Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

44 posts categorized "Immigration"

Praying for Our Indifference: Pope Francis

Martha praying at gathering - Rick Reinhart
An attendee of Bread for the World's Lobby Day, a part of our National Gathering, in Washington D.C., on June 11, 2013  (Rick Reinhard/Bread for the World).

"Lord, in this liturgy, a penitential liturgy, we beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!"

The excerpt above is from homily delivered by Pope Francis on July 8, 2013 in Lampedusa, Italy. It references Genesis 4, in which God asks, "Where is your brother, Abel?"

Lampedusa is a Mediterranean island and the primary entry point for migrants, mainly from Africa, into Europe. Pope Francis laments the loss of life that can be the result of the dangerous journey many migrants embark on as they flee dire poverty in Africa and elsewhere. His powerful homily also addresses a lack of compassion that is too often shown in regard to the suffering of immigrants.

"In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference," Pope Francis preaches on the lack of solidarity with the vulnerable. "We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t concern me, it’s none of my business!"

As the House of Representatives decides how to move forward on an immigration reform bill, Bread for the World urges legislators to include provisions that address the poverty and hunger that drive migration. By creating a path to citizenship, hunger and poverty in the Unites States will be reduced as 11 million undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows. 

Poor migrants from North Africa are willing to risk crossing from Tunisia to Lampedusa in small boats that are often overcrowded and unsafe. While visiting the island, the pontiff laid a wreath in the water for those who have perished on the journey—a story similar to that of those who risk border crossing in the southern United States to escape hunger in their home countries. Pope Francis wonders if we have become a society void of compassion. "Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it?" he asks. "Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters?"

As Christians, the suffering of others is our business. God's question echoes today: "Where is your brother?" How will you respond?

You can learn more about the root causes of migration and Bread for the World's position on immigration reform here. Take action here and join us and other organizations as we #Pray4reform next Wednesday, July 24, in Washington D.C.

From Comprehensive to Incremental Immigration Reform

Pray4reformJune27By Andrew Wainer

After moving fast through the Senate, immigration reform now looks to be facing a slower, incremental policymaking process in the House of Representatives.

The House Republican Caucus confirmed at a meeting July 10 that it will not take up the comprehensive Senate bill. Instead, it will break the provisions into different bills. The process of considering and voting on the bills is likely to take the rest of the year and perhaps beyond. The House is unlikely to address immigration until the fall, when it will likely vote on several bills that have already been reported out of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

Thus far, House Republicans have focused on bills that cover border and internal security and agricultural and high-skill workers, while rejecting the comprehensive approach taken by the Senate.

Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are also working on a Republican version of the DREAM Act called the KIDS Act, which would provide a path to legalization for young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

“It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home,” Cantor said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in February.

But Democrats and immigration advocates are unlikely to support reform that provides legalization only for young immigrants. Right now, there is significant space between where reform advocates want to go with legislation and what Republican House members are willing to do.

The next several months will determine whether this chasm can be crossed.

Andrew Wainer is Bread for the World Institute's immigration policy analyst.

Photo: Bread for the World and other organizations participated in a Pray4Reform prayer vigil for just immigration reform in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2013. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Recap: July Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar

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Pastor Charlotte Schmiedeskamp of Thompson Falls, Mont., talks about proposed SNAP cuts and sequestration during a visit with her member of Congress during Bread for the World's June 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)

July and August offer plenty of opportunities to talk about hunger and poverty with your members of Congress.  

Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, members of our policy and organizing staff emphasized that it is important to act now. Director of government relations Eric Mitchell encouraged advocates to take advantage of in-district meetings and town halls during the August recess, a time when members of Congress return to their home districts. “This is the time they need to hear from constituents," Mitchell said. "After August, things will move fast.”

Bread staffers reviewed the last six months and also looked ahead to what may transpire between now and the end of the year. The bottom line: your phone calls make a difference and will continue to be needed.

Noting that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, Bread policy analyst Amelia Kegan said, “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem.”  Kegan went on to point out that a long-term replacement of the sequester is unlikely at this point, but a short-term fix is still possible this fall, especially as more defense spending cuts take their toll. The question moving forward is how Congress will choose to replace the spending cuts—whether they decide to cut programs like SNAP or taking a balanced approach that includes increased revenues may depend on the pressure that anti-hunger advocates put on their lawmakers.

An examination of recent House farm bill activity showed that two wrongs don’t make a right. The first draft of the bill, which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, failed in a floor vote. The version of the bill that the House passed last week does not include the title that authorizes the SNAP program. SNAP will continue to operate at existing levels under current rules and can still be included in a conference with the Senate farm bill (which cuts the program by $4.1 billion). But, as policy analyst Christine Melendez-Ashley cautioned, the way forward for the nutrition title is not yet clear, and that leaves the SNAP vulnerable to cuts in both the farm bill and the appropriations process

Staff members also provided an update on the latest threats to international food aid, which delivers emergency assistance to hungry people overseas. House proposals in the farm bill and spending bills would slash the program. The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of representatives, was also discussed.

Mitchell also stressed that Bread members must put pressure on their representatives to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill late last month, but is in unclear how the House will come up with a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach to reform. 

The next monthly conference call and webinar will be held on Sept. 17.

God, Grip Our Hearts

July 2013 Newsletter

(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Land, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)

Recently, Rev. Noel Castellanos prayed, “God, when you grip our hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of society.”

Rev. Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, offered this invocation as we and our colleagues in the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered for a vigil at the Capitol just before the Senate began voting on the comprehensive immigration bill.

Thanks be to God, our prayers—and your advocacy—worked. The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 28 with a vote of 68-32. Now we turn to the House of Representatives to see what action it will take. We anticipate a more partisan approach in the House. So we pray that God will grip the hearts of our representatives and bring both parties together to pass immigration reform legislation that will benefit struggling families in our nation.

House Farm Bill Fails

We have another major reason to be thankful to God and to you for your faithful advocacy. On June 21, the House version of the farm bill was voted down, 234-195. Had it become law, it would have meant a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). More than 47 million Americans depend on this vital food assistance program.

When the current farm bill was authorized in 2008, we won the largest increase ever for food assistance. Since then, the nutrition portion of the farm bill has been targeted for cuts. We are thankful that God has gripped the hearts of our representatives, until now, and stayed those cuts.

As you read this, Congress is be preparing to recess for the summer. This means that your members of Congress will be back in your district. I encourage you to visit or call them, referring to their voting record on amendments to the new farm bill and other food and nutrition bills (see Bread for the World's 2013 Midyear Congressional Scorecard). If they voted in favor of hungry people, thank them. If they did not, still thank them for being your public servants, but express disappointment for the way they voted and remind them that you are counting on them to vote on behalf of hungry and poor people.

International Coalition Pledges to Fund Maternal and Child Nutrition

We are also thankful that God has gripped the hearts of President Barack Obama and other world leaders to increase investments in maternal and child nutrition in developing countries hardest hit by malnutrition. Since we started our work on this issue four years ago, much progress has been made. Last month, at a high-level event in London, world leaders pledged $21.9 billion for maternal and child nutrition programs between now and 2020. The United States pledged $10 billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2—and it promised to continue funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.

On June 10, during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide hosted an international meeting to mark the progress that has been made over the last 1,000 days and to recognize the important role that civil society has played in building the political will to scale up nutrition. The event marked the official launch of the Civil Society Network of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which will help coordinate the efforts of the 40 SUN countries.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recognized the role that activists— like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement— have played in elevating the voices of poor and hungry people as policy makers set priorities. In addition, Bread for the World and partners hosted a congressional briefing on maternal and child nutrition to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical role of U.S. leadership.

After the briefing, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition during the critical 1,000-day window.

This will be a busy autumn and winter for Bread, with important advocacy work around sequestration and other budget issues. We will also be finalizing our plans for the next three years—the first triennial plan within the framework of our long-term vision to end hunger. We will be planning our campaigns for 2014 and launching the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.

As we enjoy the summer, I give thanks to God for your faithful support and for gripping all our hearts to advocate with those whom Jesus calls “the least among us.”

[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World’s July-August newsletter.]

Failure Is Not an Option: A Migration Story

Stephenson Family to AZ

The Stephenson family in 1938, somewhere in Arizona, where they lived for a while picking cotton on their way west.  (Family photo courtesy of Robin Stephenson).

By Robin Stephenson

My dad was a born a migrant. He likes to talk about the storm that was raging the night of his birth, but there was an even greater urgency than finding shelter from pounding rain that evening: hunger was pushing his family west. In an abandoned shack, having gone without food for several days, my grandmother gave birth. My dad was born on the migrant journey.

In the zeitgeist of the 1940s, migrants were considered lazy and shiftless. An exodus of the hungry fled one of the country’s greatest disasters—the Dust Bowl. Leaving all they knew behind, they were called “Oakies, ” often in hushed tones and with a contempt that implied their fate was their fault. Stirred by years of poor farm policy and practice, the dust storms left in their wake farms in Oklahoma and neighboring states that could no longer employ or support the population that once produced agricultural abundance. Having lost almost everything, families pulled together what little was left, piled into any transportation that could move them forward and headed west—not because they wanted to but because they had to. 

The migrant’s story, whether set in Oklahoma in 1938 or Oaxaca in 2013, shares a common thread:  lack of choice. The human drive to survive is unstoppable, even in the face of enormous odds. A journey fraught with danger and derision is no deterrent. 

In a recent interview with Truthout, U.C. Berkeley physician and anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes talks about the migrant journey he researched for Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States. For 18 months, Holmes traveled and lived with a group of families escaping poverty from Oaxaca, Mexico—another once-fertile land gone fallow because of bad policy. Asked how migrants see their options, Holmes says: 

"[W]hen you actually do interviews and do research with immigrants who are crossing from Mexico into the U.S., they do not experience this as a choice. There were several times, and in the book I write about someone telling me 'there’s no other option for us.'"

This week, the House of Representatives have a choice that migrants don’t: they can choose to move an immigration bill forward. If crafted with an understanding of the root causes that drive migration, this bill could be an important step in ending hunger both here and abroad. A special conference with House Republicans is taking place tomorrow, Wednesday July 10, and likely will mark a critical turning point in comprehensive immigration reform. 

Today, I think of the word “Oakie” as a badge of honor.  I come from survivors. Being born in a storm is a great story, but being born into hunger is not.

It’s time for a new narrative and your voice can urge your Representative to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.  As the House takes up this issue, it needs to know that a faithful constituency is paying attention. Call your representative at 800-826-3688, or email him or her today.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, Western hub.

Act Now: Include Ending Hunger in the House Immigration Bill

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Photo:  Matt H. Wade/UpstateNYer

By Eric Mitchell

This week, leadership within the House of Representatives is expected to begin discussion on how the body will approach immigration reform.

With your help, we made history by passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the Senate. Now, we need you to move the House of Representatives!

Call your representative today! Urge him or her to support comprehensive immigration reform.

Tell your representative to support immigration reform that

  1. addresses the root causes of undocumented immigration, such as extreme poverty in countries of origin, and
  2. does not discourage or prohibit legal immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members from receiving needed assistance through federal programs such as WIC, SNAP, and EITC.

Bread for the World recognizes that undocumented immigrants in the United States disproportionately experience hunger. That’s why faithful immigration reform must treat immigration as a hunger issue — both here and abroad. Learn more about immigration and hunger here.

As the House takes up this issue, it needs to know that a faithful constituency is paying attention. Call your representative at 800-826-3688, or email him or her, today.

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

Policy Focus: The Budget Stalemate Continues in Congress

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[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World's July-August e-newletter.]

Immigration Reform

On June 27, the Senate approved the most far-reaching reforms to U.S. immigration policy in 50 years. The Senate’s immigration reform bill passed 68-32. Bipartisan support gave the proposal momentum even as it faces a more daunting challenge in the House of Representatives. The bill includes most of the major components of an immigration overhaul: an earned legalization process for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, increased enforcement both at the border and inside the United States, and a revamped guest worker program for both low-skill and high-skill sectors.

The Senate bill does not address root causes of undocumented immigration, such as poverty in countries of origin. However, it will reduce hunger and poverty of immigrants in the United States.

Farm Bill

The farm bill remains a main focus of our efforts to ensure a place at the table for all people. During this time of slow economic recovery, more than 47 million of individuals across the United States rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is funded through the farm bill.

The current farm bill deadline is this September. As of press time, the Senate has passed a bipartisan farm bill that includes $4 billion in cuts to SNAP and some international food aid improvements. Meanwhile, the House failed to pass a bill that included over $20 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid. It is unclear how the farm bill process will move forward. Congress could take a number of routes, from having the House rewrite its bill, to considering the Senate bill on the House floor, to extending the current law.

Although the House bill failed, several amendments that passed during floor considerations are cause for concern. For example, the Southerland Amendment would impose harsh work requirements on all SNAP recipients. The Reed Amendment would ban ex-offenders from receiving SNAP. In addition, some influential lawmakers have recently floated the idea of splitting the farm bill and administering SNAP separately. This appears to be an effort to reduce funding for SNAP—which Bread would oppose.

Appropriations

In May, the Senate passed its discretionary spending allocations for fiscal year 2014, which was drafted with the assumption that the Budget Control Act of 2011—commonly referred to as sequestration—will be replaced and that scheduled cuts will not go into effect next year. The Senate appropriations spending cap is roughly $1 trillion.

In late June, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its agriculture appropriations bill, with healthy funding levels for programs that help hungry people:

  • $7 billion for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program—$215 million above FY 2013
  • $1.46 billion for international food aid—$33 million above FY 2013
  • $185 million for McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program—$1 million above FY 2013

The bill also includes modest changes to international food aid. It eliminates approximately 17 percent of monetization—sale of commodities purchased in and shipped from the United States. This change would help support local farmers and markets. The bill also includes an $18 million increase in emergency funds.

Unfortunately, the House is operating under the assumption that sequestration will remain in place—leaving a gap of $10 billion between the Senate and House bills and making it hard to see how legislation will move forward. As of press time, the House has not drafted or passed its agricultural appropriations bill.

Praying for Reform

CastellanosBy Kiara Ortiz and Minju Zukowski

The morning of June 27 was a hot one in our Nation’s Capital, but that did not stop a dedicated and passionate group of individuals from coming together to pray for just immigration reform.    

The #pray4reform campaign, a weeklong event held June 24-28, was planned to coincide with the Senate's vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Why gather to pray for immigration reform? The hope was that congressional leaders would vote “yes” on a the bill (S.744), which includes a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants working in the United States without authorization.  On June 28, the Senate passed that bill, but there is still much work to be done. Members of the House will now take up the issue, and we must continue to urge congressional leaders to create a more just immigration system.

The #pray4reform campaign brought together evangelical leaders for daily prayer at the Peace Circle in front of the Capitol. During our small worship ceremony, a mobile billboard drove around the city with the message “Praying for immigrants. Praying for Congress.” Gathering around the Peace Circle to connect with God as Congress voted on such crucial legislation nearby was an amazing experience.

As the issue moves to the House, we continue to #pray4reform, and we hope you will do the same and continue to urge your members of Congress to support just immigration reform. Together, we can help push the issues of immigration and hunger to the forefront, so that no individual has to live with hunger.

Kiara Ortiz and Minju Zukowski are media relations interns in Bread for the World's communications department

Photo: Rev. Noel Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, at the June 27 #pray4reform event at the U.S. Capitol. (Minju Zukowski)

Hope for Immigration Reform: The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference

Revluiscortes
Rev Luis Cortés, president and founder of Esperanza, speaking at Bread for the World's National Gathering last month. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Theresa Martin

More than 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in America live below the poverty line. Many of them flee hunger in their home countries only to arrive in the United States and find themselves struggling to feed themselves and their families yet again. In a country where 33 million tons of food is wasted each year, and roughly 75 percent of our farm workers are migrants, how is it that so many immigrants go hungry? “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—have we forgotten Jesus’ words?

I recently had the opportunity, along with immigration advocates from across the country, to attend the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, hosted by Esperanza, an organization that works to support Latino communities in the United States. Both Democratic and Republican leaders spoke to the topic of immigration reform, and attendees had the opportunity to lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Continue reading "Hope for Immigration Reform: The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference" »

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Moves to the House

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With Vice President Joe Biden presiding, yesterday afternoon members of the Senate delivered their one-word votes on comprehensive immigration reform.  Sixty-eight said “aye” and, with that, a bipartisan bill (S.744) that includes a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented U.S. workers passed the Senate.

We are grateful for the phone calls and emails you delivered to Capitol Hill over the last week, spreading the message that immigration and hunger go hand in hand. (You can see how your senator voted here).

The bill, although imperfect, is an important first step in changing a broken immigration system that perpetuates hunger. As undocumented immigrants experience disproportionate rates of food insecurity, legal status would provide greater opportunities to overcome poverty.

Earlier in the day, Bread for the World and other members of the Evangelical Immigration Roundtable participated in a prayer vigil in Washington, D.C. The group reflected on scripture from Matthew 25, which calls Christians into relationship with the stranger, and prayed together for immigration reform that would protect the most vulnerable. “God, when you grip our hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of society,” said Rev. Noel Castellano, leading the group in prayer. 

Advocates will need the perseverance that comes with faith, as there is still much work to be done. The fate of immigration reform in the House of Representatives has yet to be determined. We will continue to urge representatives to include provisions in a final bill that reduce hunger at home and abroad.

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