Saturday, May 23, 2015

Goodlatte, Conyers, Sensenbrenner, Nadler on Senate Rejection of the USA FREEDOM Act


Washington, D.C. – Following the Senate vote rejecting the USA Freedom Act, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued the following joint statement:

“The Senate’s rejection of the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan bill that overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives, misses an opportunity to protect our civil liberties while also maintaining our national security. The USA Freedom Act is a carefully crafted compromise that has earned the support of the White House, the intelligence community, privacy and civil liberties advocates, private industry, Republicans and Democrats, and most importantly the American people.

“The USA Freedom Act, which the House passed 338-88, ends bulk collection of data, increases transparency, and prevents government overreach. The bill preserves key intelligence-gathering authorities while prohibiting bulk collection under Section 215, consistent with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. Section 215 would remain a valuable counterterrorism tool for the FBI and a targeted call detail records authority would replace the NSA’s current, unlawful program.

“Because the Senate has rejected the USA Freedom Act, Section 215—and the NSA’s bulk collection program that some in the Senate are trying to preserve—will now expire before the House reconvenes on the evening of June 1.  The Senate has failed to make the important reforms necessary, jeopardizing Americans’ civil liberties and our national security.”
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Rep. John Conyers Joins Over 70 House Democrats In Urging President Obama to Adopt Fair Chance Hiring


Washington, D.C. - Today, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) joined more than 70 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, in issuing a letter to President Obama to adopt a federal fair chance hiring policy.  This effort was co-led by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

“The federal government should not be in the business of erecting barriers between those who have made a mistake and are looking a job, said Congresswoman Lee.  By enacting these basic fair chance hiring reforms, the federal government will continue to lead as a model employer while working to end the cycle of mass incarceration, unemployment and recidivism.”

There are more than 70 million Americans with criminal records and communities of color are disproportionally affected.  One in three African American men will be arrested during their lifetime.

The letter calls on President Obama to take executive action requiring federal contractors and agencies to refrain from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record in the initial stage of hiring.  Employers would be able to inquire about convictions and conduct background checks before making an employment decision.

The letter reads: “We urge you to build on your administration’s commitment to adopting fair change hiring reforms by committing the federal government to do its part to eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment for people with criminal records.”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
 “Banning the box in federal hiring would help those who are fighting for a fair opportunity to show their qualifications for employment.  This is the right thing to do for individuals seeking to provide for themselves and their families, and it is the smart thing to do for our national economy which sorely needs the talents and contributions of all of our citizens,” said Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Specifically, the letter notes that seventeen states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 cities and counties have already adopted fair chance hiring reforms.  In six states, the policy also expands to the private sector.  Several private sector firms have also independently adopted fair chance hiring policies including: Walmart, Koch Industries, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target.

“The EEOC has ruled that discrimination based on prior convictions without an individualized assessment of the relevance to job performance constitutes illegal employment discrimination, said Rep. Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The Fair Chance practices, also known as ban the box, are consistent with that EEOC guidance.  Studies have consistently shown that properly tailoring employment restrictions will help to increase public safety, reduce recidivism, and save money.”

“The cruel, relentless logic of mass incarceration has now become apparent to all.  One in four Americans has a conviction history which often excludes them from the workforce and from housing creating new layers of crisis for our communities,” said Congressman Danny Davis (IL-07).  “Ban the box is a critical step for formerly incarcerated individuals to a dignified, productive civilian life and helping families and communities become self-sustaining once again.”

“Almost one in three adults in the United States has a criminal record that will show up on a routine criminal background check.  This creates a serious barrier to employment for millions of workers, especially in communities of color hardest hit by decades of over-criminalization, said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.  Nationwide, 100 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as ban the box so that employers consider a job candidate's qualifications first, without the stigma of a criminal record.  These initiatives provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question on the job application and delaying the background check inquiry until later in the hiring.  Fair chance policies benefit everyone because they are good for families and the local community.”

The effort was supported by various groups including Policy Link, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Employment Law Project (NELP), PICO Networks LIVE FREE Campaign, and All of Us or None, a national organizing initiative founded by formerly-incarcerated individuals to fight against discrimination and for the human rights of prisoners.

“It's rewarding to witness the work started in our backyard reach national levels, and continue to dismantle the barriers facing formerly incarcerated communities,” said co-founding member, Dorsey Nunn, of All Of Us Or None.  “This effort could not have come at a better time to reflect that All Black Lives Matter, including the lives of people with arrest and conviction histories.”
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Conyers, Goodlatte, Nadler, Sensenbrenner Press Senate to Pass USA FREEDOM Act



Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued the following statement urging the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act of 2015.

“The House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act last week by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 338-88.  If the Senate rejects the USA Freedom Act, Section 215—and likely the NSA program that some in the Senate are trying to preserve—will expire before we reconvene on the evening of June 1.

“The USA Freedom Act protects Americans’ civil liberties and enhances our national security. It ends bulk collection of data, increases transparency, and prevents government overreach.  The bill also preserves key intelligence-gathering authorities.  Section 215 will remain a valuable counterterrorism tool for the FBI and a targeted call detail records authority will replace the NSA’s current, unlawful program.

“If Section 215 is allowed to expire, these tools will simply disappear.  The Senate will have blocked reform at great cost to the intelligence community.  The USA Freedom Act is the only option that does not lead down that path.  We once again urge the Senate to take up and pass the USA Freedom Act without delay.”

Correcting the Record on Section 215

Myth:  Congress can act on June 1st to reauthorize or amend Section 215.

Fact:   Three provisions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, are set to expire at midnight on May 31, before the House is back in session. According to the Congressional Research Service, ‘absent any reauthorization, beginning at 12:00 AM in the morning of June 1, 2015, §§ 501 and 502 of FISA would read as they read on October 25, 2001.’  Moreover, the current FISA court order authorizing the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata program expires on June 1 at 5:00 p.m.

Myth:  The USA Freedom Act reverts our intelligence-gathering programs to a pre-9/11 posture.

Fact:   The USA Freedom Act enacts sweeping reforms to surveillance programs – ending bulk collection, creating a panel of experts at the FISA court, and mandating transparency – but the bill also preserves key authorities.  Section 215 will remain a valuable counterterrorism tool for the FBI.  A targeted, narrowly-tailored call detail records authority will replace the NSA’s current, unlawful program. Additionally, the USA Freedom Act enhances national security by providing targeted tools to keep America safe.

Myth:  A brief sunset of Section 215 and other authorities under the Patriot Act is a mere technicality. 

Fact:   If the Senate chooses to allow these authorities to expire, they should do so knowing that sunset may be permanent. The USA Freedom Act has earned the support of the White House, the intelligence community, privacy and civil liberties advocates, and private industry.  Nearly every member of the House of Representatives demands reform to these authorities.  No such coalition exists for a clean reenactment of Section 215. 
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement

WASHINGTON - Today, during a full House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Policing Strategies for the 21stCentury,” Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) delivered the following opening statement:
Law enforcement accountability is an issue that is very topical given current events, but also one that has long been a concern of mine and many other Members.

“As a Member of Congress, I have stood on the streets of Detroit with a bullhorn and appealed for calm while my city burned around me in 1967.  On too many occasions, I have met with the grieving relatives of those who have lost their lives at the hands of the police. 

“I have also met with the families of police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.  Some of these officers were killed by violent criminals, while other officers were inadvertently killed by their colleagues who could only see the color of their skin.

“I have co-chaired town hall meetings with my colleagues across the Nation in response to policing incidents in Chicago, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles.  At these meetings, we tried to help the residents of these cities make sense of how to respond to their collective sense of loss and to understand the role of the federal government in protecting their civil rights.

“I have proposed numerous bills to both help protect the safety of police officers and to provide a system of accountability for law enforcement. 


 “For example, I worked with Attorney General John Ashcroft, at the invitation of President Bush, to craft federal legislation intended to end use of racial profiling in police practices, which is currently pending as H.R. 1933.  And, next month, I plan to introduce comprehensive legislation dealing with accreditation, data collection and policing practices.  

“Fortunately, our Committee has generally approached the issue of policing with a strong bipartisanship spirit.  We have enjoyed success in passing reform legislation, notably the passage of the Pattern and Practice enforcement statute in 1994, which was codified as section 14141 of title 42 of the United States Code.  And, we twice passed the Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act under the leadership of Chairman Henry Hyde. 

“By scheduling today’s hearing, Chairman Goodlatte continues this legacy and should be commended for his willingness to face a difficult issue that has divided communities around the United States.

“Any discussion of law enforcement accountability must be premised on recognition of the dangerous and difficult job that all police officers perform. 

 “The vast majority of police officers perform their jobs professionally and without bias. 

“But like any profession, there are those who make it difficult for the rest to serve their communities.

“At the outset, I must agree with Professor Orlando Patterson when he says that the complex and confounding questions raised by Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities go well beyond the issues of racism and violent police behavior. 

“What occurred in those cities clearly resulted from a vicious tangle of concentrated poverty and culturally disenfranchised  youth as well as a countervailing culture of law enforcement disconnected from their communities that is lacking appropriate standards and oversight.
               
“Yesterday, President Obama was in Camden, New Jersey to highlight his Administration’s initiatives to address the challenges of policing in our inner cities. 

 “While I support the President’s efforts and look forward to working with him to implement his programs, there is no substitute for concrete performance standards for state and local law enforcement agencies that receive billions of dollars every year in federal funding. 

“For reform-focused police executives, many of the current administrative programs are icing on the cake and probably will not reach chronically underperforming or troubled departments.

“The entire purpose of Section 14141 was to add teeth to federal enforcement that was absent in the grant-making process.  Although, pattern and practice enforcement has been effective in the cases of individual departments, it is far too resource-heavy to reach across more than 17,000 police departments. 

“There must be another way and I hope that today we can talk about the combination of federal, state and local measures that are essential to support necessary changes in policing culture.

“The national outcry that arose after Michael Brown’s death is nothing new to those who are students of policing practices. 

“From the Sean Bell, Abner Louima, and Amadou Diallo incidents in New York to the Eddie Macklin shooting in Miami to the Timothy Thomas Over-the-Rhine shooting in Cincinnati and the Donovan Jackson beating in Inglewood, the response is always the same: national outcry followed by well-intentioned programs that never quite get to the heart of the matter. 

“Out of respect for all who have lost their lives over the last nine months – both law enforcement and civilian – I hope we can dedicate ourselves to engaging the difficult issues to make lasting change in our communities.”House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

CONYERS AND GOODLATE ANNOUNCE HEARING ON POLICING STRATEGIES


Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Policing Strategies for the 21st Century.”  This hearing will examine police accountability, aggression towards law enforcement, public safety concerns related to these issues, and solutions to address these problems. 

Witnesses for Tuesday’s hearing are:

·         Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
·         Mr. W. Craig Hartley, Jr., Executive Director, Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies
·         Ms. Susan Lee Rahr, Executive Director, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and Member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
·         Mr. Matthew Barge, Deputy Director, Police Assessment Resource Center

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) issued the following statements on the upcoming hearing. 

“The hearing on ‘Policing Strategies for the 21st Century’ includes witnesses with a wide range of experience in the development and oversight of law enforcement practices from across the country.  Through their participation, this hearing will shed light on some of the current situations which have created great mistrust between some communities and their law enforcement and help us work together to find solutions to these challenges.”

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

FLOOR STATEMENT: HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER JOHN CONYERS, JR. URGES NO VOTE ON H.R. 36, the PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION ACT

 WASHINGTON – Today, during debate on the House Floor of H.R. 36, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. urged his colleagues to vote in opposition to the measure.  Rep. Conyers delivered the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:


“Mr. Speaker, this legislation is a dangerous and far reaching attack on a woman's constitutional right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy - a right that the Supreme Court guaranteed 42 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

“One of the most significant problems with this legislation is that it fails to include any exception for a woman’s health.  Many serious health conditions materialize or worsen late in pregnancy, including damage to the heart and kidneys, hypertension, and even some forms of hormone-induced cancer.

“Yet, by failing to include a health exception, H.R. 36 would force a woman to wait until her condition was nearly terminal before she could obtain an abortion to address her health condition. 

“In addition, H.R. 36 is unconstitutional based on longstanding Supreme Court precedent.  Roe v. Wade's basic holding is that a woman has a constitutional right to have an abortion prior to the fetus's viability.  Viability is generally considered to be around 24 weeks from fertilization.  By banning pre-viability abortions, H.R. 36 is a direct challenge to Roe. 

“In addition, Roe made clear that any regulation of abortion - even after viability - must not pose a substantial risk to the woman’s health.  But as I have already noted H.R. 36 lacks any exception to protect a pregnant woman's health.

“It is therefore not surprising that the nation's leading civil rights organizations, medical professionals, and women’s groups oppose this bill.  In addition, 15 religious organizations noted in a letter to Members opposing nearly identical legislation last Congress that, ‘the decision to end a pregnancy is best left to a woman in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her faith.’

“Finally, I want to be clear that contrary to assertions made by the bill’s proponents, this legislation still contains a woefully inadequate exception for victims of rape.  The so-called rape exception is still based on a complete lack of understanding of the very real challenges rape survivors face and why a rape may go unreported. 

“It is also grounded in the distrust of women - assuming that women cannot be trusted to tell the truth or to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families.

“For adult rape survivors, the bill no longer requires that the rape be reported to law enforcement.  However, a woman must still obtain counseling 48 hours prior to the abortion and the fact that she has obtained counseling for a rape must be certified and documented in her medical file. 

“And, this counseling cannot be obtained in the same facility where the abortion is provided.

“For minor victims of rape or incest, an exception from the bill’s onerous and unconstitutional restrictions only applies if the rape has been reported to law enforcement or ‘a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse.’

“So rape is not rape unless the minor has reported it - even if that means putting her own safety at risk.

“For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to oppose this dangerous legislation and I reserve the balance of my time.”
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FLOOR STATEMENT: HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER JOHN CONYERS, JR. URGES YES VOTE ON H.R. 2048, the USA FREEDOM ACT

WASHINGTON – Today, during debate on the House Floor of H.R. 2048, the “USA FREEDOM Act,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. urged his colleagues to vote in support of measure.  Rep. Conyers delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery:


“Mr. Speaker, with the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act today, the House will have done its part to enact historic and sweeping reforms to the government’s surveillance powers.  This legislation ends bulk collection, creates a panel of experts to guide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and mandates extensive government reporting.
           
“Today, we have a rare opportunity to restore a measure of restraint to surveillance programs that have simply gone too far.  For years, the government has read Section 215 of the Patriot Act to mean that it may collect all domestic telephone records, merely because some of them may be relevant at some time in the future.

“Last week, endorsing a view that I and many of my colleagues have held for years, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that ‘the text of Section 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign it, and . . . it does not authorizethe telephone metadata program.’

“Now, with Section 215 set to expire on June 1st, we have the opportunity—and the obligation—to act clearly and decisively and end a program that has infringed on our rights for far too long.

“A vote in favor of the USA Freedom Act is an explicit rejection of the government’s unlawful interpretation of Section 215 and similar statutes.  Put another way: a vote in favor of this bill is a vote to end dragnet surveillance in the United States.
           
“The ban on bulk collection contained in this legislation turns on the idea of a ‘specific selection term’ and requires the government to limit the scope of production as narrowly as possible.  This definition is much improved from the version of this bill that passed the House last Congress.

“The bill further requires the government to declassify and publish all novel and significant opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  It also creates a panel of experts to advise the court on the protection of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other legal and technical matters.

“These changes—along with robust reporting requirements for the government and flexible reporting options for private companies—create a new and inescapable level of transparency.  The government may one day again attempt to expand its surveillance powers by clever legal argument, but it will no longer be allowed to do so in secret.

“Mr. Speaker, there are members of the House and Senate who oppose this bill because it does not include every reform to surveillance law we can imagine.  And there are others who oppose it because it includes any changes to existing surveillance programs.  But this bill represents a reasonable consensus and it will accomplish the most sweeping set of reforms to government surveillance in nearly 40 years.
“H.R. 2048 has earned the support of privacy advocates, private industry, the White House, and the intelligence community.  It ends dragnet surveillance, and does so without diminishing our ability to protect this country. 

“I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte, Mr. Sensenbrenner, and Mr. Nadler for working with me to bring a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act to the floor.  I also want to thank Chairman Nunes and Ranking Member Schiff for helping us to reach this point.

“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 2048, and I reserve the balance of my time.”


The House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved the  USA Freedom Act by a vote of 25-2 on April 30, 2015.

Click on any of the links below to learn more about what how the USA FREEDOM Act would protect Americans’ civil liberties, while strengthening our national security.
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