Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

70 posts categorized "Immigration"

A Migrant’s Tale: Not From Here nor From There

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Arnulfo and his mother.  (Courtesy Arnulfo Moreno)


By Arnulfo Moreno

“This is to certify that on the 15th of June there was born a girl named Ana Maria Canata.” As I look at my mom’s birth certificate, I know she understands that feeling of never belonging.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, Pillar Sanchez, didn’t have a normal childhood. Spain had been ravaged by a civil war while she was a teenager. Families were torn apart, children lost their parents or were shipped overseas against their will. Pillar had been forced, as many young women were, to work at makeshift hospitals, cleaning bandages, assisting in amputations, and sweeping up the pieces of soldiers that littered the floor.

Soon after the war was over she managed to get work at the Spanish embassy as “the help,” cooking, cleaning, sewing, whatever was needed. In 1945, she was brought over to the United States by a group of ambassadors. Despite the change of scenery, Pillar’s life stayed the same. Since she did not speak English and since the embassy kept her passport under lock and key, she did not have much contact with the outside world.

Fate intervened. My grandmother met my grandfather, Adalberto Canata, at an embassy banquet. Adalberto was the military attaché for Paraguay and a West Point graduate. Pillar was an embassy servant. As she was setting the table for the banquet, he fell in love.

Six months later they were married and shortly after had my mom. Life was good. Then in 1954, Alfredo Stroessner took power in Paraguay and declared himself dictator. My grandfather was going to lead a coup and wanted to take Pillar and my mother with him. Pillar had seen enough war for a lifetime and didn’t want my mom to go through that, so they stayed in DC while my grandfather left for Paraguay. The coup failed but my grandfather’s popularity in Paraguay prevented Stroessner from killing him. Adalberto would spend the rest of his life under house arrest. Pillar would never see him again.

Pillar was now an immigrant single mother working in the United States. Despite how hard she worked, she could not adequately care for my mom, so she sent her to Spain with another embassy worker. My mom was 2 years old. The worker told Pillar that little Ana Maria cried almost the entire time she was on the plane. My mother still has a fear of airplanes.

My grandmother would send for my mother many times but would then have to send her back to Spain to live with her family due to economic conditions. This instability in my mom’s life made it hard for her to have roots in Spain or in the United States either one. At age 23, my mother finally decided to stay in the United States. Even though she was born a citizen, she has always felt like a foreigner. Here she met my father, Jose Arnulfo Moreno, himself an immigrant from El Salvador. Here they raised their family.

Pillar eventually saved enough money and retired in Spain. My mom would visit her there and Adalberto in Paraguay. I only met them when I was a year old. They have both since passed away.

*

Arnulfo recently wrote about hunger and poverty as the motivation for his father’s journey to the United States. Migration stories are usually more complex than we assume. Today,  hunger, poverty, and violence are the root causes driving children and their families to flee Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. You can help change the narrative. 

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.

 

Elections and Building the Political Will to End Hunger

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Bread for the World member Derick Daily talks about hunger and poverty with staff of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark), in Washington D.C., on June 10, 2014. (Rick Reinhard)

By Robin Stephenson

Members of Congress will leave behind a lot of unfinished business when they head to their home states and districts for August recess at the end of the week. Anti-hunger advocates should send them back to Washington, D.C., in November with clear orders to get to work on ending hunger.

This is an election year and all 435 members of the House and 33 senators are running for reelection. There will be many public events where anti-hunger advocates can talk to their elected or soon-to-be elected officials about hunger and poverty.  Bread for the World has created a set of resources to help advocates start a conversation. These  include a guide to speaking up about hunger at Town Halls and updated voting records so you know how your members of Congress have voted on issues of hunger and poverty.

If outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss earlier this year taught elected officials anything, it’s that they can’t ignore district concerns. Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030. To do that, we need to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017.  “All politics are local,” said Bread for the World’s director of government relations Eric Mitchell during last month’s national webinar and conference call.  “There won't be pressure to change anything unless they hear from local constituents.” And there is plenty to talk about.

The United States is poised to make huge strides in improving food aid that does more than just feed people in a crisis but helps build resilience so they can weather the next storm. Urging lawmakers to cosponsor The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) will help build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Furthermore, Congress should be reminded that faithful advocates oppose provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.

At public events, we must get members of Congress talking about how they will address the root causes that are driving millions of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Lawmakers are focused on the border between the United States and Mexico and not on the source of the problem. Congress should allocate funds in the 2015 budget for programs that can help alleviate hunger and poverty in Central America. However, appropriators are proposing to cut poverty-focused development assistance.

Recent data reports the job market is finally improving, yet more than 3 million long-term unemployed are left without emergency unemployment benefits. The end of the recession has not reached all Americans. Safety net programs to alleviate hunger for low-income families are still the first items on the chopping block. Prioritizing a jobs agenda will make ending hunger in America possible.

“We are not advocating electing one party or another,” said director of organizing LaVida Davis. “As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.”

Hunger affects all of us. Making hunger an election issue is how we can build the political will to end it.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Action Alert: Senate Voting Tomorrow on Unaccompanied Children


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 Arnulfo Moreno

My papa, Jose Arnulfo Moreno Machado, left El Salvador to escape the violence during the civil war, and to search for a better opportunity to provide for his mother and younger siblings. He was an unaccompanied child when he crossed Central America into the United States. Today the civil war has ended but violence continues to ravage my father's homeland due to gangs, the drug trade, hunger, and poverty. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, just like my dad years ago, are again making the perilous trip to the United States.

The Senate is about to vote on a bill to help address the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border. This bill, S. 2648, includes $300 million for the State Department to help address the root causes that drive these children to flee their home countries, including hunger, poverty, and violence.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. senators in the next 48 hours and urge them to pass S. 2648, the emergency supplemental bill. The vote could be as early as tomorrow, and unfortunately, we still don't have the votes to pass it.

Can you take a couple minutes right now to urge your U.S. senators to vote yes on S. 2648?

There’s not much time! Congress has until Friday before they leave town for the August recess. The situation is urgent. Please call 1-800-826-3688 or email now.


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

Seeing Hunger - and Christ - on Children's Faces in Guatemala


Last year Bread's multimedia manager Joseph Molieri travelled to Guatemala where he saw hunger and solutions to hunger up close. He filmed Catarina Pascual Jimenez,and tells her story in the short video, Food for the Future.

By Joseph Molieri

Reading the news stories of a surge in child migration from Guatemala does not surprise me. Last year I was there, and I saw the devastation that hunger can cause. 

In Guatemala City, the street life is alive with the calls of vendors selling their wares, congested streets, and bustling pedestrians. I took a taxi to a rural region just north of Huehuetenango, about a 200-mile drive from Guatemala City, where life was slower but harder. We had come to Guatemala to observe the impact of food-security programs, which are partially funded through grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and to gather stories for Bread’s Offering of Letters in these western highlands of Guatemala. 

As we traveled farther into the countryside, a palpable feeling of coldness grew stronger.  About halfway into the trip, we pulled over and got out to stretch for a few minutes. The indigenous locals walking by glanced nervously at us before pulling their children to the other side of the road. Roberto, my driver, said this area saw a lot of fighting during the civil war. I knew this, but I was only beginning to see and feel it. 

For many years, the indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala has lived in extreme poverty, exacerbated by a political system at times designed to disenfranchise them.  The Mayans have also experienced exclusion from development and wealth. Guatemala has made headlines in recent weeks as the country with the worst malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hotspots where children are leaving to migrate to the United States. During my visit, I began to get a glimpse of why this might be.

At our destination I met Catarina Pascual Jimenez, a mother of four children. Her oldest son, Antonio, now 17, left when he was 15 to work as a migrant laborer. Opportunities and access to nutritious food are severely limited in her remote village. Her youngest children, Roni and Shelia, given their age at 17 months, would become two more statistics of malnourishment and stunting without the USAID program.

As we met with more mothers, we heard similar stories. These women and children had a small opportunity to overcome hunger because of the USAID nutrition program. However, for this one village with the program, there were countless more without it, where children might suffer all their lives as a result of malnutrition.  The issues these women face, like many others in Latin America, are not isolated incidents of a poor economy but rather the result from years of political unrest, bad policies both from their own government as well as neighboring countries, and racial discrimination. 

Matthew 25 asks me when I saw Christ hungry. I saw hunger in Guatemala.  I also saw that when we invest in programs and give people a hand up, we not only live out the Gospel call to “do for one of the least of these” but we alleviate conditions that cause people to migrate for survival. I called my member of Congress, and I invite you to join me.  Children like those I met are desperate and coming to the United States on dangerous journeys because they are hungry. We cannot turn our back on them. What we can do is try to change the circumstances they are fleeing.

*

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.

Joseph Molieri is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World

Faith Leaders to Congress: Oppose Revisions to Anti-Trafficking Laws

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Poverty 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)

“Few people are elevating social and economic conditions that compel people to take such dangerous risks by crossing the U.S. border or sending their unaccompanied children in search of a better life, but they are conditions that must be addressed if we are serious about fixing this crisis.” - Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World

 

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, more than 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.

Some members of Congress would like to deport the children faster by amending a 2008 anti-trafficking law that was originally meant to protect migrant children. Faith leaders are speaking up for the rights of the children. Today, members of the Evangelical Immigration Table – a coalition of which Bread for the World is a member – sent a letter to Congress opposing revisions to the 2008 law.

The faith leaders write:

"Children are vulnerable even in the best of circumstances and warrant special protection beyond that offered to adults. This vulnerability is compounded among children who flee situations of criminal gangs, sexual violence, trauma and extreme poverty, without their parents to accompany them.”

Urging concern for the children’s well-being first, the leaders are clear that the humanitarian crisis is an issue that concerns people of faith:

“As we pray for these children and also our nation, we are reminded of Matthew 19:13-14 in which Jesus said, “ Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.’ Churches and faith-based organizations have long partnered with the federal government in serving immigrant children and families in the United States. Many churches and faith-based organizations are ready and committed to provide the same type of assistance and pastoral care in the case of these unaccompanied children.”

Bread for the World is urging our government to focus on the root causes that are driving the surge of migration from Central America to the United States, such as  the economic, social, governance, and security conditions.

Read the letter here and add your voice. 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 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)

Face to Face: “El Extranjero” (“The Foreigner”)

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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. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Bianca Brown

When Angelica* was eight years old, she lived with her mother in a small village in Guatemala, where hunger and poverty were rampant. Angelica’s mother had heard of opportunities in America for better jobs and schools for her child. Gathering all of her savings, she paid a man to bring her family across the border to the United States.

Angelica and her mother were separated once they reached the States. Four years later, Angelica found herself abused, beaten, and prostituted by the man who had brought her across the border. Once, she managed to speak with a caseworker at an immigration assimilation office, where I heard her story.

Angelica is one of the many unaccompanied immigrant children who are victims of human trafficking as a result of hunger and poverty in their home countries. More than 60,000 children are in danger of becoming victims of abuse and trafficking. We can’t afford to ignore the root causes of this mass migration: hunger and poverty. Without addressing the causes of immigration from Latin America, U.S. immigration policy will be ineffective in stemming the flow of unauthorized immigrants.

Angelica’s account shares how constructive immigration reform is beneficial to those seeking citizenship—especially unaccompanied minors. Kept in the shadows, these people live on the margins of society hoping for change. Angelica’s caseworker begged her to tell them if she wanted help out of her situation, the law preventing action otherwise. Angelica replied, “No one will want to help me…who would want to help an alien?”

These families live in fear of their undocumented status, sometimes going hungry in the United States. The current system relegates unauthorized immigrants to the bottom of the U.S. socioeconomic system. U.S. immigration policy does not enable immigrants to break the cycle of poverty by allowing them opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families by advancing professionally, pursuing further education, and fully integrating into their communities.

Comprehensive immigration reform will allow families to make a better life for themselves and their children.

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.

*Child’s name changed to remain confidential.

Bianca Brown is an intern in Bread for the World's communications department and a senior at Georgia's Wesleyan College.

This is a Humanitarian Crisis

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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.

An Immigrant's Story: Odilon Celestin

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Restaurateur Odilon Celestin at his place of business in Florida. (Andrew Wainer)

The story of Haitian-born Odilon Celestin exemplifies the rags to riches narrative of many immigrants - an outcome that also benefits the communities in which they land. Andrew Wainer, senior immigration policy analyst with the Bread for the World Institute, writes about Celestin in “Harvest Haitian entrepreneurial spirit,” an article published in the Sun Sentinel last month. 

In 2001, Haitian-born Odilon Celestin arrived in Florida on a boat from the Bahamas. As an unauthorized immigrant with contacts, his work options were limited. His first job was harvesting green beans in Homestead. "I came and I didn't know people, I didn't have any friends," Celestin said. "This is how I started my life [in the United States]."

By 2003, he transitioned from agriculture to working in a bakery, eventually launching his own storefront restaurant in the Haitian enclave of North Miami. The banks turned down his loan requests, but he drew from a local nonprofit and his own savings for start-up capital.

Ten years later, Celestin received a $380,000 bank loan to open a second, larger restaurant that occupies 3,000 square feet, has capacity for 80 customers, and will have 11 employees.

For many immigrants, the driving force to succeed is the escape from poverty. Wainer has written extensively about factors that motivate people to leave their countries of origin in search of a better life. The humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States is a stark example of what life without hope can lead to - parents sending their children on a dangerous journey to spare them from violence and poverty.

The exodus from poverty is familiar to Christians and many Americans. For 40 years, Moses and his charges wandered the desert fleeing poverty and violence. Some of us can look a few generations back in our own family narratives and find the ancestor who arrived at Ellis Island with no more than a suitcase and a heart full of hope. For some, it is our parents who made the hard decision to leave their families to give us opportunity; for others, the story is in process.

Full of hardship and determination, the migrant’s story often concludes with success, especially when other positive conditions are present. Immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship is critical to business sustainability. Research shows that a path to citizenship will expand the U.S. economy by more than 5 percent over 20 years. Celestin’s entrepreneurial drive turned him into a job creator and resulted in an economic stimulus in his community.

In a country still struggling to rise out the Great Recession, harnessing the entrepreneurial drive of Celestin and others like him makes economic sense. Reflecting on our own narratives of exodus may instill in our hearts the Christian compassion that reminds us to hold out our hand in fellowship to others who come with nothing but hope.

 

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

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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.

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