Archives for September 2015

VICE News Looking Hard At Migrant Family Lockups

The VICE media network has made a living off covering stories under-reported by mainstream (or, more accurately, “more mainstream”) media, and it is focusing on American jails this week. Mostly that is going to involve criminal lockups, but the VICE News is reporting on the family lockups facing a federal judge’s order to release families – and how the government is likely to work around that order.
 
The report notes what other have missed: “With tens of thousands of migrants flooding into Europe in recent months, it’s easy to forget that the US faced its own refugee crisis last summer when scores of children and mothers bolted from Central America amid heightened gang and drug violence. Desperate for a safe haven, the families mounted buses and trains through Mexico and then poured across the Texas border, seeking political asylum.” To that we would add: Last summer? How about now?
 
VICE gives some context: “… to combat the influx, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched an “aggressive deterrence” strategy last July designed to discourage more people from coming. The solution, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced, was to lock up Central American moms and kids as they fought their asylum cases in court. Previously, DHS did not detain such families, but rather allowed them to pay a small bond as an assurance they would show up to their court dates.
 
The new DHS strategy spawned a massive, long-term family detention system for Central American people seeking asylum in the US. The agency contracted the nation’s two biggest private prison companies to open facilities in southern Texas that hold about 3,000 people combined and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to operate. Many families have spent seven or eight months in detention while awaiting their day in court.”
 
Check out what very likely is going to happen next here.

North Carolina Launches Major Civil Courts Review

There are estimates that about 80 percent of civil court needs go unmet in North Carolina while too many people go to jail. These are among the issues targeted in a sweeping review of the NC courts system being launched this week by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, who has been on the job about one year and says this will be a “generational” overhaul of the courts.

The News & Observer in Charlotte reported that “… the result could be the first major reform of the state courts in the digital era with an emphasis not only on technology but a wide spectrum of issues. Among the ideas being considered is how to divert some of the non-violent criminals from their current path through the judicial system and removing barriers that keep the civil courts mired in protracted process.

David F. Levi, the Duke University law school dean, will lead a group that looks at civil justice and “concerns that nearly 80 percent of legal needs go unmet,” said the newspaper.

As Government Delays, Civil Lawsuits Set Pot Policies

As California considers a sweeping regulatory changes in how it handles marijuana use, the civil courts continue to define how laws will actually be applied. A good recent example, covered by NBC in San Diego, involves a “… couple whose home was raided by agents with guns drawn” who has filed a lawsuit against San Diego law enforcement, alleging their rights as medical marijuana patients were violated.
 
The report points out that “… the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court is the latest example of the ongoing debate over the rights of medical marijuana patients in California – how their treatment is regulated and how, according to their attorney, these type of cases are perceived by law enforcement.” This particular couple had previously arrested and put on trial for marijuana infractions, but found innocent.

What Should We Call Those Migrant Refugee Immigrants Seeking Asylum?

Words matter, and the U.S. media has been struggling to settle on what to call all those folks seeking to leave a very bad place in hopes of a better life. Actually, that would not qualify for “refugee” status, which requires a human to be fleeing war zones or natural disasters. Migrant is a wider net, but loses some of the urgency. “Immigration” carries its own weight. Those seeking asylum, with those political overtones, are yet another situation.
The NPR ombudsman offered an on-air outline of how that standards-leading group approaches the wording. The one thing that seems clear is that just leaving a place because it sucks does not gain the benefits of other status. See the report here: ‘Refugee’ Or ‘Migrant’: How To Refer To Those Fleeing Home

California Finally Moves To Regulate Legal Marijuana

The Golden State was the first to legalize medical marijuana, but was also the first of several states to drag its feet on how to regulate growing and selling the now-legal medicine. Now, 20 years after the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the state legislature has passed several bills that establish “seed to sale” systems. Proponents of medical marijuana are wasting little time in urging Gov. Brown to sign the bills into law, noting that he did help draft the regulations.
 
The Los Angles Times has a fine editorial asking the gov to not only sign the bills, but take an active role in making sure they are implemented. The LAT says that previous efforts have “… provided little guidance on how the state could help ailing patients get the drug — or how to keep it out of the hands of those who weren’t entitled to it. Legislators repeatedly failed to develop rules, so cities and counties adopted a patchwork of policies, which triggered a series of lawsuits and judgments that created a confusing mess for patients, law enforcement, cannabis growers and dispensary operators.”
 
Read the newspaper’s argument, signed by “the editorial board,” here: Gov. Brown, sign the medical marijuana bills