Programming for 2021 GRITS Conference


Crimmigration in the Carceral State

Through an expansive network of federal and local policing, the carceral state constantly entraps immigrants, especially immigrants of color. For example, in the past year alone, over 15,000 immigrants in Texas have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security. This panel of legal practitioners and community organizers will discuss the day-to-day havoc the system wreaks in communities of color, especially in the context of COVID-19. Their work within the intersection of criminal law and immigration addresses the xenophobic underpinnings of this civil mass incarceration system with a clear goal—the full and immediate abolition of immigration detention.

Environmental Justice in the American South

According to the EPA, “Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Unfortunately, this definition of environmental justice represents an ideal, not a reality.

For example, in America, “White people experience a “pollution advantage,” where they exposed to 17% less air pollution than is caused by their consumption. Back and LatinX people, on average, bear a “pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption.

In particular, the southern United States is rife with environmental injustice — from the proliferation of petrochemical facilities to the contamination of drinking water and even the impact of climate change-induced disasters. Black and brown communities too often face threats to their health and safety from environmental pollutants, toxics, and degradation.

This panel will explore the work being done by environmental justice lawyers, organizers, and advocates across the South fighting for the right to a safe, clean, and livable environment for their communities.

Labor Organizing: From the US South to the Global South

Capitalism in the 21st century is accelerating its power. Employers continue to accumulate capital and exploit vulnerable communities, forcing many to relocate to the Global North. But just as the American workforce grows and diversifies, the US government offers workers little to no protection. In Janus v. AFSCME, The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of right-to-work laws, which are intended to financially weaken unions. While employers receive trillions of dollars in bailout money to offset the impacts of COVID-19, many workers continue to work in unsafe conditions.

In this panel, we will discuss the theoretical and practical work labor lawyers will need to do to organize and stand up for workers in increasingly hostile environments.

Not Policy, Power! Movement Lawyering in Action

For Movement lawyers, lawyering is a tool to be harnessed and leveraged in support of movements fighting for greater power in a system that disproportionately concentrates power among the white, wealthy, and corporate. In essence, a lawyer is accountable to goals of movements. For these lawyers, organizers and leaders, the primary goal is not to change laws or policies but to change the disproportionate allocations of power that create and reinforce the systems of oppression that produce unjust laws and policies.

This panel will be a discussion and reflection between organizers, movement lawyers, and community leaders on how they work together, including the practical challenges and strengths of this theory of social change in action.

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