Welcome to “The Brief,” a monthly roundup of Democracy Forward’s latest work to hold the Trump administration accountable. Read on below for news of our victories, newest filings, latest case updates, and resources to learn more.
It’s a new year, and a new administration.
Our work at Democracy Forward continues. Even as President Biden begins taking executive action, we are still fighting in court against dozens of unlawful policies his predecessor left behind.
In fact, we’ve been busier than ever this past month, filing four brand-new lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s harmful 11th-hour agenda and continuing to litigate our active cases and advance our investigations.
You can count on us to keep exposing and fighting unlawful policies the Trump administration issued in its waning days — whether under the radar or right out in the open. Because unlawful is unlawful, and accountability goes on.
Our parting gift to Trump-era agency heads 🗣
Suing eight Trump agencies on behalf of service providers & advocates defending religious nondiscrimination protections.
What did the Trump admin do? In a last-minute flurry before Inauguration Day, it unlawfully rolled back religious freedom protections that required faith-based organizations providing critical, taxpayer-funded services to inform recipients of their legal rights —
- Not to face discrimination based on religion or religious beliefs,
- Not to have to attend religious programming,
- And to have the opportunity to get a referral for an alternative provider.
Eliminating these protections makes it harder for already-marginalized populations to access essential social services as the U.S. continues to reel from a historic pandemic and resulting economic catastrophe.
Who does it harm? Vulnerable individuals most in need of federally funded services for their basic needs may attend unwanted religious programming or choose to forgo assistance altogether fearing religious discrimination or coercion.
- Transgender teens may choose to sleep on the streets instead of in a shelter that condemns them based on religious beliefs about transgender people.
- Bhutanese Hindu refugees would likely be unaware that they can turn down an invitation to join a bible study group and still receive federally-funded job training services from the same provider.
- Older Americans who don’t know their rights might participate in religious services that are contrary to their own beliefs because they believe they could lose access to federally-funded long-term care services if they do not.
And a family confronting hunger — a reality for many during this ongoing pandemic — would have no reason to know they have no obligation to join in prayer or say grace to receive food assistance supported with tax dollars from a church.
What are we doing? The agencies that issued this rule provided no reasonable explanation for the rule change, failed to account for its harms, and failed to consider obvious alternatives to the changes they finalized, all in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
We filed suit to reverse the unlawful rollback of these important protections on behalf of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, SAGE, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Ark of Freedom Alliance, Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, and the Hindu American Foundation alongside Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Lambda Legal.
Fighting Trump’s parting unlawful ACA sabotage 🥊
In violation of the ACA, the Trump admin unlawfully approved Georgia’s plan to terminate its use of “healthcare.gov”
We’re going to be thankful in 2021 for the end of Trump’s constant (unsuccessful) attempts to “decimate Obamacare.”
In the waning months of the Trump administration, the Dept. of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services unlawfully approved the state of Georgia’s plan to end its residents’ access to healthcare.gov without creating a state insurance marketplace.
Georgia’s waiver turns back the clock for Georgians trying to enroll in quality health care to a time when consumers were forced to navigate through private insurers, brokers, and junk plans just to get covered.
Who does it harm? Nearly 80% of Georgia residents who enroll in the individual market find and purchase their health coverage on healthcare.gov. And up to 100,000 Georgians stand to lose their insurance as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to approve the state’s waiver.
Georgia’s Trump-approved plan will do immense damage to the state’s health insurance market, force Georgians to shop for insurance through private brokers and insurance companies, lead more residents to enroll in junk plans, and increase premiums.
What are we doing? We filed suit — on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and the Feminist Women’s Health Center — to vacate the Trump administration’s unlawful approval of Georgia’s waiver and the 2018 Trump administration decision that provided the basis for the waiver approval.
In the news: Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Kemp, Trump proposal to block ACA shopping website draws legal fight
The previous admin’s anti-immigrant legacy 🏛
Fighting Trump DOJ’s unlawful, sweeping rule severely restricting immigrants’ access to justice in immigration court
In a last-ditch effort to harm immigrants, Trump’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) published a sweeping rule — made under the guise of “improving efficiency — that changes Department of Justice immigration court procedures in a manner that will:
- Deny immigrants due process,
- Cause wrongful deportations,
- And result in less efficient proceedings
Who does it harm? The Trump administration’s restrictions will harm immigrants by limiting their ability to mount appeals and cutting off access to existing avenues of legal support. The rule’s changes also impose excessive hardships on advocates who serve immigrants in court.
Many individuals may get deported without a fair chance to make their case in immigration court.
What are we doing? We filed suit to ask the court to vacate the rule and prohibit it from taking effect alongside five immigrant justice groups — the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), HIAS (founded as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC).
In the news: WNYC | Immigrant Groups Sue Trump Administration Over ‘Last Ditch’ Rule Change
“With just over a week to go before the end of the Trump Administration, immigration advocates filed a federal lawsuit in the Washington, D.C. district court against a Department of Justice rule they claim would create ‘devastating’ new barriers to those with cases in immigration court.”
No last-minute free-pass to discriminate 🎫
Challenging Trump admin rule allowing fed. contractors to make discriminatory employment decisions citing religious objections
What did the Trump admin do? Trump’s Department of Labor and its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) unlawfully issued a rule that vastly expands the ability of federal contractors and subcontractors to cite religious objections in employment decisions.
This “Religious Exemption Rule” — issued by the very office charged with preventing discrimination by federal contractors — expressly allows the contracting company to make employment decisions for discriminatory reasons, so long as it can tie the decision to religious belief.
Who does it harm? By allowing federal contractors to make discriminatory employment decisions based on religious objections, historically marginalized individuals could experience an increase in workplace discrimination.
The Trump administration rule not only fails to prevent this type of discrimination: it sanctions it, essentially enabling contractors to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate.
For example, the unlawful new policy enables federal contractors that qualify for the religious exemption to:
- Fire a woman for getting pregnant while she is unmarried,
- Refuse to hire someone in a same-sex marriage,
- Fire a transgender employee,
- Refuse to provide health insurance to women because they are not believed to be heads of household.
What are we doing? We filed suit to challenge the “Religious Exemption Rule” on behalf of Oregon Tradeswomen, Pride at Work, and the American Federation of Teachers. The Trump-era Department of Labor and OFCCP violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
In the news: A coalition of fifteen states, led by New York, also challenged the rule in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Our work continues 📢
Consumer advocates urge court to reject CFPB’s attempt to avoid scrutiny of unlawful Taskforce report
Earlier this January, Trump-admin CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger’s “Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law” released a 900-page report detailing its findings and recommendations to CFPB leadership.
From day one, the Taskforce ignored requirements under Federal law that the Taskforce operate transparently and represent a balanced set of views. Instead, it operated behind closed doors to promote the interests of the financial services industry. And in the Trump administration’s waning days, this illegal advisory group advocated against critical protections at the expense of consumers.
We filed a supplemental brief, arguing that the CFPB’s unlawful Taskforce must be held accountable for flouting federal law and that the court has authority to bar future use of the Taskforce report as part of a lawsuit we filed on behalf of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and consumer law expert, Professor Kathleen Engel.
Unions press lawsuit over Trump admin’s unreasonable delay in issuing standard to protect America’s healthcare workers
In our latest filing, the unions responded to the Trump administration’s flawed defense of its egregious failure to move forward on a permanent Infectious Diseases Standard for healthcare-related workplaces.
The Trump administration did not deny that healthcare workers are at high risk from infectious diseases like COVID-19. Instead, Trump administration officials touted their preference for a patchwork of toothless guidance documents and “tips” to address the risk posed by COVID-19. OSHA’s unreasonable delay of rulemaking on an Infectious Diseases Standard throughout the Trump administration violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.