Washington, D.C.— Earlier this week, two congressional “squad” members unveiled a wide-ranging proposal Tuesday to defund police departments and establish a reparations program for African Americans and people harmed by the police and the criminal justice system.
Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts announced the BREATHE Act via a virtual conference call. Both lawmakers are part of the four-member “squad,” a group of female progressive House members that includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
According to the New York Post, Tlaib stated they could “start to envision through this bill a new version for public safety — a new vision for public safety, one that protects and affirms black lives.”
The legislation has not been introduced. And because they likely see themselves as actually having a future in politics, Ocasio-Cortez and Omar were not announced as backers of the proposal.
Under the bill, federal funds to local police and federal agencies would be slashed and diverted to pay for health care, education, environmental housing programs. Moreover, it would eliminate federal programs and agencies used to finance Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the controversial Department of Defense 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies.
To give you a better understanding of how these budget cuts could impact our country, please note that in 2019, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrested approximately 143,000 aliens and removed more than 267,000 – which is an increase in removals from the prior year.
While the numbers of individuals apprehended or found inadmissible at the border nationwide increased 68% over the previous fiscal year, the total number of aliens arrested by ICE dropped by nearly 10% compared to FY 2018. More than 86% of those arrested by ICE had criminal convictions or pending charges.
Additionally, part of ICE jurisdiction includes dealing with sex trafficking in our country. In 2019, there were 1,024 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 2,197 arrests, 1,113 indictments, and 691 convictions; 428 victims were identified and assisted.
ICE continues to make human trafficking cases a top investigative priority by connecting victims to resources to help restore their lives and bringing traffickers to justice.
The program has been criticized for the perceived militarization of local police departments.
Other aspects include abolishing surveillance tactics disproportionately used to target minority communities, electronic monitoring — including ankle monitors and smartphone apps — ending civil asset forfeiture, ending the “three strikes” law, and repealing laws that criminalize illegal immigration.
Also, it would offer a 50 percent match of savings for states to close down detention facilities and prisons, the elimination of gang databases, and the forgiving of all fees and surcharges within the justice system.
The reparations provisions include the passing the Commission to Study Reparation Proposal for African-Americans Act and establishing commissions to “design reparations” for mass incarceration to include those caught up in the War on Drugs, border and police violence and the “systemic violation of the U.S. Government’s treaty obligations to Tribal nations.”
The bill is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled House, as many do not support defunding the police. As you may recall, the “Defunding the Police” movement grew out of public anger over the death of George Floyd. He died at the end of May while in the custody of Minneapolis police custody.
The House passed a sweeping police reform bill last month. All 233 Democrats voted in favor of the law — titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — along with three Republicans. The Senate voted 55-45 in support of the bill — it needed 60 votes to move forward.
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