Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conyers, Pelosi, Moore Applaud Passage of the Violence Against Women Act

House Votes Down Weak House GOP VAWA, Passes Bipartisan Senate Version of VAWA that Protects LGBT, Native American, Immigrant, Campus and Sex Trafficking Victims

(WASHINGTON) – Today, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), applauded the passage of the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) following the failure of the partisan and discriminatory proposal put forth this week by House Republicans.  With House Democrats pushing for a stronger, more comprehensive reauthorization, the Senate’s version passed the House by a vote of 286-138, extending the law’s crucial protections to LGBT, Native American and immigrant victims, providing for more rape kits as well as a national registry of forensic evidence from sexual assault cases, strengthening criminal anti-trafficking statutes, providing for temporary housing for victims, and addressing domestic violence on American college campuses.

“The Violence Against Women Act has long ensured that no woman would ever be forced to suffer in silence in the face of domestic violence and abuse.  Democrats were committed to keeping that promise – that’s why we led the charge to enact the strong, bipartisan Senate bill and secure a victory for all women, no matter their background or community,” said Leader Pelosi.  “Today, a bipartisan majority of the House joined the Senate in reaffirming our pledge to America’s women and families, strengthening this landmark law, extending protection to LGBT Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants, and preserving the security of all women.”

“For over 500 days women have been waiting and praying for this day to come,” said Rep. Gwen Moore.  “Today, the majority of this body stood up for all women – including Native, LGBT and immigrant women. We answered their clarion call and declared that we will protect the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking.  I want to thank Democratic Leader Pelosi for her staunch leadership and support in the passage of this legislation as well as House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers and so many of my colleagues who stood with us through this fight.  Today is truly a victory for women everywhere.”

“I am pleased that the House of Representatives voted to protect all victims of domestic violence by passing the strong bill already passed by the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act,” saidRep. John Conyers, Jr.  “Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has safeguarded victims of domestic violence by providing funding to help law enforcement investigate crimes of domestic violence and prosecute those who criminally victimize women.  In addition, VAWA established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice, and created community violence prevention programs.  It is critical that we continue these programs and, with this subsequent reauthorization, those safeguards will be afforded to the LGBT, Native American, and immigrant communities as well.  While there were significant stumbling blocks in reauthorizing VAWA last Congress, I am proud that Congress was able to come together today for a cause that should never be partisan: protecting all victims of domestic violence.”

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Bipartisan Members of Judiciary Committee Affirm: The Work of Section 5 is Not Done

(WASHINGTON) – Today, former Chairmen of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) and Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) responded to oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Shelby County v. Holder.  The bipartisan group of members filed a brief as amici curiae on February 1, 2013 to affirm what the Supreme Court has declared for over 50 years: Congress can enforce Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under Congress’s 15th Amendment Powers. Specifically, Section 5 halts discrimination at the outset of any voting change made in a state. States and local jurisdictions, under Section 5, must seek preclearance from the Justice Department or a Federal Court in the District of Columbia in order to bring the voting change into effect. Shelby County requests that the court declare that Congress exceeded its authority in 2006, when a bipartisan group of Members led the way to extend Section 5. Following oral arguments, the Representatives released this joint statement:

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.: “The fifteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race or color. However, as we all know, this has not always since been the case. While significant progress has been made, the Voting Rights Act remains a vital piece of our nation’s moral commitment to never again permit racial discrimination in elections. Section 5 not only worked to correct past injustices, but it remains essential to the continued protection of minorities’ right to vote in covered districts. I stand proudly by my colleagues in protecting all Americans' most fundamental right.”

Rep. John Conyers, Jr.: “Today, Justices of the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to consider whether Congress acted within its authority under the 15th Amendment to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  At the heart of their inquiry was the record compiled by Congress in determining that the preclearance provision of Section 5 is still necessary to protect minority voting rights in the 21st Century.

“Justice Kennedy echoed the Supreme Court’s hint in the 2009 case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, that Section 5 may be unnecessary because ‘times have changed.’ However, questions from Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Kagan, and Ginsburg seemed to suggest that although times have changed, eliminating Section 5 and relying upon Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was not enough.  The justices suggested that the number of voting changes blocked in covered jurisdictions and the record before Congress strongly suggested otherwise. In 2006, Congress found that attempts to disenfranchise voters are still being made in the 21st Century. Congress came to this conclusion after it had amassed a record of over 15,000 pages, 20 hearings, and testimony of over 90 witnesses.

“A majority of the justices also questioned whether the facts in this case were appropriate as a facial challenge to the Voting Rights Act, as opposed to an applied challenge to the law. This case presented a ripe opportunity for the Justices to question why Shelby County challenged the Constitutionality of the law, rather than seeking the bailout process created by Congress for covered jurisdictions with clean records. Congress created the process of bailout for jurisdictions with a clean record to be released from Section 5 coverage.  

“A clean record is far from what Shelby County has.  Since 1982, Alabama has had up to 240 discriminatory voting laws blocked by Section 5 objections, and Shelby County has had a voting law blocked as recent as 2008.  However, Shelby County has not applied for bailout.  Instead Shelby County has gone to the court and asked the Court to invalidate Section 5, which is like trying to kill a fly with a sledge-hammer.

“Shelby County wanted the Justices to ignore their record of blocked voting changes, and as Justice Sotomayor stated, ‘what you’re asking us to do, which is to look at the record of all the other states or all the other counties [instead].’ Likewise, Justice Kagan rightly pointed out that although Shelby County argued that Section 2 of the Act was an adequate remedy, the Justice proposed that if Section 2 were the standard under a new formula created by Congress, Alabama would be the ‘number one state on the list’ and ‘number two state on the list’ in Section 5 violations.

“Section 5 is a part of a Constitutional imperative set by the 15th Amendment to ‘enforce by appropriate legislation’ laws that ‘deny a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’  Although Justice Scalia mischaracterized Congress’s work under Section 5 as the “perpetuation of racial entitlements,” we believe the Court will continue to give ‘deference to the considered judgment of the People’s elected representatives.’  Congress continues to find that racial discrimination in voting is present, and remains concentrated in places, like Shelby County.

“The precedent set by the court is clear: Congress gets to define the problem.  The Voting Rights Act and the careful study of discrimination conducted by the Congress deserves the Court’s continued deference.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Conyers Salutes Rosa Parks as a Civil Rights and Voting Rights Icon

(WASHINGTON) – Today, civil rights icon Rosa Parks was honored by having a statue dedicated in her honor within Statuary Hall inside of the United States Capitol. Following his participation in the ceremony, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Rosa Parks was a champion of civil rights, an advocate for peace, and a dear friend,” said Conyers.

“While quiet in demeanor, through her steadfast devotion to universal human rights, Mrs. Parks was a powerful voice for racial equality and societal reform through non-violence. She embodied the love of both humanity and freedom, from her decades-long work advancing civil rights, to her time spent in my office serving the Detroit community.

“I find it ironic that on the day we are honoring Mrs. Parks, the Supreme Court is hearing a case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act from a county in Alabama. Under these circumstances, we are powerfully reminded that the statue dedicated today stands not only for the dedication and life-work of Mrs. Parks. The statue also reminds us of the unfinished work we have in achieving full equality under the law and in guaranteeing the right to vote of every American everywhere within the country.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Conyers Statement at Oversight Hearing on Drones

(WASHINGTON) – This morning, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee oversight hearing entitled, “Drones and the War on Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?” Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement during his opening remarks:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I very much appreciate that our Committee is examining such a pressing matter:  the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or ‘drones,’ to strike at suspected terrorists abroad. 

“Let me be clear: the House Judiciary Committee has direct jurisdiction over this issue. We are the Committee in the best position to assess the serious constitutional and civil rights questions presented by the drone program. Our Committee also has direct oversight of the Department of Justice, which has issued legal opinions, albeit classified, that purport to establish the legal basis for the use of lethal force against terrorist suspects.

“Over the course of the 112th Congress, I, along with my colleagues Representatives Jerry Nadler and Bobby Scott, wrote several letters to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to share those legal opinions with the Committee.  These letter requests were made on January 18, 2012, May 21, 2012, and December 4, 2012. Although we did not receive the requested memoranda, the Justice Department did provide us with a copy of the recently-publicized white paper on the targeted killing of U.S. citizens.  Unfortunately, the white paper raises more questions than it answers, and does little to address our concerns regarding the broader use of lethal force against terrorist suspects. On February 8, 2013, Chairman Goodlatte and I, together with Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Trent Franks, Jerry Nadler, and Bobby Scott, wrote to President Obama to renew our request for all legal opinions related to the drone programs. 

“I am pleased that we have reached a clear, bipartisan consensus on this issue: this Committee requires those documents to fulfill its oversight responsibilities, and we will work together to convince the Administration to satisfy our request.

“The need for oversight is clear.  I am not convinced, as the title of the hearing may suggest, by the Administration’s legal rationale for the targeted killing of a United States citizen overseas.  The white paper describes a balancing test for Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights tilted so far in favor of government interests that a potential target appears to have little chance at meaningful due process when he is nominated to the so-called ‘kill list.’

“I also remain unconvinced about the targeted killing of terrorist suspects who are non-citizens. Although the Administration appears to rest its claim of authority on the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress in 2001, it is not clear to me that Congress intended to sanction lethal force against a loosely-defined enemy in an indefinite conflict with no borders and no discernible end date.

“And I remain deeply troubled by the widely reported use of so-called ‘signature strikes,’ where suspects display suspicious activity but their identities are unknown prior to the government’s use of lethal force against them. To date, the Administration has not even acknowledged that this program exists—let alone provided this Committee with the information it requires to examine the legality of the program.

“I am, of course, aware that drones offer a relatively precise means for targeting our enemies.  If used responsibly, they can limit civilian casualties and do so without putting additional American troops in danger. But we must be mindful that the rest of the world is watching us.

“In a recent interview, General Stanley McChrystal—the principal architect of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan—reminded us that ‘the resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes . . . is much greater than the average American appreciates.’ He continued, ‘They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who have never seen one or seen the effects of one.’

“No matter how far removed we are from the battlefield, we must remember that it still feels like war when the missiles strike. And, the United States will not be the only nation with this tactical capability for much longer. Accordingly, the decisions we make—the process this Committee finds necessary before our government may lawfully kill a suspected terrorist, whether or not that suspect is a citizen—will set the example for those who follow.

“I thank the Chairman, and I yield back.”

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Reps. Moore, Conyers and Slaughter Introduce VAWA That Protects LGBT, Native American, Immigrant, Campus and Sex Trafficking Victims
Bipartisan Senate Version Of VAWA Deserves A Vote In House

WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), introduced the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act as an amendment to fix the partisan and discriminatory proposal put forth this week by House Republicans. The Senate’s version, which passed by a strong bipartisan vote of 78-22, extends the law’s crucial protections to LGBT, Native American and immigrant victims, provides for more rape kits as well as a national registry of forensic evidence from sexual assault cases, strengthens criminal anti-trafficking statutes, provides for temporary housing for victims and addresses domestic violence on American college campuses. Moore, Conyers and Slaughter urged members to support the bipartisan, inclusive Senate version of VAWA, instead of the partisan Republican proposal, which was written behind closed doors and waters down crucial protections against domestic violence.

“These games must end,” said Rep. Moore. “Republicans have introduced their version of VAWA, under the Senate bill number and the Senate title. I guess they thought no one would notice their bill fails to adequately protect LGBT, Native American, campus and sex trafficking victims and actually weakens current law. Their bill title may say VAWA, but it is far from the Senate bill that works to protect all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking and passed with a strong bipartisan vote. Today I joined Representatives Conyers and Slaughter to introduce the real VAWA – the Senate VAWA. We have the support; we are waiting on Republican leadership to bring our VAWA bill to the floor for a vote.”

“The Senate has passed a strong bipartisan bill that contains critical protections for all victims of domestic violence,” said Rep. Conyers, Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee.  “The House, and victims of domestic violence deserve an up or down vote on this critical legislation.  But instead the House Majority is playing politics and pushing through a partisan version of VAWA that they know is dead on arrival in the Senate. It’s time for the House Republicans to join their colleagues in the Senate and stand up for all victims.”

“We’ve heard no explanation for why the Republican Majority is opposed to protecting the lives and persons of anyone in the United States from domestic violence,” said Rep. Slaughter, Ranking Member on the House Rules Committee. “As an original author of the Violence Against Women Act, it never crossed my mind that this law would ever be used as a vehicle for discrimination. The bipartisan Senate proposal deserves an up-or-down vote in the House, but unfortunately, we anticipate another closed rule on a discriminatory, partisan version of this landmark law, which has been responsible for reducing domestic violence incidents by over 60 percent since its passage.”

***Below, please find a fact sheet prepared by the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff comparing the bipartisan, inclusive Senate version of VAWA with the partisan, discriminatory House Republican version of VAWA.

House Republican VAWA Weakens S. 47
Partisan Substitute Deletes Critical Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

          This week, the House will consider a substitute version of S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.  While the bill has been noticed as S. 47, the version before the House is significantly different than the legislation that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 78 to 22 and with the support of all Democrats, all female Senators, and a majority of Republicans.  The Senate passed bill incorporates years of analysis of the problem, and solutions proposed by law enforcement, victims, and victim service providers.  The House bill does not.

Rather than allow the House to take an up or down vote on the bipartisan Senate passed bill, the House Republican Majority is pushing through legislation that will pick and choose which victims of domestic violence are deserving of protection. The proposed House VAWA substitute is a Washington-based solution created without participation from people who work with victims in the field and without any input from House Democrats. Notably, the House substitute omits protections for LGBT victims by removing all references to “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” despite clear evidence revealing that domestic and sexual violence affects LGBT victims at equal or greater levels than the rest of the population.

In addition, the House VAWA substitute significantly weakens the protections for Native American women. Rather than give tribes the authority they need to protect Indian women, the House substitute limits tribes to charging an abuser with misdemeanors punishable by no more than one year in prison, even if the abuser has committed rape, a vicious assault, or another serious violent crime.

The Republican substitute for VAWA also limits important protection for immigrant victims. Among other problems, the legislation fails to include a Senate provision making “stalking” one of the crimes that would allow a victim to get a U visa. Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill also jeopardizes foreign fiancés by omitting critical protections and enforcement mechanisms designed to properly regulate international marriage brokers.

Apart from these problems, the House Republican substitute of VAWA makes campuses less safe by eliminating important provisions in S. 47 that strengthened programs that help combat and prevent violent sexual crimes on college campuses. The House Republican substitute eliminates the SAFER Act, which would provide law enforcement with the critical resources it needs to ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence are brought to justice. The Republican substitute removes the bipartisan reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which provides essential protections for victims, as well as tools and resources for victims service providers and law enforcement.

Due to these concerns, the House Republican substitute is opposed by groups including the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, the National Congress of American Indians, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and members of the Senate.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Conyers and Moore: House Republican Version of VAWA Turns Back on Victims of Violence

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Republican leadership announced they will bring their version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization to the House Floor next week. As opposed to S. 47, which passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 78 to 22 last week, the House Republican version of VAWA omits protections for the LGBT, Native women, and immigrant communities. It also excludes provisions that combat sex trafficking, and that would have helped law enforcement address the backlog in DNA evidence kits. The GOP version is being brought to the House Floor in the complete absence of committee action and without the consultation of House Democrats. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) issued this statement following the introduction of the bill:

Rep. John Conyers, Jr: “The House Republican version of VAWA is evidence that the Majority continues to pick and choose which victims of domestic violence are deserving of protection.  The Senate has passed a strong bipartisan bill that contains critical protections for all victims of domestic violence, but House Republicans are reverting back to partisan politics by pushing through a bill that will not pass the Senate. We should be seeking ways to expand and improve upon the historic Violence Against Women Act, not limit its ability to protect innocent victims.”

Rep. Gwen Moore: “The saying goes, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ This is the second time House Republicans have trotted out this VAWA Trojan Horse, only to try and gut critical provisions from the real VAWA that House Democrats proposed and a large bipartisan majority of the Senate passed. House Republicans have once again introduced a partisan bill that refuses to acknowledge the needs of all victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and stalking. There are too many women waiting on vital domestic violence services. It is time for House Republicans to end this charade and allow a vote on the comprehensive VAWA that passed the Senate earlier this month.”

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Portrait of U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. by Jacqui Oakley

Portrait of U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. by Jacqui Oakley
Portrait of U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. by Jacqui Oakley

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Day of Courage: Congressman John Conyers

U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. introduced by U.S. Representative Gary Peters at the Henry Ford Museum honoring Rosa Parks. Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Conyers: Global Warming and Renewable Energy

The Library of Congress, The Government of USA has issued the following Speech:
By U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to one of the single most important environmental crises facing our Nation and the global family: the threat of global warming. This past Tuesday, President Obama spoke in this chamber about the necessity of addressing global warming in order to avoid imminent, disastrous consequences.
The science of global warming is clear and empirical: the earth's atmosphere is getting warmer, due to an increase in carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
As a result, we are experiencing more violent and turbulent storms, longer drought seasons, and dangerous and costly wild fires in our nation's wooded areas and forests. Now is not the time to debate whether global warming is real or not, but to begin bringing together elected officials, the scientific, business, environmental, and NGO communities to come up with a comprehensive and sustainable clean energy road map for America.
I strongly agree with President Obama that Congress must take immediate action to address climate change. America is one of the most technologically advanced, innovative, and wealthiest nations in the history of the world. We already have the scientific expertise and resources needed to reduce our carbon emissions and quickly transition to clean sources of energy that can power our homes, factories, and automobiles.
The good news is that by quickly transitioning away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy, we can create scores of new good paying jobs, while at the same time, reducing the threat of climate change--before it is too late.
There were those who once said that we couldn't increase the fuel efficiency of our vehicles--but we did. They said we couldn't reduce our dependence on coal--but we did. When I was just a child, there were those who said that our nation could not build the Hoover Dam and provide power to millions in the Southwest--but we did. The cries of impossibility are nothing new; I have heard them my whole life. They are just as misguided now, as they were then.
The Earth is getting warmer. Our best scientists having been telling us for decades that we need to address the problem, but we have not paid sufficient attention to them. We are literally at a do or die moment in our history. We've taken important steps to address climate change, but they aren't nearly enough, given the catastrophic implications of continued foot dragging.
America cannot afford storms like Hurricane Katrina or a Hurricane Sandy every year. Our farmers and our family tables cannot afford droughts year after year. Our children and grandchildren cannot afford a New York City flooded by higher sea levels, or a breadbasket that is too scorched to feed the country, or more frequent heat waves that place thousands of low-income and elderly persons in peril.
We must act now to speed up the transition to renewable resources, reduce carbon pollution, and usher in a new era of technological development. Remember--our automotive industry was on the brink of collapse. Yet, thanks to timely government investment and the efforts of our greatest asset--the American worker--we are now manufacturing the best cars in history.
We need to address our transportation concerns in an environmentally friendly way. There should be more electrically augmented automobiles filling America's garages and our roads. We need more Chevy Volts and Ford Energi's coming off the assembly lines in Michigan and other states. Auto emissions need to be even lower. We must invest in clean public transportation systems, such as light rail and electric bus transportation. America can, and should, be the envy of clean energy enthusiasts around the world.
We need to modernize our power grid to leverage wind and solar. Our rivers and tides are resources that we need to utilize. By creating clean energy through these technologies, we can ensure a stable future for our nation. We will ensure that our rivers are full, not dry. We will preserve thousands of miles of coastlines for our next generation. We will keep our farms green, our supermarkets well-stocked, and our families well-fed.
I encourage my fellow members to heed the President's call to action and pass bipartisan reforms that will lead to a future safe from the climate calamities.

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Conyers: We Must End Poverty and Inequality in America

By U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
At a time when our nation needed its legal community to step forward and join in the struggle for equality, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was born. I was privileged to be present in the East Room of the White House on the day that President Kennedy urged a group of 244 lawyers to use their training and influence to further the goals of the civil rights movement.
Within weeks, the formation of the Lawyers' Committee was announced as attorneys from around the country heeded the call of the President. Fifty years later, the Lawyers' Committee remains in the vanguard of both domestic and international initiatives to protect the rights of diverse communities.
While there is no question that America has made substantial progress over the last 50 years in creating a more just society, we cannot say that serious challenges to achieving the American dream do not exist for large segments of our society. I ran for Congress in 1964, a time when we battled Jim Crow-era poll taxes and institutionalized discrimination.
In those days, the battle lines were clearly drawn and easy for anyone to see. Successful litigation and legislation have largely ended the practices of institutional discrimination and the Lawyers' Committee has played an important role. However, as the civil rights movement has expanded beyond race, we have seen a return of discriminatory practices that continue to challenge the goal of equality under the law.
The institutional memory found at the Lawyers' Committee is vital to ensuring that our society is not revisited by old discrimination in a new package. Its work during the 2012 election cycle, for example, was critical in protecting the voting rights of millions of Americans.
Just as Jim Crow-era poll taxes were designed to erect barriers to the ballot box, the current wave of voter purging, citizenship and identification schemes were intended to make it difficult for young, minority and older Americans to equally participate in the political process. This organized and well-financed campaign to subvert the election process is ongoing and will require a combination of litigation and legislation to ensure that our campaign finance system and election laws reflect the important principle of equal participation in the political process.
While voting rights remain the touchstone in the quest for equal rights, millions are fundamentally deprived of their basic liberty by a criminal justice system in a race to incarcerate. The United States has the largest prison population in the western world, with 2.25 million people behind bars. This figure illustrates the greatest inequality facing the nation. Sadly, more than 60 percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities.
For the African-American community, these statistics are devastating, with one in every 10 Black men in their 30s in jail or prison on any given day. A felony conviction can stifle economic independence by restricting voting rights, job prospects and access to government- sponsored training programs and subsidized housing. In communities already devastated by unemployment and a lack of educational and economic opportunity, the prison pipeline has created a lost generation.
As progressive advocates like the Lawyers' Committee move to address inequality in the 21st century, the outstanding question for me is whether Congress can shift its focus to tackle the root causes underlying poverty. I fear that the drive to cut blindly entitlement programs  from the Second Chance Act to Head Start and Community Services Block Grants  runs the serious risk of exacerbating the economic isolation of poor communities and their related civil rights burdens.
Ultimately, we must act to break the persistent link between poverty and the criminal justice system. Ending inequality in America is a battle that can be won, and although the barriers are still largely the same as those of the 1960s, our approach in the 21st century must not lack the strength and courage which brought us those earlier victories.

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Conyers, Members of Congress Urge Rice to Organize Support for UN Cholera Initiative

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and four other Members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, encouraging her to urge the United Nations to ensure full funding and speedy implementation of a new initiative aimed at eliminating cholera in Haiti. 

This letter follows a letter sent last July, in which Conyers and 103 other Members of Congress encouraged Rice to urge the United Nations to take a leading role in addressing the cholera crisis.

 The Members specifically argued that every effort should be made to ensure the cholera initiative is funded adequately and implemented without delay:  

“We are, however, concerned that nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself. The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded and we need your assistance in ensuring that cholera is indeed eliminated from the island of Hispaniola." 

The Members also ask that every effort be made to ensure that assistance is prioritized for vulnerable Haitians and that“local communities and organizations be closely consulted during the implementation process.”   

The letter was also signed by Representatives Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

You can read the full text of the letter below.

February 19, 2013

The Honorable Susan Rice
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Permanent Mission to the United Nations
799 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017-3505

Dear Secretary Rice:

We are writing to thank you for your efforts to organize a robust international response to the cholera crisis in Haiti and to urge you to ensure that the United Nations continues to take a leading role in addressing the crisis by funding and implementing the cholera elimination initiative organized by the UN Secretary General without delay.   We believe that it is paramount that the plan prioritize assistance for the most vulnerable Haitians, help the Haitian government attain the capacity necessary to maintain the plan’s infrastructure sustainably, and that local communities and organizations be closely consulted during the implementation process.

As you know, the cholera epidemic continues to pose a major challenge to Haiti’s health authorities, and continues to kill Haitians at an alarming rate.  While the significant actions of Haitian authorities and international actors – including $95 million in emergency support by the United States – have helped reduce fatality rates significantly, cholera was still responsible for the deaths of 900 people last year.  This past December, 193 Haitians died of cholera, a 190 percent increase in fatalities compared to December of 2011.

In November of last year, the media reported that a plan to eliminate cholera in Haiti was being developed jointly by the Haitian government and international and U.S. agencies.  The plan apparently places major emphasis on helping Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure, widely considered to be the only effective means of ridding Haiti of cholera. News reports suggested that the plan was on the verge of being launched, but many weeks later there is still no sign that implementation of the plan has begun. 

Although the United Nations has failed to take formal responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, it is clear that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has taken important steps.  We thank you for the key role you and your staff played in encouraging the Secretary General’s office to adopt an initial set of significant measures. 

We are, however, concerned that nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself. The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded and we need your assistance in ensuring that cholera is indeed eliminated from the island of Hispaniola.

As you know, the cholera situation in Haiti has generated worldwide concern.  Over 28,000 people from around the world have signed an on-line petition urging the Secretary General “to lead international efforts to mobilize the funds and technical resources required to achieve this urgent task in the shortest time frame possible.”  In order for the United Nations to maintain its credibility around the world, it must get this right. This means a fully funded initiative that focuses on marginalized populations and is implemented with the input of local communities and organizations.

All too often important development projects for Haiti are launched with much fanfare, but then are never executed or are quickly abandoned. This cannot be allowed to happen with the current plans to assist Haiti in eliminating cholera.  Without effective follow-through on these plans, Haiti will be burdened with this deadly epidemic for the foreseeable future. If these plans are effectively executed, however, the payback is enormous: not only will the country be finally able to control cholera and other water-borne diseases; it will also finally achieve the basic standards of health and hygiene enjoyed by nearly every other nation of this hemisphere. 

We therefore respectfully reiterate our request for you to continue urging the Secretary General and other key U.N. actors to take action to rid Haiti of cholera as quickly as possible.  We also request that you provide Congress with regular updates on the status of the plan to eliminate cholera, and on the process by which the U.N. is ensuring that the plan will be adequately funded.

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Conyers Hails $3.2 Million HIV Relief Grant to Detroit Public Health Department

(DETROIT) – Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded the Detroit Public Health Department more than $3.2 million in HIV emergency relief project grant funding. This funding was provided through the Division of Grants Management Operations in the Health Resources and Services Administration within HHS. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued this statement following the announcement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I commend the Department of Health and Human Services for their continued commitment to combating and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in metropolitan Detroit,” said Conyers.

“The more than $3.2 million in HIV emergency relief project grant funding will go a long way towards addressing this public health crisis. Traditionally underserved communities have been hit particularly hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Urban communities like Detroit are in urgent need of resources help provide life saving health care services for those living with the HIV/AIDS illness. This is especially true for individuals who are uninsured or underinsured.  These services include prescription drugs, primary care, home care, and end of life care.

“For those living with HIV/AIDS, access to medications and proper nutrition are a necessity. The HIV Emergency Relief Grant program is a federal program that saves lives, and helps to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS. This program is an example of effective and compassionate government at its best.”    

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Conyers Statement on Wayne State University Winning Competition for Perinatology Research Branch

(WASHINGTON) – Yesterday, Wayne State University (WSU) officials announced that the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Wayne State a second 10-year contract to continue housing the Perinatology Research Branch (PRB). Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued this statement in response to the announcement:

U.S. Representaive
John Conyers, Jr.
“Congratulations to Wayne State University on being awarded a $165.9 million contract by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health to continue to house the Perinatology Research Branch at Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit,” said Conyers.

“Wayne State University is a precious jewel in the city of Detroit and we are proud of its accomplishments and trailblazing efforts that have provided groundbreaking clinical research and medical care to women and their families.

“The Perinatology Research Branch was created by an act of Congress to address pregnancy complications, including the prevention of preterm birth, the diagnosis of congenital anomalies, preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction and other complications arising from pregnancy.  In 2002, NIH awarded its first contract to WSU to house and support the PRB.  As a result, the PRB facilitated the treatment of 20,000 uninsured pregnant women and contributed $350 million to the Michigan economy, creating 300 biotech jobs.

“Sadly, Michigan has one of the highest rates of premature births, but I am encouraged that we will address this issue over the next decade as the PRB, under the leadership of WSU, continues to lead the fight against pre-term births.”

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