President Obama on Monday announced a new executive order that prevents federal agencies from making job-applicants reveal they have a criminal record as part of his overall criminal justice reform effort.
The so-called “drop the box” initiative would allow prospective employees not to check a box on some federal applications that acknowledges a criminal record.
“It is relevant to find out if somebody has a criminal record,” Obama said at an event in Newark, N.J. “I’m not suggesting ignore it. I’m suggesting that when it comes to applications, give folks a chance to get through the door.”
The president said 19 states and major U.S. companies such as Koch Industries, Target and Walmart have already removed the question from applications, and he urged Congress to pass legislation to expand the effort.
“My hope is this becomes a basic principle across our society,” said Obama, whose Democratic two-term presidency ends in just 14 months.
New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed such legislation into law last year.
Criminal justice reform has gotten bipartisan support on Capitol Hill from Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, and Kentucky’s Rand Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate.
New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker is among congressional Democrats supporting such reform.
The president in his announcement also called for more programs to help former inmates reenter society.
He said roughly 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record and that making sure they can find jobs, housing and education is good for the economy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.