Civil Rights

Criminal justice reform is a national economic issue - Stop ignoring it

One would think the traditional “values-based” arguments would be sufficient to end mass incarceration. But the facts are plain: the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world - higher than that of Russia, China or Iran. And of those who are behind bars, a disproportionate number are of people of color. Of the 1.6 million people serving sentences of longer than a year, 60 percent are black or Latino. African Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise 37 percent of the prison population. One in three black men can expect to spend time behind bars.


DADT repeal opponents owe gay troops, veterans an apology

Listening to those who were previously opposed to repealing the U.S. military's now-dead "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, one would think that the end of the world was imminent. Talk abounded of troops being "distracted" and losing limbs in Afghanistan, of morale and combat readiness plummeting, and of careerists leaving the armed forces in droves should that policy change make it through Congress or be imposed on the military by the courts.


Time to ensure full and effective enforcement on hate crimes laws

Hate crimes have always been part of life in this country, and so, too, has a tragically slow march of progress toward recognizing, preventing, and stopping them. As a key Senate subcommittee revisits hate crimes today in the wake of a new spate of hate-motivated violence, it’s time for us to check in on our progress and take note of where we can improve. 


Republican pressure on Akin could save VAWA

The campaign-minded Republicans who condemned Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin’s statements about “legitimate rape” could deepen their impact by backing the routine reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).


LGBT community still rendered invisible by party platforms

Last week, The Republican Party declared it wanted to deny millions of families the opportunity to achieve the American dream – including my own.
There are 1 million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) raising 2 million children in the United States. We are part of the diverse fabric of our nation which increasingly includes blended and multi-generational families, adoptive and foster families, families headed by single parents, divorced parents and unmarried couples, and our families shouldn't be cheated out of  access to opportunities simply based on who they are.


Elected offiicials must stand up to NRA on gun safety

After the horrifying mass shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, politicians were warned not to “politicize” the tragedy by daring to mention the word "guns". 

We are told it would be an insult to the dead and wounded, an insult to the American people, to suggest the shooter’s lethal arsenal of weapons – all legally purchased, it seems – contributed to this horrifying tragedy.


Bring immigrants out of the shadows

Last Friday, President Obama courageously announced that it would no longer be the policy of the United States to deport young illegal immigrants who came to this country as children years ago through no fault of their own. This announcement brings some measure of justice to a deeply dysfunctional immigration system. 


Obama’s immigration act is a game-changer

You should not underestimate the electricity that has gone through immigrant and Hispanic neighborhoods like those in my district in Chicago since President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that they would temporarily protect immigrant youths eligible for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act from deportation. In two month’s time, when the first group of DREAMers comes forward to affirmatively apply for protection from deportation, it will be similar in many ways to how some people felt when same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses or African-Americans were allowed to register to vote in the South.