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"Following the outcry over the shooting of Michael Brown by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, the President invited young civil rights leaders to a meeting in the Oval Office. Many of them had protested in Ferguson. A 30-minute scheduled meeting lasted more than an hour. As the meeting broke up, the President continued the conversation for a few minutes and I then managed to frame the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the foreground." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Advancing Social Progress and Equality

President Obama has led the fight to protect everyone — no matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, or whom you love.

From pushing through sweeping rights and protections for LGBT Americans, to making our immigration system fairer and safer, to tackling poverty and investing in communities, here’s where the Administration's record stands.

Bar chart showing that the number of states with marriage equality in 2009 was 4 and in 2016 it was 50. Bar chart that shows the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in 2010 was 74,087 and in 2016 it was 39,471.


President Obama on Social Progress and Equality

Ensured Equality for LGBT Americans

Advocated in favor of a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality for same-sex couples—a position the Supreme Court vindicated in its historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges

The President Speaks on the Supreme Court’s Decision on Marriage Equality

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Ended the government’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions holding the Act unconstitutional

In February 2011, the Administration announced it would cease legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision defining marriage as only between a man and woman.

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Directed the Cabinet to review over 1,000 federal statutes and regulations to ensure the decision was implemented swiftly and smoothly by the federal government to recognize the rights of same-sex couples, following the Supreme Court decision in Windsor

After the United States v. Windsor decision, in which the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the President instructed the Cabinet to review all federal statutes to ensure the decision was implemented swiftly and smoothly. After concluding its review, the Justice Department announced that in almost all instances it will extend benefits to same-sex married couples. 

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Repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the Armed Forces without fear of being dismissed from service because of who they are and whom they love

In December 2010, the President signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law, allowing gay men and women to serve openly and with integrity in the U.S. military.

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Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, historic legislation extending coverage of federal hate-crime law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity

In October 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, extending coverage of federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity—the first federal civil rights legislation to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” 

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Signed an Executive Order extending the prohibitions against discrimination that apply to federal contractors and subcontractors to bar discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity

In July 2014, the President signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment “because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin,” continuing to set an example as a model employer that does right by its employees.

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Required hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid to ensure that the rights of LGBT patients are respected by allowing individuals to designate visitors, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now requires all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds to allow visitation rights for LGBT patients. The President also directed HHS to ensure that medical decision making rights of LGBT patients are respected.

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Took unprecedented steps to protect and promote the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming Americans

These actions include the issuance of landmark guidance from the Department of Justice that concluded that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses claims of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, the release of a directive of the Veterans Health Administration on the respectful delivery of health care to transgender veterans through VA benefits, a new State Department policy making it easier for U.S. passport gender markers to be changed,  an end to the Social Security Administration’s practice of sending notifications to employers that the gender of an employee as submitted to the agency did not match social security records, a Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule banning transgender health care discrimination in the Affordable Care Act, and guidance from the Office of Personnel Management for the respectful treatment of transgender federal employees.

VA Fact Sheet on LGBT Veteran Health Care
Read the PDF

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Veteran Care
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Supported legislative efforts to ban the use of so-called “conversion therapy” against minors and released a SAMHSA study condemning the practice

Read the Administration's response to a petition on banning conversion therapy.

Took a stand against bullying by honoring Spirit Day, hosting the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, and recording the President’s own “It Gets Better” video

President Obama: It Gets Better

Watch on YouTube

Developed and released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States in 2010, and updated it through 2020 to address disparities faced by certain populations

President Obama on World AIDS Day 2016

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National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020

Read the PDF

Announced the first ever national study of discrimination in housing against LGBT persons and, in January 2012 and in 2015, issued a final rule and subsequent guidance to ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s core housing programs and services are open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity

Many same sex, transgender and gender non-conforming persons have reported discriminatory treatment based on sexual orientation when trying to access housing. Read more to see what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has done to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons have equal access to housing and HUD programs.

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Issued guidance stating that Federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving same-sex relationships

Department of Justice: Memorandum Opinion for the Acting Attorney General

Read the PDF

Advanced the rights of LGBT persons around the world through action at the UN, a Presidential Memorandum that directs all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons , and the appointment of the U.S. State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons

Presidential Memorandum -- International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

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Reformed Our Immigration System

Implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy for young undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children in an effort to better focus enforcement resources

Since its establishment, the Department of Homeland Security has approved close to 740,000 DACA requests on a case-by-case basis. More than 526,000 individuals have also successfully renewed DACA.

More on DACA

Took steps to reduce barriers for high-skilled immigrants by identifying and reducing undue immigration barriers faced by foreign-born entrepreneurs

Taking Action to Attract High-Skilled Immigrants, Graduates, and Entrepreneurs

Read about the key things that the President’s executive actions will do to improve the immigration system for high-skilled workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs.

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Provided work-authorization to spouses of high-skilled workers on their path to becoming lawful permanent residents—over 52,000 spouses have now received work authorization

Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants is one of several initiatives underway to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.

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Created the White House Task Force for on New Americans, which launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign to help local communities strengthen integration efforts and the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign

On November 21, 2014, the President established the White House Task Force on New Americans—a government-wide effort tasked with better integrating immigrants and refugees into American communities. 

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Reduced family separation for those waiting to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provisional waiver process for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. This process has recently been enhanced and expanded to include additional relatives of U.S. citizens and relatives of LPRs. USCIS also published policy guidance to provide more clarity on the standards for obtaining this waiver. Since 2013, more than 80,000 individuals have obtained this waiver.

Provisional Waiver Process USCIS Implemented in 2013 and Expanded and Clarified in 2016

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Provided better service to legal immigrants, employers and others through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-Verify Program

Employer enrollment in E-Verify, which allows employers to verify electronically that an employee is eligible to work in the U.S., has more than doubled since January 2009, with more than 561,000 participating companies representing more than 1.7 million hiring sites. More than 28 million queries were processed in FY 2014.

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Launched an updated USCIS website that includes a new Spanish version and an online tool that allows individuals, for the first time ever, to get updates on their citizenship and other applications online or via text message

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Page

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Launched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign to promote naturalization opportunities to the 8.8. million LPRs who may be eligible and provided new tools to prepare applicants for citizenship through the "Citizenship Resource Center"

Citizenship Resource Center

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Established the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program that provides funding for high-quality citizenship preparation programs for lawful permanent residents across the country

Now in its seventh year, the program has awarded more than $63 million through 308 competitive grants to immigrant-serving organizations in 37 states and the District of Columbia. USCIS has also expanded partnerships with cities to promote citizenship and create citizenship corners.

Citizenship and Integration Grant Program and Local Partnerships

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Worked with the Armed Forces to naturalize tens of thousands of military personnel. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2015, more than 21,000 individuals serving in the military have naturalized.

Honoring the Contributions of Immigrants Serving in the Military

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Standardized the process for applying for waivers for fees associated with immigration applications and petitions, including full fee waivers of the naturalization fee

In 2016, USCIS created a reduced filing fee option for naturalization applicants with family incomes greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent as a part the publication of its rule to adjust the fees for application and petitions.

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Increased the annual number of refugees admitted to the United States while ensuring robust security screening and addressed the unique challenges refugees face by increasing medical screening, providing new mental health resources, and conducting comprehensive on-going reviews grant programs

The President announced that the United States will increase the number of refugees we resettle to 110,000 in 2017, increasing the number of people we received by almost 40 percent over a two-year period.

The President also hosted a Leader’s Summit on Refugees, a global gathering that generate broader and deeper commitments to refugee protections and assistance.

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Expanded initiatives to address the ongoing humanitarian challenges in Central America by establishing and expanding mechanisms for vulnerable individuals, including children of lawfully present parents in the United States, to enter the country as refugees or through other humanitarian mechanisms, and creating an option for immediate transfer to Costa Rica for those individuals in of need of immediate protection.

Steps to Address Migration Challenges

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Implemented critical reforms to immigration enforcement by establishing new priorities that focus limited resources on national security, public safety, and border security threats

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set clear enforcement priorities so that individuals who are a threat to our public safety and national security, such as convicted criminals, are the highest enforcement priority. These efforts are producing real results.

  • Over 99% of those in immigration detention fit within one of the enforcement priorities and around 85% are within the top priority for removal. The percentage of convicted criminals detained is 60%, as compared to 35% in 2009.
  • In FY 2015, ICE conducted 235,413 removals, of which 69,478 were conducted in the interior, 91% of which involved individuals with a previous criminal conviction. Another 75,829 were conducted at or near the border or ports of entry.

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Developed the new Priority Enforcement Program to better collaborate with state and local law enforcement in order to detain and remove convicted criminals, while maintaining community trust

Effectively identifying and removing criminals in state and local jails is a critical goal but it must be done in a way that sustains the community’s trust. To address concerns from Governors, Mayors, law enforcement and community leaders which have undermined cooperation with DHS, Secretary Johnson replaced the existing Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) to remove those convicted of criminal offenses. The vast majority of state and local jurisdictions participate in PEP, including 20 of the top 25 jurisdictions who previously declined to cooperate with DHS. DHS also continues to rely on biometric data to verify individuals who are enforcement priorities, and they works with DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons to identify and remove federal criminals serving time as soon as possible.

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Strengthened the immigration court system, which is housed in the Department of Justice, by increasing the number of immigration judges and staff, enhancing training and mentoring programs to ensure that those judges are ready to hear cases fairly and promptly, and improving access to legal information for immigrants.

In FY 2016, the Department of Justice had a net increase of 42 immigration judges and has set a record for the size of the immigration judge corps. Ninety-five more candidates are moving through various stages of the hiring process.

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Expanded access to low-cost legal services through a variety of efforts to ensure better protections for those least able to represent themselves

The Department of Justice has taken various steps to enhance legal representation for individuals in removal proceedings by:

  • Finalizing a rule to revise the Recognition and Accreditation Program, which authorizes non-attorney representatives to represent respondents in immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Department of Justice, as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Launched a three-year partnership between the Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service, creating justice AmeriCorps, which provides access to legal services by enrolling lawyers and paralegals as AmericCorps members to provide services to unaccompanied children in immigration court proceedings. Since 2014, this program has assisted over 2,300 unaccompanied children.
  • Started the National Qualified Representative Program, which provides qualified representatives to certain unrepresented and detained respondents, whom the Executive Office for Immigration Review adjudicators find to be mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.
  • Launched a Remote Access Initiative in April 2016 to provide direct representation to unaccompanied children who live in areas of the Southeastern United States that present barriers to accessing legal services.
  • Created the Baltimore Representation Initiative for Unaccompanied Children, which provides contract funding for two attorneys to represent unaccompanied children in proceedings at the Baltimore Immigration Court.
  • Launched information helpdesks at five immigration courts, provided services to unrepresented individuals including in-person information sessions, self-help guidance to individuals without counsel, and information on available pro bono resources through the Immigration Court Helpdesk Program.

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Fought the unauthorized practice of immigration law (“notario fraud”) by developing outreach materials, prosecuting unscrupulous scammers, and building local collaborations

The Executive Office for Immigration Review is taking steps to increase awareness of its Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program, which serves as a centralized referral point for issues involving fraud, scams, and the unauthorized practice of immigration law. EOIR also provides trainings on the unauthorized practice of law and distributes outreach materials for stakeholders and the general public.

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Established an Interagency Working Group to better coordinate cases where federal responsibilities to enforce labor, employment and immigration laws may overlap so that workers who cooperate with law enforcement can do so without fear of retaliation

This Interagency Working Group launched a pilot to identify and prevent instances in which ICE and employment labor enforcement agencies have conflicting enforcement actions and added an Addendum to their 2011 MOU to include additional parties to address potential conflicts in civil worksite enforcement activities.

Department of Labor Immigration Fact Sheets

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Fought for a Fairer, More Equitable Criminal Justice System

Toured a federal prison, marking the first such visit by a sitting President

In July 2015, President Obama visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City, marking the first visit by a sitting President to a federal prison.

President Obama Visits the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution

Watch on YouTube

Read the Transcript

Signed the Fair Sentencing Act to ease the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required to trigger certain penalties in the federal system, including the imposition of rigid mandatory minimum sentences, and supported legislative reforms to make sentencing laws smarter, fairer and more effective

In August 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. It also increases monetary penalties for major drug traffickers.

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Reduced the federal prison population by more than 10,000 inmates

Learn more about the federal inmate population.

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Commuted the sentences of over 1,000 women and men incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws, including over 340 individuals who were serving life sentences

President Obama has granted commutations to more prisoners than the past 11 presidents combined, and the majority have been for nonviolent offenders sentenced for drug crimes.

Learn more about President Obama’s record on clemency.

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Announced that the Bureau of Prisons would no longer use a number of private correctional facilities and the intent of the Bureau of Prisons to end the use of private prisons

Learn more about the Obama Administration’s efforts to phase out the use of private prisons.

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Launched Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue the postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around

U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals​

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Created the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which brought together representatives of law enforcement, community, academics, and youth to develop a unified set of 59 concrete and practical recommendations that can be used by jurisdictions across the country to enhance trust between communities and law enforcement while improving public safety

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Implementation Guide

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Increased the use of body-worn cameras through $20 million in grants to state and local law enforcement

Body‐Worn Camera Program Fact Sheet

Read the Fact Sheet

Launched the White House Police Data Initiative, which uses data to increase transparency, build community trust, and strengthen accountability by bringing together law enforcement jurisdictions across the country with technologists, community organizations, and police associations to improve police-citizen interactions through better use of technology and data

The Police Data Initiative Year of Progress: How We’re Building on the President’s Call to Leverage Open Data to Increase Trust between Police and Citizens

Read the Blog post

FACT SHEET: White House Police Data Initiative Highlights New Commitments

Read the Blog post

Directed the Office of Personnel Management to take action to “ban the box,” resulting in a final rule prohibiting federal agencies from inquiring into a competitive service applicant’s criminal or credit history until after a conditional job offer has been made. The President also called on Congress to follow a growing number of states, cities, and private companies that have decided to “ban the box” on job applications

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated

Read the Fact Sheet


Established the Federal Interagency Reentry Council to bring together the domestic agencies to improve the opportunities for success for the formerly incarcerated

The Administration has advanced numerous effective reintegration strategies through the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, whose mission is to reduce recidivism and victimization; assist those returning from prison, jail or juvenile facilities to become productive citizens; and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

Through the Reentry Council and other federal agency initiatives, the Administration has improved rehabilitation and reintegration opportunities in meaningful ways, including recent initiatives detailed here

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Expanded new ways to recruit and place job applicants based on their actual skills and to create more fast track tech training opportunities, including for individuals with criminal records, as a part of the Administration’s TechHire initiative

As a part of President Obama’s TechHire initiative, communities are taking action – working with each other and national employers – to expand access to tech jobs for more Americans with fast track training like coding boot camps and new recruitment and placement strategies.

Learn About TechHire

Established a National Clean Slate Clearinghouse where the Department of Labor and Department of Justice will partner to provide technical assistance to local legal aid programs, public defender offices, and reentry service providers to build capacity for legal services needed to help with record-cleaning, expungement, and related civil legal services

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated

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Established Smart on Juvenile Justice grant program to expand the use of effective community-based alternatives to youth detention

OJJDP Announces New Smart on Juvenile Justice Funding Opportunities

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Issued guidance to improve correctional education in Juvenile Justice Facilities

Correctional Education in Juvenile Justice Facilities

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Released an online clearinghouse of resources at the Department of Justice to help law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve plan and implement body-worn camera programs

The National Body-Worn Camera Toolkit is a comprehensive clearinghouse for criminal justice practitioners interested in planning and implementing a body-worn camera program in an effort to strengthen community trust and confidence in the justice system and improve officer and community safety.

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Completed an extensive review of federal programs that support the acquisition of equipment by state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, through a federal interagency working group. On the basis of that review, the working group developed a series of concrete steps to address the apparent militarization of law enforcement agencies and enhance accountability, increase transparency, and better serve the needs of law enforcement and local communities.

In January 2015, the President created the Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group to identify actions that can improve Federal support for the acquisition of controlled equipment by law enforcement agencies (LEAs). In May 2015, the President received and accepted the recommendations from the Working Group which among other things: created a prohibited equipment list LEAs will no longer be able to acquire from the federal government; provided a consistent Government-wide controlled equipment list; standardized Federal procedures governing provision of controlled equipment and ensured that LEAs have proper policies and training in place regarding the appropriate use of controlled equipment.

Read the Press Release


Launched the Violence Reduction Network to deliver strategic, intensive training and technical assistance to reduce violent crime

The U.S. Department of Justice's Violence Reduction Network

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Funded the addition of nearly 10,000 community policing officers across the country through the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

Launched the National Initiative as a multi-faceted approach to help strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve by promoting procedural justice, reducing implicit bias and supporting racial reconciliation

The National Initiative is working intensively in Birmingham (AL), Fort Worth (TX), Gary (IN), Minneapolis (MN), Pittsburgh (PA) and Stockton (CA), and is providing technical assistance to localities that are not official demonstration sites.

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Launched the Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance to improve trust between police agencies and the communities they serve by providing a means to organizational transformation around specific issues

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services created the Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance in 2011 in response to requests from the law enforcement community for a proactive, nonadversarial, and cost-effective form of technical assistance for agencies with significant law enforcement-related issues. It provides the DOJ with a middle ground between formal investigation and consent decree monitoring through the Civil Rights Division and smaller-scale resources and assistance currently provided by the department.

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Established the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention to help communities build local capacity to prevent and reduce youth violence National Forum

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The Department of Justice conducted investigations of and entered into agreements with numerous law enforcement agencies around the country to address serious concerns, rebuild trust and maintain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has reached agreements with, among others, New Orleans (LA), Seattle (WA), East Haven (CT), Portland (OR), Suffolk County (NY), Puerto Rico, Albuquerque (NM), Missoula (MT), Los Angeles/Antelope Valley (CA), and Cleveland (OH).

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Launched the Access to Justice Initiative, at the Department of Justice, to engage with a wide variety of new partners — including state, local, tribal, and federal officials, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and experts from across the private sector — to expand research and funding support for the delivery of indigent defense services and to protect the Sixth Amendment guarantee of effective assistance of counsel

The Department of Justice established the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) in March 2010 to address the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system. ATJ’s mission is to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status. ATJ staff works within the Department of Justice, across federal agencies, and with state, local, and tribal justice system stakeholders to increase access to counsel and legal assistance and to improve the justice delivery systems that serve people who are unable to afford lawyers.

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Issued updated profiling guidance that, among other things, expanded the prohibition to religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity and was applicable to state and local law enforcement agencies working on federal task forces

In December 2014, the Department of Justice issued updated profiling guidance, reaffirming the Federal government’s deep commitment to ensuring that its law enforcement agencies conduct their activities in an unbiased manner.

Read the PDF Report



Issued guidance on identifying and preventing gender bias in law enforcement response to sexual assault and domestic violence

Justice Department Issues Guidance on Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

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Revised the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Accountability (Byrne-JAG) Measures with a new Criminal Justice Performance Measurement Tool

Criminal Justice Performance Measurement Tool

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Launched the White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative to reduce unnecessary incarceration

The White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative brings together a bipartisan coalition of city, county, and state governments to use data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness to effective treatment and to change approaches to pre-trial incarceration so that low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.

FACT SHEET: Launching the Data-Driven Justice Initiative: Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration

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Created the National Officer Safety and Wellness Group within the Department of Justice to examine difficult issues within police departments

The National Officer Safety and Wellness Group in the Department of Justice to examines difficult issues such as ambush attacks on police officers, automobile fatalities, heart attacks, suicides, substance use and physical fitness, and has focused on ways to create a culture of safety and wellness within police departments.

Learn more about the National Officer Safety and Wellness Group.

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Directed the federal government to limit the use of restrictive housing in federal detention centers, divert individuals to alternative housing, limit direct community placement from restrictive housing, increase out of cell placement time, and eliminate the use of restrictive housing for juveniles

The Obama Administration released a report setting out more than 50 Guiding Principles to help all correctional systems reduce their use of solitary confinement, which cover a range of important reform areas including the use of the restrictive housing as a form of punishment, the appropriate conditions of confinement in restrictive housing, and the proper treatment of vulnerable inmate populations, such as juveniles, pregnant women, LGBTI inmates, and inmates with serious mental illness.

Learn more about the limits on the use of restrictive housing.

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Supported improvements to the forensic sciences to ensure that individuals are not wrongfully brought into the criminal justice system or convicted

Read the Obama Administration’s report on forensic science in criminal courts here.

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Recommended that states and localities review their licensing requirements to ensure that it is not unnecessarily making it more difficult for formerly incarcerated people, among others, to find a job

Read the Council of Economic Advisors’ report on occupational licensing.

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Developed the Fair Chance Hiring Pledge and the Fair Chance Education Pledge to encourage businesses to give a fair chance to all applicants and to encourage universities to move “Beyond the Box” when making admissions decisions

The Fair Chance Hiring Pledge encourages businesses to ensure that information regarding an applicant’s criminal record is considered in proper context, and to engage in hiring practices that do not unnecessarily place jobs out of reach for those with criminal records. As of now, more than 300 private companies have signed the pledge.

The Fair Chance Education Pledge encourages universities to move “Beyond the Box” by determining whether criminal justice-related questions are necessary to make an informed admission decision, and if so, whether these questions should be moved to a later part of the application process. As of now, more than 100 college and university campuses have signed the pledge.

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Signed the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu Blue Alert Act to create a nationwide alert system that will warn officers if there is an active threat against law enforcement

Read the President's remarks about the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu Blue Alert Act.

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Created a reentry toolkit that is provided to all individuals leaving federal prison

Read the reentry handbook.

Expanded Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Signed an Executive Order to increase federal employment of individuals with disabilities, and committed the Executive Branch to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in the federal workforce, which at 12 percent of federal government employees, is at its highest level in three decades

OPM: Meeting the President's Challenge to Hire People with Disabilities

The President's Challenge: Hire 100,000 People with Disabilities in 5 Years…

Read the OPM Blog Post

Read the OPM report.

Updated affirmative action regulations to assist Federal contractors in hiring—and improve job opportunities for—individuals with disabilities and established a new 7% utilization goal for individuals with disabilities

U.S. Department of Labor: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) 503 Directory

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Ensured that Americans with disabilities have improved access to health care and protection against being refused coverage because of a pre-existing condition, through the Affordable Care Act

Insurance for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions

For too long, too many Americans with pre-existing conditions were left out of the health insurance marketplace. Health insurance companies could charge these Americans more or simply refuse to cover them. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care system will no longer leave out the people who need care the most.

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Signed into law the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, which allows individuals with disabilities receiving benefits to earn assets without risk of losing needed health benefits and income assistance

Vice President Biden Hosts an Event to Highlight the ABLE Act

On February 10, 2015, Vice President Biden hosted an event at the White House with Members of Congress to highlight the benefits and achievements of the ABLE Act. The Act creates a new savings account for families with people with disabilities.

Watch on YouTube

Signed into law the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act and Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act, both of which provide additional funding for Autism and spinal cord injury research

President Obama Signs Bill to Support the Needs of People with Autism

The Autism CARES Act of 2014, which reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act, continues important investments in research, prevalence monitoring and services for both children and adults on the autism spectrum.

Read the 2014 Blog Post

Visit the HHS Autism Support page on

Signed into law Rosa’s Law, which updates language in Federal policy to use the term intellectual disability

Statement by the Press Secretary, 10/5/10

On Tuesday, October 05, 2010, the President signed into law S. 2781, the “Rosa’s Law,” which changes references in many Federal statutes that currently refer to “mental retardation” to refer, instead, to “intellectual disability."

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Updated regulations through the Department of Education to ensure children with disabilities receive a high-quality early education

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs' (OSEP's)

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities.

Read More (ED.GOV)

Signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 that ensured that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is able to provide beneficiaries the full benefits they have earned; without this legislation, the program would have run short of funds in December 2016, resulting in deep cuts

Signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

This budget agreement prevented a 20% cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits that would’ve occurred at the end of next year, ensuring that the program can continue to pay full benefits without reducing benefit levels or imposing new eligibility restrictions. By reallocating payroll tax revenues based on the funding needs of both SSDI and the retirement and survivors program, Social Security will be able to pay full disability benefits until late 2022.

Read the Related Blog Post

Established the HHS Administration on Community Living, the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, and the State Department Office on International Disability Rights


The President is committed to nurturing a society that values the contributions of all of our citizens and residents, including the approximately 50 million people in this country living with disabilities.

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Launched the “Year of Community Living” to identify ways to improve access to housing, community supports, and independent living arrangements

President Obama Commemorates Anniversary of Olmstead and Announces New Initiatives to Assist Americans with Disabilities

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Worked with the Department of Justice to pursue an aggressive effort to enforce the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., to create opportunities for Americans who are institutionalized to live and work in their communities and prevent thousands of Americans from becoming institutionalized

Statement of the Department of Justice on Enforcement of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C.

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Launched a new Mental Health Early Intervention demonstration project in the Social Security Administration aimed at testing innovative strategies for helping people with disabilities remain in the workforce

Early Intervention Mental Health Demonstration

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Improved Veteran Services

Made historic investments to end veteran homelessness by working with local communities, cutting homelessness among veterans nearly in half

Learn more about the progress we've made to end veteran homelessness.

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Worked with local partners to, through the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, begin the drumbeat to end veteran homelessness - a goal that has been achieved in more than 30 communities including in New Orleans, Houston, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, as well as the entire states of Virginia, Delaware, and Connecticut

The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden have led the Joining Forces initiative’s efforts to give our service members, veterans, and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Through the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, over 800 mayors and other state and local leaders across the country will marshal federal, local, and non-profit efforts to end veteran homelessness in their communities. Ending veteran homelessness means reaching the point where there are no veterans sleeping on our streets and every veteran has access to permanent housing. Should veterans become homeless or be at-risk of becoming homeless, communities will have the capacity to quickly connect them to the help they need to achieve housing stability. When those things are accomplished, our nation will achieve its goal.

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Interagency and Cross-Cutting Initiatives to End and Prevent Veteran Homelessness

The First Lady Announces the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

Improved access to VA health care, including completing nearly 58 million appointments within the VA in the past 12 months,, completing 97 percent of appointments within 30 days of the clinically indicated or veteran’s preferred date, and authorizing over 3 million episodes of care with community partners.

Delivering the Health Care Veterans Have Been Promised

VA has made significant strides in improving access to care, even as more and more veterans are coming to the VA to receive care. Key milestones include

  • Nationally, VA completed more than 57.84 million appointments from June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016. This represents an increase of 1.43 million more appointments than were completed during the same time period in 2014/2015.
  • VA completed 96.71 percent of appointments in May 2016 within 30 days of the clinically indicated or veteran’s preferred date; 94.17 percent within 14 days; 85.63 percent within 7 days; and 21.60 percent are actually completed on the same day.
  • From June 1, 2014 to June 15, 2016, the Electronic Wait List went from 56,271 appointments to 36,616 a 34.9 percent reduction.
  • VA has increased its total clinical work (direct patient care) by 10 percent over the last 2 years as measured by private sector standards (relative value units).  This increase translates to roughly 20 million additional provider hours of care for our Veterans.
  • VA and its contract partners created over 3.2 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector from June 2015 through May  2016. This represents a 7 percent increase in authorizations when compared to the same period in 2014/2015.

To respond to veterans’ mental health needs, and in response to actions taken by the President, VA has taken a number of aggressive actions to address mental health care.  VA provided mental health treatment to more than 1.6 million veterans in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. And as part of the My VA Access initiative, VA has now committed to providing same-day access for veterans with urgent mental health needs.

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Substantially reduced the disability claims backlog, decreasing it by nearly 90 percent since its peak, paying the largest number of claims in history, and dramatically reducing the average times to complete a claim

The Obama Administration is paying the largest number of veteran disability claims in the history of our country. By partnering with Veteran Service Organizations to systematically reduce the benefits claims backlog, we have reduced it by nearly 90% since its peak in March 2013, and veterans with pending claims are now waiting on average less than a third as long for a claims decision.

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Provided over $65 billion in benefit payments under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to more than 1.6 million individuals and their educational institutions

Since inception of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009, VA has provided $65.2 billion in education benefits to over 1.6 million individuals and their educational institutions. The President signed legislation to expand the eligibility criteria for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits under the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship to the surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001.

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Worked with Congress and states to ensure that all 50 states and 5 territories now offer in-state tuition rates for veterans and their dependents at public institutions of higher learning

Announced that all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 5 territories are now providing recently transitioning Veterans and their eligible dependents with in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher learning. This progress was brought about by in response to a provision in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act that the President signed into law in August 2014.

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Helped bring the overall veteran unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent, an eight-year low. In addition, the unemployment rate for Post-9/11 veterans has improved from a peak of 12.1 percent to 4.2 percent today

FACT SHEET: Honoring the Service of Our Nation’s Veterans

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Issued an Executive Order to increase the capacity of VA mental-health programs by hiring 1,600 more mental-health professionals and expanding the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line

Working to Prevent Suicide: VA has increased the capacity of its Veterans Crisis Line, which has answered over 2.3 million calls since its inception and trained all new staff members to ensure that veterans in crisis can readily reach help. To date, the crisis line has initiated the dispatch of emergency services to callers in imminent suicidal crisis over 61,000 times. The Veteran Crisis Line coordinates with DoD to provide assistance to Active Duty Service Members.

  • Reducing Stigma: The Administration is utilizing partnerships to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment for behavioral health issues. “Make the Connection” is a campaign run by the Department of Veterans Affairs to create ways for Veterans and their families to connect with other Veterans. In addition Stand by Them is a VA and DoD-wide theme to encourage veterans, Service members, their families, friends, and other key intermediaries to connect with VA for confidential support.
  • Identifying and Treating Traumatic Brain Injury: VA has launched a comprehensive program to identify, screen and treat all Veterans with TBI, and to ensure that they receive patient-centered, integrated care and benefits. President Obama signed an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act which allows individuals with PTSD and TBI to more easily seek legal protections as they look for and participate in employment opportunities.

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Executive Order -- Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families

Relaxed the evidence requirements for veterans seeking disability pay for post-traumatic stress disorder with the Department of Veterans Affairs

VA Simplifies Access to Health Care and Benefits for Veterans with PTSD

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Proposed boosting funding for veterans by over 85 percent, ensuring that the Department of Veterans Affairs has the funding needed to serve veterans

Over the past seven and a half years, the Administration has made more benefits and opportunities available to more veterans than ever before. The funding requested in the President’s Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs would ensure the Department is resourced at its highest level ever, having increased over 85 percent during the President’s tenure. For the first time in history, beginning in FY 2011, continuity of care for our veterans has been guaranteed, with $66 billion in advance appropriations requested in FY 2018 for VA medical programs to ensure that manufactured crises in Washington don’t disrupt care for our veterans.

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Issued new regulations to include disability rating criteria that ensure veterans with service-connected Traumatic Brain Injuries are properly compensated for their disabilities

FACT SHEET: VA Vet Centers and Administration Progress on Mental Health

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Issued an Executive Order establishing quality guidelines for educational institutions serving service members, veterans and their families

Executive Order -- Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members

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Issued a Presidential Memorandum to strengthen efforts to ensure fair practices in education and training programs for service members, veterans, eligible spouse, and family members

Read the Presidential Memorandum on advancing fair practices by education and training institutions serving service members, veterans, eligible spouses, and other family members.

Improved the Post-9/11 GI Bill Comparison Tool that now provides a more user-friendly experience, mobile device compatibility, and Veteran-specific outcome measures on graduation and retention rates

The Administration has worked to improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill Comparison Tool – created as part of the Presidents 2012 Executive Order Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and their Family Members – that has yielded over 3.2 million unique page views with over 1 million schools searched. The Post-9/11 GI Bill Comparison tools helps to calculate estimated Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, research certain school attributes, and compare educational and training programs.

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The First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces in 2011, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans and their families, and to support them through wellness, education and employment opportunities

The First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces in 2011 and have seen incredible impacts since that time.

Employment: Through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, more than 82,000 military spouses have been hired by nearly 300 private- and public-sector partners since the program launched, and more than 850,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired in the past four years through Joining Forces-allied companies. 50 states have enacted legislation removing credentialing impediments for separating service members and 49 states have enacted legislation assisting in license portability for military spouses.

Education: More than 100 colleges and universities have signed on to “Educate the Educators”, the Joining Forces commitment that will help prepare educators to lead classrooms and develop school cultures that are more responsive to the social, emotional, and academic needs of children in military families. All 50 states have signed on to the Military Child Education Compact to support military students and families.

Wellness: The First Lady launched the Campaign to Change Direction, a mental health public awareness campaign, garnering commitments to teach the “5 Signs” to more than 145 million people. Through a network of medical and mental health professional organizations, this campaign has created opportunities to prepare the nation’s current and future healthcare work force to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families. 

Took Action to Reduce Gun Violence

Clarified that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks

DOJ: Do I need a license to buy and sell firearms?

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Required background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust or corporation

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Ensured States are providing records to the background check system, and work cooperatively with jurisdictions to improve reporting

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Directed an overhaul of the background check system to make it more efficient and effective

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Ensured smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Ensured that dealers notify law enforcement about the theft or loss of their guns

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Issued a memo directing every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts

Federal Efforts to Improve the Safety of Domestic Violence Victims

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Called for significant new resources to increase access to mental health care

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Took steps to include appropriate information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Removed unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information to the background check system

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to take two important steps to promote smart gun technology

FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities

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Continued to build on the 23 executive actions to reduce gun violence announced in January 2013

The President's 2013 plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence:

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Tackled Poverty by Expanding Economic Opportunity and Investing in Neighborhoods and Communities

Real median household income grow 5.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, the fastest annual growth on record. Income grew for households across the income distribution, with the fastest growth among lower- and middle-income households

Learn more about income, poverty and health insurance in the US in 2015.

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The number of people in poverty fall by 3.5 million, leading the poverty rate to fall from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015. This represents the largest one-year drop since 1968, with even larger improvements for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and children. Oversaw the biggest three-year drop in child poverty in the last 50 years.

Learn more about income, poverty and health insurance in the US in 2015.

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Enacted significant expansions of three refundable tax credits — the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit — and successfully fought to make them permanent, lifting millions out of or closer to the poverty line while helping others pay for college

Under President Obama’s leadership, we have made substantial progress in making the tax code fairer for working families.

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Took aggressive action during the Great Recession, keeping between 3.9 and 5.7 million people a year out of poverty from 2009 to 2012 during the worst recession since the Great Depression

“If we are serious about solving this problem, then we're going to not only have to help the police, we're going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we're providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we're reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we're not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we're making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs. … And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.” - President Obama, Tuesday, April 28, 2015 in the Rose Garden

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Extended health insurance to millions of poor and near-poor individuals through the Affordable Care Act, providing access to health care and reducing medical bills for those already stretched

Health Insurance Coverage and the Affordable Care Act​

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Launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) initiative in 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Through the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, more than 230 city, county, and tribal leaders are joining with diverse stakeholders to implement their own cradle-to-college-and-career strategies to help ensure all youth in their communities can achieve their full potential.

The My Brother's Keeper Initiative

On February 27, 2014, the President launched “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) and issued a powerful call to action to close opportunity gaps still faced by too many young people, and often by boys and young men of color in particular. The President’s announcement encouraged candid dialogues around the country and a greater sense of responsibility among community leaders, and young people themselves to put all youth in a position to thrive, regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Watch on Youtube

Read About the My Brother's Keeper Initiative


Implemented recommendations from the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Task Force May 2014 report, which has led to new programs and tools to do what works to address persistent opportunity gaps

More than $500 million in non-federal grants and in-kind resources and $1 billion in independently committed financing have aligned with objectives of the MBK initiative.

Since its launch, efforts have advanced along three areas of focus based on the goals laid out in the MBK Presidential Memorandum: state and local engagement, private sector action — independent nonprofit, philanthropic and corporate action; and Public Policy review and reform. This progress report provides an update on all three approaches in the first year of MBK.

Read the 2014 Report (PDF)

President Obama Reflects on "My Brother's Keeper" around the one-year anniversary:

Watch on YouTube

Established Promise Neighborhoods supporting local leaders as they implement evidence-based cradle-to-career supports for educational success, including both family and community supports. Some high-poverty communities pursuing these strategies are already seeing marked improvement in kindergarten readiness, school attendance, high school graduation rates, and college preparedness. Promise Neighborhoods

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Incentivized innovative work in state and local governments through Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth to give state, local, and tribal governments an opportunity to test innovative new strategies to improve outcomes for low-income disconnected youth

This work focused on children and young adults ages 14 to 24, including youth who are in foster care, homeless, young parents, involved in the justice system, unemployed, or who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school. Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3)

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Prompted more than 1,000 communities in all 50 states to prioritize smart-growth, livability, and sustainability when developing plans for housing, transportation, and economic development

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is a HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership that coordinates housing, transportation, and environmental protection planning to find smarter and more sustainable ways to grow, develop, and improve quality of life.

Read the Fact Sheet (PDF)

Learn more at

Transformed distressed housing in high-poverty areas, developing nearly 10,000 units of mixed income housing

Choice Neighborhoods

Invested over $500 million in the Choice Neighborhoods program to plan and implement the revitalization of high-poverty areas into sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with services, schools, transportation and access to jobs; will develop nearly 10,000 units of mixed housing.

Learn More (HUD)

Expanded the Neighborhood Stabilization Program which provided $7 billion in funding to communities to manage the vacant and foreclosed properties

Neighborhood Stabilization Program

Congress established the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned homes and residential properties, the goal of the program is being realized.

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FACT SHEET: Making Homeownership More Accessible and Sustainable

Brought clean drinking water and better waste management to 14.5 million rural residents through finance of infrastructure investments in rural communities

Since 2009, USDA has brought clean drinking water and better waste water management to 14.5 million rural residents through 7,000 loans and grants for water and waste water community infrastructure projects. These investments helped to create or save approximately 150,000 jobs.

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Developed a more effective and collaborative approach to how the Federal government engages with local communities

The Obama Administration put the needs and priorities of citizens and local leaders at the center of federal efforts by streamlining and targeting federal support, building capacity to pursue long-term objectives, and using data to identify what works. The Administration aligned Federal resources and expertise with the priorities of local government, nonprofit, business, and community residents, working closely with more than 1,800 communities across the country to address various challenges—from improving access to affordable housing and transportation options to creating pathways to jobs of the future, boosting opportunity for more Americans.

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Advanced local efforts to affirmatively further fair housing by equipping communities with open data and engaging community members in developing local plans to close gaps in access to opportunity

Weekly Address: Making Our Communities Stronger Through Fair Housing

Watch on YouTube

See the Transcript for the Video

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Launched the Strong Cities Strong Communities initiative, a partnership between the federal government and mayors of chronically distressed cities that have faced significant long-term challenges in developing and implementing their economic strategies

Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative (SC2)

As part of the President’s priority to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and build ladders of opportunity as communities regain their economic footing, SC2 named 14 locations to receive technical advice and expertise from federal inter-agency teams.

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Expanded access to high-quality preschool through its Preschool Development Grants competition, which has provided grants to 18 states to support high-quality early childhood education programs for children from low-income families

In the President’s 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. As part of that effort, the President will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child — beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. By doing so, the President would invest critical resources where we know the return on our dollar is the highest: in our youngest children.

Read the Fact Sheet

More than 30 states have increased funding for early education since the President announced preschool for all in 2013.

Raised the bar on quality in Head Start by requiring programs that don’t meet certain standards to compete for continued funding and securing funding to increase the number of programs providing a full school day and year program

Expanding Opportunity for America's Kids by Strengthening Head Start

The Department of Health and Human Services announces important new changes to the Head Start program that build on this Administration’s efforts to improve services for our country’s youngest children.

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Enacted a bipartisan child care law that requires child care programs to meet higher quality standards

A Busy Year for Child Care

Today we are celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the first reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant in nearly 20 years.

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Secured education reform efforts that focus on ensuring that all K-12 schools have college and career ready standards, high quality teachers and leaders, and that low performing schools are turned around. Nearly every state (49 states and the District of Columbia) has adopted higher academic state-driven expectations for their K-12 students, so that what students learn is aligned with college and career expectations and with the work of their peers in other countries.

Expanded and Improved Educational Opportunities for Pre-Kindergarten Through 12th Grade

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Signed the Every Students Succeeds Act to fix No Child Left Behind, ensuring that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, reduce the burden of standardized tests, and provide more children access to high-quality state preschool programs

Made college more affordable by increasing Pell grants, keeping interest rates on student loans low, and helping students manageably repay their loans

Made College More Affordable, Strengthened Community Colleges, and Improved College Accountability

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Made historic investments in improved child nutrition and health for the 31 million children who rely on school meals through passage of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act

Made 115,000 more students eligible for school meals, and updated science-based school meal standards to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, while reducing fats and sodium.

Allowed schools in high poverty communities to provide free school meals to all students, improving access to nutritious meals and reducing administrative costs.

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Re-oriented and improved Federal job training programs to ensure that they are training workers to fill high growth, ready-to-fill jobs, building on evidence-based approaches

Expanded and Improved Job-Training Opportunities

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Tackled child poverty in rural America with innovations that ensure rural families have access to the support they need despite vast geographies and distance to services

Opportunity for All: Fighting Rural Child Poverty

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Launched “Rural Impact,” a cross-agency effort led by the White House Rural Council to combat poverty and improve upward mobility in rural and tribal places by innovating program delivery in key programs, including designating ten rural communities for a demonstration that will provide targeted technical assistance to help communities adopt a two-generation approach to programs, policies, and systems to better meet the needs of low-income kids and parents

Opportunity for All: White House Rural Council Launches “Rural Impact” Effort to Help Rural Children and Families Succeed

Rural Impact is a new effort from the White House Rural Council to address the challenge of rural child poverty by bringing together federal agencies and public and private resources.

Read the Blog Post


Made targeted investments in rural areas of persistent poverty through the Department of Agriculture's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative

USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity

StrikeForce has brought critical resources to 880 rural counties in need in 21 states and Puerto Rico.

"There's a whole series of success stories in the StrikeForce States — that's why we're trying to expand this opportunity in other states, so we can send the message that USDA is focused not just on places where there has been prosperity recently in rural areas, but also focusing on trying to address the challenge of persistent poverty." - USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

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Used evidence to grow efforts with a proven record of success, such as housing initiatives to reduce veteran homelessness by nearly half.

These efforts not only have scaled up evidence based efforts, but also have funded innovative initiatives designed to expand our toolkit of effective approaches to improving outcomes for children and youth.

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Catalyzed the development of Pay for Success as a new, national strategy to scale data-driven, cross-silo and evidence-based interventions

With support of seven Federal agencies, nearly 100 jurisdictions are advancing PFS approaches to increase the use of data to inform impact and drive government resources toward more effective programs for school readiness, employment, homelessness prevention, reduced recidivism justice system involvement, child welfare, and health for vulnerable populations.

Created the Social Innovation Fund, which has funded over 300 high-impact community organizations to address poverty while building evidence about what works to increase economic opportunity, promote healthy futures, and improve outcomes for youth

Thanks to SIF and its partners, over 590,000 Americans have been served in 35 states. The SIF’s $243 million investment has leveraged more than $500 million in philanthropic matching dollars.

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Launched permanent supportive housing for the reentry population through Pay for Success

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice launched an $8.7 million demonstration grant in 2015 to address homelessness and reduce recidivism among the justice-involved population.

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Supported public housing residents through Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program awards

With funding provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice to allow the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the awards provided $1.75 million in 2016 to aid eligible public housing residents who are under the age of 25 to expunge or seal their records in accordance with their applicable state laws.

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Promoted equitable development with a Housing Development Toolkit that highlights the actions states and local jurisdictions can take to promote healthy and affordable housing markets

The Housing Development Toolkit includes best practices such as streamlining permitting processes, reducing minimum lot sizes, and enacting high-density and multifamily zoning policies.

Read more about this work here:

When Communities Pull Up the Ladder of Opportunity

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Made it easier for families with HUD rental housing vouchers to move to more affluent neighborhoods by establishing a new method for calculating rental values

Rather than use the metropolitan area average to calculate the value of a voucher, jurisdictions with a high degree of variance in rent and a concentration of voucher holders in high-poverty neighborhoods can now calculate rents based on zip code. This will make it so the value of vouchers will more accurately reflect the cost of the neighborhood. Research shows that when families have access to more affluent neighborhoods, they see significantly higher earnings and a greater likelihood of having attended college.

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Promoted the health of public housing residents and staff by implementing a smoke-free policy that improves in-home air quality, reduces risk of fires and lowers overall maintenance costs

Learn more about HUD’s smoke-free policy.

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Created the White House Rural Council to address challenges in Rural America and build on the Administration's rural economic strategy

Learn more about the accomplishments of the White House Rural Council and strategies that have helped rural communities.

Expanded local and county support to tackle rural child poverty through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural IMPACT County Challenge, which includes over 100 counties across 30 states

Learn more about the Rural Impact County Challenge and local response to child poverty.

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Formed new partnerships in diverse rural communities, resulting in a 12 percent increase in the number of black farmers and a 21 percent increase in Hispanic farmers between 2007 and 2012

Read more about how this Administration has promoted civil rights in agricultural industries here.

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Advanced a tiered-evidence approach to grantmaking—such as the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund and the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3)—to develop and scale innovative programs

Federal agencies and match funders have awarded nearly $3 billion in grants to develop and scale innovative approaches to grantmaking - such as the Corporation for Social Innovation Fund and Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) – to address poverty and economic opportunity, improve student achievement and attainment, transform public workforce systems, and reduce teen pregnancy rates with a proven record of success.

Learn more about the Social Innovation Fund:

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Learn more about i3:

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Launched the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative to improve the lives of Native youth

The Gen-I initiative focuses on improving the lives of Native Youth through new investments and increased engagement, the Native Youth Challenge, a Cabinet Listening Tour, and Native Youth Community Project grants to improve college and career-readiness.

Learn more about Gen-I:

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Established the White House Council on Native American Affairs to strengthen government-to-government relations and coordinate policies that promote and sustain prosperous and resilient tribal communities

Learn more about the White House Council on Native American Affairs.

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Restored 1.7 million acres in Native American Tribal Homelands through the Land Buy-Back Program and placed 500,000 acres of land into Tribal trust status

Learn more about the Land Buy-Back Program.

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Expanded partnerships between the federal government and nonprofit organizations, both secular and faith-based, to better serve those in need both at home and abroad

The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships coordinates agency Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Each Center forms partnerships between its agency and faith-based and neighborhood organizations to advance specific goals to help communities across the country and around the world. During the Obama Administration, the Department of State opened an Office of Religion and Global Affairs and the Peace Corps inaugurated its Faith Initiative. Also, for the first time, EPA dedicated staff to forming partnerships with faith and community groups to advance that agency’s objectives. Read more here.

The Office implemented common-ground reforms of rules governing partnerships with faith-based and other community organizations. Read more here.

Established the first-ever Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The President’s Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships makes recommendations for changes in policies, programs, and practices that affect the delivery of services by faith and community organizations and the needs of low-income and other underserved persons in communities domestically and around the world. The Administration’s three Advisory Councils have addressed issues including fatherhood and healthy families, environment and climate change, global development, interreligious cooperation, human trafficking, poverty and inequality.

At the recommendation of the first Advisory Council, the Administration implemented changes to the rules governing partnerships with faith-based and community groups to provide new religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of federally-funded social service programs, while also adding new protections for the ability of religious providers to compete for government funds on the same basis as any other private organization. Read more here.

Established the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, and broadened it to include 500 educational institutions and individuals from across the country and around the world

President Obama established the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge to build bridges of understanding across differences and serve our neighbors. As of its sixth year, more than 500 schools have participated, across 40 states and 20 countries.

Tackled homelessness by working with community organizations to help Americans access and understand federal resources.

In 2010, President Obama created Opening Doors, the first Federal strategic plan to end homelessness.  

Provided information to over 12,000 faith, government, and community leaders on how to identify and report potentially at-risk victims and recognize the signs of the traumatic impact of human trafficking

President Obama asked his Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to make recommendations for how the Federal government can strengthen its partnerships with community organizations, including faith and community leaders, to respond to the needs of survivors of trafficking. In 2013, the Advisory Council delivered to the President its report of recommendations, Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery. The White House has worked alongside the Council and engaged over 12,000 community and religious leaders through training, technical assistance, capacity building and outreach across the country and around the world.

Made long-overdue improvements to the child support system

In 2016, HHS published a final rule that represents the first comprehensive revision of the child support regulations since welfare reform. The rule modernizes the child support system to incorporate evidence-based practices and innovative approaches, making the program more flexible, effective, and efficient with the end goal of improving child support collection and better serving families. 

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The Work Ahead

President Obama asked each member of his Cabinet to write an Exit Memo on the progress we’ve made, their vision for the country’s future, and the work that remains in order to achieve that vision. Here are their key points on the work ahead to expand social progress.

Reforming our Broken Immigration System

“All of [this Administration’s] efforts to improve our broken immigration system have been important and have led to meaningful progress.  But they are fundamentally insufficient in achieving the overall goal of truly fixing the system.  The next Administration and the next Congress must return to the subject of comprehensive immigration reform.  Everyone agrees the immigration system is broken. For one thing, we must reckon with the millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows in this country, who have been here for years, who are not criminals, who are not going away, and who should be given the opportunity to come forward and become accountable.  The next President and the next Congress should finally address this and other immigration issues and adopt comprehensive immigration reform.”
Secretary Johnson

Creating a More Just Criminal Justice System

“Much of the work still ahead on criminal justice reform requires congressional action.  Among other steps, Congress should pass a sentencing reform bill that reduces mandatory minimums for non-violent, low-level drug offenders.  Sentences need to fit the crime.  When sentences are too long, they harm public safety, waste taxpayer dollars, and severely damage communities.”
Attorney General Lynch

Enacting Gun Safety Measures

"We hope future Administrations build on these efforts by implementing the kind of commonsense gun safety reforms supported by a majority of the American people.  For example, Congress should fund 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws. And it is long past time that Congress take action on commonsense gun reform legislation, and I urge the next Congress to do so.”
Attorney General Lynch

Protecting Voting Rights

“In the next Administration, the Justice Department should continue to defend the voting rights of Americans under the provisions of the act that remain, while making clear the enormous stakes of Congress failing to restore Section 5 of the VRA.””
Attorney General Lynch

Forging a Better Political System

“We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.  We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now.”
President Obama (2016 State of the Union Address)