Weekly Rights Review: All the Fees Beings Placed on Freedom
Public schools charging fees for classes? Police taking innocent people’s cars? Law enforcement detaining people for years without a trial? What’s going on? Find out how all these outrageous practices are occurring and what we’re doing to stop them in this week’s rights review.
Lawsuit Filed against “Tuition-Based” Program at “Free” Public Schools
The ACLU of Michigan has filed suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools, alleging that the district’s implementation of a new “tuition-based” program that charges students $100 per semester for access to a seventh hour class denies students a free and equal public education as required under the Michigan Constitution.
Like many Michigan school districts, AAPS is facing harsh economic times. However, it is the first district in the state to ever implement a “tuition-based” learning model at free public schools. If a judge allows it to be left intact, this new policy will set dangerous precedents, leading to even higher fees in Ann Arbor and all across Michigan and a horrifying two-tiered system in which students who have money get ahead, while those who do not fall behind.
The suit is filed on behalf of two music students who, like nearly half of students at Pioneer and Huron, rely on the seventh hour classes to obtain enough credits to graduate while also participating in music, art, foreign language, Advanced Placement courses and alternative career programs.
Civil Forfeiture Atrocities
The New Yorker released a hard-hitting article this week on the devastating effects of civil forfeiture, such as innocent people’s losses of cash, cars, and homes.
The basic purpose of civil forfeiture is to obtain assets acquired through illicit means and many police departments’ budgets depend on it. However, the practice is disproportionately aimed at minorities and people who cannot afford to fight to get their possessions back. In addition, property can be taken from people who have not been charged with or even accused of a crime.
The article includes the story of a heavily-armed police raid of a social event at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit in which 44 of the event-goers’ (who did not even know they were breaking an outdated law) were confiscated. The cars were not released until their owners paid nearly $1,000 each.
The ACLU of Michigan filed a federal suit against the city in 2010, representing 13 individuals who were ticketed and/or had their cars impounded for merely being present at a peaceful social gathering. A district court ruled that the raid was unconstitutional, and noted that it reflected “a widespread practice” by the police in the area.
Immigration Detainees Granted Due Process
In a great victory for immigrants’ rights, a federal judge has sided with the ACLU and has put an end to the government's practice of putting immigrants in long-term detention without the basic due process of a bond hearing.
The government's track record on detention makes the importance of this ruling clear. The immigration lock-up system is massive, wasteful, and hugely expensive to taxpayers. In 2011, the government detained a record-breaking 429,000 immigrants at a price tag of $2 billion, even though most immigrants pose no threat to public safety and do not need to be locked up to make sure they show up for court. Many immigrants are detained for years while fighting their deportation cases.
The ruling in Rodriguez v. Robbins, a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, establishes key safeguards that will help ensure that the government stops haphazardly stripping people of their liberty.