Daily Digest (6/19)

Supreme Court Upholds ‘Dreamers’ Immigrant Program; Air Force Investigating Military Planes That Monitored Protesters; Court Rules Chicago Can Preserve Old Records of Police Complaints; Calif. Democratic Congressman Seeks Details on Amazon’s Facial-Recognition Ban. Click “Continue reading” below.

Supreme Court Upholds ‘Dreamers’ Immigrant Program

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants — “Dreamers”— who entered the United States illegally as children.

The 5-4 ruling, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four liberals, upheld lower court decisions that found that the White House’s 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 by Democratic President Barack Obama, was unlawful.

The administration’s actions, the justices ruled, were “arbitrary and capricious” under a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act, Reuters reports.

The ruling means that as many as 649,000 immigrants, mostly young Hispanic adults born in Mexico and other Latin American countries, now in DACA will remain protected from deportation and eligible to obtain renewable two-year work permits.

But the decision does not prevent the administration from trying again to end the program, according to the report.

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Air Force Investigating Military Planes That Monitored Protesters

The Air Force said Thursday that its inspector general was investigating whether the military improperly used a little-known reconnaissance plane to monitor protests in Washington and Minneapolis earlier this month.

The inquiry apparently was prompted by lawmakers who expressed concerns to Pentagon officials that the use of military surveillance airplanes may have violated the civil liberties of the mostly peaceful protesters demonstrating against the police killings of African Americans, The New York Times reports.

“Following discussions with the secretary of defense about shared concerns, the secretary of the Air Force is conducting an investigation into the use of Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft to support civil authorities during recent protest activity in U.S. cities,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the agency’s chief spokesman, told the Times.

General Ryder, however, declined to address any other questions in a statement to the newspaper. The investigation is being led by Lt. Gen. Sami Said, the Air Force inspector general.

The Air Force move comes days after the Pentagon’s top intelligence policy official told Congress that the nation’s military intelligence agencies received no directive from the White House to spy on American protesters during the national demonstrations.

However, the deployment of more than 5,000 National Guard troops to Washington, and thousands more to cities across the country to help quell the unrest, has cast a harsh spotlight on the National Guard’s response to the protests.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper last week ordered a review of the National Guard’s response, and the new Air Force investigation is expected to shed light on how and why the secretive RC-26 and some supporting ground units were deployed, the Times reports.

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Court Rules Chicago Can Preserve Old Records of Police Complaints

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Chicago could keep all records of complaints against police officers that are more than five years old, delivering a victory for police-reform advocates who say the information is crucial to tracking of officers accused of brutality and misconduct.

Though the ruling is part of a legal battle that started long before last month’s death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, it deals with many of the issues raised by demonstrators at protests over Floyd’s death, racial inequality and police accountability, The Associated Press reports.

The Chicago Police Department long has been dogged by a reputation for brutality and misconduct, particularly regarding its treatment of people of color, so keeping the older data is seen as crucial to monitoring the most problematic officers.

The police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, argued that its contract with the city requires that older complaints be destroyed. But in its 6-1 ruling, affirming an appellate court decision, the state Supreme Court determined that the contract could not supersede state law.

“While the parties are generally free to make their own contracts, this court has long held that when a conflict exists between a contract provision and state laws, as it clearly does in this case, state law prevails,” Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote in the majority opinion.

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Calif. Democratic Congressman Seeks Details on Amazon’s Facial-Recognition Ban

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., is pushing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to further explain the company’s facial-recognition moratorium announced last week.

Gomez said that the “ambiguity” of Amazon’s one-year pause on supplying law enforcement with the software “raises more questions than answers,” CNBC reports.

Amazon said it was putting the one-year moratorium on police use of its “Rekognition” software amid concerns the technology has racial and gender bias.

The company’s work with the police has come under extra scrutiny amid the push for police reform spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis last month. 

“While I am encouraged by the direction Amazon appears to be taking on this issue, the ambiguity of the announcement raises more questions than answers,” Gomez said in his Monday letter, a copy of which was obtained by CNBC.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform, whose members include Gomez, has held hearings on the issue but has yet to introduce a bill regulating the technology.

Amazon said it hoped the moratorium would give Congress sufficient time to pass legislation to regulate the use of the software. 

But Gomez has argued that Amazon has stalled efforts by refusing to hand over key information about its use of the technology. 

He said in the letter: “After two years of formal congressional inquiries — including bicameral letters, House Oversight Committee hearings, and in-person meetings — Amazon has yet to adequately address questions about the dangers its facial-recognition technology can pose to privacy and civil rights, the accuracy of the technology, and its disproportionate impact on communities of color.”

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— By DPN Staff