from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director
Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: May 2023
DEBT CEILING: The debt ceiling debate in Congress is reaching fever pitch following announcement by the Department of Treasury that the United States could hit its debt limit close to June 1. There are significant implications should the nation default on its debt including funds for Social Security, veterans benefits and more. Though we encourage lawmakers to spend within our means, spending cuts should not fall hardest on those of us who rely on public programs for daily subsistence. A call-in Action Alert invites us to call our lawmakers to encourage them to protect the integrity of antipoverty programs in any final debt ceiling deal.
House Republican leadership in late April passed a debt ceiling bill by a narrow margin (217-215) that would flatten non-defense discretionary funding to fiscal year 2022 levels – a cut that would essentially lead to a 22% decline in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing programs according to HUD Sec. Marcia Fudge, among other impacts. Some form of a debt-ceiling raising bill will be needed before treasury runs out of emergency measures to pay U.S. obligations, and unified House leadership indicate determination to come to some compromise measure. Encouraging lawmakers to pass a clean proposal will be a top priority in the coming weeks. The process remains entrenched.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE EXECUTIVE ORDER: President Biden signed an executive order directing every single federal agency to work toward “environmental justice for all” and improve the lives of communities hit hardest by toxic pollution and climate change. Among other things, the order will establish a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House to coordinate efforts across the government and requires federal agencies to notify communities if toxic substances are released from a federal facility. This rule is especially poignant as a response to the February train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: A bipartisan bill, the International Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S. 920), has been reintroduced with proposed reforms to expand U.S. efforts. Senators Menendez (D-N.J.), Risch (R-Idaho), Kaine (D-VA.) and Rubio (R-Fla.) led the reintroduction. The proposed legislation reauthorizes and enhances anti-trafficking programs, policy and funding; and proposes reforms to expand U.S. efforts relating to combating human trafficking, including forced labor, as well as new requirements for the United States Agency for International Development to integrate prevention efforts into the agency’s global programming. Among other provisions, the bipartisan bill also amends the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act to ensure that the nations’ commitment and progress toward implementing effective counter-trafficking measures are factors in determining recipients of U.S. development assistance. No companion bill in the House has yet surfaced.
PROPOSED ASYUM RULE NOW IN EFFECT: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) finalized the new “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule on May 10, which went into effect following termination of the Title 42 public health order. Our related Action Alert opposing the rule during the proposed rule’s comment period had incredible engagement from our network! The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said the rule goes against international law and should be rescinded altogether. DHS and the State Department released a fact sheet on April 27 outlining the measures the Biden Administration planned after Title 42 ceased on May 11. It remains to be seen if the alternative legal pathways will serve people and families in the most immediate need. The situation will continue to be closely monitored in the next weeks and months, particularly in Central and South America. NGOs and faith organizations have been building towards this day in order to faithfully provide humanitarian assistance without disruption.
YOUNG ADULT BORDER TRIP: Fourteen young adults were selected for an immersion trip in collaboration with ELCA AMMPARO, ELCA Young Adult Ministries, LIRS and Border Servant Corps. The trip took place between April 26-30. Participants stayed in New Mexico and had the opportunity to visit hospitality centers for asylum seeking families in Las Cruces and El Paso, Tex. After the trip, young adults will serve as LIRS ambassadors for a year and have been invited to reunite in September for an advocacy day with ELCA Witness in Society. Their congregations have been invited to learn more about AMMPARO. It was a truly unforgettable experience! Pictures can be found on the @ELCAammparo Facebook page.