Thursday, October 23, 2014

CONYERS AND UN OFFICIALS JOIN “LISTENING PANEL” ON THE NEED FOR ACCESS TO DRINKING WATER IN THE CITY OF DETROIT


DETROIT- On Sunday, October 19, 2014, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) was a panelist at a town hall meeting attended by two officials with the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Leilani Farha, special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and Catarina de Albuquerque, special rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation.

During the town hall meeting, the U.N. officials listened to testimonies from individuals who are experiencing shutoffs and met with local elected officials. At a press conference on Monday, the U.N. officials called for cessation of water shutoffs in Detroit, citing the act violates international human rights law and poses a risk to public health.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“With its location on the Great Lakes and extensive sanitation systems, Detroit should have access to plentiful and inexpensive water.  Yet, due to an overzealous and wrongheaded approach to cost-cutting, many Detroiters have been denied access to this essential resource,” said Rep. John Conyers.  “In addition to strong advocacy to local officials in defense of water rights, I am continuing to make the case to state and federal officials that resources from Michigan’s multimillion Hardest Hit Fund should be invested in upgrades to our water system.  In the 21st Century, in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one should go without safe, clean, public water.”

Conyers added, “I applaud Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and others for holding this important hearing on the devastating consequences of water shutoffs for Detroit residents.  I am so pleased that the hearing,presented to a full house at Wayne County Community College’s downtown campus, garnered major media attention and helped drive a national conversation regarding access to water.  As the United Nations Special Rapporteur noted, denying access to water to those who are unable to pay is a violation of international human rights law and could cause a regional public health crisis that could impact the most vulnerable among us, particularly infants and seniors.” 
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REP. CONYERS STATEMENT ON DHS PLAN TO REQUIRE PASSENGERS FROM LIBERIA, SIERRA LEONE, AND GUINEA TO ENTER THROUGH AIRPORTS WITH ENHANCED SCREENING


WASHINGTON – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement after the Department of Homeland Security announced a new temporary plan to require passengers originating from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to enter the United States through one of five designated airports enhanced with Ebola-screening measures (located in Washington, Atlanta, New York City, Newark and Chicago):
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to direct passengers traveling to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to enter the country through one of five designated airports with enhanced, Ebola-specific screening is a sensible precautionary measure that helps address public concerns and helps deter spreading of the disease.



“As agreed upon by experts in both the public health and transportation communities, issuing a blanket travel ban would not only be counterproductive, but it would also irresponsibly impede getting much-needed supplies and relief to the countries that need it most.”
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

REPS. JOHN CONYERS AND YVETE CLARKE APPLAUD THE EXPEDITION OF THE HAITI FAMILY REUNIFICATION PROGRAM

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), lauded the Department of Homeland Security for moving forward with implementation of the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program in 2015, which will expedite the reunification of Haitian families and support safe and legal migration from Haiti to the United States.

Starting in early 2015, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will offer certain eligible Haitian beneficiaries of previously approved family-based immigrant visa petitions, who are currently in Haiti, an opportunity to come to the United States about two years before their immigrant visa priority dates become current.  Families who are eligible will receive a written notice from the National Visa Center.

“The decision by the Department of Homeland Security to implement a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program will benefit everyone," said Congressman Conyers.  "Families who would otherwise be unnecessarily separated for years while awaiting the availability of an immigrant visa soon will be allowed to wait together.  Communities here and in Haiti will be strengthened.  And as Haiti continues to rebuild from the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010, this program will allow greater remittances to be sent back to fund critically needed recovery efforts."

“I want to commend the Department of Homeland Security on the development of this program, which will allow for the reunification of families that have been separated – in some instances for many years.  The continued failure of Congress to enact – or even to debate – comprehensive immigration reform continues to separate parents from their children and husbands from their wives.  The wait must end.  I am hopeful that this program will form the basis for a broader policy that will allow families from around the world to avoid unnecessary delays in reuniting here in the United States,” said Congresswoman Clarke.

The Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program builds upon the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which was established in 2007 under the Bush Administration.  Members of Congress, editorial boards, and faith leaders have urged the Administration to adopt a similar program for Haitian families since 2010.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CONGRESSMAN JOHN CONYERS AND SENATOR GRASSLEY QUESTION NEW PRACTICE DENYING RECORDS TO DOJ INSPECTOR GENERAL

WASHINGTON – House and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. and Chuck Grassley are raising questions about a new practice by the Justice Department denying certain records to the department’s Inspector General. 

During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in September, the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, raised concerns about the FBI’s refusal to provide certain documents, such as grand jury records and material witness warrant information.  The Inspector General sought these records to determine whether the Department had violated the civil liberties and civil rights of individuals detained in national security investigations following September 11.  In addition, the Inspector General also sought records as part of the review of Operation Fast and Furious.  The Department’s refusal to provide records immediately as required by law wastes months in bureaucratic roadblocks and frustrates the independent oversight Congress created Inspectors General to provide.  Prior to 2010, the FBI and other agencies in the Justice Department routinely provided similar information to the Inspector General’s office.

Conyers and Grassley, who both voted for the original Inspector General Act, wrote in a letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Karl Thompson, “In order to carry out audits and investigations with the independence mandated by the (Inspector General) Act, Inspectors General must have unfettered access to records of the Departments they oversee.”

Conyers and Grassley acknowledged that an Inspector General inquiry can be prevented under the law in certain limited circumstances, but they emphasized in their letter that the Attorney General is required to explain in writing to both the Inspector General and Congress why the Inspector General’s work should be impeded despite the Inspector General Act’s guarantee of access to all agency records. 

“The current practice is the opposite of the procedure dictated by the statute and unnecessarily delays the work of the Inspector General.  More importantly, it circumvents the oversight authority with regard to such disputes, which Congress explicitly reserved for itself through the reporting requirement,” Conyers and Grassley wrote.
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE SEEKS ANSWERS ON SERIES OF SECRET SERVICE FAILURES

WASHINGTON – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), and House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sent a letter to Acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy seeking answers to over a dozen questions regarding a series of security breaches that occurred at the White House complex and during official travel. The House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over the Secret Service, including its critical role in protecting the President and the White House complex, will hold both public and classified hearings in November to examine ongoing issues at the agency.

In preparation for the hearings, Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner, and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Scott write:
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Delay in Executive Action on Immigration Does Not Change GOP Culpability on Immigration Reform

By John Conyers, Jr.
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
In the wake of the president's announcement that executive action on immigration will be delayed by several months, it is important that we not lose track of the fact that it was the House Republicans who not only blocked immigration reform, but passed several anti-immigrant bills that would cause devastating harm to immigrants.
Shortly after the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee wrote that unless the Republican party "embrace[s] and champion[s] comprehensive immigration reform . . . [its] appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only." Speaker Boehner seemingly agreed, declaring that a "comprehensive approach [to immigration reform] is long overdue." On August 1, 2014, in the dead of the night, the House GOP officially rejected that advice and reversed course, passing two of the most anti-immigrant measures in recent memory. In doing so, they made it abundantly clear that the only path forward on immigration policy at this time is through executive action.
We feared as far back as August 2013 -- when House Republicans withdrew from a bipartisan House effort to draft a comprehensive immigration reform bill -- that real legislative reform was dead for the 113th Congress. Those fears were confirmed this summer, when Speaker Boehner told the president and members of his conference that no immigration reform bill would be allowed a vote on the House floor. Instead, Speaker Boehner and the House GOP used a humanitarian crisis endangering the lives of children in Central America as an excuse to advance legislation that would eliminate due process protections from all unaccompanied children fleeing persecution and abuse; deport hundreds of thousands of "DREAMers"; and deny protections to immigrant victims of sex trafficking and domestic abuse.
The bills were drafted to appease the extreme right wing of the House GOP. Even Rep. Steve King (R-IA) boasted that the language passed by the House was "like I ordered it off the menu." H.R. 5230, nominally designed to increase funding for the border crisis, included a rider that would endanger the lives of unaccompanied children facing persecution or trafficking. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) defended the measure by saying that it merely "tweak[ed]" a 2008 anti-trafficking law to "treat apprehended minors from Central America in the same expedited but humane fashion that we treat apprehended minors from Mexico and Canada." If true, such a bill would have been dangerous enough -- we know from the United Nations Refugee Agency that because of the diminished protections that unaccompanied Mexican children receive upon apprehension, child trafficking victims are returned to their traffickers and child victims of persecution and abuse are returned to face grave danger. But H.R. 5230 would do far more than that. The bill would subject all unaccompanied children - not just Central American children -- to even more cursory and insufficient procedural protections than those which apply currently to unaccompanied Mexican and Canadian children.
Under current law, an unaccompanied Mexican or Canadian child may withdraw her application for admission and return voluntarily to her country only after an immigration officer determines that the child can make an independent decision to withdraw such an application. This requirement prevents the return of very young children who lack the capacity to make an independent decision, as well as children with an impaired cognitive capacity.
H.R. 5230 would entirely eliminate this critical provision by striking section 235(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The decision to eliminate this basic procedural protection is exacerbated by another statutory change contained in the Republican bill. Whereas current law limits when an unaccompanied Mexican child may be permitted to withdraw her application for admission and "voluntarily return" to Mexico in lieu of being placed in removal proceedings, H.R. 5230 ignores the voluntary nature of the return by converting a "may" into a "shall." Under the bill, if a Border Patrol agent were to conclude (typically in a cursory, 10-minute interview conducted in public) that an unaccompanied child would face neither persecution nor trafficking upon return to her home country, that agent "shall" return the child to her home country. Capacity to make an independent decision to withdraw an application for admission and the willingness to withdraw such an application both become irrelevant when unaccompanied children who fail a cursory border screening are subject to mandatory repatriation. This change would make Border Patrol agents the judges and the jurors for tens of thousands of vulnerable children.
The dire warning of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the eve of the House vote could not have been more clear: the Republican bill "would make crippling changes to current U.S. trafficking victim protection law that we fear would send these vulnerable children, and others in the future who have fled trauma, exploitation, and violence, back into harm's way, likely resulting in continued degradation, injury, and death for many of them."
The House Republicans also passed a second bill, H.R. 5272, which the bill's sponsor, Rep. Marcia Blackburn (R-TN), claimed merely "tie[s] the President's hands as to future executive actions that he might take to expand amnesty to illegal entrants into this country" and "freeze[s] DACA." Again, such a bill would have been bad enough, cementing in place an immigration system that everyone knows to be broken and that fails to meet the needs of American families, businesses, and communities. In truth, the Republican bill would prevent Dreamers who already have received protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from being able to renew their status, thereby condemning them once more to deportation. Moreover, the bill would reduce protections under current law for immigrant victims of sex trafficking and domestic abuse.
The bill would do this by prohibiting the federal government from using Federal funds or resources "to consider or adjudicate any new or previously denied application of any alien requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals." Because deferred action is a discretionary protection from removal to which beneficiaries have no claim as of right, an application to renew deferred action is essentially a new application for deferred action. Prohibiting the use of funds or resources to consider or adjudicate new applications under DACA would end the DACA renewal process. Although some Republican supporters of the bill tried to be coy about this aspect of the bill, the text of the bill was clear. In fact, Rep. Blackburn's communications director reportedly confirmed for the Associated Press that the bill "would prevent people who currently have DACA from renewing."
Equally dangerous, H.R. 5272 would prohibit the use of Federal funds or resources to grant work authorization to any person who "was not lawfully admitted into the United States . . . and is not in lawful status in the United States on the date of the enactment of this Act." Going far beyond the purported purpose of the bill, this provision would have the effect of denying work authorization to crime and trafficking victims who assist law enforcement and other immigrants eligible for certain forms of relief (including Cuban parolees). Even worse, by denying the ability of battered immigrant spouses who have left their abusers and successfully self-petitioned for an immigrant visa the ability to work for the many months it may take for a visa number to become available, the bill would undermine a basic premise of the Violence Against Women Act - that victims of domestic violence should be empowered to leave dangerous and abusive situations. This change would prevent countless battered immigrant spouses from ever leaving their abusers, and would drive others right back into their hands.
Rather than heeding the party's own advice following the 2012 election, these mean-spirited bills demonstrate a return to the GOP's history of supporting anti-immigrant measures. In 1994, Republicans backed the now infamous California Proposition 187, which sought to prohibit many immigrants from accessing health care, public education, and other social services. In the mid-1990s and again in 2011 after taking control of the House of Representatives, House Republicans pushed language to limit birthright citizenship protections guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. When Senate Democrats and Republicans joined together in the 109th Congress to pass sensible comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the Republican-controlled House pushed legislation to make felons out of immigrant families that resulted in massive protests in cities all over the United States. And when Senate Democrats and Republicans joined together last year to pass S. 744, a comprehensive immigration reform bill, House Judiciary Republicans advanced in Committee a different proposal to turn millions of undocumented immigrants into felons overnight.
If immigration hawks in the House GOP are permitted to take our broken immigration system hostage through sheer intransigence, it is American people, American businesses, American workers, and American families that will suffer. It is ultimately up to Congress to rewrite our immigration laws, but it is the responsibility of the president to identify opportunities under existing law to faithfully execute such laws in a manner that best serves the needs of the country. And the reality is that even under our broken immigration system, changes can and should be made to make our immigration enforcement efforts smarter and more humane and to improve avenues for legal immigration. Efforts to reform our broken immigration system did not begin last year. Many of us have been working to make our system fairer and more just for well over a decade. In the meantime, countless families have been torn apart, too many American children whose parent were deported have been placed in foster care, businesses have been denied necessary workers, and immigrant and American workers have been harmed by an economy that relies heavily upon millions of workers who are undocumented and easily exploited.

We had hoped that executive action by the president would have taken place sooner, given the House Republicans' obstructionism on immigration reform and the overriding national interest in updating our immigration system. But make no mistake, when the president acts, it will be because the GOP has made it abundantly clear there is only one viable path forward on immigration.
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Saturday, October 4, 2014

CONYERS: JOBS REPORT REPRESENTS PROGRESS, BUT AMERICA IS STILL FAR FROM FULL EMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman John Conyers (MI-13), founder of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus, released the following statement after the Department of Labor released its jobs report for September 2014:
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s jobs report represents real progress for the American people.  The economy added 248,000 new jobs, and the unemployment rate is now below 6% for the first time since July 2008.  Under President Obama’s leadership, we’ve experienced 55 consecutive months of private-sector job growth.
“While today’s headline unemployment numbers are clear evidence that we’re on the right track, other statistics reveal the need for strong and sustained action. The unemployment rates for African-Americans and young Americans are still in the double digits.  Nearly 19 million people across the country are still searching for full time work.  The percentage of Americans in the workforce remains below pre-recession levels because millions of people have become too discouraged to continue to seek work.  Wages have remained stagnant.  For these reasons, it is important to note that the official unemployment rate does not adequately reflect the lived experience of a large part of the population.
“The policy implications are clear:  The Federal Reserve must hold off on policy changes that deliberately slow the US economy.  Congress must listen to the clear majority of Americans and pass comprehensive legislation to create jobs and boost wages.  From the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act (HR 1000) to the updated and upgraded American Jobs Act (HR 2821), there is no shortage of proven and fully paid-for legislative options. 
“President Obama said it best in his speech yesterday at Northwestern University: ‘When the typical family isn’t bringing home any more than it did in 1997, then that means it’s harder for middle-class Americans to climb the ladder of success.’  It’s time to renew focus on achieving full employment, dignified work, and living wages for all Americans.”
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