CRT Biweekly Newsletter November 21, 2016

  • Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released a video statement on the FBI’s newly announced 2015 hate crime statistics as well as on recent media reports of alleged hate crimes and harassment around the country.  The statement reminds individuals to report these incidents to both local law enforcement and the Justice Department in order to ensure that career investigators and prosecutors are able to enforce hate crime statutes at the local, state and federal level.  In the video, Attorney General Lynch said, “We will continue to enforce our nation’s hate crimes laws to the fullest extent possible.  We will continue to uphold our conviction that all men and women deserve to lead lives of safety and dignity.  And we will continue to champion the values of diversity and inclusion that have always been the bedrock of our nation’s progress, and that point the way to a brighter future.”
  • Head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta joined Attorney General Lynch and officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at a Special Naturalization Ceremony to congratulate 55 women and men – from 40 countries across five continents – on becoming American citizens.  She also spoke about the 30th anniversary of the Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), and a new blog post highlights stories about the people impacted by OSC’s outreach and enforcement efforts.
  • A Justice Department blog post released last week highlighted the 75th anniversary of Edwards v. California, a case in which the Supreme Court struck down a California law that prohibited bringing an indigent nonresident into the state.  The blog also highlighted Attorney General Lynch’s recent remarks that, “All of us – but especially those of us in the legal profession – have an obligation to fight for our belief that there can be no price tag on justice,” and the post concluded, “Justice must remain an undeniable right for all, not a special privilege for some.”
  • The Justice Department reached a settlement resolving claims that the Denver Sheriff Department discriminated against work-authorized immigrants in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  The Denver Sheriff Department is the largest sheriff department in the state of Colorado.
  • Jeffrey Jason Cooper, 46, of Miami Beach, Florida, was convicted on all 11 counts for organizing a scheme to lure foreign university students into the United States under false pretenses of legitimate summer jobs, only to advertise the students to customers of his prostitution and erotic massage enterprise.  Cooper was convicted of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking by fraud, wire fraud, importation of persons for prostitution or immoral purposes and use of a facility of interstate commerce to operate a prostitution enterprise.  A jury in the Southern District of Florida returned the verdict after four days of trial.
  • Satish Kartan, 43, and his wife, Sharmistha Barai, 38, of Stockton, California, were indicted by a grand jury for forced labor and conspiracy to commit forced labor.  Kartan was also charged with fraud in contacting foreign labor and Barai was also charged with benefiting from forced labor.
  • The Justice Department announced that Justin Watson, 32, a former deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Huntsville, Alabama, was sentenced to three years in prison for lying under oath with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.
  • The Justice Department announced that former Mississippi correctional officer Deonte Pate, 23, pleaded guilty to helping conceal the beating of an inmate.  
  • The Justice Department announced that it has reached an agreement with the city of Yonkers, New York, and the Yonkers Police Department (YPD) to resolve the department’s investigation of YPD and ensure constitutional policing.
  • The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against two Washington-based companies, Washington Potato Company and Pasco Processing LLC, alleging that they violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against immigrants during the employment eligibility verification process because of their citizenship status.
  • Vanita Gupta delivered remarks at the 2016 Community Reinvestment Act & Fair Lending Colloquium in Las Vegas, explaining that “Economic struggles and erosions of public trust carry over into the justice system – from policing to corrections.  They cross into our schools and our businesses.  And by cutting across all these areas, fair lending work … directly contributes to the founding promise of our democracy.  In America, we don’t guarantee equal outcomes.  But we do promise equality of opportunity – the timeless American ideal that says if you work hard, if you play by the rules and if you follow the law, you deserve a fair shot and an equal chance to succeed.”
  • The Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released updated guidance on the application of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to state and local land use and zoning laws.  The guidance is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA.
  • Vanita Gupta delivered remarks at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Annual Conference, explaining the important role of legal aid lawyers and public defenders in civil rights work: “When we, as a society, support civil legal aid and public defender programs, we fulfill a core promise of America.  In our country, all people – regardless of wealth or poverty, status or stature, color or creed – are entitled to a set of undeniable rights: equal protection, fundamental fairness and impartial justice.  These rights define the essence and purpose of America.”
  • An Ohio man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for beating an African-American stranger he saw on the street.
  • The Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia addressing the constitutionality of state policies that automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of those who fail to pay court fines or fees.  The statement of interest was filed in Stinnie et al. v. Holcomb, a class action brought by four individuals whose driver’s licenses were suspended because they could not afford to pay fines, fees and costs assessed by Virginia courts.
  • The Civil Rights Division deployed more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states for the Nov. 8, 2016, general election.

Twitter: @CivilRightsAAG | @CivilRights

Updated December 28, 2016

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