from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director
Partial content* expanded from Advocacy Connections: June 2020
NATIONAL ATTENTION ON POLICE VIOLENCE AND RACISM: The ELCA recently signed a letter to Congress with a coalition organized through The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights. The letter included specific policy recommendations for just police reform. Campaign Zero, a comprehensive platform of research-based policy solutions to end police brutality in America supported by the ELCA since 2016, also includes insights around barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight; more available from ELCA.org/BlackLivesMatter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a planned June 16 hearing on potential policing proposals, stating protests show it is clear that police use of force should be discussed. Un-passed bills introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) have received new life in policy discussions in the House of Representatives, including a 2014 proposal to track incidents of police violence nationally and a 2015 bill that would require independent prosecutors in violent incidents.
COVID-19 LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE: The House of Representatives on May 15 passed a second economic supplemental bill (The HEROES Act). The $3.5 trillion dollar package included almost all of ELCA Advocacy’s top domestic priorities– including expanding low-income housing, nutrition and unemployment benefits. However, the passed bill did not include any additional funding for an international response.
It is unclear whether the Senate will take up all the provisions of the House-passed bill. ELCA Advocacy is working with partners to ensure that the next Senate supplemental bill will include funding for international response. An active action alert encouraging the U.S. Senate to take action can be found at ELCA.org/advocacy/actioncenter.
COMPOUNDED MIGRANT CONCERNS: The COVID-19 pandemic as well as federal government response to it have widely disrupted the U.S. immigration system. The ELCA with 250 others signed a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security “to immediately halt expulsions of unaccompanied children and those seeking humanitarian protection and restore the rule of law at our borders” and the CDC to rescind its May 20 order.
Under the CDC order, border officers are expelling some Central American children and asylum seekers to Mexico. The letter indicates reversing the order could allow for the entry and processing of people seeking refuge in the United States. The letter concludes: “Decisions relating to COVID-19 should be aimed at saving, not endangering lives, and should be driven by evidence-based public health measures and respect for human rights.”
PROTECTING VOTING RIGHTS DURING THE PANDEMIC: “Administering elections during a pandemic is new territory for the [U.S.]. But we do not have to choose between public health and a functioning democracy,” reads a letter to members of Congress signed by the ELCA with a coalition of faith-based organizations. It welcomed CARES Act funds for elections but requested more in the next response package “for the Election Assistance Commission to uphold a safe and secure general election and to support states and localities still facing risks with primary elections.”
“We must have as many safe voting opportunities as possible,” reads the letter, which names no-excuse absentee voting with prepaid postage, an extended voter registration period, same day registration, election day contingency plans and online voter registration among other supportable practices.