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1999 March - April

Women in the Fields

A Brief Analysis of the Plight of Migrant Farmworker Women

By Richard Kamm & Roger Rosenthal

Migrant farmworker women labor in one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. For a number of reasons they are significantly more vulnerable to social, economic, and civil rights abuses than their male counterparts. They are less likely to speak English, suffer sexual harassment and discrimination by employers, face particular reproductive health risks, and are trapped by cultural attitudes and practices which routinely deny or subordinate their rights, equality, and self-worth. Advocates can help create new protections, push for better enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and inform farmworkers about available assistance and legal remedies.

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Utility Rate Classifications and Group Homes as "Residential" Customers

By Roger D. Colton

In the public utility industry, classification as a residential customer may result in consumer protections otherwise not available, as well as bill-payment assistance and lower total monthly bills. Residents of group homes for disabled persons would benefit from their group homes being considered residential for public utility rate classification purposes.

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Proving Gender Motivation in Civil Rights Remedy Claims under the Violence Against Women Act

By Julie Goldscheid

The civil rights remedy in the Violence Against Women Act creates a federal civil rights cause of action for gender-motivated violent crimes. The civil rights remedy, which permits victims to bring suit against perpetrators for damages, declaratory or injunctive relief, and attorney fees, contains two basic elements of proof. A plaintiff must first establish that she was the victim of a "crime of violence" of sufficient severity. Then she must prove the more nuanced "gender motivation"—a connection between the defendant's violent act and the victim's gender.

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Tribal Welfare Reform

The Miner's Canary

By Robert J. McCarthy

As part of federal welfare reform, tribes were given the option of administering their own Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs. Inclusion of tribal governments in welfare administration both acknowledges tribal sovereignty and allows tribes to address the unique needs of tribal members with greater sensitivity to the economic, geographic, and cultural circumstances of tribal people. Still, tribal governments lack experience in administrating welfare programs, tribes are not given the resources and flexibility they need to assume this important task effectively, and tribal welfare reform does not accord tribal members due process and equal protection against wrongful denial of assistance.

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Handling Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Disability Cases Involving Alcohol or Drug Use

An Update

By Linda Landry

Since 1995, back-to-back legislative changes have made obtaining social security and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits for individuals with substance-abuse problems increasingly difficult. An individual may not be found eligible for these benefits if drug addiction or alcoholism is "material" to the disability determination. In handling these challenging cases, advocates may find it necessary to educate Social Security Administration adjudicators on the relevant law and policy.

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Litigating the Right to a Minimally Adequate Education in East St. Louis, Illinois

By Susan Wishnick & Adam Schwartz

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is setting precedent by contending for the plaintiffs in Lewis E. v. Spagnolo that the state's schoolchildren have a right to a minimally adequate education. Instead of challenging funding legislation–once the basis for attacking deplorable school conditions–plaintiffs find authority for the "minimally adequate education" assertion in the federal and state constitutions, Illinois's school code and regulations, and the state's common-law requirement that landowners remedy dangerous conditions on their property.

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