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Pramila Jayapal introduces legislation to ban facial recognition tech by govt

Led by Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a group of US lawmakers has introduced a bicameral legislation to stop government use of biometric technology, including facial recognition tools, which they said violates the privacy of citizens and “deepens racial bias” in policing.

The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, introduced on Tuesday, responds to reports that hundreds of local, state and federal entities, including law enforcement agencies, have used unregulated facial recognition technologies and research showing that roughly half of US adults are already in facial recognition databases.

While Jayapal along with Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives, Senators Edward J Markey, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden introduced it in the Senate.

The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would place a prohibition on the use of facial recognition technology by federal entities, which can only be lifted with an act of Congress. It also prohibits use of other biometric technologies, including voice recognition, gate recognition and recognition of other immutable physical characteristics by federal entities, which can only be lifted with an act of Congress.

The Act imposes conditions on federal grant funding to state and local entities, including law enforcement, on those entities enacting their own moratoria on the use of facial recognition and biometric technology and prohibit the use of federal dollars for biometric surveillance systems. It prohibits the use of information collected via biometric technology in violation of the Act in any judicial proceedings.

Facial recognition technology is not only invasive, inaccurate and unregulated, but it has also been unapologetically weaponized by law enforcement against Black people across this country. That’s why I have long called on companies like Amazon to stop selling this technology, and it’s why we need to immediately take additional steps to rein in its use, Jayapal said.

This legislation will not only protect civil liberties but aggressively fight back against racial injustice by stopping federal entities from using facial recognition and biometric surveillance tools while stripping support for state and local law enforcement departments that continue its use, she added.

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Indian American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal with Senator Sanders introduces College For All Act for to make tuition free

Earlier last week, US Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led lawmakers in introducing the College for All Act, transformative legislation that opens up the dream of a college degree to millions of working-class students.

According to Jayapal, the proposal eliminates tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 — nearly 80 percent of families — while also making community college free for every person across the country. This would make the most substantial federal investment in higher education in modern American history.

“While President Biden can and should immediately cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, Congress must ensure that working families never have to take out these crushing loans to receive a higher education in the first place,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The College for All Act will free students from a lifetime of debt, invest in working people, and transform higher education across America by making community college free for everyone and eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000.” 

Aligned with the Plan for Education Beyond High School that President Biden championed last year, the legislation guarantees tuition-free community college for all students, and ensures that students from families earning under $125,000 a year are able to attend public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free. It would also guarantee that students in families who earn less than $125,000 a year can attend non-profit Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) tuition-free and debt-free. Additionally, the bill makes an annual $10 billion federal investment to cover student support programs in these under-funded institutions.

“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few,” said Senator Sanders. 

The College for All Act also doubles the maximum Pell Grant to $12,990, allows students to use the money to cover living and non-tuition expenses such as books and housing, and expands grant eligibility to Dreamers. Additionally, the legislation triples federal TRIO and doubles GEAR UP funding to serve millions of additional low-income students, students with disabilities, and first-generation college students in their pursuit of a higher education.

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Indian-American lawmakers, groups welcome verdict in Floyd death case

Washington, DC: Several Indian-American lawmakers and groups have welcomed the decision of a federal grand jury in Minneapolis holding Derek Chauvin, a former police officer, guilty on all three counts in the death of African American George Floyd.

“Justice was served today, but convicting Derek Chauvin won’t fix the system that continues to terrorize and kill Black lives. It won’t bring back George Floyd,” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.

“Black lives matter—and we must keep fighting for them by passing the Justice in Policing Act and transforming policing,” Jayapal said.

Congressman Ro Khanna said, “This verdict brought accountability. I hope it will be the first of many. But it doesn‘t change the fact that George Floyd should still be alive today. We now must pass the Justice in Policing Act.”

“My heart remains with the Floyd family. His life mattered. Black lives matter,” said the lawmaker representing Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives.

Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera tweeted: “Justice has been served.”

“Grateful for justice. My heart goes out to the Floyd family,” said Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress.

The South Asian Bar Association of North America applauded the jury verdict that found Chauvin guilty on all counts.

“While this verdict was a step in the right direction, it is only one step in a broader fight against the systemic racism within our country,” SABA said.

“Justice was served today, but justice must be served every day,” said Rippi Gill, president of SABA North America.

“We must not let our guard down, and we must continue to fight against the racism and violence plaguing our communities throughout the country,” he said. (PTI)

 

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Jayapal, House Dems propose constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood

Washington, DC: Reaffirming that “corporations are not people and money is not speech,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Tuesday led 50 members of Congress in introducing a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, and “put power back into the hands of people.”

The We the People Amendment would establish that “the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only” and that “artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities… have no rights under this Constitution.”

Furthermore, the proposed amendment states that “the privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the people through federal, state, or local law.” 

The measure follows an election cycle that saw an unprecedented $14.4 B in total spending on federal contests, with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign becoming the first ever to raise over $1 billion from donors, according to the Center for Responsible Politics’ (CRP) transparency watchdog OpenSecrets

Nine of the 10 most expensive Senate races in U.S. history also occurred last year, and CRP reported a shift to large donation strategies, with the top 10 donors—who mostly gave to political action committees (PACs) unfettered by spending limits under Citizens United—pouring a staggering $640 million into 2020 races. 

“After the most expensive election in American history in which special interests poured millions in dark money into campaigns across this country, the We the People Amendment finally returns the power to the people, ends corporate constitutional rights, reverses Citizens United, and ensures that our democracy is really of the people, by the people—not corporations,” Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Tuesday.

The new proposed amendment comes as state and local governments attempt to tackle the problem of corporate campaign spending. In California, Democratic state Assembly members Alex Lee and Ash Kalra recently introduced AB-20, the Clean Money Act of 2021, which would outlaw candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions from businesses. 

Speaking Tuesday at a Zoom press conference ahead of a San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote on a resolution backing AB-20, Kalra tied the bill to Jayapal’s proposed constitutional amendment, calling the measures “complimentary.” 

“Each individual should have an equal voice in the election process, but big corporate donations skew the narrative and creates a fracture in our democracy and hurts those of us who don’t have the resources to compete,” he said. (source: commondreams.org)

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Pramila Jayapal named vice chair of key congressional subcommittee

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has been named vice chair of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law.

Chennai-born Jayapal, 55, from the Democratic Party, will oversee the subcommittee’s urgent work on antitrust, big tech, reining in anti-competitive behavior, helping prevent monopolistic practices, protecting a free press, and allowing innovation to thrive.

Jayapal, the only Indian-American woman in the House of Representatives, has been a leading voice on the committee, where she most recently played an active role in conducting America’s first major congressional antitrust investigation in decades, a media release said.

“I am honored to lead the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law at a pivotal moment in which we must write the next chapter of antitrust law,” Jayapal said in a statement.

“That’s how we will finally hold dominant tech platforms accountable while advocating for workers, stopping hate and misinformation, and protecting a free press,” she said.

“By reasserting the power of Congress and using our historic investigation as a roadmap, we will continue the work necessary to rein in anti-competitive behavior, help prevent monopolistic practices, protect local and independent journalism, and allow innovation to thrive,” Jayapal said on Wednesday.

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Indian-American lawmakers support impeachment of Trump

Washington, DC: Indian-American lawmakers on Wednesday supported the impeachment of former president Donald Trump for inciting his supporters for violence on January 6.

The Senate impeachment trial of Trump began on Wednesday.

“The president incited the crowd that attacked our Capitol and our democratic institutions last month and the necessity of his conviction is as clear today as it was the day, he caused United States Representatives, Senators, and their staff to flee for their lives and pray for their safety,” Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said.

“Watching the former president’s impeachment trial before the Senate, I couldn’t”t help but reflect on the extremely disturbing events of January 6th. When violent insurgents stormed the Capitol, I was forced to flee my own office with my staff after a bomb was discovered only two hundred feet from my office window,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Krishnamoorthi had voted in favor of impeaching Trump in the House of Representatives, so did the three other Indian-American lawmakers — Ami Bera, Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal.

“Vote to convict,” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.

“The video evidence presented at the impeachment trial — Trump whipping up the mob, then the attack on the Capitol — was chilling. We were all there. How can Senators deny that Trump incited that deadly attack on us and our democracy?” she said in a tweet.

Lead defense lawyer Bruce Castor said he shifted his planned approach after hearing the prosecutors” emotional opening and instead spoke conversationally to the senators, saying Trump’s team would denounce the “repugnant” attack and “in the strongest possible way denounce the rioters.”

Trump attorney David Schoen turned the trial toward starkly partisan tones, arguing the Democrats were fueled by a “base hatred” of the former president.

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Indian American lawmakers Jayapal and Krishnamoorthi named to key congressional committees

Indian-origin lawmakers Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi have been named to key congressional committees on budget and the COVID-19 pandemic by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

While Congresswoman Jayapal, 55, was named to the powerful budget committee, Congressman Krishnamoorthi, 47, was appointed to a key Congressional committee on the coronavirus crisis on Tuesday.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis was established to provide oversight of the federal COVID-19 pandemic response.

“I am honored to join Chairman Clyburn and our colleagues on this panel to provide vital oversight of the federal coronavirus response to protect the health and safety of the American people as we defeat the pandemic and rebuild our economy,” said Krishnamoorthi, serving as the US Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2017.

“I look forward to working with members of both parties as we ensure that the trillions of dollars in taxpayer funds dedicated to our country’s response to this pandemic and its economic impacts are used as efficiently, transparently and effectively as possible,” he said.

Jayapal, the US Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district since 2017, has been named as a member of the House Budget Committee that plays a key role in passage of the budget. Congressman John Yarmuth has been named to chair the House Budget Committee.

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Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal tests COVID-19 positive days after Capitol siege

Washington, DC: Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said on Tuesday that she has tested positive for coronavirus after being locked down in a secured room at the US Capitol where several Republican lawmakers recklessly refused to wear masks in the moments after the January 6 attack.

“I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” 55-year-old Jayapal tweeted.

In a statement, Jayapal said she began quarantining immediately after the attack on the Capitol, fearing and foreseeing exactly what would occur given the number of maskless lawmakers sitting in the same room with her.

The duration in the room was multiple hours, she said.

“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” she said.

“Only hours after President (Donald) Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic – creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack,” she added.

“While I am isolating per the Capitol Physician’s instructions, I will continue to work to the best of my ability because the deep urgency of our many crises is paramount,” she said.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the Attending Physician of the US Congress, advised representatives and Congressional staff on Sunday that those in the secured room could have, “been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”

“I am also calling for serious fines to be immediately levied on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol,” Jayapal said. “Additionally, any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be immediately removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms. This is not a joke. Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”

On Monday, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey said that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Following the events of Wednesday, including sheltering with several colleagues who refused to wear masks, I decided to take a Covid test. I have tested positive,” Coleman tweeted on Monday.

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Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal tests COVID-19 positive in days of Capitol siege

Washington, DC: Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said on Tuesday that she has tested positive for coronavirus after being locked down in a secured room at the US Capitol where several Republican lawmakers recklessly refused to wear masks in the moments after the January 6 attack.

“I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” 55-year-old Jayapal tweeted.

In a statement, Jayapal said she began quarantining immediately after the attack on the Capitol, fearing and foreseeing exactly what would occur given the number of maskless lawmakers sitting in the same room with her.

The duration in the room was multiple hours, she said.

“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” she said.

“Only hours after President (Donald) Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic – creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack,” she added.

“While I am isolating per the Capitol Physician’s instructions, I will continue to work to the best of my ability because the deep urgency of our many crises is paramount,” she said.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the Attending Physician of the US Congress, advised representatives and Congressional staff on Sunday that those in the secured room could have, “been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”

“I am also calling for serious fines to be immediately levied on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol,” Jayapal said. “Additionally, any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be immediately removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms. This is not a joke. Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”

On Monday, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey said that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Following the events of Wednesday, including sheltering with several colleagues who refused to wear masks, I decided to take a Covid test. I have tested positive,” Coleman tweeted on Monday.

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