from the ELCA Witnessing in Society office in Washington, D.C.
Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: February 2021
POLICY RESPONSE TO COVID-19 IMPACTS CONTINUES: ELCA advocacy staff is analyzing the new Biden Administration and congressional activity for the new round of COVID-19 legislation while working to ensure that minoritized groups and Native American nations are an important focus in light of our understandings of the disproportionate health and economic impacts the pandemic has had on those of us historically and contemporarily impacted adversely by systemic racism. An open letter to Congress from the Circle of Protection, which the ELCA is part of, asked that the relief legislation addresses the “concurrent crises of the pandemic, economic recession, and systemic racism.” Hill visits on COVID-19 relief are ongoing.
The ELCA Program Director for Housing and Human Services prepared a letter for House and Senate committees, compiling recommendations from multiple service provider partners. Distributed in early February, it highlights the need to invest more in rent relief and housing aid for the most vulnerable in our communities, the work of congregations to address homelessness, and the anticipated looming eviction crisis if Congress fails to act. Use the Action Alert to share your experiences and urge priorities as pressing policy decisions on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are made.
INTERNATIONAL PANDEMIC RELIEF – ELCA staff continues to meet with members of Congress to advocate for inclusion of funding for international COVID-19 relief in the next COVID-19 package. A target allocation of $20 billion would be used in various global health programs such as vaccines, PPEs, etc., as well as humanitarian and economic relief.
On Dec. 8, the ELCA joined a letter with other faith groups to then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer calling on that office during this global health emergency to commit to a just and equitable policy toward the development, manufacture, and distribution of a vaccine. The ELCA continues to call on the Biden Administration to remove barriers to vaccine production and promote equitable distribution globally.
TPS UPDATE AND FORCED DISPLACEMENT – As part of the ELCA’s engagement on public policy issues affecting immigrants in the U.S. and outside, we welcome news of extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria. Years of conflict and instability have created conditions in the country that prevent their safe return.
There are multiple co-related factors contributing to forced displacement across the globe. In Cameroon, for example, escalating violence across the north-and south-west regions of the country have forced many to flee their homes. These conditions prevent the safe return of Cameroonians in the U.S. The ELCA initiated and delivered a letter on Jan. 20 from over 130 faith leaders and organizations to the Biden Administration on the urgency for designating conditional immigration status to people from Cameroon. It is part of our ongoing engagement with issues concerning Black migrants.
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO YEMEN – On Feb. 5, the State Department confirmed Houthi rebels in Yemen will be removed from designation as a foreign terrorist administration. The ELCA had urged this action, as the designation hampered delivery of humanitarian assistance to millions of civilians in Yemen.
Early in January the ELCA signed onto a letter to President Biden and the new Secretary of State urging reversal of the designation made by the Trump Administration and cessation of selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have been traced to use against civilians in Yemen. It is estimated that 80% of the population of Yemen needs humanitarian assistance. The Biden Administration has recently announced a pause and review of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and avenues of humanitarian aid to Yemen, were 80% of the population needs humanitarian assistance, are again opening.
WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF FAITH-BASED AND NEIGHBORHOOD PARTNERSHIPS – On Feb. 14, relaunching of a White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships by signing of an executive order was announced by the White House. The Washington Interreligious Staff Community including the ELCA signed a Jan. 21 letter requesting the entity’s reestablishment. ELCA staff look forward to meeting with the new Executive Director, Melissa Rogers, on February 19.
The letter read in part: “The voice of the faith community provides an important component in the deliverance, planning and implementation of policy and can inform the writing of legislation. People of faith see engagement with government as a fundamental part of the workings of democracy. The work of government must be wise and compassionate as it pursues policies for the common good. Engagement with the faith community enhances the work of government and enables it to be better informed on decisions to be made.”