WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) reacted to The Intercept's report that the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on at least five Muslim-American leaders from 2002 to 2008.

“Americans should be alarmed by reports that the NSA may be unjustly targeting Muslim American community leaders,” Rep. Grijalva said. “This is a country that believes in the freedom of religion – there is no excuse for the government to target citizens for exercising that right. Unfortunately, tactics like this achieve the opposite of their purported intent. Instead of making us safer, they breed mistrust and breakdown communication between the public and its defenders.”

“I share the concerns of many Americans who feel the NSA has violated their civil liberties by monitoring them without cause. The Intercept report is particularly troubling because it suggests that Americans were targeted because of their faith and civic engagement. Unfortunately, the NYPD’s spying on Muslims with the CIA's help and the FBI's use of hateful anti-Muslim training materials makes this concern legitimate.  

“An American’s faith does not give law enforcement reasonable suspicion to violate their constitutional rights," Rep. Ellison said. "Suspicious behavior indicating criminal behavior should be the basis for attracting law enforcement surveillance—not a person’s religion. Profiling based on religion breeds distrust and resentment in communities that are potential partners in the fight against crime. I am requesting a full explanation as to why these Americans were targeted and hope the practice officially ended in 2008.

“Muslim-Americans continue to face bigotry and hatred, but the NSA’s former spying practices undermines our entire nation’s progress towards greater inclusion. Undue surveillance has a chilling effect in all communities. It tells young boys and girls who want to serve their country in the military or in elected office to stay out of the public space. This is wrong. We cannot allow fear and hatred to drown the inclusive promise of our nation. The United States Government must protect all Americans no matter what they believe, the color of their skin, where they’re from or who they love."

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WASHINGTON— Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that certain corporations have the right to deny workers birth control coverage in their health care plans on grounds of religious objection.

“Today’s decision is a step backwards for women’s rights in America. The Roberts’ Court consistently rules in favor of corporations and today’s decision allows executives to interfere with a woman’s health care decisions.

“A woman's personal health choices, including family planning, are not her boss’ business. Denial of contraceptive coverage will require women to pay more for health care—nearly 60% of women who use birth control cite non-contraceptive reasons for taking it. 

“While the ruling accepts the importance of other medical care screenings, it neglects the importance of family planning and the rights of women to make choices without interference from employers. Employee health decisions should never be made by corporate executives, no matter what the circumstance.” 

WASHINGTON— Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris v. Quinnmade it harder for home health care workers to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.  

“Stagnant wages and increased income inequality have made it critical for workers to join forces in their fight for a decent living. The right to organize means workers can stand together for respect on the job.  

"Today’s narrow ruling is disappointing, but it doesn’t stop home health care workers, who are subject to some of the worst labor conditions in the United States, from organizing.  It’s unacceptable that home health agencies rank among the most profitable industries and at the same time oppose paying their employees overtime or even minimum wage.  These workers provide essential services to seniors and people with disabilities in our country - they deserve a fair paycheck.

"Organizing is the most effective way for working Americans to stand up to corporations who want to lead a race to the bottom for working conditions and wages. This case is a clear attempt to open the door to future attacks on public sector workers. We must remain vigilant and support workers organizing for higher wages and better working conditions.” 

WASHINGTON— Co-Chairs of the Progressive Caucus (CPC) Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN.), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA.) joined Senator Cardin (D-MD), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), advocates and victims of profiling today at a press conference to discuss the impact of profiling and to launch the #MoreThanAProfile campaign. 

Video of the press conference can be found here.

“The best way to honor the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act is to move forward additional changes that are critically needed to strengthen the civil rights of all Americans. I am proud to join the leaders of the House Quad Caucuses in this effort,” said Senator Cardin. “Racial profiling is un-American. It has no place within the values of our country. It should have no place in law enforcement. It wastes valuable resources. It turns communities against the partnerships needed to keep our communities safe. It can harm people. It has to end.”

“Profiling erodes trust in local authorities and undercuts law enforcement’s ability to do their job,” Rep. Grijalva said. “It betrays our core principles as a nation, targeting segments of our population as suspect instead of ensuring all Americans are innocent until proven guilty. It is time for Attorney General Holder to banish this tactic entirely, and ensure Constitutional protections are applied equally throughout America, regardless of race, gender or creed.”

“The stories we heard today illustrate the negative effects of profiling on our communities,” Rep. Ellison said. “Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated he is willing to rewrite the guidance on profiling and these stories provide compelling evidence that it is time to act. The federal government has an opportunity to set a strong example for state and local law enforcement by protecting all Americans regardless of religion, skin color, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity from profiling.” 

“Racial profiling continues to make communities of innocent individuals fear a system designed to protect them.” Rep. Fudge said. “Innocent people, mostly people of color, live in constant fear of being stopped and frisked, of having their homes raided, or being detained without reasonable suspicion. Time and time again, we’ve also seen the deadly consequences of assuming someone’s guilt because of their race or religion. Racial profiling is wrong, and it is an unconstitutional, ineffective use of law enforcement resources. For the sake of our communities and the trust they have with those whose job is to protect them, we call on the Department of Justice to issue guidelines that ban all forms of discriminatory policing and profiling in this country.”

"There is no place for profiling of any sort in our country, whether that is profiling based on race, national origin or religion,” Rep. Hinojosa said. “Latinos and other minorities across the country have been victims of discrimination by federal law enforcement agents.  We must put an end to that discrimination and ensure that all individuals are treated equally under the law."  

“Profiling based on people’s skin color, the language they speak, or whom they pray to, creates a culture of fear,” Rep. Judy Chu said. “It also goes against logic because profiling weakens the relationship between law enforcement and communities – making them less safe.  DOJ’s profiling guidance contains loopholes that make profiling of Sikhs, Muslims, Arab and South Asian Americans commonplace today. They must be updated to reflect a 21st century America and our fundamental values as a nation.”

“What I said in a June 2003 Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft is equally applicable to Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2014: ‘We were pleased to see the Department largely embrace the ban on racial profiling defined in our legislation, the End Racial Profiling Act. The guidelines, however, fail to provide a comprehensive, nationwide ban and solution to the problem. There is considerable ambiguity in the guidelines on the use of race/ethnicity in the national security context. While we agree that there is no more important role for government than protecting the security of the American people, safety need not come at the sacrifice of civil liberties.’ As Congress carries out its responsibility to enact strong anti-profiling legislation, we hope that the Department of Justice will participate fully in the process by updating this important policy statement as a critical first step to the passage of legislation,” Rep. John Conyers said.

“The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights stands with congressional leaders to urge the Justice Department to revise their 11-year-old Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies,” Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said. “Discriminatory profiling is not only morally wrong and ineffective, it undermines the integrity of our criminal justice system. The Guidance must include all forms of profiling including national origin and religion. Additionally, we urge the DOJ to close loopholes that allow for the discriminatory ineffective practice of profiling to continue in national security and border contexts.” 

“The current exemptions make the guidance virtually meaningless because federal agents are not covered when engaging in the largest areas of federal police work—national security and border enforcement,” Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said.  We’ve been living under this loophole-ridden guidance since 2003 and it’s long past time for the attorney general to end this humiliating, discriminatory and unconstitutional practice. The attorney general can send a clear message to state and local officials that racial profiling has no place in law enforcement.”

"Equal treatment under law is a bedrock principle of our nation.  Muslim Advocates joins members of Congress in calling on the Attorney General to enact comprehensive and meaningful revisions to the Justice Department's Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies,” Farhana Khera, Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, said. “With the Guidance in its current form, millions of Americans find themselves targeted by law enforcement simply because of their national origin or religion.  A proscription on profiling on these bases is long overdue.  Additionally, the Guidance's profiling exceptions for national security and border integrity must be eliminated.  Without these changes, whole American communities--Hispanic Americans, Sikh Americans, Asian Americans, American Muslims, and many others-- are denied the same rights and freedoms as their fellow Americans.  The Attorney General must act to right this wrong.”

“The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in agreement with congressional leaders to urge the Justice Department to revise their 11-year-old Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies,” Angelo McClain, CEO for the National Association of Social Workers, said. “Racial profiling by law enforcement is not only an affront to social justice values; it is ineffective and undermines the integrity of our criminal justice system. NASW feels that the Guidance must not only include racial profiling, but all forms of profiling including national origin and religion.” 

 “South Asian Americans Leading Together is proud to stand with Members of Congress as they push for an effective prohibition on profiling,” Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), said. “South Asian communities nationwide have long suffered the consequences of profiling, which sows distrust of law enforcement.  Many of the unjust experiences individuals in our communities face remain unaddressed by the original Department of Justice Guidance. It is critical that the prohibition against profiling includes national origin and religion, unwarranted surveillance activities, and local and state law enforcement who receive federal funds. We must eliminate border security and national integrity loopholes that swallow the rule. The current Guidance allows for many forms of profiling that violate our civil rights, are ineffective, and destroy relationships with communities. Advocates have been demanding change for over a decade – our communities can wait no longer.” 

“The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund stands with our fellow Americans and asks the Justice Department to revise the Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies,” Jasjit Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund said. “Sikh Americans can describe first-hand how discriminatory profiling is damaging to communities across this nation, and is not a reflection of American ideals.”  

“Since September 11, 2001, thousands of innocent Americans have been wrongfully targeted by federal law enforcement officials because of their race, religion and national origin. They have been searched, investigated, and detained without cause in the name of national security," Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said. "The Council on American-Islamic Relations joins the Quad Caucus and members of Congress in urging the Department of Justice to meaningfully revise its 2003 policy guidance on racial profiling to include measures that prevent profiling based on religion and national origin and eliminate loopholes that permit profiling at U.S. borders and for reasons of national security. Profiling is unconstitutional and does not reflect American values. Profiling is also not effective law enforcement and diverts precious resources away from criminal investigations of individuals who have been linked to criminal activity by specific and credible evidence.”

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined CPC Whip Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in applauding the release of a White House memo outlining the government’s authority for using drones to kill U.S. citizens overseas.

“With the release of this memo, the American people have a glimpse into decisions made in our name where lives hang in the balance,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The fact that American lives are on the line too should give all of us pause. It’s time to end the secrecy surrounding our drone policies, and I applaud the administration’s move to release this memo. It’s a far cry from outright transparency, but it is a good first step.”

“The American people have a right to know their government’s justification for the use of force abroad,” Rep. Ellison said. “We need to restrict the use of drones in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. The American people can now learn more about a program that has claimed the lives of innocents and damaged our reputation abroad. The release of this secret memo is a victory for transparency. But more must be done to inform the public and have accountable policies.”

“The release of this secret memo is a good step toward transparency but we have a long way to go,” Rep. Lee said. “Congress must repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has allowed endless war with little Congressional debate, input or oversight.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has led the way on transparency in the U.S. drone program, holding an ad-hoc hearing last summer and endorsing legislation to bring the legal reasoning behind the drone program into the light. 

WASHINGTON, DC—The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) introduced an amendment today to require that no funds in the Department of Defense FY2015 Appropriations bill go towards combat operations inIraq. The amendment was introduced by CPC Peace and Security Task Force Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and supported on the floor by CPC Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Reps. Rick Nolan (D-MN) and Janice Hahn (D-CA). The amendment failed on a 165—250 vote.

“We must not let history repeat itself in Iraq,” Rep. Lee said. “Because the reality is there is no military solution in Iraq.  This is a sectarian war with long standing roots that were flamed when we invaded Iraq in 2003.  Any lasting solution must be political and take into account respect for the entire Iraqi population.”

"Too many lives have already been lost in the quagmire that is Iraq,” Rep. Grijalva said. “There is no 'part way' when it comes to military involvement - what starts as a surefire military success in the eyes of politicians ends in prolonged conflict when reality sets in. We all want peace for the region, but it cannot be achieved through more American bloodshed."

“Airstrikes and sending combat troops to Iraq is not the way forward,” Rep. Ellison said. “The current crisis threatens to push Iraq and the region into a wider sectarian war and can only be solved when Iraq’s minorities are given the political representation they deserve. The United States should exercise all the leverage we have with the Iraqi government and regional powers to press President Maliki into a more equitable power-sharing agreement.”

"We’ve given Iraq a chance. Now they need to stand on their own. U.S. military re-intervention would be a terrible mistake – exacerbating the conflict and drawing us back into a war that has already cost our nation trillions of dollars and thousands of precious lives,” Rep. Nolan said. “This is a 1,400-year-old conflict, and unless we are prepared to bankrupt ourselves spending another 1,400 years policing it, we need to stay out. It is the leaders and people of Iraq who must step forward now.”

“I strongly oppose any further U.S. military intervention in Iraq. It was misguided 11 years ago, and it would be misguided now. Let us not repeat history. Prime Minister Maliki has failed, and it is now time for the people of Iraq to determine the future of their nation, and lead Iraq forward without the involvement of the United States. I support providing support and safe passage for Americans at our embassy or in Iraq, but no more combat troops should be sent to Iraq. We have no place trying to solve a modern day civil war,” said Rep. Janice Hahn.

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after the House of Representatives passed an amendment introduced by the CPC to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act to disqualify certain federal contracts to any corporation that committed wage theft or other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The House of Representatives stood up for federal contract workers today, protecting them from wage theft and ensuring the federal government will lead the way to fairer labor standards for all Americans. No working American should ever worry that her employer might steal a part of her paycheck, especially if she works for a contractor paid by the federal government.

“Sometimes employers ask workers to show up 30 minutes before their shift starts, while others pay workers with debit cards that charge fees for every use. It doesn’t matter which form it takes—wage theft is wrong and it needs to stop.

“We’re glad our Republican colleagues joined the Progressive Caucus in this step to protect Americans working for federal contractors.”

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and CPC member Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell today about voter registration for millions of Americans through the federal exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires the federal government to provide Americans with the opportunity to register to vote when it delivers public assistance. Evidence from the recent ACA open enrollment indicates that the federal exchanges may not be in compliance with the NVRA.

The text of the letter is below and a signed version can be found here.

Dear Secretary Burwell:

Congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). We know you will continue to build on the first Affordable Care Act open enrollment period and work to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care coverage.

We write to request a meeting with you to discuss bringing the federally-facilitated Health Benefits Exchanges (FFEs) into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).   

As you know, a healthy democracy demands the highest possible rate of voter participation.  The National Voter Registration Act makes voter registration easier and more accessible by requiring voter registration services to be provided where government delivers public services to its citizens.  Since 1995, states have offered citizens the opportunity to register to vote whenever they obtain a driver’s license or apply for Medicaid, and in some states, at public libraries. 

FFEs are subject to the NVRA, which requires all “offices in the state that provide public assistance” to provide specified voter registration services.[1]  The NVRA specifies that “providing public assistance” includes administration of the application process for public assistance.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires Exchanges to provide a “single streamlined application” for enrollment in insurance affordability programs and other health care programs like CHIP and Medicaid, which means they provide public assistance under the NVRA.[2]  In fact, the Exchange application process is the only way to apply for Medicaid in several states.  FFE processes, therefore, must comply with the requirements of the NVRA like all other public assistance offices.

It has been brought to our attention that the health care enrollment process of the FFEs may not be providing adequate access to voter registration applications. The State of California has committed to making its Exchange fully compliant with NVRA; avoter registration mailing went to the almost 5 million people who applied for benefits since October 1, 2013. We hope that the federal exchanges can follow the example of California in reaching full compliance with NVRA.

We request that you meet with Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) to discuss updating the FFEs so that they comply with the NVRA.  Michael Darner, Executive Director of the CPC at michael.darner@mail.house.gov will contact your office to set up the meeting.  We look forward to working with you on this important issue of improving access to voter registration.

 

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[1]42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(a)(2)(A)

[2]45 C.F.R. § 155.405(a)

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after House Republicans voted down an amendment introduced by the CPC to disqualify certain federal contracts for any corporation that committed wage theft or other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Contractors pocket taxpayer money and then commit wage theft by denying workers overtime pay or forcing them to work off the clock. A recent National Employment Law Project (NELP) survey found that 21 percent of federal contract workers surveyed were not paid overtime and 11% have been forced to work ‘off the clock.’ The federal government could lead the way by disqualifying contractors who practice wage theft, but House Republicans voted today against an amendment to do exactly that.

“The failure of this amendment illustrates who Republicans defend. Speaker Boehner refuses to allow a vote to raise the federal minimum wage or renew unemployment insurance. House Republicans have focused relentlessly on taking away affordable health care and investigating Benghazi because they believe that is how they will win November. Unfortunately, working families have been left out of the Republican political strategy.

“Taxpayer money must be spent wisely. As the largest purchaser of goods and services in the nation, the federal government must find a way to make sure funds are going to companies that treat their workers fairly and give American families a chance to succeed.” 

WASHINGTON— Co-Chairs of the Progressive Caucus (CPC) Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas) and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Judy Chu (D-Calif.) applauded the passage by voice vote through the House of Representatives an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice, the FBI and local law enforcement from using money in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to engage in profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.

“My home state has witnessed firsthand what profiling can do to a community,” said Rep. Grijalva, “Judging a person based on their skin tone or appearance isn’t only damaging to that person, the impacts of distrust and disdain ripple through that community. Federal dollars should never be spent on programs that endorse these actions.”

“Diversity is at the core of our nation’s strength,” Rep. Ellison said. “Discrimination and profiling of minority communities by law enforcement undermines that strength. We stand together today to say no more. The amendment passed by the House of Representatives will protect Americans from counterproductive and unconstitutional racial profiling.”

"I applaud the passage of the Quad Caucus amendment that addresses racial profiling,” said Rep. Marcia L. Fudge. “This nation stands on the principles of liberty and justice for all. Thus, we must ensure policies are in place to prevent discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender and sexual orientation. This amendment is an example of what is necessary to move this nation forward.”

"No one in our country should ever be singled out and targeted unfairly,” Rep. Hinojosa said. “Profiling someone based on their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender or sexual orientation is simply wrong and does nothing to prevent crime. This amendment to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act is a solid mechanism that will help local law enforcement, the FBI, and the Department of Justice uphold our American ideal of equal protection for all."

 “When law enforcement uses profiling against a group, it replaces trust with fear and makes communities less safe,” Rep. Chu said. “We must ensure that communities and law enforcement are partners in preventing crimes, and that means ending profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, and sexual orientation once and for all.”

The CPC, CBC, CHC and CAPAC leaders recently sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on the Department of Justice’s guidelines on racial profiling.