Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Immigration As a Hunger and Poverty Issue

Rev. Luis Cortés at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World).

Immigration and hunger are closely related. Addressing Bread for the World members during the 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., last weekend, Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., noted that “Food, like immigration, is a fight about morality.” 

Rev. Cortés, president of Esperanza USA, the largest Hispanic faith-based community-development corporation in the country, said that comprehensive immigration reform must be a key component in efforts to end hunger.  “To not have immigration reform,” he said, “is to perpetuate hunger in America.”

Debate on a 1,000-plus page bill has begun this week on the Senate floor and is expected to continue through the July 4 break. The "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" includes an earned legalization process for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, increased enforcement both at the border and inside the United States, and a revamped guest worker program for both low-skill and high-skill sectors.

Senators from both parties are preparing dozens of amendments to the bill. Proposals that do not take into account hunger as a root cause of migration or address domestic hunger in immigrant populations in the United States offer an incomplete solution.

Hunger is a root cause of migration and reducing hunger internationally would ease forces that push unauthorized immigration, reducing the need for those escaping extreme poverty to flee their countries of origin. Lack of legal status in the U.S. also contributes to food insecurity and exploitation. Rev. Cortés pointed out the irony that many immigrants are farm workers who lack access to adequate nutrition: “You know what is really weird? When you work on a farm and you’re hungry,” he said

During the National Gathering workshop “Immigration as a Poverty and Hunger Issue," Bread for the World Institute senior immigration analyst Andrew Wainer presented the stark facts  (see PowerPoint below). According to the Department of Labor, the average income for a farmworker is between $17,500 and $19,999 each year, and poverty rates for undocumented immigrants are disproportionately high.

The call to end hunger must include extending legal status to undocumented workers while providing development assistance to countries with high poverty rates.


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