Category Archives: Policy Update

CHIP Funding Once Again at Risk

CHIP Funding Once Again at Risk

On Wednesday, June 6 NETWORK and 17 other faith-based organizations sent a letter to Congress to oppose H.R.3, which includes 7 billion dollars in cuts to CHIP as a part of the rescission process.

Download as a PDF.

June 6, 2018

Dear Representative:

We, the undersigned 18 organizations, representing various religious denominations, urge you to vote NO on H.R. 3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act. As currently written, this measure contains a harmful provision that would rescind $7 billion in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”). As people of faith we believe that healthcare is a human right and that care for children is a sacred responsibility. If enacted, this rescission to CHIP would threaten the health and well-being of the 9 million children who utilize the program every year.

We are especially concerned with the $2 billion in cuts to the CHIP contingency fund. This fund has consistently been used in times of economic downturn, natural disaster, and other uncertain times to ensure that children can have access to healthcare. More recently, a similar fund was used when Congress was unable to pass a CHIP funding bill before individual state funding for the program ran out. If this fund was not available during the reauthorization process last year, thousands of children would have lost healthcare while Congress failed to act. Congress should not take away this vital security measure for the health of our children.

Recent Congressional action to pass a 10-year extension of CHIP was a major success for the 115th Congress, but this risky rescission could undercut the program and undermine this success. CHIP, as it is currently funded, is projected to decrease the deficit by $6 billion over 10 years.1 The health of our children is too important to be used as additional means to pay down the deficit. It is especially relevant to protect our children from additional cuts after the passage of the tax bill provided enormous benefits to the wealthy and large corporations while adding over $1.7 trillion to the deficit. Children must not pay for the enrichment of the wealthiest in our nation.

CHIP has enjoyed bipartisan support and success for more than 20 years. It has proven to be an effective investment in the health of our children and should be protected and supported. Our faith traditions teach us to protect the most vulnerable people, especially children. We believe that a rescissions package that threatens to take healthcare away from children does not live up to our moral obligation. We urge you reject and refuse a vote on H.R. 3, until and unless these harmful CHIP cuts are removed.

Sincerely,

American Muslim Health Professionals

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Faith in Public Life

Franciscan Action Network

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

Interfaith Worker Justice

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Poligon Education Fund

Religious Institute

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation

United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

1. Congressional Budget Office. “Cost Estimate of Extending Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for Ten Years”. January 11, 2018.

#WhereAreTheChildren and Family Separation at the U.S. – Mexico Border

#WhereAreTheChildren and Family Separation at the U.S. – Mexico Border

Sana Rizvi 
June 1, 2018

This past weekend, the internet became flooded with tweets asking #WherearetheChildren after a New York Times article reported that the Trump Administration had lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children.

Let’s be clear: this is a very real question. As people of faith, the well-being of children, particularly of migrant children fleeing danger in their home countries to seek refuge in the United States, is paramount.

But — it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Immigration advocates are asking people to look beyond #WherearetheChildren. As Vox reporter Sarah Kliff explains:

“Immigration advocates… aren’t spending a lot of time worried about #WhereAreTheChildren. Instead, they say the real crisis is the Trump administration’s new policy of separating undocumented families apprehended at the US border — a policy that may have gotten conflated with the “missing” children story that went viral this weekend.”

What’s the difference? The “1,500 missing children” refers to unaccompanied minors, who arrived in the United States mostly during the Obama Administration, and through the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services, were placed in the care of family and foster care agencies.

#WherearetheChildren is a movement to find the 1,500 minors who mostly came across the border alone and were placed into the guardianship of foster homes or their own families (even if the family members are undocumented). HHS keeps track of these minors by calling the homes they were placed in and following up with them for their deportation court hearings. Immigration advocates are not asking #Wherearethechildren because these are not 1,500 minors who have been separated from their families. These are 1,500 families that did not pick up the phone when the government called asking for the whereabouts of undocumented children.

Now, the Trump Administration, has a new policy that an administration official referred to as a “zero tolerance policy,” which separates families seeking asylum when they reach the U.S. border.

Vox’s Dara Lind writes:

“The Trump administration’s solution [to logistical challenges related to detaining families as unit], now codified in policy, is to stop treating them as families: to detain the parents as adults and place the children in the custody of Health and Human Services as ‘unaccompanied minors.’”

This insidious policy separates families coming across the border together to seek asylum. Parents are turned over to ICE for criminal prosecution and their children are re-designated  as “unaccompanied minors,” even though they were forcibly separated from their parent/guardian.

As a result, the separated children can be sent anywhere in the U.S. regardless of the status or location of their parents, even if the parent or parents have been deported. In some cases, this makes family reunification nearly impossible. We must also ask #WhereAreTheChildren, for these young people being forcibly separated from their parents by U.S. agents.

There is no doubt that there are threats to unaccompanied minors, and  the Department of Health and Human Services must be very careful about where it is placing minors. #WherearetheChildren needs to be about the 1,500 children, and it must be a call to action to stop separating children from their parents . We need to fight against policies created to separate children from their families and recognize that the safest place for immigrant children is with their families and their communities.

Below are some resources on separated families:

“This is what’s really happening to kids at the border” (The Washington Post)

“The real immigration crisis isn’t “missing” children. It’s family separations” (Vox)

“Family Separation at the Border” (KIND and Women’s Refugee Commission’s two page backgrounder on what happens to separated children.)

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

Tralonne Shorter
May 30, 2018

On Thursday, May 17, 2018 the House Appropriations Committee approved $4.8 billion in overall funding for the Census Bureau, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill.   The appropriation is a $1.985 billion increase above the FY 2018 enacted level; almost $1 billion above the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  The funds would primarily support 2020 Census activities such as technology improvements, address canvassing, End-to-End tests, and the opening of 248 Census field offices.

Regrettably, the bill contains several unacceptable provisions.  One major upset for advocates was a decision by the Committee to reject an amendment to remove the citizenship question.  NETWORK submitted written testimony and organized faith leader sign on letters in opposition to the citizenship question. We were also disappointed that the Committee included a big increase for illegal immigration enforcement.   In particular, the Committee approved a $126 million increase above FY 2018 for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a division within the Department of Justice that adjudicates immigration removal proceedings.  This increase would annualize 100 new immigration judge teams the Committee approved in the FY 2018 Omnibus and would provide funds for 100 additional immigration judge teams in FY 2019. This total increase of 200 new immigration judge teams over a two-year period would drastically reduce the immigration case backlog while resulting in more families being torn apart.

A floor vote on final passage in the House has not been scheduled, but we anticipate it will occur before the August recess.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider its own FY 2019 CJS spending bill sometime in June.  NETWORK will continue to push for full funding and oppose the addition of a citizenship question.

President Trump’s Plan to Take Back Funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

President Trump’s Plan to Take Back Funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Kaitlin Brown
May 29, 2018

Just as supporters of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) thought they could relax after the popular health insurance program was renewed for ten years with bipartisan support, Congress is again threatening to cut funding. This past winter, months after federal CHIP funding expired, families waited nervously as funds began to run low and states started to send out notices to families, warning them of the possible end of the program. At the eleventh hour, funding for the program was approved, and families across the country let out a collective sigh of relief.

Now, however, there is a new threat to CHIP. Last week, the Trump administration sent a request to Congress to begin a rescissions process. This is something that hasn’t been done since President Clinton, and is a bit complicated. At the President’s request, Congress has 45 days to take back money they previously allocated. They need to pass this by a majority vote, but they also have the option to not take back any of the money.

President Trump’s rescission request asked Congress to take back $7 billion from the CHIP program, along with money from some other social safety net programs, including housing. Some of the money (around $5 billion) is money that had been given to the states but was not spent. In programs like CHIP, more money is given to the states than what is expected to be needed, in case of increased expenses and these extra funds are usually re-appropriated to other health and human services programs if they are not used.

The other $2 billion is money that is set aside in what is called a contingency fund. This is money that can be used in the case of an emergency, like a natural disaster, or Congress failing to fund the program in a timely manner. Last winter, this was the fund that was used to help ensure kids in the program continued to have coverage while Congress stalled on funding the program.

White House officials argue that the money is unlikely to be used, and wouldn’t take healthcare away from kids. However, without the contingency fund last year, millions of children would have lost healthcare coverage. And while some of the money has not been used, it has traditionally been absorbed back into other healthcare programs that need it.

Instead, this funding President Trump requested to have taken away from CHIP will be used to drive down the deficit caused by last fall’s $1.3 trillion tax cut. After giving tax breaks to millionaires, Congress has faced pressure on the huge deficit it created and decided to try and decrease the deficit by taking money from CHIP. While the rescission package isn’t guaranteed to take healthcare away from children, the damage this will do is enough to make families nervous. After last winter’s unfortunate CHIP battle, families deserve peace of mind about their children’s health insurance, not further cuts to undo the damage caused by tax cuts for millionaires.

The First Step Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The First Step Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Joan Neal
May 25, 2018

The House just passed the First Step Act, a bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Despite the claims of the bill’s supporters that it will make the prison system fairer and more effective, this bill will not alleviate the overcrowded, discriminatory nature of our federal prison system.  In fact, while it contains some modest reforms such as prohibiting shackles on pregnant women during child birth; adding some educational, job training and personal development programs; and providing limited opportunities to earn ‘time credits’ toward early release, the bill fails to include provisions to overhaul and fundamentally transform the nation’s justice system.  Research shows that we need both sentencing and prison reform to achieve meaningful change in our criminal justice system.  The First Step Act, focusing only on the back end – more geared towards limiting prison time after someone is incarcerated — is inadequate to achieve that goal.

Backed by the White House (Jared Kushner and President Trump), the bill has the support of various individuals and factions of conservatives, including the Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, most House Republicans (especially members of the House Freedom Caucus), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who previously co-sponsored the bi-partisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and some moderate Democrats.  Even with all of that support, the First Step Act fails to address some of the big problems in the current criminal justice system: racial disparities, chronic prison overcrowding, a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and the exorbitant costs of incarceration, borne by the government, tax payers, prisoners and their families.

Moreover, some of its provisions could actually have the opposite effect of its intent by putting in place policies that are more discriminatory toward inmates of color and women.  For instance, it calls for the development of a “risk assessment system,” to be implemented and overseen by the current Attorney General, who has a history of opposing sentencing reform, supporting punitive rather than rehabilitative policies and practices, and targeting immigrants and immigration related offenses.  This bill may well do more harm than good.

Supporters of the bill argue that we must make a choice:  either we pass prison reform or sentencing reform.  There is no possibility to do both.  It’s false to say there is only one choice.  For several years, a comprehensive, bi-partisan bill – the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act – has been gathering support in both houses.  Clearly, passing comprehensive criminal justice reform is possible.  We do not have to choose one or the other.

Meaningful criminal justice reform requires both front and back end changes.  Congress should, therefore, abandon the First Step Act and take up the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act instead.

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

What Are Members of Congress Saying on Public Charge?

NETWORK will be updating this page with the latest statements.

“Such a rule would essentially force families, including those with U.S. citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need to prosper — from crucial programs that provide medical care, food assistance, housing assistance, and early childhood education — and reuniting with those they love. These are not the ideals of our country and we urge the Department to reconsider this ill-advised proposal.”-Letter to Kirstjen M. Nielsen and Mick Mulvaney signed by 85 Members of Congress.

The original letter can be found here.

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

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

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

Original post with statements can be found here.

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

Mary Cunningham
April 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Agriculture

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

Department of Commerce

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

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

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

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

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

Department of Homeland Security

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

Department of Labor

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

The Acute Need for an Accurate Census

The Acute Need for an Accurate Census

Mary Cunningham
March 19, 2018

With the 2020 Census rapidly approaching, it is important to consider exactly what is at stake. Although the census is not a process which typically figures into the public consciousness, the information we obtain from it is vital. Census data is used, among other things, to determine the distribution of federal funds for healthcare, housing, infrastructure programs and more.  An accurate census is sorely needed to ensure communities –particularly marginalized communities–receive their fair share of resources.

There is a plethora of programs that depend on census data to determine funding distribution. During fiscal year 2015, 132 programs used Census Bureau data to allocate $675 billion to communities across the United States. These programs included: Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Program, the School Breakfast Program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, Highway Planning and Construction and others.[1] In order to distribute funds, these programs rely on a variety of datasets such as Population Estimates, Poverty Guidelines, Per Capita Income and more. Without an accurate census count, states may not only receive inadequate funds, but they also may experience lower reimbursement rates for expenses accrued from the programs.[2]

If there is an undercount, areas that need funding the most will not get the resources they need. This is now an issue of particular concern due to a new citizenship question introduced by the Department of Justice that is currently under consideration. The Justice Department is requesting the census ask participants to indicate their citizenship status on the questionnaire. This is highly intimidating for immigrants who are already feeling vulnerable in the current political climate. They may fear that an honest answer would expose them or their families to deportation despite the fact that census data is anonymous and protected information.

The decennial census survey has always counted both citizens and noncitizens. In fact, the Constitution calls for a census which accounts for the “whole number of persons in each State” (14th Amendment, Section 2), not just citizens. Adding this question threatens to undermine efforts to gather a fair and accurate count by dissuading immigrants from participating. This could have a severe effect on Latino communities in particular.  This potential citizenship question, along with anti-immigrant language and increased ICE funding by the Trump Administration, together creates an environment of heightened anxiety and mistrust towards the census.[3]

What is there to take away from all of this? That participation in the 2020 census is vital! An accurate census, which includes members of the immigrant community, will ensure proper funding to communities in need and proper apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Everyone counts and everyone should be counted! Let’s make sure everyone gets their fair share for the next 10 years and beyond.

[1] https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/working-papers/Uses-of-Census-Bureau-Data-in-Federal-Funds-Distribution.pdf

[2] https://gwipp.gwu.edu/counting-dollars-role-decennial-census-geographic-distribution-federal-funds

[3] https://www.salon.com/2018/02/25/why-the-2020-census-should-not-ask-about-your-citizenship-status_partner/

Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Six Reasons the President’s FY 2019 Budget Widens the Income Inequality Gap

Tralonne Shorter
March 9, 2018

On February 12, 2018, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget blueprint to Congress. This timing is consistent with the traditional release of the President’s budget, but in recent years the budget process has stalled down the road when Congress must agree on spending levels and appropriations bills. To illustrate: when President Trump’s FY 2019 budget plan was submitted in February, we were well into FY 2018 which began October 1 2017, and we should have had a functioning year-long budget firmly in place. Instead, because of months of delays, this was just days after Congress approved the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that lifts both defense and nondefense spending caps and will finally put the FY 2018 federal budget in place slated for approval by March 23, 2018. President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal also comes on the heels of Congress’ recent passage of the largest tax reform law since 1986—which raised the deficit by $1.5 million to provide permanent tax breaks for the super wealthy.

The President’s FY 2019 budget calls for considerable defense spending, amounting to $716 billion, while reducing spending for non-defense programs by at least $57 billion below the bipartisan spending caps agreement that Congress just approved. Subsequently, starting in FY 2020, the President proposes roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts (disguised as deficit reduction) over 10 years to entitlement programs that support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and Medicaid, among other critical programs people rely on.

Yet again, the President fails to prioritize children, working families, people with disabilities and those simply in need of some help during a difficult time.  If enacted, this budget would exacerbate poverty by placing the burden on the most vulnerable among us while handing out tax breaks to the ultra-rich. The President’s budget proposal is morally deficient and NETWORK Lobby will endeavor to ensure that it’s not passed by Congress as written.

Here are six things every social justice advocate should know about President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Blueprint:

  1. Proposes massive cuts to Safety Net programs. Despite promises made by Congressional Republican leadership not to attack entitlement programs, deep cuts over the next decade are slated for CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.  The most significant cut is to Medicaid, which would total $1.4 trillion over 10 years and be converted into a block grant with a per capita cap.  Another concern is funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the Trump budget proposes a $214 billion reduction over 10 years, including a $17 billion cut in FY 2019. This program nourishes more than 42 million people, including 20 million children, 5 million seniors, and 4 million adults with disabilities in our nation.
  2. Underfunds the 2020 Decennial Census. The next decennial census will take place on April 1, 2020. Despite the Trump Administration adjusted request submitted in FY 2018 for $344 million in increased investments in the decennial census, funding lags behind what is needed to ensure a fair, accurate, and modern census.  Furthermore, delayed appropriations have led to the cancellation of two critical tests in South Dakota and Puerto Rico−the only Spanish-based test.  While the Secretary of Commerce has expressed serious concerns about the efficacy of the 2020 census, the President requests $3.015 billion in FY 2019–which is inadequate to support the volume of work needed for completion by census day. Outstanding issues include preparation for address canvassing, marketing and outreach, and final end-to-end testing which has been scaled back from three locations to only one.  NETWORK requests $3.928 billion for the decennial census activities.
  3. Increases funding to deport and separate immigrant families. President Trump’s budget requests $782 million to hire an additional 750 Border Patrol agents and 2,000 ICE officers and agents. The budget also provides $2.7 billion to fund 52,000 detention beds. Despite frankly impossible campaign promises to make Mexico pay for a border wall, the President’s budget includes a request for $1.6 billion in FY 2019 on top of the $18 billion requested in FY 2018 for the construction a border wall along the southern border.
  4. Eliminates Vital Affordable Housing and Community Development Programs. The President’s budget proposes eliminating the Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) program ($3 billion), the Choice Neighborhoods program ($138 million), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program ($950 million). Conversely, the budget includes $2 billion in federal rental assistance programs, including funding to restore 200,000 housing vouchers, sustaining the current level of 2.2 million vouchers that protect elderly and disabled households from rent increases.
  5. Offsets 6-Week Paid Family Leave Proposal Using State Unemployment Insurance Structure. In his budget, President Trump resubmitted a proposal championed last year by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, that would provide workers six weeks of paid family. The budget request includes $700 million in start-up costs for states to assist with developing the infrastructure to establish state-based paid leave programs. The budget pays for this proposal by using Unemployment Insurance as the baseline giving states autonomy for implementation. While most working families don’t currently benefit from paid family and medical leave, many states do not have sufficient reserve funds to support this significant financial obligation without raising taxes.
  6. Imposes Work Requirements for Critical Programs. The President’s budget is callously based on the assumption that there are too many “able-bodied” beneficiaries receiving federal and state-level assistance across 80 different programs. Consequently, President Trump proposes incentives for states to expand work requirements for able-bodied parents with children over age 6, and make it a condition to receive food stamps, Medicaid and public housing assistance. Some states have already imposed stricter work requirements that include no food stamps for those who own a vehicle valued more than $20,000 and require drug testing to qualify for public housing. These requirements are harmful and punitive for families and undermine the purpose of these programs, to assist those who need it the most.

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.