Top Menu

Archive | Wyden

Congress Passes Law to Drug-Test More Unemployment Recipients

Well, at least the GOP isn’t only trying to mess with women’s bodies on this one.

In yet another action that should scare the hell out of Americans, the Republican-controlled Senate yesterday passed H.J. Res. 42, which abolishes a Labor Department regulation from the Obama administration which severely restricted a state’s authority to require drug testing on recipients of unemployment benefits.

It was passed by a 51-48 party line vote, with no members of the Democratic caucus voting in favor. It passed the House on February 15 and is expectedly to go swiftly to Trump’s desk for his signature.

The repealed 2012 law restricted who could be compelled to take a drug test to people who had been terminated from previous employment for drug use or those at high-risk occupations where the testing requirement could be argued on safety grounds. As they so often do, Republicans argued that this was federal overreach and said the decision on who to drug test should be left to the states.

“Congress specifically intended to provide states the ability to determine which applicants for unemployment insurance should be drug-tested,” said Ted Cruz (R-TX) “The Obama Department of Labor substantially narrowed the law to circumstances where testing is legally required, not merely allowed.”

Democrats contend that such testing is a clear Fourth Amendment violation and that it would allow states to order drug tests arbitrarily and with uneven standards.

“This measure before us is simply bizarre,” said Ron Wyden (D-OR), debating the bill on the Senate floor. “If, like me, you believe that drug testing can in instances be ineffective and mean spirited, you ought to oppose this measure because it simply vilifies unemployed workers who are actually less likely to use drugs than the general population.”

“The fact is the courts have ruled that suspicionless drug testing violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Wyden also made the case that drug-testing programs do not yield results commensurate with their costs and that this money might be better used helping Americans addicted to opioids or other harder drugs.

“For states that have implemented drug testing policies, there’s evidence that the costs dwarf the potential savings.  The costs of operating drug testing programs are charged to state health and human services accounts and I think we all understand those have been squeezed mightily by the effort to treat opioid addiction.

“Instead of wasting money by drug testing Americans who are looking for jobs, the states ought to be putting those very same dollars towards substance abuse treatment given the fact that opioid addiction has hit our country like a wrecking ball.”

Finally, Wyden argued that allowing this testing is especially unfair given that Americans pay for unemployment insurance out of every paycheck and said that benefit ought to be there when needed with no rights-violating strings attached.

“Just like social security, unemployment insurance is an earned benefit. It is an earned benefit that ought to be there for workers who fall on the hard times.”

Wyden Demands Answers on Questionable Phone Searches at Border

In yet another sign of what our country is becoming under the Trump regime, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has sent a letter to Homeland Security chief John Kelly demanding to know why Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been ordering some people to unlock their cell phones for examination.

Wyden also cited a recent statement by Kelly saying that people visiting the U.S. may be asked to give security officers their social-media passwords so agents can examine their usage of applications like Facebook and Twitter.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” Kelly told the House Homeland Security Committee earlier this month. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

While Kelly’s comments before that committee were in the context of what will likely happen in the future as immigrants are vetted for admission to the U.S., reports are surfacing that people are already being subject to these searches upon entering the country.

In January, Sidd Bikkannavar, who was born in the U.S. and is an employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was detained on reentering the country after a vacation in Chile and asked to give CBP agents the password to his phone. Bikkannavar complied but remains concerned because the phone was issued by NASA, contained sensitive information and he has no idea what agents gleaned from their search.

“I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it.”

In his letter, Wyden challenged Kelly to answer five specific questions, including the following:

What legal authority permits CBP to ask for or demand, as a condition of entry, that a U.S. person disclose their social media or email account password?

What legal authority permits CBP to ask for or demand, as a condition of entry, that a U.S. person turn over their device PIN or password to gain access to encrypted data? How are such demands consistent with the Fifth Amendment?

Wyden also told the Homeland Security Secretary that he intends to introduce legislation to “… guarantee that the Fourth Amendment is respected at the border by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching devices, and prohibiting the practice of forcing travelers to reveal their online account passwords.”

“These digital dragnet border search practices weaken our national and economic security. Indiscriminate digital searches distract CBP from its core mission and needlessly divert agency resources away from those who truly threaten our nation.”

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes