Category Archives: Emerging Justice Seekers

Dreams of Inclusion

Dreams of Inclusion

Inaction by Congress Costs DACA Recipients the Ability to Participate Fully in a Democracy They Help Make Flourish

Sydney Clark
June 11, 2024

Ivonne Ramirez speaks about her experiences as a child immigrant and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program participant during Mass at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in St. Louis. Photo: Sid Hastings

Ivonne Ramirez was 8 when her family migrated to the U.S. from Mexico City. They arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, where her father and a sibling had been living for about a year.

“It took seven days to get to St. Louis,” Ramirez says. “I was mostly walking to cross the border. It took a lot out of me.” Her father, a police officer, left Mexico due to safety concerns after raiding a money-laundering operation inside a bar. He was only able to bring one of his children. Ramirez journeyed with her mother and three other siblings.

“I was sleep-deprived, and people kept telling me, ‘If you keep going, you’re gonna see your dad’,” she says. “Not seeing my father for a year felt like a lifetime.”

A few years after the family reunited, Ramirez became eligible for the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which began in 2012 as an executive action by President Barack Obama. This year marks a decade for Ramirez as a recipient.

She and her family still resides in St. Louis. She works full-time doing quality control for a medical equipment company. On weekends, she serves as a catechist at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Ferguson, Missouri. “It feels like home. I’ve been here for most of my life,” Ramirez says.

Shut Out

While DACA has allowed Ramirez to attend school and get a driver’s license and a work permit, the realities of being a recipient remain at the forefront. She is one of roughly 580,000 active DACA recipients.

“Our permits and status allow us to be here for two years, and then we have to renew six months before,” she says. “This year, I’m OK, but next year, I have to start thinking about sending all the paperwork and the fee, which is $495. How will I get that extra income to pay for that?”

Recipients are ineligible to vote in federal elections, and Ramirez’s voting rights are nonexistent. Some states and municipalities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections like city councils, mayoral and school boards. Missouri is not one of them.

“If you pay your taxes, contribute to society, and show that you’re a model citizen, I don’t see why the efforts to put something permanent for [us] aren’t there,” Ramirez says.

In 2022, NETWORK honored Ramirez as one the organizations’ inaugural “Social Poets,” young justice-seekers whose lives and work define the challenges and possibilities of the coming decades. Unfortunately, permanent legal status for undocumented people in the U.S. remains an unaddressed challenge.

Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, deputy directory of federal advocacy at United We Dream and a DACA recipient. Photo: Diana Alvarez

At its height, DACA had around 840,000 recipients, says Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, deputy director of federal advocacy at United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country. A DACA recipient herself, she was 14 when her family migrated to the U.S. from Brazil. Macedo do Nascimento calls DACA the largest “victory of the immigration movement in decades.”

The program, however, has faced ongoing legal battles since its origin, leaving recipients in constant limbo.

“Many don’t know how much danger the policy is in,” Macedo do Nascimento says. The latest challenge happened on Sept. 13 of last year, when Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen ruled again that DACA is unlawful. Now, DACA will likely revisit the Supreme Court in 2025.

Although Hanen blocked new program applications, he left DACA unchanged for existing recipients during the anticipated appeals process. Recipients can continue to renew and apply for Advance Parole, which allows certain immigrants to leave the U.S. and return lawfully, said Macedo do Nascimento.

Bruna Bouhid, senior communications and political director at United We Dream, at a UWD Congress in Miami. Photo: United We Dream

“You feel like you’re on a roller coaster,” says Bruna Bouhid, senior communications and political director at United We Dream. “You never know if this will be your last chance to apply or if, in a year or six months, you will lose all those things you had planned for or worked hard to get.”

Bouhid, who became a recipient at 20, says the legal fights reveal that DACA will “not be our saving grace. We need something permanent. We need citizenship.”

Government Inaction

“It’s really up to Congress to find and support the solution,” says Christian Penichet-Paul, assistant vice president of policy and advocacy at the National Immigration Forum. “It’s the only branch of government that can ensure DACA recipients and other young DREAMers can stay in America long term and potentially become lawful permanent residents.”

Penichet-Paul says distrust among both parties and lack of courage helped derail legislative action and execution. He also predicts immigration reform talks in Congress will not advance during this election year.

“Democracy is such a precious thing, and it can take a long time to come up with a compromise,” Penichet-Paul says. “Sometimes, getting to the right place requires multiple little steps.”

As to when a policy window might open up, he notes, “It’s always said that Congress works best on a deadline. Unfortunately, that might be the next Supreme Court decision.”

Penichet-Paul stresses that there is bipartisan agreement and existing text that can serve as the bill that “finally provides permanence for young DREAMers who’ve been in America since they were little kids.”

One option could be a new version of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, first introduced in 2001. A version introduced last year by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would permit noncitizens brought to the U.S. as children to earn permanent residence aft¬er meeting specific education or work requirements. Durbin and Graham introduced similar legislation in the last three sessions of Congress.

Ivonne Ramirez speaks to parishioners at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in St. Louis. Ramirez, one of NETWORK’s “Social Poets,” has been a DACA recipient for the past decade. Photo: Sid Hastings

Additionally, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2023, which would tackle the sources of migration, reform the visa system, and “responsibly manage the southern border.”

“We can have a pragmatic system, looking at who needs and wants to migrate, but let’s create a system that is fair and humane for everyone,” Bouhid says.

Ramirez admits that she’s “a little scared” for the looming 2024 election but encourages those eligible in her community to vote.

“A lot of Americans know at least one, if not many, DACA recipients and immigrants,” she says. “If you get to know them and understand why they came to the U.S., you would happily vote in honor of them.”

Ramirez says her Catholic faith inspires her to be vocal about the challenges immigrants face.

“I never want to stop talking about us and why we need to become citizens,” she says.

Penichet-Paul says immigrants have grown up as “American as any U.S. citizen in many ways” and take civic participation and community service seriously.

“Immigrants are often some of our strongest allies in maintaining democracy and the institutions that allow our democracy to prosper,” Penichet-Paul adds. “Democracy can coexist with DACA and immigration. They’re about good governance and ensuring that people can reach their full potential, nothing more, nothing less.”

Sydney Clark is a New Orleans native and multimedia producer based in Washington, D.C.

This story was published in the Quarter 2 2024 issue of Connection.

Honoring Melba Pattillo Beals

Honoring Melba Pattillo Beals

February 29, 2024

NETWORK is honoring Black History Month this week with a spotlight on Melba Pattillo Beale with a re-post from our archives that reflected on Ms. Pattillo Beals’ experience with her classmates, known as the Little Rock Nine. These young activists hold a vaunted place in U.S. history. Their brave effort to integrate the all-white Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957 following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, made them some of our youngest Civil Rights-era heroines and heroes.

Mary Cunningham
February 9, 2018

“The task that remains is to cope with our interdependence – to see ourselves reflected in every other human being and to respect and honor our differences.”-Melba Pattillo Beals

Two years ago a friend and I got into a deep conversation about faith. We navigated the winding roads of what it means to believe in God, where we felt God’s presence, and how to maintain our faith when met with resistance. After our conversation my friend recommended a book to me – Warriors Don’t Cry, a memoir written by Melba Pattillo Beals about her experience integrating Little Rock High in Arkansas.

A few months later, I bought the book and was ready to delve in. As I sat down to read, Melba’s words washed heavy over me. I was pulled out of my own world of petty fears into the sharp reality of a young girl who feared for her life because of the color of her skin; at age 14, Melba was forced to grow up fast, saddened by the childhood experiences she never got to have. My friend and I talked about how to maintain faith during moments of resistance, but this was on a whole other level.

Melba Pattillo Beals was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African American students chosen to integrate the all-white Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957 following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954. Upon entering Little Rock High School on the first day of classes, a huge white mob shouting racial slurs and threats greeted Melba and the other students. Melba and her mom barely escaped. Even when the students were finally able to enter the school, they were harassed and condemned by white peers, teachers and staff members. Melba had peanut and glass smeared on her seat, she was tripped, pushed, and almost blinded by a student who threw acid into her eyes. President Eisenhower sent in members of the 101st Airborne Division to accompany the students to and from their classes just because the violence was so bad. Physically and mentally tormented, Melba’s faith and her family support remained her inner strength. Despite all the hatred around her, she continued to push forward, paving the way for women and men of color who came after her.

Warriors Don’t Cry woke me up. It made me realize how powerful it is when men and women – particularly people of color — are brave enough to go against the grain to fight for their rights and whose inner strength defies the often negative, hateful world we live in. They are the ones pushing against, resisting, and reshaping our society. I am inspired by Melba who despite all the negative energy around her, not only managed to persist, but managed to trust in God and to forgive. Even when she was stripped down to survival mode, she prevailed.

The book also forced me to identify and confront my own white privilege. Melba and other women and men of color have made sacrifices and continue to make sacrifices that I know as a white woman I will never have to face. I will never undergo racial discrimination, physical attacks, or fear for my life because of the color of my skin. Instances of racism like the ones in Melba’s story may seem less prevalent in today’s society. However, they still exist – just in varying forms. Racism is entrenched in our society, its practices, its institutions. And white privilege continues to inform our outlook and our actions. In order to truly confront these issues, we need to go beyond our comfort zones, educate ourselves, and truly confront our own white privilege if we are not men and women of color. Black History Month is a great time to start this journey. I am honored to share Melba’s story in hopes that others will take the time to learn about the amazing African American men and women who have moved our nation forward and made us more racially accountable.

NETWORK shares Adam Russell Taylor's essay on educating his sons during Black History month

Acknowledging Systemic Racism and Unpacking Whiteness

NETWORK honors Black History Month by revisiting a 2019 blog post where a former staff member discussed NETWORK’s commitment to becoming an antiracist, multicultural organization. One strategy involved hosting staff book discussions and sharing resources to learn about the systemic injustices in federal and local policies that have led to inequities like the racial wealth gap—which was crucial in informing our work to build our country anew

Unfortunately, in 2024, we see harmful challenges to teaching Black history in book bans, curricula censorship, and the intentional erasure of Black history. Despite these obstacles, there is hope. Adam Russell Taylor, Sojourners’ Executive Director, shared in his essay, Teaching My Black Sons They Are Loved, how he cultivated a tradition of sharing Black history with his sons while driving in the car. Mr. Taylor’s commitment to teach Black History is a powerful model for all people in our country who are responsible for the care of children–-whether they are Black, Brown, or white, so that we can better understand who we are as a nation. As he points out, “Teaching Black history is not just about strengthening our democracy or fixing injustices; it’s also about affirming and celebrating an essential part of our nation’s culture and identity.”

Acknowledging Systemic Racism and Unpacking Whiteness

Black History Month Update
February 14, 2024
Lindsay Hueston
February 21, 2019

In a commitment to moving towards being an anti-racist, multicultural organization, NETWORK staff is intentionally setting aside time in 2019 to read and discuss Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The book examines structures of race in the modern-day United States, and is an especially pertinent read during Black History Month. As a white woman, DiAngelo challenges systems of whiteness that have led to the racism that permeates our political and societal culture. Though it may manifest itself in different ways, racism is still alive and well today, and impacts countless policies and issues that NETWORK works on in order to mend the gaps in our society.

During Black History Month, NETWORK challenges you to examine the way you and the systems around you may unintentionally perpetuate racism. We are trying to be intentional about listening to the experiences of people who are directly impacted by systemic racial injustice, and we encourage you to do the same.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

– Lilla Watson, indigenous Australian activist

Some resources that may be helpful throughout this month, please comment below with any recommendations you have to add:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
White Like Me by Tim Wise
Waking Up White by Debby Irving
Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew G.I. Hart
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Artist: Ernesto Yerena

Roxane Gay
Audre Lorde
Alice Walker
Toni Morrison
James Baldwin
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Maya Angelou

We Must Talk About Race to Fix Economic Inequality (YouTube video)
Talks to help you understand racism in America (TED talk playlist, videos on racial justice)
The Myth of the Welfare Queen (PBS video)

Everyday Respectability Politics
An Examen for White Allies: from the Ignatian Solidarity Network
What Black Lives Matter Can Teach Catholics About Racial Justice: from America Magazine

Reading List for Northam: recently-published article that has some great anti-racism resources
16 Books About Race That White People Should Read: further reading resources
(White) Girl Power aka The List: a list of anti-racist resources to white women to attain a deeper understanding of Black women’s lived experiences
Skimm Reads for Black History Month: recent popular books written by Black authors

People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond: holds programs, workshops, and resources for anti-racist education and organizing
Rachel Cargle: an activist and writer who educates others about anti-racism and intellectual discourse
Everyday Feminism: website has an entire section dedicated to the intersections of race and feminism

Code Switch (NPR)
Pod Save the People
Yo, Is This Racist?
Good Ancestor
Hoodrat to Headwrap
The Racist Sandwich Podcast
Ezra Klein: Political Power and the Racial Wealth Gap
A Conversation About Conversations About Race

Dear White People (TV, Film)
The Hate U Give

Build Anew Series – Looking Ahead

Build Anew Series — Part 10
Looking Ahead

Virginia Schilder
December 5, 2023
Welcome back to our Build Anew Series, with weekly posts covering the people, policies, and values at the heart of the issues we work on. This final post wraps up the Series and looks ahead to more work together in 2024, including the launch of Y.A.L.L.: Young Advocates Leadership Lab. Thank you to everyone who has joined us in reading, watching, and taking action!    

Well friends, here we are: our TENTH and final part of the Build Anew Series!

Thank you to everyone who has been with us on the Build Anew Series journey. Over the past few months, we dove into each issue of NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda. We learned from the some of the people most directly impacted by these policy issues, we confronted some tough policy facts, and, rooted in the Catholic Social Justice tradition, we reflected on the moral dimensions of these social realities.

Equipped with that knowledge, reflection, and compassion, we took action — from urging President Biden to establish an H.R. 40 Reparations study commission; to calling our Representatives in Congress to protect and expand SNAP; to learning more about Medicaid unwinding; and to watching White Supremacy and American Christianity part 3.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) and NETWORK work together in political ministry for climate justice advocacyYou may have noticed that one of our key issue areas was missing from the series posts: climate justice. Earlier this year, NETWORK added climate justice to our work, thanks to an extremely generous gift from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Climate justice is connected to all of the issues in the Build Anew agenda, like food, health care, immigration, taxes, the economy, and more. As we move into the new year, join us in integrating climate justice more deeply into our advocacy!

2024 will also bring the launch of our exciting new initiative, Y.A.L.L.: Young Advocates Leadership Lab. Y.A.L.L. will equip and resource emerging Catholic and other faithful justice seekers to be leaders in working for a multiracial democracy. If you’re a young person (like me!) and found that even just one of these issues touched you or spoke to you or your community’s lived experience, we invite you to reach out to NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization and Education Specialist Chelsea Puckett to learn more about Y.A.L.L.

The Build Anew Series brought us back again and again to our foundational Catholic social teaching: that every single person has dignity and our flourishing is intertwined — meaning no one can be left out of our circle of care! To build anew, our society and communities to be more life-giving for all of us means cultivating solidarity, a daily conversion to loving our neighbor by working for their wellbeing. We are called to join in the Spirit’s liberating action all around us, and together, we have the power to build anew!

Thank you so much for joining us! Continue to be part of our community of justice-seekers by following NETWORK on social media (like Instagram (@network_lobby) and Facebook) and becoming a NETWORK member.

Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour.

Gen Z’s Voter Vision

Gen Z’s Voter Vision

Young Catholics See Connections to Their Faith When They Vote for Justice

Nora Bradbury-Haehl
April 19, 2023
Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour.

Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour.


On Nov. 9, 2022, the day after the midterm elections, President Joe Biden expressed his gratitude to young voters. “I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who voted in historic numbers,” he said, and named the issues they came out for: “They voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and student debt relief.”

Gen Z has embraced a platform of social justice — economic, racial, climate, immigration — and they don’t just care about it, they vote about it. In 2018, young people ages 18-29 set a record for voter turnout, 28.2 percent, and again this past fall they came just short of that previous performance at 27 percent. Indeed, Gen Z voters, the largest and most diverse generation of American voters in history, are making waves — and stopping them. The much-hyped “Red Wave” of Republican victories in 2022 never came ashore. The nation’s youngest voters made sure of it.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) urges that “all citizens be mindful of their simultaneous right and duty to vote freely in the interest of advancing the common good.” The Venn diagram of Catholic Social Teaching and the values of Gen Z voters has a wide region of overlap.

But do Gen Z Catholics know it?

Seeing Connection

According to Colin Martinez Longmore, they do. Martinez Longmore is the Grassroots Outreach and Education Coordinator at NETWORK, where he works on equipping young justice-seekers with faith-based advocacy skills and opportunities. A co-host of NETWORK’s “Just Politics” podcast, produced in collaboration with U.S. Catholic magazine, Martinez Longmore spent several weeks in the fall of 2022 visiting college campuses and other venues as part of NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour, making the case for multi-issue voting across generational lines.

Gen Z voters, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse generations, “are also growing up surrounded by an American popular culture that is much more accepting of diversity than before,” says Martinez Longmore. He contends that because of this, their understanding of the equity and social justice aspects of Catholic Social Teaching is more innate than previous generations.

Emely Hernandez

Emely Hernandez

Emely Hernandez, a 24-year-old studying and working in Chicago, also makes the connection between the church’s social teaching and her own vote.

“There is so much beauty and thoughtfulness in the teachings of the Catholic Church that focuses on upholding the dignity and respect for every human,” she says, naming the call to family, community, and participation as the principle that motivates both her vote and her career. She describes the latter as “focused on advocacy work against human injustices” and “working to promote the greater good for those who are poor and vulnerable.” Her current position involves supporting unhoused individuals, low-income families, immigrants, and refugees.

Ethan Carrino is a Michigan-based college student and a recent convert. He describes a “disconnect” he encounters with some older church leaders over hot-button and social issues.

Ethan Carrino

Ethan Carrino

“As a mixed-race Catholic who’s felt racism in the church, raising awareness ending bias, and having inclusion is very important.” Carrino grew up going to Catholic schools but came into the church through a campus RCIA program.

“Our church calls all cultures/ethnicities to itself,” he points out. Regarding voting, Carrino says his faith pushes him to take note of things Jesus would speak on and think about what the Gospel calls him to do.

“It’s easy sometimes to only see an issue a certain way, but being Catholic helps me to see how the issue impacts everyone, especially those in need,” he says.

According to Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a non-partisan, independent research organization focused on youth civic engagement in the United States, “Youth are increasing their electoral participation, leading movements, and making their voices heard on key issues that affect their communities.” The first Gen Z member of Congress, 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, got his start organizing with the anti-gun-violence group March for Our Lives. Voters of Tomorrow, a pro-democracy research and advocacy organization, was founded in 2019 by then 17-year-old Santiago Mayer.

What is Meant by Catholic?

Do Gen Z Catholics see a connection between the church’s teachings and their vote? Christian Soenen, projects manager of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and one of NETWORK’s 2022 Social Poets, says perhaps.

Christian Soenen

Christian Soenen

“I think this largely depends on which circles of Gen Z Catholics I am in,” Soenen says. He observes that very devout Catholics on both the left and the right connect their Catholic identity with their vote but that different aspects of religiosity inform their different conclusions on politics.

“Among my friends on the right, ritual, symbol, and personal discipline are components of their practice of faith that then create a cultural lens through which to understand politics” Soenen says, which in his observations translates to conservatism. On the left, “the social message of the Gospels and the prophets form the core of their understanding of their faith.”

Among left-leaning young Catholics, this understanding manifests as a desire for a more inclusive and equitable society that prioritizes issues like poverty and healthcare.

Audrey Carroll

Audrey Carroll

Audrey Carroll, 24, is a political communications professional and former NETWORK staff member. She says her faith provides a framework for the values she cares about and votes for, “by encouraging me to always be in pursuit of justice and the common good.” Carroll says being Catholic teaches her to avoid supporting “policies and legislation that only protect and benefit people with power and privilege” and to reject policies that “intentionally marginalize underserved communities and individuals.”

Nick Cook, 24, works in Rochester, New York at a refugee outreach center. He has worked with homeless veterans and, during college, volunteered with a Catholic organization that serves the people living in poverty in rural Pennsylvania. Cook says he votes the way he does because of his Catholic faith and Catholic Social Teaching. The issues that he identifies as a part of that influence also have wide appeal among his peers: “Respect for all God’s creation — environment, option for the poor and dignity of the human person — higher minimum wage, more expansive public benefits, care for refugees, the homeless, anti-death penalty, anti-gun.”

But he also identifies two big sticking points: “I disagree with a narrative I hear that Catholic voting should lead to voting for anti-abortion candidates without regard for any other issues, especially because I believe conservative candidates have more opinions opposing Catholic social teaching than more liberal candidates.”

His other concern is also common among Gen Z voters: “Thinking about the term ‘Catholicism’ sparks ideas of a lack of openness to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, even though I and many Catholics I know are open to that. I also believe respect for the gay and transgender community should be included in respecting the dignity of the human person too.”

Where We’re Rooted

Gen Z Catholics, depending on where they worship and what movements or media they are connected to, may or may not hear their own views and values supported by church leaders. Nonetheless, those who are committed to Catholic Social Teaching seem to be firmly rooted.

Martinez Longmore describes his own sense of it: “My Catholic faith instilled instilled in me a deep sense of reverence for the inherent dignity of every person, and an awareness of God’s unique preference for marginalized and shunned communities. So I see issues like creating a just immigration process, or reforming the criminal legal system, or addressing the root causes of poverty through public policy as a very Catholic thing — even if I don’t hear those issues talked about at my local parish or by faith leaders.”

Soenen at Georgetown offers a caveat on the importance of formation: “A Catholic whose faith formation hasn’t included any significant focus on the social dimension of the Gospel will have very little reason to reject the present destructive forces in politics: populist nationalism, nativism, and romanticized notions of the efficacy of capitalism, to name a few. In this case, faith might actually become an obstacle to social justice, especially if it is understood to place morals in a dimension that is somehow separate from the public square.”

But Soenen’s thinking on young Catholics whose faith causes them to care about social justice is that they will have “an extraordinarily impactful dedication to social justice and will carry with them a moral that is more consistent, coherent, and focused on the common good than another system of social values.”

He adds, “When faith and politics are understood together, the faith adds a sense of transcendent importance to the politics, while knowing that that importance is fully expressed in human terms. My Catholicism, for me, means that a political injustice offends both God and humans, and because of that, it has a much stronger hold over my conscience than it would have if the religious component were absent.”

Nora Bradbury-Haehl is the author of “The Twentysomething Handbook” and “The Freshman Survival Guide.”

This story was originally published in the 2nd Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

Hispanic Heritage Month Media Guide

Hispanic Heritage Month Media Guide

Cristal Flores
October 11, 2021

Education has the power to humanize people who, because of larger structural inequalities, have been dehumanized or seen as lesser than. However, the U.S. educational system has not always benefited everyone equally. For decades, Hispanic and Latinx Americans have struggled and pushed to help create a more just educational system. Here are some notable pieces of media to educate yourself on the resilience of the Hispanic community in education: from landmark legal cases to high schoolers on strike.

Cristal Flores is a first generation Mexicana Americana in Orange County, CA. She is currently enrolled in her first year of her doctoral program for her Ph.D in Education with an emphasis on Cultural and Curricular Studies. Her research focus on the Latina/o/x communities in education especially parental engagement and migrant youth experience. As a practicing Catholic, Cristal sees her work, research, and advocacy as a way to further use the gifts that she learned in ministry and in her faith.

Orange sign that says "It's in the Constitution: Everyone Counts"

State Voting Restrictions Reinforce the Need for the Democracy Reform

State Voting Restrictions Reinforce the Need for the Democracy Reform

Alex Budzynski
June 21, 2021

Right now, a record number of bills that restrict the vote are moving through state legislatures and becoming law. A recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice found that at least 14 states have enacted 22 restrictive voting bills since January. In particular, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa have introduced overarching bills that further constrict already narrow voting laws. Montana and Arkansas have already ratified four bills apiece, and Arizona has proposed two dozen bills which target voting by mail specifically. Several of these laws are being challenged in court.

The Brennan Center study determined that these provisions stem from “the racist voter fraud allegations behind the Big Lie and a desire to prevent future elections from achieving the historic turnout seen in 2020.” Over 300 restrictive bills have been introduced in 48 states, and 61 bills are currently moving through state governments. With voting rights jumping to the top of state legislative agendas, “the United States is on track to far exceed its most recent period of significant voter suppression” by the end of this year.

States are imposing an assortment of the following provisions making it more difficult to vote in person or to cast ballots in the mail:

  • Shortening the timeframe to request and deliver mail ballots
  • Making it harder to remain on absentee voting lists
  • Eliminating or limiting mail ballots to those who do not specifically request them
  • Restricting assistance when returning mail ballots
  • Limiting the number and location of mail ballot drop boxes
  • Imposing stricter signature requirements for mail ballots
  • Tightening voter ID requirements
  • Expanding voter purges
  • Banning snacks and water at in-person polling stations
  • Eliminating same-day registration
  • Reducing the availability of polling locations and hours
  • Limiting early voting days and times

The principles of Catholic Social Justice insist that all people have a right to participate in our shared public life. Voting should be readily accessible, but these laws make it harder to cast a ballot under the guise of election security. In turn, these bills jeopardize the integrity of our democracy and actively disenfranchise voters.

Moreover, these restrictive laws disproportionately affect marginalized communities, creating hurdles for Black and brown voters, disabled people, immigrants, and low-income folks. A 2019 study published in Scientific American found that voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods waited an average 29% longer than voters in White neighborhoods. Now, states with large minority populations, including Florida and Georgia, have introduced provisions which will continue to suppress minority votes due to technicalities and unchecked intimidation techniques. These policies are rooted in and reminiscent of Jim Crow-era poll taxes and literacy tests. They must be undone to ensure all people have access to the polls.

Organizations across the nation are taking notice of these dangerous and undemocratic pieces of legislation. The Black Votes Matter Fund recently announced their “Freedom Ride for Voting Rights,” a series of events from Jackson, Mississippi to Washington D.C. which will advocate against widespread voter suppression. The organization’s goal “is to increase power in our communities. Effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny.”

In order to preserve our democracy and uphold the right to vote, we must act. The For the People Act (S.1) is a comprehensive, once-in-a-lifetime bill that protects and expands voting rights, ends partisan gerrymandering, and gets big money out of politics. S.1 would overrule the restrictive laws being passed in states by dictating new, national voting standards that make it easier to vote in person or by mail. NETWORK urges the passage of the For the People Act in the Senate to undo the constricting and oppressive provisions that are being imposed nationwide. The integrity of our democracy is at stake.

Alex Budzynski is a rising senior at Xavier University where he studies communication and public relations. He hails from Fairfax, Virginia, and he is one of the summer volunteers at NETWORK this year.