federal policy

Two-Day Conference to Address Trump-Era Environment, Microaggressions

The two-day Social, Ethnic, and Racial Boundaries on Campus and Community in the 21st Century, Feb. 9-10 at Illinois State University, will examine race, ethnicity, and microaggression both on campuses and communities, in light of the new political developments in the United States, both local and national.


The gathering, beginning at 8:15 a.m. Feb. 9 and 9 a.m. Feb. 10 in the Bone Student Center's Prairie Center Room, will offer insights from international scholars, keynote speakers, and local community leaders, as well as discussion panels and roundtables dialogues and films.

The program is free and open to the public.

The Feb. 9 program is dedicated to “Race and Immigration Under the Trump Administration,” with Saturday examining “Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Here are highlights of the Feb. 10 itinerary:

9-10 a.m.: What is Microaggression?: How is Microaggression Different from Racism, Sexism, and Age-Segregation?
Chair: R.J. Rowley (Associate Professor of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, ISU)

Yolanda Flores Niemann (Professor of Psychology, University of North Texas)
Title: Microaggressions in the Classroom: What We’ve Learned from Student, Faculty, and Staff Responses to the Microaggressions in the Classroom (video)

Brea Banks (Assistant Professor of Psychology, ISU)
Title: Intersectionality and Microaggression


10:10-11:10 a.m.: Sexism, the LGBTQ Community, and Microaggressions
Chair and Moderator: Tom Gerschick (Associate Professor of Sociology, ISU)

Tanya Diaz-Kozlowski (Instructional Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, ISU)
Title: Micro-aggressions, School Climate, and Educational Equity: A Critical Praxis Approach

Presenters: Dave Bentlin (President, Prairie Pride Coalition), Liv Stone (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, ISU), Jacklyn Weier (Graduate student in Anthropology, ISU), and Diane Zosky (Director of School Social Work, ISU)


11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.: Lunch Banquet
Introduction: Mayuko Nakamura (Coordinator of Faculty Development, Instructional Technology and Media in Teaching, Learning, and Technology, ISU)

Keynote Address by Dr. Yolanda Flores Niemann (Professor of Psychology, University of North Texas)
Title: Subjective Experiences of Microaggressions from the Lenses of Others: Being an Ally and Developing Alliances Across and Within Demographic Groups

1:30-2:30 p.m.: The Social, Emotional, and Academic Cost of Campus Microaggressions: What Institutions of Higher Education Can Do to Promote a Positive Campus Climate for all Students.
Chair and Moderator: Lou Perez (Emeritus Professor of History, ISU)

Doris Houston (Co-director of African-American Studies, and Associate Professor of Social Work, ISU) and Rocío Rivadeneyra (Director of Honors Program)
Title: Enhancing the Campus Climate through Diversity in Curriculum: What All Students Need to Learn About Power, Privilege, and Equity in The United States

Presenters: Multicultural Student Panel from ISU


2:40-3:40 p.m.: Workshop: Aging Within a Youth-Oriented Community: Age-Segregated Programs and Places, and Potential for a Fulfilling “Third Age.”
Chair and Moderator: Maria Smith (Professor of Anthropology, ISU)
Presenters: Chris Wellin (Director of the Gerontology Program in Sociology and Anthropology, ISU); Mindy Morgan (Director of the City of Normal Activity and Recreation Center, [ARC]).

3:40-3:55 p.m.: Closing Remarks
James Stanlaw (Professor of Anthropology, ISU)

Sponsors for the conference include Illinois State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Co-Curricular Programming Advisory Committee (MECCPAC), the School of Social Work, the Department of History, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Department of Politics and Government, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, The LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute, Milner Library, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), and the Harold K. Sage Fund and the Illinois State University Foundation. The event is organized by the Ethnicity and Ethnography Laboratory and Research Center (EELRC) at Illinois State University.


Immigration Project Helping Save Thousands of Illinoisans DACA 'Dreams'

This week, nearly 80,000 young students, workers, and householders who’ve spent much or nearly all their life in the U.S. learned that over the next 2 ½ years, they could lose their adopted home.

“This is really going to hurt our economy; it’s really going to hurt all these individuals and their families,” warns Charlotte Alvarez, executive director of Normal-based The Immigration Project, which is working to help thousands of Illinois “DREAMers” cope with the White House-announced phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under the announcement, individuals whose DACA designation expired prior to Sept. 5 cannot file a new program renewal application, and are effectively “terminated,” Alvarez reported. Those with pending renewals can still be processed -- The Immigration Project is helping ensure client applications are processed in a timely manner.

Currently, those facing DACA expiration between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018, must file a two-year renewal application with receipt by immigration officials before Oct. 5 or lose their shot at renewal.

“In this state, we have about 10,000 young people who must file renewal applications within the next month,” Alvarez advised. “We’re recommending that if anybody in our service area – in Central or Southern Illinois – needs to file a renewal, and their DACA expires between Sept. 5 and March 5, they should contact our office as soon as possible. We’ve had a lot of panicked DACA clients calling us up wondering what this announcement means to them, what will happen to people who have DACA once their work permit and their permission to remain expires.”

In fact, the Project has dedicated a staff member, Thalia Novoa, to focus on DACA renewal, and callers (309-829-8703) can listen for a specific DACA renewal extension to begin the process. If applicants prefer to handle the process themselves or decide they need legal consultation, the Project can identify resources or clarify the process.

“One of the things that’s a challenge for people is affording the application,” Alvarez noted. “The application in each case costs $495 to file. I know people whose DACA expired, and they saved up enough money to pay the fees again, but they’re now not able to. And now we have all these people who either were saving up money por planning to renew in the future who suddenly have to renew in the next month.”

Some applicants thus have launched Gofundme or similar campaigns to raise the money necessary to renewal, and The Immigration Project is seeking organizations that might be willing to provide financial support for clients.

DACA, signed in June 2012, stated that the government would not deport those who arrived here before the age of 16 and are under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012; who are in school or possess a high school diploma; who have lived here for at least five years; and who have not committed serious crimes.

DACA supporters are pinning long-term hopes on congressional intervention. Two federal immigration proposals – the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy) Act and the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act – propose to address concerns by creating what Alvarez terms “a real path to citizenship.”

The Project joined Tuesday with “a fairly sizeable crowd” of DACA supporters in an Uptown Normal rally, requesting that Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, whose office is in Uptown, meet with those affected by new DACA rules and support either bills. As of Thursday, no meeting date had been scheduled.

At the same time, attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, have filed a lawsuit alleging the administration’s action violated the due process rights of the young immigrants by failing to safeguard the personal information they initially gave the government in order to enroll in DACA.

“The solution is, either the administration reconsiders this policy, or Congress acts and creates a law and protections for these kids,” Alvarez said. “A lot of the DACA kids we have came to the country when they were two or three. They barely remember or don’t remember the country they were from. We’ve had clients who have gotten bachelors degrees, relying on DACA to be able to work. I have clients who are nurses, who are students, who are professionals. This is just going to pull the rug from beneath their dreams. It’s a real blow for them.”

For more information, visit The Immigration Project at www.immigrationproject.org.


Tuesday Vigil Challenges Transgender Military Ban, Civil Rights Revocation

A Tuesday vigil defends transgender citizens the Administration seeks to bar from the military and challenge Justice Department efforts to remove civil rights under the Civil Rights Law of 1964 by arguing sex discrimination doesn’t apply to sexual orientation or gender identity.

The LGBTQ community and allies are invited to hold a sign of support at the vigil, from 5:30 to 6 p.m. at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts Plaza. Participants are invited to wear rainbow colors. The event is sponsored by Stand Up for Social Justice, a non-partisan coalition supported by NIOTBN, YWCA of McLean County,  the ACLU of Central Illinois, the Unitarian Universalist Church Bloomington-Normal, New Covenant Community church, Indivisible Illinois 18 and Indivisible Illinois 13.

Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights group, is gearing up to sue the Trump administration over President Trump's proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

Trump announced via Twitter that he would revive a policy barring transgender people from serving openly in the military. But that announcement came with no formal guidance and the Pentagon said it would continue to allow transgender people to serve until it received new direction from the White House.

A report published Friday by the Los Angeles Blade, however, indicated that the White House had approved guidance for implementing the ban, which Lambda legal called a "mean-spirited and discriminatory attack" on the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, taking a stand against a decision reached under President Barack Obama.

The department’s move to insert itself into a federal case in New York was an unusual example of top officials in Washington intervening in court in what is an important but essentially private dispute between a worker and his boss over gay rights issues.

“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the Justice Department said in a friend-of-the-court brief, citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” “It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

Bloomington Transgender Soldier 'No Burden'

Judith Valente


Bloomington resident Jordan Becker joined the Army National Guard in 2008 as Jordan Elizabeth Becker, a woman. In 2014, he dropped Elizabeth from his name, began hormone therapy and underwent surgery to become a man.

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter last week that he wants to ban transgender men and women from serving in the military. Pentagon officials said they don’t plan to make any immediate changes. Becker is determined to remain a soldier.

When he first enlisted, transgender individuals were not allowed to serve openly. When the Obama administration changed that rule, Becker says he was ecstatic. He promptly re-enlisted, this time in the Army Reserves.

There is no reason transgender individuals cannot serve effectively, Becker said.

“When I hear people say transgender troops are physically and emotionally unfit, that just blows my mind,” he said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. His full interview will air Monday.

"I would personally love for him to stand in front of me and tell me I am a burden to the military."

The 26-year-old reservist said he received dozens of supportive messages within minutes of the president’s announcement.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support I received after Trump tweeted that. But it’s also extremely disheartening because I know for myself, I’ve worked so hard to get my gender changed so I can conform to male standards of the military. I know that thousands of other transgender troops have worked so hard to get where we are today,” he said.

In a 2016 report, the Rand Corp. estimated between 2,000 and 11,000 of the nation’s 1.3 million active duty troops are transgender. Becker maintains the number may be as high as 15,000. Transgender individuals experience an extreme dissatisfaction with their gender of birth, a condition known medically as “gender dysphoria.”

Becker's Journey

GLT News first brought you the story of Becker’s journey from female to male in 2015 as part of a series on transgender individuals living in the Twin Cities. Becker says he always wanted to be a soldier. Last May, he received an Achievement Award from his unit for his work as military policeman in the Reserves.

He maintains his transgender status doesn’t affect his ability to serve effectively as a soldier, physically or mentally.

Emotionally, “I think it increases my ability, just with all the adversity I deal with generally for being transgender. Being transgender has made me mentally and emotionally tough,” he said.

As to his physical capabilities, “There is not a single thing I can’t do. In fact, I can do things better than before. I can do more push-ups and have more endurance. I obviously want people to see me as a male, so in the military I conform to the male standards, especially the fitness standards. That requires shorter run times as a male and more push-ups,” Becker said.

Additionally,  he said, “I can shoot a weapon better than I did before. I not saying that’s because of hormones. A lot of it is emotional and mental. I am more at peace with myself because I am who I always thought I should be.”

Becker is a professional fitness trainer and currently works at a school for at-risk youth. He is a burly man with ample biceps, a buzz haircut and trim mustache. He said before his transition from female to male was complete, he endured many embarrassing and difficult moments. He still had to sleep in the female barracks, use female bathrooms and occasionally shower in close proximately with women.

Now that his surgeries are complete and he has been on hormone treatments for three years, few in his unit besides his immediate superiors and human resource officials even know he began life as a female, he said.

“The unit I’m in now is phenomenal. They have done nothing but work with me and for me,” Becker said.

But transgender people still face many misconceptions and struggle to win acceptance.

In proposing the ban, the president said he believes it is too costly for the military to cover surgeries and medical treatments for transgender troops. Becker called that assertion “an excuse.”

“Everyone’s journey is different. Not every single soldier is going to have all the surgeries,” Becker said.

“Some people only stay on hormones and opt to have no surgeries. Some people have all the surgeries to make themselves feel better and conform to the body they feel they should be in, but not every soldier is going to have all the surgeries.”

He said he paid for his own breast reduction and genital surgery out of pocket and through private insurance. His hormone medication, he said, costs “$15 dollars a month. That’s it.”

Although transgender individuals have made extensive progress legally and socially especially in the few years, Becker said they still face many misconceptions.

“There is a soldier in my unit that for a high school project did a project on on transgender people. She told me if I would have known you were transgender beforehand I probably would not have wanted to be your friend.”

He said he believes the embattled president, under investigation for Russian meddling over the election and facing questions about potential financial conflicts and his ability to govern, is trying to cater to his conservative base.

“Donald Trump hasn’t don’t a lot of things he promised the people and to me this is him, trying to say, ‘Hey I am doing something.’ Donald Trump never served. He avoided the draft  in military. I would personally love for him to stand in front of me and tell me I am a burden to the military,” Becker said.

Immigrant Alliance Training Plants New Seeds of Security

It's a challenging time for foreign-born students, amid politicized scrutiny of immigration and refugee issues and a flare-up in verbal and even physical attacks on students even by isolated teachers across the U.S..

NIOTBN thus met recently with Unit 5/District 87/University High students and staffers in a first-time immigrant alliance training session. Thirty U High, Bloomington Junior High and High School, and Normal Community and Community West representatives participated in what may develop into a communitywide "train the trainer" effort.

"There's a lot of work to be done," NIOTBN Education Subcommittee Co-Chair Mary Aplington maintained.

Helping lead the three-hour program was David Hirst, a member of The Immigration Project board and former head of Normal West's World Language Department.

Protecting immigrant students from individuals within the school is not the only challenge for families. The controversy over federal immigration officials ramping up arrests and deportations -- even venturing into schools -- spurred District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly to stress that while the district is required to cooperate with immigration officials, schools “would not let an agent meet with any student without the consent of a parent,” assuming an agent has no criminal warrant.

He said “in the end, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protections apply to all students.”

“Unit 5 has policies regarding interviews by outside law enforcement officers,” said Curt Richardson, that district's attorney. According to administrative procedures in the Normal-based district, interviews of minor students by outside law enforcement officers without permission of the parents is not permitted at school unless a legal process is presented.

Immigration arrests in cities such as Memphis, Tenn., have led to growing fears some families may keep their children home from school.

NIOTBN, Schools To Address Transgender Issues

As the White House draws fire for President Trump’s controversial proposals to ban transgender individuals from the military and disallow strategic civil rights protections for transgender Americans, NIOTBN and local schools hope to help to make the classroom a safer and more welcoming place for all students.

NIOTBN’s Education Subcommittee and Normal Unit 5 school officials and students plan to meet next week for a panel discussion on transgender challenges, from school restroom designations and use to questions about Skyward, a software system specializing in K-12 school management. Subcommittee Co-Chair Camille Taylor notes individuals are entered through birth certificates, meaning student records may not reflect current individual gender identity.

That can cause discomfort and confusion for transgender students in the classroom and other school venues, said Taylor, a retired local educator. Among other issues, NIOTBN hopes to address possible ways to reconcile “permanent records” with student identifications in its meeting with Unit 5 administrators, Normal Community and Community West High School principals, and student representatives.

Education Co-Chair Mary Aplington stressed the need for “policies across districts that are very similar,” noting Bloomington District 87’s existing strides in enhancing student inclusivity.

“We need collaboration at the top level,” Aplington added.

This spring, NIOTBN shared LGBTQ advocacy materials supplied by the national Not In Our Town organization with local school with community Not In Our School (NIOS) students and faculty “point people.”

More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws protecting students from discrimination based on their gender identity. In an effort to encourage their protection, an April 2014 letter from the Federal Office of Civil Rights clarified that discrimination against transgender students in schools is covered by Title IX and educators in schools across the United States are accountable for ensuring the safety and inclusion of transgender students in all school-sponsored activities.

Meanwhile, at the elementary level, several Unit 5 schools reportedly are eyeing the launch of anti-bullying/anti-bigotry NIOS programs in 2017-18. NIOTBN plans to participate in an Aug. 8 Back 2 School Party for Unit 5 and District 87 students at Bloomington’s Grossinger Motors Arena. The event, from noon to 4:30 p.m., will feature free school backpack supply kits and information from various community groups.   

Families must complete school registration and provide all health requirements for their children to attend the party.

Twin Cities Muslims Worried by Trump's Proposals

Maria Nagle

The Pantagraph

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call for barring Muslims from entering the United States sent a chill through Dr. Faisal Ahmed of Bloomington, whose mother still lives in Pakistan.

"She wants to visit her grandchildren, and she could be traveling here and living with us at some point," said the child psychiatrist who was among Muslims who spoke to The Pantagraph on Tuesday at the Islamic Center of Bloomington/Normal.

Trump said he would allow Muslims who are U.S. citizens to leave and return from international travel, but all others would be banned. That would include Ahmed, who wants to become a U.S. citizen, and his mother. 

"It's going to be a catastrophe for most of the Muslims because it's a personal freedom here to see our loved ones and take care of our mothers and fathers when they are sick and old," said Ahmed.

"It's sad because it's dehumanizing a particular religion, which is against the U.S. Constitution," he added.

Muslims haven't experienced a backlash from anyone in Bloomington-Normal, noted Mohammed Zaman, president of Masjid Ibrahim, a mosque in Bloomington. 

"In my 15 years here I haven't really seen any hatred in Bloomington-Normal," said Zaman, an information-technology consultant who moved from Bahrain to the United States shortly before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are much more worried about our kids than ourselves right now," said Zaman. "They are the ones who are really facing these challenges.

"We know what is going on and we can answer the questions, but the kids are going to be really confused, and of course, scared a little bit."

Ahmed said he was relieved to see the swift, widespread condemnation of Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric.

"But what (Trump) did manage to attain with this kind of rhetoric is to instill fear in people's minds, both at home and abroad," said Ahmed. "That plays out in what this mad group of people, ISIS, is trying to instill in people: fear."

Reiterating a message on ICBN's website, Ahmed said terrorists claiming to believe in Islam are distorting the true spirit of the religion.

"The Quran states: 'He who kills one person kills all humanity,'" he said.

There are 1.5 billion followers of Islam, and "only a small fraction is doing something bad," said IT consultant Jamal Mohamed of Normal, who moved from India in 2004. "The majority doesn't do that."

Zaman and Ahmed added that they fear that acceptance could change if anti-Muslim rhetoric intensifies.

Zaman's 17-year-old son, Mohammed, a graduate of Normal Community High School, said many of his friends told him that "Mr. Trump took it too far, and I also agreed with them."

He added: "We do not represent anything that has been going on. We know that we are following our path of Islam in the most sincere way possible."

The shootings in Aurora, Colo., and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were committed by people considered to be social outsiders, and Ahmed said the same is true of radicalized Muslims.

"They don't fit in," said Ahmed. "One of the things I really want to convey is that all these people who have done very terrible things are really alone and aloof and aren't connected to the Islamic community. They have a failed ideology and a divisive ideology that turns brothers against against brothers and people against people."

Trump's statement on Monday came a day after President Barack Obama urged Americans in a televised address not to associate terrorism with all Muslims. Obama warned extremism in some communities is "a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse."

The men are planning to form a committee to work with law enforcement to ensure safety for local Muslims and the community as a whole.

While they have talked about forming such a committee in the past, "it is a need of the time," said Ahmed.

Study Shows Undocumented Workers Significant Tax Contributors

Undocumented workers often are criticized as a burden on the state and the nation, and presidential campaign debate has spurred controversy regarding the issue.

However, a recent report maintains these workers contribute $794 million in tax payments to Illinois government. According to Undocumented Immigrants' State & Local Tax Contributions, authored by the non-profit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to state and local taxes, collectively paying an estimated $11.84 billion in 2012. 

Contributions ranged from less than $3.2 million in Montana, with an estimated undocumented population of 6,000 to more than $3.2 billion in California, home to more than 3.1 million undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants’ nationwide average effective state and local tax rate (the share of income they pay in state and local taxes) in 2012 is an estimated 8 percent.  The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay an average nationwide effective tax rate of just 5.4 percent.

Granting lawful permanent residence to all 11.4 million undocumented immigrants and allowing them to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2.2 billion a year, the institute estimated. Their nationwide effective state and local tax rate purportedly would increase to 8.7 percent, which would align their tax contributions with economically similar documented taxpayers.

To read the study, visit https://www.scribd.com/doc/289149523/Undocumented-Immigrants-State-Local-Tax-Contributions#download.


ACLU/Prairie Pride Hosting Talk on Marriage Equality Case

The Central Illinois Chapter of the ACLU of Illinois and the Prairie Pride Coalition would like to invite you to a discussion on the Supreme Court's marriage equality case at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Normal Public Library Community Room, at 206 West College Ave.

The event will take place one day after the Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage as a constitutional right for couples across the country.

Sara Benson from the University of Illinois School of Law and ACLU of Illinois Communications and Public Policy Director Ed Yohnka will discuss their reactions to the hearing and share their predictions for the ruling on the case when it comes down.
The event is free and open to the public.

As of now, gay marriage is legal in 36 states. By the end of this Supreme Court term, either same-sex couples will be able to wed in all 50 states, or gay marriage bans may be reinstituted in many of the states where they've previously been struck down.

Tuesday's Supreme Court arguments focus on two questions: First, whether bans on gay marriage are constitutional; and second, if they are, whether those states with bans may refuse to recognize out-of-state gay marriages performed where they are legal.

The court has scheduled 2 1/2 hours of argument and will make the audio available online late Tuesday.

Four states — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — are defending their bans. They won their case in the lower court, and because other appeals courts threw out bans enacted in other states, the Supreme Court now must resolve the conflict.

The high-stakes legal battle is the culmination of a decades-long struggle in the courts, state legislatures and at the ballot box. During that time, public opinion has changed, and done so more rapidly — and dramatically — than on any major social issue in memory.

In 1996, public opinion polls showed, on average, only 27 percent of the public favored legalization; this year, although many states still adamantly resist gay marriage, public opinion polls put the approval number nationally at well over 50 percent.

Tuesday's courtroom battle pits states' rights against the fundamental right to marry; it pits the traditional definition of marriage against a more modern definition; and it pits majority rights against minority rights.

Before the court are the consolidated cases of 12 couples and two widowers. Among them are nurses, teachers, veterinarians, an Army sergeant and businessmen and women.