Category Archives: Immigration

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

Laura Peralta-Schulte
March 7, 2018

2017 was a tumultuous year for our nation. Following the election of President Trump and with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, advocates were fearful of what lay ahead for women, people of color, immigrants, and other communities that had been the target of then-candidate Trump’s consistent attacks on the campaign trail.

President Trump began his Inaugural Address talking about “American carnage”, building walls, and making “America first.” The next day, millions of people marched in Washington and around the world to show their opposition to President Trump’s agenda. Sister Simone Campbell addressed the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. asking people of faith to actively engage in the political debate on behalf of the common good. With that historic mobilization, we began the political action of 2017.

Administrative Attacks on our Mend the Gap Agenda

Two areas of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap agenda were under constant attack in 2017:  healthcare and immigration. On both issues, the Trump Administration used all legal means at their disposal to undo the progress of the Obama Administration. For healthcare, the Administration moved immediately to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by changing regulations under the guise of “flexibility” to limit the program. Later in the year, the Administration refused to advertise and engage in ACA enrollment activities, which was an act of sabotage.

On immigration, including in the area of refugee resettlement, the Administration attempted to fundamentally restructure longstanding programs. This began with issuing multiple Muslim travel bans – which were, until recently, stopped by Court challenges – then concluded the year by announcing a historic cut to the number of refugees the U.S. will settle. The Trump Administration also callously rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program created by President Obama that has protected Dreamers from deportation and allowed them legal work authorization since 2012. The Administration is currently working to remove Temporary Protected Status for large communities of immigrants including those from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Legislative Attacks on Mend the Gap Issues

One of the first and most sustained threats to our agenda came as Republicans in Congress launched their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican members of Congress have campaigned on repealing the ACA since its passage, so it was no surprise when the House moved to repeal the program. Congress also moved to unravel our broader healthcare system by attempting to fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program into a block grant. This proposal would devastate Medicaid and risk the health of millions of Americans who depend on the program.

What was surprising – and inspiring – was that these efforts failed due to the hard work of a diverse coalition of advocates and the engagement of many people all around the country who responded to the attack with determination. The Republicans had planned to repeal the ACA quickly at the beginning of the Congressional session, but ended up fighting to make changes through the spring and summer until they finally failed in July. Network chaired the national faith healthcare table and played an important role in defeating the effort.

Harmful immigration bills became part of the Republican legislative agenda during the first days of the new Congress. Republicans moved swiftly to increase funding for deportations, detention, and border security as well as pass new legislation to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding. Early on, Democrats united and refused to support a bill that included significant funding to build a border wall. This was an early win for our community, and it became apparent that Republicans would have trouble implementing their agenda because of Senate rules (requiring 60 votes to pass legislation) when operating under regular process. That is why the budget reconciliation process (which only requires 51 votes) has been used to try to pass partisan healthcare and tax legislation.

Crisis set in as the Administration rescinded the DACA program in September. Over 800,000 Dreamers who had signed up for protections and who are fully integrated in American communities, schools, and workplaces face the threat of deportation if Congress does not pass legislation that provides protection. Congress failed to pass this critical legislation in 2017 and it remains a key part of NETWORK’s agenda for 2018.

End of the Year: Tax Cuts or Bust

Because of advocates’ success in blocking major portions of the Republican agenda during the first half of the year, when Congress returned after the August recess, the pressure was on Republicans to deliver a win before the end of the year. They moved quickly to a popular issue for the party: tax cuts. Congressional Republicans worked feverishly for the rest of the year to pass a partisan tax bill that gives significant tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations at a loss of $1.5 trillion dollars for our nation. While there were obstacles to passing the bill, in the end Republicans rallied around the tax bill written by and for lobbyists and their rich donors, marketing it as a middle class tax bill that will spur economic growth and raise wages. Unlike earlier debates, there was little Republican opposition to the tax bill and it moved forward at lightning speed. The bill did not receive any Democratic support.

This was a significant loss for NETWORK for two reasons. First, as part of the tax bill, Republicans achieve a year-long goal of destabilizing the Affordable Care Act by including a repeal of the individual mandate. Experts show that this will increase premiums and potentially lead to 13 million people losing healthcare in the near future. Second, the significant loss of national revenue sets the table for Republican leadership to talk about the need to cut the social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and nutrition programs next year. Already, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have indicated that Congress will push for “Welfare Reform” next year.

An Uninspiring Federal Budget Process

Congress did not pass a full federal budget for 2018, deciding instead to put all of their political energy into passing tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. Congress adjourned on December 21 after passing a short-term bill to fund the government at current levels through January 19. This sets the stage for further budget action as well as discussions on funding for 2019.

Harmful Neglect of the Common Good

Congress’s single-minded focus on partisan priorities continually got in the way of bipartisan legislation that would have advanced the common good. For much of 2017, NETWORK and partners urged Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) well before the October 1 deadline. For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that brought the rate of uninsured children to the lowest level in our history. Congress failed to renew CHIP funding and only passed a temporary funding for the program until March of 2018 when they will try again to achieve bipartisan consensus.

Overall, there are three important lessons we have learned in the past year. First, Republicans are deeply divided on core Mend the Gap issues like healthcare and immigration; it is possible in certain instances to build bipartisan support to block bad bills and, over time, potentially to develop bipartisan legislation to solve problems. Second, in order to be successful, advocates must organize and engage in Washington and, perhaps more importantly, at home. Third, President Trump and Republicans in Washington are fearful of political losses in 2018 and will prioritize “winning” the political fight and the next election over the common good. As we work to resist against unjust policies and to promote the common good, we continue to find our power in diversity and community.

Read NETWORK’s 2017 Voting Record here.

Family Reunification is the Heart of Immigration

Family Reunification is the Heart of Immigration

Sister Bernadine Karge, OP
February 22, 2018

May I share the immigration story of the Gomez* Family whom I met more than 13 years ago?

Mr. Gomez* had come to the United States in the early 1980’s to work to support his wife, and children in Mexico. When the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) went into effect in 1987, Mr. Gomez applied for temporary resident status during the one year application time. He successfully proved that he had entered the U.S. without documents, lived here without documents since 1/1/82, had provided for himself, paid taxes and was a person of good moral character. After the required time as a temporary resident, he became a permanent resident in 1992. One aspect of the 1986 law was that there were no derivative beneficiaries. This means a spouse could not bring in his or her spouse and minor unmarried children into the country as permanent residents when she or he recieved a “green card.”

However, as a permanent resident Mr. Gomez could and did file a petition to bring his wife and unmarried children in 1992. So Mr. Gomez was living legally in the U.S. and his wife and three kids were living in Mexico. What would you do? Leave your wife and kids in another country or bring them here? The latter, no doubt, which is what the Gomez family did-reunite the family. The children attended school here in the U.S. and the sons began working with their dad in the factory when they were old enough.

When I first met the family, in 2005, their number in the second preference visa category was not current. They patiently waited in line for a visa number to become available. Two years later in July 2007, their number became available, but the older son was over 21. Would he be able to immigrate with his mother as a derivative along with his younger brother and sister? Each family member, mom and three kids had to file a separate petition, get a medical examination, do fingerprints and a background check. This cost the family about $5000 in application, medical and biometrics fees before fees increased at the end of July 2007!

In November 2007, the family went for an interview at the immigration office in Chicago. Thanks to the Child Status Protection Act and its intricate formula for protecting “child status” the immigration officer agreed with us that the older son was under 21 for immigration purposes. Mr. Gomez’s wife and the three children were granted permanent resident status at the end of 2007 – 20 years after dad first applied!

The daughter graduated from grade school and high school. She became a U.S. citizen when she turned 18 and graduated from college last June. The sons have married, immigrated their wives and are raising their children in Chicago. Family is the chain that binds us. Family reunification is the foundation of U.S. immigration law.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family

Sister Bernadine Karge is a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister and a former “Nun on the Bus.”

My Family’s Immigration Story

My Family’s Immigration Story

Monsieree de Castro
February 21, 2018

Allow me to tell you all a (very common) story about “chain migration,” a portion of the immigration system the current administration and members of Congress are trying to eliminate.

In 1977, my father was petitioned by my aunt, who was living in Seattle, to come join her in the United States using the sibling category of family reunification (what some offensively refer to as “chain migration”). The waiting process for family visas can take decades, and my father waited 17 years to have his papers approved for him to come to the United States. It wasn’t until 1994 that we as a family finally stepped foot on American soil for the first time.

It has been 24 years of struggling in a country that more often than not makes you feel unwanted for your brown skin and foreign customs, but also 24 years filled with triumphs and success. My parents have held multiple jobs since we first came to this country, from caregiver to custodian. Today, our family has grown and my siblings and I lead successful lives and are all contributing taxpayers and members of the community. Of my siblings, we currently have a Director working in social services at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, an IT professional working for Paul Allen’s business/philanthropy, an accountant providing her skills at a hospital, and finally, the youngest and most Americanized sibling, foolishly pursuing her dreams in the most American way possible; living and working in politics in Washington DC hoping to contribute to the country that has given so much to her. Additionally, major props to my awesome parents and each of my siblings who all own their own homes, collectively owning 5 pieces of real estate across the Seattle area (I’m clearly the millennial of the clan, probably eating avocado toast instead of buying a house).

My family’s story is not at all unique. This is the story of millions of Americans who come here seeking the opportunity for a better life. This is the simplified version of the story, leaving out the heartaches of visas that were never approved after years of waiting, and parts of our family that continue to be split apart (no, you can’t “bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” there are countless restrictions). This is also the story of a privileged family that was lucky enough to have a pathway to pursue the American dream and citizenship, and had the economic stability to wait 17 years to have a visa approved.

The current administration claims that the program that allowed my family to come and succeed in the United States needs to be eliminated for the sake of the “economy and the future of America”. But Mr. President, I am CERTAIN that allowing families like mine to be welcomed into this country is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the success of our economy and future of our great nation.

Monsieree de Castro is a former NETWORK associate. She currently works at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

Live Immigration Updates

Live Updates on Congressional DACA Debate

Updates are listed in reverse chronological order from the top of the page

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sana Rizvi

Members are out for recess this week after an intense immigration debate that ended with the failure of four immigration bills. Although there is much bad news to go around about DACA, the one silver lining of last week’s votes was the overwhelming number of votes against the Administration’s immigration bill led by Senator Grassley: “The Secure and Succeed Act of 2018.” The Senate made clear that although it was fractured on the issue of what a DACA fix should look like, there is unity on what it should not look like (See: NETWORK and partners ask Congress to vote against Senator Grassley’s immigration bill.)  On the House side, Republican leadership attempted to whip votes for a similar anti-immigrant bill and determined that they did not have enough votes to pass.

Now, we must raise immigration from the ashes of last week’s debacle and find an immediate solution for DACA, 13 days from its cessation. We cannot allow Congress to drop this issue. Remember that after March 5, about 1,400 DACA recipients will lose their status every day.  We are using this recess to gather information and plan next steps for action and we are grateful that many NETWORK advocates are meeting in district with key members of Congress arguing them to pass bipartisan DACA legislation when they return to work next week, February 26.  We are keeping our eye on the process for a solution going forward and will update this space as we learn more and continue advocating for a solution.

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:00 pm

Sana Rizvi

The Senate has voted, and all four amendments have failed. Read Sister Simone’s response. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sana Rizvi

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed for motion to cloture vote on four amendments and we could see a vote on the amendments individually sometime between today and Friday evening. Once an amendment reaches 60 votes it is attached to the final bill. The four amendments will be voted on in the order they have been filed. Below, please find NETWORK’s vote recommendations on those amendments for the Senate.

  • NETWORK strongly supports the “Uniting and Securing America Act” Senate Amendment #1955 led by Senator Coons (DE) and Senator McCain (AZ). The USA Act is a strong bipartisan bill which provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship and authorizes funding for data-driven border technology in consultation with border communities. This bill upholds the human dignity of those affected by DACA with a narrow bipartisan, bicameral solution.
  • NETWORK strongly opposes “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act” Senate Amendment #1948 led by Senator Patrick Toomey (PA).   This bill threatens to break the trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities and will make our communities less safe. This bill fails our test of upholding human dignity. NETWORK asks Senators to vote NO on this bill and urges Members to support a narrow, bipartisan solution for Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.
  • NETWORK strongly opposes “Secure and Succeed Act of 2018 (S. 2192),” Senate Amendment #1959 led by Senator Charles Grassley (IA). This bill would permanently ban families from reuniting in the United States. Families belong together and this bill violates the sanctity of family. NETWORK asks Senators to vote NO on this bill and urges Members support a narrow, bipartisan solution for Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.
  • NETWORK does not take a position on the “Rounds-King” proposal, Senate Amendment #1958.  We are grateful that this amendment provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship. We are, however, deeply concerned about the impact this bill will have on domestic immigration enforcement, wasteful spending at the border, and concerned that it removes discretion for considering the situations of families as well as limiting family reunification. We are a nation that values families and that should be recognized in our law.

We must recognize that passing a solution for our country’s immigrant youth is paramount. Since September 5, Dreamers and their families have lived in fear of deportation and Congress delayed a solution until the last minute, wherein thousands of Dreamers have already lost their DACA protections. This is the place we are in with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Administration which has refused to let us pass a clean Dream Act to protect Dreamers. After March 5th, 1,400 DACA recipients will lose their status every day. This amendment raises some serious concerns for us and our immigrant communities but it is our last chance to pass a solution for DACA recipients. As people of faith, we cannot sit back and watch our immigrant youth be ripped away from their homes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sana Rizvi

The immigration debate continues in the Senate today and amendments are expected to hit the floor as members hurry to draft language from bipartisan negotiations with a possible vote in the next couple of hours. Fourteen amendments have been filed to date.  Most of them our Republican messaging bills aimed at making Democrats who are up in 2018 take tough votes on immigration hot button issues.  One of the amendments filed is the Secure and Succeed Act of 2018 sponsored by Senators Grassley (R-IA and Cornyn (R-TX) which contain the provisions President Trump has laid out for any DACA deal.  NETWORK and our partners sent a letter to Senators this morning urging them to vote NO on this bill which includes the Administration’s four immigration pillars. Read the letter here.

Thus far, there is only one bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators McCains (R-AZ) and Coons (D-DE)  – which is a narrow bill providing a pathway to citizenship with minimal border security.  There are also two other bipartisan efforts aimed at finding a compromise that garners the 60 votes needed to get a bill voted out of the chamber.  Democratic leaders and Republican moderates are currently meeting with the goal of finalizing a deal by the end of the day.

We are monitoring the floor closely today for narrow bipartisan amendments which include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and continue to urge members to vote NO on bills which are harmful to our immigrant communities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sana Rizvi

As floor debate continues into today, Senate leadership will negotiate terms of amendment proposals and we will begin seeing amendments after the terms are set. As negotiations continue, we expect significant amendment action tomorrow.

The Congressional Black Caucus weighed in the immigration debate yesterday urging a no vote for any Republican plan that cuts family and diversity visa programs.  They further argued that the Administration is pitting black and brown immigrants against each other by offering a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for tearing families of color apart.

We continue to see members of the Senate float “compromise” proposals to try to get to 60 votes.  They range from bills that have a pathway to citizenship for dreamers with limited border security to broad proposals that provide a pathway to citizenship paired with the Administration’s four immigration pillars, allocating $25 billion for a border wall, increase to interior enforcement and cuts to family based visas.

NETWORK urges Congress to pass a narrow bipartisan bill which upholds human dignity, family unity and provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sana Rizvi

With less than a month to go until the end of DACA, Congress is heading into a week of debate on immigration to find a solution for DACA recipients. Early last week, in an effort to avert another government shutdown, Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer came to an agreement on a two-year budget deal which advocates hoped would be paired with a DACA solution. As part of a budget deal, Senator McConnell asked to have DACA decoupled from the budget in exchange for a promise to create a fair process of debate for a DACA fix immediately following the passing of a budget. The strategy was agreed to by Democrats and the budget bill was passed with wide bipartisan support. Today as promised, Senator McConnell will begin the immigration debate which is expected to go through the week. The process will allow Republicans and Democrats to bring forth a number of immigration amendments to the floor for votes. The goal of the process is to pass a bill that gets at least 60 votes.

There are different perspectives of what should be in the bill. Anti-immigrant hardliners – including the Trump Administration – want to pair a DACA fix with major reforms to the immigration system that limits family visas, substantially increases border and interior enforcement and limits protections for unaccompanied asylum seekers. Moderate Republicans and Democrats are seeking a more limited bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and includes more limited border enforcement funding. This weekend, hardline Senate Republicans introduced a proposal that contains priorities of the Trump Administration. It will likely be put on the floor this week as one option, although it will not have the votes necessary for passage. Democrats have signaled they will bring the Dream Act forward with the possibility of some border measures to get 60 votes as one of several options to get to 60 votes. Negotiations are underway at the Member level.

All eyes are on the Senate this week for the immigration amendment process…Things are moving quickly – Stay tuned, we will be updating this page as the amendment process proceeds. Senators need to hear from us now more than ever on the issue of DACA and the importance of a narrow solution for Dreamers which is includes a pathway to citizenship.

Congress Continues to Fail to Unify and Protect Dreamers

Congress Continues to Fail to Unify and Protect Dreamers

Sana Rizvi
January 19, 2018

Congress is still divided on a plan to protect DACA recipients from deportation. As bills emerge, NETWORK will continue to analyze and describe the differences between all possible proposals. Read NETWORK’s summary of the Dream Act, Bridge Act, and more bills introduced months ago.

As always, NETWORK continues to urge Congress to pass a bill as close to the Dream Act as possible, that includes a pathway to citizenship and doesn’t include a high cost for family migration or increase border expenses.

Uniting and Securing America Act (Hurd – Aguilar Bill H.R. 4796)

This bill, also known as the USA Act, is the House compromise bill that sponsors believe can garner support from House Democrats as well as a core group of Republicans.  The bill currently has 26 Republicans and 27 Democrats as cosponsors. It provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders and carries over language from the Dream Act requiring eligible recipients to have been brought to the US before the age of 18, pass a background check and meet requirements for either work or education. It also calls for more immigration judges to push through the backlog of cases and authorizes tech on the border as a form of border security.  This bill was written in consultation with border community organizations and the Hispanic Caucus. The List of current cosponsors can be found here.

Durbin-Graham Proposal

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been working for months on a bill that can pass with a majority of Senators.  While no concrete language exists to date, their proposal provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and mirrors language from the Dream Act. It also authorizes $2 billion for border security, eliminates the visa lottery system and limits family-based migration by preventing Dreamers from sponsoring their parents. 3 Democrats (Durbin, Bob Menendez (D-NJ),  and Michael Bennet (D-CO)) and 3 Republicans (Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Graham) created this proposal and are currently trying to garner support from their colleagues.  Four Republican Senators – Susan Collins (R-ME),  Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) – signed on in support of the proposal.

“Securing America’s Future” Act (Goodlatte Bill H.R. 4760)

NETWORK opposes Representative Goodlatte’s bill because it fails to meet the most important criteria for a compassionate solution. H.R. 4760 does not offer Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, and it authorizes money for a border wall and aims to overhaul the entire immigration system by making severe cuts to family reunification programs. This bill would be devastating to our communities by taking an “enforcement first” approach by attacking the federal funding of sanctuary areas and heavily criminalizing visa overstays. Simply put, this is a terrible bill.

It’s time for Congress to stop playing with peoples’ lives and pass legislation to protect Dreamers in our country. Call your Senators today at 1-888-410-0619 (Call twice to reach both your Senators) and tell them to protect Dreamers. Call your Representatives at 1-888-496-3502.

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Dreamers in our Immigration Policy

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Dreamers in our Immigration Policy

December 11, 2017

As we enter into the second week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for, including immigrant children and families.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for DACA-recipients who are facing enormous uncertainty during this Advent season.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Personal Reflection from a Dreamer

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects young immigrants brought to the United States as children, runs out in less than three months. Now, more than ever, the security of Dreamers is at risk and we need a legislative solution from Congress. Dreamers are raising their voices to express their concerns and to vocalize the pain and suffering they have experienced. Heyra Avila, a Dreamer who lives in northern Kentucky, shares her experience as a Dreamer in our latest blog post, Dreamer’s Survival Fight.

“We all essentially live life day to day, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We wake up, exist, and survive. Those are all blessings that get taken for granted too often and too easily. Surviving looks different for each individual. For me, surviving means fighting. My parents and I fought for survival and to break through poverty when we decided to cross the border without the proper documentation. We risked everything we had in search of a better life.

Fast forward to today: survival means justifying my humanity and worth as an “alien”, trying to fit into a foreign land I have called home my whole life. I’m surviving to fight and fighting to survive and not to just simply exist but also to thrive. The uncertainties of my tomorrows are plagued by anxiety, but also by very real possibilities of tragedies.” – Heyra Avila

Read the full reflection in NETWORK’s Emerging Justice Seeker blog

Resources

Discussion Guide for Talking about the Dream Act

Congress still hasn’t passed the Dream Act. It is time to engage in conversation! Check out Emerson Collective’s discussion guide on how to talk about the Dream Act with your family and friends this holiday here.

News

Read news on DACA, the Dream Act and Dreamers here:

The fight for the Dream Act is reaching its peak – but time is running out

‘This is the moment’: Dreamers face make-or-break push on immigration fight with Trump

Mother of three Dreamers holds fast on Hill for passage of DREAM Act

Thousands of immigrants are losing their DACA protections already

A Prayer for Immigrants, Dreamers and DACA

God of light and life,

We pray in great hope during this darkest time of the year that you shine your light on those living in the shadow of darkness, especially those who are undocumented with no path to permanent resident status or citizenship.

To those who say, “Throw them out. Keep them out.” we pray that you drive out their fear and change their hearts to be welcoming and inclusive. Enlighten our minds and hearts to welcome you in the “stranger” who is seeking  posada (shelter)  and knocking at our door.

We pray that members of Congress have the courage to pass a clean Dream Act to allow our immigrant brothers and sisters to reach their full potential. Open the doors of our hearts and minds to bring about compassionate immigration laws that will allow for the fullness of life and belonging.

May we bless all families and help us realize that every family is holy.

In this season of Advent and in the spirit of the prophet Micah 6:9, may we strive to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

Amen.

Written by Sister Bernadine Karge, OP

Dreamer’s Survival Fight

Dreamer’s Survival Fight

Heyra Avila
December 08, 2017

We all essentially live life day to day, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We wake up, exist, and survive. Those are all blessings that get taken for granted too often and too easily. Surviving looks different for each individual. For me, surviving means fighting. My parents and I fought for survival and to break through poverty when we decided to cross the border without the proper documentation. We risked everything we had in search of a better life.

Fast forward to today: survival means justifying my humanity and worth as an “alien”, trying to fit into a foreign land I have called home my whole life. I’m surviving to fight and fighting to survive and not to just simply exist but also to thrive. The uncertainties of my tomorrows are plagued by anxiety, but also by very real possibilities of tragedies. I have to be very mindful of the fact that my family can be separated through incarceration and deportation for simply trying to live a normal life.

It wasn’t always this bad though. The fears were always there, but now they are very much alive thanks to the political climate promoted by the new President’s administration. Our existence has boiled down to numbers and statistics, and even worse, we have become bargaining chips in this political gridlock involving immigration. I’m disappointed that our government has taken the stance it has, but I am not surprised.

What’s frustrating is that some people are leaving it up to faith alone. “Don’t worry, Heyra, something will be worked out.” I can’t just “not worry” when my life is on the line. I remember people told me not to worry about Trump winning. They also told me not to worry about the termination of DACA. SO naturally, I am going to worry. I understand that some people do not like to get involved in politics, but at this rate we cannot afford for people not to care.

I am a woman of faith, raised in a Mexican Catholic household. I do find solace in prayer and mass. However, we also need to pray for God to give us strength, clarity, and empathy, so we can better understand our neighbor and to try to work for something more tangible that jeopardizes fewer lives and instead offers opportunities. Well-intentioned wishes and prayers do wonders, but legislative action is a must.

DACA is dead, but my dreams are not. In as little as three months when DACA expires, some lives are going to be forever transformed and the economy is going to be impacted no matter what your stance is. I want to survive and thrive in the country I’ve known and grown to appreciate. But I cannot do it alone. We have done a lot of work with and for our immigrant brothers and sisters, yet we have a long way to go for justice.

Heyra Avila is an Honors student at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio where she is a Philosophy, Politics, and the Public major. She takes action on a regular basis to advocate as an immigration lobbyist. Heyra currently lives in northern Kentucky.

Legislative Update: Republican Representatives Call for a Solution for Dreamers

Republican Representatives Call for a Solution for Dreamers

Sana Rizvi
December 6, 2017

On December 5, just days after Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) said they refused to pass a budget that does not include a solution for Dreamers, 34 House Republicans led by Representative Scott Taylor (VA-02)  sent Speaker Paul Ryan a letter asking him to pass a permanent legislative solution for DACA before the end of the year. The letter acknowledges the numerous contributions DACA recipients have made to our country and recognizes the urgent need for a solution.

Moreover, the Representatives write that they realize the urgency needed is driven by fear for the most vulnerable in our communities:

“We are compelled to act immediately because many DACA recipients are about to lose or have already lost their permits in the wake of the program’s rescission. Not acting is creating understandable uncertainty and anxiety amongst immigrant communities.

We must pass legislation that protects DACA recipients from deportation and gives them the opportunity for a more secured status in our country as soon as possible. Reaching across the aisle to protect DACA recipients before the holidays is the right thing to do.”

Read more: Letter to Speaker Ryan from 34 Republicans Asking for A DACA Fix Before the End of This Year

The Speaker has yet to reply to the letter and government funding is set to end this Friday, December 8. NETWORK continues to fully endorse the Dream Act as the bipartisan, bicameral solution for DACA recipients which provides Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship and protects them from deportation. We express gratitude to the 34 Republicans who led this letter and ask them to honor their commitments and pass a Dream Act before the end of this year.

The letter’s signers:

Representative Scott Taylor
Representative Dan Newhouse
Representative Mia Love
Representative Mark Amodei
Representative David Valadao
Representative Dave Reichert
Representative Brian Fitzpatrick
Representative Mike Coffman
Representative Charlie Dent
Representative Frank Lobiondo
Representative Peter T. King
Representative Carlos Curbelo
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Representative Ryan A. Costello
Representative Fred Upton
Representative Jeff Denham
Representative Rodney Davis
Representative John J. Faso
Representative John Katko
Representative Chris Stewart
Representative Susan W. Brooks
Representative Adam Kinzinger
Representative Glenn Thompson
Representative Mike Simpson
Representative Mimi Walters
Representative Leonard Lance
Representative Pat Meehan
Representative Elise Stefanik
Representative Tom MacArthur
Representative Chris Smith
Representative Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon
Representative Joe Barton
Representative Will Hurd
Representative Bruce Poliquin

Powerful Young Voices for Justice

Powerful Young Voices for Justice

Emma Tacke
November 21, 2017

In early November I had the pleasure and honor of emceeing the 20th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ).  This was a weekend where over 2,000 students from Jesuit affiliated high schools and colleges gathered in Washington D.C. to learn, celebrate, pray, and challenge one another to “row into the deep,” the theme for the conference. At a time when those in power continue to espouse prejudice, violence, and hate, the need for weekends such as these feel all the more necessary. It was restorative to spend time with such an energetic group of people who shared a common desire to build a more just world with fairer policies and a more empathetic and inclusive culture.

Let me be clear: this weekend was not reduced to a self-congratulatory party where we affirmed each other for being good socially and politically conscious people. This annual gathering was a chance for all who attended to put faith into action. It was a reminder that our commitment to God requires us to be resilient and dogged in the face of injustice.  The call of this year’s Ignatian Family Teach-In beckoned us to “Wake ourselves and others from dormancy” and to not “accept the status quo in either ourselves or our surrounding world . . . we will row into unfamiliar waters that will stretch and challenge us, but ultimately move us to magis, a greater, stronger, and more enduring love of justice.”

This theme of challenging ourselves to be courageous and work for justice was threaded throughout the conference’s breakout sessions. The narrative that we are powerless in the face of systemic injustices such as racism, classism, and institutionalized violence was rejected and tossed aside by dynamic and influential keynote speakers such as Father Bryan Massingale, Sister Patricia Chappell, and Dr. Maria Stephan. The weekend ended with a day of advocacy on Monday when over 1,400 IFTJ participants went to Capitol Hill to advocate for bills promoting criminal justice and immigration reform.

The students I met were engaged, smart, empathetic, and ready to talk about what they could do to be better advocates for justice. They queued up for a chance to speak with Jesuit priest Father James Martin, a celebrity in the Ignatian community. They packed crowded conference rooms to learn about the racial wealth gap, ending the death penalty, changing the civil discourse on immigration, and dozens of other topics. Hundreds of students made their way through the hall to visit the myriad of faith-based organizations that passed out information and advocacy tools.

Millennials are often dismissed as a self-absorbed, politically disengaged generation. As a millennial myself, it’s difficult for me to be objective, but what I witnessed at IFTJ and what I often see from my peers is anything but self-absorption and political apathy.  The momentum and energy generated by the 2,000 students at IFTJ wouldn’t have been possible if this group of young people were not aching to change the world. This desire to make a difference is not limited to IFTJ participants, nor should it be reduced to naiveté or foolish optimism. I am inspired by my peers to seek the truth and confront systemic and social injustice.  When working for justice, progress is often slow and pushing back against oppressive institutions is exhausting. It is not work that can be done alone. This year’s Ignatian Family Teach-In was a call to action many responded to wholeheartedly.

I want to bottle the collective energy I experienced throughout the IFTJ weekend and take a swig any time I feel lacking in courage to continue challenging myself to advocate for justice. There is strength in numbers and the Igantian Family Teach-In is an example of the power collective faith in action can have in the march towards a better future.

Emma Tacke is a former NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Associate. She currently works as the Associate Director of Community Engagement at Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) in Washington D.C.

Time for Congress to Pass Legislation for Dreamers

Time for Congress to Pass Legislation for Dreamers

Mehreen Karim
September 18, 2017

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, we must urge our members of Congress to pass legislation that will keep Dreamers safe. There is no time to waste while Congress navigates multiple bills concerning the fate of DACA recipients. After assessing the bills currently on the House and Senate floor, NETWORK has evaluated the varying implications of the Dream Act, the RAC Act, and the Bridge Act. Stay in the know about these legislative pieces:

BRIDGE Act

The BRIDGE Act is a House bill that provides a temporary extension of DACA’s protections. As the most conservative bill on the floor, the BRIDGE Act provides no pathway to citizenship, but legalizes DACA’s original protections for another three years. We at NETWORK support solutions to the danger Dreamers currently face, but we cannot let Congress place a Band-Aid of a bill on our deeply fractured immigration system. Dreamers deserve a permanent and long-term pathway to living a life of dignity in the U.S.

RAC Act

While the RAC Act provides similar pathways to citizenship as the Dream Act (described below), it narrows the pool of recipients by allowing only those who arrived before the age of 16 and have been in the U.S. for five years. They are granted paths to citizenship either through working, going to school, or joining armed services. However, these individuals must stay in conditional status for five years—no exception. In this aspect, the Dream Act proves more efficient in that Dreamers would be eligible for a green card after being in school or work for some time.

Dream Act

Unlike the RAC and BRIDGE Acts, which are solely House bills, both the Senate and House are looking at versions of the Dream Act. NETWORK places its full support behind the bipartisan Dream Act as it provides a long-term path to citizenship and safety for a much greater population of Dreamers. Both the RAC and Dream Act grant Dreamers conditional status, however, the Dream Act grants protection to anyone who’s been in the US since they’ve been 17 or younger and has lived here for four years. Better yet, Dreamers on conditional status can get green cards after they’ve been in college for a certain amount of time or have been employed for at least 75 percent of the time they’ve had a work permit.

SUCCEED Act

The SUCCEED Act is a new bill introduced in the Senate that would disadvantage Dreamers considerably more than previous proposals. The SUCCEED Act is a partisan bill that endangers Dreamers and their families instead of protecting them. In order to be eligible for the SUCCEED Act, participants must meet unfeasible requirements that inconvenience Dreamers in every aspect of their path to citizenship. Under the SUCCEED Act, a Dreamer would have to wait a total of 15 years to become a citizen—at the very least. Additionally, this bill imposes an arbitrary cap on Dreamers that have lived in America for more than 20 years. Even though these are the individuals with the deepest ties to their lives here, they would be subject to deportation. The SUCCEED Act widens the potential for families to be torn apart as it limits the ability of Dreamers to legally sponsor their family members for residency. Under this bill, Dreamers must have waited 10 years in conditional status before they attempt to sponsor family members for permanent residency. The SUCCEED Act and its cosponsors, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT),  have no evidence nor intention of protecting Dreamers. Their partisan bill merely employs harsh provisions meant to cause difficulty and fear for Dreamers and their families.