Tag Archives: Congress

Restore Basic Function

Restore Basic Function

Fixing America’s Immigration System Starts With Updating the Registry

Congresswoman Norma J. Torres
March 7, 2023

When something isn’t working like it should—such as a car making a strange noise or a computer laboring to perform basic tasks—our human reaction is often to ignore the problem and hope that it goes away. We do this as long as possible, even as our avoidance is clearly allowing the situation to get worse.

In the United States, this is the path we have taken with our immigration system, which we have left broken and ignored for too long.

The problem is that we have no real function to allow people who come to this country, and who work hard and contribute to our communities, to pursue legal status. And because we have avoided addressing the problem, more than 10 million people in our communities live in the shadows, without legal status, and barred from full participation in society. People even wait 30-40 years in line for their documents to be processed. That is all part of the systemic failure we have seen.

We call the U.S. immigration system broken because it doesn’t perform the basic functions it’s intended to carry out.

Now, how often when we finally seek help and take a car to an auto mechanic do we hear that one little part is causing all the problems? It’s a relief and almost an embarrassment to know that our long-avoided problem has such a simple answer.

This too is reflected in U.S. immigration policy.

The Immigration Act of 1929 set up a registry to assist people who came to the U.S. without legal status. It was understood even then that we are better off knowing the people around us are not hiding in the shadows. The registry, which is still the law of the land, offered a rigorous process by which long-time residents could obtain permanent legal residence, and one of the provisions of that process was that a person resides in the U.S. before a cutoff date. Originally, this date was June 3, 1921. It has been updated four times through the years and is currently Jan. 1, 1972.

That’s a long time ago. I had just come to the U.S. two years earlier, at age 5, with my uncle, from Guatemala, which was embroiled in a dangerous civil war. I became a citizen 20 years later. The system worked for me. And that is part of why, in the 117th Congress, I co-led H.R. 8433: Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929. This bill would simply update the cutoff date that, again, exists in current law.

It shouldn’t surprise us that one little provision in our system that hasn’t moved in half a century is broken and needs to be replaced. This bill is a simple change that would have a major impact on the quality of life of so many people. People will be able to present themselves at financial institutions, register their kids at school, go to the doctor, and contact federal, state, and local agencies without being afraid because they don’t have a legal document. While it wouldn’t solve every problem for every person in the U.S. without legal status, it would be a major step forward.

For the thousands of immigrant workers, our neighbors and friends who have been in the community a long time and who have been good Americans in every way, except on paper, we have an opportunity to be better neighbors to them. Delay and avoidance will lead to only more brokenness, and now, we have a path forward.

Let us work to make our communities whole—the time to do registry is now.

Rep. Norma J. Torres represents California’s 35th District. She has served in Congress since 2015.

This story was originally published in the 4th Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Care for New Moms

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Care for New Moms

Laura Peralta-Schulte
December 19, 2022

Reflection:

When we reflect on the coming of Jesus at Christmas, one detail is very striking as a person who have given birth: God decided to incorporate the birthing of a healthy baby – under far from ideal circumstances – into the salvation plan of the world.

Everything touched by God is forever transformed. And with Christmas now so near – the birth of Jesus so imminent – we should remember that welcoming Jesus into the world means supporting something sacred: maternal health.

The U.S. faces a devastating maternal health crisis. Over 800 women died due to pregnancy or childbirth in 2020, a record high. There are two concrete ways that justice-seekers can confront this crisis right now.

Call to Action:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would guarantee pregnant workers a right to reasonable, medically-necessary accommodations, closing gaps in current law that have left too many pregnant workers unprotected for too long. Pregnant workers are routinely denied basic, temporary accommodations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. These are often as simple as a stool to sit on, a break from lifting heavy boxes, schedule changes, and protection from dangerous conditions. Many pregnant workers face undue pressures to take an often-unpaid leave of absence, which leads them to poverty. Despite current protections included in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the last time we passed any sort of legislation to protect pregnant workers), over 37,000 pregnancy discrimination charges have been filed between 2010 and 2020 with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The establishment of nationwide 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage would reduce disparities in coverage across states, eliminate racial inequities in maternal health outcomes, and end preventable maternal deaths. Extending Medicaid coverage from the current requirement of 60-days postpartum to 12-months nationwide is critical to lowering the nation’s maternal mortality rate. Medicaid covers at least 40 percent of all births in the U.S., a disproportionate number of which are to Black, Latinx, and Native American people.

Read more about NETWORK’s support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The legislative priorities not passed before the end of the 117th Congress will continue to be priorities of NETWORK in 2023 and beyond!

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut speaks at a Dec. 15 press conference urging Congress to pass the Child Tax Credit.

Champion For Families: In Conversation With Rosa DeLauro

Champion For Families: In Conversation With Rosa DeLauro

NETWORK Staff
December 15, 2022
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut speaks at a Dec. 15 press conference urging Congress to pass the Child Tax Credit.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut speaks at a Dec. 15 press conference urging Congress to pass the Child Tax Credit.

Numerous champions for Catholic Social Justice have walked the Halls of Congress since NETWORK’s founding 50 years ago, but when it comes to advocacy on behalf of families, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who has served in the House since 1991, is both peerless and tireless.

As chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, the Congresswoman is currently leading the push to get the Child Tax Credit (CTC) included with the legislation Congress must pass before the end of this session. On a recent episode of NETWORK’s podcast, Just Politics, she explained why the CTC makes such a difference in the lives of families.

The following is an excerpt of that conversation:

NETWORK: Your background is in labor organizing, and you experienced poverty early on in your life. How do these experiences shape the work that you do as a member of Congress?

Rep. DeLauro: What has had the most effect on who I am, what I’m about, and what issues I take up has to do with being brought up in an Italian Catholic family, with a mother who was a union member and a garment worker in an old sweat shop in New Haven. She used to have me meet her there every day after school. It was a dark, noisy, dirty place, with women hunched over sewing machines. They never took a lunch break. They worked as fast as they could because you got paid by the number of dresses or shirt collars that you made. Oftentimes you would get the needle in your finger, but you never went to a clinic or got a tetanus shot, you just wrapped up your hand and kept going because you had to produce in order to provide for your family. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that my mom had been showing me what the circumstances were for mostly immigrant women. So my work on workplace safety, minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work draws from that experience.

And, we were evicted when I was 9 or 10 years old—finding our possessions on the street because my parents had a tough time financially. We wound up having to live with my grandmother until we could get back up on our feet again. My parents would tell me, “Get an education, so that you don’t have to do this.” Coming from an immigrant family who believes education is the root to success, I want to make sure that we are funding education because it is the great equalizer for families.

All of these experiences propel me to work on the issues you talk about. Union organizing, equal pay, living wage, a child tax credit… that work doesn’t come from just sitting in this institution for all these years. It comes directly out of my and my family’s experience, which has been my guidepost.


NETWORK: You mentioned the Child Tax Credit, which you were able to get into the American Rescue Plan. We know that the CTC lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty in 2021. What pro-family policies are you currently working to get into Appropriations now?

Rep. DeLauro: We are not done with the CTC. It has been a lifeline for working, middle class, and vulnerable families. Some people demeaned these families by saying they wouldn’t go to work if they got a child tax credit, or that they would spend the money foolishly. But what did they spend it on? Food, clothing, diapers, childcare so that they could go to work, mortgage payments, and rent payments. Now, we need to continue to fight for the CTC.

$1.3 trillion every single year goes through the various Appropriations subcommittees. There is so much contained within Appropriations bills that has a direct effect on children, families, and workers. Title I, special education, early childhood, childcare, health, nutrition, broadband, technical schools, worker training, apprenticeships, mental health… all of these are within the Appropriations Committee purview, and they’ve had years of disinvestment. So that’s where I focus my time and attention. Our job is to make this government work for people.

With cost of living today, people are struggling, living paycheck to paycheck. During the pandemic, we saw women being pushed out of the workforce. Childcare was collapsing. These things are all integrated. It is our obligation—our moral responsibility—to address these issues so that we can have a safe and secure future.


NETWORK: You understand the intersection of labor issues and women’s issues better than just about anyone. Here at NETWORK Lobby, we strongly support a national family and medical leave program that provides comprehensive leave with progressive wage replacement, job protection for all workers, and more inclusive definitions of family. Can you tell us what might the future hold for something like paid family leave?

Rep. DeLauro: No one decides to get sick, either themselves or their family. You’re then faced with the choice of your family, your own health, or your job. I learned about family and medical leave from my work with Senator Chris Dodd. Though we could not at the time get it to be paid leave, it has been tremendously helpful. However, many cannot take advantage of it because they can’t be without wages.

To tell you my own two stories, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. I said to my then-boss, Sen. Dodd, “I’m going to the hospital.” I did not even know if I would ever return. He said to me, “Go get well, the job is here, your salary is here.” We had three kids and we were paying for their school. And two and a half months later, I went back to work and never missed a paycheck. Fast forward to 5 years ago, my mother was very ill at 103 years old, and I spent the last six weeks of her life with her. Nobody said, “You’re no longer a member of Congress.” Now if this is good enough for a staff member of an enlightened U.S. Senator, or the institution which I now serve, then it’s good for everybody else in this country. I introduced paid family and medical leave in 2013. We have made some progress on it, but we’re not there yet. We are going to continue to move!


NETWORK: You wrote a book about how these issues relate to your Catholic faith, called The Least Among Us: Waging the Battle of the Vulnerable.” What do you wish more people of faith understood about what the Gospel demands of us in the work for social justice?

Rep. DeLauro: This is so, so important to me. The rich Catholic heritage is grounded in social justice and economic justice. Leo XIII didn’t call it “social security;” he said that we have an obligation and a responsibility to take care of older people.

I was at Pope Francis’ inauguration, and he said that those of us who serve in public life have an obligation to be like Saint Joseph—to take care of family, to be inclusive, to look out for one another. I stood in St. Peter’s square with my colleague Rep. Anna Eshoo, and we were crying, because we have waited so long to hear those words. It’s who we are. It’s the ground that we stand on.

Everything that we do here impacts the wellbeing of people, and that is a responsibility. I end my book by recalling Robert Kennedy’s call to action, which is the way I feel about my faith in government. In Robert Kennedy’s words, “I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.” I dream of an American future where all agree that anyone’s poverty is all of our business.

We have to continue to spread the word. I look forward to many more years of being an ally with you!

From NETWORK: Write a Letter to the Editor Supporting the Child Tax Credit

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Welcome Their Neighbor

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Welcome Their Neighbor

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 12, 2022

Reflection:

The story is familiar. Mary and Joseph. No room at the inn. Giving birth in a barn. As Christians, spend this season commemorating their flight to Egypt where Mary gives birth to the Messiah.

Today, a “flight into the desert” evokes something different. We see and hear about families who must make the decision to leave everything they have and know in order to escape violence, crushing poverty, and other threats to their very existence. They courageously decide to make the perilous journey north. Their journey takes them north to the United States Southern Border where, instead of being welcomed with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they are questioned by border police, detained in freezing detention centers, and bussed (against their will) to northern cities as punishment.

But, aren’t migrants today’s version of the Holy Family? Both flee with the hope of safety and an opportunity for their children to flourish. Instead, the United States, the richest country in their world, punishes migrants at every turn by invoking punitive immigrantion polices and refusing to act on legislation that could transform the lives of our immigrant neighbors living in the United States.

Yes, Advent is a time of waiting, but it is also a time of welcoming and a time of change. In 2013, Pope Francis said, “Migrants and refugees are. Or pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” Our immigrant neighbors have waited far too long and have been used as scapegoats in political play. Now is the time to create a pathway to citizenship to the more than 689,000 individuals who have DACA.

¡Que Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us.

Call to Action:

It is beyond time for just and humane immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship through federal legislation. Join NETWORK Lobby in calling for Congress to act NOW!

Denying undocumented communities a pathway to citizenship holds us back from having a thriving society where everyone is valued. There is no doubt the contributions of immigrant youth, farmworkers, DACA and TPS holders are essential for our communities and our country.

Tell Congress to act now to pass a pathway to citizenship!