Category Archives: Emerging Justice Seekers

Women’s Equality Requires Raising the Wage

Women’s Equality Requires Raising the Wage

Gina Kelley
March 24, 2021

This last year has been a challenging one for all us, but women have carried a heavy burden throughout this pandemic. In 2020, women’s unemployment hit its highest since 1948 with Black and Latina women facing higher rates of unemployment than white women and men. In February 2021, it was reported that women, in particular women of color, had lost 5.4 million jobs—nearly 1 million more than men. Women have also had to leave the workforce as the pandemic has closed schools and childcare facilities leaving many women to take on this essential caretaking role. This pandemic has not created inequalities, instead it has exploited what was already there.

March is Women’s History Month and the 24th is Women’s Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day marks the day in the year when women earn what men did the previous year, meaning it takes 15 months for women to earn what men do in 12. On average, women are paid 82 cents on every dollar a man makes meaning that on a typical 9:00-5:00 workday, women start working for no pay at 2:40 p.m. These Equal Pay Days continue throughout the year with Mother’s Equal Pay Day in June, Black Women’s in August, Indigenous Women in September, and Latina Women in September.

Clearly, working women, particularly women of color, are facing a devastating economic reality. While the American Rescue Plan achieved major victories for families across the country, it failed to raise the minimum wage. Raising the wage is essential to closing the gender and racial pay gap that has harmed marginalized communities for centuries.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 proposes slowly increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over 5 years and ends subminimum wage practices for tipped, youth, and disabled workers over a 6 years. The tipped minimum wage is a currently only $2.13 an hour and creating one fair wage of $15 would greatly benefit women who represent more than two-thirds of tipped workers. Coupled with the Raise the Wage Act, Congress must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which provides more remedies for gender pay discrimination.

So what would a $15 minimum wage mean for women?

Of the 32 million workers whose pay would increase from the Raise the Wage Act, 59% are women and more than a quarter have children. That means 19 million women would benefit. Nearly 1 in 4 of those women are Black or Latina. Women, and in particular women of color, are overrepresented in low-wage jobs due to historical gender and racial occupational segregation. According to recent reports, women working year-round, on average, would see an increase of about $3,500 in wages annually. For Black and Latina women, this figure increases to $3,700. 3.4 million Black women and 4 million Latina would see this substantial and transformative pay increase. Additionally, 8 million mothers across the country would see similar benefits giving them the capability and power to support their families. Analysis of 2019 data found that among mothers who would get a raise, 65% are primary or sole breadwinners for their families and an additional 19% are co-breadwinners.

It could not be clearer: women need a fair wage and a chance for economic security. No one can survive on $7.25 and those in opposition to raising the minimum wage are keeping women and Black and Brown communities in poverty. Closing racial and gender wealth disparities and recovering from an economic crisis demands immediate action.  Raising the wage to $15 allows families to have food on the table and a roof over their heads. Women need justice and equality now. This Women’s History Month and this Equal Pay Day show solidarity with working women and join the fight to raise the wage.

Black History Month: Honoring those who Resisted Voter Suppression

Black History Month: Honoring those who Resisted Voter Suppression

India-Grace Kellogg 
February 22, 2021

During this year’s Black History Month after a contentious election, we honor the Black women and men who organized and advanced Black voting power and political representation and recognize the ways white supremacy has shaped the U.S. political system to minimize Black votes and voices.

Following the 2020 election, which hinged on record-breaking voter turnout – especially Black voter turnout – in Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, multiple sitting Members of Congress refused to certify the Electoral College vote. President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Georgia were overtly racist, and even after the violent mob attack on the Capitol, when the vote to certify was held in the early hours of January 7, 2021, eight Republican Senators and over 100 Representatives held firm with former President Trump.

This challenge to Black voters’ power echoed our nation’s last challenge to the Electoral College in 1876 during the election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes.

1876: A Backlash to Black Political Participation during Reconstruction

Prior to 1876, there had been a surge of mobilization within the Black community. During the first two years of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Black people throughout the South organized Equal Rights Leagues and held state and local conventions to demand suffrage and equity. Congress granted Black men the status and rights of citizenship in the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and state constitutional conventions held in formerly Confederate states between 1867-69 were the first time that Black and white Americans participated in political life together. 265 African-American men were elected delegates to these conventions that re-wrote state constitutions, almost half in South Carolina and Louisiana.

Initially, under the protection of the 15th Amendment and because of the overwhelming majority of Black citizens in the South, Black voters had strong voting power during Reconstruction. In Congress, 16 Black men served during Reconstruction and more than 600 Black state legislators were elected, with hundreds more holding local offices across the South. The first Black men to serve in Congress were Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina. (It was nearly a century from their elections in 1870 until voters elected Representative Shirley Chisholm the first Black woman in Congress in 1968.)

Challenging the Electoral College Results

The outcome of 1876 election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes was unclear from the beginning. When the electoral vote was received by Congress, Tilden held 184 votes and Hayes held 165 votes. However, claims of fraud, intimidation, and violence that had been used to invalidate votes in the South, and Oregon delivered two sets of conflicting electoral votes to Congress.

These conflicting results presented an opportunity for Southern Democrats who had lost power in the South after the Civil War. They wanted to restore their control of governments in the South and to remove the last of the federal troops whose purpose had diminished to protecting governments in small areas surrounding state houses in the capitals of New Orleans and Columbia. An agreement was reached for Hayes to pull out the remaining federal troops in the South in return for a pledge to uphold the civil and voting rights of Black and white Republicans. As a result, filibusters were ruled out of order and Southern Democrats forced through the vote, declaring Hayes the winner with 185 electoral votes two days before he was inaugurated.

White Supremacy Curtails Reconstruction

The Supreme Court had already begun to limit the scope of the Reconstruction laws and Constitutional Amendments, beginning with the Slaughterhouse Cases which limited protection of the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment of the United State Constitution. However, with the removal of federal troops following President Hayes’s inauguration, white political leaders in the South began suppressing Black votes as the pledge to protect voting rights was quickly abandoned. While the Reconstruction Amendments remained in the Constitution, a new web of laws and requirements made voting nearly impossible for Black citizens. Under new gerrymandered election districts which reduced Black voting power, the Jim Crow era swept the South, creating a framework of voter suppression that has continued to evolve in face of reforms.

White political leaders in Southern states put in place literacy tests, poll taxes, moral character tests, and grandfather clauses targeting Black voters. Black voters who could pass these barriers then faced the threat of violence or property or job loss in retribution for attempting to vote. Additionally, the disenfranchisement of felons blocked many black voters. Black people were often arrested in the South on false charges or for vague crimes, such as “crimes of moral turpitude”, and sent through a criminal justice system that profited from black prisoners’ free labor when they were incarcerated. The over-criminalization of the Black community meant that the disenfranchisement of felons disproportionately affected Black voters in the South. These strategies reversed much of the progress that had been gained since the Civil War, with Black voting power reduced to less than 1% and the upward trend of Black men elected to office from southern states quickly ended.

Continued Voter Suppression

While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed the landscape of voting in the South for Black voters especially, voter disenfranchisement still continues throughout the U.S. With Black Americans still overrepresented in the prison population, bans on voting due to criminal history continue to impact Black communities more than any other. Since Shelby County v. Holder, struck down the requirements of federal oversight, many states have passed additional voting requirements that are only subject to litigation after the fact. State across the country have begun to redistrict, require stricter voter identification, shut down polling locations, and limit early voting. While on their face these changes may seem to be aimed at reducing voter fraud, the reality is that these new restrictionsdisproportionately disenfranchise voters of color and minority communities.

The rhetoric surrounding voting, amplified by former President Trump, has disguised the true effect of the changes to voting requirements. Government-issued photo ID requirements effect minorities more than white voters, as minorities are less likely to have the needed forms of identification. Despite the argument that voting roll purges prevent voter fraud, the real impact of these purges is that many valid votes cannot be cast because voters were unaware that they had been removed from the voter rolls. Polling location closures, overwhelmingly in communities of color, result in longer wait times or travel time. This makes voting much more difficult and in some cases impossible due to lack of transportation or working hourly jobs. The conversation surrounding voter fraud and the barriers that are put in place to “fix” this so-called fraud have strong ties to the compromise of 1876 which marked the beginning of the Jim Crow era.

But the fight to achieve true voting rights and equity remains strong and in the last two elections there has been a resurgence of energy to fight voter suppression. While a major struggle in 1876 was the end of Reconstruction in the South, the 2020 election was a demonstration of the power of Black people successfully organizing against the racial inequality still existent today. The result of the Jim Crow laws put into place after Federal troops were withdrawn still haunt our nation and dog communities of color with their pervasive legacies and new iterations. Despite this, representation of black communities has grown steadily over the past 20 years. In fact, the most recent Congress, was the most diverse Congress ever to be elected to office.

Black Voting Rights Advocates Continue Leading the Movement

This progress would not have been possible without Black organizers’ efforts to mobilize voters. Black-led movements to equip and encourage voters, especially in swing states, were spurred on by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black communities and the nation-wide protests against police brutality. During the 2020 Nuns on the Bus tour, we met Black organizers like Rev. Tawanda Davis of Soul 2 Soul Sisters in Denver and the staff of BLOC by Bloc in Milwaukee who led successful voter turnout initiatives in key states.

While this was a national movement, the 2020 Senate run-off election in Georgia was one of the most historic. This success mainly came from the efforts of Stacey Abrams. Abrams founded Fair Fight to ensure all eligible Georgia voters could vote after her historic 2018 run for Georgia Governor ended with clear mismanagement of the election by now-Governor Kemp’s Secretary of State office. Stacey Abrams with other organizers worked to mobilize the vote and were met by Black voters in Georgia as trusted voices. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock’s successful campaign makes him Georgia’s first Black Senator. This and other elections prove that the power that was seen in the Black vote during Reconstruction is just as strong, but still has not been fully released from the remnants of the Jim Crow laws that sprung up after the 1876 compromise.

Introduced and sponsored by Black members of Congress, the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act present an opportunity to correct injustices in our voting system. With the swearing in of the first woman of color as Vice President, Vice President Kamala Harris, our nation may have come a long way since the end of Reconstruction, but we must remember that the work is not done.

Protecting Expression, Not Criminal Acts

Protecting Expression, Not Criminal Acts

India-Grace Kellogg
January 28, 2021

For the past year, our nation’s capital has been flooded by protestors. The Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other people of color’s deaths at the hands of police re-invigorated a debate on what ”acceptable” protests look like. To many, the debate highlighted a clear break in the types of information that citizens are receiving about important topics, whether through their own lived experiences or through the media they are consuming. On one side, Black Lives Matter protestors were considered justice seekers facing violent suppression of their Constitutional right to protest while the other side balked at property damage, arguing that it was about looting and not protesting. When the Proud Boys and other pro-Trump groups arrived in Washington, D.C., a shift in police reaction and rhetoric angered many and highlighted the disparity in the way protestors are handled depending on what they look like and what causes, and perhaps more importantly who, they are supporting.

Complex and deeply personal to each person in this country, the debate on how people in the United States should express their views has always been, in itself, a part of who we are as a country. Our First Amendment rights invite debate with our government and, importantly, dissent to the majority opinion. The breach of the U.S. Capitol building may have seemed brazen and paralyzing to many watching it, but in hindsight, it may be the logical course of events in a country where a leader contributed to decimating trust in our democracy. But, in the aftermath of the events on January 6, 2021, it seems dire to address, factually, the ways we express grievances to our government, and name when that expression no longer honors the values and intent of our Constitution. Those who walked up the steps of the Capitol building, even those who simply passed the first barricade were not the first to step past the boundaries of what the Constitution protects under the First Amendment. Their violent trespassing, many of them armed and with an intent to harm elected officials, was far outside of the bounds of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Earlier, at a protest on December 12, 2020, Trump supporters openly burned a Black Lives Matter flag taken from the Asbury United Methodist Church, a historic Black church. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who admitted to burning the flag but later pleaded not guilty, faces destruction of property charges and was ordered to stay out of Washington by a judge. The D.C. police department labeled the burning of the flag a potential hate crime.

In the District of Columbia, hate crimes such as this act as an enhancement of the crime committed. Under D.C. Statute §22-3703, Bias-Related Crime Act, a person found guilty of a bias-related crime will be fined or imprisoned up to one and a half times the maximum fine or designated term. A bias-related crime means that a criminal act demonstrates the accused prejudice toward a victim. The statute covers a multitude of bases for the accused’s prejudice, including race, color, religion, and political affiliation. While the statute specifies a limited amount of crimes, Aboye v. U.S. established that the term “designated acts” means any criminal act under D.C. law. Therefore, anyone who commits a crime in D.C. that demonstrates their prejudice against the victim of that crime can be charged with an enhanced sentence under §22-3703.

Looking specifically at the actions of the Proud Boys and Enrique Tarrio on December 12, bias-related crime charges could be brought. If it can be established that burning the Black Lives Matter flag demonstrates Tarrio’s prejudice to the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or political affiliation of the Asbury United Methodist Church, Tarrio could be charged with a bias-related crime. However, the crime must not have been committed but for the prejudice. (Lucas v. United States) The prosecution would need to show that Tarrio would not have burnt the Black Lives Matter flag but for his prejudice. While this is a decision left to the discretion of the prosecutor, the potential legal repercussions of burning a Black Lives Matter flag are important to highlight.

While the public debate may often rely on the morality and the nation’s values relating to how we protest, there are legal realities involved that cannot be ignored. The violent attack on the Capitol was not the first, and most likely will not be the last, time that white supremacists and other pro-Trump groups claim Constitutional rights to excuse their criminal actions.

The Constitution does not protect all expression nor does it protect violent actions, as a long history of legal debates have proven. Many states have enhanced penalties for bias-motivated crimes, many that have been challenged for violating the First Amendment. The D.C. Bias-Related Crime Act was upheld as constitutional to the extent that it provides an enhanced penalty for crimes that an individual commits against a victim simply due to their own prejudice against the victim’s protected characteristic (Lucas v. United States).

The First Amendment protects many forms of expression but it does not protect criminal expressions of prejudice against another’s protected characteristics. The precedent concerning what expression is protected by the Constitution is vast and the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States serve to uphold the intent of the Constitution over what many may consider to be justice for those harmed by certain type of expressions. The Proud Boys and those who claim that they are seeking to uphold the values of our country may claim to be within their rights and to be fighting for our nation, but their actions are not protected by the very Constitution they claim to be protecting. While we as a country should and will continue to debate the nuances of protests and their aftermath, we should also continue to do the work of understanding what we are truly debating – when does our expression of disagreement step past what our national conscience believes should be protected? And why?

Bus Blog: New Hour for Women and Children

Bus Blog: New Hour for Women and Children

Caraline Feairheller
September 25, 2020

There are no words to describe the grief of hearing keys jingling down a cell block corridor. There are no words to describe the trauma that long-term isolation can have on a body and mind. Yet, these are common experiences faced by women incarcerated within the United States criminal justice system. The idea that the tremendous trauma created by the U.S carceral system cannot and should not be normalized was the main idea that came out of the September 22nd Nuns on the Bus Virtual Site Visit conversation with New Hour for Women and Children.

New Hour for Women and Children is a Long Island based non-profit founded to provide meaningful support to current and formerly incarcerated women, and their children and families. New Hour was created to address the need for a re-entry program in Long Island, as Executive Director Serene Liguori said “When I got released there was no one there to help me. There was no program to help us. Now, for the first time there is a program on Long Island that supports re-entry.” While the agency may look small, Pamela Neely the Social Justice Coordinator was quick to emphasize that it “gets the work done.” Through serving over 1,000 women in incarceration annually, the numbers only prove her point when comparing the 65% recidivism rate of women who are released from jail to the 2% recidivism rate of women who go through the New Hour program.

The U.S carceral systems measures out punishment in terms of months and years. However, the New Hour Program recognizes that the grief and loss of imprisonment stretches well beyond those years and thus re-entry never stops, it is a lifetime process. Part of this lifetime process is recognizing the reality that all women have faced some form of trauma or violence in their lifetime, so even before experiencing the traumas that come with imprisonment they have their own unique triggers. Program Director Danielle Donaphin emphasized that “I do what I do because I believe in people” and it is this belief in the resilience of these women that the healing process can truly begin. Women, mothers in particular, who make up ¾ of the women behind bars, face unique challenges. Often times, their number one goal is to be reunited with their children and New Hour meets those demands by offering parenting classes and teaching work skills.

As the conversation came to an end, Serenea Liguroi left us with a couple questions that are especially relevant in a moment where prison reform and police accountability are dominating the news streams: “What about the prisons? What about the jails? How do we create equality among those who have been impacted by the carceral system?” We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we can begin by remembering that there is an innate worth in the women who are currently incarcerated those who have been formerly incarcerated. We can begin by remembering that there is a future beyond the prisons walls. We can begin by remembering that we all have the power to change the course of our lives.

Watch the full site visit on Facebook or Youtube.

Unemployment and the Coronavirus Crisis

Unemployment and the Coronavirus Crisis

Alex Burnett
April 3, 2020

When my partner developed a small cough and mild chest pain in late February, we didn’t think they had coronavirus. My partner works as teacher’s aide in a public elementary school and gets sick all the time. We thought they caught a cold from a student or were dealing with stress-related illness.

We were wrong. Over the next few weeks, their mild chest pain turned major, their temperature spiked, and they developed such difficult breathing it became difficult to walk. During one particularly frightening Friday, they could not keep down food for over 24 hours, developed a 100+ degree fever, and could barely speak due to severe chest pain. As I Googled, “When should you go to the emergency room coronavirus,” I found myself anxiously wondering whether their insurance covered emergency room visits.

Thankfully, their symptoms improved since that awful Friday, but our anxiety hasn’t gone away. My partner loves working in elementary education, but feels terrified about finding another job. Most elementary schools hire aides on yearly contracts and we don’t know whether their school—or most schools—will be hiring aides during a global pandemic, which might force schools to remain indefinitely closed. Even if schools re-open in the fall, my partner knows they’ll struggle finding a summer job after their contract ends in June. Like many education workers, my partner might face at least three months of unemployment during an economic meltdown.

Nobody should experience any of this. That’s why NETWORK advocated for three COVID-19 relief packages, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law on March 27th. This bill offers some relief to workers, like my partner, facing coronavirus-induced unemployment. Besides expanding unemployment insurance to gig, temporary, and self-employed workers, the CARES Act offers eligible workers an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits for up to four months. As my partner’s story demonstrates, these reforms are profoundly important, especially since economic experts and the federal government predict that the unemployment rate could reach an unprecedented 32%.

However, my partner’s story also demonstrates that Congress must do more. The CARES Act doesn’t guarantee free coronavirus testing and treatment to people, like my partner and their colleagues, who could lose health insurance upon becoming unemployed. Additionally, the CARES Act does little for incarcerated and undocumented people, who remain ineligible for unemployment benefits and at-risk of receiving inadequate medical care. Because NETWORK knows closing these gaps will save lives, we’re advocating for a 4th coronavirus relief package, which guarantees testing and treatment for incarcerated, undocumented, and uninsured people. You can read about our work here.

The coronavirus pandemic has already harmed millions of people. By passing a 4th relief package, Congress can prevent more people from needlessly suffering. As an organization guided by Catholic Social Justice, NETWORK calls on Congress to provide care and economic relief for all U.S. residents, regardless of employment status, insurance, citizenship, or incarceration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to ICE

An Open Letter to ICE

Sam Murillo
November 22, 2019

To Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the United States:

 

Being young and undocumented is something that is rarely talked about. Many of us were brought here as children and have been raised just like you. We were raised with the same education and we have the same dreams. Yet we grow old and realize that we are not like the rest. We realize that we do not have the same opportunities, but the only difference between me and you is that I am undocumented. While you go out and pursue your dreams for higher education, I will be rejected from the same school you were accepted to because of my legal status. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of immigrant children, and while some are protected under DACA, there are still a significant amount of children and teenagers that remain unprotected.

Being young and undocumented brings an inexplicable fear. There is a constant fear for your life, and a constant fear of being ripped away from your family and the only country you know. We grow up living in our parents’ fear, we grow up without access to healthcare because our parents are undocumented. We grow up fearing the police and knowing exactly who and what ICE does at a very young age. You rip our families apart, you hold our children hostage at the border, you rape our mothers and sisters, and you send us back to countries we know nothing about. We grow up hoping that when we come home from school, our parents will still be there. We grow up with fear and trauma that we can’t even understand. We are hardworking people that contribute to the economy, our parents are contributing to this country, they dreamt first and until our parents are safe we will not step down. Our parents are the true Dreamers, and we shouldn’t have to grow up in fear of losing them. We shouldn’t have to grow up uninsured. We most certainly don’t deserve to be denied from the same opportunities as everyone else. My parents deserve the chance to become citizens, I deserve to become a citizen, and there are many more like us that deserve that chance. Children are growing up in fear, families are being ripped apart, and as contributing immigrants of this nation we deserve nothing less than an opportunity. It is our duty to fight for our freedom and it is our duty to win!

 

Sam Murillo is a 20 year old student at Trinity Washington University. She is originally from Jeffersonville, Indiana and her family is from Mexico. She is studying to become a doctor and wishes for structural change in the United States judicial system.

Not Our Job: Grappling With the Struggle of Being Black and Compassionate

Not Our Job: Grappling With the Struggle of Being Black and Compassionate

Charlotte Hakikson
October 24, 2019

On September 6, 2018, Amber Guyger entered the home of Botham Jean, mistaking it for her apartment, and fatally shot him. Both Guyger and Jean lived in the same apartment building; she lived on the third floor and he lived directly above her. The details of the case are tricky but please feel free to read more about it here. After hearing the case, the jury found Guyger guilty of murder and sentenced her to 10 years in prison. While there are mixed reactions to the sentence, I want to bring our attention to a few events that happened in the courtroom during and after the trial.

Cathy Odhiambo, Guyger’s Black coworker and friend, took the stand in defense of Guyger and spoke to her character. This felt very performative. Was there not anyone else who knew her work ethic and personality, and could speak in defense of her? The Black bailiff comforted and fixed Guyger’s hair while Guyger cried after hearing the verdict. That was extremely difficult to watch. Judge Tammy left her stand to hug Guyger after the trial. That was outright unprofessional. Finally, Brandt Jean, the brother of Botham, said to Guyger, “I don’t even want you to go to jail … I love you as a person, I don’t wish anything bad for you,” then proceeded to hug her.

There was a lot of outrage with what was displayed in the courtroom and I came across a tweet that said, “If you think this is crazy, remember the cross.” As a person of faith, I agree that we should live out Jesus’s teaching to love our neighbor, however I am weary that this message is being targeted solely to Black people.

Black people should not be expected, or forced, to invoke any form labor that makes their oppressor look good. Odhiambo should not have to perform the physical labor of taking the stand in defense of Guyger. Brandt, the bailiff, and Judge Tammy should not have to perform the emotional labor of consoling her. I believe that had the roles been reversed, neither Guyger, nor the white community, would be as compassionate. It is not required for Black people to play the role of Jesus, take up the cross, and forgive their oppressors for oppressing them. I do not want people to feel compelled by any means, whether it be family, friends, or even their faith, to perform an act that has not proven to be beneficial to them in that instant. We mustn’t use the teachings as a way to be complacent and too forgiving for our own good. As Zora Neale Hurston once said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Denouncing The Tech Industry’s Support For Detention, Deportation, & Family Separation

Denouncing The Tech Industry’s Support For Detention, Deportation, & Family Separation

Alex Burnett
October 22, 2019

In the past month, thousands of demonstrators staged dozens of internationally acclaimed protests across the United States. These protesters demanded major tech companies, such as Amazon and Palantir Technologies, cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because of their role enforcing the Trump administration’s white supremacist and xenophobic immigration policies.

On Thursday, September 5, approximately 1,000 protestors organized by the Jewish activist group Never Again Action marched from the New England Holocaust Memorial to Amazon’s Cambridge Headquarters. Outside of Amazon’s headquarters,  they unfurled banners and gave speeches denouncing Amazon’s widely documented relationship with ICE, which protestors compared to IBM’s role in assisting Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Less than one week later, a coalition of Latinx and Jewish organizations, including Mijente and Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, rallied outside Palantir’s New York and San Francisco offices. Together they called for the multi-billion dollar tech giant to end its $49 million contact with ICE.

As anti-ICE demonstrations intensify and the Trump administration’s immigration policies become even deadlier, Catholics should heed the Gospel’s to “love thy neighbor” and demand that tech giants stop profiting from federal agencies that terrorize, torture, and attack immigrants.

Many immigrant justice organizers including Movimiento Cosecha, ICE Out of L.A., and other organization have repeatedly denounced the tech industry’s support for ICE’s deadly raids and CBP’s “filthy” concentration camps. Outrage swelled after the Immigrant Defense Project, Mijente, Empower LLC, and The National Immigration Project published their October 2018 report, “Who’s Behind ICE?” In this 74-page document, the authors outline how “a handful of huge corporations,” including Forensic Logic Inc. and Salesforce, annually receive billions of federal dollars in exchange for database services, case management software, fingerprinting technology, facial recognition software, and “social media analytics.” These tech services allow ICE agents to “surveil, track, and…deport immigrants” with ease.

Using the information from this report, Mijente, alongside thousands of university students, and workers at Salesforce and Amazon have disrupted dozens of recruitment events and press conferences to prevent companies that contract with ICE from conducting “business as usual.” As investigative journalist David Dayen explained in a 2018 article, “ICE relies on private contractors to carry out its detention operations, so one way to abolish ICE might be to make its association so toxic that it loses its collaborators.”

Pope Francis repeatedly calls for world leaders to build a “Hundreds of Catholic Sisters, Priests, Brothers, and lay people, including NETWORK’s own Sister Quincy Howard and Laura Peralta-Schulte, already answered this call by putting their bodies on the line to protest DHS’s illegal family separation policy. By shaming multi-billion dollar corporations that do business with ICE and CBP, Catholics can advance Pope Francis’s vision of a “moral economy” rooted in peace and love for our neighbors.

The Sounds of My People: A Hispanic/Chicanx/Latinx Heritage Month Playlist

The Sounds of My People:
A Hispanic/Chicanx/Latinx Heritage Month Playlist

Ness Perry

October 11, 2019

As National Hispanic Heritage month comes to an end, I would like to acknowledge, affirm, and celebrate the generations of Chicanx, Latinx, and Hispanic folks who have enriched United States culture and society. Our heritage teaches us to reflect on those who came before you and those who will come after as a way to recognize your own worth. Here are some songs that represent the stories of triumph, tragedy, and everyday life of my people.

1. Mexico Lindo y Querido by Jorge Negrete

In 2016, when President Trump announced his race for presidency, he slandered my family by calling all Mexicans “rapists” and stating that they are “bringing crime” to the United States. Playing this song after President Trump denounced all Mexicans was my form of resistance against his hateful rhetoric. This song is considered to be a beautiful ode to the people of Mexico, written by Jorge Negrete, an iconic singer, songwriter, and actor originally from my family’s home state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

2. El Pueblo Unido by Quilapayun

A common chant heard at protests worldwide is, “A people united will never be defeated!” This chant has been appropriated from the Spanish languages’ “!La gente unida jamas sera vencida!” which was initially recited in 1974 after a military coup d’etat in Chile. The song was written by Quilapayun & Sergio Ortega and is known widely throughout Latinxamerica as a song meant to mobilize the people by singing as one voice, united through music.

 

3. Para Agradecer by Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman is a band that took the world by storm in the last few years, especially when they played Coachella Valley Music Festival in 2015. Although this is a love song, Para Agradecer thanks life itself in its chorus when singer Eduardo Arenas laments, “Gracias a la vida.” This song always reminds me to be eternally grateful to the universe and any other higher power for that matter. Life is always giving me reasons to be grateful, and I like to listen to this song in the morning to start my day off by thanking the universe in every way possible.

4. (Brown and Smart), Monstro by Downtown Boys

When I first moved to D.C. I didn’t realize how political the music I listened to would get – and then I saw Downtown Boys play one night at a little bar on U Street. Their album “Full Communism” had just come out and I fell in love with the punk and brown aesthetic that they push in almost every song. The short speech that precedes the song reminds me of why I am in justice work: I’m here to take up space and let it be known that my voice will not be overshadowed by white hegemony.

5. La Bamba by Richie Valens

Possibly the most widely known Latinx song in modern history, this song reminds me of being in my grandparents living room with my cousins while watching the iconic Hollywood dramatization of the story of Ricardo Valenzuela, also known as Ritchie Valens. Ritchie was only 15 when he died, but his legacy lives on in the souls of all Chicanx identified people. He was the first major Chicanx musician to break out onto the top 40.

Music has evolved in the United States and Latinx artists from today, like Bad Bunny, and Cardi B have broken out of their genres into the top 40, collaborating with Hip Hop, Pop and R&B artists alike.  This Latinx/Chicanx/Hispanic heritage month I invite you to explore a genre of music rich with culture, struggle, and success.

Texas v. Azar: One Court Ruling Could Affect the Lives of More Than 20 Million People

Texas v. Azar: One Court Ruling Could Affect the Lives of More Than 20 Million People

Anne Marie Bonds
October 9, 2019

Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was meant to decrease the number of uninsured people in the United States. Too many people simply hoped to stay healthy every day, avoiding hospitals and ambulances because they couldn’t afford thousands of dollars in medical bills. The ACA has made insurance accessible for over 20 million people since 2010 and has helped even more by making preventative care, such as annual physicals, free. It also prohibits all insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, meaning people who are already sick cannot be rejected because of their illness.

For the last seven years, Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA numerous times through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In 2017, the repeal of the ACA came down to one vote in the Senate. Senator John McCain’s historic thumbs down vote effectively ended the Republican movement to repeal the ACA through legislation.

Now, the ACA is at risk again. This time, it is back in the courts. In February 2018, twenty Republican-led states filed a lawsuit, Texas v. Azar, to invalidate the ACA. Now, the lawsuit has made its way up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is only one step down from the Supreme Court. The 5th Circuit is expected to make a ruling sometime this week, a decision that could potentially shake the nation’s entire health system.

If you know me you would probably ask: Anne Marie, why do you care so much about the Affordable Care Act? You’re an upper-middle class, 22-year-old white girl from Alabama. How has the ACA affected your life in any way? Well, the short answer is that it hasn’t. Not directly. I’ve been covered under my parents’ employer health insurance since I was young, and I’ve had the privilege of never needing to worry about how my medical bills were going to be paid. In fact, I never really cared about Obamacare until November of 2013, when I realized how the ACA impacts every single person in our nation.

In November of 2013, my father was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a terminal, degenerative disease that slowly atrophies muscle over time. Those with an ALS diagnosis have 3-5 years left to live, but for many, those years are not pleasant. Before my Dad got sick, he worked in an aluminum plant, and when he was diagnosed, he had to quit his job because he couldn’t lift anything anymore. Because of this, he lost his employer’s health insurance coverage, as many with ALS do.

Without the ACA, my father would not have been able to find private insurance, as insurance companies could have easily denied him due to his pre-existing condition. Thousands of ALS patients are dependent on this non-discrimination clause within the ACA to receive care that can prolong their lives for months. Without the ACA, ALS patients are left without a safety net and no way to pay for their care. Other people with chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and heart disease, depend on the ACA to protect them from private insurance discrimination. Although 20 million people directly depend on the ACA to provide them with quality, affordable health insurance, an innumerable amount of people in the U.S. depend on the ACA indirectly by prohibiting pre-existing condition discrimination and making preventative care services free.

Depending on how the 5th Circuit rules, there’s a good chance we’ll see this case in the Supreme Court next year. Although conservatives would have you believe the ACA only helps the uninsured, in reality, the positive effects of the ACA extend to almost every person in the nation. The ACA has faced a bevy of criticism for nine years, even though it is a vital aspect of our nation’s health care system. It is time to stop our partisan arguing over the ACA. It is time to stop making the health of our people an ideological argument. It is time to support the ACA and work to stop those who continue attempting to repeal and destroy it.