FWD.us Highlights Chaos and Continuing Uncertainty for Dreamers in New Memo to Members of Congress

Posted by FWD.us Press on 03/13/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, FWD.us sent a memo to Members of Congress highlighting the unstable environment that ongoing legal challenges and Congressional inaction have created for Dreamers. The memo, entitled “Severe Instability and Fragility of Protection for DACA Recipients,” highlights the reality that misleading press reports are obscuring critical facts surrounding the state of Dreamers, as well as the massive impact of Congressional inaction on Dreamers’ lives.

 

In January, federal court orders required USCIS to resume processing DACA renewal applications; while this development has allowed many Dreamers to extend their DACA authorizations, these protections are temporary, could end at any time, and do not provide the permanent solution Dreamers need to continue living, working, and contributing to the only country they call home.

 

Last week, after months of stalling, Congress missed the the March 5th deadline given by President Trump when he ended the DACA program six months earlier. For more than 22,000 DACA recipients, this has meant falling out of status, losing their previously valid work authorization, and being forced to leave their jobs. Congress must use the omnibus spending bill on March 23 as an opportunity to pass a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. Dreamers are students, teachers, entrepreneurs, and engineers who make meaningful and substantial economic and cultural contributions to communities across the nation every day. Dreamers have waited in limbo for our elected leaders to do their job and take a vote.

 

The memo states: “As members of Congress, you can end this unnecessary limbo and provide a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers, once and for all. It is common sense that Congress cannot rely on the courts to protect Dreamers in the long-term and holds the responsibility to resolve this issue of national importance.”

 

Americans overwhelmingly support Dreamers and want Congress to pass a legislative solution that allows these hardworking individuals to continue working, living, and contributing to this country. For months, President Trump has repeatedly said that Dreamers have nothing to worry about. To end their uncertainty and fear, Members of Congress shouldn’t miss another opportunity to pass permanent legislative protections for Dreamers. Congress should vote on bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers as soon as possible. They cannot afford to delay any longer.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin Joins Chicago-Area Business Leaders, DACA Recipients to Discuss Current Immigration Issues

Posted by FWD.us Press on 03/09/2018

CHICAGO, IL – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin joined Chicago business leaders and DACA recipients to highlight the important impact of immigrants and Dreamers in the Chicago community. During a roundtable discussion at Microsoft Technology Centers in Chicago, participants discussed the economic impact of legal immigration and the need to protect and expand opportunities for immigrants to continue to contribute to our communities and economy.

During the dialogue, former Director of USCIS, Leon Rodriguez, conveyed the value and energy that Dreamers and other immigrant communities contribute to this nation, the economy and their families. Senator Durbin also affirmed his commitment to support Dreamers and reiterated the urgency of defending the over 41,000 DACA recipients residing in Illinois.

“The DACA program has given hundreds of thousands of young people a chance to come out of the shadows and contribute more fully to the country call home. We’ve witnessed them graduate college, start businesses, and give back to their communities in many ways,” Senator Durbin said. “The need for the Dream Act is no less urgent following the Supreme Court’s decision, which does not change the reality that tens of thousands of Dreamers are losing their work permits and protection from deportation. This crisis isn’t going away, and I will not rest until these young people and their families have the future in America that they deserve.”

The roundtable comes days after the March 5th deadline given to congress by President Trump to pass legislative protections for Dreamers. Chirayu Patel, DACA recipient and Asset Manager said, “I hope that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle can come together to find a solution to protect Dreamers so that I can continue to work on my dreams and contribute to my community. This uncertainty means desperation from the educational conference that I started over 10 years ago and is attended by over 1000 high school students from across the country. However, I am still not deterred and with support of fellow Dreamers and friends I will continue to build my life in the only country I know as home.”

At the roundtable, speakers representing Illinois’ business and tech companies called for Congress to take immediate action before nearly 800,000 Dreamers lose their work authorization and become priorities for deportation to countries they barely remember. Fiona McEntee, Founder of McEntee Law Group said, “As an immigrant, an immigration attorney for over 10 years, and a mother of two young children, I see first-hand the positive impact the Dreamers have in our lives, our community, our country. Congress needs to step up and allow them to finally feel secure in the only place they have ever known as home. Now is the time to protect our Dreamers. Congress must act now.”

The overwhelming majority of Americans support protecting Dreamers because they understand that they make meaningful contributions to the wellbeing of the social and economic fabric of our nation. They are parents and students, engineers, nurses, and entrepreneurs.

“We are committed to fighting for a permanent legislative solution to ensure that these young people can continue to live, work, and contribute to communities across the United States without the daily fear of deportation,” said David Adeleye, Midwest Director, FWD.us. “Our nation — and these Dreamers — deserve better. 86% of Americans are behind them. No bill will be perfect, but inaction in the face of this crisis is unacceptable.”

Illinois alone stands to lose an immense $2.2 billion in GDP over the next decade if these hardworking individuals are torn from their families and ripped away from the workforce.

Additional quotes from today’s roundtable participants:

“The two restaurants I own in Chicago were built on the American dream. Thinking about how that dream could be demolished because of Congress’ inability to act is heartbreaking. I hope Congress can come to a solution soon for Dreamers so we can continue to contribute to the only place we call home.” – Rick Rodriguez, DACA recipient and Founder, Son of a Butcher and WHISK

“Over 80% of the American people support citizenship for Dreamers. Now is the time for Congress to act to pass legislation overwhelmingly backed by our fellow Americans!” – Bob Palay, Past Chairman & CEO, Cellular Dynamics International

“Dreamers are no less American than you or I. They’ve embraced our values by every measure, they pay over $2B in taxes, they fill jobs in high demand. This is awful for business, it’s immoral to do, and it’s antithetical to all that America is supposed to represent.” – Steven Dyme, Co-founder & CEO, Flowers for Dreams

“Immigrants make up a valuable part of Chicago’s workforce and economy – over 20 percent of all business owners in the Chicago metropolitan area are immigrants. We must encourage those in office to find a solution for the Dreamers who are an integral part of Chicago’s diversity, workforce and rich culture.” – Michael Reever, SVP for Strategy and Government Relations, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

NEW Polling Finds Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Pretrial Reform Efforts in New York

Posted by FWD.us Press on 03/08/2018

NEW YORK, NY – New polling released today finds that voters across the political spectrum support bold reforms to the state’s pretrial justice system. Voters overwhelmingly support pretrial reforms that keep people at home while they wait for their trials, shorten case processing times, and prevent defendants from taking plea deals before evidence is shared with them.

“This poll makes clear that voters are far ahead of Albany in their vision for what a pretrial system should look like,” said Zoë Towns, Senior Director for Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us. The call for bold pretrial reform is not partisan or coming from a single area of the state. As they head into budget negotiations, policymakers should feel strong support from their constituents to deliver impactful reforms that will successfully and safely drive down jail populations.”

Support for pretrial reform is strong across all regions of the state, with more than two-thirds of both upstate and downstate voters supporting bold bail, speedy trial, and discovery proposals.Large majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support the proposals and crime victims and survivors show even stronger support for reform than the general public.

A memo on the survey results is available here.

Key survey findings include:

  • Voters widely support ending pretrial jail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Just over seven in ten voters (71% support/24% oppose) support this proposal to limit pre-trial detention, including nearly half (47%) who support it strongly. Further, Democrats (74%), independents (72%), and Republicans (64%) all widely support ending pretrial jail for these types of crimes.
  • New Yorkers support a proposal to replace jail before trial unless defendants are proven flight risks and have been accused of a felony involving physical force against an individual or property damage of over $1 million dollars. This proposal has nearly three-quarters support (73% support/23% oppose), with one-half of voters (50%) strongly supporting it. Again, support spans partisan lines with 79% of Democrats, 76% of independents, and 61% of Republicans all in favor.
  • There is broad support for setting in place a firm speedy trial requirement. Voters overwhelmingly support (90% support/8% oppose) setting a firm speedy trial requirement to reduce delays in court proceedings and prevent people from being held in jail for months or years awaiting trial. Large majorities of Democrats (90%), independents (90%), and Republicans (89%) support this speedy trial proposal. A majority (59%) of voters think that a trial must start within 8 weeks to be considered “speedy.”
  • Voters overwhelmingly want to reform the discovery process by ensuring that those individuals accused of a crime can see the evidence against them before deciding whether to plead guilty. More than three quarters of voters (78%) support a proposal that would keep individuals from pleading guilty without knowledge of the strength of the case against them. The proposal is supported across party lines by Democrats (79%), independents (80%), and Republicans (74%).
  • Support for pre-trial reform increases when voters hear a back-and-forth debate. When voters are exposed to balanced messaging both for and against ending jail before trial for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, support for the proposal increases by nine points (from 71% support/24% oppose to 80%/14%) and strong support increases by six points (from 47% to 53%).
  • Voters who have been victims of crimes themselves show even stronger support for criminal justice reform proposals than the general public. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of voters who have been victims of a crime support ending pre-trial detention for those accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, slightly higher than voters overall (71%) or those who have not been victims of crime (70%). A similar number of crime victims (75%) support ending pre-trial detention unless those accused are proven to be a flight risk and have been accused of a felony involving physical force or major property damage, again higher than voters overall (73%) or those who haven’t been victims of crimes (73%).
  • Crime victims show near universal support (96% support, 88% strong support) for creating a firm speedy trial requirement, as this population again is even more supportive of reform than voters overall (90% support, 78% strongly) or those who haven’t been victims of crime (88% support, 74% strongly). Voters who have been victims of crime are also more likely to support discovery reform to allow people accused of crimes to see the evidence against them before deciding whether to plead guilty (84% support, 63% strong support) than voters overall (78% support, 53% strong support) or those who have not been victims of crime (75% support, 49% strong support).

About this poll:
Global Strategy Group conducted a state-wide survey of 802 likely 2018 voters in New York between February 8-12, 2018. The results of this survey have a margin of error of +/-3.5%. Care has been taken to ensure the geographic and demographic divisions of the expected electorate are properly represented based on historical turnout.

FWD.us Joins Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform To Push Critical 2018 Reforms, Launch Long-term Reform Campaign

Posted by FWD.us Press on 03/08/2018

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – FWD.us is excited to join the bipartisan Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR), as part of our ongoing efforts to fix our country’s broken criminal justice system. We are thrilled to stand with this broad and diverse group of Oklahoma leaders in advancing reforms that help to safely lower incarceration rates and create safer conditions for correctional facilities in the state of Oklahoma. This week, FWD.us collaborated with the coalition on a new data analysis demonstrating that the need to reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system is more urgent than ever.

Oklahoma incarcerates people 80% longer than the national average and admits 91% more women per capita than the national average, which is higher than any other state for nearly 30 years. The current system is dangerously overburdened and operating at 113% of capacity, creating unsafe conditions for both staff and inmates.

As a part of its announcement, OCJR purchased an ad which has been featured in The Oklahoman and Tulsa World newspapers. The letter was signed by the board members of OCJR to announce the launch of the coalition’s statewide criminal justice reform initiative. We look forward to continuing to work with OCJR and other partners across the State of Oklahoma to support efforts to reform the state’s criminal justice system over the long term.

Below, please see the full press release from OCJR about today’s coalition event.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2018

As state approaches highest total incarceration in U.S., Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform ramps up advocacy efforts

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – With Oklahoma potentially mere days away from becoming the highest incarcerating state in the country, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) today announced new plans for aggressive advocacy for long-term improvements to the state’s broken criminal justice system. OCJR’s long-term plan for reform in Oklahoma starts with legislative approval this session of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force recommendations.

The coalition – comprised of a broad range of conservative organizations and individuals across the state, including law enforcement officers, elected officials, and business and community leaders – packed a standing-room-only State Capitol event on Wednesday to announce its support for the full Task Force plan and its intention to work with stakeholders on a long-term strategy to implement criminal justice reform in Oklahoma. OCJR’s board of directors also today released a letter, which appeared in advertising in The Oklahoman and Tulsa World, calling attention to the growing problem and urging swift action.

“We are not going away because this issue is not going away,” said Kris Steele, chairman of OCJR and a former Republican speaker of the Oklahoma House. “Being on track to be worst in the nation in incarceration is the ultimate motivator to get all hands on deck to solve this crisis. Our coalition is all-in this session, and for important efforts to come, because Oklahoma families deserve and demand better than we’re getting from our justice system today.”

On Wednesday, multiple members of the coalition reiterated their dedication to evidence-based criminal justice reform policies that save taxpayer dollars, safely reduce incarceration, reinvest savings in alternatives and treatment, and preserve and strengthen families.

“It’s time for Oklahoma to reign in skyrocketing prison growth to ensure tax dollars are better spent while improving our workforce and public safety. Other states have done it, and so can we,” added Larry Nichols, chairman emeritus of Devon Energy Corp.

More than 30 states have passed plans similar to Oklahoma’s that reinvest and redirect resources currently spent on lengthy prison terms in programming to address the root causes of criminal behavior to reduce crime and better reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into their communities, while protecting taxpayer dollars.

In 2016, the Task Force made 27 recommendations to address Oklahoma’s mass incarceration challenges. This session, legislation is again being considered to enact its plan, which will save nearly $2 billion by averting the 25 percent prison population growth projected in the next decade. OCJR will advocate strongly to pass the full critical components of the plan.

“These bills stop the bleeding by stopping prison growth, but they don’t save the patient. It’s imperative that the bills have their full impacts included if we want to avoid building more prisons,” Steele said. “We know there is strong legislative will to rise to the occasion even in the face of opposition from those who seek to maintain the indefensible status quo.”

With state prisons at 113 percent capacity, Oklahoma is poised to surpass Louisiana to become the highest incarcerating state in the nation in total incarceration. New analysis by FWD.us reveals that in FY2017, Oklahoma sent 91 percent more women to prison per capita than the national average and held people in prison 80 percent longer for drug and property crimes.

The Task Force’s policies would free up resources for prison alternatives and treatment such as the highly-successful Tulsa-based Women in Recovery program, which keeps women out of prison while holding them accountable as they learn how to transition back into society.

“It was life-changing,” Women in Recovery graduate Kandice Nowak said at Wednesday’s event. “Women in Recovery helped me work through my past trauma and make healthy decisions. The program taught me how to live life as a healthy, productive individual again.” Nowak now works as a peer support specialist at Family and Children’s Services in Tulsa, is married with a son, and recently became a homeowner. “I hope more people can have the same hand up I received through similar diversion programs,” she said.