(DETROIT) – Today, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that $50,000 in grant funding has been awarded to The Detroit Symphony Music Hall’s Tchaikovsky Festival for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s “Live from Orchestra Hall” webcast series. Additionally, the NEA awarded $40,000 to InsideOut Literary Arts Project, Inc.’s VOICES Amplified program. After the announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
"I am pleased to announce that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded $50,000 in grant funding to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. For over 125 years, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has brought outstanding music and cultural enrichment to the people of Michigan. This grant will enable the Symphony to impact individuals and communities on a global scale through a series of free webcasts broadcast live to more than 75 countries,” said Conyers.
“In addition, a $40,000 grant awarded to the InsideOut Literary Arts Project’s VOICES Amplified program will allow Detroit’s youth to pursue literacy at a higher level by assisting InsideOut in supplying professional writers to teach in Detroit classrooms. The future of Michigan, and the nation, is held in the hands of our youth. It is our duty to ensure they have the opportunity to succeed in creative endeavors. I applaud NEA for recognizing this valuable organization.
“In a time when arts funding is too often relegated to the backburner, it is encouraging to see national investments in Detroit’s artistic programs. I am grateful to the NEA for their commitment to the arts in Michigan and across the country.”
(WASHINGTON) – One year ago today, eight members of the U.S. Senate - Senators Schumer, Durbin, McCain, Rubio, Bennet, Menendez, Flake and Graham - introduced S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” This comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system would bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, strengthen American businesses, families, and communities, and spur much-needed economic growth. While the U.S. Senate passed S. 744 on a bipartisan vote of 68-32, the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to take any action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation. To mark the anniversary of the legislative introduction, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the Ranking Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, released the following statement:
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich): “Exactly one year ago, eight Senators - four Republicans and four Democrats - came together and introduced legislation to reform our country’s immigration laws. This bipartisan spirit was animated by a singular reality: our immigration system is fundamentally broken and must be reformed in order to benefit American families, communities, and businesses. Yet, while the Senate worked in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion at every step of the legislative process - ultimately passing comprehensive immigration reform with the support of a supermajority of Senators - the path pursued by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been unashamedly partisan. Congressional support exists to bring millions of individuals out of the shadows, reunite immigrant families, and boost the economy; all that is lacking is a sense of political courage. In marking the one year anniversary of the Senate’s legislative work, we are acknowledging a year of missed opportunities and inaction by House Republicans. To hold reform up any longer would be more than pure negligence, it would be an act of callousness.”
Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.): "One year ago a bipartisan group of Senators stepped forward to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform proposal. While not perfect, they had found common ground and their bill attracted broad support in the U.S. Senate. Americans hoped it would start a process in Congress of examining, debating and giving immigration reform a fair vote to finally fix our broken immigration system. That's because top-to-bottom immigration reform would grow our economy and create jobs, reduce the debt, make our country safer, energize innovation and competitiveness, and tame illegal immigration. Even today a majority of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform, which isn't surprising because reform is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum. That support is one of the reasons why a movement has started to give immigration reform a fair up or down vote in the House. But the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on immigration reform, and as they continue to run out the clock, the window of opportunity to pass reform narrows."
(DETROIT) – Today, on Tax Day, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) called on Congress to restore fairness to the nation’s tax code by reducing rates for working Americans, ensuring that the nation’s wealthiest pay their fair share, and eliminating incentives for corporations to move jobs overseas. On the filing deadline, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
“For too long, our tax code has disproportionately benefited the wealthiest one-percent of Americans, while doing too little to promote job-creation. On this Tax Day, I urge my colleagues in Congress to close tax loopholes, end special interest tax breaks, and reform the tax code to support the creation and retention of high-wage jobs in the United States," said Conyers.
“Instead of promoting a fairer and simpler tax code, the Republicans’ Ryan budget threatens to increase taxes on working families with children by more than $2,000 per year in order to pay for additional tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and for large corporations. As a matter of social and economic fairness, this is simply unacceptable.
“I am proud to support the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget, which would create needed revenue for jobs programs by taxing income from investments the same as taxes from wages, while ending deductions for yachts, corporate jets, and business entertainment expenses. I am also proud of President Obama’s legacy in cutting taxes for working people and small businesses while allowing the fiscally-irresponsible Bush tax cuts to expire. By closing loopholes to ensure that corporations pay their fair share and stop shipping jobs overseas, we can responsibly invest in modernizing our infrastructure, ensuring that every child has access to high-quality pre-school, and strengthening our nation’s safety net. A fair tax code can help America get back to full employment.”
(WASHINGTON) – Today, four House Committee and Subcommittee Ranking Members sent a letter to John S. Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), questioning the expanded use of Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) through the Targeted Conversation program, which is part of TSA’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. Under the expanded program, passengers who refuse to answer intrusive questions posed by BDOs at airport security checkpoints will undergo secondary screening. The Ranking Members are concerned that TSA is expanding behavior detection programs despite a lack of scientific validation for these methods.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Subcommittee wrote Administrator Pistole that:
“This [Targeted Conversation Proof of Concept] represents an intrusion into the privacy of the flying public through a process TSA has not scientifically validated.”
The Members added: “The expanded use of BDOs subsequent to GAO’s recommendation that TSA limit funding for SPOT until it can provide scientifically validated evidence that behavioral indicators can be used to identify threats to aviation security raises serious concerns.”
Background on Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT):
ØOver $1 billion has been spent since 2007.
ØZero terrorists have been identified, apprehended, referred to law enforcement or prevented from boarding an aircraft as a result of the program.
ØKnown or suspected terrorists have passed through screening on 23 different occasions in airports where BDOs were present.
ØTSA has not provided any scientific validation for the program.
In 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended Congress consider whether to continue to fund SPOT after TSA disagreed with the recommendation that it limit future funding of the program.
The United States is the only country that still regularly sentences children to life without parole.
Children who are sentenced to life without parole grow up, grow older and then die behind bars.
We should not be treating children in the criminal justice system as if they were adults. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that irrespective of the severity of the crime, children simply do not have the same level of culpability as adults. Their physical, mental and emotional development is not the same. In addition, research shows that children possess a greater capacity for rehabilitation, change, and growth than adults.
For this reason, children require individualized treatment in the criminal justice system that is appropriate to their age and level of development. But mandatory life without parole prevents such an individualized approach — even if rehabilitation would have been feasible — and forces a child to spend his or her life and final moments behind bars.
In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Miller v. Alabama. It held that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and is unconstitutional.” In holding this practice unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court researched the laws of other countries in addition to international norms, treaties and conventions.
Regrettably, Michigan is among the states with the largest populations of inmates serving life sentences for crimes committed as children.
A recent study from Second Chances 4 Youth and the ACLU of Michigan shows that, overall in Michigan, youth of color comprise only 29% of the youth population but represent 73% of those serving juvenile life sentences without parole. In Wayne County, according to a 2007 study, they represent 94% of the juveniles serving life without parole.
To look at these figures as only a criminal justice issue ignores the fact that this is also a civil rights crisis based on racial injustice. This, along with other criminal laws, operates as a new system of Jim Crow in this country.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the news media painted the face of the upcoming wave of violent, depraved and dangerous “super-predator children” as that of children of color. In the wake of that hysteria, Michigan passed some of the toughest juvenile justice laws in the country, which it still has — and still applies.
Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, the Michigan courts continue to refuse to grant retroactive relief to juvenile offenders living out mandatory life sentences without parole. This means that more than 360 juvenile offenders who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole are being denied a chance — even though that sentence would be illegal if imposed today. It also means that Michigan continues to violate the Eighth Amendment and international human rights standards.
I recognize that Michigan is not the only state facing this problem, but I believe that Michigan can lead the way to the solution.
Further, I call upon the Michigan Legislature to reexamine penalty provisions that allow for juvenile sentences of either discretionary life without parole or de-facto life without parole, that is, those numeric sentences that lock juveniles away for several decades of their life, effectively robbing them of their chance to be rehabilitated and get their young lives back on track.
Finally, I recommend that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette exercise considerable discretion with youth sentencing, to return a degree of flexibility, pragmatism and proportionality to each individual case. Specifically, I call upon Schuette to, as a policy matter, decline to seek discretionary life without parole or de facto life without parole sentences for juveniles. We can hold children accountable without warehousing them behind bars for the remainder of their lives.
For all of these proposals, I hope that other states follow Michigan’s lead in working to restore fairness to our juvenile justice system.
It's no secret that the House Republican budget being considered this week would hurt the livelihoods of low-income Americans. Since winning control of the House in 2010, GOP leaders and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan have used the federal budget process to slash funding for education, nutrition, and job-training in order to pay for tax breaks for a fortunate few. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates, 69 percent of the cuts in the new Ryan budget come from programs for the poor.
But here's a surprise about the Ryan budget: its drastic cuts would be painful even for the nation's wealthiest one percent. Here's why:
Businesses need well-trained workers. Successful CEOs understand that America will never be able to compete with China and India on the basis of low-wages. Rather, our nation needs to compete on the basis of world-class skills and technical expertise. To do so, we must ensure access to infant nutrition, universal pre-school, well-funded public schools with reasonably-sized classes, after-school enrichment programs, and affordable colleges and technical schools. While President Obama's budget and the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget strongly prioritize these investments, the Ryan budget would cut child nutrition, demolish Head Start, reduce funding to Pell Grants, slash grants for teacher training, and end nearly all federal funding for arts, humanities, and libraries.
Investors need greater consumer demand. With inflation-adjusted wages at historic lows and still more than three applicants for every single job opening, too few Americans are able to afford homes or cars or even to eat meals out at restaurants. This shortage of consumer demand is stifling economic growth, hurting housing market recovery, and denying businesses the customers they need in order to make payroll and turn a profit. By shifting Medicaid and food assistance programs into block grants, cutting funding for low-income heating programs, and slashing federal pensions, the Ryan budget would further diminish individual Americans' purchasing power. This is one reason why the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the GOP budget would cost at least a million jobs in its first year and up to 3.3 million in its second year, while the Progressive Caucus budget would create an estimated 8.8 million jobs by 2017.
The wealthy need medical research and environmental protection, too.As The Huffington Post's Sam Stein has documented, budget cuts since the GOP takeover have devastated scientific and medical research efforts that are indispensable to the development of American products as well as the discovery of life-saving cures. These cuts affect rich and poor alike. Budget cuts have likewise undercut efforts to combat climate change and related issues of drought, ecosystem damage, and extreme weather--phenomena that are not only destroying lives and property but also projected to significantly reduce global economic growth. Because the world is at a crossroads in history, with drastic climate change all but certain absent equally drastic preventative measures, these cuts do little more than exchange present conveniences for future hardship. By making drastic cuts to scientific research, clean energy development, environmental protection, and emergency management, the Ryan budget would make all Americans -- rich and poor alike -- more vulnerable.
In the decades following the Second World War, Congress passed budgets that invested in full employment, a reliable safety net and great public institutions. From the Eisenhower highway system to Medicare to the space program and public research universities, these investments paid dividends to workers and businesses alike. Workers earned the wages needed to buy American goods and services, and, in turn, businesses had the confidence needed to keep investing and hiring. I am supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Better Off Budget, the Congressional Black Caucus budget, and the House Democratic budget because they represent a return to this tradition of shared gains.
As the House votes on a budget plan this week, the choice is not between serving the rich or the poor. It's a choice between investing in broad-based prosperity and continuing a failed experiment of austerity.