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Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

Washington, March 23, 2020

Dear friends,

While much of my efforts over the past month have been focused on keeping New Yorkers healthy and safe from the rapid spread of COVID-19 (you can read more about those efforts to protect New Yorkers here), as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee I have a duty to ensure a proper response to the COVID-19 crisis at the national level.I am proud of the work we’ve done to protect vulnerable people from the spread of the pandemic and to keep the prices of essential supplies affordable. As we work to respond to this crisis, know that I’ll always advocate for the health and safety of all Americans.

Fighting Predatory Price Gouging

I am extremely concerned by reports of extensive price gouging nationwide, especially of health products like hand sanitizer and disinfecting cleaning supplies that have seen their demand surge over recent weeks. Merchants should never be allowed to take advantage of customers by charging outrageously marked-up prices for items that can help save lives. That’s why I sent a letter, along with three other Judiciary Committee Members, to the Department of Justice urging them to act immediately to protect American consumers from this kind of predatory behavior. I’m proud of the Judiciary Committee for leading on this issue and acting in a bipartisan manner—making sure that Americans can afford the supplies they need to keep themselves and their families safe is something we can all agree on.

I also joined with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Chair David Cicilline (D-RI) in calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take decisive action to protect American consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. As Americans try to buy the supplies they need to stay healthy, it is crucial that they have the full weight of the federal government ensuring they can do so without being taken advantage of or being forced to pay over the top prices.

Read our letter to the Department of Justice here.

Read our letter to the Federal Trade Commission here.

Working to Keep Our Immigration System Safe

With every medical professional emphasizing the importance of social distancing in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, it is important that all sectors of our society adhere to this crucial guidance. Yet immigration courts are still holding certain immigration hearings, placing the health of defendants, judges, court personnel, and others at risk as they gather in close proximity. Last week, I wrote a letter to Attorney General Barr and James McHenry, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, calling for an immediate suspension of all hearings until the courts return to a normal operating status. Forcing individuals to congregate in crowded waiting areas and courtrooms poses a grave public health threat—we must postpone these hearings until lives are no longer at risk.

I also wrote to Matthew T. Albence, the Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), urging ICE to adopt aggressive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. In my letter, I called on ICE to reduce the number of detainees in their custody, consider alternatives to detention for non-violent detainees, and to take steps to protect detainees with serious health conditions.

Read my letter to AG Barr and James McHenry here.

Read my letter to ICE here.

Protecting Prisoners from the Spread of COVID-19

Some of the most at risk Americans to the spread of COVID-19 are the millions incarcerated in our federal prisons. With so many prisoners living in close quarters, many of whom are elderly or are living with chronic diseases, the spread of COVID-19 in a federal prison could prove disastrous. That’s why I wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) earlier this month, seeking answers on how they plan to protect the prison population and calling for measures that would reduce the number of prisoners in federal custody. When they failed to respond to my first letter, I wrote to them again, asking for answers and demanding accountability and transparency. As we face this public health crisis , it is crucial that we not ignore incarcerated individuals who are restricted from looking after themselves.

Read my first letter to DOJ and BOP here.

Read my second letter to DOJ and BOP here.

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