This past week was a continuation of Speaker Pelosi’s House passing legislation that didn’t go through the normal committee process and allowed few if any, amendments from the Republican minority. However, in a rare show of bipartisanship, the House did pass my COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act, which will provide significant aid to struggling small businesses. Last week I also had the opportunity to visit with constituents in Verona and hear from advocacy groups about the issues that matter most to them. As the House wrapped up a busy two months of session, I am looking forward to being home in the Sixth District these next few weeks connecting with those I am honored to represent.
When I visited the southern border two years ago, I saw firsthand the tremendous job that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was doing to curbing the influx of illegal immigration. These dedicated men and women put themselves on the line each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people. The difference between then and now was that President Trump made sure our border patrol agents had the resources necessary to do their jobs effectively when there was an uptick in illegal crossings. Sadly, however, we are once again facing an immigration crisis. When President Biden assumed office, he essentially slapped an open sign on our southern border. In the past two months, the President has halted the construction of the border wall, reduced immigration enforcement, reimplemented “catch and release”, promised citizenship for millions, and canceled asylum agreements with our Central and South American partners. These actions have created a disastrous situation.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 200,000 individual migrants have already illegally crossed the border, which is a seven-year high and a 173 percent increase from this time last year. There has also been a 163 percent increase in families apprehended these past two months. On top of this, at least four individuals on the FBI’s terrorist screening database have come across our border illegally in recent months, and apprehensions at the border jumped 28 percent last month compared to January. Even President Biden’s own Secretary of Homeland Security said we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. There is no denying that the entire situation is a humanitarian, economic, and national security crisis. Yet despite all of this, the House passed two bills last week that reward illegal immigration and say to the world that our laws no longer matter – I voted against both pieces of legislation. As your Congressman, I will fight to secure our borders and protect the homeland of the United States.
Aiding our Small Businesses:
In 2019, I introduced and had signed into law the Small Business Reorganization Act, which simplifies the process for entrepreneurs to use bankruptcy as a means of reorganization. Under this bill, when initially passed, businesses with less than $2.7 million of debt were able to file for bankruptcy in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. While in bankruptcy reorganization, a small business can negotiate with creditors while keeping the doors open, employees on the payroll, and suppliers and vendors paid. In 2020, a provision in the CARES Act raised the $2.7 million thresholds to $7.5 million. This provision was set to expire on March 27, 2021. Therefore, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, and I introduced, and the House passed, the COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act of 2021, which extends this temporary provision, and thus the $7.5 million thresholds, for an additional year. By extending the debt threshold for eligibility, significantly more businesses who have been impacted by government-mandated lockdowns will benefit from the Small Business Reorganization Act, which has served as a lifeline for struggling businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, since the inception of the bill, 80 percent of small business debtors have chosen to proceed under the provisions of my bill.
Domestic Violence Legislation:
Domestic violence is a persistent problem across our nation, and the effect of lockdowns on families in many states has led to an increase in reports of domestic violence. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I have supported efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to provide resources to those programs that help domestic violence victims. Last year, I introduced the bipartisan POWER Act with Congresswoman McBath (D-GA), which aimed to ensure that support services remained available to domestic violence victims during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two bills affecting domestic violence programs came before the House last week, and while I supported the intent of both bills, one of the bills was unfortunately hijacked for partisan purposes. The first bill, which I supported, was a bill to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund, H.R. 1652. The bill strengthens the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA, which funds thousands of victim service providers around the country, including programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and drunk driving. VOCA grants also fund victim compensation, including paying medical bills, covering lost wages, and paying for funeral costs. It is critical that we ensure that these important grants continue to support victims across the country, and I was pleased to support the passage of this bill. The second bill was to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a law that I strongly support. Unfortunately, the previously bipartisan law that I have supported and voted for was amended to include several controversial provisions that I could not support. These included provisions that undermine and jeopardize due process; that curtail prosecutorial discretion; that weaken programs for female victims; that could re-victimize abused women, and that fail to provide religious hiring exemptions for faith-based grant recipients. For these reasons, I could not vote for the VAWA reauthorization proposed by Democrat leadership, and instead, I supported and voted for the Republican substitute to re-enact the most recent bipartisan version of the VAWA law.
I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Project GROWS in Verona last week. Founded in 2010, the group partners with various community organizations to address childhood obesity, malnutrition, and diabetes in the Shenandoah Valley through farm-based education. The group also strives to support its students’ physical, mental, and social well-being. Our region thanks Project GROWS for addressing these pressing issues affecting our region’s youth.
I was pleased to meet with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s national board to discuss continued steps to ensure the safety and security of this vital ally. I have always been a staunch supporter of Israel, and in the 116th Congress, I cosponsored several pieces of legislation seeking to protect the Holy Land. One such bill was H.R. 1837 – the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, which authorizes increased security assistance to Israel, including the transfer of reserve stock weapons and boosting defense funding over the next five years. Further, I cosponsored H. Res. 246 – Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel. The BDS movement seeks to weaken the Jewish State’s footing on the international stage, which is simply unacceptable. I will continue to support our closest ally in the Middle East in the 117th Congress, and I look forward to co-sponsoring similar legislation when introduced.
As of March 21, 2021, Virginia has had 604,904 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 10,117. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of March 20th, 2,039,437 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,114,156 people are fully vaccinated.
Additional COVID Information:
The IRS announced this week that it will delay the federal April 15 tax-filing deadline until May 17. Taxpayers can also delay payment of any money owed to the IRS until said date. Additionally, Virginia extended its filing deadline to May 17 as well.
Further, the Salem VA Health Care System announced recently that vaccination appointments are now open for all enrolled veterans. Individuals are encouraged to reach out to their primary care teams or call the vaccination hotline between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule appointments. To schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, veterans should call 540-982-2463 and choose Option 2.
Finally, last week the House approved a 60-day extension of the Paycheck Protection Program which is set to expire on March 31. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the new deadline would be May 31. To apply for a PPP loan, click here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Warner & Kaine celebrate Inflation Reduction Act becoming law
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law:
“We’re proud that this law will lower the price of prescription drugs, reduce the deficit, bring down energy bills and fight climate change. We’re also glad that it will help ensure that miners suffering from black lung and their families get the care and benefits they deserve. We will continue to look for ways to support the health and well-being of our communities, decrease inflation, and lower costs for Virginians.”
Below are some of the ways the Inflation Reduction Act will benefit Virginians:
Lower Prescription Drug Costs
- The law allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities—a provision Warner and Kaine have long fought to pass to lower prescription drug costs.
- The law establishes a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for seniors covered under Medicare Part D. In 2020, more than 36,000 Virginians with Medicare Part D spent more than $2,000 out-of-pocket on their prescription drugs.
- The law expands the Low-Income Subsidy program, a program that currently helps cover prescription drug costs for over 11,000 low-income Virginians with Medicare.
- The law provides free coverage for vaccines under Medicare Part D and improves access to vaccines under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In 2020, nearly 85,000 Virginians received a vaccine covered under Medicare Part D.
Affordable Health Care
- During the pandemic, Congress enhanced subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help lower health care premiums for millions of Americans. The Inflation Reduction Act will extend these enhanced subsidies for three years through 2025 to help make Virginians’ health insurance more affordable. Over 300,000 Virginians have ACA coverage in 2022.
- The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated that Virginians with ACA insurance would have seen a $71 increase in their monthly premiums for the next coverage year if these subsidies weren’t extended.
Black Lung Benefits
- The law permanently extends the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate, providing more certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits. In Virginia, thousands of miners and their families have received benefits through the trust fund since it was established, including approximately 2,600 Virginians last year alone.
Clean Energy and Climate Provisions
- The law will reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030.
- The law incentivizes investment in and production of renewable energy technologies like solar power and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. The Inflation Reduction Act expands the 48C investment tax credit for clean energy manufacturers, with $4 billion reserved for use exclusively in coal communities. All clean energy tax credits include a bonus for meeting domestic manufacturing requirements related to steel, iron, or other manufactured components. The law also expands tax credits for residential clean energy and home efficiency improvements.
- According to a recent analysis, the clean energy provisions are expected to create nearly 1 million jobs per year.
- The law includes tax credits for clean medium and heavy duty trucks, such as those produced at the Volvo Trucks New River Valley Plant.
- The law includes a $7,500 consumer credit for the purchase of new electric vehicles and incentivizes that vehicles are produced in North America.
- The law includes $9.7 billion for financial assistance to rural electric cooperatives to improve resilience and affordability.
- The law includes $2 billion for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program to provide competitive grants and loan guarantees to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements.
- The law includes $20 billion to help farmers and ranchers adopt agriculture conservation practices that improve landscape resilience.
- The law takes steps to make sure that the largest corporations and wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes, without increasing taxes on small businesses or families making less than $400,000 a year.
- The law also provides funding to modernize Internal Revenue Service (IRS) systems and improve customer service when paying taxes. This will help ensure the IRS has the resources it needs to process tax returns quickly, get rebates to taxpayers faster, and address challenges Americans have when filing taxes.
Warner & Kaine announce more than $2.1 million in funding to address COVID-19 in rural Virginia communities
On August 12, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,124,300 in emergency rural health care funding to bolster federal support in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be provided to the Ledwith-Lewis Free Clinic in Tappahannock, Page Memorial Hospital in Luray, Tazewell Community Hospital in Tazewell, and Wellmont Health System in Big Stone Gap. This funding was awarded through the Community Facilities Emergency Rural Health Care program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“As Virginia communities continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that we provide resources to help protect Virginians,” said the Senators. “That’s why we are pleased to see these grants go towards COVID vaccination and testing, telehealth and food assistance services, ventilation systems, and financial aid.”
The funding will be awarded as below:
- $36,800 for Ledwith-Lewis Free Clinic in Tappahannock, VA, to provide COVID-19 testing kits, rapid testing supplies, and vaccinations, as well as additional staffing to meet the needs of the rural counties served. This investment will benefit approximately 27,350 residents.
- $1,000,000 for Page Memorial Hospital in Luray, VA, to purchase telehealth, remote monitoring systems, COVID testing, a mobile clinic, and food assistance. In addition, the funds will be used to train current nursing staff. This project aims to connect rural patients to Valley Health telehealth services and Page County internet infrastructure. This project will benefit approximately 24,042 residents.
- $335,000 for Carilion Clinic (Tazewell Community Hospital) in Tazewell, VA, to upgrade the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The HVAC system will follow the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 operational protocols for health care and will service the lab and patient care areas, as the current HVAC system is old and unreliable. This investment will benefit approximately 45,078 residents.
- $752,500 for Wellmont Health System in Big Stone Gap, VA, to replace lost health care revenue and help with financial difficulties experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment will benefit approximately 70,997 residents.
The USDA’s Community Facilities Emergency Rural Health Care program is designed to help broaden access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, rural health care services, and food assistance through food banks and food distribution facilities.
Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for rural communities and health care access in the Commonwealth. Last year, both Senators helped pass the American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief bill that provided $20 billion to improve vaccine distribution, $10 billion for the Defense Production Act to procure essential medical equipment, and $50 billion for virus testing, genomic sequencing to detect new variants, contract tracing, and additional PPE. Additionally, Senator Warner introduced legislation, cosponsored by Senator Kaine, to expand telehealth services through Medicare, connecting patients to doctors and cutting costs for patients and providers. Senator Kaine also introduced legislation to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019. The bill was passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.
Kaine, Murkowski, Sinema, and Collins introduce legislation to codify Roe v. Wade
On August 1, 2022, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Reproductive Freedom For All Act. This legislation would enact the essential holdings of Roe v. Wade and related cases in federal law, protecting abortion rights and contraception access.
“After the Supreme Court gutted a woman’s right to make personal health care decisions, Congress must restore that right,” said Senator Kaine. “That’s why I’ve worked with my colleagues to find common ground on this bipartisan compromise that would do just that. The Reproductive Freedom For All Act would restore the right to abortion and protect access to contraception by enshrining those freedoms into federal legislation.”
“Every American should have autonomy over their own health care decisions, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has made it imperative for Congress to restore women’s reproductive rights. I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with my colleagues to write into law the protections provided through Roe and Casey as well as affirming access to contraception provided in Griswold and other cases,” said Senator Murkowski. “For five decades, reproductive health care decisions were centered with the individual – we cannot go back in time in limiting personal freedoms for women.”
“A woman’s health care decisions should be between her, her family, and her doctor. Our bipartisan, commonsense legislation protects the health and wellbeing of women in Arizona and across the country by ensuring all women – no matter where they live – can access the health care they need and have the ability to make their own decisions about their futures,” said Senator Sinema.
“The Supreme Court’s recent abandonment of longstanding precedent erodes the reproductive rights on which women have relied for half a century. These basic rights need to be the same for American women regardless of the state in which they reside. Our bill would restore the right to obtain an abortion by enacting in federal law Roe v. Wade and other seminal Supreme Court decisions pertaining to reproductive freedom. In addition, our bill would protect access to contraception,” said Senator Collins. “By reinstating—neither expanding nor restricting—the longstanding legal framework for reproductive rights in this country, our bill would preserve abortion access along with basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections.”
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, more than 60 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Overturning Roe has resulted in immediate bans on all abortions in several states. In the future could potentially call into question other important rights, including the right to access birth control, outlined in Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, and Carey v. Population Services International. That is why the Reproductive Freedom For All Act would enact not only the core holdings of Roe v. Wade but also key subsequent cases: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, as well as the holdings of Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Carey v. Population Services International.
The Reproductive Freedom For All Act protects the ability of women to make health care choices for themselves. It would:
- Prohibit state regulations that impose an undue burden on a woman’s access to pre-viability abortions while allowing states to enact reasonable restrictions on post-viability abortions – provided that states cannot ban abortions that are necessary to protect the life or health of the mother;
- Protect access to contraceptives; and
- Preserve conscience protections.
The full text of the legislation is available here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 29, 2022
House Democrats spent last week moving legislation that accomplished little other than increasing our Federal debt and trying to shore up their base in the polls. Desperate to distort, distract, and deceive the American people from the failed agenda of Nancy Pelosi and President Biden, Congress considered a massive spending bill and other legislation that fails to help address the impact of rising prices of food, fuel, and housing.
Among other bills, Congress considered legislation regarding contraception and gay marriage, despite there being no indication that the Supreme Court is moving to overturn the right to contraception created in Griswold (1965) or the right to gay marriage created in Obergefell (2015). Additionally, Congress considered a non-binding resolution calling for the expansion of NATO, which would force American taxpayers to pay more for the security of Europeans and put U.S. troops at greater risk of involvement in a destabilizing war in Europe. I also had the chance to welcome constituents to Washington and to recognize an outstanding local softball team on the House Floor. As always, I will continue to vigorously represent your interests as your Representative in Congress.
This last week Congress passed a massive spending bill which funded six areas of government for the next fiscal year. This $402 billion package was an overall 13% increase above funding for last year and contained several provisions that backed away from long-standing pro-life policies.
Much of our current economic slide can be traced to the runaway spending of the current Democrat Congress, which has led to a 40-year high inflation rate, rising prices of goods and services, and paychecks being stretched to the breaking point. Even so, the House pushed through Appropriations bills that included a 17% increase for Financial Services and General Government, an 18% increase for Interior and Environment, and a 12.2% increase for Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
Inflation is a hidden tax on all Americans, and at a time when Americans are struggling to pay for gas and groceries, the Federal government should be reducing spending. We should prioritize core responsibilities such as our national security, and we must cut wasteful and inefficient social programs. I will continue to be a leader in championing fiscal responsibility.
Desperate to hold on to power, Democrats put forth several political messaging bills last week instead of working to address inflation, secure our border, stop crime, and strengthen education. While the power to ratify treaties resides in the Senate, House Democrats pushed a non-binding resolution to support the expansion of NATO membership to include Finland and Sweden. As the U.S. supports the Ukraine resistance against the invasion of Russia, expanding NATO to the Russian-Finnish border during the fighting increases the risk of drawing American troops into a broader European conflict, something to which I have been consistently opposed. Further, NATO needs significant reform, and I have long called for NATO members to pay their pledged fair share — 2 percent of GDP — and while Finland has done this, Sweden has not.
Assault Weapons Ban
Realizing there is only a limited number of legislative days before November’s election, Speaker Pelosi and Congressional Democrats are playing politics with the Constitution and are attempting to move on an assault weapons ban through the House of Representatives.
Under this plan, Democrats want to make it a felony for any American to sell, manufacture, or possess an AR-15, or any one of over 200 similar firearms, and criminalize the gifting of legally owned firearms to a family member, friend, or neighbor. This assault on the Second Amendment is an attempt to disarm law-abiding Americans, and I am continuing to fight their efforts and defend our Constitution.
All Star Darlings One Minute
On the House Floor last week I had the honor of recognizing an incredible achievement in youth sports. The Amherst All Star Darlings, a girls youth softball team of 7- and 8-year-olds, just finished their season undefeated. After winning both the district and state championships, they have their eyes set on Cochran-Beckley, Georgia, where the girls’ softball world series will be played later this month. These young ladies worked hard and were hungry for competition, and their determination to win throughout the length of their season is nearly unmatched. Now they are planning and working towards making their trip to Georgia possible to get the chance to make this Cinderella story a reality. Their efforts are a story of comradery, hard work, and laying the foundation for a bright future not only in sports but in all of their future endeavors. The Sixth District will be cheering them on when they compete on July 31st in the Dixie youth softball league world series. Congratulations to the Amherst All Star Darlings for representing Virginia and the Sixth District so well.
Last week in Virginia there was an average 35 daily cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, down from 36 daily cases last week. This week’s COVID-19 test positivity rate dropped to 22%. For more information, click here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Kaine statement on Senate passage of bill to boost domestic chip manufacturing
On July 27, 2022, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement after helping the Senate pass legislation to incentivize private investment in domestic chips manufacturing and provide a combined $157 billion of support for chips production and science research in America:
“Increasing chips manufacturing in Virginia and throughout America is a win-win-win for job creation, our national security, and lowering costs—all while helping us outcompete China,” said Kaine. “America has a lot to gain with this bill not only because it’ll strengthen our manufacturing economy but also because it’ll boost our many great research institutions. I’m glad we took this step forward today and won’t give up in the fight to build on this momentum to make our economy even more competitive.”
America currently only produces 12 percent of the global supply of chips, which are required by everything from cars, computers, and phones to televisions, LED lightbulbs, and washing machines. Meanwhile, East Asia—where other governments incentivize their own domestic chip manufacturing that makes it significantly cheaper to produce chips than in America—has become the production point for 75 percent of the world’s chips.
COVID-related chip supply strains have hindered American manufacturing output, resulting in decreased supply and higher prices for cars and other goods. Today’s shortages indicate how catastrophic future chip shortages could be for America’s economy, technological competitiveness, and military capabilities.
This legislation aims to create a resurgence in American chip manufacturing to protect America from the threat of future chip shortages by offering private companies a tax credit for investments in domestic chip manufacturing facilities and making $52 billion in funding available for chips researchers and manufacturers so they can make more chips in America.
Kaine has been a consistent advocate for the need to onshore chip production and has emphasized the important role Virginia can play in strengthening chip supply and creating chip manufacturing jobs. Virginia is already home to some of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers, which will be able to apply for funding from today’s legislation once it is signed into law by President Biden.
In addition to investments in and incentives for chips manufacturing, the legislation would help support the scientific research America’s economy needs to be competitive in the 21st century by including:
· Over $81 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next five years, including $20 billion for the first-of-its-kind NSF program to accelerate domestic development of national and economic-security critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced manufacturing, 6G communications, energy, and material science;
· $13 billion to invest in America’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce by supporting STEM education through scholarships, fellowships, and traineeships to train workers in critical fields, including through an artificial intelligence scholarship-for-service program, a national network for microelectronics education, and cybersecurity workforce development programs; and
· $11 billion for the Regional Innovation Engines to advance multidisciplinary and collaborative research and development in key technology focus areas at institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, civil society organizations, and industrial firms in relevant sectors. These hubs will focus on technology development, job creation, and expanding U.S. innovation capacity.
Warner, Kaine, Wexton, Beyer, Connolly press Biden to raise the detention of Virginian Asim Ghafoor with Emirati government
Only July 22, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, alongside Representatives Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Don Beyer (VA-08), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), pressed President Biden to raise Asim Ghafoor’s detention with the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair and humane treatment. Asim Ghafoor—a U.S. citizen and Virginia resident—was reportedly tried in absentia, detained without notice of his conviction, and sentenced to prison on to-date unsubstantiated charges by United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities.
Ghafoor was a close personal friend of and reportedly served as legal counsel to Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018, in an operation that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) assessed was approved by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
“…[W]e strongly urge you and your Administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We welcomed the Department of State’s July 18, 2022, statement that the United States had ‘not sought’ Ghafoor’s arrest. However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to ‘combat transnational crimes’ raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership,” they continued.
Additionally, the lawmakers requested that the Biden Administration:
- Call on Emirati authorities to allow Mr. Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys;
- Ensure that the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Mr. Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings;
- Confirm with UAE officials that Mr. Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care; and
- Solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Ghafoor, in order to determine if his arrest should be considered wrongful detention or an act of transnational repression.
Here’s the full text of the letter :
Dear Mr. President,
We request your Administration’s urgent attention to the recent detention of U.S. citizen and Virginia resident Mr. Asim Ghafoor by United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. Mr. Ghafoor was convicted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on currently unsubstantiated charges of money laundering and tax evasion, in absentia and, reportedly, without his knowledge. Mr. Ghafoor was detained by UAE authorities on July 14, 2022, while transiting Dubai International Airport, and was sentenced to three years in prison on July 16, 2022. The UAE’s decision to detain Mr. Ghafoor – without notice or opportunity to seek legal counsel – represents a gross violation of his due process rights.
Mr. Ghafoor is a board member for the nonprofit organization Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN), which advocates for democratic reforms in the Middle East and has at times criticized the Emirati government. In his capacity as an attorney, Mr. Ghafoor is reported to have represented his friend Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, who was also a Virginian and who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018. Noting your July 16, 2022, meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan and your invitation for him to visit the United States by the end of this year, as well as the close relationship between the Saudi and Emirati governments, we strongly urge you and your Administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners.
The UAE has claimed the United States played a role in Mr. Ghafoor’s detention, and as such we further urge your Administration to clarify the nature of the United States’ potential involvement. We welcomed the Department of State’s July 18, 2022, statement that the United States had “not sought” Ghafoor’s arrest. However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to “combat transnational crimes,” raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership.
As your Administration works to ensure that Mr. Ghafoor is treated humanely and fairly, we respectfully request that you take the following interim measures:
1. Call on Emirati authorities to allow Mr. Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys.
2. Ensure that the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Mr. Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings.
3. Confirm with UAE officials that Mr. Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care.
4. Solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Ghafoor, in order to determine if his arrest should be considered a wrongful detention or act of transnational repression.