Category Archives: Blog Posts

Letter to Congress about Family Separation

Dear _____,

I’m writing today because I’m deeply disturbed by recent news reports about immigrant parents being separated from their children when they illegally cross the U.S. southern border.

I understand that the Trump administration has chosen to prosecute all illegal border crossers as criminals and there is little you can do about that. However, Congress does have the power to authorize the hiring of more immigration judges and require those positions be filled in under a year. I believe that the only way to enforce “zero tolerance” constitutionally is to ensure that immigrant families are released in under 20 days. If we had enough judges, the cases could be heard fast enough that detention longer than 20 days could be rendered unnecessary.

In an April 18th hearing in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, witness Patrick McHenry, the Director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, had the following exchange with Sen. Mike Lee. You can also watch this 2 minute long exchange for yourself at this link:

– Timestamp: 41:50: Senator Mike Lee (UT): I believe you recently testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee that it would take about 700 immigration judges in order to be able to address the backlog and address the current case load. Is that correct? James McHenry: Yeah, last fall the president proposed adding additional immigration judges, up to a number of 700. If we can get 700 on board, especially with our performance measures, we could complete over 450,000 cases a year. That would eviscerate the backlog. Sen. Lee: So, 700 would do it. James McHenry: Based on the current numbers, it would certainly go a very long way toward eliminating it, yes. Sen. Lee: How many do you have right now? James McHenry: We have 334 on board. Currently, we’re authorized, based on the recent omnibus spending bill, for up to 484. Even getting to that number would allow us to begin completing more cases than new receipts that we have in. Sen. Lee: How long does that normally take? My understanding is that between 2011 and 2016 it was taking about two years to hire a typical immigration judge. Is that still the case? James McHenry: No. We have reduced that average. The attorney general issued a new hiring process memo to streamline the process last April. In using that process, we’ve put out five advertisements since the end of June for up to 84 positions in total. The first of those advertisements closed at the end of June last year. We expect to bring on the first judges from that advertisement in May, which will be right at approximately 10 months, and we anticipate bringing on the rest of them in July, which will be right at one year. And we think we can get to a stage where we are bringing on judges in eight months, 10 months, 12 months—a year at the most.

By my calculations, if 700 judges could clear the backlog and we already have 334 judges, that means that we need to hire 366 more judges. The Trump administration has only been authorized to hire 484, so I would like to see Congress change that authorization as soon as possible to at least 700 judges, preferably more. I would also like Congress to provide the funding necessary to hire these judges immediately.

As a taxpayer, I would much rather pay the salaries of 366 more judges than pay to house, clothe, and feed families in detention camps indefinitely.

Please consider this proposal. I think this is a way for the administration to keep their zero tolerance policy while minimizing the damage to immigrant families.

Thank you.

Here’s How CISA Helps the NSA Scrape the Internet Backbone to Read Your Emails at Will

By Donny Shaw

The National Security Agency is sitting on a new surveillance apparatus, awaiting congressional action to help them begin collecting a massive amount of new data on people in the U.S. that they can view and share without a warrant. Continue reading

Representatives who voted for fast track have taken 91% more money from corporations backing the trade deals

By Donny Shaw

The House of Representatives this afternoon rejected the Senate’s fast track package for the Obama administration’s trade proposals, but they also voted in favor of the fast track portion of the package itself, 219-211. Though largely symbolic, the vote shows that fast track does have the votes to pass in the House, and that will be an important factor in determining how Congress moves forward with giving the administration the fast track authority in the coming weeks. Continue reading

Top 5 Congressional Dish Episodes for Newbies

Excellent question by @theIanMcNeny:

Thank you for asking!

Here's five episodes I highly recommend and why:

CD083: The Story of the 113th Congress

This episode is a summary of everything that happened during the 113th Congress (the 114th Congress began in January 2015). During the 113th Congress, Congressional Dish focused on the House of Representatives, which was controlled by the Republican Party at the time. Now, the Republican Party controls the entire Congress for the 114th Congress. This episode will give you an idea of how they will govern for the next two years.

CD052: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

This is one piece of legislation that did not die with the 113th Congress. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is huge new package of international laws that is being created right now with eleven other countries. It’s the one thing that President Obama and the Republicans who now control all of Congress agree on. You should know about this.

CD003: The Free Market vs. US

"Free Market" is a term used often in Congress. It refers to two things: Economic theories that have been tested in countries around the world during the last 60 years and it's a label that is often applied to economic laws that don't follow those theories but rig the laws to benefit multi-national corporations. This episode, one of the first Congressional Dish episodes, explores the results of how the economic theories and label "free market" have been used around the world.

CD041: Why Attack Syria?

In 2013, the President of the United States went on television and announced to the world that he planned to bomb Syria. A year and half later, the United States is bombing Syria regularly. In this episode, we fact check a list posted on Twitter by a Syrian after the President's announcement which contained twelve things the Syrian wanted us to know about her country. There were some true things on her list that we all should know.

CD067: What Do We Want in Ukraine?

In early 2014, our government began giving Ukraine billions of our tax money in the forms of cash, military equipment, and military "trainers". This continues in the 114th Congress. This episode provides some information about how and why we got involved in Ukraine. This is a likely real time example adding to the pattern you'll learn about in CD003.

Thank you for listening to Congressional Dish! Please let us know what you think.

Email Script for Anti-Fast Track Message to Congress

Title: Vote No on Fast Track Authority

Dear (Insert Your Rep Here),

I would like you to oppose the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, which would give the President fast-track authority for trade agreements. The Constitution gave this power to Congress; I hope that as my Representative, you will not give our power away freely to the Executive Branch.

Thank you.

(Insert Your Name)


Public Law 113-6: Monsanto Protection Act

The nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” was part of the government funding bill that President Obama signed into law on March 26, 2013; it forces permits to be issued for new plants – like genetically modified plants grown by Monsanto – while the Department of Agriculture investigates whether the plant is harmful and should be regulated. Continue reading