40 posts categorized "Immigration"
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.
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
- addresses the root causes of undocumented immigration, such as extreme poverty in countries of origin, and
- 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.
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World's July-August e-newletter.]
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.
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.
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.
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 departmentPhoto: 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)
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.
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.
Migrant workers load cucumbers into a truck in Blackwater, Virginia, on the farm of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard on Monday, July 25, 2011. Almost three-fourths of all U.S. hired farm workers are immigrants, most of them unauthorized. The U.S. food system—particularly fruit and vegetable production—depends on immigrants more than any other sector of the U.S. economy. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Kiara Ortiz
How can someone live and work on a farm and suffer from hunger? It doesn’t make sense. And yet this sad irony is a reality for many immigrant farm workers in the United States.
Nearly three-fourths of U.S. farm workers are immigrants, many working in the U.S. without authorization and filling low-wage jobs that citizens are reluctant to take. Yet immigrant farm workers, who are so vital to the U.S. food system, disproportionately suffer from hunger and poverty.
Immigrants come to America in search of a better life, but are often exploited on farms. Pressure from immigration enforcement, low wages, inconsistent work schedules, and other inequalities can shatter their dreams. These workers are vital to the economy of this nation—a path to citizenship allowing these workers and their families access to federal anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, such as SNAP and EITC, is an important first step in immigration reform.
During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, I had the privilege of sitting in on the Immigration as a Hunger and Poverty Issue workshop. I was lucky enough to hear Lucas Benitez tell his story. Benitez is originally from Mexico but lives in a small town in Florida called Immokalee, an area where many Mexican, Guatemalan, and Haitian immigrants live. As an activist in Florida, and the co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, he shared his experiences and struggles as an immigrant working in the fields of Immokalee.
“We live—no, we survive—off the work we do in the fields,” he said. “We work hard to put food on everyone’s table but our own. Why does it have to be that way?”
Why should immigrant farm workers be paid less money just because they are “desperate” for the wages? Wages should be based on work ethic and competency—immigrants, regardless of their status, should receive equal and fair pay for their hard work to provide food for our tables.
Our country stands against cruel and unusual punishment—it’s a value outlined in our Constitution. So, how can we stand by as immigrants endure strenuous labor conditions, day in and day out, producing food, but not earning enough to feed themselves?
When advocates unite, we can change things. We live in a country built on the ideals of freedom and equality, yet we continue to allow immigrant farm workers to be dehumanized and mistreated. It’s time to stop being complacent about this. The current system that perpetuates hunger both here and abroad can, and must, change. We need to fight for fair and equal pay, better working conditions, a legal means of being in the United States for those who require it, and respect for all farm workers.
Kiara Ortiz is a sophomore at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She is a media relations intern at Bread for the World.
Act Now! The Senate is expected to vote on a bipartisan immigration reform bill this week! Tell your U.S. senators to 1) support any amendment that addresses the root causes of undocumented immigration, such as extreme poverty in countries of origin; and 2) oppose any amendments that would make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to earn a path to citizenship or would prohibit authorized immigrants and their citizen family members from receiving needed assistance such as WIC, SNAP, and EITC benefits. Call toll-free at 800-826-3688, or send an email today.
By Eric Mitchell
Immigration and hunger are closely related. Each day, individuals make the difficult decision to leave their countries and their families to escape extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants in the United States disproportionately experience hunger. That’s why faithful immigration reform must address hunger as an immigration issue both here and abroad. Together, we can make that happen.
This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the bipartisan immigration reform bill (S. 744), and your voice is critical. Amendments will be offered that can increase or decrease hunger.
Call your U.S. senators today! Urge them to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Tell your senators to
- support any amendment that addresses the root causes of undocumented immigration, such as extreme poverty in countries of origin; and
- oppose any amendments that would make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to earn a path to citizenship or would prohibit authorized immigrants and their citizen family members from receiving needed assistance such as WIC, SNAP, and EITC benefits.
Bread for the World recognizes that this legislation is far from perfect, but failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform is to perpetuate hunger. Learn more about immigration and hunger here.
We are compelled to act for fair reform of our broken immigration system because of Christ’s compassion for the vulnerable and his call for us to care for the stranger (Matthew 25). As the Senate votes on final passage, we must let our members of Congress know that a faithful constituency is paying attention. Call your U.S. senators at 800-326-4941, or email them, today.
Thank you for continuing to use your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all of God’s children, including the 11 million undocumented immigrants who every day contribute to the economy and greatness of our nation.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
Santiago Cruz, in the Mexico countryside, December 12, 2010. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
In the short documentary Stay, Santiago Cruz and his wife, Victoria, talk about being pushed into a difficult decision: continue to languish in deep poverty or migrate.
Deciding to escape hunger and poverty is not difficult, but the price is often painful. Santiago left Victoria
and his children behind in Oaxaca, Mexico, and faced the uncertainty and peril of migration—their only hope for a better life. Most undocumented immigrants live precarious and vulnerable
Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters aims for the political will to ensure a place at the table for all God's children. This mandate provides important guidance about immigration. As the Senate debates, and perhaps votes, on comprehensive immigration reform this week (S 744), we see an opportunity to alleviate hunger, both in this country and abroad.
Simply put, immigration is a hunger issue. And hunger is an immigration issue.
Half of all laborers harvesting U.S. crops are undocumented; they are often exploited and face some of the highest rates of poverty in the United States—as much as 35 percent, far above the national rate. It is important to remember that these are working individuals who contribute to the economy of this nation. Immigration reform should provide a path to citizenship for these individuals, and it should allow their families to access programs like SNAP and EITC.
The current system, which perpetuates hunger here and abroad can, and must, change.
A holistic approach to immigration would also alleviate the poverty abroad that pushes families like Santiago’s to choose migration. The Senate debate and bill have thus far failed to consider why people leave their homelands. Fewer people will feel compelled to migrate if poverty were reduced in their home countries.
Santiago was eventually able to return and stay in Oaxaca after he and Victoria were given a hand up by a Mexican nonprofit partnered with Catholic Relief Services. CEDICAM helped them with sustainable farming techniques, which provided enough food and money for them to stay together.
Bread for the World Institute has extensively researched the
relationship between poverty and immigration, and we will urge Congress to craft
legislation that reforms our immigration system in ways that help end
Watch the award winning documentary Stay on YouTube and share it with your friends.
Marvin Garcia Salas eats breakfast with his son Jesus, 4, in Chiapas, Mexico. Marvin was once an undocumented immigrant in the United States, where he had moved without his family to better support them. Hunger, and a lack of economic opportunity are at the root of much of the undocumented immigration from Mexico. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
“Immigration is a hunger issue,” emphasized organizer David Gist during Bread’s monthly grassroots webinar and conference call yesterday. Mixing personal narratives with biblical principles and policy, the call focused on today’s release of a bipartisan Senate bill on immigration reform.
Since 2010, Bread for the World Institute has researched immigration’s connections to hunger and poverty. Moving forward, Bread for the World will act as an ally on immigration reform, mobilizing people of faith and aligning with partners who seek reform that respects the dignity of immigrants in the United States while addressing poverty and hunger overseas. We recognize that poor conditions in home countries is a major cause of unauthorized immigration to the United States, and we have identified five principles (PDF) that are crucial to craft policy that addresses hunger as a root cause of immigration.
Illustrating the often stark choices that drive migration to the United States, organizer Tamela Wallhof told the callers about Antonio, a man with whom she worked in Hilipo, Nicaragua. A subsistence farmer, Antonio was driven from his land by a combination of Nicaraguan and international policies that encourage large cash-crop farming in place of family-farming for local consumption. If Antonio had stayed in Nicaragua, his only option would have been to work for one of the large coffee plantations for less than a dollar a day, a sum that would not feed his extended family. Facing that future, Antonio was willing to risk entering the United States without authorization.
Later in the call, Ana, a woman in her 20s, spoke about her parents who left Peru nearly 15 years ago amid threats of kidnapping. Her parents left because of their concern for the wellbeing of their children. Ana escaped danger in Peru, but now lives in the United States without authorization. As her tale unfolded, Ana expressed raw fear about the fact that she could be deported from the only home she has ever known. She lives with that reality every day.
These stories show the human faces behind immigration and speak to our hearts. Bread for the World is driven by a biblical call to love our neighbor. And the Bible is full of immigration stories.
“We are called to ground our treatment of the stranger in scripture,” said Rev. Walter Contreras during the call. The Bible instructs us on how we should treat strangers. The model is hospitality, from the stories of God’s people as immigrants in Genesis to Jesus's teachings in Mathew 25—in which he tells us that what we do for the stranger we do for the savior.
As a faith-based organization dedicated to ending hunger, immigration reform falls squarely in Bread’s mission. Situations that push families like Antonio's and Ana’s to migrate are far too common and illustrate poverty beyond our borders.
But as David Gist points out, “it’s also a hunger issue here in the U.S. Thirty-four percent of U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant adults lives in poverty—34 percent! That’s almost double the rate for children of U.S.-born adults.”
There is a lot of work to be done and the introduction of a Senate bill is just the first step. The House of Representatives will go through an independent process, but it is important people of faith to talk to Congress: reformed policies must respect human dignity and alleviate hunger and poverty both here and abroad.
“The opportunity for immigration reform process to move forward is now,” says government relations director, Eric Mitchell.
Today offers such an opportunity as religious leaders visit Capitol Hill for a day of prayer and action and you can join them. Learn more here.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.