Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

65 posts categorized "Immigration"

Immigration Reform: Looking Ahead to 2014

Participants in the Fast for Families, join together in prayer (Photo courtesy of Fast for Families).

In spite of the House of Representatives' inaction on immigration reform this year, 2013 ended with a crescendo of activity among advocates, and planning for a harder push for reform in 2014.

In November, faith, immigrant rights, and labor organizations launched the Fast for Families campaign, an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass just and compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World was one the sponsors of Fast for Families, and on Dec. 5, Bread for the World President David Beckmann prayed and fasted at the campaign tent on the National Mall, just a few blocks from Bread’s Washington, D.C., office.

“Immigration reform will allow people to work their way out of poverty,” Beckmann said.  He added that “immigration is part of the great exodus from poverty that is going on today,” and said that nations with comprehensive immigration policies have been able to more efficiently combat poverty than the United States. 

On Dec. 12, the Fast for Families campaign culminated its activities for the year with major direct action in Congress. More than 1,000 activists occupied the offices of 170 congressional representatives who were inactive on reform during 2013. Bread for the World was a full participant in the daylong action, working with our faith partners on several aspects of the event.

Ricardo Moreno, Bread for the World’s national organizer for Latino relations, kicked off Bread’s participation by leading a prayer service at the fasting tents in the morning. In the afternoon, a dozen Bread for the World staffers participated in the congressional action, “occupying” a congressional office and singing, praying, and sharing stories about the personal, real-world implications of the nation’s broken immigration system for families in the United States and overseas.

The Fast for Families campaign promised that the action was a symbol of increased grassroots engagement 2014.

In addition to grassroots action, Bread for the World staff members have been meeting with House Republican offices–including those of Republican leaders such as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)–to discuss the economic importance of immigration to the economy.Lower-skilled immigrants, in particular, revitalize rural and urban areas through their labor and entrepreneurship.

Although House Republicans didn’t act on immigration in 2013, they have repeatedly stated that it will be on the agenda in 2014. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has indicated he would like to tackle the issue next year. Speaker Boehner also signaled that he is serious about addressing immigration reform when he hired Rebecca Tallent, from the Bipartisan Policy Center, to lead his immigration policy work. Tallent is a veteran on immigration reform, and worked on previous congressional attempts at reform as a staffer for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Next year promises to be important for the immigration reform movement and Bread for the World will be fully engaged on the ground in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.

Fast for Families: La lucha sigue!

(Photo courtesy of Fast for Families)

By Dulce Gamboa

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
 to loose the chains of injustice  and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,  and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV)

Last week, I had the privilege of standing with participants in the Fast for Families campaign, an effort to move members of Congress to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform.

I joined the fast for two days, in solidarity with the fasters leading this effort, and my heart was definitely full after meeting immigration reform advocates who fasted for more than 20 days as an act of love, faith, and commitment. I was filled with hope after listening to the stories of fellow fasters and community leaders who have defied the odds to gain the attention of Congress. So many people involved in the immigration reform movement were appalled by the inaction in Congress— the House of Representatives has failed to act on immigration reform—and the idea that reform can wait. In reality, the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, and their families, cannot wait. Every day, families are torn apart, and millions of people live in fear of deportation.

Bread for the World was one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, which launched Nov. 12 and ended Dec. 12. Several of our staff members, including David Beckmann, fasted, and we participated in both a Dec. 11 prayer service at the fasters’ tent on the National Mall, and a Dec. 12 congressional day of action. During the Dec. 12 action, more than 1,000 people involved with Fast for Families visited 170 offices of members of the House Representatives, in what was called a “day of promise and prayer." We sought to touch their hearts, and move then to enact compassionate reform that includes a path to citizenship for the millions of people living in the shadows.

Bread staff prayed and sang for an hour in the office of Rep. Leon Acton “Lynn” Westmoreland (R-Ga.) of Georgia's third district. We felt re-energized by the prayers, chants, and stories we delivered that day. All the stories we shared of people migrating to the United States had a common thread: each person was escaping poverty and hunger in his or her home country. The stories showed that when we talk about immigration reform, we are talking about people.

Immigrants are making an immense economic contribution to this nation. We are helping to revitalize depressed local economies, everywhere from rural Iowa to Detroit and Baltimore. We are entrepreneurs, dreamers graduating from college. We are part of this nation—a nation of immigrants.

The immigration movement has knocked on many doors for decades now. We have made it this far thanks to the perseverance and sacrifice of great advocates. The fast is now over, but this is the kickoff of the next phase of putting pressure on the House until its members bring immigration reform to the floor for a vote.

Even though we are facing inaction in the House right now, as advocates we must continue to strengthen our resolve and prepare for what’s next.

La lucha sigue! We shall overcome!

Dulce Gamboa is Bread for the World's associate for Latino Relations.

Rev. David Beckmann Joins Fasts for Families

Rev. David Beckmann talks to a Fast for Families activist on Dec. 5, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Allie Gardner  

Today, in a small tent on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall, Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann prayed and fasted with a group of Fast for Families advocates.

Fast for Families is an effort, by faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders, to move Congress to pass compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Some of the participants have been fasting since the campaign launched on Nov. 12, while others have chosen to fast for shorter periods of time—one week, one day, or one meal. The fasters have received an outpouring of support: both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have visited the tent, as have several members of Congress.

Beckmann is fasting today, and during his time with the other Fast for Families activists, he talked about the importance of working together to achieve immigration reform. “Immigration reform will allow people to work their way out of poverty,” Beckmann said.  He later added that “immigration is part of the great exodus from poverty that is going on today,” and said that nations with comprehensive immigration policies have been able to more efficiently combat poverty than the United States. 

Granting legal status or citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States will reduce poverty by giving them access to additional education and employment opportunities. Comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform would not only decrease poverty levels, but boost the strength of the U.S. economy.

In the Fast for Families tent, the group’s organizers said that they normally ask a few things of those who visit their site. First, they ask that people fast. Whether it’s for one meal or one day, there is power in standing in solidarity with those who regularly go hungry. Second, they ask that all visitors take action. Taking action can take a variety of forms—sharing your story, contacting members of Congress, or supporting immigration reform campaigns with your time or monetary gifts. Finally, the group asks that everyone pray. Prayer is powerful, and Scripture tell us that people who come together in prayer can achieve amazing things. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).  (Bread for the World is hosting evening prayers at the tent on Wednesday, Dec. 11.)

We ask that you join us in fasting, taking action, and praying. If you're able, please sign up to fast, participate in an action in your area, and be sure to contact your representative and tell him or her that it's time for the House of Representatives to move immigration reform forward.

Allie Gardner is a media intern at Bread for the World.

Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform

Participants in the Fast for Families, join together in prayer (photo courtesy of Fast for Families).

In February 2004, Sang Hyuk Jung left Korea and came to the United States, full of hope for a better future. He had visited the country a year earlier to prepare his paperwork and meet with several  "experts," who told him that everything would be fine as long as he paid his "immigration fees." 

Several years passed, and Jung learned that his case had gone nowhere. He was out a huge sum of money, and the "immigration consultant" he'd been working with threatened to turn him in to authorities if he contacted him again. Jung later applied to change his visa status through the proper channels, but his application was denied. He fell into a deep depression and even thought about going back to Korea, but didn't want to uproot his children, who had been living in the United States for five years at that point. He continues to live in this country without legal documentation.

Jung is one of people participating in Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform. On Nov. 12, faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders launched the fast in an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World is one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, and several Bread staff members are fasting.

Jung says he is participating because he is tired of living in the shadows.

"I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am," he wrote in a recent blog post. "I want to tell you, tell others that we should not be discouraged. I know how difficult it is to live as an undocumented immigrant. Yet, I (and my family still) have hope. I believe we can pass comprehensive immigration reform together.

"I also have a message to the members of Congress," he continued. "We, the undocumented, are not different from you. We are just like your friends and families. We also work hard and pay taxes to make this nation better. We’ve been a part of this great nation. If you continue to deny our rights as human beings, if you use us for your political advantage, if you continue to break our families, you will find yourself isolated and you will be held responsible when immigrant families stride to polling places."

We ask that you join us in standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are seeking U.S. citizenship. Sign up to fast, participate in an action in your area, and be sure to contact your representative and tell him or her that it's time for the House of Representatives to move immigration reform forward.

Challenging Lawmakers to Prioritize Smart Immigration Reform

R4RSocialGraphic_EN_lgBy Minju Zukowski

On Oct. 29, a group of 600 conservative faith, business, and law enforcement leaders from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for immigration reform at the Americans for Reform event. The group met with Republican lawmakers and shared with them the message that our nation has a moral obligation to reform our immigration system—and the time for reform is now.

Bread for the World partners such as Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were among the diverse religious delegations participating in the event.

This gathering signaled that, across the political spectrum—from socially conservative evangelical Christians to progressive immigrant rights leaders, from business leaders to labor unions—Americans are #Ready4Reform

There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Once in this country, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy.  The poverty rate for undocumented immigrants is estimated to be between 21 to 35 percent—despite the fact that these individuals have a high workforce participation rate.  

Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue. Supporting reform that offers undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will reduce poverty, by giving them access to education and employment opportunities. It will also stimulate national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives.

It’s easy for lawmakers who are contemplating critical decisions about immigration reform to forget that the reason most people migrate to the United States is because they are seeking to escape crippling poverty in their home countries. They are doing what anyone would do if faced with a similar situation—taking a risk in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members.  

While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House has yet to put any immigration reform proposal to a full vote. Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship. EIT faith leaders also met with President Obama and Vice President Biden this week to reiterate their support for broad immigration reform that transcends politics.

So what can you do? Email, or tweet, your members of Congress and tell them that America is #Ready4Reform. Urge them to support smart immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants lift themselves out of poverty follows the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.

Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.

Coming months bring busy Congressional agenda for hunger and poverty issues

Lobby Day Photo by Jim Stipe / Bread for the World
We will be calling on you during the coming months to protect SNAP and food-aid reform, help end the sequester, and advance immigration reform. Photo: Lobby day activists (Jim Stipe for Bread for the World).

The Oct. 16 budget deal in Congress re-opened the government and raised the debt ceiling for a few months longer. This deal and new deadlines have set off an intense period in which Bread for the World will have to work extremely hard to protect funding for programs that address hunger and help people move out of poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

From now through January, Bread for the World’s primary focus will be on three legislative priorities:

  1. Protecting SNAP and international food-aid reform during the final negotiations on the farm bill
  2. Advocating for a 2014 budget agreement that ends the sequester and provides revenues
  3. Advancing comprehensive immigration reform

Last week, some parts of this busy fall and winter legislative agenda got underway. Congress' budget conference committee held an organizing meeting and its first public meeting, and the farm bill conference committee held its first public meeting. Meanwhile, on Nov. 1, $11 billion in food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) cuts went into effect.

We will need your help in order to achieve our legislative priorities, especially since the timing that these issues will be dealt with is tight. Here are key dates to note:

November 2013

  • 13: Budget conference committee holds its second public meeting
  • 25: Bread for the World Institute releases its 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America

December 2013

  • 13: Deadline for the budget conference committee to reach an agreement

January 2014

  • 1: Certain effects of expired farm bill begin (milk prices, etc.)
  • 15: Continuing resolution for federal budget expires. Congress must pass a spending bill to prevent another government shutdown.

February 2014

  • 7: Debt-ceiling extension expires. Treasury Department begins using extraordinary measures to prevent default.

March 2014 or later

  • Treasury Department exhausts all extraordinary measures, and Congress must raise the debt ceiling to prevent a default.

Throughout this intense period, we will be calling on you again and again to help urge your members of Congress to advance our legislative priorities. Thank you for your commitment to ending hunger and for going with us into these busy few months.

Pray for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Oct. 12 - 20

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

Beginning this Saturday, Oct. 12, and continuing through Oct. 20, faithful advocates across the country will join in prayer for comprehensive immigration reform. Christians will be gathering in Jesus’ name to lift up our representatives in Congress, the immigrants in our communities, and our churches.

Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue, as people cross borders to escape poverty and improve their livelihoods. Immigration reform will help reduce poverty and hunger among undocumented immigrants.

In partnership with the Evangelical Immigration Table, we will proclaim a biblical vision of immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families, and upholds human dignity. Bread for the World members are invited to join either by participating in a gathering that is already planned or by hosting and planning your own event. This guide provides contact information and step-by-step instructions on how to plan a Pray4Reform gathering. 

For more information and links, see "Action Needed: Pray and Act for Immigration Reform."

If you are unable to attend, set aside a quiet moment and pray this prayer, courtesy of the American Baptist Church, or one of your own. You can also follow the action on Twitter or share your own prayer using the hashtag #Pray4Reform.

O God, we speak of our country as One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all but we come to you today because liberty is threatened and justice is an orphan. We cry out to you for you are the defender of the alien, a shelter for the dispossessed, a mighty rock in a weary land. We lift our voices this morning for dreams deferred and hope held hostage; for families divided and sojourners incarcerated.  We pray for legislators whose intransigence is breaking the backs of the poor and the immigrant.

Raise up within their ranks those with an uncommon heart for  the common good, with vision that sees past the next election and moral courage that isn't subservient to the next poll.  Fill their hearts with compassion and give them a belly full of courage that freedom's bell might ring in welcome in every corner, every hamlet, every village, every city of our land. Make us again what we have always been:  a haven for those seeking a better life. 

Strengthen the hands and hearts of those who join with us today in petitioning congress and in nonviolent protest of injustice.  May their trust in you and in the basic fairness of this country be rewarded.

In your name we pray.

Quote of the Day: John McCullough

Prayer at capitol"I am reminded of the parable of the persistent widow and the stubborn judge taught to us by Jesus — an immigrant himself. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of a judge who had no fear of God and no respect for the people, but a persistent widow kept coming to him, seeking justice. After many refusals from the judge, the determination and consistency of the widow won out as the judge says "...because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming." This parable teaches us that God will grant justice, and that we are to be like the widow, faithfully seeking out justice from those in power. God will never forsake us, and we can never stop pursuing justice."

—John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, in "One Government Activity Continues: 1,100+ Deportations a Day," an Oct. 3 Huffington Post Religion blog post.

There are several events scheduled throughout October to urge members of the House of Representatives to take up immigration reform legislation, including Church World Service's Global Summit on Immigration Reform starting today You can follow the event on Twitter using the hashtags  #immigrationsummit and #timeisnow.

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

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.

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