Issue Position: Civil and Human Rights
Keith's entire adult life has been devoted to protecting and advancing human and civil rights. Keith's believes in the politics of generosity and inclusion - that no one should be "cut out of the American dream: not immigrants, not people with disabilities, not gays, not poor people, not even a Muslim committed to serve his nation."
Keith supports the rights of all individuals to vote, free of undue burden or harassment. Minnesota has consistently led the nation in voter turnout, without evidence of fraud. Keith has introduced legislation to extend our model to the nation, making Election Day voter registration the law of the land.
Keith supports comprehensive immigration reform such as the STRIVE Act that includes four components: a clear path to citizenship to those who are already in the U.S. working and paying taxes; expedited process for family reunification; workable employment verification system with strict penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. Keith also supports the Dream Act, which would increase access to higher education for the children of foreign-born workers.
People With Disabilities
Keith believes that people with disabilities shouldn't have to constantly defy expectations. Keith believes our expectations of people with disabilities should change. Our expectations should reflect our commitment to generosity and inclusion. We, as a society, should expect that people with disabilities can live productive and fulfilling lives, with as many choices and as much independence as any American should expect. Read more...
Keith has always been an outspoken support of equal human and civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Keith was a co-sponsor and whipped votes for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill which protects employees based on their real or perceived sexual orientation. At present, it is legal in 31 states for an employee to be fired for being gay (or being perceived as) gay. Keith looks forward to the time when Congress can add gender identity to the bill, completing its protection of the rights of thousands of Minnesotans.
Keith believes we must use all the tools at our disposal to fight terrorism and defend our national interests. But, if we act brutally, without respect for our values or the rule of law, we risk eroding our own civil rights and losing our moral standing in the world. That is why Keith has called for closing Guantanamo Bay and restoring habeas corpus rights to so-called enemy combatants. Beyond that, Keith has pushed for the Army Field Manual's limitations on interrogation techniques, which prohibit waterboarding and other torture, to cover all US government agencies and personnel. We will fight hard to protect our nation and we'll do so in a way we can proudly explain to our grandchildren.
Keith believes that discrimination has not place in our society - especially when it leads to intimidation and violence. Keith believes crime based on hate hurts not just the victim, but the very fabric of our society. For that reason, Keith co-sponsored and voted for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, providing local law enforcement more tools to crack down on violent crimes motivated by bigotry.
Minnesota is proud to be home to over 1,000 Liberian refugees. They have woven themselves thoroughly into the fabric of our communities. Recently, the federal government announced they would have to return to Liberia, a country many of them have not called home in over a decade. Keith was proud to work with Rep. Patrick Kennedy to convince President Bush to allow the Liberians to remain here for eighteen more months, time enough for them to seek permanent protective status.
His position on the House Judiciary Committee has allowed him to speak out and to vote against the Bush administrations' attack on our Constitution. Keith has voted against the Bush administration's attempts to reduce restrictions on warrant-less wiretapping of US citizens. We must do whatever we can to prevent terrorism, while still respecting our courts' duty to safeguard our freedoms.
Re-Entry for Ex-Offenders
Keith believes that our criminal justice system should be a vehicle for rehabilitation, not revenge. Once offenders have served their time, it's in the interest of the community to help guide their transition back into society. Without attention after their release, former criminals are at risk to offend again, wasting the effort we put into their redemption and costing our communities another productive member. That's why Keith co-sponsored and helped pass the Second Chance Act of 2007, a bill to put more resources into a comprehensive approach to help ex-offenders gain control of their lives and contribute positively to our communities. The bill ensures continued case management after an offender's release, including drug treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and psychological counseling.
No More "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
The Defense Department's so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy effectively prohibits out gays and lesbians from serving in our Armed Forces. Doing so denies thousands of Americans the right to serve their country and deprives us of much needed military personnel. To do away with this outdated policy, Keith has introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
In 2007, for the first time, the US Congress passed resolution recognizing the Muslim holy month, Ramadan. While speaking in favor of the resolution on the House floor, Keith described his mosque joining with the Minneapolis synagogue Temple Israel to celebrate Yom Kippur. Passing the House resolution, like Muslims and Jews celebrating together in Minneapolis, gives a breathing example of the American values of acceptance and inclusion.