An Update on Protecting Civil Liberties
I am writing to update you on my efforts in Congress to protect civil liberties. I am proud to have earned an average lifetime score of 93% from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for my voting record in Congress. I have also received a 100% score from Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as an “A” grade from the NAACP for my voting record in Congress.
Keeping Families Together
We need to immediately end the inhumane practice of separating children from their families at the border. In order to learn about what is happening firsthand, I visited the Youth for Tomorrow facility in Bristow, Virginia. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the children being held there. These children have faced unimaginable horrors coming to the United States, and the trauma of that journey is only perpetuated the longer they are separated from their families. Children should not be institutionalized.
Protecting Americans from Warrantless Spying
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) regulates the government’s conduct of intelligence surveillance programs and creates a structure of congressional oversight of the executive branch’s wiretap requests. The government is required to seek warrants before monitoring Americans’ communications. Last year, Congress aimed to reauthorize a specific portion of FISA, Section 702, which addresses the intelligence community’s ability to target the communications of non-US persons located outside the United States for foreign intelligence purposes. However, I was concerned that Section 702 would allow the data and communications of Americans communicating with these non-US persons to be collected without first obtaining warrants. Information collected under the law without a warrant can be used to prosecute and imprison people, even for crimes that have nothing to do with national security.
Accordingly, I voted against Section 702 reauthorization because it did not adequately protect the privacy of Americans. I voted in favor of the Amash-Lofgren amendment instead, also known as the USA RIGHTS ACT. This amendment would have made FISA Section 702 comply with the Constitution by requiring the government to seek a warrant based on probable cause, avert funds from being used to search information collected for Americans, and prevent the government from mandating that companies, app developers, or any other entity weaken the encryption of their products or services. Although the USA RIGHTS amendment did not pass, this Act would have represented a significant step to protecting Americans’ privacy and security in this digital age.
Supporting Net Neutrality
We need Net Neutrality regulations to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs, like Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&T) from slowing down some websites, while speeding up rival websites. You should have equal access to whatever sites you want, and ISPs should not be demanding payment from some web sites while threatening to slow down their content. Such payments would just be passed along to consumers, and start-up websites that cannot afford the payment would be snuffed out before they can become popular. That’s why I have consistently voted for Net Neutrality.
Unfortunately, last year the FCC voted to repeal the Obama Administration’s Open Internet Regulation and end Net Neutrality as we know it. In response, I joined my colleagues in introducing legislation that would stop the FCC’s rollback of Net Neutrality protections. I will continue to work to ensure that the internet remains a free and open marketplace that encourages innovation and supports competition. Without net neutrality, I fear telecom companies could censor political speech and crush online movements for racial, gender, and economic justice.
Protecting Your Right to Vote
In a democracy, the right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. Many generations of Americans have marched, fought, and even died for the right to vote. In recent years, however, many people in our country have seen an unprecedented wave of voter suppression laws enacted with the goal of suppressing minority votes and to shift power away from the people to a specific elite class. Our democratic legitimacy will be determined by how we respond, as a country, to the growing assault on voting rights.
That is why I helped introduce the Voter Empowerment Act which advances reforms to ensure that eligible voters can register and cast ballots without undue burden, regardless of race, age, economic class, or disability. It includes necessary protections to ensure that all ballots are counted.
Protecting Religious Liberties
I believe the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Administration’s Muslim ban will be remembered as a stain on our nation’s history. The fact that the ban is moving forward is a fly in the face of American values and the fundamental constitutional principle of religious equality.
This ban tears at the heart of Muslim communities in the United States by separating Muslims in the United States from their family members abroad and taking away the ability of U.S. citizens and green card holders to live with or be visited by family members. Additionally, it will exclude friends and family from milestones such as weddings, graduations, and funerals, deny final visits to ailing relatives, and bar talented, promising young people from U.S. universities and companies.
It is precisely due to these reasons that I joined my colleagues in introducing the Statue of Liberty Values Act, which would block implementation of the President’s Muslim ban and send the message that the United States rejects banning immigrants and refugees on the basis of religion or nationality.