Davis Fights for Seniors, Persons with Severe Disabilities and Racial Minorities
September 29, 2017
Rep. Davis led the following Dear Colleague letter to all House Members opposing passage of H.R. 2792, the "Control Unlawful Fugitive Felons Act of 2017 before consideration."
On September 28, 2017 the House passed the bill:
We join with over 110 civil rights, disability and retirement organizations to oppose H.R.2792 that harms vulnerable seniors and persons with severe disabilities via Supplemental security Income cuts that discriminate based on age, race/ethnicity, ability and income, and which further criminalizes poverty. We share with you our Additional Dissenting Views filed with the Committee on Ways and Means outlining our serious concerns about the considerable hardship this bill will inflict.
We reject proponents claim that only individuals charged with violent crimes or costly financial theft are affected by this bill. By undermining the constitutional presumption of innocence and depriving individuals of due process via adjudication, H.R. 2782 magnifies the deep inequalities in our criminal justice system based on race, ethnicity and income. For example, a 2015 report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law indicated: Although Caucasians are more likely to sell drugs and equally likely to use drugs, African Americans are arrested almost four times as often as white individuals for selling drugs and twice as often for drug possession; African American and Latino defendants are more than twice as likely as their white peers to experience pretrial detention; and African American and Latino individuals experience longer parole and probation periods and greater hardship from criminal justice collections and fees.
Further, no uniform threshold for a felony exists, giving states wide latitude to define offenses with low monetary values as criminal felonies. A report by the Marshall Project indicated that 13 states have not increased their felony thresholds since 2000 to reflect the costs of goods and four of these states – Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey – have the lowest thresholds in the country defining felonies as losses of $300 or less – vastly different than the $2,500 thresholds set in Texas of Wisconsin. Additionally, individuals on probation due to inability to pay court fees or fines, resulting in an arrest warrant for an alleged violation of probation. As in the past, H.R. 2792 would terminate Supplemental Security Income benefits for such alleged violations without due process.
We also reject proponents’ claim that the very limited authority given to the Social Security Commissioner to issue “good cause exemptions” will prevent unfair and hardship-inducing loss of benefits. This authority allows on 10 to 35 days before benefit termination for persons with extremely limited financial resources who are severely disabled or elderly. The time line is impractical and unfair. The average wait time for a Social Security appeal is 600 days, raising serious questions about the ability of the Commissioner to prevent termination of benefits.
We urge you to join us in opposing this cruel bill that harms vulnerable seniors and persons with severe disabilities via Supplemental Security Income cuts that discriminate based on age, race/ethnicity, ability and income, and which further criminalizes poverty.
|Danny K. Davis||John Lewis||Terri A. Sewell||Lloyd Doggett|
|Member of Congress||Member of Congress||Member of Congress||Member of Congress|