Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

83 posts categorized "Immigration"

Tell Congress to finish the job – for the sake of the children

By Eric Mitchell

This week, millions of Americans voted in the midterm elections. Their message was clear: Regardless of party affiliation, voters want a government that can get things done.

The government doesn’t need to wait until the new Congress is seated in January. The current Congress can do something when it returns to Washington next week, and your representative’s support will be key in whether legislation regarding refugee children is voted into law.

The Bible tells the story of Moses, who as an innocent child, fleeing for his life, was set adrift in a basket toward an uncertain future with only a prayer and his mother’s hope for his safety. Scripture also teaches us to love the stranger in our land (Leviticus19:33-34).

Earlier this year, few in Congress were paying attention to the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence that have driven more than 68,000 Central American children to seek refuge in the United States.

But thanks to Bread for the World members like you who sent over 10,000 emails to Congress, a bill has been introduced that does exactly what we’ve been calling for.

When members of Congress return to Washington next week, they won’t be in town long.

  • Call and ask your representative to cosponsor the Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act of 2014 (H.R. 5368) to address the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence in Central America (Capitol switchboard: 800/826-3688). You can also send an email.

Combined with strong funding for global anti-hunger programs, this bill would ensure more children grow up in safe communities with educational and employment opportunities, pursuing futures of promise. This means they would have fewer reasons to leave their home countries in the first place and could stay with their families.

The bill requires the State Department to develop a strategy to address the issues that are driving children from their home countries. It also creates an Ambassador-at-Large for Unaccompanied Migrant Children to further protect refugee children.

Please contact your U.S. representative today, and urge him/her to cosponsor H.R. 5368, the Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act of 2014.

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

Update: Child Refugee Crisis


“They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
    the sun will not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat;

or the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

            Revelation 7: 16-17 (NRSV)

In the past year, more than 68,000 unaccompanied children have fled hunger, poverty, and violence and crossed into the United States. Most have come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The United States is witnessing a humanitarian crisis in this situation.

Developing a strategy in the region to address these root causes along with funding global anti-hunger programs that can address economic stability are first steps in stemming the tide of hungry people seeking refuge. Congress must act quickly with critical funding on its return to Washington.

In the House, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.-40) introduced the Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act of 2014 (H.R. 5368) meant to address the root causes driving children to flee their countries of origin in Central America.  Bread for the World is urging members of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

Learn more:  Fact Sheet: The Child Refugee Crisis of 2014

Banking on the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Immigrants: Microcredits Come to Iowa

Jesus Castro - West Des Moines, IA
Immigrant entrepreneur Jesus Castro poses in front of his grocery story. (Bread for the World)

For those who leave behind hearth and home, often fleeing hunger and poverty, the drive to succeed is strong. Given the right conditions, immigrant entrepreneurs can improve their lives and the economies of the communities in which they thrive.

Iowa is banking on it. This month, Solidarity Microfinance launched a microcredit program with the goal of reducing poverty rates while increasing economic activity in Des Moines.

“Wherever you find immigrant growth you’ll find entrepreneurship,” Iowa State University researcher Sandra Burke told Andrew Wainer, senior immigration policy analyst for Bread for the World Institute.

Wainer interviewed Burke for “The American midwest is the new microfinance frontier,” recently published in The Guardian.

One such immigrant entrepreneur is Jose Castro, a farmer originally from Michoacan, Mexico. In 1983, he left his small farm and worked a variety of jobs in California before finding himself in Des Moines in 1994. Eventually, he set up a grocery store, La Michoacana. He wants to expand it to include an eating area but additional capital or credit has been difficult to secure. It is enrepreneurs like Jose Castro who will benefit most from programs like that that of Solidarity Microfinance.

Iowa, which has the lowest level of entrepreneurial activity in the United States, has a growing immigrant population. Wainer writes that the potential of many would-be entrepreneurs is blocked by traditional financial services. What was once a development tool to reduce poverty in developing countries could now be the key to unlocking economic potential in immigrant communities here at home.  Read the full article here.

To learn more about the connections between hunger and immigration go here.

Congress Passes Funding Extension Before Leaving to Campaign

Elections Cover 2014 SmallBy Robin Stephenson

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


Return from Recess

Capitol 2
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

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:

Food-Aid Reform

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.

Eleven Days and Three Big Issues: Will Congress Act?

(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

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.

Two Weeks and Thousands of Lives at Stake

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.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures for Parents and Children at the Border

Catarina Pascual Jimenez (center) feeds her two twins. (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.

Child Refugee Crisis of 2014: What’s in a Name?

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.

With Child Refugees, Who Are Members of Congress Listening To?

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/

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