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Wheels of Justice Rides to Make a Difference

March 18, 2019

In an article published in the Utah Bar Journal, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill, and Attorney Gregory N. Hoole joined together to bring awareness of child abuse and Wheels of Justice, a local cycling club dedicated to ending all forms of child abuse.

Wheels of Justice, a nonprofit corporation, raises money to support four organizations: Prevent Child Abuse Utah (PCAU), Friends of the Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Center (Friends of the CJC), Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) and the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (UDVC).

Additionally, Wheels of Justice sponsors a bicycle ride every September that ascends all five of Salt Lake City’s riding canyons in one day. This daunting course shows children who have been abused that they, too, can overcome any challenge.

For more information and to find out how you can join Wheels of Justic, visit their website at www.teamwheelsofjustice.org.

PIK2AR: Empowering Positive Social Change

March 14, 2019

Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes supported Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) as they received the 2018 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for the Salt Lake City Division.

PIK2AR is a dedicated force in domestic violence prevention and education for members of the Pacific Island communities. They provide several programs aimed toward building communities, improving economic development, and teaching violence prevention for positive social change. Supporting family values, promotes self-reliance, good health, charity, and community involvement are just some of their core values. Last year, PIK2AR helped more than 100 women and 800 children.

To learn more about PIK2AR, visit their website: https://pik2ar.org/

A Great Victory for Utah: Hate Crime Bill Passes Utah Legislature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2019

 

A GREAT VICTORY FOR UTAH: HATE CRIME BILL PASSES UTAH LEGISLATURE

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Utah State Legislature took an important step toward protecting Utahns and their freedom. SB103 Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements, otherwise known as the hate crime bill, gained final legislative approval before passing to Governor Gary R. Herbert to be signed into law.
 
SB103 expresses the importance of establishing an enhanced punishment for those that commit crimes based on an individual’s race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or identity and recognizes the unique impact these heinous crimes have on our communities. This new statute does not favor some over others or seek to punish speech or thought. All Utahns deserve protection from crimes motivated by hate and the freedom to express their individuality.
 
“Today is a great day for every person or family who’s ever been afraid to leave their house due to hate. It’s a historic day for every parent who has stayed up worrying about whether they should let their kids go to school because of threats or violence. It’s an unforgettable day for every person who has been victimized because of who they are,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.

Congratulations to Senator Thatcher and Representative Perry, Leadership in the Senate and House, and all others who made this possible. Many of us have worked for years to get a bill like this passed. Legislators and supporters who passed prior hate enhancements under Utah law also deserve credit and helped build toward this day.

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NOTES:

  1. Attorney General Reyes and Seth Brysk’s op-ed on SB103: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900058463/guest-opinion-utahs-hate-crimes-law-would-protect-everyone-here-are-the-facts.html

Rep. Paul Ray: Utah is an overdose capital, and fentanyl must be stopped

Written by Utah Representative Paul Ray and originally posted in the Salt Lake Tribune.

March 13, 2019

It may come as somewhat of a shock for most Utahns to learn that our state has one of the worst rates of opioid drug overdoses in our country. In fact, our state has been consistently ranked among the top 10 for opioid-related overdoses for the past decade. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600 people died from opioid-related overdoses in Utah during 2016 alone.

The data for 2016 showed a slight improvement over 2015 due to federal, state and local efforts via the Utah Opioid Task Force, as a result of its cracking down on the over-prescription and sale of legal pain-relieving medications that contain opioids. However, the rate of mortality has remained stubbornly high due to the spread of an illegally manufactured drug called fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid most people had never even heard of five years ago. It is such a potent drug that even a few milligrams of it — equivalent to a grain of rice — can be deadly for anyone who comes into contact with it — even accidentally.

China is the main source of manufacturing the illegal fentanyl finding its way across our borders. Most of the drugs are shipped to Mexican drug cartels that have perfected the process of pressing fentanyl into counterfeit pills and smuggling them into the U.S. for distribution. Sometimes the fentanyl is just shipped in bulk over our borders and is turned into pills in factories on our own soil.

By now, many of us have heard the unfortunate story of Aaron Shamo, an otherwise promising young man, an Eagle Scout from a solid family. Shamo became a drug kingpin in a comfortable Salt Lake City suburb, manufacturing more than 500,000 counterfeit pills made from fentanyl to sell on the dark web.

If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

Just before the recent elections, President Donald Trump signed into law the STOP Act, the first sweeping legislation addressing some of the problems that have given rise to this epidemic. The need for this legislation was so great, less than 10 out of 535 Members of the House of Representatives and Senate voted against it.

While this is an excellent first step, Congress needs to take further, more robust action. We desperately need more security at our borders and, like our Attorney General Sean Reyes, I urge Congress to now pass the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act, which would give prosecutors additional powers to go after the ringleaders of the production and manufacturing cartels responsible for selling these deadly drugs in our state.

Make no mistake, we cannot ease up on the pressure required to defeat the spread of this deadly drug that has invaded Utah. State leaders like myself must continue to push for legislation that will secure our communities until the death toll recedes to zero.

Paul Ray represents District 13 in the Utah House of Representatives.

Op-ed: Utah Hate Crimes law will protect all of us

March 5, 2019

By Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, and ADL Central Pacific Regional Director Seth Brysk

This session, the Utah State Legislature can take an important step toward protecting our freedom. SB103 (Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher) recognizes the unique impact of a crime targeting individuals or institutions on the basis of how they pray, the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or identity, among other characteristics. The heinous nature of such crimes and the greater impact on the community is absolutely deserving of an enhanced punishment.

The proposed hate crime statute does not favor some over others or seek to punish speech or thought. The Attorney General’s office and Anti-Defamation League, the agency that innovated hate crime legislation, stand united to set the record straight about this bill and hate crimes laws in general.

Fact: Hate crime laws do not police or punish speech or thought.

Speech is protected under the constitution and cannot and should not be criminalized. A hate crime law like SB103 does not punish speech or thought. Instead, it may provide a penalty enhancement for a crime where it is proven to be motivated by prejudice.

Fact: Hate and bias is often the primary, if not sole, motive for a hate crime.

The perpetrator’s animus toward race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability — actual or perceived — is the reason for the crime. In the vast majority of cases, absent the victim’s personal characteristic, no crime would occur.

Fact: Hate crimes are message crimes.

The purpose of a hate crime is to send a message to the victim and the victim’s community. Men beaten outside of a gay bar are rarely robbed. Vandals do not typically spray-paint messages like gang tags on the side of synagogues; instead the vandalism frequently consists of threats or a swastika. Bigots do not burn random shapes on the front lawns of African-American families who moved into a previously all-white neighborhood. The message of such shapes would mean nothing. But the charred remains of a burned cross send a clear message. The message is one of intolerance, exclusion and hate.

Fact: Hate crimes affect entire communities, in addition to individuals.

The alleged perpetrator of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in October 2018 aimed to deliver a message of hate to all Jews. He did not know his victims. He harbored animus toward the community and his attack impacted Jews nationally and globally. Members of the Jewish community around the world envisioned themselves in the pews in Pittsburgh. In the following weeks, synagogues across the country and around the world increased security to reassure members of their safety. Allies attended services at congregations to demonstrate solidarity.

This is not a new phenomenon. More than one hundred years ago, in the aftermath of the only documented lynching of a Jew in American history, half of Atlanta’s Jewish community, the largest in the American South, fled the state. Many of those who remained hid aspects of their Jewish observance. The American Psychological Association confirms that hate crimes cause targeted communities to feel unwelcome and unsafe. Hate crime statutes send a countervailing message that society will not accept the intimidation and terrorization of segments of our community.

Fact: Hate crimes are more violent than other crimes.

A Northeastern University study found that hate crimes are more likely to involve physical injury and, compared to other assaultive crimes, are three times more likely to lead to hospitalization. The severity of and motivation for a crime are legitimate sentencing considerations.

Fact: Hate crime statutes are constitutional.

Over the past 40 years, federal and state hate crime laws have been upheld against a variety of challenges under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses, and under the First Amendment. In 1993, in Wisconsin v. Mitchell the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of hate crimes statutes in an opinion written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The Supreme Court found the statute was intended to address conduct that the state legislature thought would “inflict greater individual and societal harm.” It also held that the statute was consistent with established anti-discrimination laws, narrowly tailored, and that enhanced penalties for racially motived crimes do not violate First Amendment rights.

Fact: Hate crime laws protect us all.

In the case of Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the court upheld the conviction and enhanced sentence when a racist assault by a group of young black men targeted a white boy. Protected classes enumerated in a hate crime statute shield individuals or groups on all sides selected on the basis of race (e.g. Caucasian or Latino), gender (e.g. male or female), sexual orientation (e.g. straight or gay) or religion (e.g. Christian or Muslim), and so on.

On a personal level, we have both felt the terror of being threatened or assaulted for racial, religious or other reasons motivated by hate. These experiences have left us and our families fearful of leaving our homes and caused sleepless nights worrying about when the hate will strike next. While crimes motivated by hate may not meet the legal definition of terrorism, that is exactly what they represent.

Thankfully, these crimes do not occur every day in Utah. But when they do happen, they tear at the very fabric of our society. All Utahns deserve robust protection from crimes inspired by hate.

This op-ed was originally published in the Deseret News on March 3, 2019.

Federal Bipartisan Bill Will Protect Adopted Children from Rehoming

In December of 2017, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, a member of the National Working Group on Unregulated Custody Transfer, sent a letter to Congress identifying areas in which state and federal law could be changed to help prevent or eliminate rehoming. Rehoming is an unregulated custody transfer (UCT) practice in which children are given away by adoptive parents to strangers without any form of home study, background checks, or legal transfer of parental rights or responsibilities, often subjecting these children to emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. In the letter, Attorney General Reyes referenced House Bill 199, a bill passed into law during the 2017 Utah State Legislative Session to address UCT, making Utah the first state to criminalize this practice. Yesterday, Congressmen Jim Langevin and Don Bacon introduced legislation to combat UCT. In their press release, they quoted Attorney General Reyes, who helped raise awareness of the issue, leading to the inclusion of  UCT in the federal definition of child abuse and neglect under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The press release in regard to this new legislation is below.


OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN
JIM LANGEVIN

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 27, 2019

 

CONTACT
Stuart Malec
(401) 486-6007

 

Bipartisan Bill Will Protect Adopted Children from Rehoming

Legislation closes loophole in federal law to allow state child welfare agencies to investigate suspected cases of unregulated custody transfers

WASHINGTON – Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Don Bacon (R-NE) today introduced legislation to combat unregulated custody transfers (UCT) of adopted children to strangers, a dangerous practice known as “rehoming”. The Safe Home Act would close a loophole in federal law by clearly establishing that UCT is child abuse.  

In 2013, Reuters shined a national spotlight on UCT with a series of investigative reports on parents and guardians seeking to abandon their adopted children by “advertising” them on online forums. These underground transfers occur without background checks, home studies, or any of the oversight that legal adoption mandates. By changing the definition of child abuse to explicitly include UCT, the Safe Home Act provides state child welfare agencies with clear authority to properly investigate these cases.

“Unregulated custody transfers jeopardize the well-being and safety of adopted children,” said Congressman Langevin. “Child protective services need clear guidance to ensure they can protect children subject to re-homing and to hold those who put them at risk accountable. The Safe Home Act will do just that by updating federal law to put an end to this disturbing practice.” 

“The Safe Home Act will provide needed protections for vulnerable children at risk and prevent the rehoming of adopted children,” said Congressman Bacon. “Our kids deserve safety, warmth, and stability and I look forward to working with Congressman Langevin to get this bill passed.”

“I am so grateful our federal partners are taking action on this critical issue,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a member of the National Working Group on Unregulated Custody Transfer. “Utah is proud to have passed the first state law criminalizing UCT, a growing threat to our children. We are honored the bill sponsors Rep. Langevin and Rep. Bacon build on this work to further protect vulnerable children, assist families who adopt and combat human trafficking nationwide.”

“In most states, there are few protections if a family decides to relinquish their adopted child,” said Maureen Flatley, a national child welfare expert who is participating in the upcoming Capitol Hill UCT briefing on Thursday. “With this powerful bill, Congressman Langevin is taking on the dangerous practice of unregulated custody transfer to ensure that children are protected in all fifty states. We owe adopted children vigilance and safety. This legislation ensures that there are clear definitions and that the states have concrete requirements when it comes to protecting kids.”  

The Safe Home Act adds UCT as a form of child abuse and neglect under the definitions found in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Specifically, the definition will allow temporary placement with a trusted relative but foreclose any permanent placement with a stranger. Beyond reducing ambiguity at child protective services agencies, the definitional change will allow states access to additional federal funds to counter the practice. The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to issue specific guidance related to UCT and to report to Congress on the prevalence of the practice. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office released a report, requested by Langevin, that looked into steps states and child welfare agencies had taken to prevent rehoming. The Safe Home Act draws upon that report and the findings of the National Working Group on UCT.

Langevin and Bacon will host a Capitol Hill briefing with experts and advocates tomorrow, February 28, to further explore policies to prevent UCT.

Unregulated Custody Transfers of Adopted Youth: Understanding and Preventing “Rehoming”
Thursday, February 28, 2019
11 AM – 12 PM  
122 Cannon House Office Building 
Washington, DC 20515

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Utah Signs Inter-Governmental Agreement to Support Navajo Families

February 5, 2019

Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes met with the leadership of the Navajo Nation, reported on the proceedings of the ICWA lawsuit, and signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (between DCFS & Navajo Nation) with Governor Gary R. Herbert.

The Agreement is the result of a two-year process working with the Navajo Nation on the principles of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). It states the intent to support the fundamentals of ICWA, to adhere to the tribal processes concerning families and children, and to ensure that when a Navajo child is unable to return home, they will be placed with a Navajo family.

Both the Agreement signed by Governor Herbert and Attorney General Reyes, and the actions of Attorney General Reyes in defending ICWA, exemplify Utah’s faith in our first nations and desire to preserve ancient languages and traditions.

Check out the coverage below:

Deseret News: Navajo Nation Lauds Utah for Pledge to Keep Native Families Intact

Utah Governor’s Office: Inter-Governmental Agreement Signed by Utah and the Navajo Nation

KSL: Navajo Nation Lauds Utah for Pledge to Keep Native Families Intact


Photos from the signing & meetings:

Archie Archuleta: A Powerful Advocate & Example

January 26, 2019

The Utah Attorney General’s Office mourns the passing of a great man and influential community leader in Robert “Archie” Archuleta who dedicated his life to furthering justice for all people and building stronger bonds of friendship throughout our communities.

Archuleta championed many roles in his lifetime and consistently worked to leave people and places better than when he’d found them. He was an influential member of the Utah Latino community, educator, mentor, advocate for civil liberties and peace, and fought with honor and respect for human rights for minorities. Above all else, his kindness and passion for the community around him inspired people to do the same.

On a personal basis, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes stated, “Archie was a friend and mentor to so many of us. He was a respected elder, a giant in our midst and someone whose advice I sought and valued. Archie was a fighter for the causes in which he believed but he was also a peacemaker. He had the heart of a lion and spirit of a warrior but always the demeanor of a gentleman. He will be deeply missed. May God bless Lois and his family in their time of mourning.”

A memorial service celebrating his extraordinary life will be held on Saturday, March 2nd. More details regarding time and place will follow.

His obituary can be read here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/saltlaketribune/obituary.aspx?n=robert-archie-archuleta&pid=191415945

Human Trafficking 101: How to Recognize / How to Report.

January 25, 2019

In a lunchtime discussion this week, professionals from varying backgrounds shared their knowledge and expertise on the human trafficking industry and what people can do to recognize the common signs and report them. (See our previous post for a quick list.)

Listen in here:

Among the panelists were an Assistant Attorney General from the SECURE Strike Force, a Supervisory Special Agent from the SECURE Strike Force, a Trafficking in Persons Director, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and a human trafficking survivor.

The panel focused on the basics – what is human trafficking, how to recognize it, and how to report it. The panelists shared their insights influenced by their medical, legal, law enforcement, and personal backgrounds. Each had a gripping understanding of the horrors of human trafficking and shared how an average person can help combat this industry.

The panelists urged the audience to have kindness, seek out training, support legislators as they make and pass laws to combat human trafficking, and to simply become aware of how prevalent human trafficking is – even in Utah.

Here’s the Facebook Live video – please share with friends, and help end this crime.

Utah AG Defends Law to Protect Native American Children

January 15, 2019

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 21 state attorneys general on Monday in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brakeen v. Zinke. 

ICWA is a 40-year-old federal law that furthers the best interests of Native American children and protects the sovereignty of Indian tribes by preserving children’s connections to their tribal heritage. It was first enacted in 1943 as a response to a history of culturally insensitive and ignorant removal of Indian children from their birth families.

ICWA’s purpose is to “protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards” to be utilized in child welfare proceedings involving Native American children.

Attorneys general in the states of California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin joined Attorney General Reyes in arguing that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s broad authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection principles.

The brief highlights ICWA’s important role in reducing disparities in child removal rates and improving the collaboration between states and tribes relating to their shared interest in improving the health and welfare of Native American children.

“The future of our Native American nations relies upon their youth learning and integrating the proud history, traditions and culture of their people within our broader society. ICWA accomplishes this while still providing needed protections to indigenous children,” said Attorney General Reyes. “I’m pleased to work in a bipartisan effort with sister states to defend this law. ICWA works in Utah. The State supports it and our First Nation friends support it. ICWA properly balances the safety and needs of children along with tribal and societal interests.”

Read the full press release here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/ag-protects-native-american-children/

Photo by Visit Mississippi

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