Tlaib, Rush Call on House Leadership to Prohibit the Use of Federal Funds to Purchase or Use Facial Recognition Software

Jul 17, 2020

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) led a group of 30 Members of Congress in calling on House Leadership to prohibit the use of federal funds, including grants to states and localities, to purchase or use facial recognition software or contract for any similar services in the upcoming FY2021 appropriations packages.

“As we look toward deciding what programs our government will fund this next fiscal year, one thing is certain: we cannot and must not continue to fund the racial targeting of citizens that law enforcement use of facial recognition technology has proliferated,’ Congresswoman Tlaib said. “Countless Black and Brown citizens and allies have recently risen in masses to demand change and reverse the trend of their being unfairly targeted by police, especially given the end result of those interactions has been unnecessary death of Black and Brown people. I am proud to join Rep. Rush and my colleagues in asking that House leadership heed their demand and commit to not funding racist facial recognition technology.”

“As a former member of the Black Panther Party, I am all too familiar with the negative consequences of government surveillance programs run amok. In fact, it was the FBI Counterintelligence Program, otherwise known as COINTELPRO, which ultimately led to the untimely deaths of my friends and fellow Panthers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and almost resulted in my own death,” said Rep. Rush.

Rep. Rush continued: “That is why I cannot sit idly by as a new form of subversive surveillance — one that disproportionately targets Black Americans and other communities of color — is exploited by law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. This shoddy software has resulted in the misidentification and subsequent unlawful arrests of countless Black and Brown people nationwide and has no place in a just and lawful society. That is why I am calling on House leadership to ban any funding for this software or similar services in the upcoming appropriations packages, and I am grateful to my colleague Rep. Tlaib for joining me in this effort.”

“Reforming our broken policing system must include divesting from surveillance technologies that contribute to policing abuses,” said Neema Singh Guliani, Senior Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Time and again, we have seen how face recognition supercharges police abuses, threatening the safety and rights of all, but communities of color disproportionally. It’s time for Congress to exercise the power of the purse and stop funding this dangerous technology.”

On June 9, 2020, Rep. Rush, joined by Rep. Tlaib and 33 House Democrats, sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Guard Bureau, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) demanding that the agencies immediately stop illegal surveillance of peaceful protesters around the country. On June 18, 2020, the Air Force Inspector General announced that the agency was investigating whether the military improperly used reconnaissance planes to monitor protests in Washington and Minneapolis this month.

A copy of Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Rush’s letter to House leadership can be found here.

This letter was also signed by the following Members of Congress:

Karen Bass (D-Calif.)
Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-Va.)
Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.)
André Carson (D-Ind.)
Judy Chu (D-Calif.)
David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.)
Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.)
Wm. Lacy Clay (Mo.)
Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.)
Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.)
Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio)
Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.)
Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)
Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.)
Daniel T. Kildee (D-Mich.)
Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.)
Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.)
Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.)
Mark Takano (D-Calif.)
Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.)
Susan Wild (D-Penn.)

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