Domestic Policy: Questions for Candidates

Washington Newsletter No. 785, June 2018

June 5, 2018

What candidates hear on the campaign trail influences the actions they are willing to take once elected. We want to make sure they hear from you.

End Mass Incarceration

Question: Will you support legislation, such as the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, give judges more discretion, and decrease the federal prison population?

FCNL Perspective: The U.S. incarceration system is unfair, unjust, and expensive. Our country is the world’s leader in incarceration. The number of people in prison or jail in this country has increased 5-fold in the past 40 years, even as the crime rate has gone down. As applied, U.S. laws unequally burden people of color. Today, African-American men who failed to finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed. Congress can begin to change this system by passing the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, both prospectively and retroactively.

Provide an Economic Safety Net

Question: Will you oppose efforts to deny access to food, medical, and housing assistance to people who aren’t working?

FCNL Perspective: Each person has the right to live a life of dignity with access to basic necessities. Programs like SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and housing assistance are critical to meeting this need. Taking away access to these programs will make it harder for people to find work. Making public assistance contingent on work does little to address the barriers to employment that many people receiving these benefits face. These barriers include access to affordable child care and transportation, predictable work schedules, and education and training opportunities. Work requirements may shrink public assistance rolls, but they will not reduce poverty or help people achieve self-sufficiency.

Honor the Promises to Native Americans

Question: How will you engage with Native American tribes to ensure they are involved in the decision-making process on policies that affect them?

FCNL Perspective: Native American tribes have the inherent right to govern themselves and their lands. This right is affirmed by the U.S. Constitution, by treaties between tribes and the federal government, and by court rulings. The trust relationship between tribes and the federal government—establishing that the U.S. must treat tribes as sovereign nations and support tribal self-governance and economic prosperity—is also well-established legal precedent. Yet Congress often ignores tribal leaders’ priorities.

Reform the Immigration System

Question: Will you work for comprehensive immigration reforms that enable families to stay together and protect the rights and safety of all immigrants regardless of citizenship status, vocation, race, or religion?

FCNL Perspective: Based on our belief that there is that of God in everyone, we are called to encounter one another with love and compassion, regardless of place of birth, religion, or race. Yet, instead of working to fix a flawed immigration system, Congress has focused on tougher enforcement measures that hurt immigrants and their communities. This enforcement-only approach wastes money, enriches private prison corporations, terrorizes border communities, racially profiles immigrants and U.S. citizens, tears families apart, and abrogates constitutional protections. Congress should insist on rigorous oversight over immigration detention and enforcement and enact legislation that makes the legal immigration system more accessible and affordable, with an emphasis on keeping families together and strengthening protections for asylum-seekers and refugees.

Address Climate Change

Question: How should the U.S. be involved in international efforts to address climate change? Do you support the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement?

FCNL Perspective: Climate change is a global problem that needs global solutions. Its effects are already evident in the devastating hurricanes and wildfires the U.S. has recently experienced and in ever-rising global temperatures. Bold action, both individually and collectively, is required to address these alarming trends. Congress should pass legislation to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. should participate in international agreements to address and mitigate the effects of climate change. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement points the U.S. in the wrong direction, endangering both its negotiating power with other nations and the well-being of communities around the world.

Stop the Gun Violence Epidemic

Question: Nearly 100 people die every day in this country from gun violence. If you are elected, what will you do to stop this gun violence epidemic?

FCNL Perspective: The prevalence of guns in the United States is a public health crisis, a policy failure, and a reflection of our country’s culture of violence. From mass killings carried out by legally purchased assault weapons to “everyday” deaths from suicide, domestic violence, or at the hands of police, gun violence is preventable—if Congress is willing to act. As initial steps, we call on Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, institute universal background checks, pass legislation to advance evidence-based gun violence prevention, implement community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, and invest in domestic violence and suicide prevention efforts.

De-Militarize Local Police Departments

Question: Will you support legislation, such as the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, to curtail the Pentagon program allowing police departments to receive free surplus military equipment?

FCNL Perspective: Already, in many towns and cities, police officers feel—and sometimes see themselves—more like an occupying force than community servants. Arming local law enforcement agents with grenade launchers, tanks, and guns designed for a battlefield only reinforces the threat that communities, especially communities of color, see in law enforcement. Congress should end the program and take steps to de-militarize U.S. police forces by insisting on accountability measures, training in de-escalation tactics, and implicit bias training.