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Civil rights advocates hosted a press briefing call today to outline the need for immediate election funding in the new COVID-19 relief package to protect the integrity of the general election. Speakers included Rep. Terri Sewell and Calif. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, as well as leaders from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, American Association of People with Disabilities, and the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda.
To hear a recording of the call, click here.
"The Senate must immediately include $3.6 billion in the next COVID-19 package to ensure safeguards for our democracy during the pandemic and beyond. That includes mandating that states establish vital protections for voters and a range of options to ensure every person can safely cast a ballot in a way that works for them. Without a functional democracy in which everyone is included, heard, and represented, we cannot make real progress on civil and human rights issues like affordable health care, fair wages, educational equity, and justice reform," said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell said, "It would be impossible to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 without acknowledging the passing of my dear friend and voting rights hero, John Lewis. Not only must Mitch McConnell take up and pass the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 -- which has been sitting on his desk since December 2019 -- he ought to support the VoteSafe Act that requires states to permit no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for the 2020 elections and an early in-person voting period of at least 20 days for the 2020 elections. Ensuring free and fair elections is the cornerstone of our democracy and, right now, too many Americans are being left behind. We must recommit ourselves to John Lewis' vision of America, and restore the promise of voter equality!
"Congressman John Lewis -- and many others -- marched and bled so that every citizen could exercise their right to vote. This November, we must not force American citizens into having to choose between exercising their right to vote or protecting their health and that of their loved ones. We must honor the spirit of Congressman Lewis and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act by offering voters safe options for casting their ballot, beginning with no-excuse vote-by-mail. And Congress must act to provide the funding necessary for state and local elections officials to administer accessible, secure, and safe elections," said Alex Padilla, California secretary of state.
"The onslaught against protections for voters of color continues to intensify as we move closer to November," said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP. "Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest across the country, it has been made abundantly clear that the people's voice and vote require immediate restoration. The disintegration of voting rights has disproportionately affected Black voters; we must work diligently to curtail the consequences and place the power back in the hands of the electorate."
Maria Town, president and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities, said, "People with disabilities frequently encounter barriers to our participation in the democratic process -- from inaccessible polling places to inoperable accessible voting machines to discriminatory voter ID laws. During the pandemic, a shift to vote by mail presents additional barriers and will not be accessible to many in the disability community. States need funding to ensure they can execute accessible vote by mail programs and maintain safe, accessible and fair in person early and election day voting."
"As evidenced by the many problems with vote by mail, lack of poll workers, insufficient polling locations, equipment problems, and long lines that happened in the June 9 primary in Georgia, it is imperative that Congress provide funding for elections in November so that both voters and election officials have sufficient personal protective equipment and voting can be conducted in a safe, accessible, and secure manner. A few of the critical needs for funding are drop boxes, recruitment of poll workers, scanners that can handle large numbers of paper ballots, postage for vote by mail ballots, increased funding for the postal service to be able to deliver voters' ballots in a timely manner, and security of voting systems," said Helen Butler, executive director, the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda.
In addition, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the following groups are joining The Leadership Conference in engaging in a day of action tomorrow, August 6, as they continue advocating for congressional funding to ensure safe and accessible elections this year:
Action Group Network
ADL (Anti-Defamation League)
Alaskans Take A Stand
American Federation of Teachers
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Andrew Goodman Foundation
Arab American Institute
Black Women Rising
Campus Vote Project
Center for American Progress
Center for Disability Rights
Clean Elections Texas
Climate Reality Action Fund
Color Of Change
Communications Workers of America
Declaration for American Democracy
End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund
Franciscan Action Network
In Our Own Voice: Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda
Lawyers for Good Government
Let Nevadans Vote
Missouri Voter Protection Coalition
Movement Advancement Project
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Association of Social Workers
National Council of Jewish Women
National Urban League Young Professionals
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Poligon Education Fund
Progressive Turnout Project
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Stand Up America
Texas Progressive Action Network
Union of Concerned Scientists
United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
When We All Vote
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Through advocacy and outreach to targeted constituencies, The Leadership Conference works toward the goal of a more open and just society - an America as good as its ideals.(202) 466-3311
"As the climate crisis escalates," said one advocate, "ending these destructive extraction practices is a matter of survival—not just for the whales, otters, and other animals in the channel, but for all life on earth."
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a call from several fossil fuel companies to hear their challenge to a lower court ruling handed down a year ago, which prohibited fracking in federal waters off the coast of California.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last June upheld a decision to bar the issuing of permits for offshore fracking, finding that the U.S. Department of the Interior had violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore gas and oil wells in the Pacific.
In the original case, the ruling was the result of three separate lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Wishtoyo Foundation, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and the state of California, challenging the federal government.
Earlier this year, fossil fuel companies ExxonMobil and DCOR, LLC were joined by the American Petroleum Institute in intervening in the case, filing a petition for certiorari in an effort to overturn the 9th Circuit ruling.
Despite the history of the case, the Biden administration opposed the fossil fuel companies' move, with Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar writing in a Supreme Court brief last week that "the court of appeals' decision does not warrant this court's review."
"California's amazing coast and vulnerable marine life deserve this victory, which will protect the ecosystem from the many dangers of offshore fracking," said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at CBD. "The fracking ban will help prevent more toxic chemicals from poisoning fish, sea otters, and other marine life."
EDC filed its lawsuit after finding in 2014 through several Freedom of Information Act requests that the federal government had issued more than 50 permits without conducting environmental reviews or a public comment process.
\u201cBig news in our Supreme Court case upholding a ban on offshore fracking. EDC discovered the federal government had approved 50 permits off the coast without proper review, and we filed our original lawsuit in 2014.\u201d— Environmental Defense Center (@Environmental Defense Center) 1685986264
"The Supreme Court was right to reject the oil industry's latest attempt to allow fracking and acidizing in our waters with zero meaningful environmental review," said Maggie Hall, senior attorney at EDC, on Monday. "The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the most ecologically rich and important regions in the world. As the climate crisis escalates, ending these destructive extraction practices is a matter of survival—not just for the whales, otters, and other animals in the channel, but for all life on earth."
The decision upheld by the Supreme Court forbids the Interior Department from issuing fracking permits without completing an assessment of the practice's adherence to the ESA and files an environmental impact statement that analyzes "the environmental impacts of extensive offshore fracking" and evaluates alternatives.
Monsell expressed hope that the Supreme Court's decision marks "the beginning of the end of drilling off California's coast" but noted that the Biden administration has welcomed fossil fuel extraction in federal waters, including in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our ocean won't be truly protected," she said, "until offshore drilling stops once and for all."
"Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming," said one campaigner.
A report published Monday reveals how multilateral development banks' financing of factory farms has unleashed significant social and ecological harm in Ecuador, and civil society groups say the banks' failure to consult or compensate affected Indigenous communities violates Ecuadorian law and their own policies.
Over the past 20 years, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IDB Invest, respectively the private sector branches of the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, have collectively poured more than $200 million into the expansion of PRONACA, Ecuador's fourth-largest corporation and by far its biggest pork and poultry producer.
The new analysis, assembled by the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) with support from a coalition of international advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth and World Animal Protection, details the dire consequences of this lending in a small province west of Ecuador's capital of Quito.
"By giving millions of dollars of public money to PRONACA, IDB Invest and the IFC are violating their own policies and causing negative impacts to Indigenous communities and fragile ecosystems in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas," Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the Food and Agriculture Program at Friends of the Earth U.S., said in a statement.
"This report is more evidence that every dollar spent on factory farming harms communities and jeopardizes development progress," said Hamerschlag. "Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming."
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water. The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities."
This is not the first time PRONACA, a meat giant operating more than 100 factory farms and slaughterhouses throughout Ecuador, has faced criticism for its deleterious social and ecological effects. In addition to documenting the historical and ongoing destruction the company has inflicted nationwide, the new investigation highlights how public development banks (PDBs) are complicit in the despoilation of communities in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, which is home to 15 factory farms.
It is based on surveys of local residents that CEDENMA, an alliance of 52 environmental groups, conducted in the wake of the most recent round of PDB lending to PRONACA. IDB Invest provided its first loan, worth $50 million, to the company in 2020. IFC followed up with a $50 million loan of its own in 2021, though the World Bank Group's latest PRONACA financing came on top of the $120 million it had already lent to the company.
"Our extensive interviews with community members found that PRONACA's intensive pig farms in the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas region have continued to pollute the air and contaminate rivers, killing off fish which local people rely on for food and jobs, and harming local tourism," said CEDENMA vice president Natalia Greene.
The report estimates that PRONACA's swine production in the area generates roughly 15 million pounds of toxic waste each day, fouling the soil, air, and waterways. Moreover, it examines for the first time how IFC and IDB Invest's most recent loans to PRONACA failed to comply with Ecuadorian law and five of their own policies (Performance Standards 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7), which require them to inform Indigenous communities about new operations and compensate them for ensuing damages.
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water," said Ricardo Calazacon, a local Indigenous leader in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and medicinal plant expert. "The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities. We have filed many complaints about the company to the local authorities but they have not listened to us or done anything to resolve the problems."
The following six-minute video summarizes many of the report's findings.
"CEDENMA is deeply concerned about IFC and IDB Invest's failure to adequately enforce its standards and mandates with respect to PRONACA's severe impacts on the water and the health of locally affected Indigenous communities," said Greene. "We are urging the public development banks and the government to enforce their policies and laws and help resolve long-standing impacts of PRONACA's operations on the health and well-being of Indigenous communities."
Community members and civil society groups are calling on IFC, IDB Invest, and the Ecuadorian government to uphold their obligations and force PRONACA to monitor and clean up its pollution. Their demands come amid a broader global campaign to get PDBs to "Stop Financing Factory Farming" (SFFF), including fresh efforts to persuade newly inaugurated World Bank President Ajay Banga to end all support for destructive, high-emitting livestock operations.
The SFFF campaign was launched in 2021 to expose how "financing industrial-scale meat and dairy operations directly contradicts PDBs' commitments to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and align their lending with the Paris climate agreement."
A major share of deforestation in Latin America over the past 50 years can be attributed to land clearing for cattle and animal feed production. The corporate-dominated global food system is now the leading driver of biodiversity loss, and animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, the five largest PDBs have dumped more than $4.6 billion and counting into factory farms over the past decade.
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project."
California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sunday accused Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis of duplicitously sending a group of South American migrants to Sacramento in a bid to score "cheap political points."
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project, his fingerprints are all over it," Bonta, a Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times. "The governor signed it, the Legislature approved to fund it in the budget, and they hired Vertol Systems Co., a vendor, to carry out the work."
"It's DeSantis being exactly who he is and advertising to the world that he is petty, little... and full of political stunts that hurt, harm, and abuse and exploit people to try and get cheap political points," he added. "It's wrong."
Bonta's remarks were based on documents the 16 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were carrying that showed the chartered flight they took from New Mexico to Sacramento was coordinated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Vertol Systems has arranged similar flights in the past, including the September 2022 transportation of a large group of Venezuelan and Colombian migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
"Human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
According to the faith-based community organizing group PICO California, the 16 South Americans were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas by representatives of a private contractor who promised them jobs and other assistance. The group was bused from El Paso to New Mexico and then flown to Sacramento, where they were dropped off Friday night outside the city's main Catholic church.
"They were lied to and deceived," PICO campaign director Eddie Carmona told the Associated Press.
\u201cPICO CA ardently condemns the actions that led to 16 of our immigrant brothers & sisters being transported across the country under false pretenses. We are grateful to our Sac community @SacramentoACT for showing up with radical compassion. https://t.co/3mAyDzHde7\u201d— PICO California (@PICO California) 1685836583
Bonta told the Times that "they never intended to help them find a job but told them that they would do that so they could get on the plane and sign their documents and be transported to Sacramento."
"They completely exploited, abused, and manipulated these folks who were vulnerable and were hoping and dreaming of a job and told they would be helped finding that job only to be abandoned," he added.
Cecilia Flores, narrative and communications strategist at the multi-faith advocacy group Sacramento Area Congregations Together, toldKCRA that the migrants are "in shock."
"I think they're very exhausted," she added. "I think they are just trying to catch up with processing exactly what happened."
Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto told the Times that "the urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill."
"We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned," he added.
\u201cAn investigation is underway after over a dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento, CA by private jet with no prior arrangement or care in place and documentation \u201cpurporting to be from the government of the State of Florida."\n\nUsing people as pawns -- again.\nhttps://t.co/YJQj6uqrbf\u201d— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28 (@Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28) 1685896011
Bonta and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newson said Saturday that they met with around a dozen of the affected migrants. Bonta said the California Department of Justice is investigating who paid for their flight and whether any laws were broken.
"While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," Bonta said in a statement. "We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings."
"California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience," he added.
\u201cToday I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place.\n\nWe are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California.\u201d— Rob Bonta (@Rob Bonta) 1685845344
Democratic Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also issued a statement Saturday asserting that "human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
"I urge the appropriate authorities to investigate how 16 vulnerable people were lured to travel from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento," he added. "Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?"
DeSantis, along with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey, Arizona's former GOP governor, have bused or flown more than 12,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities since April to protest what they falsely call the Biden administration's "open border" immigration policies.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature has recently authorized $22 million for DeSantis' program of sending migrants to sanctuary states and cities.