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FWD.us Statement On New York Governor's Justice Agenda

Posted on 12/17/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement today in response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 Justice Agenda:

“We were encouraged to hear the Governor’s commitment to ending cash bail and enacting speedy trial and discovery reforms at today’s unveiling of his 2019 Justice Agenda. Every day, 16,000 New Yorkers are in jails on bails they cannot afford and it’s holding us all back. Senseless pretrial jailing harms New York’s families, communities, and economy, even as it undermines the legitimacy of our criminal justice system.

New York has the chance to lead the country by enacting meaningful bail reform that protects the presumption of influence by maximizing pretrial liberty, ensures due process for people accused of crimes, significantly reduces the number of people jailed both upstate and downstate, and eliminates wealth and race-based detention. We look forward to seeing the Governor’s detailed reform proposal and prioritization on the legislative calendar in the first 100 days.”

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Recommends 9 More Applicants For Commutation

Posted on 12/13/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement today on the outcome of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board hearings:

“Reuniting families before the holidays is something all Oklahomans can celebrate, and we are so thankful that the Pardon and Parole Board approved 9 out of 9 commutation recommendations, including for some people facing life in prison. We are thankful for the 21 commutations Governor Fallin already granted earlier this month, and urge her to quickly commute these sentences and release these Oklahomans as soon as possible.”

Pardon and Parole Board Recommends Commutation for an Additional Nine Applicants

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board confirmed the will of Oklahoma voters today by recommending commutation for an additional nine applicants being assisted by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.
The board recommended commutation for all nine applicants, all of whom would face less or no prison time if sentenced today, who will now be forwarded to Governor Mary Fallin, who will ultimately decide if their sentences should be commuted. One week ago, Gov. Fallin commuted the sentences of 21 applicants to time served and they were immediately reunited with their families in an emotional day that received national attention.

“The Pardon and Parole Board’s actions, along with the previous commutations, uphold the voters’ strong mandate to end unjust, unnecessary prison sentences for low-level drug offenses,” said John Estus, Chief of Staff for Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. “We urge Gov. Fallin to commute the sentences of the individuals approved today to time served as she did for the 21 individuals last week, with the hope that they, too, can spend this holiday season with their families.”

These nine applications recommended by the Pardon and Parole Board for commutation Wednesday are part of 46 overall cases that OCJR recommended to the Board. These individuals’ sentences are drastically out of step with voter approved reforms (SQ 780/781) passed in 2016 and legislative reforms passed earlier this year. Going forward, OCJR is calling for legislation that makes SQ 780 retroactive.

“Last week’s commutations by the governor are being praised nationwide and have clearly created momentum for more. The board’s actions today were appropriate and the latest sign that retroactivity of SQ 780 is a logical next step toward a more fair and fiscally responsible criminal justice system in Oklahoma,” said Susan Esco, board member of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.

Gov. Fallin has said she wants to act on all items the board sends to her desk before her term ends next month.

“Gov. Fallin has championed criminal justice reform in this state, and sending these Oklahomans home for the holidays will be a lasting part of her legacy as a leader on this critical issue,” said Estus.

FWD.us Statement on Proposed Changes to H-1B Visa Selection Process

Posted on 12/05/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – The public comment period opened this week for the American public to provide input on two major changes proposed by the Trump Administration to the H-1B selection process. FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement today on the proposed changes:

“While there are positive steps proposed in this rule to digitize the filing process and make recruiting needed talent easier and more efficient, the effort is rushed and would force significant costs on employers who have already prepared to petition qualified workers under the current system. We are also concerned this rule could be used to further restrict legal immigration without congressional approval, in the process hurting our nation’s competitive economic advantage. DHS should delay implementation of the pre-registration process until at least FY2021 so employers can be sufficiently prepared to fully benefit; DHS should also continue to engage employers to address significant questions and problems with the proposed selection process.

“Increasing the number of highly-educated immigrants working in the U.S., particularly those who graduated from American colleges and universities, is a laudable goal, but we don’t have to do it at the expense of other needed, differently-qualified workers. At the end of the day, Congress needs to act to modernize our immigration system and enact policies that fully address this goal, including exempting graduates of American universities from caps and providing them with a direct path to permanent residency, as well as expanding immigration avenues to drive innovation and grow the American economy. If the Administration continues to instead push restrictive regulatory maneuvers, our immigration system will become increasingly unpredictable, hurting American businesses and jeopardizing the valuable economic contributions immigrants make to our country every single day. Americans can make their voices heard and submit a public comment in response to this rule before January 3, 2019.”

Background
Congress has capped the number of H-1B visas issued each year at 65,000, plus 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. This is because the demand for H-1B visas dramatically outweighs the supply, a randomized lottery is used to select which petitions will be adjudicated. In 2018, petitioners filed 190,098 applications in the first week, exhausting the supply of 85,000 visas almost immediately.

For more background on the H-1B selection process and the proposed rule, read our overview and analysis here.

Americans can make their voices heard and submit a public comment in response to this rule before January 3, 2019.

Project Commutation Video Release

Posted on 10/17/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement today in support of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, as they release the first video story from the Project Commutation campaign:

“In partnership with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR), we are proud to share the story of Juanita Peralta, a mother of six who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for drug possession, even though Oklahoma voters soundly rejected locking individuals up for low-level drug-related offenses two years ago. Juanita’s story is gut-wrenching, but it’s all too common: there are women and families like Juanita all across the state whose incarceration is wasting Oklahomans’ tax dollars without making people any safer. OCJR is working tirelessly to reduce Oklahoma’s highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate, on Project Commutation, to seek justice for Juanita and families like hers.

“The November 7th meeting of the Pardon and Parole Board brings about an incredible opportunity to restore justice to Juanita, and we urge them to act in her favor, in accordance with the law and the will of Oklahoma’s voters.

“Ahead of the next meeting of the Board, FWD.us and OCJR will continue to share vital stories of Oklahomans serving excessive prison sentences – individuals who are deserving of both compassion and commutation, so that they can re-enter their communities and rebuild their lives.

“In addition, FWD.us will continue to work with OCJR and other in-state and national partners to push the state to adopt sentencing policies that make sense for all Oklahomans.”

Watch the video and hear Juanita’s story and follow #ProjectCommutation on social media. To learn more about Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, visit https://www.fwd.us/criminal-justice/oklahoma/.

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform launches #ProjectCommutation Video – Juanita Peralta’s Story

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) today launched a video featuring Juanita Peralta, one of the commutation applicants the organization is assisting through its commutation campaign. The campaign is helping Oklahomans who are in prison for offenses no longer carrying long prison terms under reforms recently approved by voters and legislators. The Pardon and Parole Board has advanced 31 individuals to Phase 2 hearings, with the first hearings scheduled for Nov. 7.

“Hundreds of Oklahomans like Juanita Peralta are still serving the type of unjust, draconian drug possession sentences Oklahoma voters roundly rejected two years ago,” said John Estus, chief of staff, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. “The Pardon and Parole Board has a historic opportunity approaching to use its authority as intended, follow the law, uphold the will of the voters and commute Juanita’s destructive, decade-long drug possession sentence. Stories like Juanita’s matter because they are shared by families all across Oklahoma who also deserve the type of restorative justice we are seeking for Juanita. We want those families to know they are not alone, and there is hope.”

The new video telling Peralta’s story can be viewed on the OCJR website at https://okjusticereform.org/project-commutation/.