Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Inside the Immigration File of San Bernardino Shooter Tashfeen Malik

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. said today he is "concerned" that Goodlatte "reached several conclusions that are not supported by the available facts."   "We have reviewed the suspect's immigration file, and found that it included relevant evidence such as passport stamps, biographic data, and translated Saudi visas submitted in response to USCIS's request for further evidence," said Conyers.
"Moreover, the Saudi government has specifically confirmed that both suspects were present in that country at the same time in October 2013, consistent with an affidavit in the file. The FBI presented similar evidence in a briefing to our committee members last week."

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Officials, interfaith and civil rights activists condemn bigotry

Officials, interfaith and civil rights activists condemn bigotry
Congress members Brenda Lawrence (L), John Conyers and Debbie Dingell stand at the podium in front 
of a group of activists and officials at Charles Wright Museum of African American History, Dec. 21
DETROIT — Heads of civil rights organizations, interfaith activists, government officials and religious leaders gathered at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history to condemn the rising tides of Islamophobia, which are manifesting as hate crimes across the nation.
Speakers from the group dubbed "One Nation, One Voice Against Bigotry and Hate Coalition" took turns denouncing xenophobia and promoting unity at a press conference on Monday morning. 

Nabih Ayad, chairman of the Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL), said those on the path of hate are on the wrong side of history.
"We know very well that diversity inherently is very strong for this nation and for this community," he said. 

Democratic U.S. Reps speak out
U.S. Reps. John Conyers (D-Detroit), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) took part in the event and voiced support for the local Muslim community.

"How wonderful it is to see in this important hall a group of men and women, leaders of many different organizations, coming together to speak out and encourage the diversity that marks us a great area," Conyers, the dean of the House of Representatives, said.
Congresswoman Lawrence urged Americans to speak up against discrimination.
"History has taught us that the biggest threat to our democracy is silence," she said.
She said allowing bigotry to go on against one group puts the entire society at risk.
"Collectively, if we raise our voices and not be silent, we can make a difference," Lawrence added. "We can show those who are misinformed that hatred will not be tolerated; not in this country, not in southeast Michigan." 
Rep. Dingell stressed that metro Detroit residents are united. She described Arab and Muslim Americans as friends and colleagues.
"They are our neighbors; they are our small business owners; they are our doctors," she said. "Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian and he [Jobs] was one of the greatest inventors of this country."
She said anti-Muslim sentiments violate the fundamental founding principles of the United States.
"Stop," Dingell said, addressing those who promote anti-Muslim bigotry. "Enough is enough. It's not who we are as Americans."
The congresswoman said she will scream if she is asked about Muslims' denouncing terrorism again.
"They're speaking out every day, but the media is not covering it," she added.

Barbara McQuade
"False narrative"
Barbara McQuade, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said the backlash against Arab and Muslim Americans harms national security.
"We know that terrorist organizations like ISIS use this rhetoric as propaganda," she said. "They love to use that false narrative that America is at war with Islam."
McQuade said "misguided stereotypes" about Arabs and Muslims are spreading because people are afraid to interact with others who are different."Why is it when Timothy McVeigh commits a terrorist attack in Oklahoma City, no one blames all Catholics?" she asked. "When a White supremacist shoots up a Black church, no one blames all Whites. Yet, when there is a terrorist attack committed by a Muslim, we paint with a broad brush. Why is that? Because we demonize that which is different."
McQuade said during World War II German Americans were not put in internment camps, but Japanese Americans were— "because they look different."
To suggest that Muslim Americans are less American than the rest of us is insulting to all of us," McQuade said. "When it comes to national security, united we stand; and divided we fall."
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans acknowledged the contributions of local Arabs and Muslims to the county.
"Diversity is important to being successful," he said.
Evans said bigotry and lack of respect are a problem for the development of the county, state and nation.
Steve Spreitzer, president of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, said people should come to know the larger human family around them.
"Dr. King marched to Selma for voting rights and to Washington for human rights," he said. "What we need in southeast Michigan is to march across these artificial barriers for human relations and for people to come to know people who are different."
Nabby Yono, vice president of community relations at the Arab American and Chaldean Council (ACC), said prejudice is the same whether against Arabs, Chaldeans, Christians or Muslims and should be condemned.
"We're in it together," he said. 

"Did you get it?"
The Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani, who emceed the conference, reiterated Arab Americans' stance on terrorism.
"Just in case you did not hear it before, here it is again — we, the Arab and Muslim communities in the United States, condemn terrorist acts, whether they are acted by individuals, groups or governments," Siblani said.
"Did you get it?" he asked reporters. "Did everybody hear it? Should I repeat it again. Stop asking us to apologize for the terrorists, because we are their first victims."
Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly paid tribute to the Charles H. Wright Museum, which chronicles African Americans' historic struggles with slavery and segregation.
The mayor said it was fitting to hold the press conference at the museum because it details some of the greatest mistakes the United States has committed. 
"We can't go back and we can't slide back," O'Reilly said. "What I'm most concerned about particularly is our citizens who feel threatened and are afraid."
The mayor added that politicians with supposed credibility are promoting xenophobia at the national level, adding that Muslim citizens fear for their constitutional rights.
"We just can't let that happen," O'Reilly said. "We have to protect everyone."
Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad stressed public safety, reaffirming his department's commitment to protecting the civil rights and liberties of all residents.
"I'm proud to stand here with our group," Haddad said. "We're going to make sure that — from a public safety perspective — we do all we can."
Brenda Rosenberg, the founder of Pathways to Peace Foundation in Action, emphasized the importance of dialogue between ethnic and religious groups.
Rosenberg said she sent an email last week with a list of 12 Jewish civil rights, religious and political organizations that stood with the Muslim community.
"We have to come together and stand together like we're doing today," she said.
The message against Islamophobia was also reiterated by Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit Chapter of the NAACP; Fatina Abdrabboh, executive director of ADC-Michigan; Shirley Stancato, president of New Detroit; Najah Bazzy, of Zaman International; and former State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, campaign manager of Take on Hate.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Conyers Praises Announcement of Commutation of Sentences and Pardons, Looks forward to Congressional Action on Criminal Justice Reform

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement after the White House announced the commutation of the sentences of 95 individuals, including three in Michigan, and the pardoning of two individuals:

Dean of the U.S House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“I welcome and applaud the commutations and pardons announced today.  Incarcerating people for unwarranted lengths of time serves no constructive purpose.  The President has recognized this, as has Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and I hope the Administration’s Clemency Project will continue to address the multitude of cases in which sentence reductions are appropriate.  Of course, the need to engage in such a broad review of sentences exists largely because our sentencing laws and policies, particularly for drug offenses, urgently need to be changed.  I am heartened that both the House and Senate are making progress, on a bipartisan basis, in the effort to address the problems of unfair sentencing and over-incarceration.  I look forward to continued work on these issues in the new year.”

Click here for more details on the commutation of sentences for 95 individuals and pardons of two individuals. 

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

CONYERS: Lighten the Load on Our Nurses for Better Health Care

Forty-five years ago today, I cast my vote in favor of one of the most important pieces of legislation ever: the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Passed by a Democratic U.S. Congress and signed by a Republican President, the "OSH Act" as it is known, stood for a radical proposition: workers should not have to choose between their livelihoods and their lives.
Prior to the OSH Act, workplace safety was a concept only familiar to those with a good union or an unusually goodhearted boss. There was no law saying your employer had to send you home every day in one piece.
The OSH Act changed that.
It made the Secretary of Labor legally responsible for confronting the dangerous, preventable hazards that affected the 55 million people in the workforce in 1970. America's workers finally had someone powerful who could fight for their safety--and that has made a world of difference.
Since 1970, America's workplace death rate has dropped from nearly 12,000 when the OSH Act passed to around 4,000 today. And our injury rate per worker dropped as well, from around 11 in a hundred workers to under 4 in a hundred.
But while saving almost 8,000 lives and the health of about one in 13 workers is a tremendous accomplishment -- there are still more than 4,000 lives lost every year and another one in 30 workers to protect. We still have too many dangers left to confront for us to rest.
Protecting our nurses and other health care workers is a great place to make an immediate impact.
Every day, nurses, nursing assistants, and other health care workers suffer injuries due to the strain of manually lifting their patients. The damage to these caregivers' backs, necks, arms, shoulders, and hips -- medically referred to as musculoskeletal disorders -- drives them from the jobs they love and changes the course of their lives. It also makes medical care more expensive because consumers end up paying for workers' compensation, training replacement nurses, and longer hospital stays due to patient falls.
The simple fact is that human beings are not very good at lifting heavy things. One comprehensive study of automotive workers found the maximum safe amount to lift on a regular basis is 35 lbs., or the weight of an average four-year old boy. But nurses are lifting far more than that--sometimes hundreds of pounds. And the cumulative strain they are under, around 1.8 tons per shift, is literally breaking their backs -- causing more than 20,000 missed days for nursing assistants last year and over 11,000 for registered nurses.
These injuries are foreseeable, preventable, and expensive. They are driving up costs and drive down patients' and caregivers' quality of life. Forty-five years after the U.S. Congress told the American public that you do not have to sacrifice your health to make a living, it is time for us to address this flagrant hazard.
U.S. Senator Al Franken and U.S.Representative John Conyers, Jr.
That is why I, along with Senator Al Franken, recently reintroduced legislation to protect our nurses: The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act (H.R. 4266/S.2408).
This simple bill directs the Secretary of Labor to issue a health and safety standard under the OSH Act that eliminates the unsafe and unnecessary practice of manual patient lifting. It would prevent thousands of injuries to nurses, protect patients from falls, and make our health care system more efficient because nurses are focused and pain-free.
This legislation borrows heavily from the work of tireless advocates for nurses and other health care workers. The American Nurses Association has been fiercely supportive of their members on this issue and convened a working-group of world-class experts to design a safe patient handling standard. The American Federation of Teachers has fought for their union-members, many of whom are nurses and other healthcare workers, who sacrifice their bodies for their patients. Public Citizen has laid out the financial and technological case for this standard. And we are especially indebted to the hospitals who have already adopted safe patient lifting standards, and who have shown what happens when health care facilities put workers and patients first.
Forty-five years ago, I helped write a promise into the American Dream: you do not have to risk your life or health to provide for yourself and your family. But that promise remains unfulfilled. The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act will help us change that by ensuring nurses are no longer asked to exchange their health for their patients' health.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lawmakers to oppose spending bill over cyber language

Lawmakers to oppose spending bill over cyber language

A small group of lawmakers will vote against the sweeping omnibus spending deal because of the inclusion of a cybersecurity bill.
“I just think it’s very troubling,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told The Hill. “The bill should not be in the omnibus. It’s a surveillance bill more than a cyber bill.”
“I’m going to vote against the omnibus as a consequence,” she added.
The cyber bill would encourage businesses to share more data on hackers with the government.
“There’s plenty wrong with this omnibus, but there's nothing more egregious than the cyber language they secretly slipped in,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told The Hill by email.
Proponents of the bill say the the decision to attach was necessary to avoid further delays on much-needed legislation. A broad swath of lawmakers, many industry groups and the White House support the measure as a critical first step to help the country better respond to cyberattacks.
“This is the most protective of privacy of any cyber bill that we have advanced and we need to keep in mind the overriding interest all Americans have in protecting their privacy from these innumerable hacks,” Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a cosponsor of his panel’s cyber bill, told The Hill. “Our privacy is being violated every day. And the longer we delay on measures like this, the more we subject ourselves to those kind of intrusions into our privacy.”
But privacy groups and civil liberties advocates have warned the bill will could shuttle more of Americans’ personal data to the National Security Agency (NSA).
Lofgren and Amash were two of the four lawmakers who signed a letter Tuesday expressing frustration at how lawmakers had merged three bills to create the final version, which was released overnight as part of the $1.15 trillion omnibus spending bill.
Lawmakers have been working on the cyber language the Senate passed its Intelligence Committee-originated bill in October. The House passed its two complementary bills in April: one from that chamber's Intelligence panel and another from Homeland Security.
But rather than conduct a more formal conference between the two chambers, lawmakers relied on unofficial discussions to produce the compromise text, due to some disagreements between the House and Senate over the conference process and the unusual need to combine three bills.
Lofgren and Amash joined Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) on the letter that denounced this process.
“Neither negotiations — nor even bill text — have been made public,” they said. “We cannot cast such a consequential vote with no input.”
A spokesman for Polis said the tactic heavily contributed to the lawmaker’s decision to vote against the omnibus.
“There are several provisions in the bill that concern him, but the last-minute addition of the cybersecurity bill is one of the most serious,” said the representative in an email.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the other cosponsor of his committee’s bill, told The Hill that several senators had threatened to permanently stall an official conference.
“Then you have a dead process,” he said. “And you have cyberattacks occurring.”
“You’ve got to attach it to something,” said House Homeland Security Committee ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who cosponsored his panel’s bill. “We were not able to get a conference on the bill itself, so this is a vehicle. That’s how I see it.”
Schiff acknowledged that the process wasn’t perfect. But it was the best path under the circumstances, he said.
“In an ideal world we wouldn’t have omnibuses, but I think after three years of working to move this issue forward we were fortunate to get on the train that’s moving,” he told The Hill.
Late Wednesday, Lofgren sent a follow-up letter to her colleagues detailing objections to the actual text.
“What was intended to be a cybersecurity bill to facilitate the sharing of information between the private sector and government was instead drafted in such a way that it has effectively become a surveillance bill, and allows information shared by companies to be used by the government to prosecute unrelated crimes,” the letter reads.
Amash, Polis signed the letter, as did Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
The bill's backers have aggressively pushed back against these claims, pointing to myriad privacy clauses and anti-surveillance language in the text.
But these protests are shared by a small and vocal contingent of privacy- and civil liberties-minded lawmakers on both the left and the right.
Whether the group unites under their cyber bill opposition to try to stall the omnibus is less clear.
“A number of members have talked to me about it,” Lofgren said. “They’re concerned about it, but they have to weigh the other elements of the [omnibus], which I understand.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, the upper chamber’s leading critic of its cyber bill, is a prime example.
The Oregon Democrat has vowed to fight or alter the cyber bill using every means possible. But as the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden will be forced to consider his cyber opposition against numerous other provisions he may support.
Wyden’s office said the lawmaker had not yet decided how he would vote on the omnibus.
Amash encouraged his colleagues to stand with him.
“A vote for the omnibus is a vote to support unconstitutional surveillance on all Americans,” he said. “It's probably the worst anti-privacy vote in Congress since the Patriot Act.”
The bill’s backers don’t believe this cyber opposition is enough to derail the entire omnibus.
“I hear there are a lot of issues around the omnibus, but I have not heard that cyber is one of them,” Thompson said.
“I think there are much bigger fish to fry in the omnibus in terms of what people are concerned about,” Schiff agreed, citing controversial oil provisions.
Nunes thinks the cyber bill has given omnibus critics an easy out to explain their opposition.
“The appropriate question to ask people complaining about this is, ‘So let’s pull out cyber, you going to vote for the omnibus?’” he said.
“I think I know the answer.”
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Conyers, Franken Reintroduce Bill to Protect Nurses and Health Care Workers from Workplace Injuries

U.S. Senator Al Franken and Representative John Conyers, Jr.
Washington, D.C. - Today, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) reintroduced the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2015, a bill dedicated to addressing the hazards nurses and health care workers face from manually lifting patients. The legislation acts upon the increasingly clear fact that nurses are suffering too many serious, preventable injuries due to unsafe lifting practices.

“We reintroduced this legislation because of the dangers that the women and men who care for us in our most trying times face on a daily basis,” said Rep. John Conyers. “H.R. 4266, the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act would ensure that those men and women are adequately protected from injuries caused by lifting and moving patients and other related job hazards.  By literally lightening the burden on nurses, we can lessen the nursing shortage that is driving up health care costs across the country and denying patients the experienced caregivers they deserve.”

“Our nurses and health care workers provide essential care to millions of Americans, and they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their safety or their livelihood to do so,” Sen. Franken said. “Every year, thousands of these caregivers sustain serious injuries as a result of manually lifting patients. These injuries can cause a lifetime of chronic pain and even force nurses to leave the profession permanently. Our bill would ensure that nurses and health care workers have the tools they need to do their jobs safely, which would prevent injuries, increase patient safety, and reduce costs.”

“Too often we take nurses for granted, but we rely on the invaluable services they provide. Nurses literally do the heavy lifting when it comes to patient care and deserve systems designed to protect their health and safety. This legislation would help reduce the sometimes career-ending injuries that are completely avoidable,” said Rep. Wilson.

The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2015 addresses the problems confronting nurses by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate a health and safety standard.  That standard would require the use of mechanical lifts and safe lifting practices to minimize the risk of injury. 
Presently, nurses and health care workers suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) at a rate much higher than the average American worker.  In 2014, registered nurses ranked sixth in the number of days away from work because of such injuries, with more than 11,300 total cases; nursing assistants ranked second, with over 20,000.  While alarming, these numbers actually reflect the innovative efforts of states that already regulate patient lifting and the hospitals that recognize the cost-effective returns of investing in safe patient lifting programs.

Despite some progress, there are still far too many nurses injured on the job while lifting patients.  Those injuries lead to nurses exiting the profession, upending their lives because they can no longer perform their job.  Those injuries can also generate increased costs for the health care industry, which must cover lost wages and medical fees for injured health care workers, and train replacements who lack the institutional knowledge lost with each injury.
This proposed standard would build upon the success of similar reforms adopted at the state and individual health care facility level, which has already demonstrated the technological and economic feasibility of such approaches.  Hospitals and other health care providers have repeatedly demonstrated a quick return when they invest in safe patient handling programs, recovering their investment through decreased workers’ compensation costs, employee retention savings, and reduced patient care expenses.  By standardizing this policy across the nation, the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act will alleviate burdens on health care facilities, nursing training programs, and worker’s compensation agencies.

This bill has the support of key organizations that have long-sought reforms for nurses and health care workers. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said, “Nurses and other healthcare workers put their patients first. Sometimes, these workers get physically hurt by helping the people they care for. This bill provides a wonderful solution for patients, nurses and other healthcare workers by creating a federal standard on safe patient handling, mobility and injury prevention. As the nation’s second-largest nurses union, the AFT supports Sen. Franken and Rep. Conyers’ efforts to give our members a safe healthcare environment in which they can do what they do best—provide the highest-quality of care for their patients.”

The American Nurses Association (ANA) President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN commends Rep. Conyers and Sen. Franken for the introduction of the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act. “Every day, nurses and other health care workers suffer debilitating and often career-ending musculoskeletal disorders when they manually lift or move patients, and work in pain. Manual lifting is an unacceptable risk and practice when we have the technology and knowledge to significantly reduce injuries. This bill signals that workers are not expendable and injuries are not tolerable as just ‘part of the job.’ It is a much needed step in the right direction to implementing safer programs that will help tosave and extend the careers of thousands of registered nurses,” said Cipriano, noting that safe lifting technology and simple devices also prevent injuries to patients and preserve their dignity.

Sen. Franken—who serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety—has fought to improve safety for American workers since joining the Senate. He first introduced legislation to implement safe patient handling procedures in 2009, and earlier this year he introduced the Protecting American Workers Act to expand the number of safe workplaces and make it harder to violate workplace safety laws.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

CONYERS: The Federal Reserve Should Let Jobs and Wages Grow

By John Conyers, Jr.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise the federal funds interest rate from the near-zero levels in force since December 2008. With the headline unemployment rate at 5 percent, many Fed officials are declaring that we are near full employment, and will therefore act to slow the economy for the first time in 7 years. 

This would be a mistake. Our jobs recovery remains incomplete. 

In 1977, Congress tasked the Federal Reserve with the "dual mandate" of pursuing "maximum" employment and low inflation. But fighting potential inflation--the top priority of inflation hawks at the Fed--comes at the expense of jobs and wages. Raising interest rates dampens economic demand with the goal of impairing the job market and undermining workers' ability to seek higher pay or better benefits (what Wall Street executives refer to as "wage inflation"). If the Fed raises interest rates for the first time since the Great Recession, they will effectively be declaring "mission accomplished" on jobs and wages.

But there is a major issue: The data simply does not support a rate hike. Inflation remains well below the Fed's target of 2 percent (a target that many leading economists already say is too low). Meanwhile, tens of millions of workers are struggling to find good jobs. Over 6 million Americans are working part-time because they can't find a full-time gig. Arguably the most important indicator, the prime-age employment-to-population ratio (the share of adults ages 25 to 54 who have a job) has recovered less than half of its drop from the Great Recession. This means that over 4 million would-be workers have given up looking for work, and are not even counted as unemployed. And one figure that Fed Chair Janet Yellen is known to watch carefully--the quits rate, or the percentage of workers willing to leave their job, has remained essentially unchanged all year. At year's end, the quits rate is still 9.2 percent lower than it was before the recession, indicating that many workers are stuck in jobs that they would leave if they could. This makes sense, because with 1.5 unemployed workers for every job opening, one-third of those currently unemployed will not be able to find a job no matter how hard they search. 

Wage growth has been sluggish, with workers unable to earn their share of what was lost in the recession, and November's jobs report showed that it slowed to a crawl for many workers. With a minimum wage that is lower in real terms than it was in 1968, and millions of Americans still seeking work, the Fed should not slow job creation and wage growth absent clear evidence of inflation. 

Workers of color have the most to lose from a premature rate increase. The African-American unemployment rate is more than double the rate for whites, with many urban pockets--such as my hometown of Detroit--faring even worse. But letting the economy reach full employment holds some answers: For every 1 percent reduction in the national unemployment rate, African-Americans see a nearly 2 percent reduction. When the unemployment rate dropped to 4 percent in the late 1990s, the black unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent, the lowest rate on record and the closest it has ever been to the white rate during an economic expansion. An unsubstantiated rate increase will again raise questions about the Fed's commitment to ensuring that our disadvantaged populations can experience the American Dream of earning a living.

If the Fed does rush to raise rates, it would not be the first time that our central bank valued Wall Street's inflation jitters over the livelihoods of American workers. Since 1980, the economy of the United States has operated below full employment 70 percent of the time, according to the Congressional Budget Office's official estimate of full employment. This is perhaps unsurprising, considering that Fed policymakers almost exclusively come from the financial industry and tend to be far more concerned about inflation than working Americans. 

To correct this imbalance, I introduced H.R. 3541, "The Full Employment Federal Reserve Act," which instructs the Fed to target a 4 percent unemployment rate. Even if it is not immediately passed by Congress, Fed officials should follow the lessons from the late 1990s that inspired my bill. At the time, then-Fed Chair Alan Greenspan was facing the same pressure from banks and inflation hawks to raise rates that Yellen is facing today. Greenspan, however, refused to go along, and the unemployment rate dropped all the way down to 4 percent as a year-round average for 2000. This meant that millions of Americans were able to get jobs and wage increases a rate increase would have denied them.

Despite causing the Great Recession, Wall Street got bailed out. Congress then failed to enact meaningful job creation legislation (such as my New Deal-style jobs bill, H.R. 1000) to bail out working Americans. Will the Fed now heed our workers and allow jobs and wages to grow? Will they look at the reams of data showing that the job market remains damaged from the recession? Or will they pull the rug out from under the recovery, setting a troubling precedent by slowing the economy before it's ready? We find out on Wednesday.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

33 Members of Congress Urge Congressional Leadership to Consider Improvements To Visa Waiver Bill Provisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), joined by 29 Members of Congress, issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) asking them to consider possible improvements to the House-passed version of H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015. The letter was signed by Members who voted for and against H.R. 158.

The House-passed H.R. 158 would result in discrimination against people simply because they are dual citizens based on ancestry, which could result in our Visa Waiver Program partner nations placing new limits on travel by U.S. citizens to their countries. The bill would also bar certain humanitarian workers from traveling under the Visa Waiver Program, and thus could result in less assistance reaching some of the most vulnerable individuals in the world.  Additionally, the House-passed bill also fails to include a sunset provision for the new visa waiver procedures, denying Congress the opportunity to reevaluate their efficacies and determine if additional changes are needed.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Conyers, Kildee, Dingell, Lawrence Release Joint Statement on Visa Waiver Program Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), and Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) released the following joint statement on H.R. 158, the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act,” which would, among other things, prevent dual nationals of Iraq and Syria, or individuals who have traveled to these countries, from participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Dean of the U.S. House
                  of Representatives
                   John Conyers, Jr.
“The first responsibility of government is to keep the American people safe. The American people are rightfully concerned about the threat of terrorism following the attacks in Beirut, Paris and San Bernardino. Recently, Congress and the Administration have been examining changes to the Visa Waiver Program to ensure that there are not any vulnerabilities that could put the American people at risk. 

“There are many provisions of H.R. 158 that we support. Specifically, requiring all travelers under the Visa Waiver Program to have an unexpired, fraud-resistant electronic passport is an important security measure to take. We also support requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to study further ways to incorporate anti-fraud and deception technology into the Visa Waiver Program. Both of these steps will help improve our security here at home.

“However, we voted against the H.R. 158 today because we are concerned that the provisions in the legislation restricting the use of the visa waiver program to individuals who have travelled to Syria or Iraq or are dual nationals of these or other covered nations are discriminatory. These more controversial provisions have never been the subject of any committee hearing or markup and deserved more review and vetting before being considered on the House Floor.

“We are also concerned that these provisions contain no exceptions for journalists, researchers, human rights investigators or other professionals.  There is also an issue as to whether the new requirement will result in our partner nations placing new limits on travel by U.S. citizens to their own countries. 

“It is because of these concerns that numerous civil rights and civil liberties groups have expressed serious concerns or outright opposition to the overall legislation, including the ACLU, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab-American Civil Rights League, Human Rights Watch, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, among others. 

“We hope that these provisions will face further review and consideration before being taken up by the Senate or included in any year-end legislation.”  

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