Press Releases

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) today issued the following statement on the announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that it would not reopen an investigation into the case of two U.S. Park Police officers who shot and killed Northern Virginian Bijan Ghaisar in 2017:

“We are deeply disappointed in the Justice Department’s decision not to reopen the investigation into the killing of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police. Nearly five years after he was killed, Bijan’s family, friends, and community still are no closer to an understanding of how the events of that night could justify his being shot to death by police. We are thinking of the Ghaisar family today, and will continue to stand with them in their pursuit of justice.”

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after their Republican colleagues blocked the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act from receiving a final Senate vote:

“Everyone deserves to go to work or the store without worrying about being a victim of domestic terrorism. Yet in the last two weeks alone, 10 Black Americans died in a racist shooting in Buffalo. Nothing about addressing extremist violence, hate crimes, and domestic terrorism should be partisan, and it’s deeply disappointing that not a single Republican in the Senate stood with us today to even open debate on legislation to help make our communities safer. The American people deserve action and we’re going to keep working to deliver it.” 

According to a March 2021 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the two most lethal threats among domestic violent extremists are racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs). RMVEs are most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians, such as the deadly shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo earlier this month.

Had Republicans not blocked the bill from reaching a final vote—where it would have been expected to pass and proceed to President Biden’s desk for signature—the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would have established new requirements to expand the availability of information on domestic terrorism, as well as the relationship between domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

The legislation would also have authorized components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor, analyze, investigate, and prosecute domestic terrorism. DHS, DOJ, and the FBI would have also been required to review their anti-terrorism training programs and make training on prosecuting domestic terrorism available to its prosecutors.

In addition, the bill would have created an interagency task force to analyze and combat white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement agencies, and directed the FBI to assign a special agent or hate crimes liaison to each of its field offices.

Full text of the legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $114,700,190 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to increase affordable housing across the Commonwealth.

“All Virginians deserve access to safe and affordable housing, but rents and home prices have skyrocketed across Virginia in recent years,” the senators said. “We’re glad that this funding will go to supporting the construction of new affordable housing units and help Virginians access more housing options.”

The funding was awarded through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnership (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), and Housing Trust Fund (HTF).

Warner and Kaine, a former fair housing attorney, have long supported efforts to increase affordable housing. Warner and Kaine strongly advocated for increases in federal funding for these programs. Warner and Kaine have also introduced legislation that would address rising home prices, assist first-generation homebuyers, and close the widening wealth and homeownership gaps.

A breakdown of the funding based on program is below.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): The CDBG program provides flexible funding to states, cities, and counties to support community development, including infrastructure, economic development projects, housing construction or rehabilitation, public facilities upgrades, homeowner assistance, and more. 

City/County

Amount of Funding

Commonwealth of Virginia

$18,813,102

Alexandria

$1,143,364

Blacksburg

$534,673

Bristol

$269,250

Charlottesville

$414,907

Chesapeake

$1,141,624

Christiansburg

$125,664

Colonial Heights

$106,471

Danville

$852,803

Fredericksburg

$203,268

Hampton

$903,077

Harrisonburg

$538,229

Hopewell

$225,305

Lynchburg

$714,845

Newport News

$1,287,677

Norfolk

$4,435,015

Petersburg

$583,253

Portsmouth

$1,539,655

Radford

$183,174

Richmond

$4,474,570

Roanoke

$1,818,463

Staunton

$317,340

Suffolk

$488,891

Virginia Beach

$1,968,186

Waynesboro

$187,537

Winchester

$275,326

Arlington County

$1,333,133

Chesterfield County

$1,496,877

Fairfax County

$5,918,926

Henrico County

$1,645,428

Loudoun County

$1,379,452

Prince William County

$2,636,075

TOTAL

$57,955,560

 

HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME): The HOME program partners with nonprofits to build, buy, or rehabilitate affordable housing and provides direct rental assistance to low-income individuals. The Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill included $1.5 billion for the HOME program and was the highest level of funding in the past decade.

 

City/County

Amount of Funding

Commonwealth of Virginia

$12,031,604

Alexandria

$693,431

Blacksburg

$651,299

Charlottesville

$747,825

Chesapeake

$613,692

Danville

$328,742

Hampton

$570,404

Lynchburg

$421,034

Newport News

$871,322

Norfolk

$1,378,254

Portsmouth

$464,737

Richmond

$1,764,354

Roanoke

$760,067

Suffolk

$465,021

Virginia Beach

$1,163,266

Winchester

$713,163

Arlington County

$823,984

Chesterfield County

$679,539

Fairfax County

$2,471,231

Henrico County

$991,558

Prince William County

$1,015,307

TOTAL

$29,619,834

 

Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG): The ESG program provides funding for emergency shelter for people in crisis, outreach and essential services to those living on the streets, re-housing services, and homeless prevention programs.

 

City/County

Amount of Funding

Commonwealth of Virginia

$3,048,024

Norfolk

$382,849

Richmond

$384,355

Roanoke

$156,541

Virginia Beach

$171,520

Fairfax County

$515,135

Henrico County

$146,882

Prince William County

$226,857

TOTAL

$5,032,163

 

Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA): The HOPWA program provides housing assistance and support services to low-income individuals living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

 

City/County

Amount of Funding

Commonwealth of Virginia

$1,582,493

Richmond

$1,794,492

Virginia Beach

$2,676,916

TOTAL

$6,053,901

Housing Trust Fund (HTF): The HTF provides funding for construction, reconstruction, or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low- and very low-income households and requires HTF units to have a minimum affordability period of 30 years.

 

City/County

Amount of Funding

Commonwealth of Virginia

$16,038,732

 

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WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after their bipartisan bill to commemorate historic sites that catalyzed litigation leading to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, was signed into law by President Biden:

“We’re excited our legislation to commemorate the Moton Museum in Farmville and other historic sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education decision was signed into law today by President Biden,” Sens. Warner and Kaine said. “This bill will preserve the site and help ensure future generations can learn about its significance, as well as the history of Barbara Johns, who led her classmates in a protest against school segregation at the Moton School.”

The Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act will expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, it will recognize the Moton Museum, formerly the Robert Russa Moton High School, in Farmville, Virginia, where Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation and demanded better conditions for Black students. This designation would help protect the site.

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka transformed the United States, overruling Plessy v. Ferguson and striking down school segregation as unconstitutional. The Brown decision was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate and the House of Representatives in April. U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led the Senate version of the bill. Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC 6) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Senators Warner and Kaine secured $500,000 in funding for critical facility upgrades at the Moton Museum in Farmville through the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, and supported efforts to honor Barbara Johns as one of Virginia’s two statues in the United States Capitol.

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(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), joined by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging that the U.S. Department of Justice reconsider the case of two U.S. Park Police officers who shot and killed Northern Virginian Bijan Ghaisar in 2017. Their request followed the recent decision by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to drop an appeal in the case.

 

They wrote:

“We write today regarding the 2017 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar by two United States Park Police (USPP) officers. Nearly five years after the fatal shooting of Bijan, it remains unclear to the Ghaisar family, to us, and to the broader community of the National Capital Region, how a traffic stop escalated to a fatal shooting. While the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to pursue federal charges under the previous administration, we believe another look is warranted. Therefore, we respectfully request that DOJ reopen its investigation, pursue a vigorous analysis of the facts and law, and determine whether federal charges are merited.”

“As you know, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated this shooting in detail, interviewing more than 150 individuals (including law enforcement, civilian, and medical witnesses), analyzing evidence at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, and amassing an investigative file of some 10,000 documents. The focus of the Department’s investigation was to determine whether the officers had violated federal laws, in particular federal criminal civil rights statute 18 U.S.C. § 242. There is precedent for charges in a case like this, as DOJ’s Civil Rights Division pursued similar charges in the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery cases.

“What’s more, we understand that Bijan Ghaisar’s family, through counsel, has requested that the Civil Rights Division revisit its decision declining to prosecute the officers who shot and killed him. We further understand that the Department is now in possession of sworn deposition testimony taken from briefs submitted in a civil action, which includes testimony from a senior U.S. Park Police officer and a Fairfax County Police officer that may cast new light on the events of that tragic evening.

“The decision to escalate to deadly force must be explained – it is unconscionable to think such a low-level offense could justify being shot to death by police. Bijan’s family, and the public, are entitled to due process and an explanation of why their son is dead that reflects full scrutiny of this situation at all levels of the justice system. We hope you will use all resources and personnel at your disposal to give this case a fair, honest look and decide what the proper form of justice for this tragedy should be.”

 

Text of their letter follows below.

Dear Attorney General Garland:

We write today regarding the 2017 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar by two United States Park Police (USPP) officers. Nearly five years after the fatal shooting of Bijan, it remains unclear to the Ghaisar family, to us, and to the broader community of the National Capital Region, how a traffic stop escalated to a fatal shooting. While the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to pursue federal charges under the previous administration, we believe another look is warranted. Therefore, we respectfully request that DOJ reopen its investigation, pursue a vigorous analysis of the facts and law, and determine whether federal charges are merited.

In November 2019, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division informed the Ghaisar family that the Department would not pursue a federal indictment against the officers under 18 U.S.C. § 242. In October 2020, a grand jury convened in the Fairfax County Circuit Court returned criminal indictments against the USPP officers on state charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm. The officers’ attorneys asked for a change of venue from the Fairfax County Circuit Court to the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia. The request was granted by a federal district judge, and then, in October 2021, the same judge granted a motion to dismiss the case. The dismissal was made on the grounds of Supremacy Clause immunity, meaning the district court did not engage in fact finding or an analysis of whether Bijan’s rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated. Then-Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, Virginia’s new Attorney General has chosen to drop the Commonwealth’s appeal, leaving this question unsettled.

As Attorney General, you have rescinded memos that hampered the ability of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to investigate police departments accused of misconduct, and, where appropriate, hold them accountable. You have worked to restore public trust after reports of political interference with investigations during the previous administration, which reportedly included cases under investigation by the Civil Rights Division. You authorized Justice Department and FBI personnel to cooperate with the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney investigation, which returned state criminal indictments against the USPP officers, after such cooperation was denied by the previous administration. These actions are commendable, and we hope you will extend this improved oversight to the Ghaisar case.

To summarize, the following major decisions were made without sufficient explanation: DOJ declining to file federal charges in 2019; DOJ declining to share physical evidence or the conclusions of its personnel with local attorneys; the federal district court’s dismissal of the case; and the Virginia Attorney General’s withdrawal from the appeal of the dismissal. Taken together, these decisions mean that Ghaisar’s family cannot be confident that the circumstances of Bijan’s death have received the rigorous legal scrutiny they deserve.

As you know, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated this shooting in detail, interviewing more than 150 individuals (including law enforcement, civilian, and medical witnesses), analyzing evidence at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, and amassing an investigative file of some 10,000 documents. The focus of the Department’s investigation was to determine whether the officers had violated federal laws, in particular federal criminal civil rights statute 18 U.S.C. § 242. There is precedent for charges in a case like this, as DOJ’s Civil Rights Division pursued similar charges in the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery cases.

What’s more, we understand that Bijan Ghaisar’s family, through counsel, has requested that the Civil Rights Division revisit its decision declining to prosecute the officers who shot and killed him. We further understand that the Department is now in possession of sworn deposition testimony taken from briefs submitted in a civil action, which includes testimony from a senior U.S. Park Police officer and a Fairfax County Police officer that may cast new light on the events of that tragic evening.

We want to be clear that we do not seek to pressure you to arrive at a decision that the evidence does not support. Rather, we simply seek an impartial review of the facts, including the newly adduced evidence from the civil proceeding. This case was only dismissed at the district level because of Supremacy Clause immunity, an issue that does not apply if the case is brought by the federal government. Supremacy Clause immunity would also not apply in other cases involving state, not federal, officers, which makes this case unique and not a pathway to reopen every case the DOJ may have declined to consider under prior administrations. 

The decision to escalate to deadly force must be explained – it is unconscionable to think such a low-level offense could justify being shot to death by police. Bijan’s family, and the public, are entitled to due process and an explanation of why their son is dead that reflects full scrutiny of this situation at all levels of the justice system. We hope you will use all resources and personnel at your disposal to give this case a fair, honest look and decide what the proper form of justice for this tragedy should be.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

 

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded House passage of their bipartisan legislation to commemorate historic sites that catalyzed litigation leading to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month, now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The legislation will expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, it will recognize the Moton Museum, formerly the Robert Russa Moton High School, in Farmville, Virginia, where Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation and demanded better conditions for Black students. This designation would help protect the site.

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka transformed the United States, overruling Plessy v. Ferguson and striking down school segregation as unconstitutional. The Brown decision was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“Seventy-one years after Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation at Moton High School in Farmville, we’re thrilled that our legislation to commemorate the Moton Museum and other historic sites associated with Brown v. Board of Education is headed to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “We’re proud to help preserve this history and recognize stories of courageous Americans who fought for justice and equality.”

The creation of NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education case and an expansion of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include the related sites in South Carolina provides an opportunity for these sites to tell their own under-recognized histories of the Brown v. Board of Education case.

In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue its work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration and make connections between communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.

The legislation was crafted in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In the Senate, the bill was led by U.S. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and supported by U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

Sens. Warner and Kaine were also proud to secure $500,000 in dedicated funding for critical facility upgrades at the Moton Museum in Farmville through the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, and supported efforts to honor Barbara Johns as one of Virginia’s two statues in the United States Capitol.

The bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement today following the decision by Attorney General Miyares to drop the state’s federal appeal in the manslaughter case against the two U.S. Park Police officers involved in the November 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar: 

“Our hearts go out to Bijan Ghaisar’s loved ones, who have spent more than four years searching for closure following the fatal shooting of Bijan by two U.S. Park Police officers. We are deeply disappointed by this decision by Attorney General Miyares to end Virginia’s pursuit of justice for Bijan and his family. This decision only stands to cause further harm to the Fairfax County community while preventing a heartbroken family from reaching the closure they desperately need. We will continue to support the Ghaisar family’s pursuit of justice for Bijan. ”

In January of 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine, and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Sen. Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Bijan.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, Sens. Warner and Grassley pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. In February 2020, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting. Later that July, Sen. Warner pressed NPS for answers regarding its internal affairs investigation into the killing of Bijan, and the following month, he joined Sen. Grassley in a letter expressing concern over the department’s refusal to answer a number of questions in a briefing. In October 2020, Sen. Warner reiterated the need for justice after Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano brought forth two charges against the officers.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded unanimous Senate passage of their bipartisan legislation to commemorate the historic sites that catalyzed litigation leading to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The bill will expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, the legislation would recognize the Moton Museum, formerly the Robert Russa Moton High School, in Farmville, Virginia, where Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation and demanded better conditions for Black students.

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka transformed the United States, striking down the separate-but-equal doctrine established by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The Brown decision ended the practice of legalized segregation in educational facilities and was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“Seventy years ago, 16-year-old Barbara Johns led a walkout to protest school segregation alongside all 450 of her fellow Black classmates at the Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. Ms. Johns’ student-led demonstration spurred one of the five cases that would eventually head to the Supreme Court under the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit,” said Sen. Warner. “As we honor Barbara Johns’ legacy in the halls of Congress with her statue, I’m proud to join this effort to commemorate the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and further recognize the vital role played by the R.R. Moton School in Farmville in ending school segregation.”

“In April 1951, Barbara Johns led her classmates in a protest to demand better conditions for Black students at the segregated Moton School in Farmville, Virginia. I’m proud the Senate passed our bipartisan bill to honor the Moton Museum and other historic sites connected to Brown v. Board of Education,” said Sen. Kaine. “As we approach the 68th anniversary of this landmark ruling, we must continue to tell inspiring stories of Americans fighting for equality and recommit ourselves to upholding the principle of equal protection under the law.”

The legislation was crafted in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In the Senate, the bill was led by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and supported by U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

“With the passage of the Brown v. Board National Historic Site Expansion Act to designate all of the sites associated with this monumental Supreme Court case, history is not just memorialized but also made whole,” said Paul Edmondson, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “At the National Trust, we have been diligently working to reveal and amplify a more complete view of our national history and we’re pleased to have partnered with Senator Coons and Congressman Clyburn in this important work. The heroism of the communities, parents and schoolchildren who dared to demand equal access to education can now be properly celebrated through these historic places.”

“This preservation process reveals how all history is truly made,” said Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “So often it takes more than one great man, woman or even a single community to create change, despite the way the stories of history are often recounted. Actually, it requires many ‘ordinary people with extraordinary vision’ to move a society forward. We applaud those courageous attorneys, families, and activists, some known and others unknown, who put so much at risk to secure educational equality for all Americans. Thanks to our preservation partners, the full history of this landmark case will forever be memorialized and interpreted to inspire the next generation of social justice leaders.”

“The Robert R. Moton Museum is excited to join with communities involved in the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. In seeking to become an affiliated area of the National Park Service, we know this affiliation will allow us the opportunity to better collaborate with other communities involved in the historic Brown decision as we work to ensure that countless individuals have the opportunity to know of the courage and sacrifice that citizens made towards equality in education,” said Mr. Cameron D. Patterson, Executive Director of the Robert R. Moton Museum in Farmville, Virginia. “The Moton Museum Board of Trustees, Moton Museum Community Council, and our partner institution Longwood University in offering their support towards this effort, recognize that the resources and benefits offered from this affiliation with the National Park Service will only strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission as a museum.”

The creation of NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education case and an expansion of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include the related sites in South Carolina provides an opportunity for these sites to tell their own uplifting, under-recognized stories of students, parents, and their allies who helped shape American society. 

Enactment of this legislation has the potential to appropriately recognize the sites associated with the other four court cases and help them to combine current uses with preservation and public education.  In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue their collective work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration, helping these sites to tell their own history of the Brown v. Board of Education case and make connections to other communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.

On Wednesday, the bipartisan bill unanimously passed in the House Committee on Natural Resources. The House will soon consider the bill, and then it will go to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.  

The bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) pressed Wells Fargo for answers after a Bloomberg News investigation revealed that the financial services company approved only 47 percent of Black homeowners’ refinancing applications in 2020 – an approval rate significantly below other lenders, who approved about 70 percent of Black homeowners’ refinancing applications.

“I am writing regarding a recent Bloomberg News investigation, which reported that Wells Fargo approved only 47 percent of Black homeowners’ refinancing applications in 2020, an approval rate significantly below other lenders, who approved about 70 percent of Black homeowners’ refinancing applications,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Wells Fargo CEO and President, Charles Scharf. “I am concerned with the significant differences between Wells Fargo and other lenders and that Wells Fargo was reportedly the only major lender to approve a smaller share of Black homeowners’ refinance applications in 2020 than it did in 2010.”

He continued, “It is clear that disparities in refinance approvals are system-wide and likely reflect a historic and systematic imbalance that has driven the racial homeownership and wealth gaps, where the average Black and Hispanic or Latino household owns just 15 to 20% as much net wealth as the average white household. Wells Fargo is quoted in the article as saying that its lending decisions were ‘consistent across racial and ethnic groups’ and I understand that the imbalance may in part be an outgrowth of historic and longstanding barriers – including greater shares of applicants with lower credit scores and higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, which result from longstanding legal, social, and economic inequalities. However, the key question for Wells Fargo, and other lenders, is how lenders can find ways to support communities that have historically been held back from fully participating in the mainstream economy rather than continuing to perpetuate existing disparities, particularly during times of economic crisis.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner highlighted a Federal Reserve analysis that showed borrowers saved significant amounts of money by refinancing their mortgages during the pandemic by taking advantage of record low interest rates. According to this analysis, the typical refinance reduced a borrower’s monthly payments by over $250. The total amount of borrowers who refinanced are expected to see $5 billion in savings per year. However, less than 4 percent ($198 million) of those savings went to Black households, which make up over 9 percent of all homeowners.

Seeking answers on the reported disparities, Sen. Warner asked Wells Fargo to explain in detail why the racial gaps in its refinance approval rates were significantly larger than other lenders, and why its approval rate for refinances for Black homeowners fell in 2020 compared to 2010. He also pressed for answers as to whether the financial services company is considering changes to its evaluations process to ensure equitable outcomes for all homeowners.

Sen. Warner also joined a number of his colleagues in a separate letter today, urging the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to request a review of Wells Fargo’s mortgage loan refinance processes, following the Bloomberg News Investigation.

In Congress, Sen. Warner has been a champion for addressing the racial wealth gap by way of homeownership and entrepreneurship. He is the author of the Low-Income First Time Homebuyers (LIFT) Act – legislation to help first-time, first-generation homebuyers – predominately Americans of color – build wealth much more rapidly. In December of 2020, Sen. Warner successfully negotiated a record $12 billion investment to open the flow of emergency capital to community-based lenders in minority and low- and moderate-income communities.

A copy of Sen. Warner’s letter to Wells Fargo is available here. A copy of the joint letter to HUD and CFPB is available here.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of a bipartisan resolution condemning a recent series of bomb threats at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and reaffirming the government’s commitment to combatting violence against students, faculty, and staff. The resolution was led by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and passed unanimously in the Senate.

Since January, the FBI has reported 44 bomb threats to HBCUs, including at Norfolk State University and Hampton University.

“The unanimous passage of this resolution underscores the strong condemnation of recent threats against HBCUs and need to conduct thorough investigations to hold perpetrators accountable,” said the Senators. “We’ll continue to help HBCUs access federal resources to keep their campuses safe, and we remain committed to combatting hate and violence.”

Warner and Kaine are longtime advocates of HBCUs. Kaine successfully pushed to pass legislation he cosponsored called the HBCU Propelling Agency Relationships Towards a New Era of Results for Students (PARTNERS) Act, which strengthens partnerships between federal agencies and HBCUs. Warner successfully pushed to promote defense research at HBCUs in the most recent defense authorization bill which included a version of his Building Equitable Access to Contribute to Our National Security (BEACON) Act.

Joining Coons, Scott, Warner, and Kaine in cosigning the resolution were Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The resolution text is available here.  

 

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement today after a federal judge dismissed all charges against the two U.S. Park Police officers involved in the November 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar: 

“My heart is with Bijan’s parents, Kelly and James, and with all of his family and friends. Bijan’s death was a senseless tragedy and it never should have happened. It has been almost four years since Bijan was killed and his family still doesn’t have justice with which to carry on, or closure about what happened that night. I will continue to fight to ensure no other family has to experience this kind of pain.

In January of 2018, Sen. Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Sen. Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Bijan.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, the Senators pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. In February 2020, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting. Later that July, Sen. Warner pressed NPS for answers regarding its internal affairs investigation into the killing of Bijan, and the following month, he joined Sen. Grassley in a letter expressing concern over the department’s refusal to answer a number of questions in a briefing. In October, Sen. Warner reiterated the need for justice after Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano brought forth two charges against the officers.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) in introducing a resolution marking May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The resolution highlights the contributions to our country by generations of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

“As we’ve seen violence and racism toward Asian Americans on the rise over the last year, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the heritage and culture of the AAPI community during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” Senator Warner said. “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played key roles in shaping our nation’s history, and the month of May offers us an important opportunity to recognize the AAPI community for their many contributions to our country.”

“This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is particularly meaningful. As we celebrate the rich diversity and contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in our country, these very communities have been under attack throughout the pandemic. We must take this opportunity to stand together with these communities and continue our work to advance civil rights and equal treatment for all Americans,” Senator Hirono said.

The full resolution text is available here

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"As prejudice toward and violence against the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community have tragically been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s as important as ever that we spend this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month reflecting on the countless ways the AANHPI community has shaped our nation’s history and take pride in the continued contributions of our children and our children’s children,” Senator Duckworth said. “As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to a close, we must continue to work for progress for our community and ensure the American Dream remains within reach for all.”

“I’m proud to join my Senate colleagues today in introducing this resolution to recognize the numerous contributions and achievements of the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, as well as the hardships they have faced. As a diverse nation, we are made stronger by celebrating the heritage and traditions of Asian Americans and uplifting their stories,” Senator Durbin said. “In standing with the AAPI community, this month, and each day, it is also our responsibility to condemn and combat racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans.”

“This month, we celebrate the heritage, culture, and contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Oregon and nationwide,” Senator Wyden said. “As anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise, it’s even more crucial that all Americans recognize and condemn the discrimination AAPI communities continue to face, while lifting up the immense value AAPI individuals bring to the nation. I’m proud to stand alongside my colleagues in support of our AAPI neighbors with this resolution."

“The importance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month took on added urgency this year, as Congress and the Biden Administration acted decisively to address an alarming rise in anti-Asian sentiments and discrimination that resulted from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Menendez said. “While this month may be coming to an end, we must all continue to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to standing with our AAPI brothers and sisters who have suffered unspeakable violence and do everything we can to elevate and celebrate the rich contributions of the AAPI community to all facets of American society.”

“Throughout May, we take time to honor and reflect upon the great contributions that Asian Pacific Americans have bestowed on our country,” Senator Markey said. “From cultural and civic leaders, to frontline workers and scientists on the frontlines of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, we are deeply grateful for all the Asian Pacific American community has given to us. We also reaffirm our commitment to both ending the bigotry and violence that far too many across the country have suffered, and fighting the barriers and inequities that still impact many in our Asian Pacific American communities.”

“Asian American and Pacific Islanders have deep roots in Nevada and across the country, and I will always advocate for them. During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’ve celebrated with our AAPI community and I’ve also worked with local leaders in Nevada to make sure our government is doing everything it can to address the nationwide rise in hate crimes targeting AAPI Americans. Following conversations with Nevada’s AAPI community leaders, I was proud to help pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and I will continue to stand up for their community in the Senate,” Senator Cortez Masto said.

“After a year that has seen hateful attacks and vile racism directed toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, this resolution sends a resounding message – we stand with you. From leaders in business and government to life-saving researchers and heroes in our armed forces, the AAPI community continues to build our country up to help America fulfill its potential. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this resolution to honor Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” Senator Blumenthal said.

“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and reflect on all the rich contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to our country,” Senator Hassan said. “And this year, we also commit to addressing the tragic rise in hate crimes against the AAPI community. I will continue to stand together with Senator Hirono and my colleagues to support the AAPI community. We all have a responsibility and duty to speak out against prejudice and hate of any kind.”  

“During Asian Pacific American Heritage month, I am pleased to celebrate a community that’s been part of our Nation’s fabric since the beginning,” Senator Casey said. “I stand in solidarity with the AAPI community in Pennsylvania and across the United States. We must continue to speak out against anti-Asian racism and fight for equality for all.”

“This month is about honoring and celebrating the countless achievements of our nation’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Senator Klobuchar said.“In response to the rise in hate crimes throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I was proud to cosponsor the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and watch as President Biden signed this historic bill into law. This May, and all year long, we must recommit ourselves to combating prejudice and doing all we can to support AAPI communities nationwide.”

“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have shaped our nation’s history. Thanks to their achievements and contributions, the fabric of our country is richer and stronger,” Senator Shaheen said. “As we recognize AAPI accomplishments and culture, we must also double down on our commitment to unequivocally condemn and stop the violence and hate that is targeting AAPI communities. Our nation’s diversity is our strength, and I am proud to stand with our AAPI communities in solidarity against the surge in racist attacks.” 

“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month offers all Americans the opportunity to recognize and to appreciate the important role of this community in our nation – both throughout history and today,” Senator Cardin said. “The Asian American population is the fastest growing population in the United States and, over the past year, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played a vital role in our nation’s battle with COVID-19. Serving as frontline workers, first responders and emergency personnel, they have provided life-saving and critical care to hundreds of thousands of people during unprecedented times. I’m proud to join with so many of my colleagues to both celebrate and stand in solidarity with the AAPI community.”

“Throughout the past year, we’ve seen a sharp rise in hate crimes against the AAPI community—disturbing acts of violence that have taken lives and attacked the vision of America as a country of freedom and equality for all. We must stand united and unequivocally condemn these disturbing hate crimes, and confront racism in our country,” Senator Merkley said. “This month—and every month—we must recognize and celebrate the countless contributions and achievements of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and reaffirm our commitment to dismantling bigotry and hatred in our communities.”

"Now more than ever, it is important that we recognize and celebrate the many contributions Asian Pacific Americans have made to our country," Senator Bennet said. "I'm pleased to sponsor this resolution designating May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. My hope is that this will not only help us acknowledge the history and culture of the AAPI community, but commit us to standing up to prejudice and hate in all of its forms."

“With the rise of hate and bigotry against Asian Americans since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more critical to honor the countless contributions the AAPI community has made in our country. As we pay tribute to the AAPI community this month, we must also acknowledge there is more work to do, and we must stand together against the recent rise in hate and violence. I’m proud to join Senator Hirono and my colleagues today in celebrating and recognizing May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month,” Senator Carper said. 

“As this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to an end, not only must we celebrate a rich history, we must also  recognize and address the persistent bias and discrimination that Asian Americans have faced and continue to face in this country,” Senator Booker said.  “Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community strengthen the fabric of our nation, and I am proud to reintroduce this critical legislation with my Democratic colleagues that will commemorate their contributions and fight for greater visibility and opportunity across the country and in New Jersey.”

“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is an important opportunity to honor the contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made throughout our nation’s history while simultaneously condemning the rise of hate crimes targeting this community during the pandemic. The strength of our country is rooted in our diversity, and it’s important that we recognize and celebrate that fact – that’s what this resolution does,” Senator Feinstein said.

“In the United States, Asian and Pacific Americans have a long and important history of significant contributions to our country. This is particularly true in Washington state, and we recognize how Asian and Pacific Americans have shaped our way of life,” Senator Cantwell said. “Sadly, this same history has also been marked by periods of hate, xenophobia, and violence, like we have seen during the pandemic. It is even more important that as a country we acknowledge and celebrate Asian and Pacific Americans’ rich history, culture, and traditions this month.”

“Our country would not be what it is today if it weren’t for the countless contributions of generations of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to our culture, society, and economy,” Senator Brown said. “It’s our responsibility to show our Asian-American friends, neighbors, and colleagues that we stand with them by combatting the rise of hate crimes and anti-Asian stigma, and honoring the diverse cultural heritage of the AAPI community present in every corner of America.”

"This month, we take time to highlight and honor the important contributions that members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have made to our country. But this is also a moment for us to stand up and speak out against hate and violence directed at the AAPI community – hate that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and hate that will continue to spread if we don’t act. We must dedicate ourselves to rooting out this bigotry in all its ugly forms, and I’m glad that the Congress has passed and the President has signed a new law aimed at doing just that. But our work is far from over, and I’m proud to stand alongside my colleagues in support of the AAPI community, this month and every month,” Senator Van Hollen said.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, legislation cosponsored by Warner and Kaine and designed to counter the recent trend of violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The bill includes provisions of the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, cosponsored by Warner and Kaine last Congress to improve hate crimes reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crimes.

“Across the country, domestic extremists have used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to unleash a wave of hatred and violence towards Asian Americans. Unfortunately, Virginians are painfully familiar with the toll of bigotry, which was in full display at the Unite the Right rally in 2017, where a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring others,” said Warner. “The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act – which includes important provisions from the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act – will work to curtail these vicious crimes and ensure that victims have the support they need.”

“Senseless, vile, and un-American, the recent spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans must end,” said Kaine. “This legislation will send a message that bigotry has no place in our country and that violence will be prosecuted. I am pleased that the NO HATE Act was included in this legislation and believe combating racism is a fitting way to honor Heather Heyer.” 

The provisions included from the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act will:

·        Improve Reporting of Hate Crimes: This legislation will support the implementation of and training for the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the latest crime reporting standard, in law enforcement agencies without it. This will allow law enforcement agencies to record and report detailed information about crimes, including hate crimes, to the FBI. 

·        Encourage Law Enforcement Prevention, Training, and Education on Hate Crimes: This legislation will provide support to law enforcement agencies that establish a policy on identifying, investigating, and reporting hate crimes, train officers on how to identify hate crimes, develop a system for collecting hate crimes data, establish a hate crimes unit within the agency, and engage in community relations to address hate crimes in that jurisdiction.

·        Establish Hate Crime Hotlines: This legislation will provide grants for states to establish and operate hate crime hotlines, record information about hate crimes, to redirect victims and witnesses to law enforcement and local support services as needed.

·        Rehabilitate Perpetrators of Hate Crimes through Education and Community Service: This legislation will allow for judges to require individuals convicted under federal hate crime laws to undergo community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime.

The Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act was partially named after Heather Heyer, a Virginian murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville in 2017. Earlier today, Senator Kaine spoke on the Senate floor in remembrance of Heather. The rest of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act directs the Department of Justice to accelerate the review of hate crimes by requiring the Attorney General to designate someone responsible for handling such crimes. According to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes against Asian Americans rose nearly 150% in America’s largest cities last year. The bill would also mandate the issuance of guidance to state and local law enforcement on establishing a multi-lingual online system to report hate crimes.

The legislation now awaits action by the House of Representatives.

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WASHINGTON —U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Brian Schatz and their colleagues in reintroducing the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act, a bill that would provide federal employees with a 3.2 percent pay increase in 2022. 

“For years, federal employees have faced pay freezes, furloughs, and government shutdowns all while continuing to protect and serve the American people,” the Senators said. “The FAIR Act will finally give these hard-working people the pay raise they deserve.”

Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for Virginia’s federal employees. Last year, the Senators cosponsored the Protecting Collective Bargaining and Official Time for Federal Workers Act, a bill that would rescind four executive actions under the Trump Administration that restricted the effectiveness of unions for federal workers. During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the Senators took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees.

The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) has introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
 
Text of the legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump announced his intent to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court: 

“There is so much on the line with this Supreme Court vacancy. The next justice has the opportunity to decide the future of the Affordable Care Act, and whether Americans with preexisting conditions will continue to be protected, or if millions of Americans covered by the ACA will have their health care ripped away in the middle of a pandemic. Everything from health care to reproductive rights to voting rights hangs in the balance. Given the stakes, the American people have a right to have their voices heard before the confirmation of a new justice.

“This is not a question of judicial qualifications or temperament – this is about following the standard established by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016, when he refused – over my own strong objections – to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee 10 months prior to the election. That’s now the precedent. We can’t have one set of rules for Democratic presidents, and a different set of rules for Republican presidents. Our system of checks and balances, which has held strong and lasting for more than 200 years, was simply not meant to bear the brunt of such cynicism and hypocrisy. 

“Virginians are already casting their ballots. The Senate should not be considering a Supreme Court nomination before Inauguration Day.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Reps. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) urging the agency to include Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee on their list of ongoing remote inspections during the COVID-19 health crisis. Following troubling reports of conditions at Virginia facilities and a four-month-long delayed response by BOP, these remote inspections would help assess whether the Virginia BOP-managed correctional institutions are complying with protocols and best practices to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 outbreaks in these facilities.  

“We write today to urge you to include Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee, both in Virginia, in the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) remote inspection of facilities housing Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our offices have received numerous reports from employees and families of incarcerated individuals regarding the spread of COVID-19 and allegations of deteriorating health and safety conditions within both facilities. These concerns have been raised multiple times by several of our offices with BOP, and we remain deeply troubled by conditions at the two Virginia correctional facilities,” wrote the lawmakers. 

In Virginia, there are two federal correctional institutions in operation, including the U.S. Penitentiary in Lee County and the Petersburg Federal Correctional Complex. Correctional officers at Virginia’s facilities are responsible for approximately 4,144 incarcerated individuals. Currently, no Virginia facility is included in the OIG remote inspections list even as the number of COVID-19 cases have increased.

“On September 24, 2020, the BOP website reported 200 incarcerated individuals and 13 staff members with active or recovered positive COVID-19 cases at FCC Petersburg. Many of our offices have received reports that – despite denials from BOP – cases are increasing and inadequate steps have been taken to limit transmission at this facility. USP Lee weathered much of the pandemic without a COVID-19 outbreak. However, on September 9, 2020, BOP transferred at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19 to the facility. Such transfers are a potentially deadly lapse in judgment. USP Lee is one of the largest employers in Lee County, Virginia. Transfers such as this could result in preventable outbreaks, both inside the prison and in the local community,” the lawmakers continued.

Additionally, the lawmakers raised alarm over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)provided to staff and incarcerated individuals despite the contradictory claim by BOP that they have enough PPE at their facilities. In their letter, the lawmakers also note that they have receiveddisturbing reports of diminished quality of life for incarcerated individuals, which include reports of spoiled food and reduced access to essential facilities.

The members of Congress have advocated for vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 crisis. In March, Sen. Warner joined his Senate colleagues in a letter to BOP and the three largest private prison operators inquiring about any policies and procedures in place to manage a potential spread of COVID-19. In May, Sens. Warner and Kaine and Reps. McEachin and Griffith requested answers from BOP Director Carvajal regarding issues at the Virginia facilities. Earlier this week, following a failure to respond to the May letter, the lawmakers once again pressed Director Michael Carvajal for answers concerning an ongoing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Following a delayed responsefrom BOP that contradicted information the lawmakers have consistently heard about the lack of PPE, the spread of COVID, and deteriorating conditions, the members of Congress are pressing OIG to include these facilities in their remote inspection list. 

Additionally, Sens. Warner and Kaine have also urged the Trump Administration time and time and time again to cease the inter-state transfer of people held at immigration detention facilities during the public health crisis.

 

Full text of the letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Inspector General Horowitz: 

We write today to urge you to include Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee, both in Virginia, in the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) remote inspection of facilities housing Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our offices have received numerous reports from employees and families of incarcerated individuals regarding the spread of COVID-19 and allegations of deteriorating health and safety conditions within both facilities. These concerns have been raised multiple times by several of our offices with BOP, and we remain deeply troubled by conditions at the two Virginia correctional facilities.

On September 24, 2020, the BOP website reported 200 incarcerated individuals and 13 staff members with active or recovered positive COVID-19 cases at FCC Petersburg. Many of our offices have received reports that – despite denials from BOP – cases are increasing and inadequate steps have been taken to limit transmission at this facility.

USP Lee weathered much of the pandemic without a COVID-19 outbreak. However, on September 9, 2020, BOP transferred at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19 to the facility. Such transfers are a potentially deadly lapse in judgment. USP Lee is one of the largest employers in Lee County, Virginia. Transfers such as this could result in preventable outbreaks, both inside the prison and in the local community.

We also continue to receive reports that BOP has not provided proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and incarcerated individuals at both facilities. As a result, PPE is frequently reused beyond its intended service life. Further, we are concerned that neither facility has taken adequate steps to distance those who have tested positive for COVID-19 from the general population.

Finally, several of our offices have been informed that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis. We have also received disturbing reports that both food quality and quantity have significantly declined, including accounts of spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.  

We seek to maintain the highest levels of safety for incarcerated individuals, correctional facility staff, and local communities in the Commonwealth, and urge you to include USP Lee and FCC Petersburg in your remote inspections. Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Reps. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA), demanded answers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regarding reports of troubling conditions at Virginia facilities amid the COVID-19 crisis. Expressing frustration with Director Michael Carvajal’s failure to respond to a letter from earlier this year, the lawmakerspressed for answers concerning an ongoing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and diminished quality of life for incarcerated individuals. 

“Nearly four months ago, we sent you a letter detailing the significant risks and challenges COVID-19 posed to the health and safety of staff, incarcerated individuals at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities. We remain deeply concerned that the conditions within those facilities have failed to improve – and in many ways, appear to have deteriorated,” the lawmakers wrote. “One area of particular concern is the continued lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). According to employees at FCC Petersburg, both staff and incarcerated individuals are forced to re-use supplies and masks, which presents serious health and safety risks. Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities. Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCC Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic.”

“We have also received numerous reports related to other declining conditions at FCC Petersburg. It is our understanding that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis,” they continued. “We have also heard disturbing reports that the food the incarcerated individuals are receiving has declined significantly in both quantity and quality, including being served spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.” 

In Virginia, there are two federal correctional institutions in operation, including the U.S. Penitentiary in Lee County and the Petersburg Federal Correctional Complex. Correctional officers at Virginia’s facilities are responsible for approximately 4,144 incarcerated individuals. 

In their letter, the four members of Congress also raised concern with reports that correctional staff at FCI Petersburg continue to be denied a lunch break despite working shifts as long as sixteen hours – an issue originally raised in the lawmakers’ May 21st letter. Calling this “unacceptable and dangerous,” they encouraged Director Carvajal to institute a nation-wide break policy in order to address correctional staff’s basic needs.

Additionally, they expressed dismay regarding the transfer of incarcerated individuals between facilities, highlighting that at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19 was transferred to USP Lee. The lawmakers noted that this this lapse in judgment could result in an entirely preventable COVID-19 outbreak inside the prison, endangering staff, inmates and local communities. 

The members of Congress have advocated for vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this year, they requested answers from Director Carvajal regarding issues at the Virginia facilities. Sen. Warner also joined his Senate colleagues in a letter to BOP and the three largest private prison operators inquiring about any policies and procedures in place to manage a potential spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, Sen. Warner and Kaine have urged the Trump Administration time and time and time again to cease the inter-state transfer of people held at immigration detention facilities during the public health crisis. 

Full text of today’s letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Director Carvajal:

We write to reiterate our serious concerns about the health and safety of staff and individuals incarcerated at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee, the two federal correctional facilities in Virginia, and to express our severe frustration at your failure to respond to our letter from May 21, 2020. After speaking with employees and the families of individuals incarcerated at both facilities, it is clear that the situation is worsening. According to figures shared with our offices, there are over 200 incarcerated individuals and at least 12 staff who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at FCC Petersburg. 

Nearly four months ago, we sent you a letter detailing the significant risks and challenges COVID-19 posed to the health and safety of staff, incarcerated individuals at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities. We remain deeply concerned that the conditions within those facilities have failed to improve – and in many ways, appear to have deteriorated.  

One area of particular concern is the continued lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). According to employees at FCC Petersburg, both staff and incarcerated individuals are forced to re-use supplies and masks, which presents serious health and safety risks. Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities. Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCC Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic. 

We have also received numerous reports related to other declining conditions at FCC Petersburg. It is our understanding that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis. We have also heard disturbing reports that the food the incarcerated individuals are receiving has declined significantly in both quantity and quality, including being served spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.   

Further, as we detailed in our letter nearly four months ago, correctional staff at FCC Petersburg continue to be denied a lunch break, despite reportedly working shifts as long as sixteen hours. This is unacceptable and dangerous. We once again encourage you to institute a break policy—not only at the Petersburg facility, but at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) facilities across the nation—that more appropriately responds to correctional staff’s basic needs. 

Additionally, we are particularly dismayed to learn that, despite our concerns, BOP is transferring individuals to facilities without a record of COVID-19 cases. A group of individuals was recently transferred to USP Lee, which included at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19. Such transfers are a potentially deadly lapse in judgment. USP Lee is one of the largest employers in Lee County, Virginia, and not only could this transfer result in an entirely preventable outbreak inside the prison, it is also dangerous for the public health of local community members.   

Finally, your failure to respond to our serious concerns is further heightened by the recent announcement from the BOP that facilities will allow visitations to resume in early October. While we agree that resuming visitations is incredibly important for incarcerated individuals and their families, proper protocols must be in place and followed to ensure the health and safety of the incarcerated individuals, their families, and the surrounding communities. We urge you to take all available steps to ensure vitiations can resume as soon as possible while preserving the health and safety of visitors, staff, and incarcerated individuals.

Given the magnitude of the worsening conditions at USP Lee and FCC Petersburg, we demand an immediate response to how BOP is addressing our concerns by no later than October 5, 2020. As COVID-19 continues to present a significant health challenge at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities, we are committed to working with you to address the needs of incarcerated individuals and correctional staff. 

We appreciate your attention to these important issues impacting our constituents and look forward to your prompt response. 

Sincerely,

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 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Chris Coons and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn to introduce legislation to honor and commemorate the historic sites that contributed to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The bill would recognize the importance of the additional sites that catalyzed litigation in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., -- including the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville – by designating them as National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas and expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. The legislation was crafted in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Tom Carper (D-DE).

“On April 23, 1951, a 16-year-old Barbara Johns led a walkout of students at the Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, to protest school segregation and poor education conditions. The student-led strike in Virginia and the subsequent lawsuit became one of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education.  As our country continues to grapple with the need to reckon with our past and present, it is more important than ever to highlight those Americans who time and time again have stood up and pulled our nation towards progress,” said Senator Warner. “I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill to expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and recognize the vital role played by the Moton School in Farmville in ending school segregation.”

“I am proud to join this bipartisan bill to honor and protect historic sites connected to Brown v. Board of Education—a watershed case in our nation’s progress toward equality for all,” said Senator Kaine. “One of the sites that will benefit is the Moton Museum, former home of the Moton School, where Barbara Johns led a protest over the intolerable conditions for Black students. It’s so important that we preserve these sites for all to reflect on the sacrifice and patriotism of leaders like Johns, Spottswood Robinson, and Oliver Hill.” 

“The Robert R. Moton Museum is excited to join with communities involved in the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. In seeking to become an affiliated area of the National Park Service, we know this affiliation will allow us the opportunity to better collaborate with other communities involved in the historic Brown decision as we work to ensure that countless individuals have the opportunity to know of the courage and sacrifice that citizens made towards equality in education,” said Cameron D. Patterson, Executive Director of the Robert R. Moton Museum. “The Moton Museum Board of Trustees, Moton Museum Community Council, and our partner institution Longwood University in offering their support towards this effort, recognize that the resources and benefits offered from this affiliation with the National Park Service will only strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission as a museum.”

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was described by constitutional scholar Louis H. Pollak as “probably the most important American government act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation.” The Brown decision transformed the United States, striking down the separate-but-equal doctrine established by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896The Plessy decision was the linchpin that condoned and entrenched legalized segregation across the South despite liberty and equality protections clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution and underscored by the 14th and 15th Amendments.   

These laws stayed in placed for nearly 100 years after Reconstruction, but pioneering civil rights lawyers Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, Constance Baker Motley, Louis Lorenzo Redding, and others challenged the constitutionality of segregation and won. The Brown decision ended the practice of legalized segregation in educational facilities and was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.  

The history of Brown v. Board of Education is represented in our national consciousness by a single building, Monroe School, which is a National Historic Site located in Topeka, Kansas. This limited geographic scope condenses public memory of these events and inadvertently fails to recognize the contributions of the other communities in Claymont, Delaware; Hockessin, Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware; Summerton, South Carolina; Farmville, Virginia; and the District of Columbia that were also important to the fight for equality and that saw their cases consolidated with the Brown case. The geographic dispersion of these locations demonstrates that Brown v. Board of Education is truly a story of a national struggle with national significance.

The creation of NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education case and an expansion of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include the related sites in South Carolina provides an opportunity for these sites to tell their own uplifting, under-recognized stories of students, parents, and their allies who helped shape American society. 

Enactment of this legislation has the potential to appropriately recognize the sites associated with the other four court cases and help them to combine current uses with preservation and public education.  In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue their collective work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration, helping these sites to tell their own history of the Brown v. Board of Education case and make connections to other communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.  

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WASHINGTON U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and 29 senators today in calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to expeditiously investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga.

“Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy,” the senators wrote. “To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.”

 In addition to Senators Feinstein, Leahy, Murray, Casey and Booker, the letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Full text of the letter follows:

 

September 17, 2020

Hon. Joseph V. Cuffari

Inspector General

Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane SW

Washington, DC 20528-0305

Dear Mr. Cuffari:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General should expeditiously conduct a thorough investigation into a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies and other egregious abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. LaSalle Corrections operates that facility for the federal government, including for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The alleged abuses detailed in the complaint and in related reports must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated to protect the rights and safety of women and patients in our nation’s care.

 The whistleblower expressed alarm about the “rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred” at the facility. Specifically, the complaint alleges that between October and December 2019 at least five women detained at the ICDC received hysterectomies. When asked about the procedures, however, the women “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” The complaint also describes how a gynecologist once removed the wrong ovary on a young woman, causing her “to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy,” leaving her unable to bear children.

Another detained woman who received a hysterectomy recounted that medical personnel “did not properly explain to her what procedure she was going to have done.” Although she asked for more information about why she was receiving a hysterectomy, she was “given three different responses by three different individuals.” When the woman told a nurse that the procedure “isn’t for me,” the nurse “responded by getting angry and agitated.”

Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy. To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other ICE facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.

 In addition to thoroughly investigating the recent alleged abuses at the ICDC, we urge you to immediately conduct a national review of reproductive health policies and practices at ICE facilities to ensure that the human rights of women in federal immigration custody are assured.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) celebrated that the bill to rename a Hopewell, Va. post office as the “Reverend Curtis West Harris Post Office Building” passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today. The bill, introduced by U.S. Representative A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), honors the life and legacy of Reverend Curtis West Harris, who long fought for racial justice and equity. Reverend Harris served as pastor of Hopewell’s Union Baptist Church for nearly fifty years, was the first African-American Mayor of Hopewell, and was also elected to serve in the Hopewell City Council from 1986 to 2012. He passed away in 2017 and was buried in Appomattox Cemetery, a site he first fought to integrate in 1960.

“Reverend Curtis West Harris is a Virginian who was a fierce champion for civil rights. He not only served Union Baptist Church faithfully, but he was also devoted to the fight against racial discrimination during the Civil Rights Movement,” said the Senators. “From participating in the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery to leading sit-ins against segregated Hopewell lunch counters, Reverend Harris helped pursue change against racial inequities. With today’s House passage, we are one step closer to paying tribute to a man who inspired all to do their part in the fight for social justice.”

The United States Postal Service (USPS) facility is located at 117 West Poythress Street in Hopewell, Virginia. In July, the Senators wrote to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Senate Committee that oversees USPS, voicing their support for renaming the post office.

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WASHINGTON – Today, on National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) emphasized the threat posed by the shortage of poll workers ahead of the November elections, and urged the administrative bodies of each state’s Continuing Legal Education (CLE) system to allow lawyers to volunteer as poll workers on November 3rd in exchange for CLE credits – a measure already undertaken by the Ohio State Bar Association. CLE credits are required professional education for attorneys, who must earn these credits after their initial admission to the bar.

“Across the country, election officials have raised the possibility that many experienced poll workers – who are primarily older than age 60 and at a higher risk from coronavirus – will opt to remain at home this year. We saw early signs of this during primary elections held nationwide earlier this spring and summer, with reduced polling locations in many states as a result of the public health emergency,” wrote Sen. Warner. “A reduction of polling places undermines not only our democracy, but also our public health response, as larger numbers of Americans are forced to rely on a limited number of open polling locations.”

He continued, “Well-trained poll workers are critical to ensuring the secure and effective completion of this year’s elections. Without an adequate number of poll workers during the primaries earlier this year, many states were forced to close polling locations leading to long lines and undoubtedly disenfranchising voters. With much higher turnout expected for this year’s general election, these challenges will be magnified. This impending shortage demands innovative solutions and should serve as a call to service.”

According to the CDC, one of the best ways to mitigate COVID-19-related health risks during the election will be to support a wide variety of alternative voting methods and options – such as expanded early voting and longer voting hours – that reduce the number of voters at a single polling location. However, many of these options require the presence of poll workers, who are traditionally older and therefore more likely to stay home given the risks associated with COVID-19.

In his letters, Sen. Warner also noted that placing lawyers in precincts across the state will also serve to curb voter suppression and other legal violations at a time of increased levels of voter suppression.

Letters were sent to the Alabama State Bar, Alaska Bar Association, State Bar of Arizona, Arkansas Continuing Legal Education Board, State Bar of California, Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center, State Bar of Connecticut, Commission on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of Delaware, Florida Bar, Georgia Commission on Continuing Lawyer Competency, Hawaii State Bar Association, Idaho State Bar, MCLE Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois, Indiana Commission for CLE, Commission on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of Iowa,  Kansas CLE Commission, Kentucky Bar Association, Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on MCLE, Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, Minnesota State Board of CLE, Mississippi Commission on CLE, MCLE Department    Montana Board of CLE, Nebraska MCLE Commission, Nevada Board of Continuing Legal Education, New Hampshire Minimum CLE Board, Supreme Court of New Jersey, New Mexico MCLE, New York State Continuing Legal Education Board, North Carolina State Bar, North Dakota CLE Commission, MCLE Commission, Oregon State Bar, Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board (PACLE) , Rhode Island MCLE Commission, Commission on CLE and Specialization, Tennessee Commission on CLE and Specialization, State Bar of Texas, Utah State Board of Continuing Legal Education, Vermont Board of Continuing Legal Education, Virginia State Bar, Washington State Board of CLE, West Virginia State Bar, Supreme Court of Wisconsin, and Wyoming State Board of CLE.

A sample letter is available here.

 

Earlier today, Sen. Warner also cosponsored legislation to address the urgent shortage of poll workers and make it easier for election boards across the country to send recruits to where they are most needed by removing requirements that poll workers be registered to vote in the same county where they are volunteering. Given Leader McConnell’s consistent refusal to advance election assistance legislation, Sen. Warner is encouraging states to explore alternative solutions. 

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has long advocated for the integrity of our elections. In June, he led all Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee in calling for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as the National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State to work proactively to counter any attempts to suppress vulnerable and historically-disenfranchised voters during the COVID-19 crisis. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today in introducing legislation, the Poll Worker Recruitment Act of 2020, to address the urgent shortage of poll workers for the November 2020 general election. Today’s announcement coincides with National Poll Worker Recruitment Day.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Merkley, the legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the U.S., the coronavirus crisis has made it much more challenging to recruit poll workers at a time when in-person voting options are already limited. Many of the volunteers who normally help staff polling stations are seniors who are at high risk of COVID-19 complications and have been urged by public health professionals to stay home.

As election boards across the country work to resolve this poll worker shortage, the legislation would make it easier for them to send recruits to where they are most needed by removing requirements that poll workers be registered to vote in the same county where they are volunteering. Poll workers would still need to be registered in the same state.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to holding a safe and fair election in November,” said Merkley. “No right is more sacred than our right to vote, and we must do everything in our power to protect voting rights this year. Every American voter needs to be given the chance to cast their vote in a safe and accessible way. That means that in addition to giving every voter a chance to vote by mail, we need as many poll workers as possible to avoid long lines, unreasonable waits, and dangerous crowding. Let’s get every poll worker America has available to where they are most needed and will be most effective.” 

Pennsylvania implemented this change in requirements during its 2020 primary election. The proposal would make this change national, ensuring that all states have equal opportunity to maximize coverage by poll workers.

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the U.S., poll worker shortages have become a persistent problem throughout the 2020 primary election season. Washington, D.C. reported a loss of 1,700 election workers during its primary voting period. Kentucky reduced its in-person voting locations to a single polling place in each county for its primary because of poll worker shortages. And alarming statistics from other states show that this is likely to be a significant problem for the general election: In Anchorage, Alaska, 95% of past poll workers declined to sign up again this year, while in Maryland, the state announced last month that it is short nearly 14,000 election workers.

“As we have seen in primary elections across the United States, the challenge of recruiting and retaining poll workers during COVID-19 has had a suppressive effect on in-person voting, which communities of color disproportionately rely on. The Voter Protection Corps applauds Senator Merkley for recognizing the critical need to boost poll worker recruiting this Fall so that all voters who want or need to vote in person can do so safely,” said Voter Protection Corps Executive Director Bob LaRocca. “By providing local and county jurisdictions greater flexibility to recruit poll workers from across a state, this legislation works to address the massive demand for in-person election workers in November.”

“I fully support this common-sense approach to recruiting poll workers. With two major Universities in my county, having the ability to recruit younger poll workers who aren’t permanent residents would help immensely,” said Amelia Powers Gardner, Utah County Clerk/Auditor. “Removing barriers to recruitment helps elections officials and our local communities while giving young people the opportunity to serve.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged Virginia’s election registrars to do everything in their power to ensure that all Virginians can access their right to vote amid controversial reforms to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the ongoing public health emergency. In a letter, the Senators strongly encouraged the Commonwealth’s 133 registrars to take advantage of the steps Virginia recently took to expand early voting and to ensure that no American is forced to choose between their right to vote and their health.

“We understand you are currently preparing to handle the anticipated surge in absentee voting, both in-person and by mail, and we urge you to be thoughtful about those steps, particularly in light of delays in the processing of mail as a result of changes made to the U.S. Postal Service,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by working with your local governance body to expand the number of satellite sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of business hours during which those sites are open.”

They continued, “The Commonwealth of Virginia has made major strides in recent years to increase access to the franchise. Prior to the current public health emergency, Virginia not only expanded early voting opportunities, but also implemented no-excuse absentee voting. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by expanding the number of sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of hours during which those sites are open.”

This letter follows the implementation of sweeping operational changes to the Postal Service that have significantly delayed mail, in what many have called an attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine mail-in voting ahead of the November election. This comes as more and more Americans look to mail-in voting and other convenience voting opportunities in order to participate in the election while staying safe during the ongoing pandemic.

In their letter, the Senators also asked the registrars to immediately alert the Senators and officials at the Virginia Department of Elections regarding any constraints in safeguarding voting, including in securing resources to organize safe polling locations or finding adequate numbers of poll workers to staff early voting sites. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal proponents of securing Americans’ right to vote and of reversing any changes to USPS that have affected the reliability of mail delivery. Earlier this week, the Senators calledon the Postmaster General to testify before Congress and provide clear, transparent answers on service delays. Last week, they joined their colleagues in a letter asking the Postmaster General not to take any further action that makes it harder and more expensive for states and election jurisdictions to mail ballots. Sen. Warner has also demanded immediate action to ensure that Veterans and the VA can count on USPS for the timely delivery of essential prescription drugs, and he has pressed the Postmaster General regarding Virginians’ concerns about delayed mail service.   

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

There is enormous interest nationwide in the upcoming election, with record interest in absentee voting across the Commonwealth. However, the current public health emergency and recent changes to longstanding Postal Service policies have raised concerns about the ability of Americans to safely exercise their franchise through absentee balloting. We write to urge you to do as much as feasible to ensure all Virginians can access their right to vote, including taking advantage of the historic steps Virginia recently took to expand early voting.  

During the primary season, the pandemic caused delays and hazardous conditions for voters nationwide. Going forward, it is evident that substantive measures must be taken to ensure that no American must choose between their franchise and their health. The urgent need for safe voting procedures, including safe, secure alternatives to voting in-person on Election Day, has significantly increased interest in convenience voting opportunities.  

We understand you are currently preparing to handle the anticipated surge in absentee voting, both in-person and by mail, and we urge you to be thoughtful about those steps, particularly in light of delays in the processing of mail as a result of changes made to the U.S. Postal Service. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by working with your local governance body to expand the number of satellite sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of business hours during which those sites are open.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has made major strides in recent years to increase access to the franchise. Prior to the current public health emergency, Virginia not only expanded early voting opportunities, but also implemented no-excuse absentee voting. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by expanding the number of sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of hours during which those sites are open. To the extent that you face constraints in this context, including in finding adequate numbers of poll workers to staff early voting sites or securing resources to organize safe polling locations, we urge you to immediately alert officials at the Virginia Department of Elections, as well as our offices. As we approach the election, a fulsome understanding of the situation and needs across Virginia will be crucial to shaping a legislative response.

Americans are experiencing great hardship as a result of the ongoing public health emergency. For months, we have advocated for additional resources for local election officials grappling with the unprecedented voter turnout that is expected this November in the midst of a pandemic. While these requests have been ignored to this point, we hope to continue advocating for and amplifying the needs of Virginia’s elections officials during this critical time.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the entire Senate Democratic caucus to demand answers from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on significant operational changes he directed that have caused serious delays for postal customers in Virginia and across the country. In a letter, the Senators called on DeJoy to testify before Congress and provide clear, transparent answers on service delays that have caused seniors and veterans to miss their prescription medications, small businesses to lose money and customers over delayed packages, and other serious disruptions that affect communities across the country who count on the Postal Service for timely delivery.

“In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election,” wrote the Senators. “The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General.  The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.” 

Last week, Warner and Kaine joined their colleagues in a letter to urge DeJoy to provide answers regarding reports of changes to long-standing practices at USPS that result in increased delivery times and costs for election mail, and urged him not to take any further action that makes it harder and more expensive for states and election jurisdictions to mail ballots. Sen. Warner also demanded immediate action last week to ensure that  Veterans and the VA can count on USPS for the timely delivery of essential prescription drugs. He has also previously pressed the Postmaster General regarding concerns from Virginians regarding delayed mail service.  

Text of the letter is copied below and available here.

  

Dear Mr. DeJoy:

We write to seek answers about changes to the U.S. Postal Service under your leadership that are adversely affecting mail delivery for Americans across the country.  We call on you to testify before Congress about these changes and their impact on every person in our nation.  

The Postal Service is an essential public institution with an obligation to serve every community in the nation.  As Postmaster General, you should not make changes that will slow down mail or compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for medicines, essential goods, voting, correspondence, and for their livelihoods. 

Last week, however, you confirmed to Congress that you recently directed operational changes in post offices and processing centers. On August 7, 2020, you also announced a significant reorganization of Postal Service leadership and functions. These changes include the elimination of extra mail transportation trips, the reduction of overtime, the start of a pilot program for mail sorting and delivery policies at hundreds of post offices, and the reduction of equipment at mail processing plants.   

The Postal Service has characterized these changes as efficiency or cost-saving measures and minimized any “temporary service issues” as an “inevitable” side effect of implementing new procedures. However, in practice and in the midst of a pandemic, these actions, whether intentionally or not, are causing mail delays and appear to constitute an unacceptable threat to the Postal Service and the millions of Americans who depend on it.

In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election.  There are also reports that post offices have significantly reduced their hours, including in West Virginia, where postal officials circulated an alarming document announcing potential post office closures before quickly withdrawing it and calling it a misunderstanding.

As Postmaster General, you have avoided answering questions about the magnitude of delays we have seen and have not yet provided any evidence that you studied or considered how your changes would affect delays and mail service before implementing these changes.  Furthermore, you have refused to engage with nearly all Members of Congress who have reached out to you or raised concerns about these issues.  Inevitably, without additional information or engagement from you or the Postal Service with stakeholders about these changes, your actions raise questions regarding your intent and whether you have adequately sought to fully understand the Postal Service’s current capabilities, personnel, and public service mission before implementing these changes.   

The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General.  The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.  We understand you have committed to being more forthcoming and transparent with Congress and the American people regarding these changes, including providing documentation of the operational changes you have made and will be making since beginning your term.  For every American who relies on the Postal Service, we call on you to fulfill that commitment without delay. 

To that end, please provide the following information by August 21, 2020:

1.               Please explain how the changes you have made to Postal Service operations since becoming Postmaster General have affected on-time mail delivery (i.e. service performance).  Please provide all nationwide, Area, and regional service performance data since June 15, 2020.

2.               Did you conduct any formal analysis before making these changes to Postal Service operations, including analysis of the potential effect on service performance?  If so, please provide the analysis.  If not, explain why not.   

3.               It appears the Postal Service did not consult meaningfully with any stakeholders, including unions, mailing industry stakeholders, or others, before implementing these operational changes.  Please explain why. 

a.     Did you discuss these operational changes, or any other potential operational changes, with Administration officials outside the Postal Service?  Please list and describe any such discussions.

4.               What analysis did you conduct over your 8 weeks as Postmaster General to determine an “organizational realignment” was necessary and that the previous structure was inadequate?  Please provide copies and descriptions of any analysis, including any discussions with employees and business stakeholders.  

a.     The reorganization reshuffles reporting relationships and Postal Service geographic Areas.  How will this affect coordination among essential functions of the Postal Service during this pandemic?  How will this affect reports of service performance and other essential performance metrics? 

5.               What, if any, plans are under consideration for further post office or facility hour reductions, suspensions, closures, or consolidations?

6.               What steps will you be taking to suspend or halt any changes adversely affecting mail delivery during this pandemic and in advance of the general election?

 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the entire Senate Democratic caucus in demanding answers from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on significant operational changes he directed that have caused serious delays for postal customers across the country. In a letter, the Senators called on DeJoy to testify before Congress and provide clear, transparent answers on service delays that have caused seniors and veterans to miss their prescription medications, small businesses to lose money and customers over delayed packages, and other serious disruptions that affect communities across the country who count on the Postal Service for timely delivery. 

In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election,” wrote the Senators. “The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General.  The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.”  

Text of the letter is availabe below.

  

August 17, 2020

Mr. Louis DeJoy

Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer

United States Postal Service

475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.

Room 4012

Washington, D.C. 20260

Dear Mr. DeJoy:

We write to seek answers about changes to the U.S. Postal Service under your leadership that are adversely affecting mail delivery for Americans across the country.  We call on you to testify before Congress about these changes and their impact on every person in our nation. 

The Postal Service is an essential public institution with an obligation to serve every community in the nation.  As Postmaster General, you should not make changes that will slow down mail or compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for medicines, essential goods, voting, correspondence, and for their livelihoods. 

Last week, however, you confirmed to Congress that you recently directed operational changes in post offices and processing centers. On August 7, 2020, you also announced a significant reorganization of Postal Service leadership and functions. These changes include the elimination of extra mail transportation trips, the reduction of overtime, the start of a pilot program for mail sorting and delivery policies at hundreds of post offices, and the reduction of equipment at mail processing plants.   

The Postal Service has characterized these changes as efficiency or cost-saving measures and minimized any “temporary service issues” as an “inevitable” side effect of implementing new procedures. However, in practice and in the midst of a pandemic, these actions, whether intentionally or not, are causing mail delays and appear to constitute an unacceptable threat to the Postal Service and the millions of Americans who depend on it.

In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election.  There are also reports that post offices have significantly reduced their hours, including in West Virginia, where postal officials circulated an alarming document announcing potential post office closures before quickly withdrawing it and calling it a misunderstanding.

As Postmaster General, you have avoided answering questions about the magnitude of delays we have seen and have not yet provided any evidence that you studied or considered how your changes would affect delays and mail service before implementing these changes.  Furthermore, you have refused to engage with nearly all Members of Congress who have reached out to you or raised concerns about these issues.  Inevitably, without additional information or engagement from you or the Postal Service with stakeholders about these changes, your actions raise questions regarding your intent and whether you have adequately sought to fully understand the Postal Service’s current capabilities, personnel, and public service mission before implementing these changes.  

The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General.  The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.  We understand you have committed to being more forthcoming and transparent with Congress and the American people regarding these changes, including providing documentation of the operational changes you have made and will be making since beginning your term.  For every American who relies on the Postal Service, we call on you to fulfill that commitment without delay. 

To that end, please provide the following information by August 21, 2020:

1.              Please explain how the changes you have made to Postal Service operations since becoming Postmaster General have affected on-time mail delivery (i.e. service performance).  Please provide all nationwide, Area, and regional service performance data since June 15, 2020. 

2.              Did you conduct any formal analysis before making these changes to Postal Service operations, including analysis of the potential effect on service performance?  If so, please provide the analysis.  If not, explain why not.   

3.              It appears the Postal Service did not consult meaningfully with any stakeholders, including unions, mailing industry stakeholders, or others, before implementing these operational changes.  Please explain why.

a.     Did you discuss these operational changes, or any other potential operational changes, with Administration officials outside the Postal Service?  Please list and describe any such discussions.

4.              What analysis did you conduct over your 8 weeks as Postmaster General to determine an “organizational realignment” was necessary and that the previous structure was inadequate?  Please provide copies and descriptions of any analysis, including any discussions with employees and business stakeholders. 

a.     The reorganization reshuffles reporting relationships and Postal Service geographic Areas.  How will this affect coordination among essential functions of the Postal Service during this pandemic?  How will this affect reports of service performance and other essential performance metrics?

5.              What, if any, plans are under consideration for further post office or facility hour reductions, suspensions, closures, or consolidations?

6.              What steps will you be taking to suspend or halt any changes adversely affecting mail delivery during this pandemic and in advance of the general election?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

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