Mobilizing for Justice in the Post-Election Era

plenary discussion

On Saturday Jan. 14, 2017, more than 150 UC Irvine School of Law faculty, staff, students, alumni, and attorneys came together at UCI Law to discuss the potential effects of a new presidential administration on a variety of legal practices. The opening plenary featured Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and attorneys, law professors and leaders of community organizations.

Read Transcript


  • Erwin Chemerinsky

    Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, UC Irvine School of

  • Pablo Alvarado

    Founder and Executive Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network

  • Jacqueline Dan

    Staff Attorney, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-OC
  • Kaaryn Gustafson

    Professor of Law and Co-Director, Center on Law, Equality and Race, UC Irvine School of Law
  • Angelo Logan

    Co-founder, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
  • Ameena Mirza Qazi

    Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles

Podcast Transcript

[Narrator] Welcome to UCI Law Talks. Presenting bold perspectives on law from The University of California, Irvine School of Law. Join the conversation on Twitter at UCILaw, #UCILawTalks.

[EC] Thank you for coming this morning. My name is Erwin Chemerinsky, I have the great pleasure of being the Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I think we've all been vacillating among them over the last more than two months.

We're here today because we can't ever get to the fifth stage of acceptance. We can't accept this is the new normal. The reality is that our country faces greater dangers, at least anytime in my lifetime. This isn't simply about the election of a republican as president. It's about the election of someone as president who's least qualified in experience and temperament than anybody who has ever been elected to that office. Never at least in my lifetime has somebody been elected as president with such openly racist and anti-Semitic appeals.

This isn't simply about electing a conservative to the White House. There's an enormous difference between the Alt-Right and the Right. I've never felt so afraid for the country and for the things I believe in. I'm afraid for those in our country and in this community who face deportation. I'm afraid for those women who will lose healthcare as a result of defunding of Planned Parenthood. I'm afraid for the 20 million people who could be losing healthcare as a result of the Affordable Care Act. I'm afraid for the environment to a President, an Attorney General, head of EPA, who don't believe that greenhouse gases lead to climate change. I'm afraid for what it's going to mean for civil rights to have Trump appointees to the Supreme Court and to the lower Federal Courts.

I look at who Donald Trump has picked for his cabinet and see people like Jeff Sessions. Now there's a great deal of discussion this week at the confirmation hearings about whether Jeff Sessions is a racist. That misses the point. There's nothing in Jeff Sessions entire professional history as a lawyer, as a United States Attorney and as a Senator that's ever done anything to advance civil rights. I worry about what it means to have Tom Price heading Health and Human Services. Someone who not only wants to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act, but eliminate Medicare and Medicaid. I worry about what it means to have Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Someone who denies the problem of climate change and opposes all form of environmental laws.

We are here today because we can't get to that stage of acceptance. We're here today because we have to find ways to resist, to assist, to mobilize and to challenge. We have to think about how we in our own communities can resist. How this university and cities, we can resist the efforts to deport members of our community. We have to think about how to assist individuals. Assist those who face deportation. Assist workers who face loss of benefits, loss of protections. To assist women who face loss of reproductive healthcare services.

We have to find ways to mobilize. We can't do this on our own or even just with those in this room. We have to mobilize to be able to appeal to Senators to filibuster the worst of the Trump legislation. To mobilize to filibuster so as to oppose the worst of the Trump nominees. Where we can't filibuster, persuade republicans to go along to stop the very worst of what Trump is proposing. We have to find ways to mobilize at the State and the local level to make up for what federal government will no longer be doing. State and local governments always can protect more rights. They always can do more to protect the environment. They always can do more to protect the individuals. We have to mobilize to persuade them to do so.

We have to develop strategies to challenge. To litigate. To use the courts. To challenge in every possible way the Trump policies that are going to violate people's rights and injure people. So that's why we're here today. To develop those strategies.

I want to begin by thanking my colleagues who worked so hard to organize this. Sameer Ashar, Anna Davis, Annie Lai, Jennifer Chacon, Colleen Taricani, especially our public interest programming offices and our communications offices who've done so much to do this. In this initial planning session we have five terrific speakers. I'll introduce them to you one at a time. I'll do very short introductions, the introductions don't begin to do justice to all of their accomplishments, but I would use more than the time we have allotted to tell you all of what they've done. Then I've been told to give each of them 10 minutes for remarks and I apologize that since I am one to follow instructions, I was told to cut you off after 10 minutes. So, I'll do that. Then Sameer also asked me to take a couple minutes again and talk about the Federal Judiciary, the Supreme Court and Federal Judges and what this means.

Let me begin by introducing you to my wonderful colleague Kaaryn Gustafson. Kaaryn has been a member of faculty now for a few years, she especially teaches in the area of Criminal Law, Statutory Analysis and Critical Race Theory. She's co-director of our center with regard to race and inequality. So Kaaryn if I could give you 10 minutes.

[KG] Sure. Thanks. I will use the mic. 50 years ago this year, Martin Luther King drafted an economic and social bill of rights. At the time, poverty was high, not only among African Americans, but also among the rural poor and the elderly. Racial and gender discrimination was simply part of the hiring system. Federal welfare benefits were seen by state and local authorities and were distributed in arbitrary and discriminatory ways. The Supreme Court had not yet heard cases seeking recognition of positive rights to subsistence or due process rights to entitlement. It was a moment of hope.

The economic and social bill of rights called for the right of every employable citizen to a decent job. The right of every citizen to a minimum income. The right to a decent house and a free choice of neighborhood and the right to an adequate education. Where have we been over the last 50 years since Martin Luther King drafted that bill of rights?

Poverty has remained high though it has dropped in the last couple years. Poverty among the elderly has declined, but has remained persistently high, especially among blacks and Latinos. Schools desegregated briefly and have re-segregated. States have withdrawn direct support of higher education and individuals have begun taking on long-term high levels of debt in order to obtain degrees that are largely needed these days to secure employment. 

Economic risks have shifted from government and businesses to individuals and families. Few people receive retirement pensions and many don't receive healthcare benefits through employers. The rising cost of higher education is born by people who can't bear it all that well. Wages have been flat. Accumulated wealth is diminishing at the bottom and rising at the top. Consumption has continued despite flat wages, which signals a couple things. Savings have declined and consumer debt has increased at a rate we have not seen before. Something people really don't recognize. Poverty remains racialized, deeply racialized and child poverty even more so.

Where are we headed? This is what worries me. Fighting poverty isn't a priority for the incoming administration and in fact, there wasn't much discussion around poverty during the election, but that was true of the last two presidential elections as well.

Housing Secretary nominee Ben Carson is on record describing poverty as a choice. We've seen battles over the minimum wage and labor organizing. As a bright spot 29 states have recently passed laws raising the minimum wage in those states and a number of cities across the country have also raised the minimum wage for those cities. At the same time, states with republican dominated legislatures are responding by passing state laws to preempt cities, to prevent them from raising minimum wages.

A number of the president-elect's cabinet members, Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder and Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos oppose the minimum wage and oppose minimum wage increases. Please note that the Federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour, it's $10.50 an hour here in California.

We've seen few policy details right? We don't know what's going to happen, but the details that have been articulated are frightening for people who are poor and working class. The Affordable Care Act is on the chopping block with no alternative proposed. People either don't know or seem to have forgotten the research that Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues did showing that a lot of debt that people carry and a lot of debt that leads to bankruptcy is healthcare debt. This means that healthcare debt has ripple effects across the economy, it's not just for families. It affects all of us.

The tax proposals that have been outlined scare me. Donald Trump's tax proposal would do away with Head of Household status. According to NYU tax professor Lily Batchelder this would mean that taxes would rise for 51 percent of single parents. A group that's particularly vulnerable to poverty. A proposal by Paul Ryan would block grant Medicaid. TANF block grants where temporary assistance to needy families, cash welfare, was block granted in 1996 through the Federal Welfare Reform legislation. It has been a nightmare. Today some architects of the 1996 welfare reforms, including Lawrence Mead and Ron Haskins, describe block grants as a mistake.

What's happened with block grants? Now that states have control over welfare spending they have diverted it to people who are not poor. Take Michigan as an example. Michigan has not done well over the last several years. Even before the Flint water crisis the State was suffering terribly. The number of poor people in Michigan rose, but the number of poor people receiving cash benefits dropped. What happened to the welfare money? It was shifted to other State programs. One of those programs was a program for scholarship money that went specifically to middle class families. Good thing for them, but the people at the very bottom were the ones who needed the benefits.

Another frightening proposal is to do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is an agency that was created in the wake of the mortgage lending crisis and as people rely more and more on credit as the safety net slips away, we need those protections. This means that those who care about poverty need to refocus their attentions. This will mean in the years to come new attention to tax policies. Poverty is high, but it would be even higher without the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was expanded. We need to protect that program. Given Medicaid block grants and proposals to shift a lot of other programs to the state, there's going to be a lot of work to do in State Legislatures and in State courts. More of the issues affecting poor people will be at the State level.

Fighting poverty will also mean fighting for consumers. Families are increasingly turning to consumer credit as a safety net disappears, this leaves more people, both poor and non-poor, subject to exploitation and fraud. We see this now with automobile lending and with deceptive practices in seller financed home sales.

Martin Luther King's dream of a social and economic bill of rights now seems like nothing more than a dream. A right to subsistence rooted in the constitution is an issue that the Supreme Court repeatedly sidestepped and then quietly rejected. Congress did a great deal to dismiss and dismantle entitlements in 1996. I'm not all that hopeful at this political moment that we can look to government to protect poor people. What we will need to do in the next few years is protect poor people from government action. What will be important for the poor, working and non-working, are efforts to protect security programs that still exist. We need to protect minimum wage. We need to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit both at the federal level and the state level for those states that have EITC programs. We need to protect nutrition assistance programs.

By centering the poor in our work and centering human security over business interests, I think we can keep poor people from becoming poor people. We need passionate lawyers, passionate policy makers working on sometimes dry legal issues in every state to make sure that that happens.


[EC] I next want to introduce Pablo Alvarado. He's the founder and Executive Director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network. You also may be familiar with him from his terrific pieces that he writes in the Huffington Post.

[Pablo Alvarado] Can I stand?

[EC] Pardon?

[PA] Is it okay if I stand?

[EC] Of course, whatever you want.

[PA] Thank you. So I can see you better. Buenos Dias. I can't hear that, Buenos Dias. Well before I share my thinking about what's happening I want to thank the law school because we've been working together for a while. Sameer, we work together on matters of wage stuff and other immigrant rights. Annie and I co-counsel with our lawyers. There are two lawyers from our organization that work here in the law school, so I feel that we are an extension of you guys, which is fantastic.

I want to share a story about Arizona because what we're going to face in the coming years might be similar. Back in 2007 at that time, Sheriff Joe Arpaio enjoyed 86 percent of voter approval ratings. The man was untouchable. Any politician who dared to criticize his ways was put under criminal investigation. The Phoenix New Times at a given point wrote an article critical of Sheriff Joe during those years. In the evening the Phoenix New Times was raided. They came in and took the computers away, this is the kind of environment that people were facing in Arizona under Sheriff Joe. The man was extremely powerful.

We have to confront them because that kind of power cannot be left unchallenged. The beauty about what happened at that time was that humble people, undocumented people said hey, you know we're going to stand up to this bully. At that time there was an owner of a furniture store called the Pruitt Furniture Store in Phoenix. The owner of that store was a member of the Minute Man Project. He hired six off-duty sheriff deputies to patrol the surroundings of the furniture store. Anybody who looked Mexican would actually be interrogated, detained and oftentimes transferred to immigration authorities.

We knew that we couldn't confront Sheriff Joe in an open battlefield. So the decision that our organizers and our people made was that we are going to draw this guy into an alley fight that we can control and that we can win. What people did is that we began a boycott against the furniture store, and we asked the owner of the furniture store we're going to move, we're going to end the boycott only if you fire the six off-duty sheriff deputies. We were there every Friday and Saturday. At a given point there were 2000 people in our side and about 150 in their side. Kind of protesting and of course in their side there were people with arms. This is not, I mean I saw rifles where people were going to a battle, that's the kind of environment that we faced.

Of course, we had to make sure that as we confronted Sheriff Joe that we did it in a way that was peaceful, and where we promoted love instead of the hatred. What we did is we infuse the fight with music, with arts and culture. It's something that our adversaries couldn't resist. After three months of being there, the owner of the furniture store ended up firing the six off-duty sheriff's deputies. That was the first fight that migrants won against Sheriff Joe and I am so proud to tell you that that fight started ... that fight started at a day labor corner. It was Thomas Salino, this older gentleman who said this is what we have to do, we have to boycott this person. We won that fight against a bully, which is now very similar to the President that we have in our country.

The reason why I share this story is because we might see some of that stuff across the country and that is the kind of resistance that we have to put together. Similarly, when the Federal Government began granting power to local police to enforce the immigration law, they created several programs from 287G to secure communities. Historically the enforcement of immigration law has been the exclusive authority of the Federal Government, but more and more that authority is being given to localities.

They created this program called the Secure Communities program and they told us don't touch it because it's a given and most of the immigrant right's organizations were saying let's not challenge it because it's President Obama who is proposing it. Of course, SCOM resembles SB1070. SCOM, Secure Communities is very similar and, actually, it has been more harmful than SB1070, the anti-immigration law in Arizona. We were told don't touch it, don't fight it because if you do you undermine the possibility of immigration reform here in Washington, D.C. Well, the good news is we don't have that problem anymore. The good news is that we can go all the way in if we fight this kind of a local immigration with Federal Law Enforcement collusion.

After many years of resistance, President Obama ended it last November. It was because about 350 localities said no, we're going to protect our migrant communities and it was because there was a resistance. So this is the kind of stuff that we need to do more and more. The fight is going to be local. Migrants share the same neighborhoods. We go to the same schools, the same churches with people and we have to coexist in peace and harmony with everybody. We have to make sure that those neighborhoods are welcoming for people.

The way forward we have to [speaks Spanish] and I don't know how to say that in English, but I think you can get it. We have to do anything that's possible to defend migrant communities. Litigation as much as we can all over the country. Continue marching in the streets. Making sure that every college becomes a sanctuary institution. It is possible. Making sure that cities that have established protections, layers of protection for undocumented migrants, that they remain in place. And more than that, that we push them farther to the left.

In California, we have introduced the California Values Act, which is probably the most belligerent anti-deportation policy ever introduced in the legislature. So we've got to make sure that it becomes feasible. That it passes here in California. What we're telling our communities of people, what we're telling undocumented people, is that at this moment in history what the magnitude of the challenge that we're going to face requires that we think and act and work and organize differently. What we're telling people is you're your own, don't expect the republicans ... Yes I know I have two minutes ... thank you, let me close it with this.

What we're telling people is the republicans are not with you. The democrats are not with you. Don't expect an organization to come and save you. You're on your own. The good thing is that you have neighbors and people who are in similar circumstances that you can work with, that you can sit down with and organize with. The good thing is that so many Americans who believe in migrants, who believe that migrants are actually the beating heart of this country. That's what we're telling people. We're telling people that President-elect Trump has said this is good news that President Trump has said that he is going to go only after criminals. That's the good news. The bad news is that all of you are criminals. You know?

So it's time for you to come together at the neighborhood level and organize communities the way we did in Arizona. That struggle that began at that Day Labor corner evolve into defense committees. Evolve into a more sophisticated boycott. Evolve into an unparalleled, an incredible resistance against SB1070. These are the kind of fight that we have to have in the future to come.

As you know, Sheriff Joe was unseated this last November because of that ... precisely because of that resistance. We're telling people to tap into their power because as we fight to protect the most vulnerable communities in our society, we got to make sure that we don't view people as victims. Got to make sure that we see people as subjects of change. And yes, there's widespread fear, there are multiple dimensions of uncertainty. Yes people are fearful, but we have to remind them how powerful they are. Remember how they cross boarders. Remember they cross the desert. They cross rivers to get here.

Just think of the people I work with, Day Laborers. These men and women every day get up to go to a Day Labor corner to stand and offer the only thing that they have. Their labor. They do it with their forehead high and they defy anything that you can think of. They don't know who's going to hire them or whether they're going to get a day of work, yet they get up and they stand on the street corner. They don't know if they're going to have an injury at a workplace and whether they're going to receive proper medical care or not. They don't know if the Minute Men or the white supremacists individuals or organizations are going to come and attack them. They don't know if they're going to be arrested that day or if they're going to get paid for the work that they do. They defy the sun, the rain, you name it and every day they are there.

That's the power the people need to tap into as we face this bully that we have elected as President. That's the power that we need to match. That's the courage that we need to match as we fight back. I invite you to match that courage and let's do the right thing and make sure that we do it peacefully and that we send a very strong message to those that supported the President-elect. We don't hate them, but we don't fear them either. We're going to make sure that our country becomes a country of inclusion, not a country of exclusion.

[EC] I next want to introduce to speak Jacqueline Dan, she's a staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Orange County. She's worked on behalf of immigrant's rights for many years, had won a number of awards for that work.

[Jacqueline Dan] This is working? Good morning everyone, thank you for coming on your extended weekend to learn more about what we all can do basically with our personal experiences and knowledge and legal knowledge in terms of hopefully what to do over just the next four years.

When I tell people that first I am an immigration attorney and I work with people in the Asian American community that are low income, who live in poverty and cannot afford an attorney, people get really confused. They're like, wait so that doesn't make any sense, you work with model minorities, or I think my favorite is you work with high tax bracket minorities. What kind of issue are you working on, are you just helping people file, what is it, family based petitions to bring people over to the United States if they're related to a citizen? It's not.

I think that one of the biggest challenges facing Asian immigrants in the Asian American community over the next four years is just a lack of knowledge within our own community and in society at large about the ways in which poverty, discrimination and laws that target immigrants can be used to basically further oppress our community.

When I was growing up I didn't see a lot of model minorities around. The people that I knew in my Vietnamese community were poor, they didn't speak English. When you went to church, you might get mugged or held up for whatever money that you might have in your purse. People went to prison, neighborhoods were overly policed, and people also faced a day in immigration court if they didn't know that they need to obtain citizenship. This is the community that I grew up in and that I understand, but a lot of people don't understand. Even in terms of Asian Americans, which is strange because the history of our community really is rooted in immigration.

The first Supreme Court cases that define birthright citizenship, or who could naturalize based on their race, were litigated by people of Chinese, Indian and Japanese heritage. There are a lot of people today that'll characterize Asian Pacific Islanders as legal immigrants, but the truth is 1.5 million Asian Americans live here without any lawful immigration status and under constant threat of deportation. Of those who do have the privilege of documented status, many obtained amnesty under Reagan. Many others like my family obtained refugee status because they fled communist uprisings during the Cold War at a time when the United States routinely deported asylum seekers or asylum applicants back to near certain death in Central America. Others entered the United States in lawful status, but triggered immigration consequences through the criminal justice system.

So even within the Asian American community there are communities that exist in the shadows and are rarely spoken of, acknowledged or heard of. In this context when you have these people targeted, people who live down the street from us in the Cambodian community on any street or Cambodian Town of Long Beach. Pacific Islander students who may have been born in U.S. Territories, but are not considered U.S. citizens.

What do you do with people in those communities that are going to be targeted by the Trump administration? Even under the Obama administration when we met with local leadership for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they are very familiar with a lot of the clients that I work with. They actually described two classes of immigrants. The first being the regular taco truck guy that generally otherwise obeys the law, but is here to work hard and look for opportunities that are meaningful. Then there are my clients, the bad guys, the ones that are coming straight out of prison with gang affiliation and who have committed armed robbery and are always level one enforcement priorities.

What kinds of laws and policies or policy changes are we looking at under the new administration? Well in terms of what Trump has articulated, or Kris Kobach has articulated, several in particular will heavily impact the API community and people that I work with. First it's very likely that President Obama's program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that provides two-year work authorization and a reprieve from deportation for immigrants who came here to the United States as children, but no longer have lawful immigration status. This program is one of the first that Trump says he promised will try to eliminate as soon as possible. Three quarters of a million young people currently have DACA. Of those 16,000 are Asian Pacific Islanders.

The next set of enforcement actions are very controversial in the sense that they target criminal aliens. I call that controversial because to a lot of people it's not controversial, but I'll get into that in a little bit. The definition of who is a criminal alien is going to expand significantly and this has been a tactic that has really been used to divide and conquer people within immigrant communities to basically say there are people in your community that are good, that are DACA eligible who go to school, who have never violated the law. Then there are others in your community that you should just give up on because they're bad people.

Basically, the first of these is that deportation that is based on your interactions with the criminal justice system will no longer be focused necessarily on you being convicted in a court of law. It could also based on you simply being arrested by local law enforcement, which in an area where you are poor and the police routinely target people of color, or as Pablo mentioned, you live in a place where the sheriff just doesn't like immigrants in general and can use this as a pretense, an arrest can mean that you can be deported. That raises all kinds of due process concerns and I think many people in the room also know that a trial and a conviction is not necessarily fair, but that's something that we're looking at and that we have to prepare people for. It really shifts the type of community education that you do from education about immigration law to also just criminal procedure.

There's also another proposal to clear a backlog of 870,000 people in the United States that have final orders of deportation that cannot be enforced. What that means is their home countries routinely refuse to take them back and they're basically stranded in the United States. They're given one-year work authorization if they're released from detention under a case called Zadvydas v. Davis, which says that basically if you can't deport someone within six months it's presumptively unlawful unless you can show that their deportation is reasonably foreseeable. Like you can fly them out, bus them out and that you have travel documents from their home country. There are a lot of countries this doesn't happen for, one is Cuba and one in particular was mentioned by Kris Kobach and that's China. So there's China, there's India, there's Pakistan, there's Vietnam, there's Laos and there's Cambodia. Vietnam in particular there may be 12,000 to 15,000 people who have final orders of removal that can't be implemented because the government will not take them back.

What Kris Kobach has proposed is that we simply just detain everybody and then force their home countries to take them back. This also pushes the fight to something that's more international and not local so it's important to think more broadly about where you're going to put your resources. A lot of efforts are now being directed towards these countries abroad and asking them to not enter into agreements with the United States to accept their nationals for repatriation. Especially when they only speak English, when they were born in refugee camps, and have never set foot in their home country. A lot of these arguments that are being made are based in international human right's law, the concept of non-refoulement, or the idea that long-term residents of any place should not be forced to go to a country to which they have basically no ties other than this idea of citizenship or national origin.

So basically what do we do next? The first is that we have to educate people within our own community about immigration. The fact that there are so many people who are undocumented or face immigration enforcement actions in our own community. And that a lot of these people have been through the criminal justice system. So two sets of issues that we routinely do not discuss within our own community and also need to educate other people more broadly about.

The second is also organizing. A lot of these people, they don't actually know or get a lot of other community support. There are a lot of people who come to us and don't know that their children have the right to go to school, even if the children are undocumented, under Plyler v. Doe. But this is routine knowledge in a lot of other communities where people are more organized and more vocal about basically pursuing their rights in the United States. So there's a lot of organizing that needs to happen and a lot of organizing among people who say might have criminal convictions as well. Basically all these justice programs that work with people in reentry, we've been working with them a lot to organize former prisoners of color and APIs. Then also doing a lot of outreach to ethnic media to get those stories out there.

Thank you.

[EC] The next speaker is Angelo Logan. He is the co-founder of the East Yard Community for Environmental Justice. He is also the policy director for the Moving Forward Network out of Occidental College. He is one of the leading advocates in our community and the country for environmental justice, especially for communities of color.

[Angelo Logan] Thank you. Good morning.

I grew up in the City of Commerce, which is about five and a half miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The City of Commerce traditionally was an urban core and industrial core where a lot of manufacturing took place, both in automotive, tire manufacturing, aerospace and in others. So I grew up in this environment that was bombarded with toxic exposure. Not only these factories around chrome plating, lead smelters, other types of toxic and/or dangerous manufacturing, but also a logistics hub.

Right adjacent to my home, the home that I grew up in, is a major intermodal facility, a rail yard, where hundreds and hundreds of locomotives both idle and traverse through the neighborhood every day. As you all may know locomotives that move all of our goods across the country are powered by diesel exhaust and diesel exhaust has been determined a carcinogen since 1997 in the State of California.

Growing up in this environment, we experienced quite a bit of health consequences because of the built environment. Specifically in my, let's say mid 20s or so, I was working as an aerospace mechanic and what we experienced in our neighborhood was an onslaught of cancers, bronchitis and asthma. I'll tell you a specific story about a pivotal point for our community. We grew up in a neighborhood that was working class, working poor. Lots of folks looking for positive role models. We actually had a really positive role model, a really great guy. Tall, strong, hardworking gentleman by the name of Mr. Bacca. One day we learned that Mr. Bacca, along with a number of other folks, had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Mr. Bacca had never smoked a day in his life and he's struggling with lung and throat cancer.

After a couple years of struggling with lung cancer and going through the whole medical procedure they sent him home because they recognized that his days were numbered and they would put him in hospice at home. Mr. Bacca lived right adjacent to the rail line, locomotives would come and idle 10 feet from his bedroom window every day. Sometimes for days on end. So Mr. Bacca comes home his last days. Family gather around his bed. It's a hot summer day, the windows are open and right at that moment a locomotive comes, parks right adjacent to his window and idles. In that moment the room becomes saturated with diesel exhaust. His whole family starts coughing, they close the windows and at that moment Mr. Bacca passes away.

I tell that story because that really prompted a lot of folks in our neighborhood to take action. They found the urgency to step up, go above and beyond the daily routine to fight for their community. Mr. Bacca is one story in our neighborhood that helped to catapult folks into action, but there are many, many more and actually one of our original members of our organization just passed away from lung disease last week and was one of Mr. Bacca's neighbors.

I bring up that story because the community really saw this as a sense of urgency to step up, step out of their comfort zone and really take action going above and beyond. Lots of folks working in a whole bunch of different areas. Ordinary folks taking action. So I want for us here in this room to think about this moment as being an urgent moment. It may not be the same circumstance, but I guarantee you there will be the same consequences in our communities, especially environmental justice communities. So want to urge you to think about this moment as a time to step up and take action. Go above and beyond. If you are working in a regular job, it's about taking one or two hours after your daily work time and take action.

Through our organizing and through our work, I've come to learn two things. The first is that our communities have the power to take action. Have the power to change the situation that we live in, but what we need to do is we need to foster and organize well informed, well equipped self-advocates. And we need to organize coalitions. I think that you all have a role in that to participate in helping to inform folks so they can be well informed and well equipped advocates. And you could be equal participants in building coalitions. It's really important that as we move forward to really change and create a different dynamic around environmental racism to be a real environment around equity and environmental health, that we build broad coalitions. 

The new administration that's before us as you all know, the proposed administrator of EPA, Pruitt, is a staunch advocate to destroy the EPA. The EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency, it's supposed to be an agency to protect public health. Seems to be that his goal is to completely destroy the agency. Relying as people said earlier today, relying on the government to protect us is an uphill battle. It's important for us to think about how we're going to build coalitions. How we're going to change the hearts and minds of people across the country to realize that we need to take action so that in the future as we think about new administrators, new presidential candidates, new local elected that we think about how we're going to be protecting each other and our families.

The situation with EPA is in terms of the specifics that I see happening is not that they're going to work toward changing the environmental regulations, rules, or acts necessarily, but I think in the short term to really defund the agency. Defund it to the point where the agency is crippled and is debunked just by virtue of defunding it and other resources. It's not just the EPA that we're going to see this happen in, but we're going to also see this in the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation. All of these agencies have impacts on environmental justice communities. I want to urge folks to think about how if your passion is around environmental justice or the environment, that there are many agencies that touch the environment. It's not just the EPA, but it's Department of Energy and Department of Transportation like I mentioned.

In terms of ways in which I think that folks can engage on the legal aspect is that, well I'll just say this, from my experience the most heroic attorneys that I've seen are not those in the courtrooms, but those that are sitting at the table with community organizers and folks on the ground to coordinate. To strategize and to take action at the ground level. It doesn't necessarily mean that those strategies are going to be only in the local venues, but that the organizing, and the strategy happens on the ground with the people that are organizing.

There is an approach around building coalitions where you build a strong team of advocates. Making sure that we are providing resources, support in a variety of ways so that you have people that have expertise in policy. You have people that have expertise in organizing, and you have people that have expertise in law. In environmental law and other types of laws that impact the situation that we're approaching. I'd say that that's probably the most important way for people to engage is to build coalitions to participate as equal participants, not just coming in as an expert and trying to dictate to folks what should happen and how they should do it, but as equal partners and strategizing to advance your campaign or your issue.

I'll just stop there by saying that we shouldn't underestimate what we can achieve when small groups of coalitions that have a diversity in terms of expertise and passion can achieve.

Thank you.

[EC] The final speaker on this terrific panel is Ameena Mirza Qazi. She is the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles. She's been a civil right's lawyer for many years and she's a leader with regard to civil rights, serving on the Board of Directors for organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Council.

[Ameena Mirza Qazi] Thank you, good morning. That's actually Public Law Censor, any PLC folks in here? Yes, yes, there we go. I'm going to stand because when I'm upset I move my hands a lot, and I don't want to smack Angelo or the lovely Dean here.

So why am I upset? Not just because of the recent election, but yesterday the Department of Homeland Security released the recipients of millions of dollars worth of its Countering Violent Extremism grants. The Countering Violent Extremism program is a government program specifically targeting the American Muslim community to police American Muslim ideology and to counter what it calls extremism within the Muslim community. Basically pre-crime as we can say.

I'm upset because for many years organizations like the NLG, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the ACLU, Advancing Justice, have been combating and working against the CVE program. I'm upset because the Muslim community locally banded together and said we are rejecting this program in Los Angeles, Southern California and Orange County. I'm upset because some Muslim organizations will be accepting this money. We have about over 2 million dollars worth of grants that will be coming to the City of LA and to Muslim organizations.

So what do I want to do? I want to sue the heck out of some people, right? That's my gut response. Give me a pleading, a pleading template because I'm horrible at formatting and let's get to suing. Then I take a step back and be like, is this what this is really all about? Is suing the heck out of someone or the federal, that's partly what it's all about, but is it really what it's about? That's what I want to speak about today, about the concepts of movement lawyering. A bit about what Angelo is talking about. I know this might be a review for some of you. I know that we've a lot of people representing nonprofits and public interests. I see a lot of Guild members. We have Renee who is on our NLG Board. Brooke who is the Chair of NLGOC. Helen and others who run the Guild student chapter here.

So this might be a review, but what I'd like to do is go over the concept of movement lawyering. Some of the basics, which we've projected up on the screen and then some of the special issues that we have left. I'll get to as much of this as I can in the 7 minutes and 40 seconds I have left.

So what are the entry points, how did we all get here today? Some of us have been recently spurred into action because of the shock value of Trump's election. Some have been committed to these causes and working with these groups for many, many years and this is just continuing on along in that vein. Some of us are returning from a hiatus, maybe we thought Obama wasn't so bad, which he was, and his administration, we'll talk about the expansion of executive powers and other things soon, and then we're coming back and some of us might still be on the fence. We might not be sure what our politics are exactly. We kind of like the idea of NAFTA going away. We kind of like no more red baiting. You're maybe not sure where your education, legal career fit into all this. Perhaps you really want to be on the streets and you don't see the value of what you may think is sitting behind a desk or being in the courtroom.

However we got here today our roles as lawyers in this movement must be clear. So what is movement lawyering? It's a concept that underlines the work of the Guild and is an approach to lawyering in which we believe that change should be movement led. That we use our skills and our resources as lawyers, law students, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, to support the movement groups. Groups who are working in the community. Who are working on the streets, who work such that human rights are valued over property interests. Those are the movement groups that we work with. And here's a note, not every group that fits the demographic profile of impacting communities is necessarily an impacted group. Right? Because we do have a lot of groups, religious institutions, congregations, that would rather support the system and the structures as they are.

Now this sounds pretty basic. Yeah we work with people in the streets. But it's not so easy and here is why, many of us have gotten to where we are today based on some level of privilege. Even if we belong to communities of color. Aside from the jokes of lawyers as sharks and ambulance chasers, it is a privileged position in society because of our wealth, or relative wealth unless you work for a nonprofit, education and position. But as we said the federal minimum wage $7.25 working at a nonprofit we're still in a relative position of wealth.

Many of us have Type A personalities. Our aggression is applauded and becomes part of our personality. How many of us go to dinner parties where we have to just sit and be silent because we're afraid of being pointed out as too aggressive and cynical. So we just kind of sit there and eat and don't talk because that's who we are. I have noticed that in response to Trump's election when many lawyers seem to be more interested in grouping together as lawyers like lawyers for the left, lawyers for good governance, lawyers for this, lawyers for that. Creating some sort of elite status, like we're just going to perpetuate our elite position in society within the alt- or Trump response rather than really embedding ourselves into the movement.

In movement lawyering we step up and we step back. Our job is not to define the response or to direct it, but to amplify the voices of the movement actors. To promote their political power and to dismantle the structures of oppression. And yes, dismantle some of the structures of power and privilege that have enabled us to be where we are today. And that's not easy.

So going back to entry points. If your entry point to this is combating the overt racism and rhetoric of Trump administration consider that to be an effective lawyer you must be challenging not just overt racism, but systemic racism. Consider, here's an easy quiz, would you be here if Clinton was elected? Would we all still be here?

As Angela, oh I'm sorry I'm skipping a bit because I scrolled up. So we have threats of mass deportation and if that's gone and the threat of religious registration is gone, hate rhetoric is toned down, would we still be committed to supporting the work of movement groups? For example, the Obama administration has just said it is doing away with NSEER, the National Security Entry and Exit Registration program. Why? They said, and we're all like "Yeah, they're dismantling NSEERs!" Well why are they doing it? They said because we already get all the information we need elsewhere. So NSEERs is gone, the overt registration system is gone, but are we committed to still dismantling the collection of private information of all of us because Obama's also turned over all the NSA information to all the government? Or to specific groups.

So here are some traits of movement lawyering. This is from a website and I just can't think of it, Lawyering at The Margins. So Lawyering at The Margins is a great website. These are some tools. First of all it's not about impact litigation, okay, it's not about impact litigation, it's about supporting organizations not causes. And we do believe in impact lit, we're actually doing an impact lit to the ACLU January 28 and 29, the Guild. So it is important, but this is about supporting groups, not just being down for the cause.

We're working again to build the power of the organization and we're trying to also avoid what Angela James calls lone liberator scenarios or the lone perpetrator like Trump. We're not looking to bolster our own ego to leave our legacy. Consider if you are comfortable with being a drop in an ocean and no one will ever know your name. Your name will never be on this big complaint, you won't be arguing before the Supreme Court. Will you as others have said, at least be in the room with other movement actors, with other community groups fighting for the struggle?

A couple special issues and there are a lot of great points on this. Again, this is on Lawyering For The Margins. Conflicts of interest between clients and movement goals. Consider that. When you take on a client you might want to find if their interests coalesce with movement goals. For example, with the whole NSEERs discussion a lot of nonprofits are saying we want to help people to mitigate the risk when they register, however the movement goal is we're pushing no registry at all. So on the one hand a nonprofit is going to help people register so they don't get deported, but we're saying we shouldn't register. I think some of those nonprofits really just have to conflict out and leave it to the private practitioners. That's where those of you who are private practitioners can really help out.

Movement lawyering within traumatized and privileges communities. Sometimes there's not always a movement to support. In the Muslim community we see that over the last 15 years a lot of the community has not organized, has not created a mass movement. As Jacqueline was saying with Asian communities there's this misperception that it's all privilege. Well there is some privilege as well and unfortunately those privileged people hold the power within some of these community structures and I will end on this note.

How do you deal with a community that wants to uphold these structures when there is no movement to support? First if you're dealing with a traumatized community that's not mobilized I would suggest buffering the community, helping to insulate and protect it and help to encourage its own internal dialogue. Help to empower its own political stances. If you're dealing with a community of color that comes from and enjoys certain privilege and it's first gut response is to uphold systemic oppressive structures, which doesn't make sense, but it's there. Cognitively it doesn't make sense, but it's there. What you want to do is engage in political education. Alliance and building alliances and partnerships between those groups and other groups. Political education and alliance building, but again supporting the movement, supporting the voices within because as this says there are no voiceless. Everyone has a voice and as movement lawyers we help to find that voice, amplify that voice and support that voice.

Thank you. 

[EC] Sameer asked me to take a couple of minutes and talk about the courts. The courts of course are key to being able to resist and challenge in all of the areas that were discussed on this panel and discussed in the breakout sessions to come.

To begin talking about the courts we have to think about the litigants. As you may know, Paul Ryan's proposed budget has zero dollars for the Legal Services Corporation. Would completely end federal funding for legal services. This is a place we have to begin to mobilize. Access to the courts isn't a liberal or conservative or a republican or a democratic issue and this really is about whether or not individuals who are harmed will be able to have their day in court. If legal service funding is eliminated or even reduced we have to fight state by state to find ways to restore it.

When it comes to the courts we have to think about the United States Supreme Court, the vacancy that's there and the vacancies that might come. We should pause for a moment to feel outraged with the republicans did in keeping a seat on the United States Supreme Court from being filled. What's happened the last year is unprecedented in American history.  Chief Judge Merrick Garland's nomination went longer without a hearing than any nomination for the Supreme Court in history and by a large margin. 24 times in American history there was a vacancy during the last year of a president's term, 21 out of 24 times the individual was confirmed. Three times the individual was rejected. Never was there an instance where a party said they wouldn't even consider the individual. This was a seat on the United States Supreme Court that was simply stolen.

Donald Trump said in the next couple of weeks we're going to hear his nominee for the Supreme Court. The names most frequently mentioned, people like William Pryor and Diane Sykes, are individuals even more conservative than Antonin Scalia. I'm even more afraid of the next seat on the United States Supreme Court. Since 1960, 78 years old is the average age which Supreme Court Justices left the bench. There are now three justices older than that. Ruth Bader Ginsberg will turn 84 on March 15 of this year. Anthony Kennedy will turn 81 on July 23, Stephen Breyer will turn 79 on August 15. If any one of these three justices leaves in the next four years it will then allow President Trump to create the most conservative majority on the Supreme Court since it's had since the 1930s. It will then be five votes to overrule Roe v. Wade. Five votes to end all affirmative action. To pick examples mentioned here, five votes to overrule cases like Zadvydas v. Davis or Plyler v. Doe.

The democrats still have the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. There were 48 votes against Clarence Thomas. The democrats could have filibustered and blocked him. They didn't and think of the consequence of that. There were 42 votes against Samuel Alito. The democrats could have filibustered and blocked and they couldn't. We're going to need to pressure our California Senators. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Newly elected Kamala Harris to lead the filibuster against nominees like William Pryor and Diane Sykes and others. To lead the filibuster now for the Scalia and especially if there's another vacancy on the United States Supreme Court.

At this moment there are over 100 vacancies on Federal Courts of Appeals in Federal District Courts. Last year the Supreme Court decided only 63 cases after briefing oral argument. The year before that it was only 66 cases. The vast, vast majority of cases are finally decided by the Federal District Court and Courts of Appeals. There is no longer an ability to filibuster to block District Court or Court of Appeal nominees. So here in order to block an individual it would take persuading three republican Senators to join the democrats in blocking the worst of the Trump nominees. It's going to mean the need for quick, aggressive research as to the nominees and mobilizing to be able to block the worst of these individuals. Everything that we're talking about today depends on the composition of the lower Federal Courts and the Supreme Court.

With that we now transition to the breakout sessions and there's a schedule of them, and we have people to assist if you're not familiar with the rooms. 1121 is the courtroom next door, 1131 is the end of the hall. If you're going to 3750 it's in the adjoining law building on the 3rd floor and there is an elevator.

I think if there's any lesson and message from this panel and from this day, it's how we need now to fight harder and more effectively than ever before. I'm so grateful to all of my colleagues who organized this and who are part of the breakout sessions to come. As I look at the panel, and I look at this, I'm so proud to be a member of this faculty and this law school. Thanks for coming this morning.

[Narrator] Thank you for joining us for UCI Law Talks. Produced by the University of California, Irvine School of Law.