Category Archives: Front Page

Arrest a Nun, Not a Dreamer

“Arrest a Nun, Not a Dreamer”

Mary Cunningham
April 25, 2018

Catholic sisters held these signs as they gathered with around 200 other advocates during the National Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers on February 27, 2018. Members of the Catholic community met on Capitol Hill to demand a legislative solution from Congress for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients who face uncertainty about their legal status in the United States. PICO National Network organized the day of events along with Catholic organizations including: Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., Franciscan Action Network, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Pax Christi USA, and NETWORK.

The event highlighted Dreamers’ precarious position and called on advocates and people of faith to move towards action. Sister Quincy Howard, OP, a Government Relations Fellow at NETWORK, attended and reflected on the way we are treating Dreamers in this country: “I hope that people’s eyes and hearts can be opened to the suffering of these young people who have done nothing wrong. Dreamers are our teachers, our students, and our neighbors, and our government is currently threatening them with exile from the only home they know.”

The day began with a press conference outside the Capitol building with speeches from Sister JoAnn Persch, RSM, Father Tom Reese, SJ, and others. After the speeches, the attendees recited the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary together. The crowd then moved into the Russell Senate Office Building and those who chose to participate in the civil disobedience formed a circle, singing and praying together in the center of the rotunda. After issuing several warnings, Capitol police arrested around 40 Catholic leaders, many of them women religious.

Sisters participated in the act of civil disobedience because they felt it was a moral imperative and a small sacrifice compared to the lived experience of the Dreamers. Sister Diane Roche, RSCJ, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation at the Stuart Center in Washington, D.C. said “If there is an issue worth getting arrested for, this is it. This is my first time ever, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do to stand in solidarity. It is a small enough thing compared to what they are going through.”

The action was a stark reminder that although Dreamers and supporters are organizing and advocating tirelessly, Congress has still failed to pass a legislative solution that will protect them from deportation. Each day that goes by, Dreamers face more uncertainty about their future.

As Sister Ann Scholz, SSND,  LCWR Associate Director for Social Mission and NETWORK Board member, said: “Our mission as Christians is to welcome those who are in need as we would welcome Jesus. So really, we can do no other than be here today to stand with Dreamers and ask our elected officials to provide the welcome that is theirs because they are created in the image of God just as we are.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

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Caring for Our Gift

Caring for Our Gift

Hannah Mullally
April 20, 2018

“We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” -Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.

To me, these words from Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home encompass the importance of incorporating environmental care and justice into faith. We are of the earth; we are made from the earth; we depend on the earth. In forgetting this, we lose sight of our duty and responsibility to care for the gift of earth which sustains us.

The first Earth Day in the United States on April 22, 1970 brought the idea of care of creation into the mainstream. When we celebrate Earth Day this year, we continue the fight to be responsible stewards of our home while also recognizing the additional issues into which environmental justice reaches. We cannot discuss responsible environmental care without acknowledging how environmental degradation first and foremost impacts those with the least privilege. This degradation is especially unjust because those contributing the most to it are the privileged of the world. Recognizing the connection between environmental justice and human justice brings new meaning to Jesus’s words, “Whatever you do to the least of my people, you do to me.” If we contribute to environmental degradation and allow disrespect toward our environment, we are hurting the most vulnerable among us and therefore the very Being who gifted us this Earth.

Viewing care of creation through the lens of Catholic Social Justice makes it clear that this is an issue of justice we should be fully invested in. This is not an issue of political persuasion, but a component of human and environmental dignity that Catholics and non-Catholics alike should fight for. Unfortunately, today there are powerful individuals who claim to speak from a place of Christian morality while simultaneously expressing disdain toward the idea of environmental justice. The profession of respect for life and humanity these influencers make falls woefully short when it does not include clean water, air, and soil for every person on this earth. As fellow Christians, we must remind these individuals, and ourselves, that care of creation is a central component of our belief system.

Although working towards environmental justice can feel like a daunting challenge, for me it is a straightforward effort at its core. Care for creation simply means respect for our earth and by extension ourselves. We are a part of the earth, “we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies made of her elements,” and we are stewards of humanity and the Earth. Let us become the stewards of our gift we are meant to be. Let us make our Creator, our Giver, proud.

Hannah Mullally is currently pursuing her Master’s of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She earned her Bachelor of Environmental Science from Creighton University in 2016. Hannah aspires to work for a conservation non-profit organization where she can communicate the importance of environmental stewardship to the public and work to conserve the beautiful natural places of our planet. She also hopes to integrate environmental justice into her conservation work and advocate for the right of all people to live in a healthy world. When she is not working on research or advocacy, Hannah takes advantage of living near the Great Smoky Mountains by hiking, backpacking, and biking.

Laura Muñoz Lopez: Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network:
Laura Muñoz Lopez

April 18, 2018

Laura Muñoz Lopez is a former NETWORK Government Relations Associate. She currently works as a special assistant for Immigration Policy at American Progress in Washington, D.C.

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I was visiting D.C. to see Pope Francis and decided to go to the Nuns on the Bus “last stop party” (at Tortilla Coast) in 2015. Sister Mary J. Curcio told me about the Associate Program over chips and margs, and the rest is history!

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

I knew the 2016 Presidential Election was going to be historic, and as I was graduating and finding what was next for me, I wanted to be more involved in immigration policy. Learning about NETWORK, their work, and mission seemed like the next step.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Immigration! All aspects of it, but specifically permanent protections and citizenship for Dreamers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and the millions of undocumented parents who brought their children to the US for a better life. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is also an immigration issue that has not received the proper attention it needs.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

Recently, I have been invited to participate in town hall and county council meetings to ask Montgomery County, Maryland to fund the deportation defense fund aimed at helping undocumented immigrants who have been detained and/or are in deportation proceedings. I also recently participated on a panel hosted by the Montgomery County League of Women Voters which highlighted the importance of community safety to ensure immigrants feel safe and secure in the presence of local police. I will be speaking with the Montgomery County Young Democrats later in April on the impact of immigration policies in the local community.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

I grew up keeping my immigration status a secret, so when I was able to obtain DACA and live my life without secrets, I realized that sometimes the most powerful advocacy tool is your voice and your story. Through sharing my story and truly listening to others’ stories of struggle and success, I have realized that we draw our strengths from our moments of weaknesses and when we share our experiences we help others overcome their challenges.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

Growing up as undocumented and living below the poverty line, my church was always a place of safe haven and help. Our church in South Carolina often provided assistance with bills and gifts at Christmas because my parents couldn’t afford them. When it was time to go to college, my church gave me a scholarship to help in my studies. Beyond these gifts, the church and my faith taught me that it is our duty as humans and people of faith to help whenever it’s possible to do so. I try my best to “pay it forward” because that’s what our faith teaches us to do.

Who is your role model?

My role model is my mother – Liliana. She left her entire family — who she is extremely close with — at the age of 26 with her two young daughters in hopes of finding and creating a better future for them in the United States. Such a sacrifice is not decided on lightly and my mother has never regretted her decision. She works as much as she can, gets underpaid and yet never complains because she is thankful to have the opportunity. My mother is my role model because she gave my siblings and me everything she dreamt of, and so much more.

Is there any quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

“If not you, then who?” This quote has given me the strength and motivation to continue to work in a policy area that not only is very personal to me but is extremely difficult, and at the moment is causing more harm than good to immigrants across the country. If we, as individuals who have a duty to care for one another and help each other succeed, don’t take action to create change, who will? We are the change we are waiting for.

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

On a personal level, I was able to adjust my immigration status from a DACA recipient to receive permanent residency in the U.S. – the country I have called home for almost 22 years. Another accomplishment was seeing the immigration movement expand to communities that were not involved before, but who saw the harm the current administration has and continues to cause our communities. As an activist, I always welcome and am overjoyed by the intersectionality of issues that allows people to come together in the pursuit of justice for all underrepresented people.

What are you looking forward to working on in 2018?

I will continue to work on immigration policy and activism as much as I am able to. My work for 2018 includes trying to ensure Dreamers and DACA recipients are protected from deportation so they are able to stay in the communities they call home as well as working with local organizations to foster conversations with immigrants and nonimmigrants to make sure their communities are safe and welcoming.

Let’s Change Course Starting This Tax Day

Let’s Change Course Starting This Tax Day

Simone Campbell, SSS
April 17, 2018

I’m usually proud to pay my taxes, but this year is different.

Ordinarily I am glad to contribute to the common good. I’m glad that some of my taxes go to fund food programs and housing programs for so many in our nation who have been excluded from economic prosperity. I delight in paying my taxes to fund the education of the next generation. I am glad to pay my taxes to support critical healthcare for so many in our nation. I still criticize the amount of money going to the military for violence in our world, but I do my part even in that.

I am glad to contribute my part to “forming a more perfect Union.” It is part of my Catholic faith to contribute to the common good. In the past, I have delighted in faithfully, patriotically doing my part.

But this year is different. I am haunted by the fact that this year is the last time that our current tax code will be in effect. The Republican-controlled House, Senate, and White House enacted a new tax code in December 2017. This new code increases our national deficit by $3 trillion dollars by shifting yet more money to corporations and those at the very top of the income scale.

This same dramatic decline in federal revenue is also the excuse that some Republicans, like Speaker Paul Ryan, are already using to explain why the government must cut funding for food to feed hungry children or senior citizens. It is the same excuse that politicians are using to claim our nation cannot afford to provide access to quality, affordable, equitable, accessible health care. It is the same excuse that they are using to say that it is all right if our families don’t have a place to live, because we refuse to invest in affordable housing. Our Republican elected officials are saying it is all right if the income and wealth gap in our nation continues to grow and our low-wage working families continue to suffer.

In short, the Republicans in Congress are proud that they are creating even bigger economic divides in our nation through their skewed tax policy.

But I know that their preference-the-rich policy does not faithfully support our people or our national needs. It fails the Pope Francis test when he says, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” (Joy of the Gospel, 203). It fails the Jesus test when he instructs us to love our neighbors. It fails the test of the Hebrew Scriptures that call on us to care for the orphan and the widow.

This tax policy fails any faith test. We as a nation will be judged because of it.

But that is not all. In our diverse society, not all of us are people of faith. But what we do share in common is our founding document of the Constitution. The key is found in the preamble where we assert “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…insure domestic Tranquility…promote the general Welfare.”

This profoundly flawed Republican tax law is undermining our Union. It promotes the welfare of the few over the many. It sows the seeds of social discord by preferencing those who already have so much.

This tax law makes me weep for who we have become as a nation. We are failing our people. President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

This Tax Day, let us resolve to change course. Let us set our sights on the common good, not individual wealth. Let us as a nation raise reasonable revenue for responsible programs. This is what will make America great again.

Originally published at https://www.redletterchristians.org

Proposed House Farm Bill Adds Insult to Injury

Proposed House Farm Bill Adds Insult to Injury

Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
April 16, 2018

The recently-passed Republican Tax law is an insult to people living in poverty. The way the tax benefits were structured clearly revealed who our GOP lawmakers think are worthy public assistance. The tax-cuts lavish benefits on wealthy individuals and large, profitable corporations to the tune of $1.9 trillion over the next ten years. While most of the GOP talked about help for the middle class, in reality, middle income households received nominal tax cuts on a temporary basis (through 2025) depending on their circumstances.

Families and individuals experiencing poverty, however, were never part of the discussions during the creation of HR1 (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). Republican leadership pointed to discredited trickle-down economics in response to any questions about how the tax law would impact jobless and underemployed people. Their projections of economic growth would magically meet the needs of common good. Enough said.

Fast forward four months to the farm bill released by the House last week. The farm bill (HR2) is the second part of this equation. In stark contrast to the tax debate, the House GOP is now squarely focused on the unemployed, underemployed, and those working for poverty wages in our nation. This time though the objective has shifted drastically from providing benefits via tax cuts to severely limiting the benefits that the government should provide.

Substantive changes to the SNAP program proposed in this bill would take food off the tables and empty the refrigerators of millions of food-insecure individuals and households that currently receive nutrition assistance. Instead, the GOP proposes feeding them hollow promises of “opportunity” through ill-conceived job training programs which are divorced from the reality of the 21st century.

Congress is intent on making sure corporations and so-called job creators receive massive tax cuts, trusting they will in turn raise wages and increase employment opportunities.  Low-income workers, the unemployed, and the underemployed are expected to jump through hoops and continuously scramble to demonstrate that—yes, indeed they really are trying to work! Only then are they deemed worthy of nutrition assistance to help feed themselves and their families.

At the release of the farm bill, House Agriculture Committee Chair Conaway described the bill’s proposed workforce development program as a “historic investment in opportunities for SNAP recipients.” On one hand he describes how “SNAP recipients want to be beneficiaries of… economic growth. They want to take advantage of opportunities and meet the needs of our nation’s businesses.”  Yet in the same statement he claims: “to ensure this investment yields results, we’re also making these work requirements mandatory.” These conflicting statements lay bare the judgement that is piled onto people experiencing poverty and the GOP’s twisted approach to “helping” by taking food from those who need it.

Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son

Jeremiah Pennebaker
April 12, 2018

“I hope you gettin’ in that Word!” I can hear my Pops telling me every time I pick up the phone to dial him, and I’m flooded with premature guilt because I am in fact not “gettin’ in that Word.” I can’t really remember the last time I really sat down and had a dedicated devotion or spent intentional time studying the Bible. Don’t tell my dad that – it’s looks bad if the pastor’s kid is skipping out on Bible study. It’s not that I’m rejecting the gospel or trying to rebel against my parents, but it’s more so just a disconnect for me. I feel much more faith-adjacent than I do faithful. I have a desire to be faithful and to understand what it means to have a relationship with God, but I feel that I’m living in a strange and distant land far from the luxuries of “The Kingdom.”

I spent all of my formative years in the church. Travelling to different churches across Louisville, I heard my dad speak fervently and passionately about Jesus and put together sermons that would “hit you on the way home” and really make you think. There was one point in my adolescence that you couldn’t tell me that my dad and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. weren’t the same person. I was all in for this Christianity and faith stuff. I was involved in any aspect I could be with the church, even to the point that we started our own gospel rap group (I still cringe when I remember some of my “raps”). We had a church of our own, we had worked hard and gotten a building, membership was growing, and I was convinced that we were supposed to be the next megachurch… until we weren’t.

It still feels like a blur, but the disconnect happened in 2011 when we lost the church amongst a series of unfortunate events for my family. I know so many stories in the Bible discuss how the believers and the disciples struggled, but their faith remained or that God showed them the way. But that hasn’t been my experience. My experience has been watching my parents grapple with debt and discouragement while clinging to their faith traditions. Around the same time, I began learning about how faith has been used as propaganda for domination since the beginning of time. My experience has been attempting to reconcile my beliefs with a world that I’m constantly learning is much more nuanced than black and white or good and evil. I’m trying to reason with all the things that I think versus the things I know, all the while I feel my relationship with God fading away. It feels like the disconnect grew into a gap and then that gap into a chasm. To me Jesus went from a friend to the friendless to that friend on Facebook who you don’t talk to anymore, but they’re always reposting inspirational quotes.

Despite all of this confusion, I’ve never necessarily left the faith space. My passion for justice has led me to being in several faith spaces. I went to a Jesuit college where I was heavily involved in the Center for Faith and Justice, and I currently work for a Catholic non-profit, but there’s still this chasm. I recognized this when I was asked at NETWORK, “How does your faith inform your desire to do justice?”. To be honest, I’m not sure how it does. My desire to do justice comes from my frustration with injustice, but I’m not sure where my faith comes in outside of “be a good person and you get to heaven.”

On one hand I’m a very rational person. I can rationalize a lot of the reasons that I should and could create this relationship with God. I can rationalize and recognize how my foundation of faith has led me to my passion for social justice. I can rationalize that the racist, sexist, and homophobic interpretations of the Bible are not the only context in which “that Word” can be understood. I can rationalize and recognize who I believe God is and recognize and validate my friends who are LGBTQIA+. On the other hand, I’m an unashamed hopeless romantic and I can recognize when that connectedness of a relationship is there and when it isn’t. I can recognize my feelings whenever I’m in a space trying to explain my faith or talk about God. And I can recognize that my heavenly father (or mother) feels more like a step-parent. It’s those things I haven’t been able to reconcile, and maybe I’m not supposed to. I just hope that God’s still waiting on me to come home if I ever do figure it out.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

What Are Members of Congress Saying on Public Charge?

NETWORK will be updating this page with the latest statements.

“What will the Trump Administration do next? Since day one, we have witnessed a series of attacks by the administration targeting immigrant communities around our nation. This latest back-door attempt to leverage public health and efforts to deny legal immigration benefits, seeks to circumvent Congress and ultimately restrict family reunification. This ill-advised proposal will make it difficult for individuals seeking legal entry or permanent residency in the United States to care for their family through the use of social services that they are legally entitled to use. This rule fails to uphold the values of our nation and will force individuals to choose between putting food on the table for their children and being granted legal status.” –Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).

“Let’s be clear— current law already prevents the vast majority of immigrants from accessing Federal means-tested public benefits. That’s not what this proposed rule is about. This is about denying immigration benefits and keeping families apart. It would essentially force families, including citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need—like medical care or Head Start—and reuniting with loved ones.  This rule will not only harm immigrant families, it will undermine decades-long efforts to improve the health and well-being of our communities and our nation.” –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).

“The Trump administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ rule is a dangerous attack on immigrant families. For centuries, immigrants fleeing economic hardship, persecution, and violence have found opportunity in our country to do what is best for their families. This proposal imperils that ability and forces immigrant families to make the tragic decision between basic necessities and their future in our country. I urge the Trump administration to rescind this heartless proposal, cease its baseless attacks on immigrant communities, and stop inserting nativist principles into policies that directly contradict American values.” – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03). 

Original post with statements can be found here.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

Mary Cunningham
April 11, 2018

At the heart of the American experience lays the dazzling idea of the American Dream. We profess the dream proudly, holding it as a symbol of our nation’s deepest values: acceptance, equal opportunity, and prosperity achieved through hard work. Yet, how can we profess this to be true if not everyone is given an equal chance to prosper and if we penalize people for utilizing the very programs that are designed to help them get ahead?

On March 28, 2018 the Washington Post relayed the latest update on the proposed public charge rule, which could change the process for immigrants seeking legal residency. The draft of this change has not been formally published and is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget for approval. This proposed public charge rule demonstrates another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict family-based immigration and cut off access to public benefits that help families meet their basic human needs. Yes, this rule, if it comes to pass, would apply to families who have come to the United States legally in search of a better life. These are the people who have gone through the system and as our Republican friends like to say patiently “waited their turn in line” to obtain green cards. These are the families and individuals who would be penalized if this proposed rule comes to fruition.

So what exactly does public charge entail?  Under the proposed draft, individuals would be required to indicate their reliance – and for the first time any family members’ reliance – on public aid programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and even refundable tax income credits obtained through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). People who depend on these programs, or who have children who rely on them, could potentially be derailed on their path to a green card or even deported. The draft regulation penalizes those applying for lawful permanent resident status if they have big families and if they have limited income. This would be particularly harmful to mixed-status families with U.S. citizen children where parents will have to decide whether their child should use programs like Medicaid or school lunches if such use could lead to deportation of a family member seeking a green card.

So basically, individuals would be forced to choose between catering to their basic human needs or protecting their immigration status. If this rule passes it will have a deleterious effect on families. It would separate families who rely on public aid and increase the risk of falling into poverty for those who do not enroll in public aid programs for fear of being forced to abandon family reunification. An article in the Huffington Post estimates that this proposal puts 670,000 children at risk of falling into poverty. While there is bipartisan consensus that our nation’s children should have access to food, healthcare, and other basic necessities, this rule threatens to upset the balance completely.

The argument in favor of instituting a public charge rule is that those applying for a green card should be “self-sufficient.” However, it is estimated that around the same percentage of native-born Americans use public assistance as foreign-born individuals. Will our brothers and sisters not be able to achieve the American Dream solely because they need health insurance, food or housing for their families? I surely hope not.

We expect more information on the public charge rule soon and will keep you updated with analysis and ways to engage

Still Striving for Equal Pay

Still Striving for Equal Pay

Tralonne Shorter
April 10, 2018

Today is Equal Pay Day and it marks another reminder that the vestiges of “separate and unequal” persist.

Last week thousands of advocates across the country joined together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Upon reflection, despite the progression of political and economic gains by many women and people of color over the past 50 years, today’s issues of racial, gender and economic inequality have little variance from the issues that similarly unified those who marched alongside Dr. King 50 years ago.

For women, especially women of color, the journey for equal justice and opportunity is long and arduous. Women make just 80 cents for every dollar a man does. African American, Latina, and Native women are the most disadvantaged by the gender wage gap because they earn the least of all women– between 56 cents to 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

Furthermore, in 4 out of 10 households with children, women are the primary or sole breadwinner in their household, yet many of these women are employed by companies and organizations that penalize them for being a working woman. Women of color in particular, are traditionally more likely to have caretaking responsibilities for young children, spouses, and aging parents and face greater barriers to sustaining employment. Without mandated paid family and medical leave benefits, women must decide whether it’s more affordable to take a loss in wages in order to have a baby or care for themselves, a sick child, or relative.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits despite technological advances that have revolutionized the way we connect at home and in the workplace. The reality is women are here to stay in the workplace.  Yet, laws and policies that govern worker pay and benefits promote a time-warped, second-class society.  Women who do the same work as men, must be afforded equal pay.   The doctrine of separate and unequal must be laid to rest. As people of faith, we bear the burden of being intolerant and outraged by systemic efforts to divide us and are called to work for justice.

Undocumented Immigrants Deserve Mercy

Undocumented Immigrants Deserve Mercy

David D. Porter
March 28, 2018

Next time you hear the President whipping crowds into a frenzy by promising to build The Wall or attacking “illegal immigrants” there are a few facts you need to know.

Last weekend I got a real education on the topic of undocumented immigrants while visiting my daughter in Cincinnati. We attended a presentation by Nuns on the Bus, a progressive group of Catholic nuns who are social-justice warriors, (I have a soft spot for nuns because I was educated by Dominican sisters.)

Justice and humane treatment of undocumented immigrants are among the causes the sisters and their supporters fight for.

During this Lenten season it’s worth remembering that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were undocumented immigrants.

Here are a few questions for you to consider:

What would you do if every other night death squads swept through your town randomly kidnapping and killing people?

What if there were no jobs and your children were starving?

What would you do?

I don’t know about you, but if those dangerous situations dominated my home country, I would do everything within my power to escape.

Those are the conditions and choices people in many places around the world face. Their only hope for survival is to leave and become refugees. And yes, some of them come to the United States without documentation because, frankly, getting legal long-term or permanent residency in the United States is next to impossible — unless you’re wealthy or white.

What happens to many of these undocumented immigrants in the United States is heartbreaking.

First, here are a few facts provided by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center:

  • There are 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
  • 8 million are currently in the workforce (Think they’re stealing jobs from hard-working Americans? Well why don’t you go down to Plant City, Florida, and pick tomatoes from sun up to sun down.)
  • 10.2 million have never been convicted of a crime (that’s 92.5% of undocumented immigrants.

Here’s the real kicker.

These undocumented immigrants, who include children, are being hunted day and night by federal agents.

When caught they are put in prison as though they are murderers and held pending deportation hearings. Some have been held for as long as four years. Many don’t have access to lawyers or anyone to help them.

  • More than 350,000 of them are currently being held behind bars.
  • More than 260,000 of them are being held in private, for profit jails and prisons. (Most of them didn’t steal anything or hurt anyone.)

You see, it’s not really about homeland security, or protecting our borders. It’s about keeping jail beds full, especially in the for-profit jails and prisons.

The private-prison industry has donated millions to Congressional candidates. One private prison company donated $250,000 for Trump’s inaugural celebration festivities.

Ultimately, it’s the taxpayers who take the weight. We’re paying an average of $20,000 a year per undocumented immigrant to keep them locked up.

Nationally the annual detention budget for undocumented immigrants is $2.6 billion of taxpayer dollars.

It’s a money thing. People are getting rich off imprisoning desperate refugees. Don’t take my word for it, click here to read an article reported by National Public Radio.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Emma Lazarus had in mind when she wrote the poem inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Shame on us!

David D. Porter is an Orlando-based writer and the son of an immigrant.

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

At long last, Congress will pass a bipartisan FY 2018 spending bill that will send communities across the country much anticipated resources. This legislation is six months overdue, and Congress should be ashamed. That being said, while it is not perfect, the FY 2018 consolidated appropriations measure contains robust investments in vital safety net programs.

Many of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap issues were among the programs that fared well. The spending measure significantly boosts funding for the 2020 Census, low-income housing, as well as healthcare for seniors, children, and people who are disabled. Investing in safety-net programs is paramount to ensuring the common good.

We are disappointed that Congress did not muster the courage to include a permanent fix for more than 800,000 DACA recipients. That being said, we know the Trump Administration wanted – and failed – to expand their mass deportation agenda. NETWORK continues to support our champions in the House and Senate for their unwavering commitment to protect Dreamers and their families from harmful attempts to tear apart families.

All of us at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice look forward to working with Congress throughout the FY 2019 appropriations process to ensure passage of a Faithful Budget.  It’s our hope that Congress will turn a new leaf and set aside petty partisanship in order to complete its work on time.

Below is a detailed look at how the omnibus bill affects NETWORK’s Mend the Gap priorities:

Department of Agriculture

  • Decreases funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $4.5 billion primarily due to declining enrollments

Department of Commerce

  • Fully funds the 2020 Decennial Census at $2.814 billion, an increase of $1.344 billion above the FY 2017 enacted level

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Increases the HUD budget by $4.6 billion in additional program funding compared to FY 2017, and more than $12 billion above the president’s FY 2018 request
  • Renews all Housing Choice Vouchers and provides new vouchers to veterans and people with disabilities—the president’s budget request proposed to eliminate 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers
  • Allocates nearly $1 billion in additional funding to repair and operate public housing
  • Boosts funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships program to the highest level in seven years
  • Does not include any of the rent increases proposed by the president in his FY 2018 budget request

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • HHS would receive approximately $98.7 billion, an $11.6 billion increase above the FY 2017 enacted level, including $2.6 billion in new funding
  • Tweaks Medicare reimbursement status of several prescription drugs
  • Increases the Child Care Development Block Grant from $2.9 billion in FY 2017 to $5.2 billion in 2018
  • Raises funding for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program by $250 million to $3.6 billion, although the Trump administration requested elimination of the program for the second year in a row
  • Fails to stabilize the health insurance market by providing subsidy payments to insurers and allowing states to develop more flexible insurance requirements

Department of Homeland Security

  • $1.6 billion as down payment for border wall construction and to make repairs of existing fencing structure
  • Scales back on detention beds: includes 40,520 beds with a glide path down to 39,324 by the end of the fiscal year, a decrease of 12,055 from the FY 2017 enacted level.
  • Freezes number of ICE agents at FY 2017 level
  • Cuts Homeland Security Investigations agents from 150 down to 65

Department of Labor

  • Prevents the Trump administration from carrying out a controversial rule that might have resulted in employers of tipped workers restricting how the tips were distributed
  • Increases funding for employment and training services to $3.5 billion, compared to $3.3 billion in FY 2017