Saturday, September 24, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member for the Hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Before the Committee on the Judiciary

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I want to begin my remarks by thanking Director Sarah Saldaña for her service and appearing before our Committee today.  As head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Director Saldaña has one of the toughest jobs in government.  With limited resources, she must ensure that our immigration statutes are enforced as well as ensure that this is done in fair, just, and balanced way. 

For that reason,  the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement priorities recognize that millions of unauthorized immigrants have been living and working in the United States for 5 or 10 years or longer. 

These men and women are parents of U.S. citizen children; pray at our churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship; and make significant contributions to our economy.  Their removal is not and should not be an enforcement priority.
We are here today to, first, examine how our immigration laws are enforced and how this enforcement affects our communities.  As we conduct this examination, however, we must keep in mind that many of the challenges faced by ICE and immigrant communities are a result of Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Yet, we are now in the waning days of the current Congress, which will soon adjourn without having addressed this failure even though every day families continue to be separated and hard-working members of our society are forced to live in the shadows. 
Despite all of these challenges, the Majority continues to focus exclusively on immigration enforcement that would criminalize entire communities.  The Republican presidential nominee advocates policies, based on the abhorrent 1950s program, “Operation Wetback.”  If enacted and carried out, the ensuing chaos would be a tragedy rivaling the darkest episodes in America’s history. 

Comprehensive immigration reform is the only real option to repair our broken immigration system.

Another issue we should consider at this hearing is the fact that there is a significant increase in the time non-criminal asylum seekers are being detained. 
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees states that the detention of an asylum seeker is an exceptional circumstance and should only be used for a limited period of time.  I agree. 
And, I encourage ICE to use its parole authority to release asylum seekers who have passed credible fear screenings, or in the alternative to consider non-custodial forms of alternatives to detention.
I am pleased to see that the Department of Homeland Security will be conducting a review of private prison policies.  I have long been deeply concerned about the use of private prison companies, particularly in light of reports of serious medical neglect, physical abuse, preventable deaths and other forms of mistreatment.  The Department of Justice recently decided to end its relationship with private prison companies, in part, because of abusive treatment of inmates.   I encourage ICE to follow suit and end its reliance on private prisons.
Finally, just yesterday DHS announced a change in policy for Haitian nationals arriving at our ports of entry.  I know this is a complex area of the law with no easy answers.  But, deporting Haitians back to a country still reeling from the devastating earthquake and a cholera epidemic caused by the U.N. is concerning and warrants close oversight.

I thank the Chairman and yield back the balance of my time.

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CONYERS Joins CBC for Press Conference At DOJ Joins Regarding Killins Of Regarding Killings Of Black Men The Hands Of Law Enforcement

Washington, DC – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) delivered remarks today at a press conference with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) regarding the deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of law enforcement.  Congressman Conyers also joined members of the CBC in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing deep concerns. 

Below are Congressman Conyers’ remarks as prepared for delivery

The time is long past for our nation to confront the pathology of its gun culture.  In our court rooms, in our streets and on our televisions, we confront a never ending body count.  This summer, we staged a sit-in to get a vote on common sense gun legislation.  We have yet to get that vote.  Make no mistake, our policy decisions have deadly consequences.

Last week brought us news of the tragic killing of 13 year-old Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio.  This young man lost his life in fashion strangely similar to that of 12 year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.  This week it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.  That’s more than 160 African-American men who have lost their lives in police shootings. 

For many in our communities, the deaths of these children, young men, and fathers represent a continuing and dangerous cycle of disproportionate use of force against men of color.  Video of apparently unarmed men being killed by those sworn to serve and protect has provoked the outrage seen in Charlotte and Milwaukee and inspires protest in other cities across the nation. 

When you add to this volatile mix the attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the nation risks being forced into a battle of whose lives matter most.  The simple fact is that we must all stand against lawlessness.  We must find concrete solutions to stop this pattern. We need to ease racial tension in America by rebuilding our communities in a balanced way where everyone receives equal protection, job opportunities, and a fair shot at the American Dream.

The sad truth about these kinds of incidents is that their root causes are tied together with societal racism that brand black citizens as predators and police practices that treat them as potential perpetrators, breeding distrust between law-enforcement  and the communities that they are bound to protect. 
Responding to this destructive cycle requires a broad-based approach.  As we stand at the doors of the Department of Justice, I must commend Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her team from the Civil Rights Division for being on the job, where we need them.  Using its Pattern & Practice enforcement authority under 42 U.S.C. 14141, the Department has investigated and sued police departments to address dangerous and discriminatory practices that result in excessive force or racial profiling.

This statute has been used successfully across the nation – like Ferguson and Baltimore -- to reduce the number of police-involved shootings in targeted cities, and is illustrative of the positive effect of legislative reform efforts.
Last year, in the midst of a record wave of officer-involved killings, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 21st Century Policing Strategies to begin addressing the issue of law enforcement accountability at the Federal level.  Since that time, we have also formed a bipartisan Working Group to develop a plan to get police reform legislation through Congress.  That group will meet for the third time this afternoon. 
As the death toll continues to climb – now standing at more than 518 by some accounts – we must legislate in accordance with evidence-based practices.  The recent tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are a lesson in why it is critical to pass federal legislation.  Both fatalities could have been avoided with better training of those officers, particularly in detentions and use of force, as addressed by accreditation standards and best practice provisions currently in negotiation before the Judiciary Committee.
We must continue the discussion on criminal justice reform and develop legitimate plans to make local law enforcement agencies more accountable to their communities. As the repetition of incidents spreads across our cities, it’s clear that there is no easy fix to the problem of deadly force directed against African-American men.  Until we develop a concrete plan to address the root causes, we can only wait to see tragic events repeated across other communities.

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Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “Treating the Opioid Epidemic: The State of Competition in the Markets for Addiction Medicine” Before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jt.
Sudden and sharp increases in the cost of life-saving prescription medications have caused much public outcry, most recently regarding the substantial spike in the price of EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. 

Although today’s hearing focuses on competition in the markets for a particular set of life-saving drugs -- namely, those that treat opioid addiction -- I hope that there are some broader lessons that we can draw from our discussion today. 

To that end, I would like our witnesses to address the following issues. 

To begin with, the witnesses should discuss the real-life consequences of the opioid addiction epidemic and the impact of rising prices for medications that treat opioid addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 resulting from opioid overdoses.   In fact, 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths that year resulted from opioid overdoses.

Medications like Naloxone revive an opioid overdose victim in the critical moments after he or she has stopped breathing as a result of an overdose.

Yet the price of this drug, in both its generic and branded forms, has skyrocketed in recent years, according to public health and police officials. 

Prices for the drug have increased by 50% or more, according to some reports.  As a result, the ability of emergency responders and individuals to purchase this critical life-saving medication is being jeopardizes.

Other generic and branded medicines that are designed to gradually wean addicts from their opioid use have also seen similar price increases.

As the statistics demonstrate, addressing the consequences of these price increases is no mere academic matter.  It is beyond dispute that such price increases have had a devastating impact on patients, their families, insurers, first responders, and health care providers.

In addition, I would like the witnesses to consider whether current law strikes a proper balance between incentivizing investment in new pharmaceutical products and ensuring vigorous competition.

Under both our patent and regulatory systems, manufacturers of brand-name drugs are entitled to temporary exclusivity periods for their products during which other firms are prevented from offering competing products.

These exclusivity periods are designed to provide an economic incentive for manufacturers to invest in developing new products, but the result is that prices for brand-name drugs remain high.

After the exclusivity periods end, competition in the form of the introduction of generic versions of the brand-name drug, is supposed to lead to decreases in drug prices.

Indeed, the availability of generics is the primary means of ensuring competition and lower prices in pharmaceutical markets.

Nevertheless, there is a concern that some brand-name manufacturers have manipulated the current patent and regulatory regimes to extend what are supposed to be their time-limited monopolies.

We should explore whether there should be a better balance.

Finally, the witnesses should address the factors responsible for the skyrocketing cost of generic opioid addiction drugs and the actions that Congress should take in response.

Prices for almost all opioid addiction medicines have risen, not just those for brand-name products.

This situation undermines the competition-based rationale for encouraging generics to enter the market in the first place.

We in Congress need to focus on constructive ways to respond to this problem.

So, I accordingly look forward to hearing any thoughtful suggestions from our witnesses today and I thank them for their participation.

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CONYERS & GOODLATTE Urge Americans to Work Together Following Shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), leaders of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, today issued the following joint statement on the police-involved shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina and subsequent protests:

“The heartbreaking images from Tulsa and Charlotte remind us once again that our nation has much work to do on the issues of the use of force by police and the relationship between law enforcement and the community. There must be an end to these senseless acts of violence. While authorities investigate the two police-involved shootings, we call for peace and urge every American to work together to address the issues fueling tensions within their communities. 

“As leaders of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, we will continue to work towards solutions at the federal level on this matter of national importance.”

Background: In July 2016, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers (D-Mich.) announced a bipartisan working group to examine the use of excessive force by police, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues. Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers are leading the working group.  Members of the working group are: Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).

In July, the working group held a meeting with a pastor of an African American church and a scholar who specializes in police and community relations. In August, the working group traveled to Detroit, Michigan to meet with local community leaders and law enforcement. Yesterday, the Policing Strategies Working Group held a private roundtable with law enforcement.

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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Demand Assistance for Flint Recovery in GOP Funding Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) issued the following response to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) regarding the Republican spending bill:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Flint’s citizens have suffered unacceptable damage and continue to suffer because Republicans are more interested in providing lip service than they are resources,” said Congressman Conyers. “Water is a basic human right and it’s shameful that many Flint residents are stuck with using water bottles to bathe, cook, drink and care for themselves and their families; some not having access to any clean water at all because they are homebound or cannot afford transportation. With funding for Flint omitted from the continuing resolution, it’s clear: minority and low-income communities are not even the slightest priority for our Republican-led Congress. We must ensure Flint’s water is made fully safe, its children and families made whole, and justice is served to those who stripped Flint’s citizens of the right to protect themselves.”

“The Congressional Black Caucus was early to call for immediate funding to assist in the recovery of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and we are deeply concerned that such assistance is not included in the Republican’s bill to fund the government,” said CBC Chairman Butterfield. “Clean drinking water is a basic human right. Yet, since April 2014, tens of thousands of American children and families in Flint have been drinking and bathing in poisonous water –thousands of families have been harmed—and it is simply outrageous to think that Republicans have moved in a direction to not find a remedy for those who are most affected. Members of the CBC have been outspoken regarding Flint, we have traveled to the city where we met with families to hear their concerns, and we stand united in this effort to call upon our Republican colleagues to help these families recover. Flint still lacks safe water, and as elected officials, we all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our constituents.”

“The people of Flint, Michigan have suffered enough,” said Congresswoman Lawrence. “A continuing resolution (CR) that fails to address the man-made crisis in Flint demonstrates our lack of commitment to helping the 100,000 citizens that have been poisoned by lead in their drinking water supply. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing and include funding for the residents of Flint.”

Today, the CBC delivered this letter to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell further addressing concerns for the lack of funding for the City of Flint.
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Friday, September 23, 2016

A Dangerous Rush to Impeach John Koskinen

First, the House must prove that the IRS commissioner acted in deliberate bad faith.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I have served on the House Judiciary Committee long enough now to see impeachment done right and to see impeachment done wrong. I have participated in six of the 19 impeachments approved by the House since its inception. I voted in favor of five of them. In the early 1970s I helped to draft articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. I joined with 20 Democrats and six Republicans to send three of those articles to the House floor.

But I have never seen anything quite like the obsession of a few House members determined to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—without much evidence to back their claims, without an independent investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, and without even basic due process for the accused.

To be successful, the impeachment process must transcend party lines. Part of this is by design. Article I of the Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to convict on each article of impeachment—a threshold that has always required some degree of consensus.
Consensus matters in the House as well. We have built decades of precedent around the notion of formal, rigorous due process in impeachment proceedings. According to House rules, impeachment does not begin until the House approves a resolution that authorizes the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether impeachment is warranted.

The Judiciary Committee must carefully and independently review the evidence—even if it has already been analyzed by our colleagues on other committees. And we can only address allegations that are supported by the record and proven, not inferred.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) summarized the importance of this practice in 2010, when the committee’s Task Force on Judicial Impeachment unanimously recommended four articles of impeachment against a federal judge. Mr. Goodlatte said: “This recommendation was the culmination of an exhaustive investigation by the task force, which included reviewing the records of past proceedings, rooting out new evidence that was never considered in previous investigations, conducting numerous interviews and depositions with firsthand witnesses, and conducting hearings to take the testimony of firsthand witnesses and federal scholars.”

This process is hard work. It takes time. But it is designed to separate truly substantive charges from merely expedient ones. And when the House Judiciary Committee follows its own precedent, we generally arrive at the right conclusion. In almost every modern case, a bipartisan consensus on impeachment in the House leads to a swift and successful impeachment in the Senate.

In the past few days, the actions of a small group of conservative House members threaten to break from this precedent and to lead us down a dangerous path. Earlier this year, they delivered an ultimatum to Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.): Hold impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, or face a vote on this matter on the House floor. Speaker Ryan and Chairman Goodlatte opted for the hearings.

In May and June, the Committee held Parts I and II of a hearing to “Examine the Allegations of Misconduct against Commissioner John Koskinen.” As the carefully worded title would suggest, these were not formal impeachment hearings.

Last week this group struck again and attempted to force a vote on impeachment on the House floor. In the 11th hour, when it appeared they would fall short of the necessary votes, they withdrew the measure—and a third hearing was held Wednesday. This hearing was titled “Impeachment Articles Referred on John Koskinen, Part III.” Despite the name change, this hearing also was not an actual impeachment hearing. It was one more exploratory hearing in the series, with none of the hallmarks of real impeachment.

On the merits, Mr. Koskinen’s critics have simply failed to make their case. They have been unable to produce evidence that the commissioner acted in bad faith at any point in his tenure. The Senate Finance Committee, the Justice Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have all concluded that there is “no evidence” of intentional misconduct of any kind.
But even if there were some evidence of Mr. Koskinen’s wrongdoing, the push to impeach him without due process in the House Judiciary Committee is dangerously misguided. Never, in the history of this body, have we impeached a government official without first proving he has acted in deliberate bad faith.

Never, in modern practice, have we declined to provide the accused with the most basic due process: the right to counsel, the right to present evidence, and the right to question the evidence against him.
In this case, Mr. Koskinen has actually been denied access to the transcripts of interviews conducted by the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform—interviews that we are told were key in forming the charges against him.

If the commissioner’s critics have their way, I fear we will have a new rule going forward: The House may impeach any government official, for any reason, without supplying evidence of deliberate wrongdoing, without an independent investigation, and without regard to basic fairness toward the accused.
Forcing a vote on impeachment in this manner will certainly not result in the removal of Commissioner Koskinen. Even if his critics succeed in the House, Senators of both parties have already stated their intent to bury the matter. So for all their efforts they will have profited nothing. And in the process they will have turned impeachment from a constitutional check of last resort into a tool of political convenience.

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Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for Hearing on “The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act” Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to make what is perhaps the most profoundly personal of healthcare decisions –when to start a family – free from undue government interference.

Unfortunately, since 1976, Congress has sought to undermine this important constitutional right by attaching the so-called “Hyde Amendment” to annual appropriations measures funding the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Hyde Amendment – named for its original sponsor, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde – prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for an abortion except to protect the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.

There are many reasons why this restriction should be rescinded. 

To begin with, the Hyde Amendment is a blatant example of politicians inappropriately interfering in women’s health care decisions.

For more than 40 years, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land.  Yet, it is clear that the Hyde Amendment’s purpose is to undermine the Roe’s constitutional guarantee of a right to choose to terminate a pregnancy by limiting low-income women’s access to safe, legal medical care.  
Politicians, most of whom are not doctors, have no business interfering in a woman’s constitutionally protected private healthcare decisions in order to impose their own moral views about women’s rights and healthcare. 

In addition, the Hyde Amendment has a disproportionately detrimental impact on the health of low-income women and the wellbeing of their families.

According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, many low-income women lacking medical coverage are forced to delay paying utility bills, rent, or grocery bills for themselves or their children; to seek out financial assistance from relatives or friends; or to sell personal belongings in order to pay for an abortion.
Moreover, women who cannot afford an abortion procedure may, in desperation, resort to self-inducing an abortion or turn to unsafe, untrained, or unlicensed practitioners – heightening the risk of injury or death from what is supposed to be a safe, legal medical procedure. 
Finally, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects women of color

Medicaid provides medical coverage to 20% of women of reproductive age. 

But, as a result of social and economic inequality tied to the persistence of racism in our society, 30% of African American women and 24% of Hispanic women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to just 14% of white women of reproductive age.
Clearly, the consequences of the Hyde Amendment disproportionately fall on women of color.

While 15 states permit the use of their own funds to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid enrollees, 60% of women of reproductive age enrolled in Medicare live in states that only cover abortion in limited circumstances.

Rather than undermine the constitutional rights of low-income women and women of color, Congress should look to these states as an example and act to ensure that women -- regardless of their financial situation -- have access to quality, comprehensive reproductive health services.    

I thank the witnesses for participating in this hearing and I look forward to hearing their testimony. 

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