Fulfilling President Donald Trump’s midterm promise to crack down on undocumented immigrants crossing the southwest border, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security published a rule last Thursday that will make it harder for immigrants to claim asylum if they are caught crossing the border between designated ports of entry.

Senior administration officials told reporters on a conference call that the president has the legal authority to do so because of sections of immigration law that allow the president discretion over who is admitted into the United States — the same language the administration used to support its travel ban in court.

The officials said the plan is to force more immigrants who wish to claim asylum to do so at designated ports of entry. Recently, many asylum seekers have chosen to cross illegally because they are kept waiting for days in Mexico due to backlogs at ports of entry.

In a joint statement, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, said, “Consistent with our immigration laws, the President has the broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens into the United States if he determines it to be in the national interest to do so.” (NYT,11/8/18)

Way back when talks to renegotiate NAFTA began, the administration of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—a self-described feminist, appointer of a gender-balanced cabinet—made a bold, on-brand request: that the new agreement include a chapter on gender equality.

Now, as the specifics of the new, roll-off-the-tongue United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA come to light, we’re learning more about whether Canada achieved that goal.

The draft agreement falls short of the entire chapter Canada was after, but “we succeeded at getting gender discrimination, more broadly, included in the deal,” a Canadian official told Politico.

The official’s upbeat tone seems warranted. Buried in the massive agreement is wording that requires the three nations to take steps to protect workers against discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and—notably—gender identity.

“We viewed it as important to get gender identity included in the agreement,” the Canadian official said. “It’s a win for us.”

Of course, news of the provision comes days after The New York Times reported that the Trump administration is weighing a new definition of gender that would be strictly based on sex organs at birth. The change could erase some existing protections for transgender individuals.

In that regard, the new NAFTA measure may still catch the attention of conservatives—the agreement is not yet final—but it’s likely a hopeful development for a U.S. LGBTQ community that feels increasingly under attack.

The Trump administration is eyeing eradication of transgender recognition.

The New York Times reported that “HHS has for months considered defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act”, Politico’s Caitlin Emma writes. “It would essentially erase federal recognition of and protections for transgender individuals.” The 1972 law prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education or training programs, including vocational programs that receive financial assistance from DOL.

“The administration is trying to essentially change the legal determination that transgender individuals are within the scope of the civil rights laws to begin with,” Amit Narang of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch told Morning Shift. “That will have systematic consequences for employees generally speaking if they identify as transgender.” Cathryn Oakley, senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, told Morning Shift that the proposal is “incredibly alarming” and that she expects other agencies will follow suit. “HHS is encouraging other departments to adopt it,” Oakley said. “They can expect significant legal challenges.” [Politico’s Caitlin Emma]

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced sweeping rules on how colleges handle cases of sexual assault and harassment. She says she is fixing a “failed” and “shameful” system that is unfair to accused students.

The proposed new rules aim to “significantly enhance legal protections for the accused”. President Trump has expressed the view that men are unfairly presumed guilty.

Among the changes, the level of proof is raised from the “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.”

Students would be guaranteed the right to cross examine each other.

Victim’s rights advocates lambaste the new rules, saying they will have a chilling effect on reporting as survivors will not want to subject themselves to such a difficult process. [NPR, 11/16/18]