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New York Could Be The First State To Decriminalize Sex Work



DecrimNY steering committee member Cecilia Gentili, center, speaks at a rally on Feb. 25, 2019, announcing new organizing and legislation to decriminalize sex work in New York state. Gentilli is accompanied by New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos, left, and state Sen. Julia Salazar. Photo: Scott Heins

New York is aiming to become the first state in America to fully decriminalize sex work via a new bill introduced this morning by legislators and activists from Decrim NY, a coalition of various organizations advocating for the rights of sex workers.

The bill, called Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Actis sponsored by Democratic Senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, as well as assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Yuh-Line Niou. It is the first statewide bill of its kind in the history of the United States and purposefully cites no reference to a specific gender in its language.

Currently, New York state law has over two dozen anti-prostitution penal codes. About half of them pertain only to sex work between consenting adults, while the other statutes focus on trafficking, exploitation of minors, and coercion in the sex trades.

This bill upholds the felony anti-trafficking statutes designed to punish traffickers as well as to protect minors, however it would repeal important sections in the penal code that prohibit prostitution and the criminalization of consenting adults.

Specifically, the bill would ensure that adults who are over 18 will not be criminalized for consensually selling or buying sex. However, it will still be a crime if a person is forced or intimidated into engaging in sex work.

Furthermore, friends and family who help to facilitate a consenting adult in the sex trade will no longer be committing a crime. (For example, if a friend drives someone to another location to sell sex, that friend will not be punished.) If passed, loitering will also be decriminalized, as well as the discriminatory police practices of arresting people based on their clothing, gender presentation, the neighborhood in which they’re in, and their use of the public space.

The bill also introduces several amendments, including an update to the definition of “advancing prostitution” so that young people between the ages of 17 and 21 are not criminalized for working together. This will particularly help LGBTQ youth in the state of New York, who are statistically more vulnerable to engaging in survival sex work.

According to data from the Urban Institute, queer youth in New York state partake in sex work at seven to eight times the rate of their straight peers. Despite the numbers, resources remain scarce and many urban cities fail to combat the rising numbers. In fact, the National Coalition for the Homeless states that despite the nearly 500,000 youth experiencing homelessness, there are only 4,000 shelter beds in the United States. Consequentially, many LGBTQ youth have no choice but to trade sex in exchange for basic needs like housing.

Furthermore, the bill will also add an option for sex workers to apply for criminal record relief for crimes they were previously convicted of that are repealed under this bill and no longer a crime.

“We want to bring sex workers out of the shadows,” Senator Ramos stated at a press conference. “When we decriminalize sex work, we will be taking a giant leap towards ending sex trafficking. We know that by giving sex workers agency, humanity, and acknowledging their existence, we’re empowering them to report violence against them. This is why we chose the decimrinaltzion model and not the models seen around the world. We want sex workers to support each other… Every worker has an inherent right to a safe work place, and we are here to affirm today that sex work is work.”

One study points to the disproportionate amount of trans people (specifically trans women of color) who engage in the sex trade.

According to a study called Meaningful Work, co-sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality, an overwhelming majority (69.3 percent) of sex workers reported experiencing an adverse job outcome in the traditional workforce, such as being denied a job or promotion or being fired because of their gender identity or expression (vs. 44.7 percent of non-sex workers). Those who lost a job due to anti-transgender bias were almost three times as likely to engage in the sex trade (19.9 percent vs. 7.7 percent).

Additionally, unemployment rates were dramatically higher for those who reported involvement in the sex trade (25.1 percent) compared to those who were not (12.4 percent).

Transgender sex workers were more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty (under $10,000 per year) than those who hadn’t participated (30.8 percent vs. 13.3 percent) and were less likely to be higher income earners, only 22.1 percent reported household income over $50,000/year (compared to 43.4 percent of nonparticipants).

Sex workers living with HIV have the added weight of worrying about draconinan crime laws currently on the books in over 30 states that virtually equate HIV as being a weapon, making it a felony for someone who’s poz to engage in sexual acts without disclosing their status first. However, for many people of color who’ve fallen victim to these laws, it is highly unregulated and enforced by stigmatizing narratives that have made little movement since the time of the AIDS crisis. 

If passed, the bill will make an enormous impact on the safety of sex workers in the state of New York. It could also lead the way for a other states and jurisdictions to also decriminalize sex work. 

(Reporting By The Advocate)


Bernie Sanders, House Progressives Release Bill To Cancel Student Debt




Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pauses while speaking during a forum on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Days before the first Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Bernie Sanders and House progressives rolled out legislation to cancel all student debt, going farther than a signature proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the two jockey for support from the party’s liberal base .

By canceling all student loans, Sanders says the proposal would address an economic burden for 45 million Americans. The key difference is that Warren’s plan considers the income of the borrowers, canceling $50,000 in debt for those earning less than $100,000 per year and affecting an estimated 42 million people in the U.S.

Questions face both candidates about how to pay for all of that plus their proposals for free tuition at public colleges and universities. But the battling ideas highlight the rivalry between senators who have made fighting economic inequality the cornerstones of their 2020 presidential campaigns.

Sanders vowed at a Monday news conference that his plan “completely eliminates student debt in this country and the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation, to a lifetime of debt for the crime of doing the right thing. And that is going out and getting a higher education.” He appeared alongside the proposal’s House sponsors, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also in attendance.

His bill and Warren’s plan are part of their broader appeal to liberal voters on issues such as health care, technology and education.

That appeal is likely to be fleshed out this week during the first Democratic debatesTwenty candidates are set for the showdown, with Warren part of the lineup on Wednesday and Sanders appearing a day later. The events come as Warren appears to be cutting into Sanders’ support from the left.

Sanders’ effort at one-upmanship on student loans, named the College For All Act, would cancel $1.6 trillion of debt and save the average borrower about $3,000 a year, according to materials obtained by The Associated Press. The result would be a stimulus that allows millennials in particular to invest in homes and cars that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. It would cost $2.2 billion and be paid for — and then some — by a series of taxes on such things as stock trades, bonds and derivatives, according to the proposal.

The universal debt relief is designed partly around the idea that it would mostly benefit Americans who can’t afford college tuition without loans, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the legislation wasn’t yet public.

Warren’s plan, which she plans to introduce as legislation alongside Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., would be paid for by imposing a 2% fee on fortunes greater than $50 million. Warren projects the levy would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years, enough to pay for a universal child-care plan, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and student loan debt forgiveness for an estimated 42 million Americans — with revenue left over. Critics say top earners would find ways around such penalties.

One key difference between Sanders’ and Warren’s plans is their differing treatment of high earners: Warren wrote that her plan would offer “no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000,” or the top 5%. Sanders would extend the benefit even to wealthy borrowers.

Asked on Monday about that decision, Sanders told reporters that he believes in “universality” and added: “In other areas we are going to demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share in taxes.”

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Migrant Crisis

Attorneys: Texas Border Facility Is Neglecting Migrant Kids




FILE - In this Wednesday, May 22, 2019 file photo migrants mainly from Central America guide their children through the entrance of a World War II-era bomber hanger in Deming, N.M. A panel of appeals court judges in California will hear arguments in the long-running battle between advocates for immigrant children and the U.S. government over conditions in detention and holding facilities near the southwest border. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.

The bleak portrait emerged Thursday after a legal team interviewed 60 children at the facility near El Paso that has become the latest place where attorneys say young migrants are describing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.

Data obtained by The Associated Press showed that on Wednesday there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more under 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined.

Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.

“A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said in an interview with attorneys.

Law professor Warren Binford, who is helping interview the children, said she couldn’t learn anything about the toddler, not even where he’s from or who his family is. He is not speaking.

Binford described that during interviews with children in a conference room at the facility, “little kids are so tired they have been falling asleep on chairs and at the conference table.”

She said an 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair couldn’t convince the little one to take a shower.

“In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.

The lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials, and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.

Many children interviewed had arrived alone at the U.S.-Mexico border, but some had been separated from their parents or other adult caregivers including aunts and uncles, the attorneys said.

Government rules call for the children to be held by the Border Patrol for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youth in facilities around the country.

Government facilities are overcrowded and five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by Customs and Border Protection. A teenage mother with a premature baby was found last week in a Texas Border Patrol processing center after being held for nine days by the government.

In an interview this week with the AP, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders acknowledged that children need better medical care and a place to recover from their illnesses. He urged Congress to pass a $4.6 billion emergency funding package includes nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children.

He said that the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.

“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody,” Sanders said.

The arrival of thousands of families and children at the border each month has not only strained resources but thrust Border Patrol agents into the role of caregivers, especially for the many migrant youth who are coming without parents.

But children at the facility in Clint, which sits amid the desert scrubland some 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of El Paso, say they have had to pick up some of the duties in watching over the younger kids.

A 14-year-old girl from Guatemala said she had been holding two little girls in her lap.

“I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too,” she said.

Children told lawyers that they were fed oatmeal, a cookie and a sweetened drink in the morning, instant noodles for lunch and a burrito and cookie for dinner. There are no fruits or vegetables. They said they’d gone weeks without bathing or a clean change of clothes.

A migrant father, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his immigration status, told AP Thursday that authorities separated his daughter from her aunt when they entered the country. The girl would be a second grader in a U.S. school.

He had no idea where she was until Monday, when one of the attorney team members visiting Clint found his phone number written in permanent marker on a bracelet she was wearing. It said “U.S. parent.”

“She’s suffering very much because she’s never been alone. She doesn’t know these other children,” said her father.

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, whose district includes Clint, said “tragic conditions” playing out on the southern border were pushing government agencies, nonprofits and Texas communities to the limit.

“This latest development just further demonstrates the immediate need to reform asylum laws and provide supplemental funding to address the humanitarian crisis at our border,” he said.

Dr. Julie Linton, who co-chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, said CBP stations are not an appropriate place to hold children.

“Those facilities are anything but child friendly,” said Dr. Julie Linton. “That type of environment is not only unhealthy for children but also unsafe.”

The Trump administration has been scrambling to find new space to hold immigrants as it faces criticism that it’s violating the human rights of migrant children by keeping so many of them detained.

San Francisco psychoanalyst Gilbert Kliman, who has evaluated about 50 children and parents seeking asylum, says the trauma is causing lasting damage.

“The care of children by children constitutes a betrayal of adult responsibility, governmental responsibility,” he said.

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Train Derails Near Nevada-Utah Line, Closing Interstate




WELLS, Nev. (AP) — A 60-mile stretch (96 kilometers) of U.S. Interstate 80 in northeast Nevada has been closed while emergency crews respond to a train derailment. Authorities were investigating whether any hazardous materials were aboard the train.

There’s been no immediate report of injuries.

Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese says the interstate was closed along the Utah state line shortly after the derailment was reported at about 11 a.m. Wednesday.

A dispatcher at the Elko County Sheriff’s Office says rail cars containing military munitions are on the train, but not near the site of the actual derailment.

Ragonese says interstate traffic is being rerouted.

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