- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2019

While the political jockeying gets more attention, candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential race are advancing serious policy proposals. The Washington Times takes a weekly look at some of them that may have flown under the radar.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Wednesday outlined a plan to use executive power to grant amnesty to “Dreamers,” putting them on a pathway to citizenship.

The Harris plan would go beyond President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy both in terms of generosity and numbers.

Her campaign estimated it would provide more than 2 million “Dreamers” a path to full citizenship if they can prove family or business ties. The Obama policy, which covered about 800,000 people, prevented their deportation and offered work permits but made clear they were not entitled to legal status.

Her plan would grant “parole-in-place” to Dreamers, which would amount to a formal admittance to people who were never admitted to the U.S. She said she would then issue a rule defining immigrants who came to the illegally U.S. as children “through no fault of [their] own” eligible for full legal status and would erase any past illegal work histories.

She would then expand the definition of “extreme hardship” to include any immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who has a family member in the country, allowing some Dreamers to join an existing but limited exemption for earning a green card.

Ms. Harris said she wants Congress to act more broadly, but said she’ll move on her own, too.

“Dreamers cannot afford to sit around and wait for Congress to get its act together,” the California Democrat said.

O’Rourke, Gillibrand on LGBTQ rights

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday announced a plan he says will safeguard the rights of LGBTQ people and reverse discriminatory policies by the Trump administration.

Mr. O’Rourke said he would immediately take executive action to reverse Mr. Trump’s move to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.

He also would include LGBTQ people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity as a “vulnerable population,” giving them access to the U.S. asylum process.

At home, Mr. O’Rourke said he wants to protect transgender people, particularly “transgender women of color,” by stepping up Justice Department investigations of crimes, bolstering law enforcement training on bias, and ensuring safe housing for transgender people in federal custody.

“LGBTQ+ Americans have made incredible progress over the past decade, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of activists and advocates — but too many LGBTQ+ people still lack protection under many states’ laws, and the current administration is encouraging rather than stamping out discrimination,” he said.

He also said he would move to block the administration’s reported plans to allow federally funded adoption agencies to deny children to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand on Thursday introduced legislation to achieve that same goal for adoption agencies. Her plan would ban conversion therapy for children participating in federally funded welfare programs.

“We should never allow organizations that receive taxpayer dollars to discriminate against caring and responsible foster and adoptive parents or children who deserve a safe and happy place to live because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or religion,” the New York Democrat said.

Buttigieg on ‘Douglass Plan’ for black Americans

Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday announced that he wants to pass a comprehensive plan to boost black Americans, comparing the effort to the Marshall Plan the U.S. implemented to help rebuild Europe after World War II.

The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said his plan would be named after Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and speaker.

He said he would use “every tool possible” to end “unnecessary and discriminatory incarceration,” with the goal of reducing the number of Americans behind bars by 50%.

In a piece for The Charleston Chronicle ahead of a Black Economic Alliance event in South Carolina, Mr. Buttigieg said he would triple the federal government’s contracting business with minority-owned firms and that he wants to start a new federal fund that would co-invest in “entrepreneurs of color,” particularly in low-income communities.

“America should triple the number of entrepreneurs from underserved areas — particularly ones of color — within 10 years,” he said. “This would create over 3 million new jobs and more than $660 billion in new wealth for black communities and our country, through a number of policies to support this goal.”

He also called for a ban on state-passed voter ID laws.

“We are not a true democracy if certain Americans are restricted from voting because one party has decided they would be better off if fewer people vote,” he said.

Castro on combating lead contamination

Former Obama administration official Julian Castro on Monday released a plan designed to combat lead contamination, saying the country needs to combat situations such as the one that hit Flint, Michigan.

That city is still trying to recover from lead contamination in its water supply that date back to the Obama years.

Mr. Castro said he would work with Congress on a $50 billion, 10-year plan to remediate lead in paint and soil and replace lead pipes in the areas of “highest need.”

He also would increase funding for a federal childhood lead poisoning prevention program by $100 million per year, and ensure publicly run health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid cover hazard interventions in homes where children show elevated level of lead in their blood.

Mr. Castro said the residents of Flint feel “forgotten and betrayed,” and his campaign pointed out that he first visited the city in March 2016 when he was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He said he wants to make sure families across the country don’t have to go through what Flint’s residents did.

“Five years after the beginning of the water crisis, and some residents still don’t have access to clean water — or don’t trust those who tell them the water is safe to drink or bathe their kids in,” he said.

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