Marijuana Reform

By: Lee Molitoris

Legalizing marijuana would benefit the low-income African American community and the United States’ economy. While the current drugs laws are not on their face discriminatory, in practice they have the effect of discriminating against the low-income African Americans. African Americans make up a disproportionate percentage of those arrested for possession. Many low-income African-American men turn to selling marijuana to support their families, and police departments tend to patrol “high crime” areas where a disproportionate number of these African Americans live. Legalizing marijuana would reduce the number of arrests and racial profiling of African Americans, allowing them to support their families and lessen the numbers sent to prisons.
Legalizing Marijuana would also have a beneficial impact on the economy. The government would save billions of dollars they currently spend on the enforcement, education, and prevention of drugs, including marijuana. The government would also save a proportion of the $22,000 they spend annually per prisoner. By legalizing marijuana, the government would then be able to tax marijuana sales and growers. For example, a proposed California bill, A.B. 390, has been projected to generate $990 million in taxes from the fee imposed on sellers of marijuana and another $349 million generated from the sale of every fifty ounces of marijuana sold. Therefore, legalizing marijuana could have a beneficial impact on African Americans by reducing arrests and incarcerations, and aiding the economy by generating tax revenue.

It’s Not Easy Being Green, Thank God for God.

By: Katherine Snyder

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Predatory lending practices target members of minority races disproportionately, leaving them disproportionately vulnerable.  Ads for cash-now pay check advances that have hefty interest rates and short repayment time periods are conspicuously absent from areas where affluent white people live while opportunities for reasonable interest rates and mortgages with banks as opposed to subprime lenders are harder for people of color to attain.  Different communities have started to fight back against these unfair practices, many centered around faith-based initiatives.

People of Latino/a heritage are familiar with the tradition of lending circles, called tandas or cundinas in Mexico.  African Americans and people from almost every culture have different names for these groups all over the globe.  Churches and faith-based service initiatives can be the foundation for the Latino and Black communities as well as for recent immigrant communities alike.  These lending circles allow people from the community to come together, contribute a set portion of their paycheck to a common fund managed by one member of the group.  In turn each member of the group takes turn receiving the proceeds.  Depending on where your name falls on the list it acts as a loan or a savings account.  People are held accountable by the valuable good will they have established within the community before the transaction and in following through with the payments.

The success of these small community programs is widespread and can provide a person with the shot in the arm they need to make ends meet and keep moving forward while helping them avoid taking on debt and entering an agreement that could trap them in a perpetual cycle of borrowing.  Unfortunately, many laws in this area are unclear on their application to this type of lending leaving these people with their credit in limbo.  Some non-profits have sought to organize these lending circles in order to give the loans and repayment cycle legal credence so that people are building their credit and actually getting credit for their responsible payment plans.  This legitimacy often triggers a licensure requirement and creates more barriers for these people because the non-profits have to require more from the participants and do not have the resources to achieve a lending license.

The Baptist churches as well as Catholic Charities have taken the initiative to combat this issue in several ways.  First, the Baptist churches have come together to create a united front in order to lobby for a change in the laws that are allowing predatory lending.  The Baptist churches are also seeking to work within their own communities to support their congregations and create opportunities for positive lending opportunities as well as education for borrowers.  Catholic Charities has started some domestic microloan projects designed to help people break out of the cycle of borrowing from high-interest payday lenders.  Finally, California Sen. Lou Correa has a really innovative approach to regulating these lending circles: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  He sees the wisdom in allowing people to start building their credit with baby steps without requiring them to jump through giant hoops simultaneously.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

Sources: 

Aaron Weaver, At Summit, Baptist Leaders Announce Action Covenants on Hunger, Literacy, Predatory Lending, General CBF (April 24, 2014), available at http://cbfblog.com/2013/11/25/at-summit-baptist-leaders-announce-action-covenants-on-hunger-literacy-predatory-lending/.

Anita F. Hill, Women and the Subprime Crunch, Gender Discrimination (April 24, 2014), available at http://72.5.117.181/economica/stories/viewStory?storyId=3696.

Beth Newberry, Multiplying Loaves, Sojourners (April 24, 2014), available at http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/01/multiplying-loaves.

Brian Dakss, Loans To Avoid at All Costs, CBSNews.com (April 24, 2014), available at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/loans-to-avoid-at-all-costs/.

Manny Fernandez, Study Finds Disparities in Mortgages by Race, N.Y./Region (April 25, 2014), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/nyregion/15subprime.html?_r=4&ex=1350187200&en=a9978e04a9864642&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&.

Tim Logan, Church, Housing Groups Sue Gov. Brown Over Mortgage Settlement Money, Business (April 24, 2014), available at http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-mortgage-settlement-money-20140314,0,5927040.story#axzz2wBUjSRCL.

Sarah Ennis, CCHD: Catholic Charities of Salina Expands Microloan Project, (April 26, 2014), available at http://www.ncrlc.com/news.aspx?ID=278.

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Lending Circles Help Latinas Pay Bills and Invest, Morning Edition (April 2, 2014), available at http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/04/01/292580644/lending-circles-help-latinas-pay-bills-and-invest.

How Race and Religion is Affecting the American Electorate.

By: Lauren Zrillo

Blog Category: Religion & Race

There has been recent debate within the American electorate regarding the cause of the stark divide between coalitions who support the two major parties. This debate is centered on why the Republican Party has been unable to win a presidential election in the past two elections. The answer can be boiled down to two crucial factors—race and religion.

Over the past several decades there has been an increase in racial diversity and a shift in moral values. Today, Democratic and Republican voters are far more divided by race, moral beliefs, and policy preferences than in the past fifty years. It is well known that the Republican Party has a major demographic problem—the party is struggling to attract growing demographic groups in America, these groups include young and minority voters.

One problem the Republican Party is having with attracting voters between the ages of 18-33 (young voters) is the shift in moral and religious views the American culture has had in past decades. There has been a drastic decrease among voters who would classify themselves as being religiously observant and most voters between the ages of 18-33 are more likely to vote democratic when it comes to social policies. For example, the dramatic shift in American culture has prided itself on individual autonomy. Therefore, unless the Republican Party changes its outdated views on religious and moral issues young voters will continue to join the Democratic coalition.

Today, American society would like to believe that racial segregation is no longer a crucial problem and all men are treated equal. However, American society remains deeply divided among racial lines especially when it comes to political affiliation. Historically minorities collate with the Democratic Party, while whites collate with the Republican Party and the same is true today. This creates a twofold problem for the Republican Party moving forward. First, African American and Latinos continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to equality with white Americans. These minorities continue to experience poorer education, inferior housing, higher unemployment, and a higher incarceration rate than white Americans. The experiences that minority voters have with these issues sculpt their beliefs about the role the government should have in helping citizens, spending on social services, and taxation. The Democratic Party caters to these issues, which is why minorities continue to join the Democratic coalition. Second, This creates a future problem for the Republican Party because the demographic make-up of the United States is changing. There are more minorities voting then ever before. This is largely due to the large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia, in addition to the fertility rate being higher among African Americans and Latin Americans. This boils down to a simple realization for the Republican Party—minorities collate with the Democratic Party and the number of minorities voting is growing with each presidential election.

In order to lessen the stark divide between the two coalitions and have a shot at a Presidential seat in the future, the Republican Party must “re-brand” themselves with the issues of race and religion in mind.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

Sources:

Alan I. Abramowitz, How race and religion have polarized American voters, The Washington Post  (Jan. 20, 2014, 12:27 PM), available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/01/20/how-race-and-religion-have-polarized-american-voters/.

Katie Glueck, Report: How the GOP lost young voters, Politico (Jun. 3, 2013, 6:00 PM), available at  http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/gop-youth-vote-report-92119.html.

Burma’s Censored Census

By: Konstantinos Patsiopoulos

Blog Category: International Law & Race

Although not an official confirmation, a brief review of Burma on Wikipedia supports the proposition in TIME’s article that the Rohingya Muslim community have been discriminated against in the latest U.N. census.  Under the “Ethnic groups” category, Rohingya is not listed.  On February 25, 2014, TIME covered a story related to the release of a report alleging that the Rohingya people were victims of oppression by Buddhist-dominated government in Burma.  Roughly one month later, TIME reported that the Burmese government would not allow the Rohingya people to be identified on the census.

Since there have been accusations of involvement with U.N. officials, what remedial measures could the minority group take?  After approximately 140,000 Rohingya people have been essentially quarantined in displacement camps over the past two years, the minority group views this head-count procedure as just another discriminatory tool in the Burmese government’s arsenal.  Moreover, anti-Rohingya mobs have destroyed international aid boats and vehicles, which were transporting food, water, and medical supplies to the minority group.

Luckily, these reports and news articles caught the attention of the U.N. Population Fund, who expressed its concern.  Therefore, with U.N. assistance and continued international news coverage, remedial measures may be on the way for the Rohingya people.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

Sources: 

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma (last visited Apr. 21, 2014).

Charlie Campbell, Burma Accused of ‘Crime Against Humanity’ Over Persecution of Rohingya, TIME (Apr. 21, 2014, 4:54 PM), available at http://time.com/9518/burma-rohingya-crime-against-humanity.

Charlie Campbell, Burma’s Racist Census Degenerates Into Violence, TIME, (Apr. 21, 2014, 10:00 AM), available at http://time.com/44891/burma-census-rakhine-rohingya.

Tribal Courts Dealing with Domestic Violence

By: Molly McDonough

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race 

Domestic violence is a growing concern in Native American culture. Forty percent of Native American women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  In response, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). Section 904 of the VAWA allows tribal court to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of domestic and dating violence crimes. Prior, some acts of domestic violence would not be prosecuted because of a jurisdiction “loophole” with tribal courts having jurisdiction over only American Indians criminal defendants. As a result, non-Native American perpetrators had absolute immunity from criminal prosecution in tribal courts.

Section 904 “recognizes and affirms tribal courts inherent power to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction.” Now, tribal courts have jurisdiction over non-Native American defendants for acts of domestic violence, dating violence, and violation of protective orders that occur on Native American land. However, this jurisdictional power is limited. Tribal courts will not have jurisdiction if neither the defendant nor the victim is Native American. Also, non-Native American defendants must have significant connections to the tribe. Section 904 is constructed to apply only to non-Indian defendants who have voluntarily and knowingly established significant connection to the tribe.

Tribal courts that choose to exercise jurisdiction under Section 904, must provide the defendant with “ all applicable rights under this Act, an impartial jury reflecting a fair cross section of the community that does not systematically exclude non-Native Americans, all other rights whose protection is necessary under the Constitution of the United States, and for offenses punishable by imprisonment, all rights under existing 25 U.S.C. § 1302(c).” Section 908 of the VAWA delays section 904 effectiveness until March 7, 2015. For the time being, Tribal courts that are interested in exercising this jurisdictional power and have safeguards for non-Indian defendants rights may be admitted to a pilot program.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

Source:

Indian Law – Tribal Courts – Congress Recognizes and Affirms Tribal Courts’ Special Domestic Violence Jurisdiction over Non-Indian Defendants. – the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013,127 Harv. L. Rev. 1509 (2014).

Freedom of Religion? Not if You are a Practicing Muslim and Live in Newark, New Jersey

By: Marcia Leach

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Hassan v. City of New York, filed on June 6, 2012 in federal court in New Jersey, was brought on behalf of several New Jersey plaintiffs who were targeted and surveilled by the New York Police Department (NYPD) solely because of their religious affiliation.  Among the eleven Plaintiffs are a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, the parent organization of the Muslim Student Associations of Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick campuses), a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the owners and proprietors of a grade-school for Muslim girls.  The plaintiffs share just one characteristic: their Muslim affiliation.  That fact alone led the NYPD to target and surveil them in clear violation of U.S. constitutional principles.

On Febuary 20, 2014, U.S. District Judge William Martini held that plaintiffs in Hassan v. City of New York lacked standing because they alleged no injury in fact, which “requires more than a subjective chill, and even if the plaintiffs had met that element, they had not shown causation.”  Martini found that the stigma, career damage and other harms alleged did not flow from the surveillance itself but from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the spying program.  Further, Martini held, the plaintiffs failed to state a religious discrimination claim because “the more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”

Martini reasoned that because the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by 19 Muslims, who were members of al Qaeda “[t]he police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.  While this surveillance Program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles; the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”  Additionally, Martini pointed to the fact that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced in May 2012 that a fact-finding review of intelligence-gathering in New Jersey by New York police revealed no evidence that it broke any of the state’s civil or criminal laws.

The New Jersey Muslims will continue to fight for the right of Religious Freedom by appealing the dismissal of their federal court suit.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Source:

Hassan v. City of New York, 2014 WL 654604 (D.N.J. 2014).

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic and What It Says About International Law

By: C. Nicholas Konetski 

Blog Category: International Law & Race

For most Americans, proving their citizenship is not a difficult task. For example, if I want to prove that I am a U.S. citizen, I can simply show my birth certificate or passport. If I cannot find either of these documents, I can obtain a certified copy from the appropriate agency. This task, however, would be a lot harder if the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that required these agencies to deny my request for a copy and inform me that those documents should never have been issued to me in the first place. A similar situation is essentially what is happening to thousands of Haitians with Dominican citizenship.

As a result of a recent decision by the highest court in the Dominican Republic, over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent could lose their citizenship. The Court’s ruling is based on the claim that their birth certificates are invalid due to “irregular circumstances.” The background for this decision dates back almost 100 years, during a time when thousands of Haitians migrated to the Dominican to work in the sugar industry. Until recently, birthright citizenship, or jus soli, was followed by the Dominican government. Under jus soli, any child born to a Haitian migrant worker was automatically a citizen of the Dominican Republic.

Over the next decade, Haitians enjoyed both citizenship and work. Naturally, they developed many ties to the Dominican Republic. Towards the end of the 20th century, the sugar industry came to a halt, leaving thousands of Haitians without employment. This surplus of idle workers sparked a feeling of animosity among the Dominican people towards the Haitian race. In response to these feelings, the Dominican government informally began denying citizenship to Haitians that were born there and deportations began to rise. A few years later, in 2007 and in 2010, the government reformed its constitution to no longer accept birthright citizenship. Even worse for the Haitian migrants, the government decided to apply these reforms retroactively. This meant that after 1929, any citizen who obtained their citizenship through jus soli was not actually a citizen because their birth certificate was given under “irregular circumstances.”

The effects of these constitutional reforms and the recent high court decision are being felt by thousands of Haitians who have now become stateless. Most of these people, having spent their whole life in the Dominican Republic, have never even been to Haiti and are unable to obtain Haitian citizenship. Furthermore, any child born during this time is unable to be registered and therefore may not have even have documentation to prove their existence.

The decisions of the Dominican government have been heavily criticized on an international level. The Inter-American Commission has had these issues brought to its attention and has spoken out against the government’s actions. In addition, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the U.S. Department of State, have both denounced the unjust treatment of these Haitians. Still, nothing has been done to effectively solve the problem.

The injustices that are occurring in the Dominican are just another example of the shortcomings of International law. The right to nationality, which has seemingly been lost for these Haitians, is one that is guaranteed by the Inter-American Convention. Unfortunately, because of under-funding and the lack of an enforcement mechanism, the Inter-American System cannot adequately protect that right. Furthermore, international cases and complaints often move too slowly to evoke change, which has been a problem in some of the cases against the Dominican government. The various treaty bodies within the UN can issue reports and comments, but while they are persuasive, they are not binding.

Thus, there is a problem not only with the situation in the Dominican Republic, but also with the ability of the international community to effectively respond to these problems. In order to put an end to the racial and ethnic discrimination by governments throughout the world, international law, as well the organizations that have a duty to uphold it must be strengthened.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources:

Veronica Aragón, Statelessness and the Right to Nationality, 19 Sw. J. Int’l Law 341 (2013).

Julia Harrington Reddy, Don’t be Fooled by the Dominican Republic’s Judicial Laundering of Racism, Open Society Justice Initiative (Mar. 11, 2014), available at http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/dont-be-fooled-dominican-republicsjudicial-laundering-racism.

Natalia Lippmann Mazzaglia & Pedro F. Marcelino, Migratory Policy as an Exclusionary Tool: The Case of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, 3 Laws 163 (2014).

Mark Kurlansky, Dominican Republic Makes Racism the Law, Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines (Jan. 6, 2014), available at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/dominican_republic_makes_racism_the_law_20140106.

Domestic Violence: An Issue Affecting All Communities

By: Sarah Phillips

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race 

Domestic violence is an issue no matter what race or economic class an offender is placed in.   There is a myth that domestic violence only occurs in non-white communities and lower-class levels.  This is not the case.  In fact, domestic violence occurs all levels of people with no bias towards their race or economic level.   The difference between the different sets of communities is the help that they seek.  While affluent more middle to upper-class individuals have the means to find private help, lower class individuals are more likely to utilize the public agencies and police available to the public at large.   The availability of resources and subsequent handling of the circumstances surrounding the domestic violence allows for the public to come to wrong conclusion that domestic violence only affects those that are in lower-class communities and non-white.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

Source:

Boston University, BUPD Online, Domestic Violence Myths (Mar. 30, 2014 12:17PM), available at https://www.bu.edu/police/prevention/domestic_violence_myth.htm.

The Influence of Race and Religion on Voting Trends in the United States

By: Olivia Italiano

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Over the past several decades, the United States has seen significant cultural and societal shift of increased racial and ethnic diversity, as well as a stark divide of moral and religious values.  In the political sphere, Democrat and Republican supporters are drastically more divided by religious beliefs, ideological orientations, and race than in the past.  Since the 1960s, the racial and ethnic population of the United States has changed drastically, resulting in more non-white voters, including African American, Asian American, and Hispanic voters.

Despite significant improvement in race relations over the last 50 years, American society continues to reflect racial inequality with respect to economic, educational, and employment opportunities. For example, minorities overwhelmingly subjected to inferior housing, higher unemployment rates, and dramatically lower incomes than white Americans.  Unfortunately, minority voters are far more likely to experience prejudice and discrimination on behalf of public and private bureaucracies.

Differing life experiences and disproportionate opportunities are demonstrated through contrasting views on political issues, party identification, and voting behavior.  Morality based issues including abortion and same-sex marriage are frequently rooted in deeply held religious beliefs.  However, religion is not the sole or even primary factor that racial and minority groups rely on when voting.  For example, in the 2012 Presidential Election, the majority of Latino registered voters favored Obama, and stated that they identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources:

Alan I. Abramowitz, How Race and Religion Have Polarized American Voters, (Jan. 20, 2014), available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/01/20/how-race-and-religion-have-polarized-american-voters.

Additional Factors: Gender, Age, Religion, Race, and Ethnicity, available at https://www.boundless.com/political-science/political-participation-and-voting/why-people-vote/additional-factors-gender-age-religion-race-and-ethnicity.

Latinos, Religion, and Campaign 2012, (Oct. 12, 2012), available at http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/18/latinos-religion-and-campaign-2012.

Racism In The International Criminal Court

By: Jason Staloski

Blog Category: International Law & Race

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is located in the Netherlands and was established in 2002. The ICC was created in order to prosecute individuals charged with either genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or crimes of aggression. The ICC currently has jurisdiction over 122 states where these crimes occur. Recently, the African Union (AU) has levied allegations against the ICC claiming that the institution is racially discriminatory in deciding which cases to prosecute.

To support their allegation of racism, the AU notes that every prosecution pursued by the ICC originated from a country located in Africa. At the most recent AU Summit, the member nations of the AU unanimously agreed that a sitting head of state in a member nation of the AU should be hauled in front of ICC in response to William Ruto, the sitting Deputy President of Kenya, being forced to attend his trial in front of the ICC regarding the pending crimes against humanity charges. While the AU has not threatened to withdraw from ICC jurisdiction, the possibility has been discussed by AU nations.

Hailemariam Desalegn, chairperson of the African Union and Ethiopian President, has stated that, “The process [of the ICC selecting who to prosecute] has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.[1]” The ICC has defended itself by stating that a majority of its member nations come from Africa, therefore, it is only logical that there would be more cases arising from AU nations. The ICC also defended itself by indicating that of the 8 current investigations regarding AU nations, four of the ICC was requested by that state itself to investigate.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources: 

Richard Lough, African Union accuses ICC prosecutor of bias, Reuters (Apr. 5 2014), available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/30/ozatp-africa-icc-idAFJOE70T01R20110130.

Jacey Fortin, African Union Countries Rally Around Kenyan President, But Won’t Withdraw From The ICC, International Business Times (Apr. 5, 2014), available at http://www.ibtimes.com/african-union-countries-rally-around-kenyan-president-wont-withdraw-icc-1423572.

Al Mariam, The International Criminal Court on an African Safari?, Salon, (Apr. 5, 2014), available at http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/2013/09/29/the_international_criminal_court_on_an_african_safari.