Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

52 posts categorized "Action Alert"

The Great American Dream: To Breathe Free

By Arnulfo Moreno

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

My dad learned this famous Emma Lazarus quote last year as he prepared to take his citizenship test. He emigrated from El Salvador in 1974 to escape a life of poverty and an eventual civil war.

WeddingMy dad is the second youngest of 11 children. When he was a child, his father was killed in a local dispute. Shortly after, my dad’s older brother, Rafael, left for the United States in search of work in order to support the family. Tensions were rising in El Salvador between a growing Marxist presence and a militaristic government backed by the United States. Jobs were scarce, so my father followed his brother to the United States so that he, too, could help the family by earning and income.

My dad was 17 when he crossed the border. A bad economy forced my dad to leave his home country; a violent civil war made him to stay in the new one.  

Rafael helped my dad get his first job here in Washington, D.C. He worked odd job after odd job, sending as much money back as possible to support his mother and siblings. Rafael also helped him adapt to the American way of life, introducing him to hotdogs and hamburgers and showing him how to drive a car.

After years of hard work, the company my father worked for sponsored him so he could receive permanent residency. He was finally able to breathe free. My dad was also finally able to go back home and see his mother. He was 34.

I vividly remember my first trip to El Salvador in 1992, a year after the civil war ended. My dad is from a small mountain farm village that reminded me of spaghetti westerns. Everyone carried a gun. Trees were littered with pieces of uniforms and field equipment from unlucky soldiers who had stepped on well-hidden landmines.   

I have visited El Salvador only a few times since then, but my father continues to go every six months without fail. Like his brother, Rafael, my dad had always hoped of retiring in El Salvador—a dream most immigrants have. On my last trip back in 2000, I met Rafael, who had become a pastor, and I saw the empty lot where he planned to build a community center. With the civil war behind them, Rafael felt his community had also earned the right to breathe free.

Last year, Rafael was killed, shot seven times at point-blank range in front of the community center. It reminded us of the violence that still ravages my dad’s country. It reminded me that not everyone has the luxury of breathing free. My dad wasn’t able to tell him that he had finally become a citizen of his adopted country. My dad’s dream of retiring in his home country seems less likely as violence continues to devastate his motherland.

My dad calls his mother every day. She continues to live in the mountains, carrying a six-shooter for security, refusing to come to the United States. El Salvador is her home.  

* * *

Tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty today. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

Photo:  Arnulfo Moreno (pictured far right) with his father (pictured far left) at his sister's wedding.  (Courtesy of Arnulfo Moreno)

This is a Humanitarian Crisis

12090859716_8bb9d5217e_b

Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger.  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

UPDATE: August 8, 2014

Before leaving for the August recess, House lawmakers passed a $694 million border bill, but failed to provide new funding to address the hunger, poverty, and violence causing the surge in unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. This debate is not over. Congress will revisit this issue when they return in September. In the meantime, your senators and representatives will be home throughout August. Take advantage of Bread's August recess resources, and raise this issue in town hall meetings, at the local district office, and other events.

By Eric Mitchell

Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.

A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.

A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.

Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.

There are two things you can do right now to help.

  1. Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
  2. Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.

Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.

While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.

If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.

The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Defend the Rights of the Poor: Tell Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

10693837485_f33a394516_b
Rosa tends to the family live stock, a usual task for many children in rural Guatemala where she lives. Child malnutrition rates are also among the highest in the world causing an annual GDP loss estimated at $300m. Immigration reform must address the poverty and hunger that drives migration.  (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Eric Mitchell

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the southern U.S. border. In their home countries, many of these children face violence, extreme poverty, and hunger. With hopes for a better future for their children, parents have made the difficult decision to send their children thousands of miles away to escape the horrible conditions at home.

Your Representative needs to hear from you! We need to flood their offices with calls and emails in the next 48 hours.

Politics may be blocking comprehensive immigration reform, but Congress shouldn’t wait to act! This issue is more than just law enforcement or what happens at the border. Congress must address the root causes of migration.

Can you take two minutes right now to contact your Representative? Simply say: I urge you to pass legislation that supports development-assistance programs, especially those addressing migration push factors, including hunger and poverty.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative today and urge for a vote on immigration reform.

If we support successful development programs in countries like Honduras and Guatemala, we can help to not only reduce hunger and poverty, but also the likelihood of parents sending their children to migrate alone to the United States.

There are only a few days left before Congress leaves for its August recess. Our faith calls us to “defend the rights of the poor.”

Please help us get  calls and emails to Congress in the next 48 hours.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations as Bread for the World.

What is the Future of Immigration Reform?

6859974650_2c5f4acf34_b
A migrant worker piles cucumbers in Blackwater, Virginia, on the farm of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard on Monday, July 25, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth-Pohl/Bread for the World)

By David Beckmann

Last week's election news stunned the nation. For the first time in modern history, the House majority leader lost a primary election. The big question for Bread for the World members now is: What does Eric Cantor’s loss mean for hungry people, particularly as it relates to immigration reform?

Cantor's loss confirms two things:

  • First, it's not the policy that's holding immigration reform back. Members of Congress get the policy. It's the politics.
  • Second, your voice is more important than ever before! Cantor lost because he failed to spend enough time in his district and pay enough attention to his constituents. If members of Congress are learning anything from Virginia's primary elections, it's that they need to respond to the concerns of their constituents. In most districts — even Cantor's district — polls show constituents want immigration reform.

Use this opportunity to make your voice heard on immigration reform! Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative today and urge for a vote on immigration reform.

Immigration reform that alleviates poverty in the United States by providing a path to legalization (and thus higher wages and greater opportunity) and examining the conditions of poverty and hunger in migrant-sending countries could be dramatic in our work to end hunger. Too many people have waited too long and suffered too much for us to give up now. It's time to turn immigration reform from an agenda item to an action item. Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative today!

This year, Bread for the World is celebrating its 40th anniversary. We have four decades of history to show what’s possible when Christians speak out to Congress. Let’s raise our voices and add another victory to the list of progress against hunger!

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 

Act Now: Support Food-Aid Reform


Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S. food-aid items are carried out by private relief and development organizations, many of them supported by U.S. churches. Today, Rep. Ed Royce is introducing an amendment to make sure there is money for efficient food-aid programs that will reach more people, faster and at no additional cost. (Stephen H. Padre)

Update: The Royce amendment to fund  passed by a vote of 223 Yeas to 198 Nays. Thank you for your advocacy.

By Ryan Quinn

Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day, hundreds of advocates walked the halls of Congress and urged their legislators to enact food-aid reform and immigration reform. Our efforts moved us one step closer to reaching our ultimate goal of ending hunger by 2030, but there is still more work to be done!

Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) is introducing an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill to ensure there is money for more efficient food-aid programs that can reach more people, in a timelier manner— including funding for local and regional purchase programs. This amendment will be on the House floor today!

We need you to call your representative at 800-826-3688 and urge him or her to support the Royce amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 4800). This amendment will fund money for local and regional purchase programs, allowing our international food aid to help more people, faster and at no additional cost. Again, this amendment is coming up for a vote today, so please take action now—it’s quick, easy, and will make a huge difference!

Ryan Quinn is Bread for the World's senior international policy analyst.

Many Faiths, One Purpose

By Eric Mitchell

New Testament: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

Qu’ran: “the destruction of one innocent life is like the destruction of the whole of humanity and the saving of one life is like the saving of the whole of humanity.” (Al-Ma’idah ”the Tablespread” 5:32)

Hebrew Scripture: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? . . (Isaiah 58)

Today, leaders from various faiths and from across the country have come to Washington, D.C., to share their commitment to promoting the dignity of all people, including the world’s most vulnerable.

Representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths, as well as heads of religious organizations, will be on Capitol Hill to speak out in support of funding for lifesaving humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance programs.

Will you also be part of these efforts and call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress today?

Urge your members to robustly fund humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance accounts within the International Affairs budget as these programs support agricultural development and nutrition, emergency humanitarian assistance, global health, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, and more.

Collectively, as faith leaders and fellow believers alike, motivated by our shared moral beliefs, we can make a difference in advocating for limited federal dollars for these programs. They make up less than 1 percent of the federal budget but are invaluable inlifting millions of people around the world out of hunger, poverty, and disease.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

2 Million People Could Lose Lifesaving Food Aid

Sudan_food_aid
Women carry their ration of food, after fleeing their homes in the village of Abyei, engulfed by heavy fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army. (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)

By Eric Mitchell

This is outrageous!

The House of Representatives recently voted to deny access to lifesaving food aid to 2 million people around the world.

Why? Because a few very big, very powerful shipping conglomerates demanded preferential treatment at the expense of purchasing food intended to feed people struggling to survive. Lawmakers capitulated.

U.S. food aid should feed hungry people, not hungry shipping conglomerates. Fortunately, the Senate can stop this bad idea from becoming law.

Call (800-326-4941) or email your senators today! Urge them to reject any actions that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent hungry people around the world from receiving U.S. food assistance. The House-passed provisions in the Coast Guard spending bill would increase transportation costs for U.S. food aid by $75 million each year and leave at least 2 million vulnerable people without access to lifesaving food-aid programs.

Background:

Last month, an obscure provision was tucked inside a Coast Guard spending bill, which would prevent millions of people in troubled countries around the world from receiving American food aid and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in shipping expenses.

The provision requires 75 percent of U.S. international food aid to be sent on American ships, up from the 50 percent now required by law. An increase in the amount of U.S. food aid that must be transported on American ships jeopardizes the U.S.'s ability to provide lifesaving assistance to millions of children and adults who are facing dire conditions due to conflict and natural disaster. These restrictions would increase transportation costs for U.S. food aid by $75 million each year, and leave 2 million vulnerable people without access to lifesaving food aid.

The Senate is expected to consider this legislation soon. As a constituent, your voice is critical in pushing back! Don't let Congress snatch food from the mouths of millions of hungry people in order to benefit shipping companies.

When 842 million people around the world go hungry every day, making every dollar designated for food aid count is both a responsible use of taxpayer money and a moral imperative. Email or call your senators at 800-326-4941 today!

Thank you for your voice.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

Act Now: Senate Voting This Week on Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment

By Eric Mitchell

The Senate is about to attempt again to extend unemployment insurance, and this time it may have the votes to pass it! But it will be close.

As early as tomorrow, the Senate may vote on a new bipartisan deal that would reinstate aid for the 2 million people who have been cut off from long-term unemployment assistance.

Please call (800-826-3688) or email your senators right now! Urge them to vote to extend unemployment insurance.

Last time, the Senate was one vote short. But now we have a chance to pass a bill and send a strong message to the House.

Over 2 million unemployed workers have been cut off from aid since emergency unemployment assistance expired on December 28. If Congress doesn't extend emergency unemployment insurance, then 5 million people will see their assistance end in 2014. For so many people spending hours each day searching for a job, this aid ensures that they and their families don't go hungry during a hard spell of unemployment.

Please take just two minutes to call or email your members of Congress. Tell them to vote for extending emergency unemployment insurance.

Your calls, emails, and prayers can make the difference.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

Tell Congress to Support a Global Nutrition Strategy

Pisano program
Paisano
is a USAID program implemented in Guatemala that aims to address child malnutrition and is highlighted in Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming Food Aid." (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Eric Mitchell

Thanks to Bread for the World members, Congress is beginning to recognize the importance of global maternal and child nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2 of a child's life.

Last year, funding for global nutrition efforts was increased to $115 million compared to the previous year’s funding of $95 million. That’s nearly a 22 percent increase in funding. Congress is starting to get it. And for good reason, because every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

Last year, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would take the lead in developing a comprehensive nutrition strategy that would serve as the basis for a more robust global nutrition approach for the U.S. government as a whole. Through better coordination of nutrition programs and closer evaluation of the effectiveness of these programs, we can help to end hunger by ensuring that more vulnerable women and children throughout the world are living healthy, productive, and hope-filled lives. USAID is set to release this strategy next month, but before it's unveiled, we need more members of Congress to express their support for this nutrition strategy.

Right now, Reps. Adam Smith (D-9WA) and Ander Crenshaw (R-4FL) are circulating a letter to President Obama expressing support for a nutrition strategy.

Call toll-free: 800-826-3688 or email your representative, and ask him or her to sign the Smith-Crenshaw letter in support of a USAID’s nutrition strategy!

Together, we are making a difference on Capitol Hill and with the administration. Let’s continue to advance the importance of the 1,000 Days movement for vulnerable women and children throughout the world. Our nutritional investments now in young children can have payoffs for years to come.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

More than Snow Keeping Nearly 2 Million from Work

DC Snow by RobynToday’s snow day is an inconvenience for members of Congress who can’t get to work, but the snow cannot be blamed for the fact that they have been frozen by inaction around renewing emergency unemployment benefits. That Congress continues to leave 2 million job seekers out in the cold without help, while the market is still weak, is irresponsible and unacceptable.

While senators bicker over how to pay for the extension, 38-year-old former medical biller Trista Selmar-Steed wonders how she can pay for basic necessities, like food. While senators talk about the deficit, Illinois resident Jennifer listens as her phone rings with calls from bill collectors, but no job offers. Without benefits, she doesn’t have access to the resources that could help her find a job, she recently told PBS Newshour. 

The stories of the long-term unemployed all follow a similar path – downhill. Congress can change that by reinstating their benefits. These are people who once got up and went to work each day, paid their bills, and contributed to the economy, but now live the daily nightmare of unemployment. An estimated 200,000 are veterans, and new people are joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed everyday.

There are still three applicants for each job opening in this country; the United States has not reached full employment and January’s jobs report shows growth is anemic and wages are lagging.

For the third time, the Senate is expected to vote on extending unemployment insurance this week. A few weeks ago, Congress failed to advance this bill by just one vote. It is likely that one vote will again determine the outcome. It is also likely that one of three Republicans holds that decision in his hands: Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, or Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. They must hear from constituents, as well as their colleagues, and be urged to do the right thing.

If your senators are on record with a vote to renew benefits, still call them and tell them they have your support. You may even ask them to reach out to their colleagues Kirk, Portman, and Coats, and ask them to vote to renew emergency unemployment benefits (EUC) immediately. If you are from Indiana, Illinois or Ohio, it is even more urgent that you call 800-826-3688, or send a personal email.

It is easier to build a fence at the top of a cliff than to drive an ambulance to the bottom, goes the adage. Each week that passes without action, more and more Americans are headed in the wrong direction when Congress could easily act on their behalf and help them change course.

Photo: Washington D.C. March 3, 2013 (courtesy of Robyn Johnson).

Stay Connected

Bread for the World