The end of 2015 is fast approaching and, though we had many notable progressive victories in 2015, it is time to start looking ahead to the big challenges for progress in 2016. We know 2016 is going to be a big year for politics and policy, and we hope the following 5 challenges can be addressed in the next year:
1) Combat the threat posed by ISIS: In the upcoming year, the United States must continue to strengthen and lead the coalition of over 60 countries dedicated to fighting ISIS in the Middle East. The Center for American Progress outlined a series of additional steps that the U.S. should take to defeat terrorism in the region. These include intensifying the military campaign against ISIS through increased air strikes and support to effective partners on the ground, securing a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war, and authorizing the use of military force in Congress. But what will not help our fight against terrorism is the escalation of hateful Islamophobic rhetoric, which only further puts our security at risk by playing into the strategy of ISIS. In fact, contrary to anti-Muslim rhetoric, Muslim Americans play a key role in the U.S. fight against ISIS.
2) Enact comprehensive immigration reform: One of the biggest challenges that lies ahead in 2016 is the growing need for comprehensive immigration reform. The benefits of comprehensive immigration reform are huge: it could put millions of people on the way to permanent legal status and citizenship, keep thousands of families together, and bring $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. And, it would cost $114 billion to deport all unauthorized immigrants in the United States. But since Congress failed to pass broadly supported and bipartisan immigration reform legislation in 2013, the progress for passing comprehensive reform has stalled indefinitely. Just recently, newly minted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that he would not work with the Obama administration on immigration policy. But given the growing demographic and electoral power of the Latino vote, the actions of lawmakers on immigration policy will matter greatly in 2016 and beyond.
3) Tighten gun regulations: After a year of at least one mass shooting every week, 2016 needs to be the year for serious gun safety reforms. We need to expand background checks for people who want to buy guns and close loopholes such as the gun show loophole, such that those convicted of violent felonies, domestic abusers, and fugitives cannot buy a gun. Another necessary reform is closing the terror gap, since from 2000 to 2014, more than 2,000 individuals on the consolidated terror watch list passed a background check and were legally able to purchase a gun. In fact, in 2011, an Al Qaeda leader even encouraged recruits to exploit lax American gun laws to commit acts of terror.
4) Begin to reform the criminal justice system: Significant criminal justice reform is necessary, as nearly one third of Americans have a criminal record. Congress made great steps toward reform this year, but needs to build on broad bipartisan by moving immediately to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 and the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2015, which are focused, bipartisan pieces of legislation that tackle many of the root causes and impacts of overincarceration and the over-criminalization of poor communities and communities of color And more needs to be done to address the barriers associated with having a criminal record—such as lack of economic and family stability, which can impact children’s long-term outcomes—as nearly half of American children have a parent with a criminal record.
5) Preserve progressive victories at the Supreme Court: The outcomes of various cases before the Supreme Court will impact the lives of workers, unauthorized immigrants, students, women, and more. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the court could impose a right-to-work standard for all government employees. This threatens to undermine economic security, especially since workers earn less in right to work states and research indicates the middle-class share of income has declined as union membership has declined. Therefore, if unions are undermined, workers and the whole middle class will suffer. Meanwhile, United States v. Texas will review the injunction— which was influenced by conservative lawmakers in 26 states who filed lawsuits—that is currently blocking President Obama’s DAPA and expanded DACA initiatives. DAPA and expanded DACA will help nearly 5 million people, and blocking these initiatives costs the United States $8.4 million every day. Additionally, Fisher v. University of Texas, could undermine affirmative action and erode diversity in higher education. Finally, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole may significantly restrict Texas women’s access to legal abortions, thereby undermining their ability to make decisions about their lives and health.
BOTTOM LINE: As 2015 nears an end, we know there are many challenges ahead in 2016. Next year will be huge for politics and policy, and we hope that we can address the challenges of Supreme Court cases, comprehensive immigration reform, gun safety reforms, criminal justice reform, and national security. Happy holidays and we look forward to more progress in 2016! Read more at: http://thinkprogress.org/progress-report/a-primer-for-progress-in-2016/