Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

42 posts categorized "Immigration"

Pushing Immigration Reform Into the 21st Century

Santiago Cruz

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 lives.

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 hunger.

Watch the award winning documentary Stay on YouTube and share it with your friends.

Immigration is a Hunger Issue

Marvin Garcia Salas and his son, Jesus-500px

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.

Pray and Act for Compassionate Immigration Reform

Jeanette Salguero is co-pastor at the Lamb's Church in New York City. Photographed on Sunday, October 28, 2102. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Tomorrow, April 17, Bread for the World President David Beckmann will join other religious leaders and Christians from across the country for the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C. The event comes at a critical time—tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will release its draft bill for broad immigration reform. 

After a morning prayer-filled worship service, participants will visit Capitol Hill and tell lawmakers that it is time for just and compassionate immigration reform. The Bible tells us that God has a special concern for those from foreign lands (Deut.10:18, Psalm 146:9). God also commands others to display special concern and compassion for immigrants, and to remember our own immigrant history (Lev. 19:33-34, Ex. 23:9).

As part of the Day of Prayer and Action, members of the Evangelical Immigration Table (of which Bread is a member) will proclaim a biblical vision of immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families, and upholds human dignity. If you are unable to attend, set aside a quiet moment in your day tomorrow and pray the "Prayer for Our Immigrant Sisters and Brothers" (below) or one of your own. You can also follow the event on Twitter, using the hashtag #IWasAStranger.

Make sure to call your members of Congress and tell them to support immigration reform that respects the human dignity of immigrants in the United States and addresses the poverty and hunger overseas, which are major causes of unauthorized immigration to the United States. You can call them using our toll-free number: 1-800-326-4941. 

Another way to message your lawmakers is through social media. Tweet your message to your member of congress or write on their Facebook wall. (Sample tweet: I pray and act for just & compassionate #immigration reform. Do you? @SenMikeLee #dayofprayer #IWasAStranger).

If you want to learn more about immigration issues, and Bread for the World's priorities for immigration reform, please join our expert organizing and policy staff today, for our monthly national grassroots conference call (and webinar), where we will explore the theme "Why Immigration, Why Bread, Why Now." Learn more about the immigration issue, its connection to hunger, and why we all should care. Register for either the 4 p.m. ET or the 8 p.m. ET call.


Prayer for Our Immigrant Sisters and Brothers

Blessed are You, Lord Jesus Christ.
You crossed every border
between Divinity and humanity
to make your home with us.
Help us to welcome you in newcomers,
migrants and refugees.

Blessed are You, God of all nations.
You bless our land richly
with goods of creation
and with people made in your image.
Help us to be good stewards and peacemakers,
who live as your children.

Blessed are You, Holy Spirit.
You work in the hearts of all
to bring about harmony and goodwill.
Strengthen us to welcome those
from other lands, cultures, religions,
that we may live in human solidarity
and in hope.

God of all people, grant us vision
to see your presence in our midst,
especially in our immigrant sisters and brothers.
Give us courage to open the door to our neighbors
and grace to build a society of justice.

(Source: Pax Christi)

Evangelicals Call on Congress for Immigration Reform

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A photo of an immigrant in North Carolina, who lives in the United States without legal authorization. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy

Immigration reform is perhaps the only policy issue in the nation that has both bipartisan support and political momentum. It is a popular issue in Congress these days, with the real possibility of bipartisan action. This week, the New York Times published an op-ed on the series of breakthroughs moving the nation toward a historic overhaul of the immigration system this year.  

While reducing poverty may not be the primary goal of most immigration reform efforts, it should certainly be one of its explicit objectives. Bread for the World envisions immigration policies that reflect both biblical perspectives toward immigrants and the spirit of U.S. democracy. Immigrants who are living in the United States without authorization, regardless of their countries of origin, need a timely and fair path to legalization. Meanwhile, targeted development assistance in immigrant-sending communities that supports inclusive and sustainable economic opportunities abroad can reduce the need for people to migrate illegally to the United States.

Immigration has stymied policymakers for decades but the coalition of faith communities and religious organizations supporting reform this year is unprecedented. A big part of the increased push is coming from a group of evangelical organizations that have prioritized immigration reform. The Evangelical Immigration Table includes the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and the National Association of Evangelicals, and other prominent faith groups. Bread for the World is also proud to be part of the Table and its efforts to promote just immigration reform of a broken system.

On April 17, hundreds of evangelicals will gather in Washington for the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform to raise an evangelical voice proclaiming a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families, and upholds human dignity. The event will include prayer services with the participation of Bread for the World President David Beckmann and other leaders, including Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.  Find registration information and an event schedule here.

Resources on Bread’s unique immigration perspective are now available online, in both English and Spanish.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.

Latinos Are Poised for Greater Engagement


Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, gave the keynote speech at the 2013 Latino State of the Union on March 7. Solis stressed the importance of education and immigration reform in empowering Latinos and lifting many out of poverty. Screenshot from LinkTV

By Nina Keehan

The 2013 Latino State of the Union address was held on Thursday, March 7. The message was clear: Latinos are powerful in numbers, but not in political or corporate influence—yet.

Currently 1 in 6 people in the United States are Latino, including 1 in 4 preschool-age children, making Latinos the largest minority community in the United States.

Yet no Latinos are in the presidential cabinet and few are in Congress. And while Latino consumers hold $2 trillion in buying power, they make up only 2 percent of corporate boards. Although Latinos comprise a quarter of young adults in the country, only 12 percent of college graduates are Latino.

Alarmingly, 36 percent of Latinos live in poverty.

At the same time, the 2012 election was a  turning point for Latinos, according to the panelists. With more than 10 percent of the total vote coming from Latinos, President Obama owes his second-term victory, in large part, to this group. As pointed out by the keynote speaker, Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, the president’s promise to expand and renew the middle class requires continued Latino involvement.

Solis said that the nation must prioritize education at all levels and provide young Latino students with advanced training in the careers of the future including manufacturing, healthcare and renewable energy.

She also called for comprehensive immigration reform which would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, who are often pushed to emigrate to America because of poverty and hunger in their own countries.  Solis advocates cutting wait times for immigrants who want to come to American legally and granting citizenship to “Dreamers," the children of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with their parents.

“It’s unacceptable that we don’t have a single Latino in the cabinet at a time when we are negotiating an issue as important as immigration,” added panelist Hector Sanches, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

Solis recognized that the entire Latino community needs to engage in the process for it to be successful:

“We must take action by calling on our elected officials in Washington to pass a comprehensive immigration bill this year," said Solis. "It will require an education campaign that draws form all of our communities by holding forums, writing letters, and convening community briefings for everyone.

"This is the chance of a lifetime to change the direction of the country and Latinos have a lot to gain if we unify behind one another.”

Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.


Welcoming the Undocumented Out of the Shadows

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An undocumented immigrant in North Carolina. The U.S. Senate recently proposed a bipartisan immigration reform plan that would allow legalization of undocumented immigrants provided they pay back taxes and a fine. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World. 

By Ricardo Moreno

Behind every person is a story, and it's no secret that the vast majority of immigrants who come to the United States are escaping hunger, poverty, and political persecution. Like all human beings, immigrants want better opportunities for themselves and their families. At Bread for the World we have always been concerned with the poorest people, whether they live on another continent, in another country, or right next door.

Yesterday, as I listened to President Obama's speech on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., I kept thinking about the impact of his words. The president's call for immigration reform, along with a similar push in the U.S. Congress, could positively affect the roughly 12 million undocumented people living and working in the United States. As I sat in the auditorium at Del Sol, I could see in the faces of the multicultural crowd the hope that our country is finally taking seriously the situation of the undocumented in our midst.

There is no doubt that the topic of immigration ignites passionate debate and that it is an issue that is politically exploited by many people. Past attempts at immigration reform have been blocked by small, well-organized groups, even though most public polls indicate that a majority of U.S. citizens favor reform of our nation's immigration laws.

Recently, a group of eight Democrat and Republican senators published principles that will serve as the basis for possible immigration legislation. President Obama has also presented his ideas on what should be included in rewritten immigration laws. In a Congress that has been so polarized around this and other issues in the past, it is encouraging to see that bipartisan talks are taking place and that an agreement is on the horizon.

Yes, undocumented people violated our immigration laws, but they can’t forever be condemned to live in the shadows of our society. Deportation of millions of people is not practical and is not in consonance with the moral values of the United States. I welcome the leadership of President Obama on this issue, and I welcome the initiative of the bipartisan group of senators. I am looking forward to public discussion, debate, and specific proposals in Congress to reform our immigration laws.

I encourage you read my colleague Andrew Wainer's writings on the root causes of unauthorized immigration. And as we, as Christians, continue to tackle and debate this issue, I invite you to ponder and reflect on the words of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospel of Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Ricardo Moreno is Bread for the World's national associate for Latino Relations.

How Cold Soup Could Help End Tomato Farm Worker Abuses

Recipe for Chage 8.27.12

                                                                                                   (Photo by Flickr user photo _ de)

by Racine Tucker-Hamilton.

Earlier this summer we told you about Bread for the World partner, the International Justice Mission’s campaign, “Recipe for Change”. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness about the issue of abuses in America’s tomato fields. The campaign asks major supermarket chains to support the Fair Food Program and develop a zero-tolerance policy against the mistreatment of workers on Florida’s tomato farms. Each week Recipe for Change features a tomato recipe from a guest writer and this week’s contribution is from Bread’s president, Rev. David Beckmann. Learn more about how you can be a part of “Recipe for Change” and make a mean bowl of gazpacho.


Racine Tucker-Hamilton is media relations manager at Bread for the World.

The Jamay Jalisco Club

The Jamay Jalisco Club in Los Angeles raises money for community projects in the town of Jamay, Mexico. Screen shot from video by Jon Vidar for Bread for the World.

Across the United States, people like Pedro Ochoa are raising funds for community projects in poor Mexican towns they left behind when they migrated (watch video below). Ochoa, vice president of the Jamay Jalisco Club in Los Angeles, is part of a vast network of U.S.-based Hometown Associations that send money — remittances — to Mexico and Central America. Ochoa's latest project is getting a school bus to Jamay, Mexico, his hometown, so children there don’t have to walk far to school.

“Our plan is to do what they do here in the States: pick up the kids from wherever they are,” said Ochoa. “I don’t have much family in Jamay but I have my heart to help people in it.”

But while remittances can improve community infrastructure, they rarely result in jobs or investments that give people alternatives to migrating from their countries for work. There’s a growing recognition in the diaspora that there need to be more projects resulting in sustainable income in hometowns. Agencies like the Inter-American Foundation are already working with diaspora investors to support small businesses and agricultural enterprises in high-migration countries like El Salvador. Larger agencies like the Millennium Challenge Corporation and USAID can expand these programs to places like Jamay in Mexico and throughout Central America.

To learn more about the links between remittances, immigration, and development, read my colleague Andrew Wainer's latest paper on the topic and visit Bread's immigration web page.

Laura-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. Follow her on Twitter @lauraepohl.


Gabriel Salguero: What Do Latino Evangelical Voters Want?

Photo by Flickr user √oхέƒx™

[This blog post is an excerpt from an article written by Bread for the World board member Gabriel Salguero, president of that National Latino Evangelical Coalition. The full article is available on The Washington Post.]

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that Hispanic evangelicals are a key constituency in swing states. The Jan 31 Florida primary has hastened an all-out blitz for this group’s attention. What do Hispanic evangelicals want from a presidential candidate?

Since our coalition of Latino evangelicals launched a national voter registration campaign, I have fielded multiple interviews about this growing--and increasingly politically influential--demographic. As many have noted, historically, Hispanic evangelicals are social conservatives that simultaneously advocate for issues of justice for the most vulnerable. Anyone who ignores this reality, particularly in swing states like Nevada, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Ohio, has not understood this emerging and increasingly vocal group. As a group, we are quintessential independent voters.

In 2004, George W. Bush won the majority of Hispanic evangelicals and in 2008 Barack Obama won that vote by a slim majority. Now in 2012, politicians, pundits, and prognosticators want to know which way we will lean. I’d like to recommend a way forward.

Hispanic evangelicals are not a monolith. Moreover, it would be the height of hubris for anyone to claim to speak for the 10 million or so Latino evangelicals. I personally agree with David Neff of “Christianity Today” that we as evangelicals should resist the temptation to try to be kingmakers. There is much seduction in the “will to power” and we should run away as fast as they can from this temptation. Martin Luther King, Jr. was correct, when he wrote: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, it must be the guide and critic of the state and never its tool”(Strength to Love, 1963). Hispanic evangelicals should simultaneously bring moral and public pressure to bear on behalf of legislation we feel is consonant with our conscience and convictions. Our community should work hard to develop our own national agenda that holds all candidates accountable. In short, we should shy away from endorsing candidates --while backing agendas that are consonant with our worldview.

So what are Hispanic evangelicals passionate about? In 2012, many Latinos in Pentecostal and evangelical congregations have divided allegiances. On the top of their mutual agendas is humane, common sense immigration reform. This is a moral and family values issue. We take “welcome the stranger and love your neighbor” seriously. We are looking for legislation that provides an earned path to citizenship and keeps families together. This type of legislation has been endorsed by presidents from Reagan to Obama and yet nothing has changed. Both parties have lacked the political will to make policy changes that will impact Latino families in profound ways. 

To say Latino evangelicals are disappointed by this inaction is a severe understatement. Moreover, the rhetoric by some GOP candidates to veto a DREAM Act or to not provide a path to earned citizenship for the 12 million illegal and undocumented immigrants is raising the ire of many Latino pastors. Our message to the GOP is to stop the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Meanwhile, this present administration’s spike in deportations has left us disillusioned with the left. In short, Hispanic evangelicals want real solutions now and they want both parties to be accountable.

On the social issues Latino evangelicals overwhelmingly hold to a pro-life and pro-marriage platform. This is no secret. Latino evangelicals have historically been social conservatives on the issues of marriage and what Catholics call a “seamless garment” of life. This means that many Latino evangelicals advocate for a broad agenda that protects children--both before birth and after. We are thoroughly concerned about the health of the most vulnerable.

While Hispanic evangelicals are for the most part social conservatives, they also value the power of good governance on behalf of the ones Jesus called, “the least of these.” Many Hispanic evangelicals, myself included, signed-on to the Circle of Protection to protect programs for the poorest and most vulnerable in our country. In addition, we realize that the global economic recession has displaced thousands of Latinos from homes in the foreclosure crisis. Latinos look for a government that understands that among the things the Constitution calls for is that the government “promote the general welfare.” This is at the heart of Latino evangelicals’ advocacy for anti-poverty programs at home and abroad, immigration reform, and educational equity. Pew researchers have said that Latino evangelicals are “big government social conservatives.” I would say we are people who seek the common good. ...

[Keep reading this article on The Washington Post.]

Gabriel Salguero is a board member at Bread for the World and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

Hunger in the News: Food Stamps. Immigration. Foreign Aid.

Want to stay up-to-date on all of your hunger news? While this isn't a comprehensive list, it's a good start. Here's a roundup of current news links on hunger issues from around the Web:

  • "The 'success' of Workfare When Jobs are Scarce," by Barbara Kiviat. As unemployment has sky-rocketed, and other social safety net program like SNAP (a.k.a. food stamps) have seen a surge in participation, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has barely budged.

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