70 posts categorized "Immigration"
With little fanfare, Congress passed a continuing resolution this week to extend funding for the government through mid-December. Lawmakers now head home to campaign for midterm elections, leaving a pile of unfinished business in Washington, D.C.
Congress will not return to the capital until November 12. Bread for the World urges advocates to use the flurry of campaign activity as an opportunity to make hunger an elections issue.
“The more advocates lift up hunger as an election issue, the more Congress will act on legislation that can end hunger by 2030,” says Amelia Kegan, deputy director of Bread for the World’s government relations department.
The funding extension passed before Congress left on recess was modified to include additional funding to arm Syrian rebels, but did not include dollars to address the poverty that is driving children to flee Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Lawmakers did include instructions allowing certain federal agencies to spend at higher rates to address the surge of child refugees at the border.
Congress also returns home as the World Food Program (WFP) warns of unprecedented global food emergencies and dwindling resources. WFP will cut food rations to four million Syrian refugees by 40 percent in October because of shortages. Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq have all been designated as level-three (the highest) humanitarian crises by WFP, straining the food aid system.
As the world’s largest donor of food aid, the United States can free up even more food resources by increasing efficiencies without raising taxes. A bill in the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), addresses reform, and we are urging senators to cosponsor the bill.
On the heels of the news that 45.3 million Americans live below the poverty line, Congress must address a jobs agenda that includes work that pays a living wage. Tax credits that help end hunger are also expiring before the end of the year.
One bright spot is that the passage of the continuing resolution yesterday to fund the government allows us to avoid a partisan showdown like we experienced last fall that shut the federal government down for more than two weeks. However, Congress left a lot of work undone.
“These are big issues they are leaving on the table, “says Kegan. “When lawmakers return, they need to address all these issues in budget decisions by December 11.”
Kegan stresses that advocacy efforts right now will reverberate long past December. She says the elections work will play a big role in ending hunger during the 2015 session if candidates hear from voters. “ The elections,” she says, “will set the tone for next year when Congress begins work on the 2016 budget.”
The national trends both globally and domestically have been very positive. World hunger declined in 2014, and a report from UNICEF released yesterday says that child deaths have been cut in half since 1990. As the U.S. economy rebounds, more people are returning to the labor market, and poverty rates here at home have decreased slightly, by 0.5 percent, for the first time since 2006.
Now is not the time to let up on hunger. Engage the candidates and help make hunger history.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer
As summer draws to a close, members of Congress return to Washington for a short work period before entering the final campaign stretch before the midterm elections. Here are hunger-related items before Congress this fall:
Over the August recess, Bread has been urging senators to co-sponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act, introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). This food-aid reform legislation will free up as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid and enable U.S. food aid to reach up to nine million more people. Read more about the legislation at www.bread.org/indistrict. While this legislation may not become law this year, more co-sponsors will significantly help push the issue forward in the new Congress.
The Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to mark up the Coast Guard reauthorization bill (S. 2444), but that mark-up was postponed before the August recess due to unrelated issues. There is no word on when the legislation will come back up in committee, but Bread will continue to encourage senators to omit the harmful cargo-preference provision that the House had. This harmful provision increases the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged carriers, costing the government an additional $75 million and would leave 2 million hungry people around the world without access to lifesaving food aid.
Immigration and Unaccompanied Children
In the weeks before the August recess, Congress was debating and crafting legislation to address the surge of unaccompanied children fleeing Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Read Bread’s bill analysis on the pieces of legislation that Congress considered before its recess at www.bread.org/indistrict.
Until recently, the debate has lacked much attention to the root causes of the crisis: poverty, hunger, and violence. However, during July, Bread activists sent over 10,000 emails to their senators and representatives, urging them to include these root causes as part of any legislation addressing the child refugee crisis. In meetings with congressional offices over the past few weeks, Bread staff have noticed that members of Congress are starting to incorporate root causes into their thinking about the issue.
When Congress returns, there will be two opportunities for legislators to address the child refugee crisis. Congress could pass a separate emergency supplemental spending bill as both the House and Senate were attempting to do before the recess. Alternatively, Congress could include provisions to address the crisis in the regular spending, or appropriations, bill, which is a “must-pass” piece of legislation to keep the government open. Congress will pass a short-term measure in September to get through the mid-term elections and will then revisit these appropriations decisions for the remainder of the fiscal year in December. Both periods offer an opportunity for Congress to add language addressing the surge of refugee children in the U.S.
Budget and Appropriations
In September, Congress will have to pass some sort of budget as the government's fiscal year ends at the end of the month. Congress may pass a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. The easiest route is to pass a clean CR that just extends current funding levels. However, both parties will push for certain spending add-ons, such as funding for the border or wildfires. Some Republicans could also press for additional spending cuts. Any CR is likely to last until mid-December to push any concerns over a shutdown beyond the mid-term elections.
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.
By Robin Stephenson
An expiring budget, food aid reform, and a humanitarian crisis at the border await Congress. After hearing from the voters, will Congress return from a five-week recess on September 8 ready to act on these connected issues?
Asked if it is possible, Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World’s deputy director of government relations, answers emphatically. “Absolutely. If they have the political will and make ending hunger a priority, they will work together.”
“These issues are too important for Congress to sit on any longer.”
The 2014 budget expires October 1. Congress has only 11 working days to pass a temporary extension before going on another break or face a government shutdown.
In addition to simply extending the budget, Congress should protect funding for WIC and maintain a strong safety net as the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession. As the economy slowly improves, further cuts could sink more Americans into deeper poverty.
Looming famine in South Sudan, drought in Latin America, and Ebola in West Africa are wreaking havoc with global food security – not to mention the millions of conflict-displaced families needing help in the Middle East. Efforts to address global hunger today mitigate food prices and global security concerns in the future.
Boosting poverty-focused development assistance is an investment that will decrease hunger in future food emergencies. Programs like Feed the Future, which take a long-term approach to building food security, are saving lives and building resilience in countries like Tanzania.
There is an opportunity to make our U.S. food aid—programs that respond to global disasters—do more with reform. Senators can build momentum for even more flexible and efficient food aid by cosponsoring the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) and holding a hearing during this session.
Funding smaller reforms passed in the farm bill will free up the funds needed to help more people now and expand programs that are already working. For example, Guatemala has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and is one of the countries children are fleeing for the U.S. southern border. Catherine Pascal Jiménez, who is featured in the 2014 Offering of Letters, can keep her children at home thanks to a U.S.-funded food-aid program.
Ignoring the humanitarian crisis at the border or criminalizing children who flee poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America will not stop the flow of migrants. Funding global anti-hunger programs that can address economic stability in the sending countries is a first step in stemming the tide of hungry people seeking refuge. Congress must act quickly with emergency funding on its return to Washington.
Swift action may be a tall order, and there is certainly a reason to be pessimistic with this unproductive Congress. However, this is a democracy, and as Kegan points out, “Members who don’t listen to voters don’t stay in Washington.”
Kegan says faithful advocates need to make a lot of noise as Congress returns to the nation’s capitol next week. “If enough people demand action, they will act.”
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Angie Galvez sips her drink after enjoying her meal provided by a USAID’s Food for Education in rural Guatemala. Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Eric Mitchell
Next week, Congress returns to Washington from its month-long recess. But they won’t be in town for long. Congress has only two weeks to pass some sort of budget before leaving again for final campaigning and the midterm elections. The government's fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, and Congress is likely to pass a short-term budget due to the congressional elections in November.
This means the window of opportunity for Congress to also address the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children fleeing their homes in Mexico and Central America is closing rapidly.
Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators!. Urge them to include in any budget bill they consider funding for effective poverty-focused development assistance programs in Central America that will address the root causes of poverty, hunger, and violence that are driving the children to flee. Our government has effective programs like Feed the Future, which helps provide sustainable agriculture in countries like Guatemala, and the McGovern-Dole school feeding program.
When children go to bed hungry every night, parents often feel like they have few options but to send them away. No parent should have to make this decision, but thousands in Central America continue to do so.
As followers of Christ, we should express and embody God’s love at all times. The Bible affirms that all people, including these refugee children, are made in the image of God and have inherent value, a right to life and dignity that we must protect, especially during humanitarian crises.
Can you take two minutes right now to send an email or make a call.
Your voice will send a powerful message to your elected officials that while the national media coverage may be dwindling, you haven’t forgotten about the tens of thousands of refugee children fleeing into the United States from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. You can refer to our fact sheet for additional information and talking points.
There’s a chance Congress will act on this, but your members of Congress need to hear from you!
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
By Bishop José García
The Holy Scripture relates the story of a mother, Jochebed. Hard times and a famine led her country to a condition of slavery, oppression, and persecution. Her child was under a death sentence. All of these circumstances led her to take a desperate solution. Rather than waiting for the direst of outcomes, she put the baby in a basket and placed him in the river banks, hoping this way he would have better chances for survival.
This same story within a 21st century context is now repeated for thousands of families in Central America. Parents are facing hunger, poverty and hard times in their countries. Oppression and violence threaten their children. Many have two options: join the organized criminal gangs or die. Out of desperation these parents are doing the same thing Jochebed did, sending their children on a journey to a country where they will have better chances to live and make better choices. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that some of the children who have been deported back to their home country have lost their lives upon their return, victims of the violence they fled. It is by God’s grace only that we enjoy the freedom and privileges of our country. We cannot ignore the plight of these children and their families.
The Bible teaches that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him(Romans 10:12). Jesus taught us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. In a more direct admonition about the treatment of immigrants among us, Leviticus 19:33-34 says: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
As Christians, we are called to live by the principles and values of the Kingdom of God, and to be an extension of Jesus’s love, compassion, and example of service. The Scripture admonishes us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27). We have the power to call our members of Congress to respond to this crisis in a compassionate way. And our members of Congress have the power to act with a humanitarian and dignified way to this crisis.
Will you act?
Email your members of Congress. 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.
Ruby Galvez Roblero studies her school work at home in rural Guatemala. Her school is a direct beneficiary of USAID'S Food for Education, a program designed to help disadvantaged children perform better in school through increased nutrition (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Arnulfo Moreno
The border crisis: This was the overarching theme at this year’s convention for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Specifically the conference focused on how we should be talking about this humanitarian crisis, literally what words we should be using.
We hear that the unaccompanied minors were held at immigrant detention centers, then taken to an immigration court and had an immigration hearing. Webster’s, Oxford, and Wikipedia all agree that an immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Is that what these children are looking for, to live permanently in a foreign country? Is that why they left their home countries?
The ravaging effects of hunger, poverty, and violence are diminished under the term immigrant. The stunting and malnutrition that affect many of these children is concealed.
Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), summed it up perfectly: “They are not coming here for summer camp. They are fleeing violence, seeking protection.”
A person who flees for refuge or safety is a refugee. These children aren’t coming here because they want to leave their loved ones and their countries behind. They are fleeing here because, for many, staying at home means a life of hunger, poverty, and violence. For some, it can mean certain death.
Violence, though only part of this complex issue, has played and continues to play a huge role in this recent migration. Gangs and drug cartels make more on narcotics and sex trafficking than the gross national product of many Central American countries. With this type of power comes the ability to oppress and terrorize. Until the situation in these countries improves, are we supposed to turn our backs on these child refugees just because they are not fleeing organized government oppression but instead organized crime? Should we wait until these crime syndicates declare themselves a government and come clean about the violence they are inflicting on these children?
Hopefully we can acknowledge these children as refugees and not downplay the reality that faces them. I can think of an even better label for these unaccompanied minors: human beings.
Learn more about the Child Regugee Crisis of 2014 here: www.bread.org/indistrict
Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.
Legislation passed Friday, August 8, in the House of Representatives revises a 2008 anti-trafficking law. Bread for the World strongly opposes repeals of the key anti-trafficking law that would deny Central American child migrants the right to adjudication before an immigration judge and due process protections.
Former Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Leani Garcia wrote about this bill, “Who Are Christian Congressmen Listening To?” for Americas Quarterly. Following is an excerpt.
The Congressional Research Service has reported that between 87 and 89.8 percent members of U.S. Congress self-identify as Christian. The House members who voted for Friday’s immigration bills run the gamut of American Christian affiliations. There were members of mainline protestant groups like Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans; more conservative Christians like Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God and Church of God members, and non-denominational Christians; many Catholics, some Eastern Orthodox members, and even a few Mormons and Christian Scientists. …
Shouldn’t our representatives, at the very least, pay lip service to their Christian duty to love thy neighbor when they discuss the fate of these children? The fact that many of them can’t bring themselves to even refer to the children as refugees, or accept that violence, sky-high murder rates, and social exclusion—not DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]—are the primary drivers of the surge, speaks volumes.
The Bible says not to mistreat or withhold justice from a foreigner six times in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. The Bible even goes so far as to say that the foreigner should be considered native-born, and that anyone who deprives or withholds justice from the foreigner will be swiftly judged and cursed. And just in case the Old Testament isn’t really your thing, both Matthew and Hebrews mention inviting in and showing hospitality to the stranger. Feeling especially protective of your citizenship? Philippians 3:20 tells Christians that their citizenship is in Heaven—no mention of the U.S. there.
But don’t just take my word for it. Christian umbrella organizations made up of members from various denominations—such as Church World Service, Bread for the World and Esperanza USA—as well as individual denominations widely represented in Congress—such as the Catholic Church (through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church—have been calling for a humanitarian approach to comprehensive immigration reform for years. Even traditionally conservative denominations have been pushing for reform through coalitions such as the Evangelical Immigration Table, Bible, Badges and Business, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and even the Southern Baptist Convention—organizing prayer events, press releases and lobbying members of Congress.
American faith leaders of all stripes feel so strongly about deportations and immigration reform that 112 were arrested for civil disobedience when they protested in front of the White House on July 31.
While the overwhelming majority of members of Congress who voted for the restrictive bills last Friday may think they have nothing to lose in this midterm election, they should at least consider the long-term consequences of alienating Latino and Asian voters when determining their political platform.
And even if a long-term outreach strategy doesn’t factor into their political calculus, their actions beg the question: if the members of Congress who pride themselves on being Christians are not listening to the American people (including their constituents, such as the 59 percent of Tea Party Republicans who favor a path to citizenship), their faith leaders, or even their own holy book, who exactly are they listening to?
To find out more about Immigration Reform and Unaccompanied Children, please visit: http://www.bread.org/what-we-do/resources/toolkits/in-district-meetings/
Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Ricardo Moreno
It is one thing to hear the media reports, and another thing to witness what is happening with the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America. I recently visited the city of Murrieta, California, where a Border Patrol station was processing children who had arrived on buses from the Rio Grande Valley, where they crossed into the United States. Regardless of the politics of the issue, it was heartbreaking to witness the hate and visceral reactions of some individuals and groups. I saw a group of 50 people holding signs saying, “We don’t want diseases” and, “Stop the invasion.” This was right after two buses brought refugee children from Texas to Murrieta.
It made me question people’s hearts and humanity. I could not understand such hatred toward children. Children are the most vulnerable people. They did not choose where they were born, their neighborhoods, or their families. No matter where someone is on the political spectrum, how can they demonstrate this level of hate toward children?
These are children who are frightened. Their ages range from two years old to seventeen years old and everything in between. As a father, I cannot imagine my 14-year-old son or my 10-year-old daughter making the trip from Guatemala or El Salvador. But the reality is that this is not new. For many, as with the new child migrants, America represents an escape from hunger, poverty, and violence.
Contrary to the hateful responses that we see in the media, many churches have responded with compassion and care for these child migrants. Here in Los Angeles, Roman Catholic churches were the first to respond. The Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino publicly asked his parishioners to welcome the children. In my own neighborhood, the Saint Joseph Catholic Church opened its doors to host 56 children. They made sure that these children have access to food, clothes, beds, and showers. Two days later, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church took a really active role. Now many churches are also responding.
As we respond to the needs of child migrants, I am reminded of the very first victory we achieved as Bread for the World. In 1975, we convinced Congress to pass a historic resolution saying that every person has a right to food, even migrant children. We need to treat today’s migrant children with love and compassion. They are children of God, God’s own creation. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” May we work together with our brothers and sisters to meet our goals of writing hunger into history.
Ricardo Moreno is Bread for the World’s associate for Latino relations.
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter.
Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Rev. Carlos L. Malavé
The most important responsibility of the Church is to promote, nurture, and protect human life and dignity. When the Church relinquishes this duty because of political expediency, or even in defense of its theological and ideological convictions, it loses its moral grounding and credibility.
The Church is called to be the most unequivocal expression of the heart and conscience of Christ. The way we respond to the cries of the children of God either affirms our legitimacy or exposes our failure. Our allegiance is not to the political, theological, or sociological winds of the time. Our allegiance is to the one who will call us into account when the last act of the human drama wraps up.
Every follower of Christ, every minister, and every local congregation must offer refuge to those seeking freedom, healing, and salvation. Our ears cannot become deaf to the words of Jesus: “Because you did it unto one of these little ones, you have done it unto me.”
In an introduction to a published sermon of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The American Dream,” Bishop T.D. Jakes, Sr. says, “It would appear to me that in many ways our country has lowered its head into the soft satiny pillow of apathy. We have been lulled to sleep by indifference and rest in the vain pursuit of economical images of success while a stone’s throw away there are children dying in the streets” (A Knock at Midnight, p. 79).
There are children dying in the streets of Chicago and Philadelphia, and there are also children dying in the Sonoran Desert and the Rio Grande. They are our children. They are our children because we are one human family. The children of Salvadorian, Honduran, and Guatemalan families are as human and as important as my own three children. How can anyone think that their own children have the right to live in peace and security while denying this same right to others?
Pastors and members of our congregations must guard their souls from apathy and the callousness that pervade our political and economic systems. We are called to be Christ to all, but in a very intentional and biased way, we must be Christ to destitute, hungry, and oppressed people. Our actions, care, and concern for poor people reveal the presence or absence of the living Christ in us.
The Church in the United States must seize this incredible opportunity. We are followers of the one who said, “Let the children come to me…” (Luke 18:16). How do we dare to send them away? The Church is responsible before God’s eyes to live—or even to die—in the pursuit and defense of human live and dignity. Christ is in the journey with our children. Christ is a witness of our actions. Christ is also calling us.
Rev. Carlos L. Malavé is the executive director of Christian Churches Together, an ecumenical organization that brings together a wide variety of denominations and organizations to build relationships with each other. Bread for the World is a participating organization.
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter.
By Kimberly Burge
To the sound of bilingual chanting—“Si, se puede! Yes, we can!”—hundreds of people of faith joined together on last Thursday in Lafayette Park across from the White House to protest the deportation of unaccompanied children back to Central America. After a short prayer service, 130 faith leaders and activists marched forward in an act of civil disobedience to draw attention to these deportations, asking President Obama to halt them immediately.
“The shame of this country needs to stop,” Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church said to those gathered in the park. “We’re not hearing a moral voice coming from the White House or Congress on this issue. Someone needs to be a moral voice. We’re here to do that, and we’re asking President Obama and Congress to join with us.”
Rev. John McCullough, CEO and president of Church World Service, said, “We come together to pray for the president to loosen the bonds of injustice and let the oppressed go free. Too many families have been separated. Too many tears have been shed for these unjust laws. We pray for the children escaping violence and poverty in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. We pray for President Obama, that he will be brave and act boldly.”
Before she marched forward to be arrested, Judy Coode, communications director for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, explained why she was willing to take this action.
“Hospitality is a requirement of our faith. I’m from a big family and we understood that there was always room for one more. Knowing what we know about the realities of life in these countries, it’s inhumane to send anyone, especially children, back to that situation.”
Sponsors of the rally included the United Methodist Church, Church World Service, CASA de Maryland, Bend the Arc, the Unitarian Universalists Association, the United Church of Christ, Sisters of Mercy, Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the PICO National Network, and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
Bread for the World continues to urge Congress to address the hunger, poverty, and violence driving migration to the United States. Bread members called senators last week urging them to pass a supplemental funding bill, which included $300 million for the State Department to help address the root causes. The Senate bill was postponed and legislators left for a five-week summer recess without acting. House lawmakers passed a $694 million border bill late Friday. The supplemental appropriations bill did not include funds to address hunger and poverty in Central America. Further, legislation passed Friday in the House revises a 2008 anti-trafficking law. Bread for the World strongly opposes repeals of the key anti-trafficking law that would deny Central American child migrants the right to adjudication before an immigration judge and due process protections.
To find out more about Immigration Reform and Unaccompanied Children, please visit: http://www.bread.org/hunger/immigration/
Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.
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