Rep. Pete Stark is busy as a beaver, and so is his challenger in next year’s election.
Stark, D-Fremont, was among more than 130 House Democrats who filed an amicus brief with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The Obama Administration believes the law to be unconstitutional and will no longer defend it, but House Republicans have hired lawyers at taxpayers’ expense to defend it, a move Stark calls “fiscally reckless and morally repugnant. My Democratic colleagues and I have filed today’s amicus brief to clarify that the House of Representatives is not unified in support of this disgraceful law and we will fight to repeal it.”
Stark also today helped introduce the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, which would extend federal unemployment insurance programs through the end of 2012; those programs, providing Americans with up to 73 weeks of additional unemployment insurance at an average of $300 per week per person, are set to expire Dec. 31. The bill also would relieve states that have federal unemployment insurance loans from interest charges next year, prevent higher federal unemployment taxes beginning in January on employers in insolvent states, and provide a solvency bonus to states without any outstanding loans. “Congressional Republicans have done nothing to create jobs. If they fail to work with us and extend unemployment insurance benefits now, 305,000 Californians will lose their benefits in January. For these workers, their families and millions more around the country, failure to act is not an option,” Stark said.
And Stark today introduced H.R. 3333, the Foster Children Opportunity Act, which he says would protect abused and neglected immigrant children in foster care and ensure they have a chance to gain legal status before they leave care. Current law lets many immigrant foster children claim some form of immigration relief, but once they leave the foster-care system, they’re at risk of deportation.
This bill requires the child welfare system to screen children to determine if they’re eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status; allocates money to educate judges and other court personnel on immigration issues facing foster youth; requires documentation by child welfare agencies and judges in their efforts to help children obtain SIJS or other forms of immigration relief; requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security to give technical assistance to state and county child welfare agencies regarding immigration; and ensures that foster care children who obtain SIJS status have access to federal programs — including foster care maintenance payments, student loans, housing assistance and Medicaid — just like other foster care children. Said Stark, “Allowing abused and neglected children to leave our foster care system and face deportation is completely unacceptable. The status quo must change. This legislation will enable us to better fulfill our responsibility to all foster children and provide immigrant youth with an opportunity to succeed in this country after leaving care.”
Meanwhile, Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell – a Democrat challenging Stark in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District in 2012 – took umbrage at Stark’s opposition to re-affirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto. The House voted 396-9 for the re-affirmation Tuesday; Stark, Congress’ only avowed atheist, was among the nine dissenters, as was Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.
Swalwell issued a statement noting that the motto has inspired the nation since the Civil War.
“It seems like too often these days Congress can’t agree on anything. Yesterday, 396 members agreed to re-affirm our national motto,” he said. “Congressman Stark was one of nine members of Congress who disagreed. The 15th Congressional District deserves a Member of Congress who is in touch with its people, can work well with others, and can honor our national motto.”