Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

83 posts categorized "Immigration"

This is a Humanitarian Crisis


Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger.  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

UPDATE: August 8, 2014

Before leaving for the August recess, House lawmakers passed a $694 million border bill, but failed to provide new funding to address the hunger, poverty, and violence causing the surge in unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. This debate is not over. Congress will revisit this issue when they return in September. In the meantime, your senators and representatives will be home throughout August. Take advantage of Bread's August recess resources, and raise this issue in town hall meetings, at the local district office, and other events.

By Eric Mitchell

Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.

A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.

A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.

Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.

There are two things you can do right now to help.

  1. Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
  2. Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.

Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.

While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.

If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.

The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.

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

An Immigrant's Story: Odilon Celestin

Restaurateur Odilon Celestin at his place of business in Florida. (Andrew Wainer)

The story of Haitian-born Odilon Celestin exemplifies the rags to riches narrative of many immigrants - an outcome that also benefits the communities in which they land. Andrew Wainer, senior immigration policy analyst with the Bread for the World Institute, writes about Celestin in “Harvest Haitian entrepreneurial spirit,” an article published in the Sun Sentinel last month. 

In 2001, Haitian-born Odilon Celestin arrived in Florida on a boat from the Bahamas. As an unauthorized immigrant with contacts, his work options were limited. His first job was harvesting green beans in Homestead. "I came and I didn't know people, I didn't have any friends," Celestin said. "This is how I started my life [in the United States]."

By 2003, he transitioned from agriculture to working in a bakery, eventually launching his own storefront restaurant in the Haitian enclave of North Miami. The banks turned down his loan requests, but he drew from a local nonprofit and his own savings for start-up capital.

Ten years later, Celestin received a $380,000 bank loan to open a second, larger restaurant that occupies 3,000 square feet, has capacity for 80 customers, and will have 11 employees.

For many immigrants, the driving force to succeed is the escape from poverty. Wainer has written extensively about factors that motivate people to leave their countries of origin in search of a better life. The humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States is a stark example of what life without hope can lead to - parents sending their children on a dangerous journey to spare them from violence and poverty.

The exodus from poverty is familiar to Christians and many Americans. For 40 years, Moses and his charges wandered the desert fleeing poverty and violence. Some of us can look a few generations back in our own family narratives and find the ancestor who arrived at Ellis Island with no more than a suitcase and a heart full of hope. For some, it is our parents who made the hard decision to leave their families to give us opportunity; for others, the story is in process.

Full of hardship and determination, the migrant’s story often concludes with success, especially when other positive conditions are present. Immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship is critical to business sustainability. Research shows that a path to citizenship will expand the U.S. economy by more than 5 percent over 20 years. Celestin’s entrepreneurial drive turned him into a job creator and resulted in an economic stimulus in his community.

In a country still struggling to rise out the Great Recession, harnessing the entrepreneurial drive of Celestin and others like him makes economic sense. Reflecting on our own narratives of exodus may instill in our hearts the Christian compassion that reminds us to hold out our hand in fellowship to others who come with nothing but hope.


Defend the Rights of the Poor: Tell Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

Rosa tends to the family live stock, a usual task for many children in rural Guatemala where she lives. Child malnutrition rates are also among the highest in the world causing an annual GDP loss estimated at $300m. Immigration reform must address the poverty and hunger that drives migration.  (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Eric Mitchell

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the southern U.S. border. In their home countries, many of these children face violence, extreme poverty, and hunger. With hopes for a better future for their children, parents have made the difficult decision to send their children thousands of miles away to escape the horrible conditions at home.

Your Representative needs to hear from you! We need to flood their offices with calls and emails in the next 48 hours.

Politics may be blocking comprehensive immigration reform, but Congress shouldn’t wait to act! This issue is more than just law enforcement or what happens at the border. Congress must address the root causes of migration.

Can you take two minutes right now to contact your Representative? Simply say: I urge you to pass legislation that supports development-assistance programs, especially those addressing migration push factors, including hunger and poverty.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative today and urge for a vote on immigration reform.

If we support successful development programs in countries like Honduras and Guatemala, we can help to not only reduce hunger and poverty, but also the likelihood of parents sending their children to migrate alone to the United States.

There are only a few days left before Congress leaves for its August recess. Our faith calls us to “defend the rights of the poor.”

Please help us get  calls and emails to Congress in the next 48 hours.

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

What is the Future of Immigration Reform?

A migrant worker piles cucumbers in Blackwater, Virginia, on the farm of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard on Monday, July 25, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth-Pohl/Bread for the World)

By David Beckmann

Last week's election news stunned the nation. For the first time in modern history, the House majority leader lost a primary election. The big question for Bread for the World members now is: What does Eric Cantor’s loss mean for hungry people, particularly as it relates to immigration reform?

Cantor's loss confirms two things:

  • First, it's not the policy that's holding immigration reform back. Members of Congress get the policy. It's the politics.
  • Second, your voice is more important than ever before! Cantor lost because he failed to spend enough time in his district and pay enough attention to his constituents. If members of Congress are learning anything from Virginia's primary elections, it's that they need to respond to the concerns of their constituents. In most districts — even Cantor's district — polls show constituents want immigration reform.

Use this opportunity to make your voice heard on immigration reform! Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative today and urge for a vote on immigration reform.

Immigration reform that alleviates poverty in the United States by providing a path to legalization (and thus higher wages and greater opportunity) and examining the conditions of poverty and hunger in migrant-sending countries could be dramatic in our work to end hunger. Too many people have waited too long and suffered too much for us to give up now. It's time to turn immigration reform from an agenda item to an action item. Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative today!

This year, Bread for the World is celebrating its 40th anniversary. We have four decades of history to show what’s possible when Christians speak out to Congress. Let’s raise our voices and add another victory to the list of progress against hunger!

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.


It’s Time for the House to Act on Immigration Reform

IR_rally1The future of immigration reform hangs on whether or not the House can pass legislation in the next couple of months. The Senate passed its bill nearly a year ago. A number of representatives have been working behind the scenes, drafting different immigration bills, but now the House must turn that negotiating and drafting into legislating and acting. The coming weeks are critical, but offer an important opportunity for advocates to help advance reform.

Immigration reform, particularly establishing a path to legalization and citizenship, will have an enormous impact on our ability to end hunger. There are an estimated 11-12 million people living in this country without documentation. Legal status is one of several factors contributing to poverty and hunger among undocumented immigrants.

Exploitation in the workforce is prevalent among undocumented immigrants. When employers fail to pay wages or violate employment laws, fear of deportation prevents undocumented immigrants from taking action. Today, undocumented immigrants are failing to reach their full earning potential, paying less in taxes, and contributing less to the economy than they would be if not for their legal status. Legalization and citizenship could increase immigrants’ earnings by 13 percent or more. But the House must act and pass legislation.

A path to legalization would enable millions of undocumented immigrants to move out of poverty by providing legal protections that will raise the wages of immigrants, creating better employment opportunities and providing access to better education.

IR_rally2Undocumented immigrants are more likely to work than the general population, but are also more likely to live in poverty. In fact, one-third of undocumented immigrants live in poverty, and within some unauthorized immigrant communities, more than half of the population is at risk of hunger.  The problem is particularly pronounced among children — one-third of U.S.-born children of undocumented parents live in poverty. Immigration reform will significantly reduce hunger and poverty in the United States.

Time is running out. If Congress fails to reform our immigration system this year, it could be years before we get another chance. The Senate passed S. 744 last June, but no bill can become law unless both chambers pass legislation. The House needs to act before the August recess. The next two months are critical! Email your representative and urge him or her to pass immigration reform with a path to legalization and citizenship, and to do so without delay.

Immigration reform is part of the exodus from hunger for which we advocate and pray. The book of Leviticus tells us to “treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We must act quickly and compassionately to make immigration reform a reality.

Photos: Scenes from an immigration reform rally in Washington, D.C., in 201o. (Flickr user Anushka Sampedro)

It's Up to You: Bread for the World's Virtual Lobby Day

(Left to right): Kay DeBlance, Rebecca Walker, Aaron Marez and David Ramos of Texas walk through the Russell Senate Office Building on their way to a meeting during Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day. If you can't join us in person for this year's Lobby Day, please support our efforts by pledging to call your members of Congress: www.bread.org/call. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)


By Eric Mitchell

Right now, we're at a turning point in the fight to end hunger.

There are two issues — food-aid reform and immigration reform — that are making their way through Congress right now, and decisions made by legislators in the coming weeks could impact our work to end hunger for years to come. Millions of people could be affected. During this critical time, hundreds of Bread members will be gathering in Washington, D.C., for our annual Lobby Day, and urging Congress to do the right thing. But in order to make the most of this opportunity, we need your voice.

Pledge to make a difference during Bread's Lobby Day by calling your members of Congress on June 9 — one day before we head to their offices.

We have a real opportunity to advance food-aid reform and immigration reform—two issues that are central to our goal of ending hunger. Here are the messages we’re taking to Congress on Lobby Day:

  • Pass immigration reform without delay! Immigration reform will reduce hunger by ensuring immigrants receive fairer wages and work in better conditions. Our Christian faith calls on us to welcome the stranger, and with Congress’ attention already turning to the November elections, the window for a vote on major legislation is closing quickly. Congress must act now to provide a path to legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  • Reject changes to food aid that hurt the hungry! An obscure provision before Congress would change the transportation requirements for U.S. food aid in a way that would make the process of getting food to people in need slower and more expensive. Two million people would go without lifesaving food aid just to pad the bottom lines of a few powerful shipping companies, and that’s not right. Congress must reject any action that increases transportation costs for food aid and support common sense food-aid reforms.

With hundreds of Bread members coming to Washington just as these issues are being debated in Congress, we have a huge opportunity to effect change. But we need our entire Bread community — including you — to really have an impact. We need to make sure Congress hears a loud chorus of Christian voices.

Help end hunger by raising your voice. You are an important part of Bread for the World and we need your help — your at-home advocacy on June 9 will strengthen our in-person advocacy efforts on June 10.

So what do you say? Will you stand with us at this critical time? This kind of opportunity doesn't come around often. I hope to have you with us.

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

Very Little Time for Immigration Reform

A group of advocates gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol, on June 27, 2013, to pray for compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Eric Mitchell
On Friday, we met with the staff of House Speaker John Boehner and personally delivered a Mother’s Day card, signed by more than 3,300 supporters, encouraging him to bring immigration reform up for a vote.
That card was an important demonstration of support, but there’s one thing you can do now to really make waves. Now your representative needs to tell Speaker Boehner that the House must pass immigration reform.
There is a short window of time for the House of Representatives to act on immigration reform. There are only 35 legislative days left before the August recess. Let your represenative know that this is a priority for you!
Call (800-826-3688) or email your representative and urge him or her to push for votes on immigration reform.
Our broken immigration system is separating mothers from their children and other family members, often leaving them struggling to provide food for their children and relatives. Passing immigration reform isn’t only about justice. It’s about alleviating hunger. One-third of undocumented immigrants live in poverty. Your voice, particularly as a Christian, can help move immigration reform from a list of proposals to a reality.
In our meeting with Speaker Boehner’s office, his staff affirmed the importance of the faith community.
Immigration reform can happen, but it requires people like you to speak out today and to contact your representative. Nothing is more powerful than a voice motivated by faith and God. People who live in fear of being separated from their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers—or of never seeing them again — cannot wait.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

Give Boehner Some Motherly Advice: Keep Families Together

In a protest, Renata Teodoro, right, and her mother, Gorete Borges Teodoro, who was deported in 2007, reunite at a Mexican border fence in Nogales, Ariz. (Samantha Sais for the New York Times)

By Rosa

There are many people who can’t always spend Mother’s Day with their moms, for different reasons.  In my case, visiting my mother means risking my family’s financial stability and possibly never returning to the country, the friends, or the job that I love.

I am one of the 12 million people who live in the United States without documentation. I left Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in 2002, seeking a better life. I’ve worked hard since coming here. I’ve held the same job for years, I’m active in my church, I volunteer in my community, and I’ve earned a high school diploma. Still, I live in constant fear of being deported.

Because of my status, leaving the country to visit my mother could mean never returning to the United States. So this Mother’s Day, for the eleventh year in a row, I won’t see my mom. I’ll only call her and tell her I wish we could spend the day together.

As you prepare to honor your mother in a few days, please stand with me and add your name to Bread for the World’s Mother’s Day card to Speaker John Boehner, which asks him to bring an immigration reform bill to a vote in the House of Representatives. Bread for the World staffers will deliver the card to Boehner’s office and urge him to work with his colleagues to fix this country’s broken immigration system and stop tearing families apart.

My story is not unique. I know mothers who’ve come to the United States to earn a living and must leave their children with relatives, and others who have watched their own children leave for the U.S., never getting to see them grow up. At home there are very few jobs and little opportunity. The money I’ve been able to send home helps feed, clothe, and house my parents, my brother and sister, and my nieces and nephews. Without it, I don’t know what would happen to them. When I hear people say unkind things about undocumented immigrants, I wonder if they would let their families suffer or starve if put in the same position.

My faith in God, my faith in Congress to do the right thing, and my faith in people to speak out lead me to believe we can pass comprehensive immigration reform now. People who live in fear of being separated from their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers—or of never seeing them again—cannot wait.

Rosa is one of 12 million U.S. residents living in this country without documentation.

Click here for a Spanish-language version of Rosa's story and the petition to Speaker Boehner.

Policy Focus: House Must Act on Immigration Reform

With one-third of unauthorized immigrants living in poverty and reports showing that legalization and citizenship would increase immigrants' earnings 13 percent or more, immigration reform is an important hunger issue. Moreover, the biblical mandate to "welcome the stranger" implores us as Christians to seek reform of our country's immigration system. The Hebrew word for immigrant — ger — appears 92 times in the Bible.

It has been nearly a year since the Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Despite widespread support for advancing some sort of immigration reform, the House has yet to act as a whole. However, significant movement has taken place behind the scenes.

The Senate passed one large comprehensive immigration bill, but the House decided to take a piecemeal approach, opting instead to pass a number of separate bills dealing with different aspects of our immigration system. The House Judiciary Committee has passed five bordersecurity measures. More importantly, three other bills lie in the wings as representatives negotiate final details and prepare for the proper moment to introduce their legislation. These bills focus on granting citizenship to DREAMERS (undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children by their parents or relatives and who have lived most of their lives here), providing a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., and addressing low-skilled workers.

For Congress to carry out comprehensive immigration reforms, the House must act. The votes exist. Speaker John Boehner needs only to bring legislation to the floor of the House for a vote. Many House Republicans, including many within the leadership, have made strong statements indicating their support for passing reforms this year.

There are two periods when immigration reform has its best chance of passing out of the House: the next couple of months and early this fall. A number of House Republicans wanted to delay voting for reforms, scared off by potential primary challengers. Now that the primaries are ending, a short window of opportunity exists before the August recess. Another short window of opportunity exists in September, after the August recess but before members return to their districts for the final campaign spree before the November elections.

Members of Congress must feel political pressure to act. They must feel there is a political cost in their November elections if they are seen as not acting on immigration reform. This is not a question of policy. It is a question of politics and members hearing from their constituents. Members of Congress need to be going to leadership, urging them to bring immigration bills up for a vote in the House because they are feeling too much pressure back home not to do so.

During Bread's 2014 Lobby Day (June 10 — see Bread Slices for more information), we will be increasing this pressure. One of the "asks" or topics during Lobby Day will be urging House members to press for votes on immigration reform, primarily those bills that will have a measurable impact in reducing hunger.

Photo: Advocates gather in front of the U.S. Capitol on June 27, 2013, to pray for compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

[This article originally appeared in the May 2014 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

Immigration Policy: Is Federalism the Answer?

Immigration rally
As immigration reform remains stuck in Congress, local and state proposals are gaining traction, for better or for worse. Here, demonstrators gathered at immigration reform rally held in Los Angeles on Feb. 22, 2014. (Ricardo Moreno)

[This article originally appeared in the National Journal, on April 21.]

By Andrew Wainer and Audrey Singer

For those of us tracking immigration policy, the shift is undeniable. With President Obama recently pointing out just how gridlocked a once-promising bipartisan Senate immigration proposal has become, cities and states have become the new immigration-policy innovators. They are filling the void.

U.S. immigration policy has been the purview of the federal government for more than a century. But it was not always that way. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, individual states had their own immigration laws. States typically sought to regulate immigrant influxes with policies that reflected particular concern about the arrival of poor European newcomers. Now, immigration policy is, in some ways, returning to its roots.

Increasingly, places that want to put out the welcome mat and encourage entrepreneurial activity are sharing ideas. And as a quick federal fix to immigration policy looks like a long shot, local and state proposals are gaining traction.

Continue reading "Immigration Policy: Is Federalism the Answer? " »

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