Category Archives: Women and Families

How Will We Answer the Summons?

How Will We Answer the Summons?

Rebecca Eastwood
May 9, 2018

Although I have lived in Washington, DC for the past four years and have grown and learned so much in our nation’s capital, I will always be a proud Iowan.

Often confused with places like Ohio or Idaho, Iowa is known for things like corn and caucuses. The events of May 12, 2008, however, permanently marked Iowa on the map for a different reason.

Headlines in the weeks that followed read:

Immigration Raid Jars Small Town

Immigration Raid at Meat Processing Plant in Iowa Largest Ever in US

I was 16 at the time and attended high school in Decorah, IA. When the news reached our classrooms that day of helicopters and federal agents surrounding the meatpacking plant in Postville, the town next door, I was confronted with the reality of our broken immigration system that, because of my privileged background, I never before had to consider.

We would soon learn in the hours and days following that what transpired was the largest worksite immigration raid (at that time) in U.S. history. As I reflect on the events that day ten years ago I recognize it as the moment that truly summoned me to social justice work.

For a town of approximately 2,400, Postville was one of the most diverse communities in Northeast Iowa. In addition to a number of other distinct communities, Postville was home to a large Latino/a population. Drawn by the promise of opportunity, education, and safety, families set down roots in Postville.

The raid tore these roots apart. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested almost 400 people working at the kosher meatpacking plant, AgriProcessors, in the span of a few hours. Agents descended on the plant, chased, shackled, and carted away mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers.

Children came home from school to empty houses. Community members took refuge at St. Bridget’s, the local Catholic church, terrified they would be next or that they would never see their family members again. The raid upended the schools, economy, and families of this small community.

In the chaotic weeks following, the local community stepped up to attempt to repair what our federal government had ripped apart. Centered in St. Bridget’s, volunteers helped people find their family members, the majority of whom were detained in the Cattle Congress buildings, prosecuted en masse, and eventually deported.

Through this response effort, I spent some time volunteering, mostly using my high school Spanish to entertain children while their family members did all they could to pull their lives back together.

This experience would never leave me. I could not forget the child asking when they would see their dad again or the mother trying to keep her family fed while wearing an ankle monitor. I was shaken out of my complacency and forced to answer the question: who am I summoned to be in the face of this injustice? Answering that question led me to Washington, DC to advocate for policies that would keep families together and uphold the dignity of migrants- attempting to prevent other communities from experiencing the same trauma as Postville.

The raid seared into our collective memory the devastating impact of inhumane immigration policies. We no longer need to look back a decade, however, to remember the suffering caused by immigration raids.

Only one month ago, ICE conducted the largest worksite raid of the Trump administration. The circumstances were all too familiar: agents surrounded a meatpacking plant in Tennessee. They arrested nearly 100 people. Terrified families gathered at the local Catholic church for support.

In the past year, the federal government has targeted thousands for detention and deportation, including those who have lived here for decades. They have systematically rescinded legal status for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). They are separating families seeking safety at our southern border.

Who are we as a nation summoned to be in the face of these injustices? Will we challenge harsh, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy? Will we demand a system that recognizes migrants as whole persons worthy of dignity? As people around the country observe the ten-year anniversary of the raid we pray that in answering this summons we will never mark another anniversary like this.

Postville is everywhere. How will we respond?

Becca is the Advocacy Coordinator for the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, DC. The Columban Center is the national advocacy office for the Columban fathers, a Catholic order of priests and lay missionaries living and serving in 15 countries. Her advocacy work focuses on immigration, environmental, and economic policy.

The Trump Administration’s Attacks on Immigrant Families

The Trump Administration’s Attacks on Immigrant Families

Sana Rizvi
May 2, 2018

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Trump administration has anti-immigrant policies, considering our current president won an entire campaign on an explicitly anti-immigrant platform. Yet, I am still outraged by the horrific nature of these policies and how they have attacked the very foundation of our society: families.

How can we not be outraged? When did our political leaders forget the value and sacredness of family?

I have heard my entire life that our nation is a nation of immigrants. If that is (at least partially) true, why do we treat immigrants in this country today as second-class citizens? Why do we allow our government to tear immigrant families—people who came to this country for safety and security—apart?

Over the past few months, as advocates fought to keep DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in the news cycle, the Administration took action to uproot our immigrant communities by ramping up detentions and intentionally separating children from their parents.

Here are just a few examples:

On October 24, 2017, Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy, was arrested by border agents while being taken into surgery. National outrage came swiftly, and it was a rare moment of national spotlight, which led Rosa Maria to be released on November 3, 2017.

A few weeks later, 1-year-old Mateo was separated from his father, who was applying for asylum as a family unit at the same time as several other families. Onlookers who resisted the separation of father and son were forcibly told by the arresting officer that doing so would hurt their own claims for asylum. The four children taken during that encounter were then processed as unaccompanied minors and sent to foster care in separate states.[i]

In March, a Congolese woman was finally reunited with her 7-year-old daughter after being separated from her for several months by almost 2,000 miles, a situation DHS Secretary Nielsen herself could not rationalize.[ii]

These are just a few recent examples, but the everyday reality is that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is systematically seeking to separate parents from their children. [iii]

In Islam, heaven is under your mother’s feet and looking at your parents with love is considered a form of worship. Woe to those who tear children away from heaven.

As a person of faith, I am deeply troubled by the leniency our collective conscience has allowed to those who tear families apart in the name of national security. Family separation has gone from a once-abhorred policy to being a common state-sanctioned practice.

Two recent ICE directives have made this possible: The first instructed agents on how to separate children from their parents, removing key elements of earlier policies that allowed prosecutorial discretion to provide assistance to parents who need help retaining their parental rights in immigration courts. The second changed an ICE policy to begin long-term detainment of pregnant women, despite multiple lawsuits and reports of miscarriages occurring from the conditions of detention.[iv]

One of the most memorable verses in the Quran asks “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (Quran 4:97) Every time I read it, I am reminded that we erected strict borders, even though God asked us to never turn away people who come to your door in need.

What excuses will we make in front of God when asked why we treated our neighbors as criminals and increased their suffering when they came to us for help? What will we say when we are shown the children who fled to a country they did not know and were torn from their mothers?

[i] “Five Outrageous ways ICE Separates Families” Amnesty International USA. Dec. 18, 2017. https://medium.com/@amnestyusa/five-outrageous-ways-ice-separates-families-fe0452653272

[ii] “Durbin says Homeland Security admits separating Congolese mother and child ‘a mistake’” Chicago Tribune. March 7, 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/huppke/ct-met-congo-family-separated-immigration-huppke-20180307-story.html

[iii] Our friends at Hope Border Institute recently published a report of asylum seekers at the El Paso Sector of the border being deterred from entry through cases of family separation and the horrific conditions of detention, find that report and more resources here: https://www.hopeborder.org/sealing-the-border

[iv]  “Detained  Women Suffering Miscarriages Due to ICE Negligence, Activists Say” NETA February 12, 2018 https://netargv.com/2018/02/12/detained-women-suffering-miscarriages-due-ice-negligence-activists-say/

Arrest a Nun, Not a Dreamer

“Arrest a Nun, Not a Dreamer”

Mary Cunningham
April 25, 2018

Catholic sisters held these signs as they gathered with around 200 other advocates during the National Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers on February 27, 2018. Members of the Catholic community met on Capitol Hill to demand a legislative solution from Congress for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients who face uncertainty about their legal status in the United States. PICO National Network organized the day of events along with Catholic organizations including: Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., Franciscan Action Network, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Pax Christi USA, and NETWORK.

The event highlighted Dreamers’ precarious position and called on advocates and people of faith to move towards action. Sister Quincy Howard, OP, a Government Relations Fellow at NETWORK, attended and reflected on the way we are treating Dreamers in this country: “I hope that people’s eyes and hearts can be opened to the suffering of these young people who have done nothing wrong. Dreamers are our teachers, our students, and our neighbors, and our government is currently threatening them with exile from the only home they know.”

The day began with a press conference outside the Capitol building with speeches from Sister JoAnn Persch, RSM, Father Tom Reese, SJ, and others. After the speeches, the attendees recited the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary together. The crowd then moved into the Russell Senate Office Building and those who chose to participate in the civil disobedience formed a circle, singing and praying together in the center of the rotunda. After issuing several warnings, Capitol police arrested around 40 Catholic leaders, many of them women religious.

Sisters participated in the act of civil disobedience because they felt it was a moral imperative and a small sacrifice compared to the lived experience of the Dreamers. Sister Diane Roche, RSCJ, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation at the Stuart Center in Washington, D.C. said “If there is an issue worth getting arrested for, this is it. This is my first time ever, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do to stand in solidarity. It is a small enough thing compared to what they are going through.”

The action was a stark reminder that although Dreamers and supporters are organizing and advocating tirelessly, Congress has still failed to pass a legislative solution that will protect them from deportation. Each day that goes by, Dreamers face more uncertainty about their future.

As Sister Ann Scholz, SSND,  LCWR Associate Director for Social Mission and NETWORK Board member, said: “Our mission as Christians is to welcome those who are in need as we would welcome Jesus. So really, we can do no other than be here today to stand with Dreamers and ask our elected officials to provide the welcome that is theirs because they are created in the image of God just as we are.

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

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Let’s Change Course Starting This Tax Day

Let’s Change Course Starting This Tax Day

Simone Campbell, SSS
April 17, 2018

I’m usually proud to pay my taxes, but this year is different.

Ordinarily I am glad to contribute to the common good. I’m glad that some of my taxes go to fund food programs and housing programs for so many in our nation who have been excluded from economic prosperity. I delight in paying my taxes to fund the education of the next generation. I am glad to pay my taxes to support critical healthcare for so many in our nation. I still criticize the amount of money going to the military for violence in our world, but I do my part even in that.

I am glad to contribute my part to “forming a more perfect Union.” It is part of my Catholic faith to contribute to the common good. In the past, I have delighted in faithfully, patriotically doing my part.

But this year is different. I am haunted by the fact that this year is the last time that our current tax code will be in effect. The Republican-controlled House, Senate, and White House enacted a new tax code in December 2017. This new code increases our national deficit by $3 trillion dollars by shifting yet more money to corporations and those at the very top of the income scale.

This same dramatic decline in federal revenue is also the excuse that some Republicans, like Speaker Paul Ryan, are already using to explain why the government must cut funding for food to feed hungry children or senior citizens. It is the same excuse that politicians are using to claim our nation cannot afford to provide access to quality, affordable, equitable, accessible health care. It is the same excuse that they are using to say that it is all right if our families don’t have a place to live, because we refuse to invest in affordable housing. Our Republican elected officials are saying it is all right if the income and wealth gap in our nation continues to grow and our low-wage working families continue to suffer.

In short, the Republicans in Congress are proud that they are creating even bigger economic divides in our nation through their skewed tax policy.

But I know that their preference-the-rich policy does not faithfully support our people or our national needs. It fails the Pope Francis test when he says, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” (Joy of the Gospel, 203). It fails the Jesus test when he instructs us to love our neighbors. It fails the test of the Hebrew Scriptures that call on us to care for the orphan and the widow.

This tax policy fails any faith test. We as a nation will be judged because of it.

But that is not all. In our diverse society, not all of us are people of faith. But what we do share in common is our founding document of the Constitution. The key is found in the preamble where we assert “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…insure domestic Tranquility…promote the general Welfare.”

This profoundly flawed Republican tax law is undermining our Union. It promotes the welfare of the few over the many. It sows the seeds of social discord by preferencing those who already have so much.

This tax law makes me weep for who we have become as a nation. We are failing our people. President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

This Tax Day, let us resolve to change course. Let us set our sights on the common good, not individual wealth. Let us as a nation raise reasonable revenue for responsible programs. This is what will make America great again.

Originally published at https://www.redletterchristians.org

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

What Are Members of Congress Saying on Public Charge?

NETWORK will be updating this page with the latest statements.

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

The original letter can be found here.

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

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

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

Original post with statements can be found here.

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

Mary Cunningham
April 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still Striving for Equal Pay

Still Striving for Equal Pay

Tralonne Shorter
April 10, 2018

Today is Equal Pay Day and it marks another reminder that the vestiges of “separate and unequal” persist.

Last week thousands of advocates across the country joined together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Upon reflection, despite the progression of political and economic gains by many women and people of color over the past 50 years, today’s issues of racial, gender and economic inequality have little variance from the issues that similarly unified those who marched alongside Dr. King 50 years ago.

For women, especially women of color, the journey for equal justice and opportunity is long and arduous. Women make just 80 cents for every dollar a man does. African American, Latina, and Native women are the most disadvantaged by the gender wage gap because they earn the least of all women– between 56 cents to 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

Furthermore, in 4 out of 10 households with children, women are the primary or sole breadwinner in their household, yet many of these women are employed by companies and organizations that penalize them for being a working woman. Women of color in particular, are traditionally more likely to have caretaking responsibilities for young children, spouses, and aging parents and face greater barriers to sustaining employment. Without mandated paid family and medical leave benefits, women must decide whether it’s more affordable to take a loss in wages in order to have a baby or care for themselves, a sick child, or relative.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits despite technological advances that have revolutionized the way we connect at home and in the workplace. The reality is women are here to stay in the workplace.  Yet, laws and policies that govern worker pay and benefits promote a time-warped, second-class society.  Women who do the same work as men, must be afforded equal pay.   The doctrine of separate and unequal must be laid to rest. As people of faith, we bear the burden of being intolerant and outraged by systemic efforts to divide us and are called to work for justice.

Undocumented Immigrants Deserve Mercy

Undocumented Immigrants Deserve Mercy

David D. Porter
March 28, 2018

Next time you hear the President whipping crowds into a frenzy by promising to build The Wall or attacking “illegal immigrants” there are a few facts you need to know.

Last weekend I got a real education on the topic of undocumented immigrants while visiting my daughter in Cincinnati. We attended a presentation by Nuns on the Bus, a progressive group of Catholic nuns who are social-justice warriors, (I have a soft spot for nuns because I was educated by Dominican sisters.)

Justice and humane treatment of undocumented immigrants are among the causes the sisters and their supporters fight for.

During this Lenten season it’s worth remembering that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were undocumented immigrants.

Here are a few questions for you to consider:

What would you do if every other night death squads swept through your town randomly kidnapping and killing people?

What if there were no jobs and your children were starving?

What would you do?

I don’t know about you, but if those dangerous situations dominated my home country, I would do everything within my power to escape.

Those are the conditions and choices people in many places around the world face. Their only hope for survival is to leave and become refugees. And yes, some of them come to the United States without documentation because, frankly, getting legal long-term or permanent residency in the United States is next to impossible — unless you’re wealthy or white.

What happens to many of these undocumented immigrants in the United States is heartbreaking.

First, here are a few facts provided by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center:

  • There are 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
  • 8 million are currently in the workforce (Think they’re stealing jobs from hard-working Americans? Well why don’t you go down to Plant City, Florida, and pick tomatoes from sun up to sun down.)
  • 10.2 million have never been convicted of a crime (that’s 92.5% of undocumented immigrants.

Here’s the real kicker.

These undocumented immigrants, who include children, are being hunted day and night by federal agents.

When caught they are put in prison as though they are murderers and held pending deportation hearings. Some have been held for as long as four years. Many don’t have access to lawyers or anyone to help them.

  • More than 350,000 of them are currently being held behind bars.
  • More than 260,000 of them are being held in private, for profit jails and prisons. (Most of them didn’t steal anything or hurt anyone.)

You see, it’s not really about homeland security, or protecting our borders. It’s about keeping jail beds full, especially in the for-profit jails and prisons.

The private-prison industry has donated millions to Congressional candidates. One private prison company donated $250,000 for Trump’s inaugural celebration festivities.

Ultimately, it’s the taxpayers who take the weight. We’re paying an average of $20,000 a year per undocumented immigrant to keep them locked up.

Nationally the annual detention budget for undocumented immigrants is $2.6 billion of taxpayer dollars.

It’s a money thing. People are getting rich off imprisoning desperate refugees. Don’t take my word for it, click here to read an article reported by National Public Radio.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Emma Lazarus had in mind when she wrote the poem inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Shame on us!

David D. Porter is an Orlando-based writer and the son of an immigrant.

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Agriculture

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

Department of Commerce

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

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

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

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

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

Department of Homeland Security

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

Department of Labor

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

The Acute Need for an Accurate Census

The Acute Need for an Accurate Census

Mary Cunningham
March 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.