Homeland Security officials said on Monday.
Trump signs new counterterrorism operations rules, loosening prior Obama-era constraints
On Oct. 28, 2017, President Trump signed new rules relating to kill-or-capture counterterrorism operations, loosening previously existing Obama-era constraints on drone strikes and commando raids. While Obama-era rules required “near certainty” that an intended target was within a strike zone, Trump’s new rules lower the requisite level of confidence to “reasonable certainty”. Furthermore, where the Obama administration’s policy had necessitated individualized, high-level vetting of strikes, the new rules instead allow for a “persistent campaign of direct action” in countries where Islamist militants operate, without specific review of each strike. The Trump administration is also looking to arm the surveillance drones currently flying over Niger and Mali in search of suspected Islamist militants, as well as authorize the Pentagon to carry out offensive ground combat operations in North and West Africa.
As of yet, the Trump administration has not issued any official announcements regarding these rule changes, nor released the policy to the public.
New anti-immigrant military policy prevents green-card holders from military service
A new Trump administration policy requires green-card holders to pass a background check before they can start military service and has left hundreds of enlisted people in limbo. Before the U.S. Department of Defense announced the new policy, green-card holders could report for basic service while their background checks were pending, and U.S. citizens still can.
On November 21, 2018, a federal court in San Francisco issued a ruling that blocks the discriminatory Trump administration policy.
United States notifies UNESCO of intention to withdraw from body
The State Department notified the UNESCO Director-General of the United States’ intention to withdraw from the body. The withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. The US stopped funding UNESCO in 2011 as a result of the admission of Palestine as a member state and lost its voting rights in 2013. The US has accrued significant payment arrears to the body. Irina Bokova, the outgoing Director-General of UNESCO, has issued a statement regretting the U.S. intention to withdraw, describing it as “a loss to UNESCO” and noting that “[u]niversality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity”. Ms. Bokova emphasised UNESCO’s work around the world empowering women, improving education and protecting free expression.
Acting HHS Secretary releases Memo directing government agencies to halt “Cost Sharing Reduction” payments to insurers
Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hagan issued a memo to the Treasury Department and Medicare/Medicaid head directing that cost-sharing reduction (“CSRs”) payment stop immediately. Originally part of the ACA, the CSRs helped subsidize the out-of-pocket medical costs of those 100-250% above the poverty line, and were particularly beneficial. Discontinuing these payments could leave millions unable to access affordable health insurance.
The action has been challenged by at least 20 state attorneys general.
New rules exempt employers from providing birth control based on religious or moral objections
The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor issued two interim final rules (here and here) exempting employers from providing birth control based on religious beliefs or moral objections. The rules expanded the range of employers that can refuse to provide birth control as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Sessions reverses DOJ policy prohibiting employment discrimination based on transgender status
Attorney General Jeff Sessions circulated a memorandum asserting that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion – does not protect workers from discrimination based on transgender status. The memo also asserts that the Government will take this position in all pending and future litigation.
U.S. votes against Human Rights Council resolution condemning use of the death penalty for consensual same sex relations
The United States voted against a Human Rights Council Resolution condemning the use of the death penalty as punishment for specific forms of conduct, including blasphemy, adultery, and consensual same-sex relations. The resolution was not focused exclusively on the death penalty as a form of punishment, but also condemned the practice in general.
In clarifying the US vote a White House spokesperson claimed that it was this broad condemnation, and not the specific practice of using the death penalty as a sanction for certain behaviors, that the US refused to support.
The resolution passed by a margin of 27-13, with 7 abstentions.
Trump significantly lowers the cap on refugees to 45,000 persons
President Trump signed a memorandum limiting the number of refugees entering the US in the next fiscal year to 45,000. This is the lowest limit a president has ever instated since the White House gained the ability to cap refugees in 1980.
The memorandum allocates admissions according to geographical region, allowing a maximum of 19,000 persons from Africa and 5,000 persons from East Asia, for example. Prior to this, the cap on refugees had never been lower than 67,000 persons, the number Ronald Reagan set in 1986. In 2016, under President Obama, the U.S. welcomed 84,995 refugees into the country.
Third travel ban indefinitely bans entry of citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea
President Trump announced a new, broader order indefinitely banning most citizens of seven countries from entering the United States, including Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea. In addition, the order heightens scrutiny and adds restrictions for citizens of Iraq and some groups of people in Venezuela. This latest travel ban follows the original ban issued in January and revised version issued in March, and will take effect on October 18. Compared to prior versions, this third order adds Chad, North Korea and Venezuela to the list of affected countries, while dropping Sudan.
As a result of this latest revision to the travel ban, the Supreme Court canceled scheduled arguments for the prior iteration.
On October 17, 2017, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Honolulu issued an order blocking Trump’s third travel ban for violating the Immigration and Nationality Act and “plainly discriminat[ing] based on nationality”. Judge Watson’s decision does not impact the ban’s restrictions on nationals of North Korea and Venezuela.
On October 18, 2017, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland issued a decision blocking the ban on more limited grounds. His ruling held that the administration could not enforce the ban on any person with a ‘bona fide’ connection to the U.S., including close relatives living in the country. In light of these decisions, the Trump administration has yet again expressed its dedication to enforcing the ban. They have almost a year to retool its terms.
On December 4, 2017 the Supreme Court allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to take effect. The court’s orders mean that the administration can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim, while legal challenges continue. Most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela.
On June 26, 2018 the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban prohibiting individuals from five Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. including Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
Department of Education rescinds the Obama-era policy on how colleges should investigate sexual assaults
The Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that rescinded similar policy letters from the Obama Administration. The previous administration’s policies were widely viewed as a means to support survivors of on-campus assault. Essentially, it lowered investigative procedures and standards from the criminal standard to the “preponderance-of-the-evidence” standard used in civil suits. It also attempted to resolve claims more quickly.
The new policy raises the evidentiary standard in administering student discipline, largely in the context of sexual assault cases. Under the previous policy, schools that didn’t comply with the evidentiary standard risked losing federal funding. DOE plans to revise the standards through informal notice and comment rulemaking procedures.
DHS plans to collect social media information on all immigrants and naturalized citizens
The Department of Homeland Security announced its plan to monitor the social media and internet search activities of immigrants, naturalized U.S. citizens, and lawful permanent residents as part of a new tracking system. It is unclear whether monitoring would be limited to the immigration process or if it would continue afterward.
The notice claims that the data will come from publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers,” but does not specify how it will be used.
U.S. Government denies detainee access to lawyer
An American detainee suspected of links to ISIS is secretly detained in U.S. custody in Iraq without access to a lawyer for four months starting around September 14, 2017. Reporting by The Daily Beast revealed his existence to the public approximately two months later.
The ACLU filed a habeus corpus petition on October 5, 2017 asking the D.C. District Court to protect the citizen’s constitutional rights, including the right not to be imprisoned without charge and the right to challenge his detention in court.
On April 19, 2018, the D.C. District Court rejected the government’s position that it had unfettered power over an American’s rights and blocked the administration’s proposed forcible transfer of the detainee to a specific third country.
On May 7, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed both of the lower court’s decisions — requiring 72 hours’ notice before transfer, and blocking the government’s attempt to forcibly transfer the American to a specific third country.
On June 6, two weeks before a court hearing on the legality of the American’s detention, the government announced its intention to release him into Syria, the dangerous and war-torn country from which he fled. The government’s plan to “release” an unlawfully-detained American citizen to a conflict zone violated the Defense Department’s legal obligations and policies and the Constitution’s guarantee of due process.
On October 28, 2018, after spending more than a year in U.S. custody, the American was released in a third country under a confidential settlement agreement negotiated between the government and the ACLU.
Trump administration ends Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the administration would within six months rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which had provided persons entered the United States as children temporary protection from deportation. DACA, created by President Obama in 2012, granted renewable two-year permits to live and work openly in the country to persons who, among other things, had moved to the U.S. under the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. continuously since 15 June 2007, passed a criminal background check, and were enrolled in or had graduated from high school. Approximately 800,000 have benefited from this program.
Once the executive action comes into force in six months, the Department of Homeland Security will no longer accept new applications for permits under DACA, but will allow those who currently hold permits to work under them until they expire, and those currently holding permits to apply for renewal provided that they do so by October 5, 2017.
Trump administration halts Obama-era equal pay rule
The Trump administration has halted an Obama-era rule requiring large companies to report how much they pay workers by race and gender. The original rule was aimed to increase pay transparency to help close the persistent wage gap between genders and racial groups. The rule was supposed to take effect in March 2017, but the Trump administration claims that the rule would not have worked. Neomi Rao, the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs explained that the requirements “lack practical utility, are unnecessarily burdensome, and do not adequately address privacy and confidentiality issues.”
On March 4, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found the Trump administration’s attempt to stop the Obama-era equal pay regulation was illegal.
Education Department scales back civil rights investigations
A new Education Department memo no longer requires internal investigators to broaden individual complaints into systemic, class-wide investigations. Moreover, regional officials are no longer required to alert the national Education Department headquarters about highly sensitive minority-disciplining, or sexual assault cases.
Attorney General orders tougher sentencing guidelines including re-introduction of mandatory minimums
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors to pursue the maximum sentence for crimes, reversing a 2013 Obama policy that successfully reduced prison populations by avoiding long mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
Rights groups have stated that the return to the old policy will lead to racial disparities, extremely harsh sentencing of low-level offenders, and an increase in mass incarceration.
Secretary of State de-emphasizes human rights concerns in interactions with foreign relations
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the United States would no longer always emphasize human rights in its interactions with foreign relations, and instead focus more on “America first for national security and economic prosperity.” In some instances this may mean de-emphasizing American “values around freedom, human dignity, [and] the way people are treated” and instead prioritizing national security and economic interests.
Secretary of State lifts human rights conditions on arms sale to Bahrain
Media reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided to lift all human rights conditions on a $2.8 billion sale of 19 F-16 fighter jets and other arms to Bahrain.
The Obama Administration had previously attached conditions to the sale amid reports of the Bahraini government’s violent crackdown on political opposition leaders and protesters. Bahrain is also part of the Saudi-led coalition implicated in abuses, including alleged war crimes, in Yemen.
Trump dismantles federal climate change efforts
President Trump signed an Executive Order seeking to nullify President Obama’s climate change efforts, including the Clean Power Plan. The Executive Order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to commence the process of suspending, revising, or rescinding the Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants and replaced them with renewable energy projects.
The plan was considered essential to meet emissions targets that the United States agreed to as part of the landmark 2015 Paris climate change accord. The order signals the Administration’s intent not to comply with the accord.
Trump revokes protections for women in the workplace
President Trump signed an Executive Order revoking the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, which had required companies receiving federal contracts to comply with a range of labor and human rights protections. These protections included: prohibitions on forced arbitration clauses in sexual harassment cases (which impose secrecy requirements); requiring disclosures of labor law violations in the last three years; and requiring detailed disclosures of wages (aimed at ensuring equal pay for men and women).
A Texas court had earlier blocked most of the regulations, although it had left in place the wage disclosure requirement.
Department of State issues Presidential permit to TransCanada for Keystone XL pipeline
The Department of State issued a Presidential permit authorizing TransCanada corporation to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the U.S.-Canadian border in Phillips County, Montana for the importation of crude oil.
The pipeline could have severe consequences for water rights and for the environment. It risks oil spills along the terrain covered by the pipeline, potentially leaking hazardous chemicals and contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer, the United States’ largest aquifer. The process of extracting oil from tar sands emits far more carbon than conventional production does. Communities who live along the path of the proposed pipeline could be impacted by these effects.
Secretary of State orders “increased scrutiny” and “mandatory checks of social media history” for some visa applicants
Media outlets released diplomatic cables issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directing U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny,” and ordering embassies to conduct “mandatory social media checks” on visa applicants who “have ever been present in the territory controlled by the Islamic State.” These memoranda and instructions have not been made public by the State Department.
Amnesty International warns that the measures could be discriminatory and “provide a pretext for barring individuals based on their nonviolent beliefs and expression.” Additionally, the organization stated that “Social media checks, as well as demands for social media passwords at U.S. borders, have significant implications for privacy and freedom of expression.”
U.S. does not attend hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
In a move described as “unprecedented,” the United States did not attend hearings before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 21, 2017 concerning the human rights situation in the U.S. The IACHR hearings that the U.S. pulled out of were covering a number of Trump Administration policies, including the Muslim ban and immigration and detention policies.
The State Department sought to justify its absence by referencing ongoing litigation in the U.S. regarding the Muslim ban; however, ongoing litigation has not previously prevented U.S. delegations from appearing before the IACHR on related matters.
The IACHR is an independent body of the Organization of American States and has received the full support of all U.S. Administrations since its founding.
State Department invites Anti-LGBT Hate Group to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women
The State Department invited anti-LGBT group, Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) to join the US delegation to the 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The organization has called for the criminalization of homosexuality, and is classified as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. C-Fam is one of two groups invited to join the US delegation. The second organization, the Heritage Foundation, has also advocated against the rights of LGBT persons and called for the repeal of the U.S. Violence Against Women Act.
Trump pulls U.S. out of U.N. global compact on migration
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, informed the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, at the weekend that Donald Trump was not willing to continue with an American commitment to the UN Global Compact on Migration, an agreement to uphold universal human rights for immigrants, fight xenophobia, and bolster global governance by creating a global compact on migration by 2018.
The announcement came hours before the opening of a UN global conference on migration scheduled to begin on Monday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Trump reinstates ban of citizens of six Muslim-majority countries into the U.S. for 90 days and ban on all refugees entering the U.S. for 120 days
Signed an Executive Orderthat imposes a 90-day ban on the entry of nationals from 6 Muslim-majority countries–Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen–for immigration and non-immigration purposes. This ban materially reproduces a previous Executive Order, signed on January 27, which was blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 9.
By the terms of the new Executive Order, individuals from the suspended countries who held a valid visa on January 27, or who are currently holding a valid visa, or who are dual-nationals of a non-suspended country, are still eligible for entry. The Order also provides a number of enumerated exceptions that may enable entry of certain individuals from suspended countries on a case-by-case basis in the discretion of a consular officer.
The Executive Order further reinstates a 120 day ban on the entry of all refugees to the US–a provision which was included in the January 27 Executive Order that was blocked by the Ninth Circuit. This new version does not include the previous indefinite suspension on refugees from Syria.
On March 15, a federal district court in Hawaii temporarily blocked the ban nationwide once more, stating that a reasonable, objective observer would not view the order as “religiously neutral” and citing many of Trump’s political campaign speeches as evidence that the executive order was intended to temporarily suspended the entry of Muslims specifically.
On May 25, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the national block put in place in March by the District court in Maryland, in a 205-page decision. The separate decision by the District court in Hawaii also continues to remain in force.
On July 12, 2017 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the block issued by the Hawaii District Court. The Trump Administration has already appealed to the Supreme Court to consider reviewing the decisions.
The Supreme Court announced on June 26, 2017 that it would hear an appeal to the earlier decisions quashing the Executive Order. It also narrowed the scope of the earlier injunctions, stating that persons “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” can be subject to the bar on entry of nationals from six-Muslim majority countries. Persons who can show they have meaningful ties, such as family relationships, students, employment in the U.S., or an invitation to give a lecture, will not be subject to the ban, the Court held. The Supreme Court will hear the case in October.
Secretary of State does not attend annual presentation of State Department’s human rights report
The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson chose not to attend the annual presentation of the State Department’s human rights report. It is highly unusual for a Secretary of State not to present the report in person. The annual report is a vital document for monitoring global human rights violations and is used by advocates, practitioners, and scholars around the world. The presentation of the report lends weight to its findings.
No State Department official made on the record comments about the report.
DOJ requests dismissal of discriminatory purpose claim in a challenge to Texas voter ID law
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reversed its position in a case challenging SB14, a Texas voter ID law which disproportionately diminishes the ability of African Americans and Latinos to participate in the political process. The Texas voter ID law had required voters to present photo identification from a very limited list before casting a ballot. The law was challenged on the grounds that minorities were less likely to have the acceptable forms of identification than white voters.
As a plaintiff, the DOJ argued alongside a coalition of civil rights groups that the Texas law violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. Requesting that the discriminatory purpose claim be dismissed, the DOJ retreated from a position that it had steadfastly supported for the last six years.
The suit will proceed, however, the DOJ’s decision to dismiss the case could have wider implications in similar cases where the DOJ had previously defended the rights of minority voters.
DOJ withdraws federal guidelines that made clear students could use bathrooms matching their gender identity
The Department of Justice and the Department of Education withdrew a policy requiring all federally-funded schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, including with respect to access to bathrooms and other gender-segregated facilities and activities, and the use of pronouns.
This decision leaves it to states and local school districts to decide what policy to follow, and leaves transgender students vulnerable to local policies that deny them equal access to educational programs, activities, and facilities, and that create an unsafe and discriminatory environment.
DHS mandates policies that expand arrest, detention, and deportation of undocumented migrants
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two memoranda mandating aggressive enforcement of immigration laws and the two Executive Orders of January 25, 2017, including by:
– drastically expanding deportation of undocumented immigrants. The policies target those convicted of not just serious criminal offenses, as under previous policies, but any criminal offense. The policies also single out those charged, but not convicted, of an offense, those merely alleged to have committed an offense, and those who “otherwise pose a threat to public safety or national security” in the judgment of an immigration officer, amongst others.
– increasing the number of people vulnerable to an expedited removals process without review. All those who have been in the country for less than two years will now ordinarily be subject to an expedited removals process. The previous policy limited this only to people found by the authorities within 100 miles of the border and who had been in the country less than 14 days.
– presumptively detaining undocumented immigrants pending removal proceedings, ending all policies which allowed persons to receive parole and be released awaiting immigration proceedings in some cases.
– stripping immigrants from privacy protections under the Privacy Act.
Trump repeals rule restricting coal companies from dumping mine waste in streams
Signed a bill undoing the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste. With the rule’s cancellation, coal mining companies will now have a freer hand to dump toxic metals and debris into streams, activity that can have dire impacts for the environment and for the health of communities living nearby.
Trump cancels a regulation requiring energy and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments
Signed a bill cancelling a Security Exchange Commission (SEC) transparency regulation that would have required oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose in detail payments made to foreign governments.
The now-cancelled regulation, implementing Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (also known as the Cardin-Luger anti-corruption provision), was intended to “combat global corruption and empower citizens of resource-rich countries to hold their governments accountable.”
As the United Nations has repeatedly recognized, corruption undermines all human rights, compromising a government’s ability to fulfill economic and social rights, introducing discrimination in access to governmental services, weakening democratic institutions, and impeding respect for the rule of law.
DOJ withdraws motion to stay in transgender students' bathroom rights case
The Department of Justice withdrew a request to limit an injunction that blocked an Obama administration guidance concerning transgender students’ bathroom rights. The guidance directs public schools to allow transgender students access to bathrooms and other gender-segregated facilities that match their gender identity.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which was set to hear oral arguments on the case, granted the request and cancelled oral arguments. The government’s withdrawal not only leaves the nationwide injunction in place, but signals a shift from the previous administration’s position to uphold the rights and protections of transgender students.
Note that the Supreme Court may have some guidance on the issue of legal protections for transgender students next month as it is set to hear arguments in a challenge brought by a transgender Virginia student against his school’s discriminatory bathroom policy.
USDA removes animal welfare reports from own website
The US Department of Agriculture has removed a series of reports from its website regarding animal welfare inspections and enforcement that were previously used by journalists and advocacy groups to monitor the treatment of animals at commercial dog and horse breeding facilities and animal testing labs, including some with a history of abuse.
The decrease in transparency will substantially inhibit the efforts of animal welfare organizations to monitor and promote compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, and to participate in regulatory policy-making and reform.
Trump bans entry of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen nationals for 90 days
Signed an Executive Order that immediately imposes a 90-day ban on the entry of nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for immigrant and nonimmigrant purposes.
The ban could be extended beyond the 90 days and to other countries.
On February 2, 2017, the ban was amended to allow for immigration by the families of Iraqi interpreters who served U.S. forces.
On February 9, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling blocking key parts of the travel ban (pending any further litigation), and allowing nationals of the seven affected countries with valid documentation the right to enter the country.
On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order that imposes a 90-day ban on the entry of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for immigration and non-immigration purposes. Nationals from Iraq are no longer included in the ban. See Trump Tracker post for this March 6 action.
On November 13, 2017, the Ninth Circuit reinstated the travel ban for immigrants from 6 countries without a bona fide relationship with close family or an entity in the U.S.
On December 4, 2017 the Supreme Court allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to take effect. The court’s orders mean that the administration can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim, while legal challenges continue. Most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela.
Trump bans refugee admission for 120 days and indefinitely prohibits entry of all Syrian refugees
Signed an Executive Order that directs the Secretary of State to immediately suspend all refugee admissions to the United States for a period of 120 days, and to review with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence whether additional procedures should be taken.
The Executive Order also indefinitely prohibits entry of all Syrian refugees into the United States until President Trump determines sufficient changes have been made to the refugee admissions process.
On February 6, 2017, a coalition of more than 40 civil society organizations requested an emergency hearing on the Executive Order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The letter to the Inter-American Commission can be found here.
On March 6, 2017, the President signed a new Executive Order reinstating the 120 day ban. This new version does not include the indefinite suspension on refugees from Syria. See Trump Tracker post for this March 6 action.
Trump seeks to block federal funding to sanctuary cities
Signed an Executive Order to block Federal government funding for “sanctuary jurisdictions.” These are places where state and/or local government authorities have adopted formal or informal policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration officials.
Trump limits privacy rights of non U.S. citizens
Signed an Executive Order that forces agencies to exclude from their privacy policies anyone who is not a US citizen or US permanent resident.
Contradicts and may damage the Privacy Shield agreement between the US and the EU; may therefore limit the ability of US companies to serve customers from the EU.
Trump revives discredited “Secure Communities," paves way for expanded immigration detention and deportation, and orders construction of border wall
Signed two Executive Orders (here and here) which revive a program of involving local police in the enforcement of immigration laws; expand indefinite detention of undocumented immigrants, including families, without evidence they pose any threat; increase removal proceedings for a broader class of immigrants charged with, yet not necessarily convicted of, crimes; and advance construction of a border wall with Mexico.
Since the signing of this Executive Order on January 25, immigration raids have been conducted in at least six states, leading to the arrest of hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including some with no criminal record.
Trump reinstates and broadens “Global Gag” rule
Signed a Presidential Memorandum blocking federal funding for international NGOs or programs that provide information, counseling, or referrals for abortion services, provide abortion services, or advocate for a woman’s right to seek abortion services as part of comprehensive reproductive health care.
On May 15, 2017, Secretary Tillerson approved a plan implementing Mexico City Policy (the “Global Gag Rule”) that expands the organizations affected by the policy. It is estimated to affect up to $8.8 billion in global health funding.
Trump administration advances construction of halted Dakota Access & Keystone XL Pipelines
Signed a Presidential Memorandum inviting re-applications for the Keystone XL pipeline, which had been suspended in 2015, and instructs federal agencies to expedite approval.
Signed a Presidential Memorandum instructing federal agencies to review and expedite requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was halted in 2016 after indigenous groups protested its construction, and for failure to adequately consider the pipeline’s impact on the environment and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.