ACLU Comment on Trump Budget

May 23, 2017 4:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration released its 2018 budget proposal for Congress today.

Faiz Shakir, American Civil Liberties Union national political director, had the following reaction:

“This is not a budget that reflects the aspirations enshrined on the Statue of Liberty. It makes life harder for Americans with disabilities by gutting Medicaid, takes vital health services away from millions of women and families by defunding Planned Parenthood, and goes after vulnerable communities by investing trillions of dollars in a pointless border wall instead of in our schools and neighborhoods.

“Freedom isn’t truly realized when people can’t make rent because of ballooning medical bills or when they live in fear of raids that can suddenly take them out of the only country they’ve ever known. Make no mistake: the federal budget is a civil liberties issue, and we will fight to ensure the one that’s adopted by Congress reflects the values and priorities of the American people.”

A preliminary review of the budget raises the following concerns for the ACLU.

  • Medicaid: The budget decimates the Medicaid program by slashing more than $600 billion from the program (which may be on top of the $840 billion in cuts included in the House-passed American Health Care Act, should it become law). These cuts will threaten access to health care — including critical family planning services and pregnancy-related care — for the nearly 40 million women who rely on the program. It will gravely impact the lives and independence of people with disabilities by cutting off access to home and community based services. And it will undermine health care access for low income people and disproportionately impact people of color, thereby exacerbating existing health care disparities.
  • Planned Parenthood: The budget bars Planned Parenthood from receiving any funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, including through Medicaid, the Title X national family planning program, and more. This unprecedented action will cut off access to the lifesaving preventive care that Planned Parenthood provides to 2.5 million people every year.
  • Paid family leave: The administration’s proposal provides six weeks paid leave for new parents, but it fails to include care for one’s self or for a family member. The proposal would undermine the progress we’ve made in recognizing that the need for family and medical leave is gender-blind. Additionally, delegating implementation to the states opens the door to discrimination and inconsistent coverage between states — leading, for example, to the risk that same-sex couples would be excluded in some states’ plans.
  • Immigration enforcement: The budget includes more than $2.5 billion for an un-American border wall and related border equipment. It also includes more than $300 million to hire 1,500 Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents using weakened standards guaranteed to increase abuses at these troubled law enforcement agencies. The administration further proposes spending $1.5 billion to expand detention for immigrants, asylum seekers, and those with family ties in the United States, resulting in a private prison industry boon. It also includes a sweeping new attempt to commandeer local law enforcement officers into Trump’s deportation force by withholding critical funds from local law enforcement.
  • Criminal justice: The budget advances the law and order narrative of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, prioritizing scarce resources for enforcement and prosecution. It includes a $77 million cut to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which will mean even scanter resources for right to counsel, diversion programs, and constitutional policing. It also includes a $17 million cut to Second Chance Act grants, which mean fewer resources for communities helping formerly incarcerated persons reenter society.
  • School vouchers: The budget includes $250 million for the creation of a new voucher program which will drain public schools of desperately needed resources and divert them to private and religious schools. Taxpayer dollars would be used to fund the religious education of students. In addition, students who attend private and religious schools through vouchers are deprived of critical civil rights protections that would otherwise be afforded to them in the public system, including students with disabilities.
  • Civil rights enforcement: The budget proposes to eliminate the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFFCP) and transfer its functions to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is a sweeping attack on civil rights protections in the workplace since the OFCCP and EEOC each have distinct civil rights enforcement missions. OFCCP is tasked with ensuring nondiscrimination among those doing business with the federal government, while the EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee for anyone doing business in the United States.
  • Welfare reform: The budget’s so-called “reforms” to the welfare system will have a disproportionate impact on low income, color, and disability communities and may pose threats to due process, privacy, and equal protection rights.

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