Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, seven House Democratic national security leaders sent a letter to Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary James Mattis to oppose President Trump’s recent decision to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Given the potential cost and with border crossings at a 40-year low, the Administration must provide a thorough justification and plan for any deployment of troops and use of taxpayer funds. News reports indicate the Administration is only now drafting a deployment plan, indicating how rushed this decision was, while some governors have now begun committing troops for this operation.

The letter was signed by House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson, Judiciary Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, Oversight & Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings, Homeland Security Border & Maritime Security Ranking Member Filemon Vela, Judiciary Immigration & Border Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren, and Oversight & Government Reform National Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Stephen F. Lynch.

In the letter, the Members write:

“A deployment of this kind is not to be made lightly. Thorough consideration of the justification for such a deployment, along with the implications and costs for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), and affected stakeholders well in advance of such a deployment are both required and essential.”

“As you are undoubtedly aware, border security has been a rigorously discussed topic over the past year. We are surprised and puzzled as to why neither of you nor other members of the Administration mentioned a possible deployment of the National Guard to the southern border before. For example, Secretary Nielsen never once mentioned the potential need to use the National Guard for border security purposes when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 16, 2018. In subsequent press briefings and televised Cabinet meetings, this approach was not discussed either.”

“A hastily and poorly designed deployment could have significant negative impacts on our national security, border security, and on the communities located along the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Link to Letter.

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Washington, DC – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Ranking Member Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis requesting additional details about the process by which the Department of Defense (DOD) developed the policy recommendations regarding transgender service members that were provided to President Trump in a memorandum dated February 22, 2018. The letter reads:

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We write today to ask for additional details about the recommendations you provided to the President in a Memorandum dated February 22, 2018, regarding military service by transgender individuals.  We were surprised and disappointed by the recommendations contained in that memorandum.  In our view, these recommendations contradict previous findings from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the professional medical community.  As the President has empowered you to implement appropriate policies governing service by transgender individuals, we feel it imperative that we explore the factual bases behind your recommendations.     

            Your letter to the President stated you created a Panel of Experts of senior uniformed and civilian Defense Department leaders and charged them to provide their best military advice without regard to any external factors.  Although you state that the panel received input from civilian medical professionals, the recommendations appear to us to be inconsistent with what we have heard from the civilian medical community.  Numerous recognized experts, former military officials and Surgeons General, and organizations representing medical professionals have released statements criticizing the Report’s recommendations and the underlying scientific basis for these recommendations.

Relying on recognized experts and gathering diverse opinions and perspectives is crucial to the development of an informed and sound policy. Given the discrepancies between the Report’s recommendations and assessments of transgender military service previously made by DOD, and given the concerns raised by outside medical professionals and former military leaders, we would like to better understand the process by which DOD developed the Report. Specifically, we would like to know:

  1. Who was on the Panel of Experts?
  2. Who did the Panel consult with?
  3. Did the Panel consult with the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, or American Medical Association or any other medical professionals with expertise in gender dysphoria?
  4. In your view, what are the substantial risks associated with the accessions and retention of transgender persons? Can you please provide any examples that since June 30, 2016 these issues have arisen within the military and describe how the DOD or services handled these situations?
  5. In your view, what are the specific issues that could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military? Can you please provide any examples that since June 30, 2016 these issues have arisen within the military and describe how the DOD or services handled these situations?
  6. Were any government officials outside of DOD or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) involved in the Report or your Memorandum to the President? If so, who were these officials and what was the basis for their involvement?

Finally, please provide the specific medical and scientific data that supported the conclusions contained in your memorandum.

There are currently thousands of transgender individuals openly serving in the military with bravery and distinction. There has been no indication that this has had an impact on overall readiness. All individuals who are willing and qualified should be able to volunteer to serve, regardless of their gender identity. Since the wars began, the military services have appropriately moved away from identity-based service standards (including restrictions concerning sexual preference and gender) and have opted instead to rely on performance-based metrics; if you can do the job, you can compete for the job.  Your policy recommendations, if implemented, would reverse this progress.  Moreover, any ban on capable individuals serving in our military only shrinks the pool of available recruits and denies our military access to the skills, expertise, and experience of qualified servicemembers and talented recruits.

            We appreciate you giving due consideration to our questions and concerns and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you.  

The full letter is attached, and a link to the letter can be found here.

 

“With the passing of Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney, our community has lost an instrumental leader of the civil rights movement.  After moving to Seattle in 1957 to become a pastor in the historic Mount Zion Baptist Church, Reverend McKinney was a pastor in the church for over 40 years. A former classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he played a fundamental role in Dr. King’s trip to Seattle.

“As spiritual leader for many in the African-American community in Seattle, Reverend McKinney understood that for African-Americans to be fully empowered, they must be supported and uplifted economically. When he arrived in Seattle, he witnessed systematic injustices such as discrimination, redlining, high unemployment among African-Americans. Reverend McKinney established numerous organizations and businesses to combat discrimination.  He helped establish the first black-owned bank to challenge practices such as restricted loans. He also co-founded the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center, a vocational training organization. Though Reverend McKinney has passed away, his legacy and advocacy for equal rights of African-Americans will remain ever present in the Greater Seattle community.”

Smith Statement Opposing Deployment of National Guard Troops to Southern Border

Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement in response to the recent deployment on National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border

April 10, 2018

“President Trump’s decision to deploy the National Guard on the U.S. border is an ill-conceived, unnecessary stunt that inappropriately militarizes the issue of immigration enforcement. He appears to have based his decision largely on reports disseminated by conservative talk shows. The fact remains that according to the U.S. Border Patrol, for Fiscal Year 2017, illegal border crossings are at their lowest levels since 1971. It is unclear what deploying the military for an indefinite period of time will accomplish that our civil authorities have not already done, beyond sending a discriminatory message to people fleeing violence and conflict, and diverting funds away from rebuilding military readiness.

“What we really need is comprehensive immigration reform and an end to demagoguery, and the President has taken us in the exact opposite direction. Frankly, if this Administration was committed to decreasing the number of displaced persons fleeing incredible violence and conflict, they would invest heavily in international development programs that work to reduce fragility, and strengthen rule of law, and increase economic opportunities in these countries. Trump’s decision fails to even remotely address the root causes of the issue at hand.”

 “President Trump’s decision to ban transgender military service is vicious, inhumane, and utterly wrong. There are scores of transgender men and women serving in the military right now, under a policy that had already been established & vetted by DOD and validated by the courts.

“There is zero credible evidence that this policy has negatively affected readiness. By issuing this decision, President Trump has engaged in an act of pure discrimination against people who sacrifice every day to serve their country—and who have been doing so for years.

“Stripping patriotic service members of their ability to serve openly in this way goes against American values. I condemn this decision and will continue to fight it with all of my abilities.

“Congress should start by passing the bipartisan bill I introduced last October that would protect transgender members of the U.S. military by preventing DoD from removing currently serving members of the Armed Forces based solely on their gender identity.”