ICYMI: Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) urges House leadership to support discharge petition for Dreamers

Posted by FWD.us Press on 05/31/2018

Wanted to make sure you saw Congressman Will Hurd’s op-ed published earlier this week in the San Antonio Express-News, calling on his colleagues in the House to support a discharge petition that would force a vote on Dreamer legislation.

According to Rep. Hurd in the op-ed, “This rule allows a fair chance for the House to consider four separate bills, including the Dream Act and the USA Act, that would provide an earned pathway to legal status for Dreamers, as well as improve border security. Time is running out and House leadership must bring this to the floor and provide protections for the nearly 700,000 Dreamers living and contributing to our county.”

Since the Trump Administration eliminated the DACA program in September, there have been hundreds of votes on a number of issues in the U.S. House of Representatives; zero were focused on protecting Dreamers. FWD.us urges lawmakers to support the discharge petition and finally vote on legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of deserving young people, including more than 110,000 DACA recipients who grew up in Texas.

San Antonio Express-News // Congressman Will Hurd // Discharge petition can help nation’s Dreamers

Discharge petition can help nation’s Dreamers

Will Hurd, For the Express-News
May 28, 2018

We stand to lose 685,000 workers and $460 billion over the next decade.

This is what the United States economy would lose by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently offers temporary work permits and protection for nearly 700,000 individuals who were brought to this country through no fault of their own, as long as they meet specific work, school and background check requirements. Texas alone would lose an estimated $6.3 billion in GDP annually.

You’ve likely heard these — and many other — statistics before and wondered why Congress hasn’t acted. After all, over 70 percent of Americans support a permanent legislative fix that allows these young people to stay and continue contributing to our history, culture and economy.

But, the truth is, we have acted but have been repeatedly shut down. In January, I introduced the bipartisan Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act in the House which pairs a DACA fix with smart border security measures so we can finally achieve operational control of our southern border by 2020. Unlike other proposals, the USA Act incorporates the Smart Wall concept as its border component, which scraps a contiguous, physical wall in favor of modern technology like sensors, radar, LIDAR, fiber optics, drones and cameras – all of which are available commercially — to detect and track cross-border incursions until they can be safety interdicted.

The bill has the support of 60 total co-sponsors, half Republican and half Democrat, and would likely achieve a majority in the House. But just like all alternative bills that address DACA, the USA Act has not been brought to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, at least 113,000 families in Texas wait in limbo for DACA certainty and drug trafficking continues to generate an estimated $64 billion in annual sales in the United States due to unsecure borders.

After several attempts to solve these problems — it’s time for a new strategy.

That’s why I have been working with my colleagues to bypass legislative obstacles with a parliamentary procedure called a discharge petition which would force a debate on the House floor in front of the American people. If the discharge petition receives 218 signatures, it will trigger a vote on HR 774, which if adopted, will allow a series of floor votes on four DACA, immigration and border security bills under the “Queen of the Hill” rule. According to the rule, whichever proposal receives the most votes and meets the mandatory majority-vote threshold would be adopted.

Queen of the Hill would include Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s Securing America’s Future Act, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s Dream Act of 2017, my bipartisan USA Act and an immigration bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s choosing. Each bill offers a DACA fix with some or no varying degrees of border security and immigration components attached.

Ninety-seven percent of DACA recipients are in school or working. They are your classmates and your co-workers. They are starting new businesses at a rate almost double than the American public. Not only are these folks paying taxes, but they are purchasing first homes, cars and services from American businesses. They are creating jobs and contributing to our economy.

The discharge petition has been endorsed nationally by a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Leadership Fund, the Cato Institute, FWD.us, Coalition for the American Dream, the National Immigration Forum, New American Economy, Year Up and the National School Boards Association. Locally, it is supported by the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Independent School District and more organizations each day.

But even with widespread support, a successful discharge petition can only be brought to the floor on specific legislative days, dramatically limiting the available days left to solve this issue during this calendar year.

The clock is ticking and we must force House Leadership to take up these important pieces of legislation.

FWD.us Statement on Nomination of Ronald Mortensen as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration

Posted by FWD.us Press on 05/29/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement today on the nomination of Ronald Mortensen as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration:

“Especially given the news of the last few days and the separation of tiny babies from their parents, it is beyond troubling that people like Ronald Mortensen who have spent their careers spreading falsehoods on immigrants, and who have close ties to groups founded and funded by the eugenics movement, keep being appointed to these critical government jobs. The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in particular is involved in decisions to protect and ease the suffering of refugees and conflict victims — and, because of this enormous responsibility, people need to examine Mortensen’s incredibly disturbing record very closely. His nomination is part of a very deliberate policy agenda by this Administration to radically restrict legal immigration and deter others from immigrating to the United States. Mortensen’s nomination will come before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. We respectfully call on Senators Corker, Menendez, Gardner, Cardin, Portman, and all Members on both sides of the aisle to thoroughly examine Mortensen’s record and vote ‘no’ on his nomination. The Senate’s job is to advise and consent on key nominations, and it’s clear from Mortensen’s track record that he is unfit to serve in government.”

Mortensen is a current fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant policy center and hate group that advocates for removing as many immigrants from the U.S. as possible and reducing legal immigration as much as possible. CIS, which was founded and funded by avowed eugenicist and white nationalist John Tanton (author of The Case for Passive Eugenics), manipulates data to create misleading evidence in support of their policy goals. Additionally, the group regularly circulates white nationalist authors and their content, and in the last decade has done so more than 2,000 times.

FWD.us Statement on DHS’ Proposed Rescission of the International Entrepreneur Rule

Posted by FWD.us Press on 05/25/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a draft of its proposal to officially rescind the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), a regulation intended to allow the world’s most talented entrepreneurs to start business and create jobs in the United States. FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed by the Department of Homeland Security’s continued failure to drive economic growth through the International Entrepreneur Rule, a clear value-add policy that will bring vital skills, innovative ideas and entrepreneurship to our nation. Allowing highly qualified entrepreneurs to stay in this country to start and grow their companies will add hundreds of thousands of new American jobs and bring critical new capital to our economy. Eliminating this vital policy is a clear step in the wrong direction that will hurt job creation and middle class wage growth in the U.S. Letting the private sector invest in foreign-born entrepreneurs who are going to create American jobs is a win-win-win, and rescinding the IER will mean fewer immigrants and a lot fewer American jobs.”

Rescinding the IER is unquestionably a setback for the United States and incentivizes skilled entrepreneurs with exceptional promise to put their talents to work for our competitors abroad. DHS’ decision also stands at odds with the Administration’s previously-stated commitment to working with technology leaders to expand the American economy. A public comment period on the proposed rescission will begin next week.

ICYMI: John Legend and Rashad Robinson call for bail reform in joint CNN op-ed

Posted by FWD.us Press on 05/22/2018

Wanted to make sure you saw that Grammy winning artist John Legend and the Executive Director of Color of Change Rashad Robinson issued a joint op-ed today, calling on lawmakers to end money bail. Across the country, the current bail system is broken and forces hundreds of thousands of people to remain in jail simply because they lack the financial means to buy their freedom.

In New York, lawmakers have a chance to act now on critical bail reform legislation pending in Albany, and lead the way on bail reform. The Senate and Assembly are considering bills that would end cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies and limit pretrial detention to the most serious cases. These proposals would dramatically reduce pretrial incarceration across the state and enable New York City to close Rikers Island once and for all.

New Yorkers show deep and broad support for bail reform. A diverse coalition of people and groups have come together to push for ambitious bail reform during the 2018 legislative session. And, in a recent poll, over 70% of New York voters were in favor of bold bail reform proposals that would dramatically reduce jail populations across the state.

State lawmakers have the chance to enact laws this year that would make New York a leader in bail practices, but the clock is winding down. With just 15 legislative days left in this session, it’s time for lawmakers to act.

CNN // John Legend and Rashad Robinson // End money bail now

John Legend and Rashad Robinson: End money bail now
John Legend is a singer, songwriter, actor and activist. Rashad Robinson is executive director of Color Of Change, America’s largest online racial justice organization. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors

(CNN) No one should have to stay in jail because they lack the money to buy their freedom. Yet every night, according to the Justice Department’s statistics, nearly 450,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime sit in jail, a large number trapped there simply because they don’t have enough money to post bail.

For many, even a relatively modest bail amount is out of reach. Moreover, research shows that on average, black people are assigned higher bail amounts than other defendants arrested for the same offenses. Simply put, it is wrong to be forced by poverty to face an extensive stay in jail while awaiting a court date — separated from children, family and home, and running the risk of losing employment.

If you believe TV crime shows, you might think that commercial money bail emerged as a solution to a problem of justice: a service that reasonably aided people in paying bail — the deposit that defendants leave with the court as collateral for their promise to appear at trial. The actual history: the first commercial bail bond business started in 1898 in San Francisco and functioned as a corrupt payoff racket among crime bosses, judges, lawyers and police.

This history is consistent with the reality of money bail today. If you are wealthy, you can post the bail amount and walk free, whether or not you pose a threat to society. But if you don’t have the money, regardless of how small the alleged crime, giving in to the commercial money bail industry may be your only option to avoid a months-long wait behind bars.

Recently, momentum to reform the unjust bail system has gained steam. In January 2018, a California appellate court declared that no one can be jailed because they’re too poor to pay their way to freedom. It also places stringent requirements on judges to demonstrate why someone should be held in jail rather than remain home with their family as they defend their case.

Even district attorneys, who have historically been some of the biggest advocates for money bail, have been stepping up. Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Chicago’s State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Philadelphia’s newly-elected DA Larry Krasner have all eliminated money bail for certain low-level offenses to end the system’s reliance on unnecessary and harmful pretrial detention.
However, these successes don’t fully mitigate the destruction caused by the commercial bail bond industry — how it preys upon low-income communities and people of color, among many others — or address the urgent need to dismantle it entirely.

The for-profit commercial bail bonds industry is built on predatory business practices. With bail bond agents working as proxies for large insurance corporations, they exploit poor communities, particularly black communities.

In exchange for a nonrefundable fee from defendants, a bail bond agent will secure a person’s release from jail, often without having to deposit any money with the court themselves. When families cannot pay bond agents in cash, they may be forced to put up their car or home as collateral, which they can easily lose entirely if they do not make each and every payment installment.

With the potential threat of physical harm in jail looming, as well as the consequences of not returning to their lives, people often sign contracts filled with egregious terms that put their entire family at risk. These can include unannounced, armed home searches, vehicle tracking, body monitoring and phone surveillance — all conducted by private, poorly regulated bail bond agents. Unbelievably, even when the charges are dropped, the case is dismissed or a defendant is found innocent by the court, families remain on the hook to pay the full amount of exorbitant fees demanded by these agents.

The commercial bail industry generates nearly $2 billion each year. Last year, in New York City alone, there were 12,000 bonds secured through commercial bail bond companies for an aggregate amount of $280 million. Premiums, fees and illegally retained collateral from these products may have exceeded $25 million — nearly all of it coming from low-income communities of color who are hit hardest by mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and other public policies that disproportionately target them. Many, including the New York City Comptroller, have called for an eradication of the industry.

Dismantling the commercial bail industry is a steep hill to climb. In recent negotiations over bail reform in New York State, for example, the aggressive influence of the bail bond industry won the lobbying contest, while justice for our communities lost out.

But the fight is not over and there is hope. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo can make good on his own professed vision for reform by supporting new and improved bail reform legislation during the regular session this year. With so much happening in the shadows, Cuomo and other elected officials should push for follow-up investigation to an initial report from Color Of Change exposing the true ills of the commercial bail industry.

Cuomo recently sent a tweet announcing an investigation in response to a campaign by Color Of Change and our partners. But he needs to move quickly to implement it, as New Yorkers are still subject to the abuses of the bail industry.

Prosecutors, mayors, legislators and governors across the country are responding to the community-led movement for bail reform and reconsidering the role of money bail in our justice system. We must all add our voices to the call to #EndMoneyBail if we are going to finally put an end to the corrupt, destructive, and unnecessary industry that is commercial bail.