In The News
Three Maryland representatives are urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to end an alleged practice of luring immigrants into the deportation process by misleading them into believing they’re visiting an immigration office to discuss a green card eligibility related to marrying a U.S. citizen. In a letter to ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence, the three Democratic congressmen — Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger. Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. John Sarbanes — urged the department to end the practice after a lawsuit filed last month alleged that agents at the Baltimore field office were using the tactic. “It is concerning that ICE and [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] appear to be coordinating to arrest immigrants attending marriage interviews at USCIS offices,” the three wrote. “Please provide any policies, memorandums, agreements, or guidance between ICE and USCIS related to this practice,” the letter continues.
U.S. House lawmakers approved bipartisan legislation Wednesday that would block new offshore drilling off the majority of the U.S. coast – despite pushback from many Republicans. The legislation would put in place far-reaching new protections, blocking drilling off most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Thursday on a similar ban for drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The efforts take aim at the Trump administration’s push to open up vast new areas of the U.S. coasts to oil and gas exploration.... “Reckless decisions by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans to expand offshore drilling along our coastlines pose serious risks to local economies, to public health and to marine ecosystems and wildlife,” said Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.). “In the midst of a global climate crisis, we cannot afford to bow down to dirty polluters.”
More than three dozen Maryland lawmakers are calling on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to answer questions about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which has attracted attention in recent months for nearly universally denying applications from federal workers. Del. Lesley Lopez (D-Montgomery) spearheaded the leader to DeVos, noting the heavy presence of eligible government and nonprofit workers in Maryland. An unknown number of Marylanders relied on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program when they chose their career paths. But “a growing body of evidence” has shown that the U.S. Department of Education has “mishandled this program and skirted its obligation to provide student debt relief to public servants,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent shortly before Labor Day. The program – first established in 2007 by legislation from U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) – was faulted in an October 2018 Government Accountability Report for denying 99.6 percent of all applications for student loan forgiveness. It was created to forgive federal student loans for borrowers who work in local, state and federal government or certain nonprofit employers for at least 10 years while making 120 payments. Given the implementation timeline and employment requirements, flaws with the program have come to light in the last couple of years, as workers who thought they were on track for forgiveness have been turned down in droves. Last year, Congress sought a solution. Lawmakers, Sarbanes among them, pushed for and created the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which would extend loan forgiveness to workers who paid their loans in good faith but may have been enrolled in an ineligible repayment program or been given bad advice by the government or a loan provider. Last week, a new GAO report concluded that the expanded program also has an extraordinary denial rate: 98.7 percent.
Millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was allotted to Baltimore to help meet the needs of Baltimore City’s homeless youth. Mayor Jack Young, Senators Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes announced $3.7 million in federal funding from HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. The money will help link Baltimore’s homeless youth with city programs that can help get them the services they need. The funding can be used for permanent housing, transitional housing, supportive services, Homeless Management Information Systems, or homelessness prevention.
Baltimore, Prince George’s County and the D.C. are among 23 communities receiving a total of $75 million in federal funds to combat youth homelessness. The $75 million was awarded as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which started in 2016. The third year of the program is a significant expansion over the $33 million awarded to 10 communities in 2017 and the $43 million awarded to 11 communities in 2018. Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, and Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, and John Sarbanes, D-Towson, issued a joint statement last week praising the grant to Baltimore and other communities. “Every young person in Baltimore and around the nation deserves a safe place to call home. Connecting homeless youth with the services that they need will make an enormous difference in the course of their lives,” the lawmakers said.
Baltimore is getting some federal funding for environmental education programs. Rep. John Sarbanes announced Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide $120,000 to give high school students immersive environmental education opportunities. The Parks & People Foundation and the Living Classrooms Foundation will each receive $60,000 to strengthen environmental learning programs in the city. Both organizations are Baltimore-based nonprofits. Funding for the Parks & People Foundation will support a new program for Baltimore high school students to explore and design green spaces. Funding for Living Classrooms will help students work on community service projects to reduce stormwater runoff pollution.
Sentinel Columnist Paul K. Schwartz sits down with Congressman John Sarbanes on Aug. 21, 2019 for an exclusive interview.
Democratic congressmen held an event Thursday in Rhode Island to try to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into allowing a vote on a comprehensive elections and ethics reform package. Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, who is the bill's main author, met with Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in North Providence. The influence of big money in politics is impeding efforts to address climate change, gun violence and prescription drug costs, they said. Activists working on those issues attended the event.... The legislation, called H.R. 1 to signify its importance, would make it easier to register and vote, require "dark money" political groups to make their donors public, and create a public financing system for congressional campaigns that Democrats say will cut down on corruption and reduce the power of lobbyists and other special interests.... Sarbanes, Cicilline and Whitehouse all said the reforms are crucial to making the government respond to the needs of the American people, rather than special interests and corporations, and restore the public's faith in government. Sarbanes said they're also asking voters to choose a team of reformers in 2020 and not reelect President Donald Trump, whom he called a "demagogue." "Mitch McConnell is standing at the doors of the United States Senate with his arms crossed, saying to the American people, 'You shall not pass,'" he said. "We're going to keep the pressure on him. The message to him is, if you won't put that the bill on the floor, then we're going to try to change the composition to make sure it gets to the floor. Democrats have made a promise to clean up government."
For many Americans, our electoral system can be described as "corrupt" and "undemocratic." How did the vision of a democratic republic as imagined by the Framers of the Constitution become "the best democracy money can by?" This episode of Democracy Nerd traces that evolution, looking at the past four decades of Supreme Court cases allowing unfettered "dark money" to influence national politics, the social and cultural impact of our current electoral system, and efforts currently undertaken by Congress to address the corrupting influence of money in politics. Guests include Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, Congressman John Sarbanes, and Norman Williams, Dean of the Center of Constitutional Government at Willamette University.