In This Episode
- A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that it would impose restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone, including preventing it from being prescribed via telehealth or sent through the mail. But those restrictions won’t go into effect immediately due to a previous stay by the Supreme Court.
- Republican state leaders like Texas Governor Greg Abbott continue the inhumane practice of busing and flying migrants to Democratic-led states and cities. We’re joined by Jacob Love, a staff attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights, to talk about the migrants’ experience, specifically those who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
- And in headlines: prosecutors in Georgia want their racketeering case against Trump to start as soon as March 4th, the death toll from the deadly Maui wildfires rose to 110, and dozens of protestors in Miami took to the streets Wednesday to protest the state’s new restrictions on how Black history can be taught in public schools.
- Help Maui Rise: Directly Aid ʻOhana Displaced by Fires – https://tinyurl.com/23cnpvqz
- Maui Mutual Aid Fund – https://www.bit.ly/mauimutualaide
- Hawai’i’ Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund – https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong
- Fundraiser for Nā ‘Āikane O Maui Cultural Center, which burned down: https://www.instagram.com/p/CvvJeNzy2WM/?img_index=1
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, August 17th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day where our new ringtone is Usher and Keke Palmer’s Boyfriend.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s actually my ring back tone.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, God. It just gets worse. But I do hope everyone caught the end of the video where she looked to the camera and said, I’m a mother after all.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s the specific part, actually. That’s the ring back. [laughter] [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, we talk with an attorney who is helping migrants after they were shuffled around the country by Republicans for political support.
[clip of Jacob Love] Everyone is free to debate the merits of federal immigration policy, but it’s horrific to use desperate people as political pawns.
Juanita Tolliver: Plus, prosecutors in Georgia want their racketeering case against Trump to start as soon as March 4th.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, a bit of a setback for reproductive rights. A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that it would impose restrictions on the abortion pill, mifepristone. Those rules would prevent it from being prescribed via telehealth or sent through the mail. It’s not all terrible, though. This won’t go into effect immediately. A previous stay by the Supreme Court ensures that so for the time being, the pills will still be available via telehealth and mail. And the Biden administration said that it will appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, which is where it could head to next. But if the justices uphold this new decision, then it will become much harder to access mifepristone. Instead of being able to access this via telehealth and you know get the medication through the mail. We would go back to a time when a patient needed to go in-person to up to three medical appointments to get and take this pill.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I feel like I tested the universe by saying Kacsmaryk’s name three times yesterday. I think that’s what this is. Yikes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, a little bit. [laughing]
Juanita Tolliver: So there’s been an ongoing back and forth over mifepristone for a while now in the courts. Can you give us some more background here?
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. So back in April, a conservative federal judge in Texas, a.k.a. Matthew Kacsmaryk, ruled that the FDA’s decades long approval of mifepristone was invalid and that the restrictions that had previously been on the drug should go back into place. Those were rules like requiring people to see a health care provider in person to get a prescription and having to go in-person to a pharmacy to pick it up. It is a bullshit semantic argument about the FDA’s approval process for this drug. Mifepristone has a decades long track record of being as safe as it is effective, which is to say extremely. And getting rid of these measures that expanded access would become a huge hurdle for, you know, so many people who need and will need this drug going forward. Which brings us to now. Yesterday’s ruling came from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. All three of the judges on the panels, you could probably guess, are Republicans. Two of them were nominated by Trump, one by George W. Bush. And this was pretty much what we expected from this panel. They didn’t go as far as Matthew Kacsmaryk, that Texas judge who ruled that the FDA’s entire approval of Mifepristone back in 2000 was invalid. They kept the approval in place, as well as the later approval of the generic version of the drug. The parts that they take issue with, though, are these later drops of restrictions that made it easier for people to get this drug, which really should tell you a lot about what they take issue with.
Juanita Tolliver: Clearly, access and ease, right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: That makes women and pregnant people’s lives that much better, just being able to access basic health care, but alas.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: So now we have to wait to see if the Supreme Court all of a sudden believes in science and bodily autonomy, though I think we know that answer.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, essentially that is the bind we are in at the moment. They will most likely hear the case in the fall. We will obviously keep you posted when we learn more. That’s what we know for now.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s pretty bleak. And y’all, we’re going to go from one no good, very bad news story to another as we dig in to the harsh conditions that migrants and asylum seekers face right now in all of the United States. Let’s start with the latest on how poorly migrants are being treated when Republicans shuttle them across the country. Republican state leaders like Texas Governor Greg Abbott continue the inhumane practice of busing and flying migrants to Democratic led states and cities. When they arrive, they encounter dire situations with unstable housing and limited access to resources. I mean, that is if they survive the grueling trips. That was sadly the case for a three year old child who died last week while being bussed from Brownsville, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois. When asked about the issue, Abbott referred the press to the transit office but didn’t admit any fault or concern for the loss of life. And the human cost of Republican’s brutal policies is just beyond heartbreaking at this point.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, seriously. So in addition to migrants being moved, there is also some news about Democratic led communities struggling to provide for them. So can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. Migrants whom Abbott sent to Sacramento, California in June are being told that their access to free temporary housing will likely end on September 30th. That’s because local nonprofits and aid organizations are struggling to find more resources. In New York State, governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams are clearly not on the same page about how to respond to the needs of the more than 100,000 migrants and asylum seekers who have arrived in their state. Just yesterday, the governor’s team scolded Adams for his response, or lack thereof. And back in Texas, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have called on the federal government to investigate reports of families being separated in alleged human rights violations. So there’s a lot of mess just compiling right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. So in the midst of everything that is going on. I know you got to hear from somebody who is trying to help these migrants on the ground. Can you tell us a little bit more about that conversation?
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I got to chat with Jacob Love, a staff attorney with the Boston based organization Lawyers for Civil Rights. He’s one of the attorneys representing the migrants callously flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. I started by asking Jacob to describe what migrants experienced last year after they were abandoned on the Massachusetts island.
Jacob Love: Programs like it are seemingly growing more prevalent by the day, but the Martha’s Vineyard flights are a particularly egregious example. Uh. The crux of our case against DeSantis and his coconspirators is that they recruited recently arrived and very vulnerable migrants in Texas to board flights using fraud and misrepresentation. They promised the migrants that they’d take them to a big northeastern city and provide them with things like jobs, immigration assistance and schooling for their children. But as we all know, none of those things had actually been secured for the migrants, and they were ultimately brought to a small island without the infrastructure to help them. So the Martha’s Vineyard flights clearly crossed the line from unethical to illegal, in large part because the migrants were actively deceived and stranded without the promised resources.
Juanita Tolliver: And where are the migrants today? Like, what challenges are they still facing at this very moment?
Jacob Love: Yeah. So, I mean, they face a lot of immediate challenges. And in the Martha’s Vineyard case, the flights included men, women and children, including some as young as two years old. The whole ordeal was traumatizing. Most immediately, the migrants were terrified when they realized that they’d been duped and that no one was there to help them.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m sure.
Jacob Love: They experienced anxiety and intense emotional distress because they didn’t know where they’d get their next meal or could sleep, how they’d get off the island, uh or what would happen to their immigration cases. They were thrown into a political firestorm that they didn’t want to be a part of, and some even feared for the safety of loved ones remaining in the countries they’d fled because they could experience violence, retaliation if their identities became public and because of the xenophobia that stunts like this generate in the United States. We had to file a federal case using pseudonyms for the plaintiffs out of fear for their personal safety.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, wow.
Jacob Love: And on top of all that, it will now be difficult for the migrants to ever trust government officials in this country ever again, especially given that many of them thought they were fleeing corrupt governments for one that they could count on. And to answer your question about where they are now. So many have stayed in Massachusetts, though they’ve spread out. I think a total of four families are still on the Vineyard. All of their immigration cases are still pending. Uh. So they’re dealing with that. They’ve applied for asylum and U visas. So those are visas for victims of certain crimes. And a lot of them don’t have their work permits yet because they have to wait for a period of time after sending in an asylum application.
Juanita Tolliver: And I can only imagine the continued emotional distress like extending from what you already described about landing on the vineyard. And now so much time has passed and they’re still not settled. They still don’t have what they need.
Jacob Love: They still don’t have what they need. And this case is likely going to be litigated for a long time. So um I imagine it’ll be still some time before they get justice, but we’re going to continue pushing for it.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, and you mentioned they were dropped into a political firestorm. And we know that DeSantis picked up this move from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who was busing and flying migrants and asylum seekers to Democratic strongholds across the country. And I want to emphasize the human toll of it all, because just last week, a three year old child died while riding on a bus sponsored by Texas on the way to Chicago. So people are now dying because of these tactics. And I’d love for you to describe kind of the conditions on these busses that are sometimes traveling very long distances.
Jacob Love: Yeah. So I am not intimately familiar with the conditions on the busses. But looking at the transportation programs more broadly. What they all have in common is that they’re deeply unethical. They all prey on migrants that have recently arrived in the U.S., mainly from poverty stricken and dangerous countries. Many of these migrants had to navigate thousands of miles of difficult terrain with nothing but their clothes, experiencing violence and hunger all in the hope of getting to the U.S. and building a better life. And these transportation programs exploit that vulnerability in desperation so that governors and presidential hopefuls can score political points. Everyone is free to debate the merits of federal immigration policy, but it’s horrific to use desperate people as political pawns. These programs aren’t abstract. They have real life effects on real people. The various harmful effects that I can think of off the top of my head include interfering with ongoing immigration cases, uh bringing people far away from where their cases were scheduled to be heard, dropping people off in locations that don’t have the resources to help them uh and where they don’t know anyone that they can rely on for assistance. Exposing people to harsh weather in the Northeast they’re not prepared for, overwhelming local nonprofits who have no advance notice of their arrival. Uh. And basically just sewing chaos with no regard for what’s going to happen to these people.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. And I want to stick with Abbott for a quick second, because we know that he’s going even further to deter migrants from crossing the border, including installing oversize buoys in the Rio Grande where two bodies have already been found deceased. Plus, Texas state troopers have said they’ve been given instructions to push migrants back into the river and even deny people water in extreme heat. The Biden administration has sued Texas for some of these inhumane tactics, but what more could they be doing to protect people? Like what legal protections could they be deploying at this point?
Jacob Love: So it is the sole responsibility of the federal government to enforce immigration law. It is not a state’s responsibility. So Abbott is overstepping his authority as governor in this situation, the supremacy clause of the Constitution, is very, very clear that immigration is the sole arena of the federal government. Um. And so the Biden administration could be acting much more aggressively to counteract these actions that Governor Abbott is taking and probably should be doing a lot more.
Juanita Tolliver: Jacob, thanks so much for joining What A Day. I’m sure we’ll be talking to you more, especially as this case advances in the future.
Jacob Love: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Juanita Tolliver: And that was my conversation with Jacob Love, a staff attorney with the Boston based organization Lawyers for Civil Rights. Of course, we will continue to explore the challenges that migrants and asylum seekers are facing in the United States. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Juanita Tolliver: Save the date for March 4th. That could be when the trial starts for Trump’s Georgia election case. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked the judge for that day and expressed her support for a speedy trial. As a reminder, Trump faces 13 new criminal charges in Georgia, including one that accuses him of violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Well, it’s also requested that he and his 18 co-defendants are arraigned the week of September 5th. It’s crazy that this needs to be a consideration. But Willis noted that the dates she proposed wouldn’t conflict with Trump’s, you know, other legal obligations.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, because there really are a lot at this point.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, it’s giving get in where you fit in. And he’s clearly got dates up and down the eastern seaboard. So there you go. If March 4th is approved by a judge as the starting date, the trial would begin one day before Super Tuesday. And that’s going to be a hectic news cycle as a dozen states host the Republican primaries. Ridiculous.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that’ll be chaotic. We have an update on the deadly wildfires in Maui. The death toll from the disaster rose to 110 and authorities have started to release the names of the victims. As of our recording at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, two men in Lahaina have been identified, both of whom were in their seventies. Hawaii Governor Josh Green also told reporters earlier this week that multiple young children were among those killed by the wildfire, saying, quote, “Some of the sites are too much to share. Just from a human perspective.” Local officials will continue to partner with federal disaster workers to identify the hundreds of people that remain unaccounted for in the coming weeks. On the recovery front, local community organizers have asked for a pause on donations of clothes, food and other supplies from those wanting to help. Instead, they ask that people give directly to families who have been displaced by the disaster during this time. Links to those individual fundraisers and stories can be found in our show notes.
Juanita Tolliver: Republicans are doing what they do best, bringing the country to the brink yet again. On Monday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy told House Republicans that Congress may have to pass a short term government funding bill to avoid a shutdown this fall. The House has passed only one of a dozen appropriations bills so far, but there are disagreements among the House Republican leadership about which appropriation bills to take on first. As we’ve seen, right wing lawmakers throw plenty of tantrums to get their hard right policies attached to these bipartisan bills. It’s no different with the appropriations process. Congress is on it’s August recess, but the clock is ticking and it’s going to be a tight turnaround to get that funding through between lawmakers’ return to work on September 5th and the government funding deadline about two weeks later. McCarthy did emphasize on the same call that he doesn’t want to set a new deadline past early December. But we’ll see about that because I can only imagine his failure right now, considering how much the extremists within his caucus are going to pull him in so many different directions. Brace yourselves. This is going to be ugly y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. And speaking of Republican foolishness, drag queen Kitara Ravache has a drag daughter, controversial Republican Congressman George Santos, known for fabricating many identities, including that of a good drag queen, has a campaign aide accused of doing the same. The aide, Samuel Miele, was charged with wire fraud and identity theft in a federal indictment unsealed yesterday. He allegedly impersonated a top aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and made fraudulent phone calls and emails to more than a dozen potential campaign contributors. The indictment itself doesn’t name the aide Miele impersonated or George Santos, but The New York Times and other outlets have previously reported that Miele impersonated McCarthy’s aide to fundraise for Santos specifically. A reminder that Santos was charged with 13 federal counts largely tied to financial fraud earlier this year and pleaded not guilty. Oh, yeah. And Santos is also facing charges for fraudulent appeals to donors. But who’s really surprised there?
Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. I mean, Joanne the Scammer is on the go.
Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously.
Juanita Tolliver: Dozens of protesters marched to a Miami school district headquarters yesterday to protest the state’s new restrictions on how Black history can be taught in public schools. You’ll remember that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration, issued new guidelines for Black history courses last month that drew heavy backlash for what can be said about slavery, particularly how the new curriculum would teach middle school students that enslaved people, quote, “developed skills which in some instances can be applied for their personal benefit.” Let’s just be clear. There’s no personal benefit. If I’m enslaved, if I’m in chains and I’m being tortured and brutalized every single day, there’s no benefit.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, just absolutely no.
Juanita Tolliver: Teachers, students and local labor leaders marched in yesterday’s crowd that began in Miami’s historically Black Overtown neighborhood. Tennessee Representative Justin Pearson, famously a member of the Tennessee three, was in attendance and delivered a speech at the rally saying, quote, “The true history is that Black people have always fought to make America what it ought to be, and it has always resisted what it could be. We’ve always fought for the America that we know is possible. That is not here yet.” And if we’re talking about Florida as the location, that’s about 50 years behind where it should be. Let’s just–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: –consider not only how they treat Black Americans, but also LGBTQ people or anybody else.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Just about anyone who isn’t straight, white and male, I guess.
Juanita Tolliver: Period.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s not great. And those are the headlines.
Juanita Tolliver: One more thing before we go. Speaking of Florida, a couple of days ago, we shared the news that the state has a new law that now prevents educators from using a student’s chosen pronouns. This is because of Governor Ron DeSantis’s crusade against LGBTQ folks. Over in our Friends of the Pod Discord, WAD squad listener who goes by A-P-Shreff wrote. I’m a Florida assistant principal, not only can teachers not call students by their chosen pronouns, teachers are also not allowed to use their own pronouns if they do not align with their sex at birth. Honestly, though, I’m not really looking for loopholes. I’m just mostly ignoring it and calling kids what they want.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hell yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: I can get with it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yup.
Juanita Tolliver: You too can join friends of the pod to chat with your favorite Crooked hosts and fellow listeners on our Discord. You’ll also access bonus content, ad free episodes of Pod Save America, and more. Subscribe to Friends of the Pod now at Crooked.com/friends. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Be pro pronoun and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just fights between New York governors and New York City mayors like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And you go A-P-Shreff!
Juanita Tolliver: I bet A-P-Shreff is that cool teacher, cool administrator who–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes.
Juanita Tolliver: –literally kids lean on to survive high school.
Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%. You’re cool and we feel special to have you. So thank you so much for listening to the show.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: And doing what you do, you’re amazing.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes. Keep being amazing. Keep commenting on our discord.
Priyanka Aribindi: Individual shoutouts to everybody who uh gives WAD some love on the discord. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. Our intern is Ryan Cochran, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]