from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director
COVID-19 OUTBREAK: With daily developments in the spread and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak, our anxiety and uncertainty tempt us to curve inward and fixate on self-preservation. Last week, Congress passed emergency funding to bolster local, state and federal governments’ public health response to the virus. This is an important first step, but we must do more so that our nation’s economic and health care systems work together to minimize the impact of the outbreak on poor and low-wealth communities, the elderly and other vulnerable people. ELCA congregations and ministries are responding to the outbreak in their communities to ensure the health and safety of worshipers, staff and neighbors by adopting practices to prevent or slow transmission of COVID-19. But as church in this pandemic, we can also illuminate the impact on our most vulnerable neighbors. God calls us to stand by them in advocating for dignity, equity and justice, and ELCA Advocacy staff are monitoring the situation for policy-response opportunities for our network.
LANDMINES: On Jan. 31 the Trump administration announced a decision to lift existing U.S. prohibitions against the use of landmines, saying the prohibition could put U.S. troops at a “severe disadvantage.” As a member of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, the ELCA signed a public statement, posted Feb. 20, that opposes the action. It says in part, “Landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons that maim and kill long after conflicts end.” It concludes, “To roll back the progress the global community has made would not only be a tragedy but an affront to the dignity of landmine survivors around the world.”
The Jan. 31 action reverses a 2014 Obama administration ban on the use of such weapons, which applied worldwide except in the defense of South Korea. Lifting the prohibition represents a break with many nations around the globe that have banned landmine use, including more than 160 countries that are party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (known as the Mine Ban Treaty), agreed on in 1997 and implemented in 1999. Take action through the ELCA Action Center.
HMONG AND LAOTIAN DEPORTATIONS: Laotian and Hmong refugees are preparing to face a possible increase in deportations, in part because the U.S. government is funding a reintegration program to help Laos accept nationals with final orders of removal. Concern is being felt by congregations and members, particularly in the Minneapolis Area Synod, Saint Paul Area Synod and East-Central Synod of Wisconsin. St. Paul, Minn., has the largest Hmong population per capita in the United States (28,591 Hmong Americans, or 10%), followed by Wausau, Wisc. (3,569, or 9.1%).
Lao, Hmong and other Laotian ethnic groups fled the Southeast Asian country after a nine-year bombing campaign by the United States during the Laotian Civil War, which ended in 1975. Many of those refugees resettled in the United States, which is home to about 186,000 foreign-born Laotians, according to the 2017 American Community Survey, as reported by NBC News. On Feb. 28, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) introduced a bill that would prohibit the administration from deporting individuals to Laos.
FISCAL YEAR 2021 BUDGET PRESENTED TO CONGRESS: President Trump presented Congress with his fiscal year 2021 budget, which includes a number of proposals rejected by Congress when they were included in previous budget proposals. Proposed cuts to SNAP amount to $181.9 billion over 10 years. With all our interfaith partners, we will work with Congress to reject these efforts once again.
FAIR-HOUSING RULE UPDATE: Through March 13, public comments can be submitted through the ELCA Advocacy Action Center on a proposal that would substantially challenge prevention of discrimination in housing. Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposal, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule — first designed to help localities promote diversity and inclusivity under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and to take proactive steps to reverse the effects of housing segregation — would be rendered almost completely ineffectual.