Category Archives: Women and Families

Congress Takes First Step to Lower Maternal Mortality and Improve Health Equity

Congress Takes First Step to Lower Maternal Mortality and Improve Health Equity

Siena Ruggeri
December 17, 2018

There’s a silent but deadly epidemic occurring across the United States: women are dying during childbirth at an alarming rate. The United States is the only developed country where the maternal mortality rate is rising. Pregnancy-related deaths increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to a high of 17.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2009 and 2011. On top of that, 50,000 mothers a year experience dangerous complications that have the potential to kill them. U.S. women had a better chance of surviving their pregnancy thirty years ago than they do today. The fact women are worse off than thirty years ago is an embarrassment and a terrifying reality for women who are choosing to start families. If we truly care for one another, we must put a special focus on this critical issue impacting women across the country.

The rising maternal mortality rate is a public health crisis that is receiving a woefully low amount of coverage and legislative responses. California is the only U.S. state that has successfully lowered their maternal mortality rate. From 2006 to 2013, the state cut its maternal death rate in half. This was accomplished by a thorough investigation of the care process, and an implementation of better practices. California hospitals work in a collaborative that shares information and best practices specifically about maternal care. In order for other states to replicate California’s success, Congress must act.

Recently the House and the Senate passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, with bipartisan support and a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp.  It creates maternal mortality review committees in every state that gather data and report their findings back to the Department of Health and Human Services.

(image courtesy of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice)

The U.S. healthcare system denies far too many women the care they need before, during, and after giving birth, a fact that needs to be remedied through legislation. Due to the medical racism that permeates the healthcare system, women of color are frequently ignored by providers when they advocate for their medical needs.

Black women are almost four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes, pointing to a shocking racial disparity. This is intensified in maternal health care deserts, where women lack access to critical healthcare. In rural and urban areas with limited OB-GYN services, women of color suffer greatly. In her congressional testimony, Stacey Stewart, the president of the women’s health nonprofit March of Dimes, emphasized that women of color often feel less trusted and feel less listened to in the medical system. She pointed to the fact that there are no obstetrical services east of the river in Washington, D.C.’s predominantly Black neighborhoods—women must cross the river to receive any sort of prenatal care. She also observed that in New York City, women of color are 12 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women. Women of color are disproportionately vulnerable to deadly pregnancy complications, making the maternal mortality crisis a horrifying manifestation of racial injustice.

In his testimony to the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee in September, maternal healthcare advocate Charles Johnson told how he lost his wife Kira after she gave birth to their second child. Kira and Charles, a young Black couple, made sure that hospital staff were aware that Kira was bleeding heavily after her C-section. Yet the hospital waited ten hours to address her medical crisis. By the time hospital staff acted, it was too late. Kira died of massive internal bleeding, leaving behind an 11-hour-old child, her husband, and her other young child. Kira did everything right; she advocated for herself and her child throughout her time in the hospital. Despite Kira and her husband’s persistence, her symptoms were ignored until it was too late.

The CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of American pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths could be prevented. The U.S. healthcare system is focused on infant health while ignoring the holistic needs of women.  As a result, healthcare providers are not equipped to protect pregnant women and prevent complications that can be easily addressed under the right care. We know many of these deaths can be avoided, but we must take action to examine how our healthcare system fails women and create policies that will prevent this.

Congress has taken the first step passing the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was only possible because of the continued advocacy of the public. Using this as a first step, it’s important to keep the momentum going to fight for even bigger reforms to make health care safer and more equitable.  Health advocates need to make it clear to legislators that maternal health needs to be a key priority, both as we come to the end of the 115th Congress and in the new Congress. Far too many women, especially women of color, have needlessly died in this public health crisis. The only way to begin working toward a solution to this crisis is providing resources to gather more data on this epidemic so healthcare providers have the tools to prevent more tragic losses.

Stronger Borders, But Weaker Morals: What’s Happening to Asylum Seekers at the End of the Road?

Stronger Borders, But Weaker Morals: What Happens to Asylum Seekers at the End of the Road

Lindsay Hueston
November 26, 2018

On the westernmost portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, the taunting iron fence stretches from mountain to sand to sea – disappearing after a few hundred yards into the ocean. The water that chops around is the same, splashing both U.S. and Mexican soil. The most radical thing that struck me about being at the border was that birds could fly so easily over it, which seemed so normal – but the U.S. government, simultaneously, so heavily regulated the movement of people on land.

The U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, CA – June 2013

That was five years ago when I went to the border. Now, instead of birds, there are capsules of tear gas hurled over the border: the only thing in the air now is intense fear.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the U.S.-Mexico border twice: first in the summer of 2013 during a college campus ministry conference in San Diego bordering Tijuana; and again in the winter of 2016 leading a service-immersion trip to El Paso, a city thoroughly integrated with its neighbor Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

I never crossed over to Mexico in either of these encounters, but exchanged words, held hands, and prayed with people mere feet away from me, the only thing separating us an immense wall of steel and millions of dollars built up to create a militarized border. I stood on the U.S. side; a recently deported family stood less than three feet away in Mexico. We breathed the same air. We each huddled from the same chill.

That was three years ago; had I met that family at the border there now, they and their three kids would be running away from the fence to avoid tear gas and rubber bullets.

Last week the Trump administration put out a statement authorizing the use of lethal force against families and individuals from Central American countries who trekked thousands of miles to enter our country, with the possibility of closing “the whole border.”

The news of tear gas attacks on thousands of people coming to the United States to flee violence – and being met with more violence – hits me to my core.

Lethal force? For people seeking safety, fearing they’d die in their home country – and facing the possibility of death instead of new life?

I’ve eaten and laughed and cried with people whose life stories and trials are likely near-identical to the droves of asylum seekers searching for welcome in our country. What kind of country are we creating when we say we are a nation of immigrants, then turn away the most vulnerable?

The U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, NM – January 2016

The images and videos I’ve seen are of women, children, families – people who should not be faced with the immensity of physical punishment that the U.S. is inflicting upon them for fleeing violence in their own countries. It is unconscionable that the Trump administration has come so far as to demonize infant children and their mothers, and anyone seeking asylum, so much so as to accept their injury, trauma, and potential death as merely a necessary consequence of our political debate and national security.

Firing tear gas on children and families who are here seeking asylum is both legally and morally wrong.

The actions of the U.S. government in turning people away and further militarizing our borders are a result of systematic racism, and do not reflect the core of our foundational communal values. The immigration system in our country has long been broken, but the recent attacks against immigrants and refugees under this administration have attempted to fundamentally reshape our system with the aim of closing our border to all but wealthy, white immigrants.

The structures of our country were never set up to benefit the most marginalized, but we don’t have to accept policies that perpetuate these evils. Instead, we can change them.

Children shouldn’t choke on tear gas. Parents shouldn’t have to make pilgrimages hundreds of miles on foot to seek a better life for their families. People in neighboring countries shouldn’t have to face a life-threatening decision: stay and die, or go and live.

Bridge into Juárez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas – January 2016

Yet our administration sees these migrants from Central America as criminals for the very fact that they are pleading to us for help.  We are failing to live up to our own laws and international human rights obligations to offer asylum to those who qualify. We are willing to let innocent people die before we open our borders.

It isn’t right – none of it is right.

We must continue to pressure the Trump administration against the harmful consequences they are inflicting upon our sisters and brothers who deserve protection, not condemnation.

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.

Reflections on the Kavanaugh Hearing

Reflections on the Kavanaugh Hearing

Alannah Boyle
October 5, 2018

Catholic Social Justice teaches us that all people have inherent dignity. We are called to uphold the dignity of every person as an equally valuable member of the human family.

It is our Catholic duty to believe women. Was it not women who shared the seemingly impossible truths of Jesus? Mary, a virgin, announced she was pregnant with the child of God. Mary Magdalene spread the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. At first they both were not believed. Both women knew this would be the case when they told people. They did it anyway.

Dr. Ford’s courage has inspired the country. She had nothing to be gained, and yet still told her story. She knew she would not be believed by many, and yet she did it anyways.

Watching Dr. Christine Blasley Ford’s testimony was incredibly painful. I and many of those around me found ourselves bursting into tears throughout her testimony. The triggers varied, but many had the same thread: we identified with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. As Sister Simone said, “almost every woman I know has a #MeToo moment.” In watching Dr. Ford, it was clear her story was not unique: we have experienced the visceral memory of trauma, we have experienced being cut off or talked down to by a powerful man, we have desperately tried to stay composed while retelling the intimate details of our trauma.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is all of us, and goes to show that hers is not a new experience. We are all Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the same way we are all Mary and Mary Magdalene: for centuries we have told our truth and still not been believed.

We have both a biblical and moral responsibility to believe women.

Working in an environment committed to women in leadership, such as the one at NETWORK, has been refreshing. Engaging with my co-workers guided by sister-spirit is a compassionate environment rooted in Catholic Social Thought that I am proud to be a part of.

When Dr. Ford recounted the story of her assault to the Judiciary Committee, she spoke to 17 men and just 4 women. Twenty-seven years ago, when Anita Hill testified before the very same committee, she spoke to 0 women. We are moving in the right direction, and the treatment of Dr. Ford reflected this, but there is something to be said about telling stories in an environment of those who have a shared lived experience. We need more women in positions of leadership not to blindly support women, but to identify with the experience of having to fight to be heard.

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.

Guest Blog: Celebrating Our Dreams, Our Families in the Face of Threats to Family Reunification

Celebrating Our Dreams, Our Families in the Face of Threats to Family Reunification

Sam Yu
August 31, 2018

In February, the Senate voted on four different immigration bills for our undocumented young people. They all included plans to cut family-based immigration and they all failed to pass. Moreover, the Trump administration was doubling down on using harmful rhetoric around “chain migration” in order to further alienate and dehumanize communities whose families benefit from family-based sponsorship.

An overwhelming majority of Asian Americans come to the U.S. through the family-based sponsorship, meaning that any cuts directly impact our community. Forcing immigrant youth to choose between their futures and their families is pure blackmail and intolerable.

In order to spark dialogue and fight back against the harmful “chain migration” rhetoric, NAKASEC and affiliates launched the Our Dreams, Our Families” campaign. During February and March, we shared stories of impacted folks from our community whose families have benefited or will benefit from family-based sponsorship. All of the stories can be found at www.nakasec.org/ourdreamsourfamilies.

In one of our stories, Esther, our DACAmented young leader, explained how “it infuriated [her] that members of Congress, even our so called ‘allies,’ would think that [she] would ever want a pathway to citizenship that would prevent [her] from sponsoring [her] own parents… Our parents made us who we are today, our parents are the original Dreamers, and when you celebrate the achievements of Dreamers like [her], you are celebra

ting the achievements of not just our parents but our friends and our communities.”

Esther’s story and her declaration that her mother deserves to stay too captures the essence of the “Our Dreams, Our Families” campaign. We are asking Congress to value our families, protect family-based sponsorship, and fully understand that we cannot support undocumented young people without also supporting their families. Families are a cornerstone of American values and they deserve to stay together!

Sam Yu is the Communications Coordinator at NAKASEC. NAKASEC organizes Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. Learn more at www.nakasec.org

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Guest Blog: Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Father Jim F. Callahan
August 24, 2018

Worthington, Minnesota is a community of 13,000 people, located in the Southwest corner of the state. It is a diverse community with 64 nationalities, living, working and worshipping together. The Latino population comprises the largest immigrant community. Seventy-five percent of our public school children speak Spanish as their first language. Most members of our immigrant communities come without documentation.

People often wonder how Worthington has the second largest immigrant community in the state. What draws immigrants here are the meat packing plants in the city and surrounding communities as well as the numerous farms throughout the region.

The challenges facing the immigrant communities in Worthington are racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Lack of affordable housing, medical, and dental care are also challenges that the community faces. As a result of the need for medical care, we established the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic, and later, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Dental Clinic. Anyone without insurance is welcome. We became a 501(c)(3) four years ago, and have seen over 1200 patients.

The Parish of St. Mary is a church of hospitality. Our primary objective is to make the parish a welcoming and safe haven for all people. After the election of Donald Trump, fear seized our community. We announced to the parish we would do everything possible to help and protect our people. The staff prayed and studied what would be the most Gospel-based response to this crisis. Already we were experiencing families being torn apart by deportation and mothers separated from their children. So we unanimously decided that we had to become a Sanctuary Church. Since our declaration of becoming a Sanctuary Church, we have received support from the diocese and individuals and faith communities around the state.

We believe Sanctuary has biblical roots and we have mandate to proclaim justice for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color.

We work closely with the Immigrant Law Center based in St. Paul. We established a steering committee made up of immigrants and community leaders and the church sponsors programs, workshops, and listening sessions related to topics which affect the community. As a Catholic Faith Community whose foundation is the Eucharist, we have an obligation to live out the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, living out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

St. Mary’s Parish prays for comprehensive immigration reform and for the end of this reign of terror, where families will no longer hide in the shadows, where families will no longer be separated or children taken from their parents because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or who they call God.

Our prayer is as a Nation, as a Church, as a People, that one day all may be one.


Father Jim F. Callahan is Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Worthington, MN.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

We Cannot Allow This Cruelty in Our Country

We Cannot Allow This Cruelty in Our Country

Fighting Immoral Policies Tearing Families Apart at the Border

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal
August 17, 2018

Our nation is in crisis. The words on the Statue of Liberty—”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—seem far away as families on the border are separated as a result of President Donald Trump’s inhumane and cruel “zero tolerance” policy.  The policy has resulted in thousands of children being placed in tent cities, shelters, and foster homes across the nation, with no plan to reunite them with their parents.

Two weeks ago, I spoke with 174 women who were, at the administration’s orders, transferred thousands of miles from the southern border to a federal prison just outside Seattle. Most of these women were asylum-seekers, fleeing rape, violence, and persecution. The majority had been held in various facilities for over two weeks, many for over a month.

The mothers had been separated from their children at the border, and not a single one had spoken to their children since then. All but two of the mothers did not even know where their children were. They wept as they told me that they had been “deceived” by agents who told them to just leave the room for a minute to take a picture or see a judge, and when they returned, their children were gone. They didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.

The women I spoke to had already made heartbreaking choices in deciding to come to the United States. One woman told me that her oldest child was shot killed by gangs, her second shot and paralyzed, and that she had to leave that paralyzed child in order to try and save her third child. She had been separated from that last child at the border and had not seen him in a month. Another woman traveled to the border with one child, leaving another child who was blind behind because she knew he could not make the difficult journey.

I am an immigrant and a mother, and what I heard breaks my heart.

We must demand that Trump fix the crisis he created, and reject his false claims that he has taken any action to do that. The executive order he signed does not reverse his zero-tolerance policy that created these abuses and violations; instead, it allows for the indefinite detention of children and their parents in family prison camps. His administration has challenged a previous court settlement that clearly states that children cannot be detained for more than 20 days. That means that, very soon, either he is going to separate families again or he is going to defy that court order and continue to detain children illegally. Does anyone seriously believe that incarcerating children is a solution to the crisis the president has created?

On top of that, the administration has no plans to reunite the thousands of children who have already been separated.

We cannot stand for this. As one of only a dozen members of Congress born outside of the United States, I began my organizing in the wake of 9-11, forming Washington’s largest immigrant advocacy organization to combat the abuses at the time against Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, and immigrants. I saw then that strength emerges in times of crisis and that is what we must focus on building all over again today. That’s why I’m calling on Trump to overturn his zero-tolerance policy, reunite families, and release them from their prisons.

This isn’t about politics—it’s about right and wrong. We have to stand up for America.

Representative Pramila Jayapal represents the state of Washington’s seventh district. The first Indian-American woman in the House of Representatives, Representative Jayapal has spent the last twenty years working internationally and domestically as a leading national advocate for women’s, immigrant, civil, and human rights.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.