Category Archives: Mend the Gap

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

DACA Heads to the Supreme Court

Giovana Oaxaca
October 16, 2019

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few short weeks, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court is considering to review this fall term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesses, higher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.

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

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

Anne Marie Bonds
October 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Loretto Community Works to Mend the Gaps

The Loretto Community Works to Mend the Gaps

Alice Kitchen, Loretto Co-member
August 29, 2019

Recently, the Loretto Community went through a period of dialogue and discernment about how we can mend the gaps within our sphere of influence. Our considerations were guided by NETWORK’s 21st Century Poverty guide. Sisters and Co-members of the Loretto Community gathered in 19 community groups from California to New York. The groups discussed raising the hourly pay of low-wage workers to a livable wage. Each group’s job was to explore the issues facing low-wage workers in the communities where they live.

We already knew that low-wage workers undergird daily life in our communities. Low-wage workers care for children, staff nursing homes, and keep our airports functioning. Often these women and men have no steady schedule and have little control over their hours. Many work more than one job to get by. Their employers often have no regard for the multiple jobs they are juggling or their childcare needs. In our study, we learned that the cost of housing, transportation, childcare, and utilities far exceed the hourly incomes of most low-wage workers.

The need for these discussion groups emerged from our Loretto Assembly in August 2018. There, the community group in Kansas City put forth a proposal for the whole Loretto Community to hear, consider and vote on. The proposal advocated for Loretto administrators to “review the compensation of all our employees, working toward the goal of providing a living compensation package as nearly as is sustainable with our financial resources.”

Attendees from all over the U.S. and two overseas countries participated in the bi-annual Loretto Assembly. Participants were vowed members, Co-members, and Loretto employees, all of whom had previously affirmed the goal of a pay structure for all Loretto employees based on justice as a mission priority.

Last summer’s proposal was a spur to move forward on this goal. As a follow-up in January 2019, Loretto leadership approved an $1.50 an hour pay increase for Loretto Motherhouse and Infirmary employees and a 2 percent increase for those same employees who had worked 1,000 hours or more in 2018.

The next step in this ongoing process is collecting the thoughts and ideas of all 19 community groups and determining how to take this commitment to the next level. Much of Loretto’s social justice work lies in persuading decision-makers to make needed changes in both our living rooms and in the halls of power. We hope, therefore, that we can find ways to change our own community and beyond.

Some Loretto groups have natural allies in their communities where they can team up to support raising wages at either the local or state level. We are following the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582) in Congress and sending out alerts to call our Representatives in support of the bill.

This is all about living our Loretto mantra: We work for justice and act for peace.

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Alice Kitchen is a Loretto Co-member as well as a NETWORK Board member. She is based in Kansas City, Missouri.

This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

Siena Ruggeri
April 26, 2019

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges a yes vote on H.R. 5, the Equality Act. NETWORK is open to all who share our passion. We are proud to raise our voices for our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues to ensure they live free from discrimination. We know that all people have inherent dignity. No one should tolerate hate or discrimination towards any member of our human family. In our efforts to mend the gaps in our society, we will leave no one behind.

Guided by our Catholic Social Justice values and founded by women religious, we welcome and affirm all LGBTQ+ members of our human community. In the spirit of our founders, our work is guided by relationship and encounter. We have seen the pain, alienation, and violence that our society has inflicted upon members of the LGBTQ+ community. We call upon Congress to end these grave injustices.

We cannot mend the gaps of our society without changing how our nation has permitted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community live in fear of being denied a place to live, losing their job, barred from bathrooms, and refused medical care because of who they are and who they love. We must act for the common good and heal our nation. We must end the unique oppression LGBTQ+ people encounter in their daily lives.

Passing the Equality Act would offer legal protections in every aspect of the lives of members of the LGBTQ+ community. It builds upon existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds. While many aspects of LGBTQ+ equality have been affirmed by the courts, it is important to enshrine LGBTQ+ civil rights protections into law to provide certainty for all people.

As people of faith, we are disturbed by how our beliefs have been used to deny the sacredness and dignity of members of our community. Our scripture tells us that we should walk towards everyone—no exceptions. We are called to radical acceptance and see God in all people. Guided by this prophetic vision of justice, we urge Congress to vote yes on H.R. 5 and pass the Equality Act.

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Alannah Boyle
March 28, 2019

This past week, my colleague Laura Peralta-Schulte and I had the opportunity to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and represent NETWORK at the 20th annual White Privilege Conference. This conference was founded to examine the ideas of privilege and oppression and create space to work towards building strategies for a more equitable world.

For those of you participating in our Lenten reflection guide, you know that this Lent we are Recommitting to Racial Justice. The past two weeks, the reflections in the guide have been produced from our educational workshop on the racial wealth and income gap. We examine 12 federal policies and reflect on the ways in which each policy worked in order to create and perpetuate the racial wealth gap that exists today. Laura and I facilitated this workshop to over 50 other attendees. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. It is always exciting to spread the good work that NETWORK is doing to new audiences.

This was the second year that NETWORK staff have attended this conference. The presentations we attended ranged on topics from compassion as anti-oppression work, to the intersections of patriarchy and white supremacy, to embodied racial justice. Laura and I attended different presentations each session with the goal of gathering as much information in those four days as possible to bring back to the rest of our NETWORK community.

As I work to put my reactions into words for this blog, my thoughts and feelings after attending this conference, I am realizing the ways in which I am very much still processing the experience and all of the wisdom and expertise that was shared with me as a white person. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference, and the ways in which NETWORK intentionally makes space for the ongoing work of racial justice amongst staff members.

Exorbitant Drug Pricing: A Moral Issue

Exorbitant Drug Pricing: A Moral Issue

Siena Ruggeri
March 5, 2019

If the popular immunosuppressant Humira was a standalone company, it would be twice as big as the Hilton hotel chain and its sales would rival Southwest Airlines and Visa. How is this one drug so profitable? After rebates, the average price of the drug is $3,000 a month. The company that sells it, AbbVie, has made 115 billion in profit off the drug since 2010, and more than half of those profits come from the U.S.

Insulin, a drug whose patent was created almost a century ago, is skyrocketing in price. Diabetics around the country are forced to choose between rationing life-saving medication, falling behind on rent and car payments, or going without food. The original developers of these drugs wanted their scientific innovation to serve the public good—so what gives?

In the status quo, there’s no incentive to sell drugs at a reasonable rate. Pharmaceutical companies can claim that in order to recoup the costs of research and development, they must have exclusive access to the market for their specific drug. While they have market exclusivity, the drug company is then able to gouge the price of their drug. There is no competitor to incentivize lower costs. There’s also no government scrutiny as to why the price is what it is. We don’t know why certain pharmaceutical drugs are priced the way they are. Therefore, we have no control if those prices start rising exponentially, and patients have no way of affording the only drug available to cure their condition.

What is one supposed to do if they have breast cancer, Hepatitis C, or multiple sclerosis and can’t afford their drugs? We use public dollars to fund research to prevent this exact problem. Public research money contributed to the 210 new drugs approved from 2010-2016, to the tune of $100 billion dollars. Unfortunately, drug makers have taken advantage of the public’s investment in research to strengthen their bottom line.

 

These practices are an insidious betrayal of public trust and morally wrong. In the richest country in the world, people lose their lives because they can’t afford their medicine. It’s also peculiar that in a so-called free market, we allow monopolists to fully control markets without consequence. The pharmaceutical industry has gamed every rule set in place for them. It is past time for them to face the consequences for the system they have engineered.

Many members of Congress shy away from drug pricing reforms, citing its complicated nature. Others believe the current injustices are based off a few bad actors, not a whole industry that puts profit over human lives. We can’t just point to the most shocking examples of price gouging that make headlines—we have to examine the system that encouraged drug companies to price hike in the first place.

For far too long, the pharmaceutical industry has profited off a public too intimidated to scrutinize their business practices. By directing our attention to examples like “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, the industry is absolved of any accountability for how they price drugs. This isn’t a case of a few bad actors. This is a system that thrives on taking advantage of the vulnerability and desperation of patients in need of life-saving drugs.

The details of drug pricing reform are complex, but don’t let the pharmaceutical industry bamboozle us into thinking reform is unattainable. To give just one example, every other country in the world allows price negotiations. In the United States, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs negotiates drug prices for their patients. When put together, the proposals coming out of Congress are reasonable reforms. They allow Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate prices for its patients, penalize drug corporations that spike the price of a drug without justification, and prohibit abusive tactics used to delay a drug going generic.

There is bipartisan support for doing something about the cost of prescription drugs. This is not an issue we can put off. Every day we refuse to engage and take action, another person risks their life to go without medicine they need to survive. A new poll reveals that 3 out of 10 adults report not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost. Diabetics are risking their lives and rationing their insulin—in fact, 1 out of 4 diabetics admit to doing so.

During our 2018 Nuns on the Bus Tour, we encountered the deadly consequences of this issue. In Savannah, we heard the story of Niema Ross, a young working mother of three who had died that weekend because she couldn’t afford the inhaler she needed to breathe. Niema’s final post on Facebook was a photo of her empty inhaler captioned with a message asking if anyone had access to more. The community tried to raise money for her medication, but it came too late. Niema was never able to get her inhaler, and now her three children will grow up without a mother.

The drug industry’s success in putting profit over people over profit is perhaps one of the most blatant moral issues of our time, and Congress has the power to do something about it. Let’s remind our representatives that now is the time to be morally courageous and end the absurdity that is our prescription drug industry.

 

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Graphic courtesy of Voices for Affordable Health

Invitation to Congress: Marriage of TPS and DREAM

Invitation to Congress: Marriage of TPS and DREAM

José Arnulfo Cabrera
February 26, 2019

On February 12, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders took to the streets of Washington, D.C. demanding Congress to pass legislation that would give them a pathway to citizenship, after the Trump Administration pressured the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deny their document renewals. TPS holders who have been in the U.S. for years, some since 1990, all of sudden now face the potential reality of going back to their native countries or becoming undocumented.

Temporary Protected Status was first enacted by the Immigration Act of 1990, which reformed our immigration system. One of the many things the bill created was away for foreign nationals who couldn’t legally be defined as refugee or asylee (but without a doubt fleeing, reluctant to return, or unable to return to their home country due to violence) to attain legal status. TPS allowed individuals to be granted work authorization without being deported.  The first group to be granted TPS was Salvadoran nationals. As time went on more foreign nationals were granted status and now people from ten countries are eligible to receive TPS.

For almost 29 years, TPS holders have been living successfully in the U.S. They have started families and careers, and have contributed to American society, but now are fighting to stay in their new home with the families and lives they’ve created. TPS holders and recipients (also called DREAMers) both find themselves in danger of losing their status and having to leave the U.S., or become undocumented. Like TPS holders, DACA recipients have been living in the U.S. for years and only in the past seven years have they had some form of status that allowed them to work in the U.S. Last Congress, multiple bills were introduced that would have “fixed” the problem the Trump Administration created. Of all the bills introduced, only two bills would have given DACA recipients and TPS holders a pathway to citizenship: the American Promise Act would have given TPS holders a pathway to citizenship and the DREAM Act would have given DACA recipients, as well as some who didn’t fit the age requirement, a pathway to citizenship.

This congress is different. Not only do the faces of Congress look different, but so are the bills they’re introducing. Instead of having two separate bills that would give TPS holders and DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, the house will introduce a single bill that will give both a pathway to citizenship! While the specifics of this bill are not public yet, the bill will pave the way for comprehensive immigration reform. Hopefully, the House Judiciary Committee will soon have a hearing that will allow Members of Congress to know more about the people facing the issue, so that they can then move the bill forward.

TPS holders and DACA recipients have always been here, and they’ve always been a part of American society. Sorry to those who just noticed us, but we’re not leaving — because this is home for us.

Driving Our Democracy Forward with Conversations and Community

Driving Our Democracy Forward with Conversations and Community

Sister Simone Campbell
February 24, 2019

Reflecting on Experiences from the Road to Mar-a-Lago

As we traveled more than 5,000 miles on the 2018 Nuns on the Bus trip, I was struck by the fact that at each of our 13 lobby visits (or attempted visits) constituents told us that their member of Congress would not meet with them. The most extreme was Representative Peter Roskam (IL-06) whose office was in a private airport building in West Chicago, Illinois. The building is secured by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and no one could enter the building unless they had been screened by TSA. Additionally, groups could not hold rallies outside the building because it was a “safety issue.” So, this embattled Congressman was protected by TSA while his constituents and our bus had to hold our rally 2 blocks away from the office. I was stunned! This is not democracy!

This experience has fueled my New Year’s resolution to make democracy work. There are many new members of Congress and we need to make sure that they have opportunities to meet and listen to their constituents. Members need to hear the stories of the people in their district in order to create effective responses to the challenges that they face.

This was highlighted for me when the bus stopped in Columbia, South Carolina and we held a roundtable conversation with local service organizations. Representative Jim Clyburn (SC-06) joined us for the roundtable and we learned of the varied needs of the people in his district. In a freewheeling discussion, we learned many things, including:

  • Columbia has the sixth highest eviction rate in the nation and the state of South Carolina needs more than 4,000 new units of affordable housing, but none is being built.
  • Agriculture is the second largest industry in South Carolina and tourism is first. Both industries are highly dependent on immigrants to flourish. Yet exploitation and hostility toward immigrants is all too common. Anti-immigrant policies and attitudes are making it difficult to find employees for both industries.
  • Latino men are attacked frequently. Undocumented people are unable to use banks in South Carolina, so they must make their transactions in cash. This makes them lucrative targets for robbery. The increase in assault is terrifying the undocumented community, but they are afraid to report these crimes for fear of being deported.
  • There is basically no effective public transit for low-wage workers in South Carolina. Transportation is one of the biggest challenges that workers face.

Towards the end of the conversation, one of the participants noted that each of the agencies gathered represented is a good “charity” serving a particular need. But in that conversation they saw that the issues were complex and interrelated. She said each organization needed to keep working on their individual issue, but also needed to work systemically to improve the structures of our society.

It is by sharing our perspectives and our stories that we can find commonality. In that shared experience we can see new levels of complexity and perhaps find more effective solutions. This is what we are seeking to do at NETWORK. This year we are continuing our efforts to listen to people around our nation and learn from their experience. We need to understand the lived experience of communities in our nation if we are going to advocate for policies for the 100%. This is our goal for 2019.

As we continue in our work for justice, let us ground our advocacy in the lived reality of our communities. Let us exercise holy curiosity as we meet people with different perspectives and experiences. This effort to understand will be the way to discovering community that can make a “more perfect union.”

 

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This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

Siena Ruggeri
February 5, 2019

February 5th is the anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993. This law gives employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a huge step forward for working families, but it still excludes many. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth estimates that half of all working parents and 43 percent of women of childbearing age are excluded from FMLA coverage due to outdated eligibility requirements.[1] Family leave policies need to be updated for 21st century workplaces and include low-wage earners.

Even if a worker qualifies for FMLA coverage, in many cases, they can’t afford to take it. Quite simply, far too many people can’t weather the sudden loss in income, and often fear they will lose their job if they take unpaid leave. Family leave needs to be paid for workers to utilize it, but paid leave remains rare in U.S. workplaces: 93% of low-wage workers have no access to any paid family leave.[2].

In 2019, the United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits. After 26 years without landmark paid leave legislation, the time has come to not only offer family leave, but ensure all working families can access it. We need a federal universal paid leave policy to accomplish this goal.

A lack of family-friendly workplaces is bad for both employers and their workers. Employers must deal with the costs associated with high turnover, and employees are forced to choose between advancing their career and caring for family members.

The growing demands of caregiving can’t be ignored by federal policymakers any longer. According to a recent Harvard Business School study, almost three quarters of U.S. workers are caregivers in some capacity. Of those, 80% said that their caregiving responsibility made it harder to do their job. As a result, 32% of all employees surveyed said they left a job to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.[3]

With women taking on a huge majority of caregiving, they are disproportionately impacted by a lack of paid leave. Women are twice as likely to stay home to care for a sick child, and three in five women say they have their care responsibilities on their mind when they’re at work. [4] Our society can’t achieve true economic justice for all women when we offer them no support or legal protections to balance caregiving and a career.

Government inaction on paid leave also reinforces the racial wealth gap. Already paid lower for the same work as their white peers, people of color are deeply impacted by inaccessible leave policies. Black women are the primary breadwinners for 70 percent of their families.[5] They’re also more likely than white women to leave or lose their jobs after birth.[6] By refusing to support black women in their careers, we create yet another structural barrier to push women of color out from opportunities for economic advancement.

Let’s take the anniversary of the FMLA to push Congress to give working families, and especially working moms, the relief they need. It is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing. We cannot call ourselves a family-friendly country until we do so.

 


[1] https://equitablegrowth.org/research-paper/paid-family-and-medical-leave-in-the-united-states/?longform=true

[2] United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32. Leave benefits: Access,private industry workers,” National Compensation Survey, March 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2018/employee-benefits-in-the-united-states-march2018.pdf.

[3] https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/The%20Caring%20Company%20-%2001.17.19.pdf

[4] “Modern Family Index,” Bright Horizons, https://solutionsatwork.brighthorizons.com/~/media/BH/SAW/PDFs/GeneralAndWellbeing/MFI_2017_Report_v4.ashx

[5] Sarah Jane Glynn, Breadwinning Mothers. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

[6] Lynda Laughlin, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

Rural Roundtable: New Mexico

Rural Roundtable: New Mexico

Erin Sutherland
January 28, 2019

Two weeks ago, Sr. Simone and I traveled to New Mexico to facilitate NETWORK’s first-ever Rural Roundtable.  The idea for a Rural Roundtable came when NETWORK realized that while we have a good understanding of how federal policies impact people in the urban and suburban areas, we needed to gain a better understanding of the lived realities for people in rural areas to be better advocates for the 100%.  The stops on some Nuns on the Bus tours had been in rural areas, but we wanted to make a more intentional commitment to specific communities by building upon events we would already be having in the state.

The day after we arrived, Sr. Simone and I spent the morning meeting with residents from the Laguna Pueblo.  We visited St. Joseph Mission School in San Fidel, NM, where we met 40 amazing students and staff who are actively committed to learning about and rectifying the environmental and health damage that was a result of decades of uranium mining.  Merrick, an eighth grade student, showed us a video he had made that  recently won first place in a regional competition.  The video featured the story of his grandmother, who had worked in the Jack Pile uranium mine and now has pulmonary-related health problems.  In the coming year, the entire school was planning to test their water for uranium, and the eighth-grade class was planning to travel to the University of Notre Dame to present their findings.  In the midst of such mature and thoughtful leadership and community engagement, it was heartbreaking to think of the health effects that these students and their families could face because of reckless extractive policies.

Later that night, we convened our roundtable in Albuquerque and spoke with service providers and community leaders from women’s health, childcare, rural dental care, indigenous communities, food security, and immigration sectors.  During our two-hour long conversation, Tina Cordova of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium described the decades-long treatment of New Mexico as a “sacrifice zone” where corporations and government agencies have come in and extracted resources and conducted tests with little regard for the residents.  New Mexico has an endowment fund that is mostly invested and managed out of state.  Another community member described how this treatment has affected people’s view of their self-worth: if your government treats your community like it’s dispensable and not worth the investment, you eventually start to believe it.

As I reflect on everything I learned during my trip to New Mexico, it is empathy for all those who feel forgotten or left behind by their government that has stayed with me.  It is my faith, which upholds the dignity and value of every human life, coupled with my patriotism for “We the People,” that firms my resolve that everyone deserves to feel and be treated like a valuable member of society.  One thing Sr. Simone does so well is to help people move past helplessness and despair and towards hopeful action.  At NETWORK, this first roundtable gave  us an opportunity to reflect on how we can lobby for policies that will include the 100%- not just the people with whom it is easiest to engage.  This experience has given me and NETWORK an opportunity to listen more, listen first before acting, and then to act with intentional inclusion.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gone to New Mexico and to have met with so many amazing activists  heavily invested in bettering their communities.

To see more photos from the Rural Roundtable in New Mexico, click here