This week in wins: Jury acquits man arrested for giving water to migrants


From victories on protecting immigrants to the first step in legalizing marijuana on the federal level, progressives saw a slew of victories this week.

A jury determined this week that it's not a crime to help undocumented immigrants and a congressional committee took the first step towards decriminalizing marijuana. New Jersey is also looking to produce more wind energy and Capitol Hill participated in Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Read on to catch up on this week's wins.

Jury finds Scott Warren's humanitarian work is not a crime

On Wednesday, a federal jury in Tucson acquitted humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren on charges of harboring two migrants, NPR reported. Warren gave food, water, and shelter to two migrants who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documentation.   

"The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness," Warren said following the verdict.

Warren, motivated by his religious convictions, is part of the group Death No More, which believes it is wrong for people to die in the desert for lack of food and water.

"The verdict is a sharp and welcome rebuke to the administration's ongoing effort to criminalize compassion — and marks a major victory for all of the humanitarian workers willing to risk their own lives to save those of others," Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, a Unitarian Universalist pastor in Tucson, told NPR.

Death No More is affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist church in Tucson. 

Capitol Hill participates in the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance

Actress Angelica Ross was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to participate in the 20th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, Roll Call reported. Ross, who stars in "American Horror Story," spoke in memory of members of the transgender community who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence

"It's so inspiring to know that we're not going anywhere," Ross, a trans activist, said at a press conference. "You will remember the contributions that transgender people have given to this country."

Ross noted in a tweet that 22 members of the transgender community were killed in 2019 by anti-trans violence. A majority of those individuals were Black trans women. 

Ross was joined by several members of Congress at the Capitol Hill event, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chair of the House Democratic Caucus; Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus; and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), chair of the Equality Caucus Transgender Task Force.

House committee moves to legalize marijuana

The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to legalize marijuana by removing it from the controlled substances list, CNBC reported. The bill passed the committee by a 24-10 vote and now moves to the full House for consideration. 

"I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake," committee Chair Jerry Nadler said before the vote.

In addition to legalizing marijuana, the bill calls for reassessing past marijuana convictions.

"This is a matter of racial and economic justice," Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has a companion bill in the Senate, said about the action in the House. "That is why we must act to remove the burden of marijuana convictions and make sure these individuals have the support needed to move forward."

Gun safety group adopts a highway outside NRA headquarters

Giffords, a national gun safety group, plans to adopt a stretch of highway in Virginia that passes by the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, the Dogwood reported on Monday.  

"We often talk about the NRA being in the backyard of Virginia voters, and what better way demonstrates the mess they’ve made then to actually roll up our sleeves and go clean up the literal mess on the highway," Joanna Belanger, political director at Giffords, told the outlet.

In return for cleaning up the stretch of highway twice a year for three years, the Virginia Department of Transportation will put up a sign recognizing Giffords' efforts for all NRA employees to see. 

Gun safety was a major issue in the 2019 elections in Virginia, with pro-gun safety Democrats flipping enough seats to attain a majority in both legislative chambers. The election was a major defeat for the NRA, which invested heavily in Republican candidates.  

Colorado announces partnership to better report hate crimes

Colorado's attorney general is determined to ensure hate crimes are more accurately reported in the state. On Monday, Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a new partnership with several anti-hate groups to ensure more accurate reporting measures are put into place, Denverite reported.  

"It's becoming more socially acceptable in some environments to engage in hate, even hate crimes," Weiser said. "Part of what we have to do, all of us, is help develop those social norms (saying) 'this is unacceptable, we are all one together.'"

The new initiative, announced with representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, will ensure more anti-bias police training, improve the way hate crimes are reported, and provide resources to groups that are often the targets of hate crimes.  

New Jersey governor moves to produce more wind energy

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Tuesday to double the goal of renewable wind energy in the state by 2035, Renewable Energy Magazine reported. Joined by his wife Tammy and former Vice President Al Gore, Murphy signed the order increasing the goal of offshore wind energy to 7,500 megawatts in 15 years.

The executive order is part of a broader plan to ensure half of the state's energy comes from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050. 

The transition to a future of clean energy "is being led by states like New Jersey, and by leaders like my friend Governor Phil Murphy," Gore said at the signing.

Murphy is "unleashing the unprecedented economic and job creating opportunities of clean, wind energy," Gore added.

Check back next week for more good news.