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I was in Selma, Alabama on the historic Freedom Day to register voters. Tensions were high and leaders were escalating their tactics.

I saw the inequality and violence that African-Americans endured on a daily basis. It crippled our communities. All of what I experienced should have scared me enough to avoid challenging the system that allowed these injustices to occur. But my father, a union organizer, taught me that if the door of opportunity cracked open, we must dare to open it wider and hold it open for as many people as possible.

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After a week filled with hearings on the Voting Rights Act and the federal government’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Aact, the House Judiciary Committee is now focusing back on immigration, while also turning its attention to anti-regulatory issues and the role of copyright in the United States.  

Today at 2 pm, the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security is holding a hearing on the Republican “DREAM” Act, also known as the “KIDS” Act, to address the immigration status of illegal immigrants brought to America as children. While no legislation has been introduced by the Majority, much has been written about their efforts to present their own version of “DREAMer” legislation.

Immigration has become an issue of growing national relevance over the past several years, and, as illustrated by the weeks spent on markups of the legislation earlier this month, is on the front-burner of the Congressional agenda. Though reforming our broken immigration system remains a divisive issue, this hearing will help explore the viewpoints and concerns surrounding the significant population of illegal immigrants that have been in the United States since a young age.

To discuss the array of perspectives on this issue, the hearing will consist of two panels made up of Congressmen and witnesses from a range of organizations that focus on immigration legislation. The first set of panelists include: Congressman Mike Coffman, Congressman Jeff Denham, Congressman Cory Gardner, and Congressman Luis Guiterrez. The second panel consists of: Dr. Barrett Duke from The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ms. Margie McHugh with the Migration Policy Institute, Ms. Pamela Rivera, a resident of Washington, D.C., and Ms. Rosa Velaquez of the Arkansas Coalition for DREAM.

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Next up, on Wednesday the Judiciary Committee will turn its focus to legislation allowing for cellphone unlocking and anti-regulatory legislation. At 10 am, there will be a Full Committee Markup of H.R. 1123, the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act"; H.R. 1493, the "Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2013"; H.R. 2122, the "Regulatory Accountability Act of 2013"; H.R. 2542, the "Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Acts of 2013"; H.R. 2641, the "Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act of 2013"; and H.R. 2655, the "Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013".

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To close the week, the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a hearing on innovation in America, specifically focusing on the role of copyright reform, this Thursday at 9:30 am. We will keep this updated as the list of witnesses becomes available.

Be sure to follow @HouseJudDems for live-tweets from the hearings and markup.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member, U.S. House Judiciary Committee

Discuss

Following two weeks of marking up Republican-backed immigration “reform” legislation in the House Judiciary Committee, we are now turning our sights towards two issues that have dominated the news recently: the Voting Rights Act and the federal government’s surveillance programs and related authorities.

Today at 10 am we are holding a full committee oversight hearing on the Administration’s Use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Authorities. All Members on Judiciary, Republican and Democratic alike, are concerned about whether the White House has taken an overly broad view of the FISA authorities described in recent media reports.  There is growing bipartisan consensus that the sprawling surveillance apparatus employed by the government has extended far beyond what Congress intended when it amended the USA PATRIOT Act in 2005 and passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008.  

To assess the various viewpoints and concerns that have arisen over the past several weeks, this hearing will feature two panels of witnesses. Witnesses from the first panel will feature key players within the federal government agencies involved with interpreting the FISA legislation and carrying out the clandestine, surveillance activities. The first set of panelists include: Mr. James Cole with the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr John C. Inglis with the National Security Agency (NSA), Mr. Robert S. Litt with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Ms. Stephanie Douglas with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Security Branch. The second panel will feature witnesses from a range of firms and organizations with an interest in civil liberties, national security and the rule of law - including: Mr. Stewart Baker with Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, Mr. Steven G. Bradbury with Dechert, LLP, Mr. Jameel Jaffer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Ms. Kate Martin with the Center for National Security Studies.

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After wrapping up our oversight activities, the Judiciary Committee will turn its attention this Thursday to the “Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s Decision in Shelby County.” This hearing will take place in the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice at 11 am.

This hearing comes on the heels of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday entitled, "From Selma to Shelby County: Working Together to Restore the Protections of the Voting Rights Act.” At the hearing, civil rights champion Congressman John Lewis testified alongside the former Republican House Judiciary Chairman who led the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 - Jim Sensenbrenner.

Witnesses for our House Judiciary hearing include Mr. J. Christian Adams, with the Election Law Center, Mr. Robert Kengle, with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mr. Hans A.von Spakovsky, with The Heritage Foundation, Mr. Spencer Overton, with The George Washington University Law School.

Be sure to follow @HouseJudDems for live-tweets from the two hearings.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member, U.S. House Judiciary Committee

Discuss

Over the next two days, the House Judiciary Committee will be considering the “Legal Workforce Act” and the “Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act,” – or the SKILLS Act for short. Both bills deal with issues taken up in the bipartisan immigration reform bill that the Senate will pass later this week, but both bills also contain serious problems that will force me to oppose supporting the bills as standalone measures.

While the Senate is on the verge of overwhelmingly passing historic, bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, the House is currently considering piecemeal legislation that does nothing to address the long-standing problems of our broken immigration system. Perhaps most importantly, not one of the bills being considered in the House Judiciary Committee offers undocumented immigrants living within our country an opportunity to earn permanent legal status.

If anything, a number of these recent attempts at piecemeal immigration “reform” would only make things worse by increasing the likelihood of racial profiling, crime, and worker abuse. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee marked up an enforcement-only bill that would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight and would turn every police officer in the country into immigration agents, jeopardizing public safety and undercutting community policing efforts.  Another bill, which would create a new agricultural guesterworker program, eliminates basic labor protections that will undercut American workers and lead to worker abuse. Moreover, the bill provides an unrealistic solution to our agricultural industry, which now depends overwhelmingly on the work of undocumented immigrants, and would put millions of American jobs at risk.

At this week’s markup, my fellow representatives and I will be expressing our concerns, taking a stand against unreasonable policies, and urging those on the other side of the aisle to adopt a different approach to immigration.

Will be live-tweeting the markup throughout the day. Follow us on Twitter @HouseJudDems for updates.

Congressman John Conyers

Discuss

This past Tuesday, I hosted a forum in Highland Park, Michigan regarding the legal implications of Michigan’s Emergency Manager’s Law.  At the forum, I issued a House Judiciary Democratic Staff Report finding that the law was unconstitutional, that the Emergency Managers were not working and had engaged in mismanagement and abuse.  The report also included a series of recommendations on how to address both the law's legal issues and the underlying financial causes.  A copy of that report is here and a copy of my statement at the hearing is here.

At the forum, the Nation’s leading expert on constitutional and bankruptcy issues, Professor Kenneth Klee, stated unequivocally that “as currently drafted, the [Michigan EM Law] is violative of the Contracts Clause … No prior legislature has had the audacity to legislate the unilateral termination, rejection, or modification of a collective bargaining agreement.” His testimony is here.  We also heard from other leading experts on Voting Rights, Federal and State Constitutional and other legal issues who raised troubling questions about the law, as well as from the Emergency Manager from Benton Harbor.  All of their testimony is here.

Our Nation was built upon the fundamental building blocks of voting rights and guarantees of contract and collective bargaining.  Unfortunately, the State of Michigan has chosen to abandon these precious rights in a futile effort to balance our cities’ books.  These efforts have not worked, and before we go any further, it is incumbent that we all to work together to craft a more sensible and constitutional solution.

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At the end of this month, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will hold its first meeting and begin to consider ways to dig our nation out from the irresponsible deficits created by the Bush Administration. This presidentially-created 18-member commission is tasked with addressing "the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal Government."

While I and many of my fellow Members of Congress support efforts to balance the budget, it is critically important that this commission examine every part of the federal budget during this process.  For example, the Commission should most certainly consider the $985 billion dollars spent on foreign wars since 2001.  

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Is Sanjay Gupta the right choice for Surgeon General? A growing chorus are have questions about his candidacy.

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Michigan Republicans have indicated that they plan to challenge Michigan voters at the polls using lists of homes that are in foreclosure.  While we should not be surprised at any tactic after Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, this is a singular example of how low they will go.  It is done in the name of electing John McCain and John McCain should answer for it.  Today, I am calling on McCain to immediately denounce this activity and tell his supporters to stop it.  I hope some of our friends in the media will get him on the record about whether he intends to be elected President on the backs of those who have suffered the worst impacts of this economy.

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Four days after Dr. King's death, on April 8, 1968, I introduced a bill that would allow this nation to celebrate the life and work of its greatest civil rights leader with a federal holiday. Though it would take 15 years, from 1968 until 1983, the King Holiday Bill was eventually signed into law through the efforts of friends on the ground and friends in the Congress. Unfortunately, John McCain was not one of those friends.

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I wanted to share with all of you the reasoning behind a significant step I have taken in the investigation of the mass firings of federal prosecutors and the politicization occurring within the Department of Justice.

Today, I issued subpoenas to former White House Counsel Harriett Miers to compel her to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and to provide documents related to our investigation.  My counterpart in the Senate, Chairman Leahy, issued separate subpoenas to former Rove assistant, Sara Taylor.

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After today’s testimony from Monica Goodling, I think Republicans need to come up with some new talking points on the United States Attorney matter.  They keep saying that
"There’s nothing to this investigation... Democrats are on a fishing expedition... There’s no there there.

That has never been true, but today was a crystallizing moment.  I thought Ms. Goodling was a good and loquacious witness who brought forward some critical information:

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The House this week is considering a resolution opposing the President's plan to escalate the conflict in Iraq.

This resolution reflects the will of the American people.  Americans said at the polls last November that they wanted this war to end and for our troops to be withdrawn from the civil war that rages in Iraq.

Now that the President has submitted his budget and the House has begun work on the funding resolutions for fiscal year 2008, Democrats have turned their attention to stopping the president's push for more war.   This week's resolution marks the first step in that process.

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