POLITICS

The White House’s ‘Week Of Inclusion’ Can’t Undo All These Exclusionary Trump Policies

Donald Trump's administration has taken several steps to exclude oppressed groups.

10/23/2017 20:55 EDT | Updated 10/25/2017 08:47 EDT

As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, first lady Melania Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos kicked off the “Week of Inclusion” on Monday at a Michigan middle school, where they participated in “lessons about respecting others, kindness, and inclusion.”

President Donald Trump’s White House might have been a better first stop. 

Since taking office, Trump and his administration have announced or implemented several policies that legal challengers say do just the opposite of what the “Week of Inclusion” purports to promote. 

Here’s a refresher on some of those decisions: 

Trump signed a memo excluding transgender people from serving in the military

In a series of unexpected tweets in July, Trump announced that transgender men and women would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military “in any capacity.” 

He signed a memo the following month formalizing the sweeping ban and tasking Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with determining whether to remove already enlisted transgender individuals from their positions. The policy change will go into effect sometime after January 2018, government lawyers have said. 

In the lead-up to its implementation, the exclusionary measure has faced several legal challenges. Most recently, 15 Democratic attorneys general led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a brief last week arguing the ban is unconstitutional, against the interest of national defense and harmful to the transgender community.

Pacific Press via Getty Images
Protesters gather at Columbus Circle on July 29 to protest Trump's transgender military ban.

Trump has defended the ban as a cost-saving measure, and supporters have praised the move as cutting spending on transgender service members’ treatments and procedures related to gender confirmation. But critics say those arguments aren’t rooted in any statistical evidence and that the number of service members seeking hormone therapy each year, for example, would result in a mere 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in the Defense Department’s total health care spending.

It wasn’t the Trump administration’s first affront to transgender citizens. In February, the administration announced it would no longer bar schools from discriminating against transgender students, undoing an Obama-era policy.

He’s targeted Muslims through his ongoing travel ban attempts

Trump’s several attempts at his travel ban have all predominantly singled out people coming into the United States from Muslim-majority countries. Each iteration of the proposed ban, federal judges have found when blocking it, discriminates on the basis of nationality and is not rooted in any evidence that it would protect U.S. interests. 

“Each new version is just an updated version of the previous ones, and they all have one goal: to keep out people primarily from majority-Muslim countries,” Becca Heller, head of the International Refugee Assistant Project, said amid Trump’s latest attempt at the ban earlier this month. “We will not rest until this cruel and senseless policy is blocked for good.”

Mike Blake / Reuters
At Los Angeles International Airport on June 29, volunteer lawyers set up a table to help arriving passengers affected by Trump's executive order targeting travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries.

His administration argued against civil rights protections for LGBT employees 

In July, Trump’s Justice Department filed an amicus brief arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation.

The brief was filed in the case of Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who said his employer wrongly fired him after Zarda revealed his sexual orientation to a customer. The Jeff Sessions-led DOJ wrote in its brief that Title VII does not apply in this case. 

“It does not, as has been settled for decades,” the brief read. “Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.” 

That position constitutes an effort by the Trump administration to allow prejudice against the LGBT community, the American Civil Liberties Union argued.

“The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement. “Fortunately, courts will decide whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT people, not an Attorney General and a White House that are hell-bent on playing politics with people’s lives.”

His administration weakened protections for sexual assault victims 

In September, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolled back Obama-era guidance under Title IX directing colleges and universities on how to handle complaints of sexual harassment and assault. 

Mike Theiler / Reuters
A group of demonstrators gather outside Founders Hall in Arlington, Virginia, where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered a major policy address on Title IX enforcement on Sept. 7.

With that rollback, schools are now allowed to raise the “preponderance of evidence” standard that the Obama administration guidance established for finding that students had committed sexual assault. 

Legal challenges to the new guidance have said the change singles out campus sexual assault victims, the vast majority of whom are women, because it creates a tougher standard of evidence for abuses based on sex than exists for other civil rights violations.

“Ironically we have the secretary of education issuing discriminatory rules that apply only to violence against women and subject only victims of sex-based harm to second-class treatment on college campuses,” Wendy Murphy, a lawyer who filed a lawsuit challenging the new policy, told reporters in Boston last month. “That is unconscionable, that is unacceptable, and it is unconstitutional.”

His administration is forcing previously protected immigrants out of the U.S. by rescinding DACA

In September, Sessions announced the administration would phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the 2012 program created to protect undocumented youths from deportation.

The decision was met with several lawsuits, many of which said the White House violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it canceled the program, resulting in a due process violation.

Critics of the decision have argued it is rooted in racist, anti-immigrant beliefs, not in any concern for safety; DACA recipients are legally required to have clean criminal records.

“Notwithstanding the occasional claim that President Trump wants to show ‘heart,’ his administration will invoke whatever views of statutes and executive power maximize cruelty towards the foreign nationals he and his supporters most despise,” Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf wrote in a Newsweek op-ed assessing the administration’s reasoning for rescinding DACA. 

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