Congressman Griffith’s Weekly E-Newsletter 7.10.20

Don’t Defund the Police

As someone who reads every bill before I vote for it, let alone any bill I introduce myself, I would not endorse a bill before it is even written.

So I was puzzled to learn that Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) had endorsed a bill called the BREATHE Act, which has yet to be introduced (not to be confused with an unrelated bill with the same name, H.R. 585, introduced last year).

Although the bill text has not been released, a summary has been published. It reveals legislation that could be the cousin of the infamous Green New Deal: radical, ideologically driven, and a disaster for the country if ever enacted.

The goal of Section One on its own is remarkable: “Eliminate federal programs and agencies used to finance and expand the U.S. criminal-legal system.”

The list of targeted programs include the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, the Federal Government’s leading source of funding for justice-related state and local issues.

Police departments aren’t the only recipients of JAG funding; so are state courts, crime prevention and education, and drug treatment and enforcement.

But there’s more. JAG also covers behavioral programs, crisis intervention teams, crime victim and witness initiatives – all and more would be cut off by this bill.

The Drug Enforcement Agency would be eliminated.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency would be eliminated.

After dismantling the agencies that enforce federal laws and aid state and local law enforcement, the BREATHE Act swings the ax at other consequences for breaking the law.

It calls for a plan to close all federal prisons, presumably including the United States Penitentiary at Lee in Lee County.

Life sentences would be abolished, no matter how heinous the crime.

That’s a lot of damage done, just in Section One.

Section Two tries to push states and local jurisdictions down the same path. It creates grant programs incentivizing them to, among other purposes, “decarcerate their jails and/or defund their police forces,” keep police, security guards, metal detectors, and other security equipment out of schools, and abolish state gang databases.

There are few limits on what the BREATHE Act wants to accomplish. It, too, wants to tackle climate change, including by establishing grant programs that demand states use 100 percent renewable and zero-emission energy sources and subsidize energy projects.

The BREATHE Act would surrender the ability of the Federal Government to regulate immigration and grant citizenship. Beside the abolition of ICE mentioned above, Customs and Border Protection is on the chopping block as well.

Laws that “criminalize human movement and border entry” would be repealed, giving a green light not just to illegal immigration but to drug smuggling and human trafficking.

There would no longer be any distinction between citizens and non-citizens, allowing anyone to vote, access federal benefits, and more. Everyone could come and go as they pleased, no matter our capacity to assimilate newcomers and without regard to whether anyone coming here wished to do us harm.

The proponents of the BREATHE Act, whatever their intentions, support extreme changes that would make our country and communities more dangerous. The burden of crime tends to fall on communities and individuals that are already disadvantaged.

The flaws in our criminal justice system should be fixed, but the system should not be razed to the ground.

The BREATHE Act instead aims to reshape our whole society in the disguise of a criminal justice bill. It would surely change America, but assaulting the foundations of public safety, one of government’s essential functions, is change we can do without.

One might ask why we should bother focusing on this bill summary from a few rank and file Members of Congress. A good reason is that it provides evidence that people who say “defund the police” should be taken at their word.

Another reason not to ignore the BREATHE Act can be attributed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When asked recently about the mob violence that destroyed a statue of Christopher Columbus in her native Baltimore, she shrugged it off by saying, “People will do what they do.”

If that indifference to law and order is the attitude held by the House Democratic leader, there is little reason to think she will speak up against the radical ideas of her caucus represented in the BREATHE Act.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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