Members of “The Squad,” a progressive quartet of freshman Congresswomen in the House of Representative, announced on Tuesday (July 7) federal legislation to defund police departments across America and provide reparations for people who are either Black or have been harmed by police.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) are the two main sponsors of the BREATHE Act, which they announced during a Zoom call. The bill has not yet been officially introduced.
“We can start to envision through this bill a new version for public safety — a new vision for public safety, one that protects and affirms Black lives,” Tlaib said on the call. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are also members of The Squad, however they weren’t announced as backers of the bill.
It will be tough for the BREATHE Act to even pass the Democratic-held House as many leaders on the left do not support defunding police. A recently passed police reform bill from June came under fire from House Republicans for not curbing the power of police unions that shield officers from being fired.
According to an overview of the BREATHE Act, it aims at slashing federal funds to local police along with federal agencies, and allocates the money on social welfare, health care, education and environmental programs.
The bill will “Eliminate federal programs and agencies used to finance and expand the U.S. criminal-legal system, such as the Department of Defense 1033 [surplus equipment] program, the Edward Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program, Community Oriented Policing Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
It would abolish “the use of electronic monitoring, including ankle monitors” as well and make “recommendations to dramatically reduce the Department of Defense budget.”
The legislation also has two reparations elements. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) included a Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, which has 135 Democratic co-sponsors. Additionally, it proposes a separate reparations program in honor of Michael Brown, who died in a 2014 altercation with police officer Darren Wilson.
The other reparations part would establish “commissions that design reparations for mass criminalization — including the War on Drugs, the criminalization of prostitution, and police violence; border violence; and the systemic violation of the U.S. Government’s treaty obligations to Tribal nations.”
Read the full proposed bill here.