Monday, April 8, 2019


by: Immigration Equality

New York, NY - April 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- President Trump called upon Congress to eliminate the asylum system and immigration judges. Bridget Crawford, Immigration Equality’s Legal Director, issued the following statement in response:

“President Trump’s recent call to ‘get rid of the entire asylum system’ and dispense with immigration judges is appalling and flies in the face of international and domestic law. For LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugees, asylum is a critical lifeline to safety and protection from persecution. The President’s systematic attacks on the immigration system betray America’s historic commitment to providing sanctuary to those most in need and contradict the overwhelming sentiment of the American people that our country must remain a beacon of hope for refugees.

“Immigrants make our country stronger. We are proud that our asylum system provides an avenue for LGBTQ people and those living with HIV to live freely and openly. Instead of gutting the system, Congress should remain true to our American values by improving the asylum system, protecting the rights of immigrants and refugees, and celebrating their invaluable contributions to our society.”

Federal Court Strikes Down California Firearm Magazine Ban

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by: Illinois State Rifle Association

Chatsworth, IL - April 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Illinois State Rifle Association is hailing the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California decision striking down California’s ban on commonly owned firearm magazines.

Proposition 63 in California was passed by voters. One section of the measure banned the possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and Judge Roger T. Benitez ruled that section was a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

“We just recently learned we won the case against the firearm and magazine ban in Deerfield here in Illinois and now we have a ruling striking down the magazine ban in California,” said Richard Pearson, Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “These are some major victories for the 2nd Amendment but the fight is far from over.”

Pearson said lawmakers in Illinois are pushing hard to implement firearm and magazine bans of their own. Senate Bill 107 would ban firearms with the capacity to hold magazines with 10 rounds or more.

“What happened in California is most definitely being tried here,” Pearson said. “Illinois lawmakers should take note of this ruling before enacting unconstitutional laws here.”


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by: Illinois Policy Institute

Springfield, IL - April 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Cook County’s criminal justice system could become fairer through a new bill that relieves wrongfully arrested and charged people of the burden of paying to clear their names. Senate Bill 482, championed by state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, would waive fees to expunge or seal records for people in Cook County who have been acquitted, had their convictions reversed, or whose charges have been dropped or dismissed.

The bill passed today 53-0 on the floor of the Illinois Senate.

Many people cannot afford to petition the court to correct their record for crimes they did not commit. This bill would remove that financial burden and allow people wrongfully arrested or charged the opportunity to clear their names.

SB 482 would be an extension of a pilot program under the Criminal Identification Act, which began in 2016 and lapsed Jan. 1.

“As unjust as it is to face a wrongful arrest, charge or conviction, it can be a lifelong sentence to have records with false information linked to you. It is not fair that someone has to pay to clear his or her name in these cases,” said Amy Korte, research director for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute. “We applaud Sen. Collins for her work to remove unfair barriers to work and life opportunities for people who have already suffered injustice.”

The bill now moves to the House, and if approved, will make its way to the governor’s desk.


  • Wrongful arrests and charges are a rampant problem in Illinois. Nearly 20% of arrestees in Cook County jail ultimately have their charges dropped, according to Sheriff Tom Dart.
  • In Cook County, the fee to have records expunged or sealed is $120. Expunging means to delete records entirely as if the event never occurred. Sealing means to make records hidden unless court-ordered.
  • If lawmakers vote to renew the pilot program in the Criminal Identification Act, it would take effect immediately upon becoming law and extend through Dec. 31, 2020.


    by: Independent Women's Forum

    Washington, D.C. - April 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Independent Women’s Forum Senior Advisor Andrea Bottner released the following statement in response to the U.S. House of Representatives vote this morning to pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:

    “This latest reauthorization of VAWA shows how far the law has strayed from its original purpose. This law was supposed to combat violence against women and protect. Now, it's about advancing a progressive political agenda.

    “This 2019 House version of VAWA no longer prioritizes the comfort and safety of women victims and it flatly refuses to address victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).

    “It raises serious constitutional concerns with regard to religious liberty and second amendment freedoms. Irresponsibly, it includes a provision that would cost tens of millions of dollars in new taxes on employers and adds significant new requirements on housing providers far beyond the scope of the current law.

    “Sadly, the lack of transparency, accountability and misuse of taxpayer funds that has long been associated with VAWA funding is not being robustly addressed. We should never tolerate resources being wasted that are supposed to help women.

    “We can only hope the U.S. Senate will address some of these serious concerns. Survivors of domestic violence deserve no less than a truly improved and survivor-centered Violence Against Women Act.”


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    Documents Requested on Acting DOI Secretary Bernhardt’s Ties with Westlands Water District

    by: Jared Huffman (D-CA, 2nd)

    Washington, D.C. - April 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Water, Oceans, & Wildlife Subcommittee Chair Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) launched a new inquiry seeking documents associated with David Bernhardt, the current Deputy Secretary and Acting Secretary of the Interior, and California’s powerful Westlands Water District, a former client of Bernhardt’s. Serious questions have been raised in filings with the Inspector General and the Office of Government Ethics regarding the conflicts between his work as a lobbyist and lawyer for the irrigation district and now as a top official in the Trump administration.

    In the letter sent today to the Westlands Water District, Reps. Huffman and Grijalva wrote:

    “Serious questions have been raised regarding the potential conflicts between his [Bernhardt’s] work as a top official at the Department of the Interior (DOI) and his previous work as a lobbyist and lawyer with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck representing the Westlands Water District. These potential conflicts have been described in national news reports and in numerous complaints filed with the Inspector General and Office of Government Ethics. It is essential that the Congress and the American people have a full and complete record of the relationship between Mr. Bernhardt and Westlands so these questions can be answered, and potential conflicts of interest can be addressed.”

    The letter requests all documents associated with David Bernhardt and his work relating to his former water district client, including his work to weaken Endangered Species Act protections and to pursue funding for the raising of Shasta Dam over the objections of the State of California.

    You can see the full text of the letter here.

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    by: Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

    Washington, D.C. - April 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., raised concerns with the administration’s lead negotiator for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Trade agreement regarding the need to protect Georgia farmers forced to compete with subsidized Mexican fruit and vegetable imports.

    The senators joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in the Senate and House in a letter sent Thursday asking U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to address the legitimate concerns expressed by Georgia’s seasonal growers and to implement new rules to defend domestic seasonal and perishable produce from unfair trade practices.

    “Fair, open and reciprocal trade is essential to America’s long-term economic success,” said Isakson. “I intend to do everything I can to help facilitate a level playing field for trade and ensure that hardworking Americans have the tools necessary to address unfair trade practices. Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, and our fruit and vegetable farmers are currently far too vulnerable to illegal dumping and other targeted efforts that undermine their ability to cultivate and sell their products at home and abroad. As members of Congress, we’re asking that America’s farmers have a seat at the table and the ability to air their objections to unfair foreign trade practices in a fair and open way.”

    “Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry and a major reason why our state continues to be the best state in the country in which to do business,” said Perdue. “The United States’ economy has evolved since NAFTA was signed nearly 25 years ago. As the Trump administration works to get a better deal for American workers and businesses, we must ensure that farmers and growers are treated fairly and have equal access across the world. It’s critical that we gain a level playing field that will allow our agriculture industry to compete globally.”

    Providing a fair process for domestic seasonal fruit and vegetable growers to access the legal means to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties “was not just an early objective of the administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations, but was also referenced by Congress under current Trade Promotion Authority,” wrote the bipartisan members of Congress.

    “The [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s] silence on the matter is significant and concerning,” the letter continues. “We strongly insist that the administration address this issue in a way that gives confidence to all seasonal growers that the federal government can and will act to counter legitimate injury from unfair imports from Mexico or any other country.”

    A possible remedy would be to enact the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act, S.16, which Isakson has cosponsored, or through appropriate administrative action to establish equally effective, enforceable and durable remedies through existing trade authorities.

    The letter was led by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and other members of Florida’s Congressional delegation. In addition to Isakson and Perdue, the letter was also signed by members of Georgia’s congressional delegation including U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, R-Ga.-12, Buddy Carter, R-Ga.-01, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.-02, Jody Hice, R-Ga.-10, Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, and David Scott, D-Ga.-13, along with other U.S. representatives from Florida.

    The full text of the letter is included below.

    Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

    We write to raise concerns regarding the lack of progress in the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) with respect to improved mechanisms to initiate and sustain legitimate anti-dumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) proceedings for trade in seasonal and perishable produce. As you know, providing a fair process for domestic seasonal fruit and vegetable growers to access genuine AD/CVD relief was not just an early objective of the Administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations, but was also referenced by Congress under current Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The USMCA’s silence on the matter is significant and concerning.

    The President has consistently argued that reducing persistent trade deficits with America’s trading partners is an important goal in the pursuit of free, fair, and reciprocal trade. The U.S. agricultural trade deficit with Mexico has risen rapidly since NAFTA came into force, driven by growing Mexican fruit and vegetable exports buoyed by significant government subsidies and unfair pricing practices, among other factors. In 2016, the U.S. faced a $5.1 billion trade deficit in agricultural goods with Mexico. Fruits and vegetables made up the largest source of Mexico’s bilateral agricultural trade surplus at $11.2 billion, nearly $2 billion more than the bilateral U.S. trade surplus of meats, dairy, grain, and oilseeds combined. While the Mexican Government has refused to include a mechanism to correct this growing imbalance in the USMCA text, we still believe the Administration must ensure that clear rules are in place to defend domestic seasonal and perishable produce from unfair trade practices.

    We strongly insist that the Administration address this issue in a way that gives confidence to all seasonal growers that the federal government can and will act to counter legitimate injury from unfair imports from Mexico or any other country. This could be accomplished by enacting the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act (S. 16 / H.R. 101), or through appropriate administrative action to establish equally effective, enforceable, and durable remedies through existing trade authorities. Those remedies must able to provide relief, as necessary and applicable, across a highly diverse suite of American seasonal producers.

    Domestic seasonal and perishable produce growers deserve reasonable access to trade enforcement tools that are readily available to other agricultural and industrial producers in the U.S. Such an outcome would be good for American fruit and vegetable farmers, good for American families, and good for the nation’s food security. Moreover, a successful resolution of this issue would provide important support for the USMCA within the agricultural communities we represent.

    We greatly appreciate your efforts to secure the strongest trade deals possible for the United States and your commitment to protect American workers and production capacity from unfair and illegal foreign competition. We look forward to working with you towards a successful resolution of this important issue prior to a USMCA vote.