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In the category of 2007 Worst in Civil Liberties in the San Diego area, the nominees are as follows. (Again, national bests and worsts. Rest assured that President Bush is up for a Lifetime Achievement Award for damage to our constitutional freedoms).

Educational Inequality: As the most recent evidence of the achievement gap confirms, we have yet to meaningfully tackle the unequal access to educational opportunities in our community. This is a challenge — indeed, an abuse — that we ignore at our own peril. There are many parts of the solution: the ACLU’s victory in Williams v. California gives every public school student the right to adequate textbooks, facilities, and teachers; curriculum equality through equal access to A-G courses needs more attention; and our school systems need to do a better job of learning from great models out there, like BLCI, High Tech High and PIQE, to name a few.

McGonigle Canyon: Emblematic of a documented spike in hate crimes against Latinos, the destruction of the property of homeless migrant workers in McGonigle Canyon ranks among the worst local offenses of 2007. The crime remains unsolved, and the rhetoric gets more and more dehumanizing. The Minutemen’s burning an effigy of a Catholic priest is part of the same shameful discourse.

Poor People’s Privacy: The travesty was obvious to Stephen Colbert and the New York Times, but not this Supreme Court: Poor people should not lose their Fourth Amendment right to privacy in their homes just because they seek public benefits. San Diego County’s Project 100 percent requires those seeking public benefits to submit to unannounced searches of their homes by licensed law enforcement officers who rummage in drawers and check toothbrushes to see if the applicants have misstated the number of people in their home. We lost in court, but you could tell Bonnie Dumanis to end the program.

Police Secrecy: Sen. Gloria Romero tried to restore some public access to information about police officers who are disciplined for misconduct following a bad California Supreme Court Decision. But, her bill, SB1019, was met with a brazen threat from the police officer lobby who promised to go after the speaker’s term limits reform and “Ensure that it be understood that this will only be the beginning.” Legislators have a chance to rebuff their lacking profiles in courage this year.

Harassment and Abuse of Vulnerable Groups During the Wildfires: Mixed in with all the good we heard about, there is the untold story of how vulnerable groups — immigrants, the poor, the imprisoned, and others — were mistreated during the response to the awful wildfires of October: the unlawful detention by San Diego Police and deportation of a family at Qualcomm; kicking people out of Qualcomm based on misguided identity checks; the harassment of Latino evacuees by Sheriff’s deputies at the Del Mar Fairgrounds; and dubious restrictions on freedom of the press, which made it harder to cover these abuses. Ahead of the next fire or disaster, the ACLU, Immigrant Rights Consortium, and Justice Overcoming Boundaries are using our documentation of what went wrong to build on what went right.


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