Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

NETWORK Government Relations Team
November 5, 2018

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

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

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

Must Do: Fund the Government for 2019

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

Border Wall

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

2020 Census

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

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

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

Farm Bill: Protect SNAP

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

Criminal Justice

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

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

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

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

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

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Staff
October 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remarks from Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Jessica Brock
October 19, 2018

The following remarks were delivered by Jessia Brock, attorney, at the Nuns on the Bus Rally in South Bend.

Good afternoon.   Your presence here is so important.  Thank you for being here.  Your voice needs to be heard.  And your vote is your voice.

My name is Jessica Brock.  I am an attorney here in South Bend, and my law practice has primarily served people living below the federal poverty line.  Most of my clients rely on income from SSI or Social Security Disability.  They rely on Medicare or Medicaid for healthcare coverage.  And they rely on other human needs programs like housing vouchers and food stamps in order to make ends meet, put food on their tables, and keep their families safe. I see on a daily basis how these programs make the difference, quite literally, between life and death.  One unexpected and expensive life event  – like the illness and death of a loved one or flooding like we experienced in February – can put a family barely making ends meet in serious financial trouble, and it is often difficult if not impossible to recover from such a setback.

In South Bend, almost 1/5 of the population lives below the federal poverty line.  That means there’s no wiggle room in the household budget – certainly no money for big, unexpected expenses.  The poverty rate here for whites is about 17%, for people of color as a whole it’s about 33%.  For African Americans in South Bend it’s about 42%.  Not only do we have income inequality.  We have racial inequality.

Republicans passed an immoral tax law in 2017, which prioritizes tax cuts for the highest income brackets and biggest businesses on the dime of basic human needs.  In 2017, the federal deficit went up 17%, and Republicans are blaming this on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The truth is the immoral tax law is to blame for the deficit increase as well as increased government spending approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.  We do not have reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

People here are already struggling to meet basic needs.

  • There are women, survivors of domestic violence, in South Bend who are unable to afford to change the locks on their homes in order to protect themselves and their children from their abusers.
  • There are older adults in South Bend who cannot afford to pay for their burial.  They may have a family burial plot, but they can’t afford to pay for the cremation/burial and transportation to be buried with their loved ones.
  • We lost my father unexpectedly to brain cancer this April.  A simple funeral can easily cost $10,000.  All of the expenses were due upfront.  That’s a financial burden many cannot handle.

The truth is that Social Security and Medicare are paid for through separate payroll taxes.  They do not add to the national debt.  In fact, Social Security has a $2.5 trillion surplus right now.  The sad truth is that we are using the Social Security trust funds to finance our overspending on programming that does not meet basic human needs like being safe in our homes, having food to put on the table, healthcare, and dying with dignity.  We are robbing human needs programs in order to cut taxes for the rich and for big business.

There seems to be little we can agree on these days, as our leaders have played on our fears in an effort to divide us.  But there is much we have in common.  We all want to be safe.  We all need to eat and sleep.  We all want to be healthy, and we will all get sick.  We will all encounter unexpected, traumatic, and expensive life events that can quickly change our financial stability.

At times, it can seem like there is nothing we can do.  But that’s not true.  We can vote.  It’s free.  It doesn’t matter who you are, each vote counts the same.  Your vote is your voice.

Vote!  If you think that the government shouldn’t take from the poor to benefit the rich.  Vote!  If you want reasonable revenue for responsible programs.  Vote!

It’s We The People.  It’s us.  And we have a job to do.  No one can do it for us.   Let’s get out and vote!

View more photos from this event here.

Travel Log: Las Vegas Canvassing

Travel Log: Las Vegas Canvassing

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
October 10, 2018

We started our second day in Vegas after a late night of heavy drinking and gambling (I’m joking, of course).  We were warmly greeted by the Culinary Workers Union 226 at their headquarters, joining a large room crowded with culinary workers diligently prepping canvassing materials.  Their morning briefing before heading out was raucous and full of energy—a great primer for a quick rally with the nuns to follow.  Sister Bernadine Karge, OP and Sister Simone were joined by two female union members to address a crowd of 150 or so unionized workers.  They spoke powerfully about human dignity, the need to respect workers, especially women (54% of their union members are female) and the importance of communal action and unity to bring about change.  The idea of solidarity and shared responsibility is especially crucial for a union that consists of 50,000 members from 173 countries that speak 40 languages.

Since over half (55%) of Union 226 members are Latinx, Sister Chris Machado, SSS and I had the opportunity to canvass with two Spanish-speaking women from Mexico and Cuba.  Most of the union workers had taken a political leave of absence—one of the contract provisions won through years of hard-fought negotiations.  Maria and Martha were both proud to take a leave—along with a pay cut—in order to put in their share of hours canvassing.  They want to promote candidates who will, in-turn, support workers’ rights and strengthened collective bargaining.

During their familiar routine going door-to-door, they explained that the names and addresses were of residents who did not, or rarely, voted in past elections.  As non-partisan participants, for myself and my fellow Nuns on the Bus, our primary push was to stress the importance of voting on November the 6th—that their vote and who we elect makes a difference. Most knocks had no response, so we left the materials at the door and Maria and Martha would return to follow-up.  Each time Maria saw that a resident was a registered Republican she would make the Sign of the Cross before approaching the door—but she did it anyway.  Needless to say, they are sometimes turned away with harsh words, but these workers are a persevering bunch.  They are driven for the sake of their families and inspired by their fellow union members who they consider their sisters and brothers.

 

To view more photos of the canvassing event, visit our Flickr album.

Progress from Congress on Appropriations

Progress from Congress on Appropriations

Tralonne Shorter
September 12, 2018

This summer, Congress made extraordinary progress toward completing the requisite 12 spending measures for upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2019. To date, the Senate has passed nine spending bills, while the House has passed six. Lawmakers have until September 30 to finalize spending bills or extend funding at current levels through a continuing resolution (CR).  Efforts are underway to bundle nine* out of 12 spending measures into three packages by September 30 and put the remaining three** bills into a CR, averting a government shutdown.

One reason for the Senate’s remarkable pace on appropriations is President Trump’s vow to not sign another omnibus spending bill.  To achieve this progress, the Senate uncharacteristically spent part of August in session.  Another reason is a bipartisan agreement between Appropriations committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) not to pack spending bills with controversial provisions that would weaken bipartisan support.

NETWORK continues to lead lobby efforts supporting our Mend the Gap priorities.  These include:  humane border enforcement that promotes family unity and funding increases for affordable housing, workforce development, job training, child welfare and health care.  In addition, NETWORK will continue to oppose efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Immigration

Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy dominated the appropriations debate and faced strong opposition across party lines in both chambers.  NETWORK joined pro-immigration advocates in garnering support for more than 12 amendments to the Homeland Security bill that adds report language that clamps down on family separation with better oversight and accountability standards for ICE detention centers.  Additionally, we successfully lobbied for more funding to support alternatives to detention, family case management services, and mental health screening of unaccompanied minor children crossing the Southern border. However, a major disappointment by House Appropriators includes the reversal of the Flores Settlement, a 1997 agreement drafted by the ACLU which set a 20-day limit for family detention and governs the conditions of detention for children, including that facilities be safe, sanitary, and age appropriate.    If enacted this would allow immigrant families to be indefinitely detained in facilities with harsh conditions not supported by Flores.  Thankfully, the Senate approved LHHSED Appropriations bill leaves the Flores settlement agreement intact and the House language is not likely to be part of the final bill.

As for immigration enforcement spending contained in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved $7 billion more than the Senate for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Southwest Border Wall.  Other areas of concern include, a 10 percent increase in detention beds, as well as funding to hire almost 800 more border and customs agents/officers.

NETWORK will continue to push back on efforts to separate families or that would undermine humane border enforcement as negotiations gain momentum post the mid-term elections.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, unless Congress passes the next Farm Bill before then or extends the current reauthorization.  Regardless of when Congress finalizes the next Farm Bill, funding for SNAP will not lapse as the government is statutorily required to continue funding the program subject to participation demands.  Since 2015, SNAP enrollment has declined by more than 4.7 million people resulting in a $73 billion automatic appropriation for FY 2019.  This is $794 million less than FY 2018 and a 10 percent reduction since FY 2015.

Census

House appropriators gave a big boost to the Census Bureau in the FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations (CJS) bill, approving nearly $1 billion more for the agency than the Senate. However, it is unclear how much of the $4.8 billion for the agency will be allocated for the 2020 Decennial.  Conversely, the Senate appropriators (under new leadership) appears to have taken a more conservative approach and adopted the President’s FY 2019 budget request to fund the 2020 Decennial at $3.015 billion.  This is drastically different from NETWORK’s request of $3.928 billion minimum baseline.

Besides census activities, the CJS bill also funds immigration related law enforcement and adjudication efforts within the Department of Justice.  Regrettably, the House Committee bill, fails to fully protect immigrant families and includes increased funding for immigrant-related law enforcement efforts.  Congress is not expected to finalize the CJS bill until sometime after the mid-term elections.  NETWORK will continue to call on our supporters to push for the higher number for the 2020 Census contained in the House bill.

Housing

Funding for housing programs fared better in the Senate.  The Senate approved a $12 billion increase above the President’s FY 2019 budget request−and is $1 billion above the House bill.  Housing programs help nearly 5 million vulnerable families and individuals.  This includes:  $22.8 billion for tenant-based Section 8 vouchers; $7.5 billion for public housing; $11.7 billion for project-based Section 8; $678 million for Housing for the Elderly; and $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.  Both committee bills reject the Administration’s rent reform proposal, and reinstate funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships programs, which were eliminated in the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  However, the House reduces spending for the HOME program by 12 percent.

NETWORK will continue to advocate for increased funding for affordable housing programs.

Children and Human Needs

The LHHSEd Appropriations bill funds popular safety net programs, like Medicare and Medicaid operations, home energy assistance, Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant.  It is the 2nd largest spending bill, after defense and comprises about 63 percent of total discretionary spending.  The House and Senate bills are slightly different—overall the Senate bill is better because it has a higher spending allocation and contains no poison pill riders unlike the House.

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act continues to be attacked by Republican lawmakers.  Both the House and Senate bills reduce access to affordable health care by cutting funding for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) operating budget by nearly half a billion dollars.  According to the House Committee report, Democrats view defunding CMS as “a misguided attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.” If enacted this cut would significantly impact Medicare as it subject to mandatory 2 percent sequestration cut pursuant to the Balance Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

NETWORK will continue to call on our supporters to push back against efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.


* Agriculture; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Interior; Labor-Health and Human Services-Education; Legislative Branch; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

**Commerce, Justice, Science; Foreign Operations; and Homeland Security.

Juneteenth: A Celebration and Call for Freedom

Juneteenth: A Celebration and Call for Freedom

Jeremiah Pennebaker
June 19, 2018

“In its spread across the country and gradual supplanting of other emancipation celebrations, Juneteenth has always retained that sense of belatedness. It is the observance of a victory delayed, of foot-dragging and desperate resistance by white supremacy against the tide of human rights, and of a legal freedom trampled by the might of state violence. As the belated emancipation embedded in the holiday foretold generations of black codes, forced labor, racial terror, police brutality, and a century-long regime of Jim Crow, it also imbued the holiday with a sense of a Sisyphean prospect of an abridged liberty, with full citizenship always taunting and tantalizing, but just one more protest down the road.” – Vann R. Newkirk II, “The Quintessential Americanness of Juneteenth”

“What’s Juneteenth again?” I ask myself in my head because I did not want to admit out loud in front of my fellow interns that I didn’t know the meaning behind it. We were trying to figure out how to better integrate racial justice themes into our summer service locations. For the longest time my only connection to Juneteenth was an obscure Boondocks reference. Luckily for me there was another Black student in our intern small group who was able to explain what it was. “Juneteenth is the celebration of coming freedom,” she said.

“Coming freedom” tells us that freedom exists, but it is not here yet. The Emancipation Proclamation — the legislation that freed all enslaved Black women and men on U.S. soil — was signed into law on January 1, 1863. But like many things concerning the freedom and civil rights of Black individuals, the process was delayed. Juneteenth was established two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger issued Order #3 in the district of Galveston, Texas informing the residents that slavery was abolished and that the freed people should now operate under an employer/ employee relationship.

Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, news of liberation finally reached slaves in the southernmost parts of the country. Despite this, enslavement and mistreatment of Black people continued as slave owners took their slaves to the yet-to-be-unionized New Orleans, where emancipation was just folklore. There was no relief or instant jubilation as many might imagine; instead, some faced consequences if they celebrated too openly or tried to run away. This is evident in the account of former slave Susan Merritt in Leon Litwack’s book, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery: “Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’”[1] Although slaves were free in theory, they were not free in practice.

Coming freedom is the Black American Dream–the idea that we will be free one day as it has already been proclaimed. Growing up in the church I imagined that freedom was something similar to the idea of kingdom come. As my father would say, we stand on tiptoe anticipation for the day that we can lay our burdens down and rejoice in the presence of the Lord. But what I’ve also learned about kingdom come and coming freedom is that obstacles still lie between us and the freedom. Lynch mobs and police units still lie between us and the coming freedom. Protests and assassinations still lie between us the coming freedom. Colorblind classmates, coworkers, and Members of Congress still lie between us and coming freedom. But the hope within coming freedom and the jubilation of Juneteenth lies within the fact that regardless of what lie between us and coming freedom, it is still coming.

[1] What Is Juneteenth?

Questions to Ask Yourself for the 2018 Primaries

Questions to Ask Yourself for the 2018 Primaries

Mary Cunningham
June 14, 2018

With midterm elections rapidly approaching, it is time to start thinking about primaries. While certain state primaries have already passed, there are some that are just around the corner! Primaries are preliminary elections used to determine which candidates will face off for the general election scheduled for November 6, 2018. With a surge of new candidates on the ballots, particularly women, it is important to ascertain whether or not these candidates will implement the policies you care about if elected to office. So with all that in mind, what are the important questions you should ask yourself before voting in your state’s primary?

  1. How will the candidates lived experience and background contribute to a more nuanced and diverse Congress?

When you see photos of most Members of Congress you will notice a striking pattern: they are typically white, middle-aged men. Imagine what it would be like to have more diverse voices in our offices– people of different genders, races, and religious affiliations. Take women as an example: according to Vox, women currently constitute less than 20% of Congress. That boils down to just 22 female senators and 83 female representatives in a Congress made up of 535 people total. It’s even more discouraging when you look at the number of women of color in Congress. According to Axios, 30 states have never elected a woman of color to Congress. Instead of leaving it up to the men to decide, we need female perspectives on issues such as paid-family leave and childcare. There is hope in the fact that more women are running for Congress, but that hope will only be realized if we take the extra step and vote for them!

  1. What is the candidate’s approach to the importance of human dignity for all in local, state, and federal policies?

As Catholics we hold dear the belief that all people have an inherent dignity: rich or poor, citizen or noncitizen.  We do not get to decide whether or not someone is not worthy of love. In Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation he calls us to value the life of migrants as we would any other life. Multiple candidates for the midterm elections have come out with flagrant anti-immigrant agendas. There is no place for these egregious mindsets in Congress. We need elected officials who recognize that there is value in every human being and who will enact policies that allow all to reach their full potential. This means recognizing the plight of those who cross the border and the dignity of all people, not making unsubstantiated assumptions about them!

  1. How will the candidate respond to the most vulnerable members of their community?

Back in November, the Republican tax bill passed, promising tax cuts for the wealthy largely at the expense of the poor. The new law is estimated to increase the United States debt by over $1 trillion.  Almost immediately after its passage, Republicans pivoted and took aim at safety net programs. This can be seen in the recent efforts to introduce Medicaid work requirements, SNAP work requirements, and harsh policies imposed on those who receive federal housing subsidies.

In another blatant show of hypocrisy, several House Representatives voting for stricter work requirements and SNAP restrictions in the Farm Bill are themselves benefitting from the federal farm subsidies they will pocket if the bill passes. It’s one thing to claim to support the needs of your constituents, but it’s another to fight for policies that actually help them. Without access to federal assistance programs, many families will not be able to stay afloat. When casting your vote, ask yourself: can you rely on that candidate to protect the needs of people who are marginalized?

When voting for a candidate, it is important to be informed about their platform. Furthermore, as Catholics, it is important to make sure that the people we elect to office represent our closest held values—whether that be dignity of life, care for the poor, or others After all, these are the people that will be representing you and all you stand for over the next few years. That should not be taken lightly!

The Right to Vote: Then and Now

The Right to Vote: Then and Now

Claudia Brock
June 6, 2018

Every election my mom likes to remind my sister and me of the time we accompanied her to vote in the 2000 presidential election. At the ages of 4 and 6, we were convinced that voting was one of the most glamorous and exciting things an adult could do. After all, you had to be 18 and you got to have a say in who ran the country. On Election Day, my sister and I donned our finest tutus and costume jewelry to accompany our mom to the polls for this truly sophisticated event. Imagine our disappointment when we walked into our local elementary school’s cafeteria and waited as our mom went into the voting booth, only to head out the door five minutes later. I’m not sure what my sister and I hoped to see, but we were grossly unimpressed.

When I voted for the first time in the 2012 election, the experience was completely different—entering a voting booth at a local park pavilion felt plenty exciting. I had carefully researched all of the candidates on the ballot and even called my county election commission to make sure I could bring my notes into the booth with me. I took, and still take, my right to vote very seriously because not only do I help elect leaders I think will benefit my community, but I also understand that thousands of women fought for my right to be in the voting booth.

The Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex, was originally introduced in Congress in 1878 and was finally passed 41 years later on June 4, 1919 and submitted to the states for ratification. Suffragettes had marched, protested, and lobbied for the inclusion of women in the vote since the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York. For 71 years, these women built a grassroots movement, but they also were imprisoned, endured physical and sexual assaults, were disowned from their parents, and had their parental rights terminated as a result of their work and beliefs.

Despite their work for greater access to democracy, these women failed to address the dual oppression of racism and sexism faced by Black women. Suffragettes barred Black women from the movement and presented voting rights as an extension of white supremacy to make it more palatable to other white Americans. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory polling laws like voting taxes and literacy tests, that Black women secured the right to vote.

In the United States, those who vote have more representation than those who do not. This is a problem when you consider that there are still efforts to suppress the votes of people of color, including the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, strict voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, polling place intimidation, voting roll purges, and more. As I reflect on my first time voting, I realize my experience was ripe with privilege: I had the time and resources to go to the polls, my name was not purged from the voting roll, I was not asked to show ID, I was not harassed at the poll, and there were enough poll workers present so my voting lasted only 10 minutes.

Voting is a great step in reducing inequality of all kinds and achieving racial equity through public policy. It plays a large role in the allocation of government resources, who benefits from public policies, and the size of government. If you are able to vote, you should! You can register here. Around the anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, use your voice to advocate for voting rights to create a more perfect and inclusive union.

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.