Washington Review, August 1, 2016
Throughout July, I joined with various colleagues in sending letters to officials expressing our positions on important legislative issues.
On July 6th, a number of my colleagues and I wrote to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education urging them to protect funding for Pell Grants in the Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations Bill. We strongly opposed funding cuts that would make college less affordable for millions of Americans and urged the committee to consider the impact such cuts would have on low-income students. The Federal Pell Grant program has been a critical resource for students who otherwise might not be able to pursue higher education due to financial constraints.
The Department of Homeland Security recently proposed an adjustment on fees for certain immigration and naturalization services. In response, some of my colleagues and I wrote to Leon Rodriguez, Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to express our concerns and request that the agency reconsider the new fees. Under the new rule, the naturalization fee would increase by $45 and additional mandatory fees would raise the total cost of naturalization to $725 per person. The price to replace a naturalization certificate would also increase dramatically as would fees for citizens who wish to bring their adopted non-citizen children to live with them. The cost of naturalization continues to be the biggest obstacle for legal permanent residents who wish to apply for citizenship. While we understand that USCIS operations are primarily funded through application fees, it is our hope that Director Rodriguez will reconsider instituting higher services fees that would have a negative impact on the millions of legal permanent residents who are eligible to become U.S. citizens.
On July 13th, I joined various colleagues in sending a letter to Speaker Ryan urging him to act on legislation that would address the ongoing health crisis in Flint, Michigan. Specifically, this letter requested that H.R. 4479, the Families of Flint Act, introduced by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), be taken up for consideration in order to provide the emergency funding and long-term resources needed to help Flint recover. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 4479 and share Rep. Kildee’s desire for action on this legislation which would require Michigan to match federal funding to repair infrastructure, create economic development programs, and increase access to services and long-term health monitoring for families and children exposed to lead.
Earlier this year, I cosponsored H.R. 3815, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, introduced by Rep. Peter King (R-NY). This legislation would ensure that victims of terrorism in the United States would be able to pursue civil claims against terrorists and those who assisted them. Specifically, it would authorize the U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occurred as a result of a wrongful act, including an act of terrorism. It would also allow federal courts to hold any actors, assistors, or conspirators liable for acts of international terrorism against a U.S. national. The Senate companion bill, S. 2040, passed the Senate unanimously on May 17, 2016 and is awaiting consideration by the House of Representatives. On July 15th, I joined with various colleagues in sending a letter to leadership requesting that this bill be brought to the floor for a vote. It is our hope that this legislation will be taken up as soon as possible in order to affirm civil litigation as a tool for victims of terrorism.