Category Archives: Immigration

NETWORK Opposes Legislation that Terrorizes Immigrant Communities

NETWORK Opposes Legislation that Terrorizes Immigrant Communities

Laura Muñoz
May 18, 2017

NETWORK opposes H.R. 2431, the Oliver-Davis Act, formerly known as the SAFE Act, which was introduced this week. This bill includes harsh and terrorizing interior enforcement proposals that would separate families through mass deportation efforts, encourage racial profiling by local law enforcement, and threaten community safety. Equally as horrifying is the policy proposal that would criminalize religious leaders, houses of worship, and people of faith who provide humanitarian assistance to all persons regardless of immigration status.

Sister Simone sent a letter to Congress expressing NETWORK’s opposition to H.R. 2431. Read the full text below:

Download as a PDF.

Dear Member of Congress,

On behalf of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, I urge you to oppose H.R. 2431, The Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act. This bill will lead to the mass deportation of men, women, and children who are full participants in our communities and add substantially to our churches, schools, and neighborhoods.  We believe that no amount of markup in the Judiciary Committee would make this bill palatable to the Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK who are committed to fixing our broken immigration system and whose mission is answering our faithful call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor.

U.S. immigration policy must prioritize family unity and provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in America.  The Davis-Oliver Act instead will embolden racial profiling, create deep fear in the immigrant community, and lead to family separation through deportations.  It must be rejected.

Further, the bill also criminalizes individuals who provide humanitarian assistance to the immigrant community. Should it be passed into law, the faith community could not comply with this act and still be faithful to our Gospel call.  Our mission is to provide assistance to all vulnerable people without regard of immigration status. H.R. 2431 criminalizes our mission to do justice.   An integral part of our Catholic identity is to respect the dignity of the every human person. Any policy that encourages family separation through mass deportations is inhumane and unjust.

I would like to remind you of the words of Pope Francis. During his address to Congress, Pope Francis asked you to remember the Golden Rule for our immigrant sisters and brothers:  “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.”

The Davis-Oliver Act violates our faith mandate that we be a welcoming country that values and inspires people to love their neighbor, no matter the circumstances.   NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges you to reject H.R. 2431, the Davis-Oliver Act.  Instead, commit to fixing our broken immigration system to ensure family unity and provide a pathway to citizenship for the people who are undocumented in the United States.

Immigration reform, not the Davis-Oliver Act, is the faithful way forward.


Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Michigan Advocates Lobby

NETWORK Advocates Lobby on Mending the Gaps in Michigan

Meg Olson
April 26, 2017

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, members of the East Lansing Catholic Network, one of NETWORK’s advocates teams, Ed Welch, Joe Garcia, Pat Hepp, and Sandy Maxim met with Representative Mike Bishop (MI-08) at his Brighton, Michigan office.

The focus of the meeting was immigration. Ed, Joe, Pat, and Sandy requested Representative Bishop’s support for a pathway to citizenship and his help in protecting Dreamers from deportation. During the meeting, Representative Bishop acknowledged to the NETWORK advocates that the immigration system is “upside-down,” but stated that immigration will probably not be addressed in the near future because of other pressing issues in Washington, D.C.. Next, the advocates asked Representative Bishop to refuse funding a border wall in upcoming budget legislation.

As a NETWORK advocates team, the East Lansing Catholic Network has met with Congressman Bishop and his staff several times about issues such as the EITC and Child Nutrition Reauthorization. While the Congressman doesn’t always share NETWORK’s vision on how to mend the gaps, the team members continue to build a relationship with him and hold him accountable for his actions in Washington D.C.

Time for Moral Leadership on Homeland Security Funding

NETWORK Lobby Position on Homeland Security Funding

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NETWORK believes security is achieved when communities come together in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity and cooperate generously for the common good.  The militarization of communities and the separation of families is an anathema to this objective.  As people of faith and a nation of immigrants, we are called to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has consistently received additional funds each year to carry out operations at the border and in the interior. The Trump Administration has requested an additional $4.5 billion to the DHS budget for fiscal year 2018 to allow for: the construction of a concrete wall alongside the U.S. – Mexico border, 1,500 new enforcement agents, continued detention and removal costs, and the expansion of E-verify.  The goal of this spending is to restrict the flow of immigrants and asylum seekers, create a deportation force and vastly expand private detention centers in the name of national security.  Such expenditures will separate families and create terror in immigrant and border communities.  These proposals should be rejected.

What Congress Can Do

Reject funding for President Trump’s deportation force:  Hiring 1,500 new Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents only fuels a deportation forces that will separate families. There is little oversight and almost no accountability for these agents.  We must ensure that humane practices are used when detaining undocumented individuals and interacting with people at the border.  Communities of color will be the targets of racial profiling and hiring new agents will lead to the separation of families instead of detaining criminals that harm our communities.

Reject funding for President Trump’s expansion of detention centers and close existing ones:  We have seen the awful effects of detaining women and children, and an increase in detention bed spaces from 34,000 to 45,700 is unimaginable. New detention centers are being built to accommodate such an increase in this quota, allowing the private detention industry to become more profitable. Instead of this wasteful spending that benefits corporations, there are just and affordable alternatives to detention that DHS can utilize. Private detention centers should be closed.

Reject funding for a U.S. – Mexico border wall: Congress has previously acknowledged that additional barriers to the southern border are not necessary. The requested amount of money to expand upon the existing 650 miles of fencing is extremely wasteful, and additional fencing alone is projected to cost approximately $6.5 million per mile.  Border communities oppose a wall along the Southern border because of effects on private property, indigenous communities, and the environment.  Additionally, an internal Customs and Border Protection study in April 2016 showed that a concrete wall would make it more difficult for agents to see activity on the other side of the border, hindering effectiveness.

Blog: New Immigration Guidance Implements Dangerous and Unfaithful Policies

New Immigration Guidance Implements Dangerous and Unfaithful Policies

Department of Homeland Security Memos Strike Terror in the Heart of Our Communities
Laura Peralta-Schulte
February 22, 2017

Throughout the Presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised he would build a wall between Mexico and the United States and deport millions of immigrants living in America.  Now, the Trump administration is setting forth a course to make good on that promise.

On February 20, Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security released two memorandums providing guidance on enforcement of immigration laws and on issues related to border security. The two memorandums, titled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest” and “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies,” work together to create a mass deportation system that targets virtually any of the 11 million undocumented Americans living across the United States for deportation. The new guidance expands the ability to detain and deport most immigrants and seeks to limit due process protections and seeks to expand a program which compels state and local law enforcement officers to act as agents of federal immigration offices.  Further, the guidance seeks to remove protections for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers who are seeking refuge in the United States.  By prioritizing detention and removal over protection the Trump administration turns its back on our obligation to protect vulnerable people seeking asylum.

This guidance fails to serve the national interest and is intended to create chaos and confusion in our communities. Criminalizing our undocumented sisters and brothers will make our communities less safe, less secure and less peaceful. It is not the faithful way forward. People of faith must stand with immigrants and insist our local and state governments support our immigrant neighbors. We must also meet with our Members of Congress and ask them to oppose efforts to criminalize our communities. A border wall and the deportation infrastructure outlined in the memorandum cannot happen unless Congress provides money to fund the projects. We must demand that Congress rejects the Trump administration’s funding requests for the good of our nation.

If the Trump administration moves forward unchallenged, families will be torn apart and communities will be ruined.  We can and must fight back.  Our faith calls us to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger.  Now is the time to put our pray into action.

Standing Together to Meet the Challenges Ahead

Standing Together to Meet the Challenges Ahead

U.S. Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez
Published in the First Quarter 2017 issue of NETWORK’s Connection Magazine

There is no doubt that this is going to be a difficult year for America. Immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims, environmentalists, the LGBT community – there are many groups firmly in the crosshairs of the new Administration and the new Congress. Though only supported by a minority of American voters, the new President, Donald Trump, will not be shy in taking action to enhance his brand. We do not yet know the specifics, and it is clear that his opinions change about as quickly as you can hit refresh on your Twitter feed. But Trump’s lieutenants are the most clearly ideological and dangerous set of leaders ever assembled in American government on immigration and any number of issues we may care about.  There is a vindictiveness coming to government the likes of which we have never seen, and with shadowy figures like Breitbart’s Steve Bannon or the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Kris Kobach calling signals behind the scenes, there is reason to prepare for the worst.

Immigrants and immigration were important campaign themes – or I should say, slandering immigrants and immigration were. The irony is that support for sensible immigration reform actually increased and support for mass deportation decreased during the year and a half that Trump campaigned for the White House. Across numerous polls, roughly 80% of the American people favor letting undocumented immigrants stay in this country and about 60% among Trump supporters. But that is not likely to translate into any sensible policies coming out of Washington. We expect to see the same recycled, deportation-only bills come through the House Judiciary Committee, but the difference will be that we no longer have a reliable Senate or White House backstop to contain self-destructive immigration ideas.

Their game plan is simple: make legal immigration harder for everyone – and impossible for most people – and then rail against the resulting illegalities, decry the black market, label everyone as criminals, and use good old fashioned fear of “the other” to marginalize immigrants. The goals will be to demonstrate that Republicans are being tough, cruel, and unsympathetic to immigrants – especially undocumented immigrants — and tough on Mexico and Muslims in particular.

To most Republican lawmakers, the illusion is more important than the substance of legislation because they are trying to placate their own voters, whom they fear because their own voters are being whipped up by advocates for reduced immigration who will not be satisfied until every undocumented immigrant is marched across the border and the country is sealed off from the world. It is an unachievable goal, not to mention a self-destructive one, but the tail is wagging the dog, and the minority of immigration opponents are dictating what does and does not constitute being “soft on immigrants.”

That Trump and Congress are being driven by such ideological extremes will be the downfall of their agenda. Americans favor legal immigration and are rightly concerned about uncontrolled and illegal immigration, but those driving the issue in the Republican Party are opposed to immigration, period. They want fewer people – especially fewer people of color – in “their” country. The American people don’t believe we will deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and they are right. But those driving the issue are hooked on the mass deportation fantasy and the idea that more than 10 million people will self-deport.  Most Americans, however, do not think a wall will actually work as an immigration control strategy and they sense that immigration is broader and deeper than the physical border to the South.

But many Americans still voted for Trump because he tapped into the frustration many people feel because no one has been able to make immigration a safe, legal, and orderly process for the American people and those who seek to become Americans.

So, supporters of immigration and immigration reform need to stick to our principals and keep fighting for our vision of a modern, 21st century immigration system because our vision is what the American people actually want. We have to do a better job of communicating that immigration reform is about more than being kind or respectful to immigrants. In the transactional world of American politics, doing something “for” one group is often perceived as doing something “against” everyone else, which is simply not the case with immigration.

And we must support our allies who will also be targeted by the Republican agenda, be that women’s health care, LGBT rights, people of color claiming their rightful place in America, or a business-driven assault on working people and mother earth. We must join arms with clergy and labor, progressives, and moderates so that when Republicans try to come after one of us, they will have to come through all of us. If the new President comes for the Muslims, I will be a Muslim. If they come for women’s rights, I will stand with women. When they deny climate science, I will make my voice heard. We must heed the warning Benjamin Franklin made to his fellow signers of the Declaration of Independence: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez represents the fourth district of Illinois. He is nationally recognized for his tireless leadership championing issues of particular importance to Latino and immigrant communities.

In a Dark Time, the BRIDGE Act Stands Out

In a Dark Time, the BRIDGE Act Stands Out

Laura Muñoz
January 12, 2017

It’s now 2017 – a bright sunny year with new opportunities ahead and while I am excited for a new year I can’t help but notice the cloud of uncertainty hovering over my head. That cloud began to form when then Presidential nominee Donald Trump ran on the platform of repealing President Obama’s executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

As a recipient of DACA, I have been able to work at jobs that I love (like NETWORK), obtain a driver’s license that allows me to travel, and most importantly live without the fear of deportation. Unfortunately, the few rays of sunlight that DACA has brought into my life after years of living in the shadows have been recently covered with a cloud of uncertainty and fear. Trump’s plan to repeal DACA would be unimaginable and utterly devastating not only for me but also for the roughly 800,000 individuals who have protection through DACA. Ending the program will be the beginning of a storm that will bring about harsh economic and emotional conditions for immigrant families– DACA recipients will be unable to keep their current jobs, support themselves or their families, and most significantly, once again feel the fear of deportation thick in the air.

Today, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) re-introduced their bipartisan legislation to protect the individuals who currently have or are eligible for DACA. Similar to DACA, the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act would provide temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to young undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States as children. Temporary protection under the BRIDGE Act would allow individuals, such as myself, to continue to work and study and be protected from deportation while Congress works on legislation to fix  the broken immigration system.

The reality is that the BRIDGE Act is not a replacement for the comprehensive immigration reform that we desperately need, nor does it protect all undocumented individuals living in the United States. It won’t protect my parents from deportation nor will it protect thousands of DACA recipients’ parents. With the dark cloud of uncertainty and the fear of being separated from our families hovering over our heads, the BRIDGE Act gives us the chance for a hopeful forecast of staying in the country that we consider our home.

Comparing the Candidates on Immigration Policy

Comparing the Candidates on Immigration Policy

By Laura Muñoz
September 21, 2016

As an immigrant, the 2016 Presidential race has caused me to reflect on my migration to the United States. In 1997 when I was 4 years old, my dad moved our family from Manizales-Caldas, Colombia to Miami, Florida. I remember thinking that my life was going to be different. I wasn’t sure in what capacity, but I knew that Miami was our new home. I never thought that it would be close to 20 years before I would have the possibility of going back to my home country.

Unfortunately, the possibility for me and millions like me, to be able to go back to our home country even to simply visit our families is in the hands of two individuals who have extremely opposing views. NETWORK’s side by side comparison clearly show Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s stance on comprehensive immigration reform, among other issues.

Hillary Clinton has made it a priority to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship within her first 100 days of office. She also supports President Obama’s administrative relief efforts such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and his Deferred Action for Parents of Americans initiative (that still unfortunately has not been passed). On the contrary, Donald Trump has pledged that within the first hour of his presidency he is going to begin the deportation of all undocumented people in the United States (yes, all 11 million). He is set on making Mexico pay for the wall at the southern border and of course, he will triple the amount of immigration officers, and make it harder for refugees and asylum seekers to come to the United States.

It isn’t hard for me to choose between the two candidates. Partly because this election directly affects me, but also because Catholic Social Justice shows us that we, as a people, need to address the inequality and suffering in our world and confront it as Christians by using the Gospel. When we use this mindset and think about immigration reform, the decision becomes clear. As Matthew 25:35 states, “I was a stranger and you took me in.”

In this critical presidential election, we must remind ourselves of our values and our principles, and keep in mind that if not us, many of our ancestors were once immigrants in search of a better life.

Sister Janet standing with residents of Providence House

Guest Blog: Sister Janet on Hateful Rhetoric in the Presidential Campaign

Sister Janet’s Remarks at Union Theological Seminary

Sister Janet Kinney, CSJ
September 1, 2016

On Thursday, September 1, 2016 Sister Janet Kinney, Executive Director of Providence House and a “Nun on the Bus,” joined Rev. William J. Barber, II and other national faith leaders to “speak out against hateful rhetoric and policies and the historical revisionism we are seeing in the Presidential campaign.” She said:

I am Sister Janet Kinney, a Sister of St. Joseph, and one of the 19 “Nuns on the Bus” who toured the country just a few short weeks ago. A project of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, I, together with my sisters, rode through 23 cities in 13 states, listening and engaging with others in various types of gatherings, comprised of diverse representations of our country.

We went on the road in response to the divisive rhetoric of this 2016 election cycle, and as an answer to Pope Francis’ call that a ‘healthy politics is sorely needed to resolve the widening income gaps, especially the racial/ethnic and gender wealth gaps. To mend these gaps we must have a politics of inclusion where everyone’s voice is heard and given serious consideration.

Our tour included stops at both national party conventions, participating in multiple conversations and caucuses in every city we visited. We visited sites of social justice ministries and met with faith and community leaders alike. As I listened, encountered and spoke with our brothers and sisters,  I realized that it is so hard for people to find hope in the civil discourse of today.  I  heard heartbreaking stories of struggling families, of stark economic inequalities and blatant racism and discrimination.

People are hungry for hope and justice for communities that will stand together regardless of one’s race, ethnicity, or culture.  This cannot be done through the damaging and hateful speech making that is being heard in this political season. We need to promote the common good, engage in constructive dialogue and create inclusive policies reflective of an authentic democratic society.

That is what I heard traveling as a Nun on the Bus – morning, noon and night – in the voices and cries of “We the People”.

Immediately following on this experience, over 5,600 religious sisters across this country signed a letter asking our presidential candidates ‘to engage in political dialogue that reflects the principles and values upon which this nation was founded.’  We implored these candidates to refrain from language that stokes the fires of fear and disrespects, dehumanizes or demonizes another. We urged them to engage in careful listening and honest dialogue. They must respect and treat all with the reverence that is a sacred God given right.   It is then, only then, that we can together create an environment where everyone has a rightful place at the table and all are welcomed here in this, the United States of America.

Blog: 10 Things Speaker Ryan Could Do to Address Poverty Right Now

10 Things Speaker Ryan Could Do to Address Poverty Right Now

June 7, 2016

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice welcomes anyone, any time, to the conversation about how to make sure no one in the United States lives in poverty. But we strongly dispute the claim that this is a deeply complicated problem requiring a brand new agenda, such as the one likely to be presented by Speaker Paul Ryan in the coming days. The fact is Congress knows, and has always known, how to end poverty. It is simply not that difficult, in the richest country the world has ever known, to create an inclusive economy where everyone has the resources to live with dignity.

In fact, we could do much of it as early as tomorrow.

Toward that end, we offer Speaker Ryan, the driving force behind the Republican “anti-poverty” agenda, 10 things he could bring to the House Floor tomorrow that would actually work. This is not everything that has to be done to mend the gaps in the fabric of our society, but it’s a darn good start.

  1. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — Even as the economic recovery has brought lower unemployment, too many people working full-time jobs (or even two or three of them) don’t make enough to get by. A study by the National Employment Law Project found that $15/hour was the lowest wage that would still allow a single worker to meet the basic cost of living just about everywhere in the United States. Speaker Ryan could help lift thousands of workers out of poverty by passing H.R. 3164, the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act introduced in Congress last year.
  2. Guarantee paid sick leave — 49% of workers in America still lack paid sick leave and are forced to choose between losing the salary they desperately need and jeopardizing their health and the health of those around them. After passing a comprehensive paid sick leave policy New York City found not only that it improved the health and financial security of workers, but also that unemployment dropped and businesses grew.The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 932) was introduced in Congress more than a year ago. There’s no excuse not to pass this legislation today.
  3. Guarantee paid family leave — In addition to ensuring that everyone has the ability to take a sick day to care for themselves or their family, we must also guarantee paid leave for new parents and those who have to take extended time to care for a sick family member. Only 5% of workers in the lowest 25% wage category have access to paid family leave, compared to 22% of workers in the highest 10% wage category. The FAMILY Act (H.R. 1439), introduced in Congress last year, builds on successful legislation passed by cities and states around the country to create an insurance program that provides workers with the family leave they need.
  4. Expand and protect the Earned Income Tax Credit — The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of our most effective anti-poverty programs. It provides tax relief to low-income workers to ensure that no one who labors to earn a basic wage is taxed back into poverty. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the EITC helped lift 6.2 million people out of poverty in 2013. But the current law overlooks too many workers in need, including those low income workers without children and workers under 25 or over 65. Speaker Ryan himself discussed his support for addressing these gaps when he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee, now he has the means and the opportunity to make those changes today.
  5. Expand childcare subsidies — The high cost of quality childcare takes a dramatic toll on low-income families across the country. A report from theEconomic Policy Institute found that in every state, quality childcare cost more than 30% of a minimum-wage worker’s earnings. Access to high quality childcare allows parents to support their families and better prepares children to learn and grow into healthy adults. We shouldn’t ask people to choose between their kids and their paychecks — H.R. 4524, the Child CARE Act, is one way that Speaker Ryan could solve that problem.
  6. Ban the box — It’s no secret that admitting to having a criminal record is the kiss of death for job applicants. Conviction records are likely to reduce the prospect of a job offer or interview by almost 50%. There are currently 70 million people in America with arrest or conviction records, we are only just beginning to realize the massive economic implications of discriminating against the people who are reentering society and the workforce. Passing the Fair Chance Act (H.R. 3470) would allow people seeking to reenter the workforce the opportunity to apply based on merit, without facing discrimination.
  7. Pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship — For the millions of people who live in the U.S. without documentation or with only temporary permission to work, finding stable employment can be nearly impossible. Many more immigrants are barred from accessing the social programs they need because of decades of anti-immigrant legislation. By allowing immigrants to come out of the shadows and fully participate in society, immigration reform would benefit individual families and our community; the CBO estimated that immigration reform would reduce our federal budget deficit by $200 billion over ten years. H.R. 13, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, had the votes to become law in 2014 and is a viable solution to fixing our broken immigration system. Speaker Ryan should work with his fellow members of Congress to pass real immigration reform now.
  8. Expand eligibility and opportunity for low-income housing units — There is a significant shortage of affordable housing units across the country. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate rumored to be introduced in the House of Representatives (The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act) would incentivize the building and preservation of almost 1.3 million homes. Speaker Ryan can move forward with his commitment to end poverty by developing a housing plan that focuses on ensuring that everyone has a home.
  9. Continue to make healthcare more affordable — The Affordable Care Act was a critical step toward making sure that all Americans can access the healthcare they need, but it stopped short of realizing the goal of universal healthcare. H.R.3241, the State-Based Universal Health Care Act of 2015, would allow states more flexibility and freedom to work toward universal healthcare. Speaker Ryan can move forward today to ensure that no one lives in the healthcare gap and take a powerful step toward alleviating the economic uncertainty and financial burden of families still left without health insurance.
  10. Reauthorize and improve the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act — The landmark legislation that helps feed children in schools across the country has been under attack by congressional Republicans. Congress has sought to cut the number of schools eligible to feed all of their students and increase the amount of time and effort schools must put into qualifying for the program. Beyond these initial changes that will kick thousands of students out of the program, Republicans in Congress want to replace the entire program with ‘block grants’ that will seriously jeopardize our ability to feed children in need. Congress has an opportunity to improve child nutrition programs to feed more children who are hungry. If Speaker Ryan wants to lead on poverty, he can start by leading his party away from policies that take food from children.

As NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus reminded Congressman Ryan in 2012, to implement programs that work to eliminate poverty, Congress must have the political will to raise reasonable revenue for these responsible programs. We can pay for these programs by closing tax loopholes and having the courage to fix our broken tax system. Right now, a loophole in tax law allows hedge fund managers to call a portion of their earnings a ‘capital gain’ instead of ‘income’ and that small difference costs the nation billions in tax revenue every year. The Carried Interest Fairness Act (H.R. 2889) is one such piece of legislation that promotes tax fairness in the United States.

Creative solutions to solving poverty are necessary, but we don’t need to look far to find the answers. What if — instead of giving the billionaires another break — we took that money and used it to expand Section 8, the federal program that helps low-income families find affordable housing? NETWORK Lobby judges all legislation by how it would affect people experiencing poverty. If Speaker Ryan is serious about this issue, we encourage him to use the same criteria.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Pope Francis’ Impact on the Catholic vote in 2016

Commentary: Pope Francis’ Impact on the Catholic vote in 2016

By Simone Campbell, SSS
May 5, 2016

When the Bernie Sanders campaign announced plans to visit the Vatican, more than one journalist asked me for comment on the oddity of a progressive candidate seeking to associate himself with an institution whose views are antithetical to much of what he espouses. This, I believe, is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the majority of Catholics in America view the role of their faith in their political and civic life. Call it the Pope Francis effect. It is real and, because Catholics are the preeminent swing voters, it will matter a great deal.

In this, the first presidential election in the era of Pope Francis, attempts to control the “Catholic vote” through issues of personal sexuality – often nothing more than a crass political calculation – will no longer work as well, if at all. Instead, those who seek to divide our nation will find themselves up against a spiritual leader who has taken the teachings of our faith that have resided for many in the dusty tomes of Catholic scholarship and philosophy and made them breathing realities in our daily lives. In doing so, he has energized Catholics to embody the center of our faith – active concern for the common good and attention to the needs of those around us.

And then he has taken this sacred work a step further. The pope has reminded our elected leaders and all of us that individuals, churches, and communities, while vital to the work of taking care of each other, cannot be expected to do it all alone. The work of ending the vast disparities of wealth and opportunity in America and around the world can only be accomplished by implementation of policies on a grand scale, a political scale – a tax policy under which everyone and every corporation pays its fair share and all employers pay their workers a living wage; policies that encourage a “family-friendly workplace,” recognizing that the economy is at the service of workers, not the other way around.

This call has not been the least bit coy or veiled. In his speech before Congress in 2015, Francis told our elected officials, “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all of its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.”

The pope’s words have clearly broken through to the professional political class, though whether it is through their hearts as well as their talking points, I leave to others to decide. For proof, look at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s public apology for his past rhetoric blaming the poor for their own poverty. Were Ryan to also publicly recognize, for example, that his mea culpa did not go far enough, and that the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid to those who are most vulnerable is a pro-life position, perhaps the transformation would be more believable.

Ultimately, though, Francis recognizes that politicians are essentially stand-ins for the rest of us. It is the electorate who must heed the call to become politically active. It is up to us to recognize that in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known, the fact that there is still a vast difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor is a collective wrong that we have a moral obligation to make right.

Hence the pope’s repeated calls for Catholics to “meddle in politics,” his repeated calls to, yes, feed and house and meet basic human needs from our parishes, but also to go out into the world and call for, vote for, big change – a reformed immigration policy that recognizes and embraces the dignity of our brothers and sisters, regardless of where they happened to be born; national spending priorities that recognize the need for safe, affordable housing as greater than the excitement over a newer, faster, deadlier weapon of war.

While Catholics do not vote as a single bloc, they are nonetheless a renowned bellwether in the political world, having voted for the winner of the popular vote, with one exception, in every presidential election since Roosevelt.

This year will not be different. When the chattering class analyzes the “Catholic vote,” as it will inevitably do – both before and after the primary and general elections – it will find that in this year of mercy, our votes stretched far beyond our self-interest and to the common good, that we turned out and voted for the needs of those who are most often left out of our care. We will be called the “Pope Francis voters.”

Originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer.