Category Archives: Women and Families

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/

A Muslim and Black Woman in the Workplace

A Muslim and Black Woman in the Workplace

Aichetou Waiga
March 12, 2018

It was Saturday afternoon and I was well into my weekend routine of pajamas and catching up on my favorite daytime talk shows on YouTube. The day’s topic of discussion? A recent question posed by The New York Times: “Should you be yourself in the workplace?” I chuckled the moment I heard the question. I’ve never dedicated time to reflect on it, but it was already deeply rooted in me and in most women of color: being yourself in the workplace is simply not an option.

I know it may seem ridiculous to write about racial identity in the workplace in 2018, in a supposedly progressive America where more and more companies are celebrating and embracing diversity. However, I find that diversity in the workplace typically means a two-hour conference on race that leaves white people nervous to offend anyone, and people of color feeling dissatisfied. Diversity is much more complex than that; it should be a long-term commitment to hold people accountable for the ways company cultures lead to a lot of discomfort for the one-in-twenty person of color on the team. We could have endless conversations about what’s offensive and what to avoid saying, but the truth of the matter is that I can’t run to management every time a coworker says something inappropriate or offensive to me; I’d literally never get anything done. Furthermore, I don’t want to reinforce the stereotype of the “angry Black woman.”

I wasn’t always so wise though. I was under the impression that workplaces who value diversity would also want diversity of thought. I thought my disdain for Trump would be appreciated, if not celebrated. I thought my mourning of Philando and Trayvon would be understood. But that was not the case. Instead, I was summoned to a meeting with managers who were confused at the idea that someone would want to be themselves–that a person of color would be so bold as to carry their political views and emotions to their desk.  I was equally baffled that a company that celebrated diversity and wanted people of color as part of their culture would expect their workers to be “normal” when something so tragic happens within my community.

That was my awakening. No matter how much a company celebrates diversity, Black women must still water down our identities. These companies want us to be ourselves just enough to add some color, (and to be able to say 6.4% of their employees are African-American) but not so much that white people get uncomfortable. We as Black women have to master the art of code-switching, of learning to speak office language so as not to be deemed “ratchet” or unprofessional. We must know whiteness so well so we can be delicate with it. I find that white women—not all, but many — have mastered the art of crying wolf. As with many other aspects of my life, this is of course deeply rooted in slavery. White women have always been deemed more feminine, and therefore needing more protection from the dangerous Blacks. It’s no surprise that the aftermath of this can still be seen in our daily lives today.

My Muslim identity adds another layer of complexity, so I’ve also learned to hide that as well. For the first week or so at a new position, I always wear a turban, as opposed to my traditional hijab. I do not know how to explain this except that people of color know that everything we do must consider white people’s comfort. Everything I say, wear, and express must be white-washed enough to let white people into my world, but not to the point of shoving my identity in their faces. There’s always been this unspoken vibe that my identity is not the default in the workplace (or anywhere in mainstream culture). So I must know just how Black, just how Muslim, just how feminine I can be in public spaces without further perpetuating the stereotypes associated with these identities.

Black women must show up to work every day knowing that everything we do will be associated with our race. We show up to work knowing that our performance will be used, for better or for worse, in the hiring process of future candidates of color. We come to work every day knowing that we must be someone else for the next eight hours. Being our authentic selves is a privilege most of us will never experience at work.

Aichetou Waiga is a recent college graduate with a B.S. degree in Biology, Spanish and Peace and Justice studies. She is originally from Mauritania, West Africa, but has been living in the U.S. since 2007. She was recently accepted into Ohio University School of Medicine and aspires to be an OB/GYN and work with underrepresented women around the world. Before then, Aichetou is taking advantage of her time off from school by indulging in her hobbies which include her YouTube Channel (Bintou Waiga), reading, traveling and writing for her blog. 

Women in Justice

Women in Justice

Claudia Brock
March 5, 2018

It all started with a campaign promise. While Ronald Regan was running for president, he made an effort to court the female vote by pledging that he would nominate the most qualified woman he could find to the Supreme Court. When Justice Potter Stewart retired in 1981, it was time for President Regan to fulfill that promise. The appointment of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was historic as she became the first woman to serve on the highest court in the land, almost 200 years after the Supreme Court had been established.

March is Women’s History Month and appropriately the birthday month of both Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (celebrating her 88th birthday on March 26) and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (celebrating her 85th birthday on March 15).  Both the first and second female Justices have made remarkable contributions to women’s history, in their decisions from the bench and in championing the way for other women in law.

In an interview with the New York Times, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “I always thought that there was nothing an antifeminist would want more than to have women only in women’s organizations, in their own little corner empathizing with each other and not touching a man’s world. If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.”

You do not have to look far to find these “women’s organizations” that Justice Ginsburg is talking about. The majority of the nonprofit employees, over 75%, are female, over 75% of K-12 teachers are female, and over 80% of social workers are female. While women have been disproportionally excluded from political, business, and religious leadership roles, concern for community seems to be a powerful stimulus for women pursuing direct service careers.

But women seem to have been galvanized by an environment of support and the inspiration of female trailblazers to expand their concept of community. There are twice as many women running for Congress in 2018 than there were in 2016. Likewise, Justice O’Connor is credited with inspiring a generation of women to attend law school. When she was appointed in 1981, 36% of law school students were female and when she retired in 2006 the number had risen to 48%. Visibility begets action.

I will be attending law school in the fall and while I am so looking forward to my future career as a lawyer I have been  surprised by how many people have asked me, “Are you sure?” when I say I am attending law school. And while this reaction is nowhere near as awful as the dean of Harvard Law School asking Justice Ginsburg and her eight other female classmates (out of class of 500!), “How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?” I am still put off by this reaction. I have gotten it from both men and women, beloved family members, and trusted mentors. When I talk about my future plans I am met with a cocked head, squinted eyes, and vocal inflections that communicate both concern and distrust that I have thought everything through.

But yes, I am sure. Just as Justice Ginsburg instructed, I hope to be with the people who hold the levers, and I think I and many other women are working for a day when we hold the levers too and make decisions that take into account the needs of all, not only the powerful.

Black Women and the Making of Catholic History

Black Women and the Making of Catholic History

Mehreen Karim
February 28, 2018

This Black History Month, we looked into our shared history to shed light on notable Black women who have influenced the Catholic Church and community. These Black women and others too often go without their due credit for their teaching and the social change they have inspired. The foundational elements of our faith, especially teachings for justice, can be recognized in the work Black women have done to dismantle racism for centuries. Even through devastating periods of racism and oppression, these women have lived out a deep commitment to justice.

Saint Josephine Bakhita,FdCC (1869-1947)

Impact: Born in rural Sudan, kidnapped and sold into slavery, she converted, gained her freedom, and became a Catholic Sister; canonized in 2000 and named patron saint of Sudan.

The life of Saint Josephine Bakhita reflects the resilience she demonstrated in the face of every trial she experienced. Saint Josephine Bakhita was born in western Sudan, native to the Daju people. As a child, she was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and traded between numerous families. After over a decade of being held in slavery, Bakhita was left in the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice, Italy. Years after being taken to Italy, Bakhita refused to leave the Canossian Sisters’ convent and was found by a court to have been free since arriving in Italy, since slavery was illegal there.  Josephine Bakhita then became a Canossian Sister and spent five decades as a member of the religious community. After her death, Sister Josephine Bakhita was canonized and became the only patron saint of Sudan. Saint Josephine Bakhita has become an inspiration for many who fight for freedom – both physical determination and spiritual liberty.

Sister Antona Ebo, FSM (1924-2017)

Impact: Civil Rights leader

“I’m here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.”

In response to Bloody Sunday, one of history’s most gruesome assaults against Civil Rights activists, Sister Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary, made her mark as the only Black Catholic sister marching in Selma. Prior to her freedom fighting, Ebo had ambitions to attend nursing school. She was rejected many times until she was the first of three African-American women to enter the St. Mary’s Infirmary School of Nursing in St. Louis, Missouri in 1944. After earning multiple degrees, Sister Antona became a certified chaplain and was a founding member of the National Black Sisters’ Conference in 1968. Her landmark participation in the Civil Rights movement founded the rest of her life’s work in dismantling racism. Sister Antona continued her anti-racism activism for decades after Selma, participating in national movements as recent as the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri before she passed away in 2017.

Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA (1937-1990)

Impact: Nationally-recognized teacher and scholar who promoted education for Black Catholics

“I come to my church fully functioning…I bring my whole history, my tradition, my experience, my culture, my African American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gift to the church.”

In the heart of protestant Mississippi, a nine year old Thea Bowman converted to Roman Catholicism. As a teen, she joined the Fransiscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Bowman’s parents rightfully feared for their daughter’s ambitions—moving to a white majority city and religious community would prove to be a challenge for any African American, nonetheless a woman religious. Thea would spend years embracing her African American identity, resisting racism, and changing the way African Americans are received in Catholic society. Bowman spent years teaching at schools and universities until she became a consultant for intercultural awareness for the Bishop of Jackson. Here, Bowman spread her wisdom, joy and African American pride through outreach to diverse communities of the Catholic faith. Thea Bowman created and legitimized a way of worship for Black Catholics. Her life’s legacy will live on in the many institutions founded in her name, most relevantly The Sister Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation, which has raised money to put over 150 African Americans through college.

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP (Present)

Impact: founding Director of Augustus Tolton Program for African American Ministers at Catholic Theological Union

“I became a woman religious but that did not preclude my also being an educator, psychiatric social worker, community organizer, liturgist, choir director, spiritual director, and theologian.”

No list, no matter how exhaustive, could cover the depth of Sister Jamie T. Phelps’ impact on Catholic culture, society, and academia. Phelps was a teenager when she unsuccessfully attempted to join a high school run by Adrian Dominican nuns. Phelps explains that they were “concerned how she, as a young black woman, would adjust to living in all-white environment.” Only a few years would pass until Phelps returned to the Adrian Dominicans and became a Dominican sister herself. Sister Jamie Phelps continued to exert her mind and heart as she piled on professional and academic merits. After earning a doctorate from Catholic University of America, Phelps explored the intersection of sexism, racism, and economic disparities in Catholic society. Today, Sister Jamie Phelps studies these topics in her published research and teaching at various universities.

Dr. Diana L. Hayes (Present)

Impact: First Black woman to earn an S.T.D. (Doctorate of Sacred Theology)

“I am because we are—because African Americans, we see ourselves as a family.”

In her life’s work and teachings, Diana L. Hayes deconstructed the nuances of spirituality in African American Catholic culture. Hayes is the first black American woman to earn a Pontifical doctorate, Sacred Theology degree (S.T.D.) from the Catholic University of Louvain in addition to three honorary doctorates. She was a Professor of Systematic Theology in the Theology Department at Georgetown University where she specialized in Womanist Theology, Black Theology, U.S. Liberation Theologies, Contextual Theologies, Religion and Public Life, and African American and Womanist Spirituality.

Sister Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, (Present)

Impact: Current Executive Director of Pax Christi USA

“I never thought I could be a sister because I had never seen a black sister. I had never seen a sister who looked like me.”

As a child, Sister Patricia Chappell could not imagine she would become not only a Catholic sister, but the Executive Director of a large Catholic organization. Though Sister Patricia has only recently entered the national limelight as Pax Christi USA’s Executive Director, she had always been a mover and shaker working for racial justice in the Catholic sphere. In the eighties, Sister Patricia Chappell worked in vulnerable areas of Philadelphia and delivered substance-abuse intervention services to African-American youth and their families. Sister Patricia was president of the National Black Sister’s Conference in Washington and also the co-coordinator of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur’s Anti-Racism Team. On the ground, she worked as a program specialist at the Takoma Park Recreation Center in Maryland, in youth centers in Hyattsville, Maryland, and as director of youth ministry at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington. D.C. As the Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, Chappell steers the organization and the community to work for justice by organizing and speaking out on racism and other issues. Sister Patricia hopes her work and leadership will connect to everyday Catholics and bring more people into the movement.

During Black History Month and throughout the entire year, we recall the spirit-filled lives and ministries of these Black Catholic women and many others. Let us follow their example and their guidance as we work for racial justice in our communities, including our faith community, and our country.

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

February 27, 2018

Congressman Joseph Crowley represents New York’s 14 congressional district and is Chair of the House Democratic Conference. This year, Congressman Crowley received a 100% on NETWORK’s voting record for the sixth year in a row. (View the 2017 voting record.) His six-year record is the longest out of anyone currently serving in Congress. NETWORK spoke to Representative Crowley to learn about how his Catholic faith and his lived experiences inform his political decisions.

How does your faith inspire your work in Congress?
I was raised to live by the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ This has guided me in life and inspired my work in Congress. It is simple: we need to treat others with the same compassion and empathy with which we all want to be treated, and put forward just and fair-minded policies that ensure opportunity for all. This means doing the right thing and working hard to ensure that my constituents from Queens, the Bronx, and all Americans can enjoy the brighter future they and their families deserve.

What is the proudest vote you have cast this year?
I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. That’s why I voted against the so-called “American Health Care Act,” which would have stripped access to quality health care for millions, and punished children, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions. I am very proud to defend the right of Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care, but also know we must do even more to make sure health care is available to all.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced this year?
A big challenge has been President Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees, including his heartless decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has upended the lives of nearly one million talented DREAMers who contribute to their communities and the American economy. These young people have all the qualities our nation was built upon and should be welcomed here.

What about this past year has surprised you the most, politically?
I’ve been appalled by the completely inadequate response to the suffering and pain of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. President Trump and congressional Republicans have treated the victims of these natural disasters like second-class citizens, when they are as American as you and I. I visited Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and witnessed the extensive devastation there. We need to do more to ensure that everyone living there has the resources needed to rebuild and recover, and I’ve promised our fellow Americans there that the federal government commitment to them will continue for years and decades.

What policy area will you focus most on in 2018?
There are too many important policies to pick just one. But an issue I’m especially passionate about is ensuring that hard-working Americans have access to affordable housing. Housing is one of the most basic human needs and the lack of affordable housing is a crushing burden for many families in Queens and the Bronx and across the U.S. This year, I introduced the Rent Relief Act – legislation to help those struggling to balance the high costs of rent with the needs of their families. It would put money back in the pockets of renters who spend more than 30 percent of their income each month on housing. This is an extraordinary way for us to build the middle class and secure the financial stability of working men and women.

When times seem difficult, what keeps you motivated to continue working for the common good in Congress? 
My constituents in Queens and the Bronx. Meeting with them and hearing directly about their passions, dreams, and hope are always motivating and inspiring. Despite all the challenges we face, I’ll continue to defend our values and provide good solutions for my constituents and all Americans.

How have you seen policies you’ve promoted in the past positively affect your constituents and our nation?
Legislation such as the Affordable Care Act has positively improved the quality of life of my constituents and of millions of people across the nation. The ACA has expanded coverage, reduced costs, and improved our health care system. We need to continue protecting this accomplishment and come together to improve health care so every American has access to affordable and quality care.

You voted with NETWORK 100% of the time for the past six years, which is the longest record for any current members of Congress. How does it feel?
Extremely honored. From protecting and improving our health care system to creating economic opportunity – my positions on our nation’s most pressing issues are always guided by the common good. I’m proud to be an ally of NETWORK in working toward economic and social transformation in our communities.

Do you have any advice for advocates inspired by their faith to engage in politics?
Turn your faith into action and never underestimate the power of your voice. Now more than ever, your engagement is making a difference.

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

Family Reunification is the Heart of Immigration

Family Reunification is the Heart of Immigration

Sister Bernadine Karge, OP
February 22, 2018

May I share the immigration story of the Gomez* Family whom I met more than 13 years ago?

Mr. Gomez* had come to the United States in the early 1980’s to work to support his wife, and children in Mexico. When the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) went into effect in 1987, Mr. Gomez applied for temporary resident status during the one year application time. He successfully proved that he had entered the U.S. without documents, lived here without documents since 1/1/82, had provided for himself, paid taxes and was a person of good moral character. After the required time as a temporary resident, he became a permanent resident in 1992. One aspect of the 1986 law was that there were no derivative beneficiaries. This means a spouse could not bring in his or her spouse and minor unmarried children into the country as permanent residents when she or he recieved a “green card.”

However, as a permanent resident Mr. Gomez could and did file a petition to bring his wife and unmarried children in 1992. So Mr. Gomez was living legally in the U.S. and his wife and three kids were living in Mexico. What would you do? Leave your wife and kids in another country or bring them here? The latter, no doubt, which is what the Gomez family did-reunite the family. The children attended school here in the U.S. and the sons began working with their dad in the factory when they were old enough.

When I first met the family, in 2005, their number in the second preference visa category was not current. They patiently waited in line for a visa number to become available. Two years later in July 2007, their number became available, but the older son was over 21. Would he be able to immigrate with his mother as a derivative along with his younger brother and sister? Each family member, mom and three kids had to file a separate petition, get a medical examination, do fingerprints and a background check. This cost the family about $5000 in application, medical and biometrics fees before fees increased at the end of July 2007!

In November 2007, the family went for an interview at the immigration office in Chicago. Thanks to the Child Status Protection Act and its intricate formula for protecting “child status” the immigration officer agreed with us that the older son was under 21 for immigration purposes. Mr. Gomez’s wife and the three children were granted permanent resident status at the end of 2007 – 20 years after dad first applied!

The daughter graduated from grade school and high school. She became a U.S. citizen when she turned 18 and graduated from college last June. The sons have married, immigrated their wives and are raising their children in Chicago. Family is the chain that binds us. Family reunification is the foundation of U.S. immigration law.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family

Sister Bernadine Karge is a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister and a former “Nun on the Bus.”

My Family’s Immigration Story

My Family’s Immigration Story

Monsieree de Castro
February 21, 2018

Allow me to tell you all a (very common) story about “chain migration,” a portion of the immigration system the current administration and members of Congress are trying to eliminate.

In 1977, my father was petitioned by my aunt, who was living in Seattle, to come join her in the United States using the sibling category of family reunification (what some offensively refer to as “chain migration”). The waiting process for family visas can take decades, and my father waited 17 years to have his papers approved for him to come to the United States. It wasn’t until 1994 that we as a family finally stepped foot on American soil for the first time.

It has been 24 years of struggling in a country that more often than not makes you feel unwanted for your brown skin and foreign customs, but also 24 years filled with triumphs and success. My parents have held multiple jobs since we first came to this country, from caregiver to custodian. Today, our family has grown and my siblings and I lead successful lives and are all contributing taxpayers and members of the community. Of my siblings, we currently have a Director working in social services at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, an IT professional working for Paul Allen’s business/philanthropy, an accountant providing her skills at a hospital, and finally, the youngest and most Americanized sibling, foolishly pursuing her dreams in the most American way possible; living and working in politics in Washington DC hoping to contribute to the country that has given so much to her. Additionally, major props to my awesome parents and each of my siblings who all own their own homes, collectively owning 5 pieces of real estate across the Seattle area (I’m clearly the millennial of the clan, probably eating avocado toast instead of buying a house).

My family’s story is not at all unique. This is the story of millions of Americans who come here seeking the opportunity for a better life. This is the simplified version of the story, leaving out the heartaches of visas that were never approved after years of waiting, and parts of our family that continue to be split apart (no, you can’t “bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” there are countless restrictions). This is also the story of a privileged family that was lucky enough to have a pathway to pursue the American dream and citizenship, and had the economic stability to wait 17 years to have a visa approved.

The current administration claims that the program that allowed my family to come and succeed in the United States needs to be eliminated for the sake of the “economy and the future of America”. But Mr. President, I am CERTAIN that allowing families like mine to be welcomed into this country is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the success of our economy and future of our great nation.

Monsieree de Castro is a former NETWORK associate. She currently works at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

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.

Honoring Melba Pattillo Beals

Honoring Melba Pattillo Beals

Mary Cunningham
February 9, 2018

“The task that remains is to cope with our interdependence – to see ourselves reflected in every other human being and to respect and honor our differences.”-Melba Pattillo Beals

Two years ago a friend and I got into a deep conversation about faith. We navigated the winding roads of what it means to believe in God, where we felt God’s presence, and how to maintain our faith when met with resistance. After our conversation my friend recommended a book to me – Warriors Don’t Cry, a memoir written by Melba Pattillo Beals about her experience integrating Little Rock High in Arkansas.

A few months later, I bought the book and was ready to delve in. As I sat down to read, Melba’s words washed heavy over me. I was pulled out of my own world of petty fears into the sharp reality of a young girl who feared for her life because of the color of her skin; at age 14, Melba was forced to grow up fast, saddened by the childhood experiences she never got to have. My friend and I talked about how to maintain faith during moments of resistance, but this was on a whole other level.

Melba Pattillo Beals was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African American students chosen to integrate the all-white Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957 following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954. Upon entering Little Rock High School on the first day of classes, a huge white mob shouting racial slurs and threats greeted Melba and the other students. Melba and her mom barely escaped. Even when the students were finally able to enter the school, they were harassed and condemned by white peers, teachers and staff members. Melba had peanut and glass smeared on her seat, she was tripped, pushed, and almost blinded by a student who threw acid into her eyes. President Eisenhower sent in members of the 101st Airborne Division to accompany the students to and from their classes just because the violence was so bad. Physically and mentally tormented, Melba’s faith and her family support remained her inner strength. Despite all the hatred around her, she continued to push forward, paving the way for women and men of color who came after her.

Warriors Don’t Cry woke me up. It made me realize how powerful it is when men and women – particularly people of color — are brave enough to go against the grain to fight for their rights and whose inner strength defies the often negative, hateful world we live in. They are the ones pushing against, resisting, and reshaping our society. I am inspired by Melba who despite all the negative energy around her, not only managed to persist, but managed to trust in God and to forgive. Even when she was stripped down to survival mode, she prevailed.

The book also forced me to identify and confront my own white privilege. Melba and other women and men of color have made sacrifices and continue to make sacrifices that I know as a white woman I will never have to face. I will never undergo racial discrimination, physical attacks, or fear for my life because of the color of my skin. Instances of racism like the ones in Melba’s story may seem less prevalent in today’s society. However, they still exist – just in varying forms. Racism is entrenched in our society, its practices, its institutions. And white privilege continues to inform our outlook and our actions. In order to truly confront these issues, we need to go beyond our comfort zones, educate ourselves, and truly confront our own white privilege if we are not men and women of color. Black History Month is a great time to start this journey. I am honored to share Melba’s story in hopes that others will take the time to learn about the amazing African American men and women who have moved our nation forward and made us more racially accountable.

The Legacy of the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Legacy of the Family and Medical Leave Act

Tralonne Shorter
February 5, 2018

It’s hard to imagine that 25 years ago, pregnancy was a cause for termination. Back then, pregnancy discrimination was a legal workplace norm in which pregnant women were regularly fired from jobs, demoted, and denied interviews or access to health benefits. Moreover, women of color−who traditionally are more likely to hold caretaking responsibilities for young children, spouses and aging parents−faced greater barriers to sustaining employment.

The passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted on February 5, 1993, granted employees legal protections to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” The law permits 12 weeks of unpaid leave allowing parents to care for and bond with new babies or adopted children; and 26 weeks of intermittent leave to care for sick relatives. Over the years, the law has been expanded to provide protections for military service members, private contractors, and airline flight personnel. Today the law has been used more than 200 million times, including twice by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was the primary breadwinner in her family at the time. Unfortunately, FMLA does not provide paid benefits and is available to fewer than 60 percent of workers because many can’t afford to take it. Only a handful of states have passed their own laws that would provide paid leave to employees for reasons beyond maternity leave such as: paternity, bereavement, or paid sick leave for men, women and domestic violence victims.

Our faith bestows great value to the institution of family. One example is the highly regarded historical woman who was a devoted wife, mother and business woman, seamlessly managing work-life balance, much to the chagrin of the modern woman. Today, technological advancements have revolutionized the way we connect at home and in the workplace. Employees can connect to email, video conferencing, cell phones, and text messaging, permitting round the clock productivity and virtually eliminating the need for physical presence in the workplace. Yet, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide paid leave benefits.

Employers’ efforts to place profits over people diminish the common good and devalue the important roles of women and men within our families, the economy, and the workplace. Today more and more dads are requesting parental leave, same-sex couples are welcoming children, adult children are caring for aging parents, the loss of a loved one devastates an entire family, and domestic violence victims deserve time to recover and heal. Thus it is time for Congress to pass an updated law that requires employers to develop personnel policies that reflect 21st century norms without shortchanging employees.

25 years ago, I was a carefree, high school senior—determined to make my mark in Washington.  Today, I am a social justice advocate and also the mother of a three-year-old son, a partner, and primary breadwinner. I am grateful for the opportunity to work at NETWORK Lobby, a social justice organization I that provides a paid maternity leave policy and truly supports families. It is my sincere hope that 25 years from now, my son will reap the benefits of our collective efforts to create a new world where employers in the United States prioritize family-friendly workplace benefits and policies.