Thursday, January 12, 2017

Deporting Aliens, Obamacare and Religion in the Military

Rep. Babin Re-Introduces Criminal Alien Deportation Enforcement Act

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On the first day of the 115th Congress, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) reintroduced his Criminal Alien Deportation Enforcement Act (H.R. 82), a common-sense bill that will withhold foreign aid and travel visas from any country that refuses to take back one their citizens who has been criminally detained and ordered to be deported from the United States. Last Congress, the legislation (H.R. 5224) received over 50 co-sponsors, including one Democrat.

Under President-elect Trump, the bill faces renewed interest as he has voiced his strong support for punishing countries that refuse to accept deportations. The President-elect states in his ten-point immigration plan that we need to “Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.”

“There is absolutely no reason that criminal aliens should be released back onto America’s streets, yet that is exactly what is happening by the thousands each and every year because their countries of origin refuse to take them back,” said Rep. Babin. “My bill upholds the rule of law and holds these countries accountable by stripping their foreign aid and travel visas if they fail to cooperate. President-elect Donald Trump has announced that deporting the roughly 2 million criminal aliens in our country would be a top priority for his presidency – and this legislation is a critical component to any such effort.”

According to a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report, 86,288 illegal immigrants who committed 231,074 crimes were released by the Obama Administration since 2013. Among them was an illegal immigrant named Jean Jacques, whose native Haiti refused to accept him back after he served seventeen years for attempted murder. Within six months of his release from a U.S. prison, Jacques murdered Casey Chadwick, a 25 year-old young woman in Connecticut. Had Haiti been compelled to take Jacques back, Casey would be alive today.

“For the sake of Casey and thousands of other Americans who have been victimized, it is time we start putting the safety of our citizens first and stop this revolving door that is allowing dangerous criminals who should be deported back onto our streets,” said Rep. Babin.

Specifically, H.R. 82 would:

Withhold foreign aid to uncooperative countries that refuse to take back their citizens who are criminal aliens;
Suspend visas for countries that are deemed non-cooperative in repatriating their own citizens who are criminal aliens;
Make it easier to track non-cooperative countries by mandating that the Department of Homeland Security submit to Congress a report every three months listing the uncooperative countries; and
Provide the victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens standing in federal court to sue for deportation of such criminal aliens.

Congressman Andy Biggs Introduces "Grant's Law"

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05) introduced Grant’s Law to end the “catch and release” of illegal immigrants who have been arrested for deportable crimes. This bill ensures that these illegal aliens are not released back into our communities, which would prevent potential harm to law-abiding Americans. Rep. Biggs released the following statement:

“Grant Ronnebeck was gunned down on January 22, 2015 at a convenience store by an illegal immigrant in Mesa, Arizona. The illegal immigrant, a convicted felon, was free on bond while facing deportation. Grant’s Law would have prevented this terrible tragedy.

“I have had the privilege of getting to know Grant Ronnebeck’s family and want to express my sincere condolences to them – and to the families of all victims of violence perpetrated by illegal immigrant criminals.

“Without the Obama administration’s abject failure to protect innocent American lives, Grant’s murder would not have occurred. I am introducing this law in Grant’s memory to prevent this senseless violence from occurring again.”

Grant’s Law was introduced as the Stop Catch and Release Act in the 114th Congress by Congressman Matt Salmon.


Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) has joined 101 of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in urging President-Elect Donald J. Trump to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. During the presidential campaign, the president-elect strongly supported the move to Jerusalem, which Israel considers to be its capital city. Currently, the U.S. embassy in Israel is the only American embassy not located in the capital as identified by the host nation. The members of Congress sent a letter to Trump, urging him to take “swift action” on the matter after he is sworn in on January 20, 2017.

“During your campaign, you made a forceful pledge to move our American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the state of Israel,” the letter reads. “We write to express support for this policy and to urge you to take swift action to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem as soon as you take office.”

The support for the change in the U.S. embassy’s location comes less than three weeks after the Obama Administration failed to veto a stridently anti-Israel resolution before the United Nations Security Council. It had been the longstanding policy and practice of the U.S. to oppose or veto any resolutions condemning Israel at the U.N., a tradition Obama himself had observed until he allowed the anti-Israel vote two days before Christmas.

“This action is all the more urgent in light of the anti-Israel Resolution 2334, adopted by the United Nations Security Council on December 23, 2016,” the letter continues. “The resolution invites renewed diplomatic hostility and economic warfare against Israel, and we must act urgently to mitigate its consequences and to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to Israel.”

Under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed by Congress, the embassy was to be relocated to Jerusalem by 1999. The legislation provided the president the authority to indefinitely delay the move, which is what has happened since its passage. The Trump Administration could move the embassy using its existing authority granted by Congress.

Congresswoman Beatty Votes Against House Republican Rules Package

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- On January 3, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives enacted The Rules Package for the 115th Congress, H.Res. 5, on a party-line vote of 234 to 193. The adopted rules package will impose a fine against a Member of Congress for the use of electronic photography, audio, visual, recording or broadcasting on the House Floor—an unprecedented move by House Republicans in reaction to the House Democratic sit-in to force votes on gun violence prevention legislation on June 22 and 23. Following passage of the resolution, U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03) stated,
“Although Congressional Republicans finally reversed course on their plan to eliminate the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, they refuse to budge on a provision that will hamper a Member of Congress’ ability to fully voice the concerns of their constituency. The politically-motivated provision inserted into the House Rules Package was designed to punish House Democrats, including me, who spoke out on the need for gun violence prevention legislation, but in reality it will actually affect Democrats and Republicans alike. I refuse to support such an unprecedented move.”

Prior to full consideration by the House, Congressional Republicans also included language in the rules package to eliminate the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, preventing it from reviewing anonymous complaints and placing its authority under control of the Committee on Ethics which is controlled by Members of Congress. Reaction to the Republicans’ plan to gut the independent ethics committee was met with swift pushback from Americans across the political spectrum, forcing Republicans to make a late change to the rules package only hours before the scheduled vote on the House Floor.

India Caucus Chair Rep. Ami Bera Calls Army Religious Accommodation Policy Change ‘Strong Step Forward’ for Sikh Americans

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7), Chair of the Caucus on India and Indian Americans, applauded the Army’s Religious Accommodation Policy as an important step forward for Sikh Americans in the Army.

The January 3 update allows for Sikh Americans in the Army to receive career-long accommodations to wear articles of faith, such as a turban or beard, and to gain that approval from a brigade-level commander. Observant Sikhs must avoid shaving their beards, and maintain their hair uncut under a turban.

“This is an important step in ensuring that our military can draw on the best and brightest patriots our nation has to offer, no matter what their faith or culture,” said Rep. Ami Bera.

Prior to the announcement, Sikhs were required to submit to a religious accommodation process granting them limited, impermanent permission to wear articles of faith through the Secretary of the Army.

Last month, in concert with the Sikh Coalition, Bera advocated for a constituent from California’s 7th District, Private Shabaddeep Singh Jammu, to obtain long-term religious accommodation.

“Ever since I was 18, I’ve wanted to enlist, so this is a dream come true,” said Shabaddeep Singh Jammu. “This is a step toward showing America that as Sikhs we love this country, that this is really our country, and I hope to see one day that every Sikh can serve in the military without needing a religious accommodation,” said Shabaddeep Singh Jammu.

“As a patriotic Sikh American, the ideals of service and moral character that Private Jammu holds are both prized by the Army and integral to his faith. We are better served when Private Jammu is serving the country that he loves, and I’m happy that all Sikhs in the army will be eligible for that same long-term accommodation,” said Rep. Ami Bera.

Since taking office, Bera has led a years-long effort on behalf of Sikhs in law enforcement, sport, and the military.

Bera, along with Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), pushed the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to change its policy requiring Sikhs and other players to remove articles of faith during international competition, in addition to multipleletters signed by dozens of Members of Congress urging FIBA’s board to end its discriminatory policy against players who wear turbans.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler Urges Replacement Health Care Solutions to Accompany ACA Repeal Efforts

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Jaime Hierrera Beutler (R-WA, 3rd) sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan urging him to ensure Congress pursues replacement health care solutions simultaneously with efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The text of Jaime’s letter to Speaker Paul Ryan follows:

Dear Speaker Ryan:

As Congress approaches the significant task of undoing the damage that has been done to Americans’ health care and the U.S. economy by repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I urge you to undertake the implementation of replacement health care solutions with equal urgency and purpose.

I know we share the same vision when it comes to Americans’ health care: to make it more affordable, accessible and higher quality for all citizens. Your leadership with regard to the ACA to this point should be commended; you’ve recognized that rather than trying to patch the massive problems of a fundamentally flawed program, we must take aggressive action before the system falls in on itself. However, please keep in mind that repealing the ACA is only one step in the process -- not our final goal.

It’s vital that we move forward with replacing the ACA in a manner that doesn't cause additional disruption to those families who have already endured higher costs and the loss of their doctors and plans since the ACA was forced upon them. As such, any action to repeal on the U.S. House floor should be accompanied by a simultaneous and immediate strategy for replacing it. For instance, as we unravel the portions of the law that did not reduce health care costs, but instead sought to make prices artificially low through taxpayer-funded subsidies, we should simultaneously debate and vote on a replacement solution that would eliminate the restriction on a citizen of Washington state from purchasing a health care plan from another state that costs less and better suits her specific needs.

Since the inception of the law, the ACA has been consistently opposed by a majority of Americans. Despite the problems that have fueled its unpopularity, advocates for the law have stubbornly dismissed or denied the difficulties it has caused. Americans want our party to do better with their health care. If we simply eliminate the ACA without an equal commitment to immediately replacing it with more patient-centered solutions, we risk repeating the Democrats’ mistakes and losing the trust of Americans we’ve worked so hard to earn.

As someone who has worked to improve health care for all residents throughout my career in public service, I offer my time, energy and support to you in pursuit of an immediate replacement plan for the ACA.


Jaime Herrera Beutler

Member of Congress

Don Beyer: Repealing ACA Would Cost Virginia's Economy Billions Of Dollars And 50,000-100,000 Jobs

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Don Beyer (D-VA, 8th) pledged to fight any Republican proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as a new study from George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund suggested that such a repeal would have dire effects on Virginia’s economy.

“The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act will have disastrous consequences for Virginia,” said Rep. Beyer. “Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors will lose life-saving, affordable health coverage. The state also stands to lose as many as 100,000 jobs, $30 billion in gross state product, and $50 billion in business output. This is unacceptable and irresponsible.”

The job losses predicted by the Commonwealth Fund/GW study would hit as early as 2019, while the large damage to the state economy is estimated for the first five years (2019-2023) following repeal of the law.

Aguilar Joins Congressional Hispanic Caucus to Warn House Republicans of Consequences of Repealing the Affordable Care Act

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Pete Aguilar joined members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to warn House Republicans of the ramifications of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We'll go back to the days when people were denied coverage for having pre-existing conditions, where preventative screenings weren't covered and when simply being a woman was a pre-existing condition. That's shameful. It is unforgivable that House Republicans would choose to go back to that,” said Rep. Aguilar. He continued, “In my community of San Bernardino County, 67 percent of health care recipients are from communities of color…House Republicans have viciously and mercilessly argued against strengthening the ACA because they claim to know better. It's been over six years – what’s your plan?”

According to Health Access California, repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it would cause an estimated 20 billion dollar loss to California health care. Recent data shows that nearly 40,000 residents in California’s 31st Congressional district and approximately five million throughout California have enrolled in Covered California since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Additionally, nearly 200,000 San Bernardino County residents and over 80,000 people in California’s 31st Congressional District now receive health care through Medi-Cal since the ACA expansion.

Rep. Aguilar serves as the Whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He is committed to working with House Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act so it works for all Americans.

Congresswoman Alma Adams’ Speaks Out Against Censorship of Winner of Congressional Art Competition

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) sent a letter to Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50) expressing her strong opposition and disappointment to the removal of the artwork of Mr. David Pulphus, the high school artist and winner of Missouri’s 1st District Congressional Art Competition, from the exhibit in the U.S. Capitol.

“As a practicing professional artist and retired 40 year college art professor, I am appalled that Congressman Hunter would take any action that would degrade and censor a high school student who was chosen as an official winner of the Congressional Art Competition,” said Congresswoman Adams.

“Representative Hunter’s actions not only disregarded and disrespected Representative Clay’s decision to award Mr. Pulphus with this special Congressional honor, but also silenced the very real experience of those citizens in Mr. Clay’s district- and more specifically this young student’s right as an artist to express himself.

“Our founding fathers enshrined the freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights, but this irreverent action showed, not only a lack of respect for our freedoms and civil liberties, but also a blatant disregard for our Constitution. Freedom of speech, which includes visual expression, press, and a lack of censorship are values that we have not only fought for, but also values that Representative Hunter and I have been elected to protect.”

The next day, after sending this letter, the painting was replaced in its original spot.

Abraham letter to Trump: Move American Embassy to Jerusalem

Washington, D.C. - January 12, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, joined U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., in leading a letter to President-Elect Donald Trump asking that the United States move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

More than 100 members of Congress signed the letter, which was mailed to Trump on Wednesday. Trump stated during his campaign that he, too, supports putting the American Embassy in Jerusalem.

"Israel is one of the United States' closest allies and stands alone in the Middle East for its commitment to democratic ideals. Moving the embassy will strengthen the unique alliance between Israel and the United States and send a clear message to the world that we support Israel in recognizing Jerusalem as its eternal capital," wrote the members.

The letter comes less than a week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that condemned the United Nations for its recent anti-Israel actions. Dr. Abraham was an original cosponsor of that resolution.

Dr. Abraham has visited Israel twice since taking office and has become one of the country's strongest allies in Washington. He most recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November where the two discussed the threats Israel faced from radical Islamic terrorists and how America and Israel can improve relations that have been strained over the past eight years by the Obama administration.

"Israel and her citizens live under the daily threat of attack from Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Nothing would send a stronger message of 'America stands with Israel' than to move our embassy to Jerusalem. Israel is the strongest democracy in the entire region, and as the global leaders of democracy, America must stand shoulder to shoulder with our Israeli allies," Dr. Abraham said.

Read the letter here.