Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Conyers and Jackson Lee Praise President Obama’s Actions on Solitary Confinement

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, President Obama announced that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice, in response to the President’s directive in July, has issued a report concerning the use of solitary confinement in America.  The report includes recommended strategies for prisons at the federal, state, and local levels to pursue, safely reduce solitary confinement, and details changes that the federal Bureau of Prisons will undertake. The President also stated that he will adopt the recommendations in the report, and will direct all related federal agencies to review the findings and develop a plan to address their use of solitary confinement.

In response to the announcement, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) released the following statements:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr.:  “I applaud the release of the report on solitary confinement by the President, and I am grateful for the thorough work of Attorney General Loretta Lynch in preparing the report and its recommendations.  Prisons have long over-relied on solitary confinement, which is often inhumane, ineffective, and financially wasteful.  As the report makes clear, we can reduce the use of solitary confinement while maintaining effective prison administration and not jeopardizing safety.   I hope states will adopt the changes that the President has directed to take place at the federal level, and I am particularly heartened that federal prisons will no longer place juveniles in solitary confinement, a practice that is harmful and inappropriate.  These changes are an important part of reforming our criminal justice system, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to pass measures that will make the system both more effective and fair.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: “The President’s action is a major and crucial step that will save lives of young juveniles. Solitary confinement is inhumane and can be especially destructive to children locked up in an already harsh system. Juveniles should be in a system that is rehabilitative, not life ending.

“That is why Ranking Member Conyers and I introduced a package of youth incarceration reform bills, including Kalief’s Law (H.R. 3155), a measure named in honor of a young man who tragically took his own life after spending two years in solitary at Riker’s Island without ever receiving a trial. Among other things, this bill would help avoid the loss of more young lives by banning solitary confinement for those 21 and under.  

“The President’s action is important and comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s much needed action to grant relief to juveniles serving sentences of life without parole. But it is even more important that Congress codify both of these just and humane steps for all young people, not just juveniles. Our children deserve nothing less. I am committed to making this a reality through our bipartisan criminal justice reform initiative, a key component of which will be comprehensive young justice reform legislation.”

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Friday, January 22, 2016

CONYERS Greets POTUS in Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with U.S. Representative John Conyers as he greets U.S. President Barack Obama as he disembarks Air Force One  for the 2016 NAIAS
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with U.S. Representative John Conyers as he greets U.S. President Barack Obama as he disembarks Air Force One  for the 2016 NAIAS

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Reps. Conyers and Lofgren Applaud Implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015

Reps. Conyers and Lofgren Applaud Implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee released the following statements after the Departments of Homeland Security and State announced yesterday implementation of the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015: 

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Rep. Conyers: “Requiring all travelers under the Visa Waiver Program to have an unexpired, fraud-resistant e-passport is an important security measure.  I also support new requirements for Interpol screening of travelers and reporting on theft of passports.  These provisions are included in the new law and will help improve our security here at home.

“I did not support this legislation, however, precisely because it failed to include critical exceptions for humanitarian aid workers and journalists reporting on the war in Syria and the atrocities ISIS is committing in the Middle East.  It also codifies provisions that could result in discrimination against people simply because they are dual citizens based on ancestry, which could lead to our Visa Waiver Program partner nations placing new limits on travel by U.S. citizens to their countries.

“I am pleased to see that the Administration is taking a common sense approach to implementation through the exercise of the statutory waiver authority on a case-by-case basis when it is in the law enforcement or national security interest of the United States.  I am hopeful that further implementation announcements from the Administration will make clear that the United States will not discriminate against any travelers based solely on ancestry. Doing so would accomplish the national security goals of the new law, while also adhering to the letter and spirit of the statute.”

Rep. Lofgren: “We all agree that the first responsibility of government is to keep the American people safe.  That is why I joined in a bipartisan effort to craft compromise legislation that enhances security in the Visa Waiver Program and ensures that any vulnerabilities that could put the American people at risk are addressed.

“Yesterday’s announcement from the Administration recognizes that U.S. national security interests include statutory waivers for those who have spent time in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, or other designated countries to provide medical or humanitarian aid or as journalists or researchers and in the case of Iran for legitimate business travel.  This approach to implementation, along with the other provisions in the new law, makes us safer.  The bill, as drafted, explicitly permitted the Administration to implement the visa program in this way and Democrats would not have supported the measure without providing the ability of the Administration to implement the program in this sensible way.

“With respect to the legislation’s dual national provisions, we have received assurances from the Departments of Homeland Security and State that the United States will not allow other countries to dictate limitations on travel to the United States based solely on another country’s nationality laws and one’s parentage – or, in turn, have such limitations imposed on Americans traveling abroad. The legislation passed by the House never sanctioned discrimination against Americans based on heritage and I am pleased that the Obama Administration agrees and has made that point abundantly clear for all Americans.”

Background: Under the Act, certain travelers are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program:

·         Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country); and

·         Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at U.S. embassies or consulates.  For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis.  Categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:

·         Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;

·         Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;

·         Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;

·         Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and

·         Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reps. Conyers and Lofgren Applaud U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Review President Obama’s Executive Immigration Actions

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Today U.S. Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommitteereleased the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review of the Texas-led challenge (U.S. V. Texas, et al.) to the President's executive immigration actions Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA):

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
"We are very pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case. We are confident the Court will see through the dubious legal and procedural arguments by lower courts and find the President's actions fully comport with U.S. immigration law and the Constitution. Permitting these programs to move forward will provide an important measure of certainty for millions of Americans and their immigrant families."  

"DAPA and expanded DACA are common-sense, lawful exercises of executive discretion, just like actions taken by prior presidents of both parties for decades, including Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. "

“We are optimistic that the Supreme Court will issue its decision upholding these actions before the current term ends in June.  Hard working immigrant families have waited long enough for stability and the opportunity to come out of the shadows. Today’s Supreme Court moved us one step closer to the relief they so desperately need."


DAPA would allow certain immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to register with the government, undergo a background check, and work without fear of deportation.  Expanded DACA provides the same protections to those who were brought to the United States as children and are Americans in every way but on paper. Last April,  Reps. Lofgren led 184 members of the House of Representatives and 34 Senators on an amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court granting review citing that “the significance of this to Congress’s ability to ensure rational, effective, and efficient enforcement of federal law by executive agencies cannot be overstated.”
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Monday, January 18, 2016

In Celebration Of The Legacy Of Coretta Scott King

Today, we celebrate the life of the greatest civil rights leader, the woman whose silent passion
John Conyers, Jr. and Coretta Scott King
enshrined in the annals of history, the right to justice through a peaceful society for every individual.

Coretta Scott King ensured the legacy of her husband was preserved through the collaborative efforts of many, to usher in the legislation, after 17 tenacious years, which is now recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

She is the inspiration for the blog Conyers in the House.

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MLK Day: Why on Monday and what was Stevie Wonder's role?

MLK Day: Why on Monday and what was Stevie Wonder's role?

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday in January every year, and while many people know the day is in recognition of King's birthday, not many are familiar with how the day became a holiday. Like, why do we celebrate it on a Monday and what was Stevie Wonder's role?
Here’s a rundown of how Martin Luther King, Jr., day came to be a federal holiday: 
Plans were underway to designate a national holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. just four days after his assassination. But the holiday didn't become a reality until more than a decade later.
On April 8, 1968, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced legislation for a federal holiday, according to The King Center.
The next year, Jan. 15, 1969, annual ceremonies commemorating King's birthday were launched by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta. They called for nationwide ceremonies and began working to gain support for the holiday.
In the 1970s, support for a national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday grew. Several states, including Illinois, Massachusetts and Connecticut become the first states to enact statewide King holidays, but Congress failed to act on a national level, according to the King Center.
"The campaign to get the holiday started almost immediately after he was killed, and people worked on it for a long time before it happened,” said Michael Honey, professor of humanities at University of Washington, Tacoma. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter called on Congress to vote on the King Holiday Bill. Not everyone was on board and the bill was defeated by five votes in the House in November of 1979.
While the nation recognizes King as an "icon for democracy" today, in the 1960s and 70s he was still a controversial figure, according to Honey, who wrote Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign. 
“This was the first holiday around a national figure who is not a president, and who is African American,” Honey said. “Many in Congress did not want to recognize an African American that was thought of as a troublemaker by some in his day.”
Despite years of setbacks, King’s widow, Coretta King Scott, continued to fight for approval of the holiday and testified before Congress multiple times.
So, where does Stevie Wonder come into play? 
Following the defeat of the bill, Stevie Wonder released Happy Birthday, in support of enacting a national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, according to the King Center.
The song became a hit, and in the early 1980s, Wonder worked with Coretta Scott King to gain support for the national holiday, according to the King Center.
In 1982, King and Wonder delivered a petition with 6 million signatures in favor of the holiday to theSpeaker of the House.
So, when did Martin Luther King day become a holiday? 
On Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill marking the third Monday of every January, as Martin Luther King, Jr., day, according to the center. The holiday was to begin in 1986.
In January 1986, the first national Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday was observed. According to the center, by this time 17 states had already enacted state King holidays.
If King's birthday is Jan. 15, why is MLK day always on the third Monday in January? 
You can thank the Uniform Monday Holiday Act for that, according to the Department of Labor. The bill was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, and designated that three federal holidays  — Memorial Day, Veterans Day, andWashington's birthday — would fall on Monday, according to the bill. It also recognized Columbus Day as a federal holiday.
The act was meant to "enable families who live some distance apart to spend more time together," and allow federal employees time to travel, Johnson said in a 1968 statement.
So, while King's birthday is Friday, Jan.15, this year, it is celebrated like other floating holidays under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Congressional Black Caucus Letter To POTUS on Flint Water Crisis

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Friday, January 15, 2016

CONYERS at Gompers Elementary-Middle School along with State Reps. Sherry Gay Dagnogo, Brian Banks, and LaTanya Garrett during the Detroit Public Schools Legislative Tour.

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting and joining students in the classroom at Gompers Elementary-Middle School along with State Reps. Sherry Gay Dagnogo, Brian Banks, and LaTanya Garrett during the Detroit Public Schools Legislative Tour.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

CONYERS joins round table discussion with Syrian and Iraqi refugees that have resettled in Southeast Michigan

Today, I joined Department of Homeland SecuritySecretary Jeh Johnson & Rep. Debbie Dingell for a round table discussion with Syrian and Iraqi refugees that have resettled in Southeast Michigan.

Dearborn, Michigan is home to the largest proportion of Arab Americans in the United States. I greatly welcome the opportunity to learn firsthand how we can better address the concerns of newly resettled #refugees#DHSinDearborn#RefugeesWelcome

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CONYERS Working For A Better Michigan

University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh dropped by Congress for the #LastSOTU with one message — working together for a better #Michigan — with Justin AmashJim Harbaugh,Fred Upton and Rep. Debbie Dingell at United States Capitol.

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Take Five: Rep. John Conyers

Take Five: Rep. John Conyers

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work.
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
This week, the Dean of the House, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., who has been attending States of the Union since being elected in 1964, talks about hearing Lyndon B. Johnson speak, Detroit and his long tenure in public office.
Q: Which president do you think gave the best State of the Union speeches?
A: In my first term as a member of Congress, I had the honor of hearing President Lyndon B. Johnson deliver the 1965 State of the Union Address, in which he described his domestic agenda and vision for a “greater society.”  The Democratic Party was in the majority at the time and the address was his blueprint for a more progressive America that included topics we still debate in Congress today — such as earning a livable wage, access to affordable health care and federal support for education. Most notably, President Johnson’s address expressly focused on the need to enact a law to prohibit racial discrimination in voting and protect the voting rights of African-Americans. The president’s call for this legislation would later be introduced as the Voting Right Act of 1965, the first major piece of legislation I voted on. Restoring the VRA remains a pivotal focus of my legislative priorities, especially after the Supreme Court gutted critical sections of the bill in 2013.
Q. When it comes to Michigan cars, are you more of a Ford man or a Jeep man?
A: I am a Ford and General Motors man.
Q: What is the best quality of the city of Detroit?
A: Detroit is the epicenter of organized labor, the birthplace of Motown music and where Rosa Parks, a civil rights hero, eventually called home. When you have a truly American city that is full of hardworking and good people, great food, striking architecture and immense hope toward the future — it is hard to narrow down what is the “best” quality of the Motor City.
Q: If someone was traveling to Detroit and wanted a food recommendation, where would you send them?
A: Be sure to grab a bite to eat at Eastern Market. One of the largest farmers’ markets in the country, you can pick up a variety fresh and specialty foods raised by local farmers at affordable prices.
Q: What do you like to read?
A: Both The New Yorker and The Nation.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

CONYERS: Share your thoughts on what I should encourage POTUS to focus on in his last year

Prior to tuning into President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address tonight, please join me for a live tele-townhall meeting at 6:30 PM by dialing 1-877-353-4701.
Join the town hall meeting to share your thoughts on what I should encourage President Obama to focus on in his last year that will best help the people of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. ‪#‎SOTU‬

Tune in for President Obama's final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016 at 9PM ET

I want to thank from the bottom of my heart the more than 9,000 of my constituents that joined the
tele-townhall tonight to discuss issues impacting our community.

Over President Obama's last year, I will make sure your voice is heard.

If I didn't get to your question, please feel free to contact me at conyers.house.gov and I will make sure you hear from me. ‪#‎SOTU‬

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Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., for the Markup of H.R. 1854, the “Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“H.R. 1854, the ‘Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015,’ reauthorizes funding for and updates the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004. 

“I support this bipartisan bill for several reasons. 

“To begin with, the legislation recognizes the fact that approximately 45% of federal inmates, 56% of state inmates, and 64% of jail inmates display symptoms of mental health conditions.   Of the approximate 11 million people who cycle through our Nation’s local jails annually, anywhere between 16% to 60% of this population have mental illness treatment needs. 
“In addition, studies indicate that mentally-ill prisoners tend to stay in jail longer than those without mental illnesses, return to jail more often, and cost local jurisdictions more money while incarcerated.

“The grants authorized by this legislation pertain to various aspects of the criminal justice spectrum, ranging from pre-booking to transitional programs addressing reentry after a prisoner has served his or her sentence.  These grants fund specialized law enforcement-based response programs, mental health courts and other court-based initiatives, jail-based programs, and programs for youth involved in the Juvenile Justice System. Another reason why I support H.R. 1854 is that it expands grants for veterans in the criminal justice system.  

“Specifically, the bill would authorize veterans treatment courts and related programs to help those who have served our Nation, but who are arrested and exhibit behavioral or mental health conditions, including substance addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental health conditions manifesting from traumatic brain injuries.

“Veterans courts help facilitate the diversion of veterans out of the criminal justice system where they can be directed to more appropriate mental health treatment.

 “By funding these specialized programs, H.R. 1854 will enhance our criminal justice system’s ability to meaningfully address the unique mental health needs of our veterans.       

 “Our veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance addictions, and other mental health conditions deserve better than being warehoused in our jails and prisons.

“Finally, H.R. 1854 authorizes continued grant funding for the training of law enforcement and correctional personnel to identify and appropriately respond to the mentally ill. 

 “This saves lives and money.  It also supports our long-term goals of criminal justice reform by reducing the number of individuals in jails and prisons and by promoting better relations between law enforcement and the public.

“Law enforcement grant programs fund the development of curricula for police academies and crisis intervention team programs that significantly help to lower the cost of mental health crisis police responses. 

“And, grant programs for correctional officers recognize the crucial role officers play in identifying those inmates who are in need of mental health treatment and are at risk for abuse in a custodial setting.  Our correctional officers need the appropriate training and tools in order to respond to a mental health crisis, to provide for the safety of the mentally ill, and to deliver appropriate treatment and medications.   

 “Accordingly, I support H.R. 1854 and urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.”
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Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Full Committee Markup of H.R. 4240, the "No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“H.R. 4240, the ‘No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act,’ is a common sense measure that supports the Terrorist Screening Database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, in doing so, will aid in our efforts to combat terrorism and keep our Nation safe.

“Since 2003, the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center helps to identify those individuals known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity by integrating information collected from law enforcement, homeland security, and intelligence communities.

“This information is then entered into the Database in order to populate various screening systems used by the U.S. government.  The result is a sophisticated watchlist and screening system that has undoubtedly saved lives.

“Despite the diligent work of the Screening Center and the many dedicated individuals who make the screening database possible, this system is not flawless.  Past incidents, such as the 2009 Christmas Day attempt attack by the ‘underwear bomber’ on a Northwest Airlines flight, put a spotlight on potential gaps in the system.
“In response, significant improvements have been made to the Database and audits by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General have revealed movement in the right direction.

Despite these regular audits, no independent review has been conducted of the changes to the watchlist and screening progress.

“To the extent additional improvements are necessary, or new weaknesses have emerged, such an independent review could serve to make us all safer.

“H.R. 4240 addresses this precise issue by directing the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent review of the operation and administration of the Terrorist Screening Database and subsets of the Database.

“This review will assess whether past weaknesses have been eliminated, and the extent to which existing vulnerabilities may be addressed or mitigated through additional changes.

“H.R. 4240 requires the GAO to complete and submit the results of the study to this Committee and our counterpart in the Senate not later than 18 months after the bill's enactment.

“In closing, I commend Subcommittee on Crime, Homeland Security, Terrorism, and Investigations Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee for her leadership on this important issue and I am proud to join her and many of my Committee colleagues in co-sponsoring this bipartisan legislation.

“I thank the Chairman for bringing H.R. 4240 before the Committee today and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.”

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