Two progressive “squad” members unveiled a far-reaching radical proposal on Tuesday that calls for defunding police departments, dismantle ICE and DEA, establishing a reparations programs for victims of police violence, along with a “time-bound” plan to close down all federal prisons and immigration detention centers.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), two lawmakers part of the “squad” House members announced the BREATHE Act, a “visionary bill” proposal created by activists of the Movement for Black Lives.
“In this historic moment, it is critical that we listen too and trust the leadership of black activists around the country. They have been on the front lines in defense of black lives for decades,” Tlaib said in a virtual conference call in announcing the bill. “And it is our responsibility as legislators to hear them, respect them, and follow their example.”
“We must invest in a new vision of public safety. Today, I am proud to join the calls coming out of one of the largest movements for justice that my district and our country have ever seen to say unapologetically: I support the #BREATHEAct,” she added.
An overview of the BREATHE Act includes four sections that would slash federal funds from local police departments and reallocate the money to pay for investments in social welfare programs focused on health care, housing, and environmental programs.
The proposal calls for dismantling federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as eliminating federal programs such as the Department of Defense 1033, the Edward Byrne-Justice Grant Program and Community Oriented Policing Services. These programs are components of the Department of Justice that help state and local law enforcement agencies with the tools and resources to help prevent and control crime.
Along with defunding the police, the bill proposes developing a time-bound plan to close federal prisons and immigration detention centers by offering states a 50 percent federal match. It also would provide grant programs for states to redirect resources that were used in funding policing for alternative interventions for “violence interruption and intervention, neighborhood mediation programs, and voluntary non-coercive health services.”
Other provisions include abolishing electronic monitoring such as ankle monitors while removing police and armed security with surveillance equipments from schools and government offices. It also calls for an overhaul of the criminal justice system by ending civil asset forfeiture, ending life sentence, while abolishing “three-strikes” law, repealing laws that criminalize illegal immigration, abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and eliminating misdemeanor charges.
It also calls for expanding voter registration by returning voting rights to all incarcerated individuals with a felony record as well as undocumented immigrants so they can be allowed to vote in local, state, and federal elections.
“The BREATHE Act is bold. It’s meaningful. It’s transformative. It pushes us to reimagine power structures and what community investment really looks like. If we listen to our community members and leaders in the streets, we can start to envision through this bill a new vision for public safety. One that protects and affirms black lives,” Tlaib said.
On the reparations program, the provisions would establish a second element for a commission “that design reparations for mass criminalization to include the War on Drugs, the criminalization of prostitutions, police and border violence; and the systemic violation of the U.S. Government’s treaty obligations to Tribal nations.”
The legislation has not been introduced in the House and such proposal is unlikely to gain any traction in the Democrat-controlled House, as many do not support the calls to defund the police.