Category Archives: Front Page

Stronger Borders, But Weaker Morals: What’s Happening to Asylum Seekers at the End of the Road?

Stronger Borders, But Weaker Morals: What Happens to Asylum Seekers at the End of the Road

Lindsay Hueston
November 26, 2018

On the westernmost portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, the taunting iron fence stretches from mountain to sand to sea – disappearing after a few hundred yards into the ocean. The water that chops around is the same, splashing both U.S. and Mexican soil. The most radical thing that struck me about being at the border was that birds could fly so easily over it, which seemed so normal – but the U.S. government, simultaneously, so heavily regulated the movement of people on land.

The U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, CA – June 2013

That was five years ago when I went to the border. Now, instead of birds, there are capsules of tear gas hurled over the border: the only thing in the air now is intense fear.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the U.S.-Mexico border twice: first in the summer of 2013 during a college campus ministry conference in San Diego bordering Tijuana; and again in the winter of 2016 leading a service-immersion trip to El Paso, a city thoroughly integrated with its neighbor Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

I never crossed over to Mexico in either of these encounters, but exchanged words, held hands, and prayed with people mere feet away from me, the only thing separating us an immense wall of steel and millions of dollars built up to create a militarized border. I stood on the U.S. side; a recently deported family stood less than three feet away in Mexico. We breathed the same air. We each huddled from the same chill.

That was three years ago; had I met that family at the border there now, they and their three kids would be running away from the fence to avoid tear gas and rubber bullets.

Last week the Trump administration put out a statement authorizing the use of lethal force against families and individuals from Central American countries who trekked thousands of miles to enter our country, with the possibility of closing “the whole border.”

The news of tear gas attacks on thousands of people coming to the United States to flee violence – and being met with more violence – hits me to my core.

Lethal force? For people seeking safety, fearing they’d die in their home country – and facing the possibility of death instead of new life?

I’ve eaten and laughed and cried with people whose life stories and trials are likely near-identical to the droves of asylum seekers searching for welcome in our country. What kind of country are we creating when we say we are a nation of immigrants, then turn away the most vulnerable?

The U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, NM – January 2016

The images and videos I’ve seen are of women, children, families – people who should not be faced with the immensity of physical punishment that the U.S. is inflicting upon them for fleeing violence in their own countries. It is unconscionable that the Trump administration has come so far as to demonize infant children and their mothers, and anyone seeking asylum, so much so as to accept their injury, trauma, and potential death as merely a necessary consequence of our political debate and national security.

Firing tear gas on children and families who are here seeking asylum is both legally and morally wrong.

The actions of the U.S. government in turning people away and further militarizing our borders are a result of systematic racism, and do not reflect the core of our foundational communal values. The immigration system in our country has long been broken, but the recent attacks against immigrants and refugees under this administration have attempted to fundamentally reshape our system with the aim of closing our border to all but wealthy, white immigrants.

The structures of our country were never set up to benefit the most marginalized, but we don’t have to accept policies that perpetuate these evils. Instead, we can change them.

Children shouldn’t choke on tear gas. Parents shouldn’t have to make pilgrimages hundreds of miles on foot to seek a better life for their families. People in neighboring countries shouldn’t have to face a life-threatening decision: stay and die, or go and live.

Bridge into Juárez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas – January 2016

Yet our administration sees these migrants from Central America as criminals for the very fact that they are pleading to us for help.  We are failing to live up to our own laws and international human rights obligations to offer asylum to those who qualify. We are willing to let innocent people die before we open our borders.

It isn’t right – none of it is right.

We must continue to pressure the Trump administration against the harmful consequences they are inflicting upon our sisters and brothers who deserve protection, not condemnation.

Did You Eat Today? Do More Than Thank a Farm Worker

Did You Eat Today?
(Do More Than) Thank a Farm Worker

Erin Sutherland
November 19, 2018

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend an interactive presentation and mindful dinner entitled “A Harvest for Justice,” led by Stoneridge Academy’s Director of Social Action, Lauren Brownlee. Lauren described her recent trip to Washington State to meet with other members of the National Farm Worker Ministry.  While learning about the challenges farm workers face in access to housing, adequate health and safety, just wages, and those that specifically impact women, I was both parts equally shocked and horrified.

I was immediately reminded of the striking similarities between the injustices farm workers experience and the issue areas NETWORK has chosen to focus on to “Mend the Gaps” in our society.  The gap for farm workers is even wider than that of the general population because of the inability of farm workers to organize collectively, or the fact that citizenship status can deter people from coming forward and reporting abuse.  Especially as Thanksgiving approaches, it makes me angry to think about how our national dinner table is supplied by people who are being exploited.  All of us, especially those who are dedicated to fixing societal gaps, need to do better to rectify the ways in which we are participating in an unjust food system.

As I reflect on all I have to be thankful this year, the evening left me wondering what more I could do to show my respect for farm workers and be an ethical consumer.  Attendees discussed eating mindfully, hosting a documentary watch-party like watching Food Chains, and participating in online campaigns.  While these are a great first step, I think it is also important to think more broadly about how to dismantle the unjust, capitalist produce market.

One way is to buy produce directly from farmer-organized initiatives or with ethical certifications.  As someone with modest income, I also understand how difficult it can be to pay a little more for ethically sourced produce.  One thing I’ve started doing is making sure to keep my food waste to an absolute minimum.  This is one way I can show my solidarity with those who worked so hard to pick the food in my fridge by making every effort to consume it all.  This means packing leftovers, coming up with creative solutions to using produce that is starting to look iffy, and supporting companies like Hungry Harvest that save perfectly good food from landfills by re-selling produce that couldn’t be sold at the grocery store.

My journey to becoming an ethical consumer and demanding positive change in the produce industry is just beginning.  Far from feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, I feel equipped with the knowledge to move my appreciation past words and into action.

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

NETWORK Government Relations Team
November 5, 2018

The Midterm Elections are upon us — and NETWORK is busy looking ahead to the work that must be done for the rest of the year.

Members of Congress will arrive back to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 13 to finish out the final legislative efforts for the 115th Congress. There are some time-sensitive issues Congress must address, as well as others that may be considered if there is time and political will. All the items on the agenda will be affected by two factors: the outcome of Tuesday’s election as well as subsequent leadership elections, especially in the House of Representatives.

With these uncertainties in mind, here is NETWORK’s analysis for upcoming issues in the final days of the 115th Congress.

Must Do: Fund the Government for 2019

Appropriations: Congress outperformed all expectations by passing 7 of the 12 appropriations bills for FY2019 before the start of the fiscal year, which began on October 1.  While kudos are in order, NETWORK is urging them to pick-up where they left off as soon as they return and it’s imperative that they finish the job before the end of the year.  Lawmakers have until December 7th to reach agreement on the 5 remaining spending bills which fund programs at more than 10 federal agencies, or risk a government shutdown.  Several of our Mend the Gap issues are among the log-jam.  These include: programs that fund the 2020 census, affordable housing and keep immigrant families together.

Border Wall

The most contentious issue will be funding for the Department of Homeland Security; which President Trump has already threatened a government shutdown if Congress fails to appropriate roughly $5 billion for his border wall.  A government shut-down would be detrimental just weeks before Christmas and would coincide with the anticipated arrival of thousands of migrants trekking toward the Southern border.  NETWORK has joined hundreds of advocacy organizations in calling for Congress freeze spending at FY 2018 levels for immigration enforcement officers, agents and detention beds.   And we urge Congress to pass a separate short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security.  NETWORK is ready to kick our advocacy efforts into high-gear if we perceive threats around funding for our immigration and census priorities.

2020 Census

Funding for the Census Bureau, which requires a significant ramp-up for Census 2020 preparations and planning.   If Congress returns to the dysfunction we saw last year with repeated funding delays via Continuing Resolutions, it could seriously threaten the ramp-up and preparations for our government’s largest peacetime undertaking, the decennial.  Fiscal Year 2019 is the pivotal year leading up to the 2020 Census so postponing full funding would have dire consequences on the preparations and outcome of the count.  While the proposed funding levels from the Senate and the House seem acceptable, it is unclear what the budget impact would be on the impending court ruling on the controversial citizenship question.

Click here to read more about NETWORK’s FY 2019 appropriations priorities.

That being said, there are some outstanding “Maybe” issues that Congress could address: the Farm Bill, Criminal Justice, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Farm Bill: Protect SNAP

There has not been much apparent progress since the Farm Bill moved into conference in August.  One of the primary sticking points in negotiations is the nutrition title and reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The partisan House Bill—which passed by 2 votes on the second try—includes harmful provisions that would undermine the program’s effectiveness and cut nutrition assistance for millions of Americans.  The Senate bill, which saw the strongest bipartisan support of any prior Farm Bill (86-11), makes key improvements to strengthen SNAP without threatening food security of participants.  The 2014 Farm Bill expired this month but, fortunately major programs like SNAP have a funding cushion that minimizes the impact of Congress missing that deadline.  It’s highly likely, though, that the Farm Bill conference committee will kick into high gear when Congress returns on November 13th.  During Lame Duck NETWORK will need your help to ensure that the nutrition title from the Senate bill is what’s ultimately adopted and voted into law.

Criminal Justice

There is wide speculation that the Senate could join the House and take up a modest criminal justice reform package during the Lame Duck session, if 60 Senators agree to proceed.  In May, the House passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Over the summer the President tentatively agreed to include several sentencing reform elements into a prison reform package. The Senate was split on the issue of separating prison reform from sentencing reform but has changed course given the President’s willingness to negotiate a compromise.  While NETWORK supports sentencing and prison reform as a joint legislative package we did not take an official position on the First Step Act.

Read NETWORK’s thoughts on the First Step Act, from when it passed the House, here.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

As Congress concludes work for the year, there is a tradition that of a small group of tax bills that are bipartisan, non-controversial and relatively inexpensive get passed.  This group of tax bills is called “extenders.”  Members of the tax writing committees are now reviewing what their priorities are for any extender bill.  One of the tax initiatives under consideration is passage of “The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017” (S. 548) which expands the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) to meet the housing needs of extremely low income renter households. This credit is the primary tool to encourage private investment in affordable housing development and is responsible for 90 percent of all affordable housing developments built each year.  Since it was passed in the bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986, the credit has incentivized the creation of 3 million affordable rental homes around the country.  NETWORK will work with

Given the national shortage of affordable housing, NETWORK believes it is critical that new build more low income housing units. Passage of this bill will go a long way to meeting the needs of the homeless and other vulnerable low income individuals and families.

Reflection: Hello to Mar-a-Lago, Goodbye to the Bus

Reflection: Hello to Mar-a-Lago, Goodbye to the Bus

Sister Michele Morek, OSU
November 5, 2018

The following originally appeared on Global Sisters Report.

Full disclosure: I was on the bus for only the first and last weeks. In total, it was a marvelous, enriching, depressing, heartening and exhausting pilgrimage of 21 states, 27 days and 54 events. I can’t imagine how the Network staff managed for the full four weeks. It’s hard work!

But here’s some good news. There are lots of concerned and caring people across our country who are worried about what the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will do in the long run to most U.S. taxpayers, especially the most vulnerable. The people who weren’t worried? Well, we even converted a few of them.

We were not advocating doing away with taxes; after all, we drive on interstates and use Medicare and public libraries, too. We were seeking tax justice and urging people to make tax policy a major factor in their voting decisions. After all, tax policy affects pro-life issues, economic issues, justice, peace — just about any issue that concerns Catholics and other people of faith.

On our pilgrimage from Los Angeles to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, we stopped to meet many politicians, to encourage them to be accountable for what their tax-related decisions are doing.

Most of the politicians we tried to see refused to meet with us. Were they embarrassed? A fitting symbol for those politicians was the cardboard cutout of U.S. Rep. Rod Blum that his constituents in Iowa’s 1st District brought to the Oct. 17 Cedar Rapids rally. They said they bring the cardboard version of Blum along to these gatherings because he never makes himself available to them.

Along the journey, we educated people about the U.S. tax policy. The best educational tool we used was a visual representation that Network staff designed, which I described in a previous blog. The Nuns on the Bus acted out a human bar graph, taking the role of real people who represent each economic quintile, including the top 1 percent, and corporations.

That’s why we chose to end with a demonstration at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private golf club and resort, an icon of inequality.

But first, on Nov. 1, we had a busy day with one more site visit, one more legislative visit and rally, and an enthusiastic town hall. (Oh, and a 15-minute stop to wade in the lovely warm Atlantic waves at West Palm Beach.)

The site visit to a multi-story affordable care residence for elderly people of limited financial means run by the Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation underlined what we had heard all along our four-week trip: the need for affordable housing and health care. Like others, this pleasant residence, which boasts a beautiful view from the 10th-floor laundry room, is endangered from effects of the tax bill and has a waitlist of hundreds of people. Most will die before they can move in.

On Nov. 2, we awoke to a lovely warm day for our slow drive by Mar-a-Lago and gathered at a park with another bus that had been on the road for six weeks, educating people about health care, and many decorated private cars full of people joining us in our protest, some who came from faraway states like Minnesota.

We couldn’t call it a parade because we could not get a permit. As Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell said, it was just a few vehicles that just happened to be all going in the same direction at the same time. It was punctuated by a few random honks from car and bus horns. Some local politicians and Adrian Dominican Sr. Carol Coston, the first executive director of Network, joined us.

All 10 Nuns on the Bus got out and walked in front of the bus for a few blocks right across the bay from Mar-a-Lago. We paused to yell encouragement to some construction workers and to send a blessing of positive energy and love across the water to the 1 percent at Mar-a-Lago.

As we crossed the bridge to Mar-a-Lago, we kept an eye out for police, but the only ones we saw along the way seemed to be there to help us safely turn back on the main road by stopping the other traffic. We sent a blessing their way, also.

Returning to Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, we carried the posters from every town hall expressing the problems and solutions the participants suggested. Akron, Las Vegas, Chicago: You were all there with us. And we were all greeted by a mariachi band, lots more supporters and a “Fiesta for the Common Good,” which featured a potluck feast, some wonderful speakers and groups of protest singers like the Raging Grannies.

We returned to the hotel, sent our beloved bus and its driver, Glenn, back to Nashville, and said our tearful goodbyes to our fellow nuns and the Network staff. What a talented group, including the staffers on the bus, the advance team that drove before us to set things up, and the ones back in the Network office we didn’t get to see!

This does not happen very often, but words fail me. I will just note my favorite memories of the trip:

  • The opportunity to work with the Network staff and the sister volunteers. Wow. Friends for life.
  • The individual people I talked to in the cracks at site visits, after town halls, at the bus-side rallies after visits to congresspeople. People concerned about justice.
  • The joy and the hope on the faces of the crowds who met the bus. It replaced the fear and anger in their hearts, at least for a day.
  • The AFL-CIO workers who brought us a cooler of drinks for the road and the commitment, energy and enthusiasm of Culinary Workers Union Local 226.

My lessons: Don’t give in to the idea that good is not winning in the end! Collaboration is everything! And from Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles: God is a God of second chances!

I will also remember a few specific pleasures: finding grits and collard greens on the menus. Watching the vegetation change from saguaro cactus in Arizona to Spanish moss in the South. Our prayer together in the morning. Of course, there were a few minor annoyances, like one sister who said she was surprised to find such creative things happening in the South!

The message on the back of our bus from Pope Francis said it all: “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” But this was a great ecumenical experience, with a Jewish rabbi blessing our bus at Santa Monica beach and many congregations hosting us along the way: Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist. People of all faiths and no faiths joined us to say, “Reasonable revenue for responsible programs.”

Si, se puede!

Travel Log: Miami

Travel Log: Miami

Sister Mary Howard Johnstone, OP
November 1, 2018

Early this morning, on this feast of all Saints, we gathered near the water for our contemplative prayer.  As always, the prayer time together fueled our journey for the day.

Along the road to Mar-a-Lago we have heard over and over again the concerns for adequate, affordable housing.  The Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation responds to those concerns as a developer and manager of affordable and safe housing for seniors across our country.  The EHDOC supports federal policies that advocate for benefits and the highest quality of life for seniors.

We had the privilege to visit  one of the EHDOC sites in Miami, Florida where we learned from Steve Protulis, President and  CEO, and Gwendolyn Mazyck, manager, that no money is availlable for seniors with limited income.  The EHDOC has 8 buildings in Florida, housing and providing services for 900- 1,000 seniors. Applications for subsidized housing were recently opened up and two thousand people lined the street beginning at 5:00 a.m.  This was just for applications as there were no vacancies at the time.  The average wait for affordable subsidized housing for seniors is currently 4-8 years.  The tax law with its increase of debt threatens this life-giving program with a loss of much needed funds.

The highlight of our visit was the time spent with the residents who greatly appreciated  the housing opportunity and services provided.  We were treated to a Latin lunch.  It was not unusual to be sharing a table with a person originally from Peru, one from Argentina, one from Cuba, and another from El Salvador.  The group translations all included Spanish, English and Russian.

The EHDOC site in Miami is truly mission driven with passionate people providing “Housing with a Heart.”

We then participated in a Lobby visit and rally at the office of Carlos
Curbelo, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 26th Congressional District.  A few of the Nuns on the Bus joined three of Curbelo’s District constituents for a lobby visit – Daniel Gibson from Allegheny Franciscan Ministries,  France Francois, and Lorenzo Canizares.  We inquired why Representative Curbelo’s rhetoric of care for the people and their needs did not match his voting record.  He had voted yes to the Tax Law even though it shifts money to those at the top of the economic ladder and threatens programs vital to his people.  His rather defensive DC aide (arriving 20 minutes late) defended Curbelo’s vote with statistics highly questioned by those present.  Sister Simone was prepared with data affirming the need for our Tax Justice Truth Tour.

After the lobby visit, an enthusiastic group gathered for a rally.  All of the speakers urged those present to hold their elected officials accountable and to take their values to the ballot box next Tuesday.

The day gifted us with personal, grassroots stories highlighting the need for “reasonable revenue for responsible programs.”

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

October 29, 2018

After a would-be assassin mailed pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democratic figures, including the families of 2 former Presidents; after a gunman tried to enter a Black Church in Kentucky intent on doing harm but was unable to gain access so walked to the nearest Kroger grocery store and killed two people instead; after all of that, there was the terrible mass shooting of Jewish worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue.  It was a devastating week and we are still reeling from it.

Nevertheless, we join the country in offering our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family and friends of those 11 people who were killed in Pennsylvania and the 2 people in Kentucky.  No words can express how profoundly we grieve with you in your time of need.  We stand together as the nation mourns your, and our, loss.

At the same time, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, these senseless murders of 13 ordinary people, worshipping at Tree of Life Synagogue and buying groceries at the local Kroger store.  They were simply going about their day until two white men, fueled by anti-Semitism and racial animus, attacked them.  These innocent people lost their lives to hate and fear in a country founded on freedom, opportunity and religious values.

But our Catholic faith tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  No exceptions.  And as a result, every human being is imbued with an essential dignity that must be honored, respected and protected.  The hate-filled actions of the gunmen belie that fundamental truth.   Whether or not you are religious or have some faith-based beliefs, there is something profoundly wrong in society when people turn to violence against others simply because they belong to a different religious tradition or have a different skin color.  We condemn every action based on hatred, bigotry and violence.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have witnessed, endured and decried the presence and menace of such evil in our midst.  But this can be the last.  This is a time when the whole country can stand up and speak out against it.  This is a time when we must demand of our leaders and each other the guarantee of civility, respect and safety for everyone.  For our sake.  For our children’s sake.  For the sake of our country’s future.  We must not let this hatred, violence and division defeat us.  The only question is:  will we do it?  Or will we once again pay a terrible price for our silence?  People are fond of saying “we are better than this.”  Now is the time to prove it.

May God grant eternal rest to those who were slain.  May God shower peace and consolation on all those who mourn.  And may God have mercy on all of us if we fail to stand up to this moment in history.

Reflection: Philadelphia Nuns on the Bus Town Hall

Reflection: Philadelphia Nuns on the Bus Town Hall

Saint Joseph’s University students
October 24, 2018

The Nuns on the Bus stopped in Philadelphia for a Town Hall at Saint Joseph’s University. Students, community members, and local sisters alike came to learn about tax justice and talk about how the 2017 GOP Tax Law is impacting Philadelphians more specifically.


Two students shared their reflections on the event below:



“I really enjoyed attending the Nuns on the Bus event that took place at Saint Joseph’s University. Before attending, I researched into who the Nuns on the Bus are and learned they are a lobbying group located in Washington D.C. which tend to have more liberal views. Each sister introduced herself to the audience and explained who they are, which order they are a part of, and why they joined the bus. I found it interested that although these women are part of different orders, they come together for the same reason, change that will benefit everyone. The social justice issues each woman stood for were education, immigration, economy, social services, and many more.

“After introductions, each woman took a persona. This persona belonged in a socioeconomic class and demonstrated through steps how they benefited from the current tax reform. They then demonstrated through steps how Trump’s tax reform would not benefit everyone yet only certain people. Before seeing this demonstrated, I never completely understood the impact it would have on each social class. I would read about the impacts it would have and look at the statistics. Seeing the steps helped me to comprehend what this really means for the economy. After seeing these demonstrations, I enjoyed the group discussions. The woman I talked to told me she believes that voting is the best thing for change. She believes that voting needs to rise for my age group and all the decisions made in the elections now will affect my generation the most.

“Reflecting on the event, I really enjoyed this presentation. I feel I have learned more about the tax reforms and what changes need to be made to better everyone in the United States instead of benefiting a select few. Voting is one-way change can be made and I do believe that my generation will be most affected by what we vote on now. Through attending this event, I feel that I have gained a better understanding about how decisions made by those we elect into political office will affect everyone in some form.”

— Kella Pacifico

“I really enjoyed going to this event.  It gave me a platform on which I was able to have intentional conversations about the new tax laws and the potential detriment that they could have on our society.  I was given the opportunity to provide a younger student prospective to the nuns and other people around me as to why most college students are not engaged with this issue and our small groups bounced ideas for solutions.  I would like to thank both Network and all of the Nuns on the Bus for spreading awareness and empowering people all over the country to vote in favor of social justice.  University students like myself need to embody the words of Saint Ignatius Loyola to “go forth and set the world on fire.”

— Michael Williams

View more photos from this event here.

Legislative Update: Trump Administration Proposes New Regulation to Create a Wealth Test for Immigrants

Legislative Update: Trump Administration Proposes New Regulation to Create a Wealth Test for Immigrants

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 24, 2018

On October 10, 2018 the Trump Administration proposed drastically expanding the definition of who constitutes a “public charge” through a proposed rule in the Federal Register. Such a change would have a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of millions of individuals and families. If approved, it would set a wealth test for those seeking to become lawful permanent residents (LPR or green card holders), to extend or change the category of a nonimmigrant visa, or to bring family members to the U.S.  During this term in Congress, the Trump Administration has urged Members to pass legislation cut the family based immigration system and to shift to a merit based system.  Having failed to persuade Congress to much such a change, the Administration is now proposing to change the rules which will in practice limit legal immigration to US to those who are wealthy, well connected and well-educated.

The Administration is punishing people who wait years for a visa to come to America, work hard, and build a better life for themselves and their families. Previously, the government only restricted immigration applications on public charge grounds if it determined an immigrant would likely depend on public cash assistance or need long-term medical care in an institution at the government’s expense. Now, the bar will be much higher and impossible for many average, hardworking people to overcome. Under the proposed rule, receipt of an expanded list of public benefits will also be counted against a person including basic food, health and housing assistance. The full list includes:

  • Long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense
  • Medicare Part D
  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Public Housing
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • General Assistance

D.H.S. is also considering adding the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the list.

Further, under this rule, having income below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or $25,975 for a family of three, would also be counted against an applicant.  A full third of all previous applicants had an income below this level. D.H.S. would also consider age, health, family status, assets, education and skills when determining whether an immigrant would become a public charge and certain characteristics would be deemed “negative factors,” or as indicators that the immigrant could become a public charge. Children, for example, start out with a negative mark because they don’t work.  If an immigrant has a medical condition, that will make it harder to become a lawful permanent resident. Preferencing the wealthy and failing to consider the tremendous gifts all immigrants bring to our communities is wrong.

The consequences of this proposed rule would be felt directly by those applying as well as U.S. citizen children: parents of U.S. citizen children could perceive they must choose between depriving their children of critical public health and safety programs or jeopardize their own immigration status. This is a painful and impossible decision. Both outcomes have devastating consequences for the wellbeing of children and families in America as one quarter of children in this country have at least one immigrant parent, and 90 percent of those children were born in the U.S. This is not a theoretical assertion.  The last time the United States made changes to the public charge rule, as part of the welfare reform effort in 1996, it instilled so much fear in communities that it led to significant drops in the use of programs critical to families. Even populations who were exempt from the public charge, like refugees and victims of trafficking, stopped using critical benefits that provided the support necessary for their families to become stable and healthy.  The use of a temporary assistance program known as TANF, for example, fell 78% among the refugee population despite the fact that refugees were not subject to the public charge test. The current proposed rule would similarly instill great fear in our communities across the country.

Finally, it is clear that the faith community and others who provide human needs services to those struggling in poverty will not be able to meet the needs of those impacted by this rule.  For example, Catholic Charities serves 1 in 9 individuals in need of food assistance in the United States. If the federal government implements the proposed changes, Catholic Charities would absorb an estimated $24 million in services that would no longer be covered.

We can all work to defeat this rule. Stay tuned for more resources and an upcoming action alert from NETWORK for how you can make a difference!

Travel Log: Philadelphia Town Hall

Travel Log: Philadelphia Town Hall

Erica Jordan, OP
October 24, 2018

The Nuns on the Bus arrived in Philly with some time to spare, so we were able to fit in an eclectic supper of left-overs; some hummus, grape leaves, and olives from yesterday’s birthday celebration; and pizza.

Just before 6:00 PM, we went to the chapel to begin our explanation and dramatization of the effect of the tax law from the 1980s, when Reaganomics was introduced, until the passage of the new tax bill into law in December 2017 – some 30+ years. We wanted to help our audience understand peoples’ current economic position as the new law is implemented. This presentation of a “human bar graph” is a stark demonstration of the income inequality from the recent past and how much it will be exacerbated when the 2017 law goes into full effect.

The folks who gathered were mainly people from the surrounding community, several professors from St. Joseph’s University, and a few students. The teachers wished that more of their students could have experienced the presentation.  We, too, wish there had been more students so we could have heard from them about their present and future financial concerns. Our input might have offered them insights also.

We continue to puzzle about how to engage young adults in meaningful conversations about tax policy and its relevance to them and to the common good of our nation.

View more photos from this event here.

Reflection: Encounters of a Recurrent Pilgrim

Reflection: Encounters of a Recurrent Pilgrim

Sister Jan Cebula, OSF
October 23, 2018

The following is a reflection by Sister Jan on her experience during Week Two of Nuns on the Bus

During our morning prayer before we first boarded the Bus for the second leg, we talked about Nuns on the Bus being a pilgrimage. Having ridden the Bus before, I had a sense of what that meant. I knew I was going to enter into a sacred experience. I was ready to become a pilgrim; being on a journey, open to discovering sacred places.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called us all to foster a culture of encounter– reaching out, engaging in dialogue and friendship outside our usual circles. Stepping out. I’m not sure he imagined riding on a Bus, shining a light on economic disparities, calling for tax justice.

As I stepped off the Bus in Cleveland at the end of the week, I realized that the encounters we experienced had been the sacred places of our pilgrimage. Images of people we met cycled through my mind and will continue to do so. Diondai, Faith, Trisha, Maria, Cassie, Gladys, Cheryl and . . . Even more so, their spirit of dedication, serenity, creativity and focused dedication continues to reverberate. I can sense a presence, a change within. Sacred people.

But I also realized there was another dimension of encounter we experienced, a communal one. We met people at every stop who understand that we’re all sisters and brothers AND also ACT like it. What a blessing to be on a pilgrimage to these sacred communal spaces.

We encountered the dogged persistence of constituents on behalf of others and our democracy in the face of indifferent elected representatives; the persistent widows of the Gospel.

We encountered the resilience of St. Sabina’s, Sr. Maria, and the women of “Chopping for Change” in Cleveland. Their voices and strength glowed, blessing us and everyone with their courage.

We encountered the creative, innovative and collaborative service programs focused on the whole person at YESS in Des Moines, Heartland Health Services in Des Moines, Cass Community Center in Detroit and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries in Cleveland. They understand both sides of the coin: It takes community/collaboration for healing and that wholeness is communal.

We encountered the openness at every location to learn through our visual town hall human graph experience, releasing more creativity and energy for advocacy.

By witnessing the risk-taking of both staff and the people being served at site visits and of advocates at rallies, we encountered communal courage and hope.

We were blessed by the joy of the solidarity among all of us “nuns” from all different communities who rode on the Bus and who offered us hospitality.

Sacred people, sacred places of encounter.