Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

57 posts categorized "Immigration"

Advocates Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the House

Photo from the Evangelical Immigration Table's Pray4Reform gathering, held on the U.S. Capitol grounds in June. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Michelle Gilligan

Four years of “off and on” efforts by the "Gang of Seven" in the House to function as a bipartisan voice for comprehensive immigration reform have effectively come to an end. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) and Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) announced in a joint statement last week that they are withdrawing from the Gang of Seven negotiations, leaving only one Republican in the group.  In the absence of agreement on a comprehensive approach, the House is likely to act on immigration issues through a piecemeal process.

In spite of the breakup of the Gang of Seven, there is still hope that some reforms will be enacted. House Republican leaders are seeking to pass several immigration bills of more limited scope. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, explained that this series of smaller House bills is expected to come to the House floor in October. Goodlatte said that the content of the various pieces of legislation still has some details to be worked out, adding, “We don’t know what this bill is going to look like…but whether it’s a legal status or whether it includes a legal status and then a way to earn citizenship through education, military service, or types of employment, whatever the case may be, all of this is being discussed.”

Since the immigration issue is still before Congress, many faith-based advocacy groups are gathering together to make a final push for common-sense immigration reform in 2013. On Oct. 7 and 8 at the CWS Global Summit on Immigration Reform,  faith leaders and activists from across the country will advocate for comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system. The summit will be held at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., where more than 200 priests, lay leaders, and grassroots organizers will come together to discuss the pertinent issues related to immigration reform.

Over the course of the two days, participants will divide into denominational teams to hold dialogues on a variety of questions. One significant theme will be the importance of building stronger and more welcoming communities for immigrants. In addition to the team dialogues, there will also be presentations by guest speakers, among them several refugees who have volunteered to share their personal stories.

October will be an important month for immigration reform legislation in the House since the House Judiciary Committee is likely to address the issue after several months of inactivity. Faith advocates will continue to play a key role in the outcome of this year’s immigration debates. 

Michelle Gilligan is the immigration policy intern at Bread for the World Institute.

Immigration Reform Goes Home

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A photo of Jose, who came to the United States when he was 17 and is living in this country without legal authorization. During August's congressional recesss, legislators will return to their home districts to hear from their constituents on the next steps for immigration reform (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

By Andrew Wainer

The locus of the immigration debate moves from the Capitol to town halls across the country this week as legislators go home to hear from their constituents on the next steps for reform.

On the Republican side, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) sent House Republicans into the August recess with a detailed memo advising them how to talk about immigration reform with voters back home.

The “Immigration Resource Kit” provides talking points for lawmakers, among other August recess tools. Representatives enter the recess with no clear path forward on immigration, although Republican leaders are indicating that some legislative remedy for undocumented immigrants is being formulated.

Influential GOP Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is also emerging as a leading proponent for a path to legalization for unauthorized immigrants. Ryan has indicated that he supports some path to legalization for immigrants.

Proponents of a less restrictive path to legalization for immigrants, akin to the bill passed in the Senate this summer, will also be working “in-district” this August.  Organizing for Action (OFA) will include immigration reform as part of its major advocacy push in August  (another focus will be generating support for the president’s health-care law).

The August recess will certainly be important in terms of influencing representatives’ views on immigration, but the House is unlikely to actually take up legislation on immigration before October. In the meantime, advocates – including faith-based advocates – will be making the case for immigration reform both in and outside Washington.

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

The Time for Immigration Reform is Now

Pray_for_reform_gatheringBy David Beckmann

Today, I’m meeting with members of Congress, calling on them to pass an immigration reform bill that creates a path out of poverty for hard-working families. We will be joined by hundreds of evangelical leaders gathering in Washington to pray and take action for reform. Amplify my voice and the voice of all these other faith leaders by asking your representative to support an immigration reform bill that is rooted in biblical teachings.

Our faith calls upon us to care for our neighbors and speak out on behalf of those in need. Undocumented immigrants in the United States disproportionately experience hunger — and many are driven to the United States by hunger and poverty in their countries of origin. That is why Congress must approach immigration as a hunger issue, both in this country and abroad.

Compassionate and inclusive reform will reduce hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world, create jobs, and help reduce the national deficit.

Call or email your U.S. representative and urge passage of an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. Use our toll-free number: 1-800-326-4941.

You can learn more about immigration reform and Bread's position here.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

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).

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


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


[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.


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.

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