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Weekend Read: Top 10 Ways You Helped Us Make a Difference in 2019

Our work in 2019 year was challenging – and highly successful – in many ways.

We worked in the courts, classrooms and the halls of government to counter hate and discrimination and to dismantle white supremacy in some of our nation’s most critical systems.

And with your help, we made important progress toward protecting the rule of law, securing basic human rights for incarcerated people, upholding the asylum system, stopping the spread of racist propaganda online, defending our nation’s safety net, and working to ensure equitable, inclusive classrooms for our country’s children.

Below are 10 ways we’ve made a difference in 2019. As a supporter, we hope you’ll take pride in what we’ve accomplished this year in our shared mission of fighting hate, teaching tolerance and seeking justice.

1. We stopped racist, online attacks by a notorious neo-Nazi.

A federal judge ordered white supremacist leader Andrew Anglin to pay $14 million in damages to a Jewish woman for launching an antisemitic campaign of harassment that terrorized her and her family. Our case sent a clear and powerful message to extremists that they will pay a heavy price for using their internet platforms as weapons of intimidation and terror.

2. We launched our Voting Rights Practice Group.

In our increasingly vulnerable democracy, every voice matters. But the forces we’re fighting are working feverishly to deny ballot access to people of color, the economically disadvantaged and others who want to see real progress in the fight for equality and justice. That’s why, this year, we launched a new legal and advocacy team to focus on the battle for a healthier democracy. With your help, we’re mobilizing voters across the Deep South, restoring voting rights to people with prior felony convictions and tearing down other barriers at the ballot box.

3. We fought to permanently end conversion therapy

We won another important legal battle as part of our goal of eradicating conversion therapy, a fraudulent practice based the insidious lie that LGBTQ people can and should be “fixed.” Previously, a state court in our landmark 2015 case ordered New Jersey-based “JONAH” to cease all of its conversion therapy activities. But the organization secretly violated the injunction and a final settlement order by starting a new incorporation under a different name while maintaining JONAH’s assets, leadership and core operations. This year, we won a permanent, sweeping injunction to stop this group and its dangerous practices.

4. We protected the asylum system and the rule of law in our country.

The number of asylum-seekers granted release from immigrant prisons in the Deep South plummeted to near zero this year – because of the Trump administration’s all-out war on those seeking safety in our country through the system designed for that very purpose. They took to protesting, writing complaints, launching hunger strikes and other organized efforts. In September, a judge agreed with us and ordered that they have a fair chance at release while awaiting their day in immigration court.

5. We won a key ruling for people trapped in Alabama’s horrific prison system.

We’re fighting to end the sickeningly inhumane conditions faced by thousands of people incarcerated in Alabama prisons. Five years ago, we filed a class action suit against the state. And earlier this year, after a four-week trial, a federal judge issued a 210-page ruling in which he deemed mental health care in the system “horrendously inadequate” and ordered sweeping reforms. Now, we’re gearing up for a new trial in 2020 over the system’s horribly inadequate medical care.

6. We saved health care for thousands of low-income people threatened by Trump’s scheme to cut them off Medicaid.

When former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration announced a plan, pushed by the Trump administration, to impose onerous new “work” and other requirements that would have ended Medicaid coverage for 100,000 people, we filed suit along with the National Health Law Program and Kentucky Equal Justice Center. After a federal judge stopped the cruel scheme, Bevin’s administration vindictively cut Medicaid dental and vision benefits. We sued again. Now, newly elected Gov. Andy Beshear has announced he will reinstate those benefits and revoke Bevin’s illegal plan.

 7. We exposed top White House adviser Stephen Miller’s white nationalist ideology, motivation for anti-immigrant policy.

Our investigators exposed hundreds of emails sent by key White House adviser Stephen Miller in which he promoted racist materials and white nationalist ideas while shaping the news coverage at Breitbart News, a website dubbed by its former executive chairman as the “platform for the alt-right.” Miller is the key architect of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies – and these emails demonstrate clearly that Miller believes that people of color have no place in our country.

8. We dismantled some of Trump’s cruelest anti-immigrant policies.

The Trump administration has caged children and separated thousands from their families at the border. We’re fighting to reunite families who remain separated to this day and to hold the administration accountable for the trauma these families have suffered because of this deliberate cruelty and attack on their very humanity.

9. We laid bare the inequality of one state’s alternative justice program.

As the nation works to reform criminal justice systems, we conducted an eight-month investigation into Alabama’s “community corrections” programs and exposed deep, systemic flaws in a system that seems to focus more on raising money on the backs of poor people than on rehabilitation or public safety. We believe community corrections systems can play an important role as alternatives to incarceration. But criminal justice is a public responsibility – and should never be about the pursuit of revenue.

10. We responded to an outcry from educators about hate in their schools.

Our Teaching Tolerance project is providing resources and strategies to help educators cope with a sharp rise in classroom bias incidents – a spike that coincides with the Trump era. Two-thirds of the nearly 3,000 educators we surveyed for a report this year said they had witnessed a hate or bias incident at school. Often, school leaders took no meaningful action. In this special report, we outlined how schools can denounce bias and reaffirm school values.

Thank you for all you’ve done with us this and in your own community.

We know we’ve made progress in critical arenas – despite the forces of extremism arrayed against us and a climate that’s been poisoned by the politics of fear, grievance and racial resentment.

We also know that our work in 2020 is cut out for us. But, together, we’ll continue to move our nation closer to its highest ideals.



The Editors