North America

Migrant Children’s right to an education threatened by U.S. Governor

By: Christina Rosa Ralph

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

TEXAS, United States – The Supreme Court said in Plyler v Doe, To control the conduct of adults by acting against their children…does not comport with the fundamental concepts of justice.”  Plyler v Doe, 457 US 202, 220 (1982).  Yet, recently, U.S. politicians have begun to more openly and strenuously vilify asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants by labeling them as an “invasion” and blaming them for any number of social ills.  The language seems calculated to agitate people for political reasons and to make them feel anger and hate toward immigrants.  While xenophobic rhetoric from politicians is not new, it is particularly troubling that at least one, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, has aimed his anti-immigration rhetoric toward innocent migrant children by attacking their right to an education.

Children holding a sign affirming their right to education. Photo Courtesy of

Gov. Abbot recently announced plans to challenge Plyler, the 1982 landmark Supreme Court decision that held that all children, regardless of their immigration status, are entitled to equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment. Plyler struck down a Texas law that allowed undocumented children to be charged for, or excluded from, Texas’s public education system.  Plyler also reaffirmed that the 14th Amendment provisions are “universal in their application…without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality.” 457 U.S. at 212. Yet, Abbott seems determined to label undocumented children a “subclass” not worthy of equal protection under the law, not only under Texas law, but in the hearts and minds of his supporters and others who see no injustice in vilifying children who are simply seeking to get an education.

Abbott’s comments make it clear that, in his opinion, Texas is only educating migrant children because the Federal government is forcing it to; and implying that undocumented children are to blame for deficiencies in education.  But these assertions are challenged, by many Texas educators, including Dallas Superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, who labeled Abbott’s comments a “manufactured crisis in the name of politics.” However, while Abbotts’s comments have been dismissed as “woefully ill-informed” and have been labeled a political “dog whistle” that does not make them any less dangerous to the children he is openly attacking.  And given that Abbott does not bother to distinguish between undocumented children, and children who are US citizens with undocumented parents, the dangers his broad vilification creates threatens all immigrant children and their families. 

In the 40 years since Plyler, states have used direct and indirect ways of limiting immigrant children’s access to education by adding to the already formattable obstacles to education faced by migrant children across the U.S.  Undocumented children, and children who are U.S. citizens of undocumented parents, face constant uncertainty and fear; language, cultural and social barriers; and often poverty and isolation. While the perception of immigrants, flamed by incendiary comments by public officials, is “intrinsically tied to negative perceptions” about immigrants, and a constant reminder to these children that many believe they are not welcome and do not belong.

The Supreme Court called education the “primary vehicle for transmitting ‘the values on which our society rests.’”  In Texas, it appears the governor is willing to use that vehicle to pass on values that teach some children they are more deserving of an education than their peers who are immigrants or 1st generation Americans while teaching others that they are, and will remain, a subclass of persons not worthy of an education or of equal protection under the law.


For further information, please see:

Dallas Morning News – Texas Educators say Immigrant Children aren’t as Much of a Worry as State Funding – May 9, 2022

Institute for Immigration Research – Plyler v Doe: Implementation, Challenges, and Implications for the Future – Aug. 2022

Latina Republic – Barriers in the United States Education System for Immigrant Children – June 23, 2021

MALDEF – MALDEF Statement on Texas Governor’s Comments on Landmark Educational Ruling – May 5, 2022

NPR – Talk of ‘invasion’ moves from the fringe to the mainstream of GOP immigration message – Aug. 3, 2022

Plyler v Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)

New York Times – Texas Governor Ready to Challenge Schooling of Migrant Children – May 5, 2022

Canada Terminates Collection and Reporting of COVID-19 Cases in Schools While Texas Governor Bans Mask Mandates in Schools

By: Jessica Senzer

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

NORTH AMERICA — On December 30, 2021, Ontario’s s Ministry of Education announced that it will no longer collect or report data of new COVID-19 infections starting in 2022. Before this change, the Ministry of Education collected COVID-19 data, including weekly case numbers from school boards. Education Minister Stephen Lecce stated that this was done partially because “schools are literally some of the safest places in our community…”

Texas students in school. Photo courtesy of Texas Tribune.

However, this decision was not well-accepted among all Canadians. In fact, in a statement, New Democratic Party Education Critic Marit Stiles said that this action “is going to hurt kids, families, and education workers.” Decisions that reduced COVID-19 protections have been unaccepted in the past, particularly by disabled communities. Canada’s disabled community will likely take issue with the Ministry’s new announcement.

On August 11, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott passed an Executive Order that prohibited school districts and charter schools from enforcing mask mandates-the Texas governor loosened COVID-19 protections in the state. Like in Canada, this decision was met with much citizen dissatisfaction.

Less than a week after the Executive Order was passed, Disability Rights Texas and Winston & Strawn LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of 14 disabled child plaintiffs, claiming, among other things, that the Order puts students with disabilities at great risk by depriving them of in-person education in a safe environment.

Disabled students in Canada will likely have similar concerns. Since the Ministry of Education is no longer collecting or reporting data on COVID-19 infection rates, students, disabled or not, will not know how many students, faculty, and staff, have, have been exposed to or have symptoms of COVID-19. This change could pose problems for students with various disabilities, including those that lead to a compromised immune system or anxiety.

In the Texas lawsuit, one plaintiff had ADHD, growth hormone deficiency, and asthma. She claimed she was at greater risk of serious illness because she needed to participate in in-person instruction but constantly had to worry about being exposed to COVID-19 at school. Canadian schoolchildren will face similar concerns if they do not know how many students, faculty, and staff have been exposed to, contracted, or have symptoms of COVID-19 due to government non-reporting of this data.

For further information, please see:

Disability Rights Texas- First Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Texas Governor on Mask Mandate Ban Says It Violates ADA, Section 504- 17 Aug. 2021

Global News- Ontario’s education ministry to stop collecting COVID case numbers from schools- 1 Jan. 2022

Toronto News- Ontario to stop collecting COVID-19 numbers from school boards, suspend reporting of cases – 31 Dec. 2021

Facebook and the Perpetuation of Human Trafficking

By: Kendall Hay

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

UNITED STATES — In October 2021, a former Facebook employee provided an internal report to Congress which revealed the company’s awareness of several illegal activities on the site. However, despite their awareness, Facebook made a deliberate decision not to act in an effort to protect their bottom line. These recently published “Facebook papers” reveal that the company was aware of human trafficking on the platform and purposely chose to withhold efforts to combat the problem.

Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Photo courtesy of Time.

The whistleblower revealed widespread trafficking occurring in the Middle East in the sphere of domestic labor. These workers are coerced into earning money for their family either by fraud or deception and then are forced to terms and undignified conditions once there. After being stripped of all forms of communication, they are then faced with domestic and sexual violence and left without the promised earnings.

One of the problems that has led to this issue is the rapid growth the social media site has experienced but has been unable to properly maintain. Being an international platform has also presented challenges to the company, one of which is the difficulty in policing illegal activity on such a widespread scale.

A search on Facebook for maids can render results with a picture and a price accompanying the image, and this even occurs after local governments have scoured the site daily in an attempt to stop such practices.

Although Facebook denies these allegations, it is clear that the advertising benefits they receive have taken precedence over taking measures to ban online solicitation. With over 2 billion users, the company generates extensive profits through advertising. And while they could use some of this advertising space for public service announcements to warn of the potential trap, Facebook has chosen to turn a blind eye. The outcry from victims for these warning messages has escalated in recent months.

In June 2021, The Texas Supreme Court ruled against Facebook in a lawsuit filed by women who were abused and trafficked from the site. The court declared that a Texas statute allows these women to bring a civil cause of action against Facebook for intentionally knowing and benefiting from participation in sex trafficking.

Facebook will soon be facing a class action lawsuit that will be filed at the end of December for misleading shareholders. The lawsuit claims that, among other things, Facebook failed to respond to drug cartels and human traffickers. They are also complaining of attracting pre-teens to the site as well as publicly misleading users and issuing false statements. Because of the drop in Facebook’s share price due to the alleged complaints, plaintiffs are seeking damages for their significant loss.

For further Information please see:

ABA Journal Sex-trafficking victims can sue Facebook for allegedly facilitating their recruitment – 30 June 2021

AP News – Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse – 25 Oct. 2021

AP News – People or Profit? Facebook Papers Show Deep Conflict Within – 25 Oct. 2021

Bloomberg – Facebook must face claims linked to sex trafficking judge says – 25 June 2021

CNN – Facebook has shown it has a human trafficking problem for years – 25 Oct. 2021

Washington Post – What are the Facebook papers – 25 Oct. 2021

Yahoo – Shareholder Class Action Deadline – 2 Dec. 2021

Supreme Court to Hear First Pre-Viability Abortion Case Since Roe v. Wade

By: Anna E. Melo     

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – On December 1, 2021, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to evaluate the constitutionality of a Mississippi law restricting access to abortion in most situations after 15 weeks of gestation-period. The Department of Health in Mississippi seeks to overturn previously decided landmark abortion cases ensuring a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy up to fetal viability (defined as where a growing fetus would be able to survive ex utero). With a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, proponents for women’s reproductive rights anxiously await a decision that may transform the landscape of accessible healthcare in the United States.

Pro-choice advocates protest outside of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Tom Brenner.

For nearly 50 years, the holdings of cases such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey have established that the 4th and 14th Amendments support a woman’s right of privacy to choose to terminate a pregnancy without unnecessary barriers. Subsequently, some state legislatures have sought to impose restrictions dictating the limited circumstances whereby a woman would be allowed to receive the procedure.

In 1972, Mississippi enacted the Gestational Age Act which is full of language directed towards the potential emotional and physical harm caused by abortion procedures. It describes various fetal developments week by week up to the ‘cut off gestational age’ of 15 weeks (two weeks into the second trimester). The only exceptions past this threshold point that the Act allows for are medical emergencies or in cases of severe fetal abnormality (notably excluding instances of rape and incest). Physicians are tasked with reporting each abortion procedure conducted under oath, with the threat of civil penalties and/or license suspension or revocation for noncompliance with the provisions of the Act.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the last operating abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, leaving women, especially the poor and minorities, with very few opportunities to obtain the procedure.

Jackson Women’s Health sued the State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health to challenge the Gestational Age Act in 2018 on the merits that a pre-viability ban on abortion is unconstitutional. The district court for the Southern District of Mississippi found that the restrictive obstacles the Act imposes on women were unlawful. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that the Act was unconstitutional in 2019. The State Health Officer of Mississippi Department of Health and the Executive Director of the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure appealed the 5th circuits decision, to which the Supreme Court has granted certiorari.

The topic of abortion is inherently contentious. It invites arguments and counterarguments concerning religion, philosophy, politics, and medicine. A case on the Supreme Court’s docket, especially in 2021, may leave more questions than answers.  Will advancements in medicine naturally shift ‘fetal viability’ earlier into a pregnancy?  Will an outright overturn of predominant case law in women’s and reproductive rights cause a domino effect in various conservative states to ban abortion altogether or the adoption of certain restrictions such as the ‘Heartbeat Bill’ at six weeks gestation?  Will we see action by Congress in an attempt to implement federal law that counters prohibitory state actions? In the next few months, the Supreme Court will be tasked with balancing these delicate matters that will have an undoubted impact on the status of women’s health and human rights in the United States.

For more information, please see:

5th Circuit – Decision Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Dobbs, 945 F.3d 265 – Dec. 13, 2019.   

Mississippi Gestational Age Act – Current through 2021.  

United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi – Decision Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Currier, 349 F. Supp. 3d 536 – Nov. 20, 2018.

United States Supreme Court – Decision Granting Motion for Certiorari Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health – Oct. 12, 2021.

Unauthorized Science: Estate of Henrietta Lacks Sues Pharmaceutical Company For Using Cells Without Consent

By: Tim Murphy

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

BALTIMORE, Maryland – The estate of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose continuously dividing cells have been used in scientific and medical research for decades, is suing the pharmaceutical company Thermo Fisher Scientific for unjust enrichment, stating that Lacks’s cells were taken without her consent and have been used without the estate’s compensation for decades.

Many may have learned about Henrietta Lacks from a high school biology class, or read about her life in Rebecca Skloot’s popular 2010 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which was later adapted into a film starring Oprah Winfrey. Born in 1920, Lacks was a Black woman who was undergoing treatment for cervical cancer when a doctor took and used a sample of Lacks’s cells in a petri dish without her consent. The cells, which later became known as “HeLa cells,” continued to rapidly reproduce outside the body, becoming the first human cell line to do so. Henrietta Lacks died shortly after in 1951. Neither Lacks nor her family was not compensated for her cells. 

Four of Henrietta Lacks’ grandchildren and attorney Ben Crump outside the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.

It wasn’t until decades after her death that the general public became aware that the HeLa cells were originally taken and used without Lacks’s consent. While there are now policies in place to protect patients from non-consensual use of cell-samples, these regulations did not exist at the time Lacks was undergoing treatment. Regardless, companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific are still using and profiting from HeLa cells without the compensation of Lacks’s estate.

The lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific seeks “the full amount of its net profits obtained by commercializing the HeLa cell line to the Estate of Henrietta Lacks.”  However, for grandson Ron Lacks, the lawsuit is not just about the money. “We will celebrate taking back control of Henrietta Lacks’ legacy,” he said. The estate also plans to file lawsuits in the following weeks against other companies that profit from the HeLa cell line.

For further information, please see:

CNN – Estate of Henrietta Lacks sues biotechnical company for nonconsensual use of her cells – 5 Oct. 2021

Live Science – Henrietta Lacks’ family sues biotech firm for use of ‘stolen’ cells – 8 Oct. 2021

NPR – Henrietta Lacks’ estate sued a company saying it used her ‘stolen’ cells for research – Oct. 4 2021

The Baltimore Sun – Family of Henrietta Lacks files suit against biotech company for using famous ‘HeLa’ cells without permission – 4 Oct. 2021

The Washington Post – 70 years ago, Henrietta Lacks’s cells were taken without consent. Now, her family wants justice – 4 Oct. 2021