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American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253) – House of Representatives

SECURE Act (S.2144) – Senate

 

Action: Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 4253, or thank them if they have already signed on. Representatives Kelly, Gutierrez, Quigley, Davis and Schakowsky of Illinois have already signed on.  Repeat the calls to the offices of your Senators. In Illinois, Senator Duckworth has signed on, but Senator Durbin has not. 

 

Background: Until the recent past, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for renewable periods of 6 to 18 months to immigrant applicants from countries in which civil unrest, violence, epidemic or natural disasters made it unsafe for them to return to their countries. In return, immigrants could get registration documents and authorization to work. Up through January 1, 2017, there were people from 13 countries eligible for TPS.

Under the Trump Administration, DHS is conducting a country by country review to assess whether or not to extend TPS. So far, DHS has ruled that TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Sudan will have to leave the U.S., despite continuing violence or lack of recovery from natural disasters in their countries of origin. TPS will continue for Syrians who came to the U.S. before August 2016, but those who came after that date cannot apply for TPS, despite the continuation of the war.

 

Bill summary: H.R. 4253 would change the status of eligible immigrants from 13 countries with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to a status of LPR, lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Immigrants would be eligible to apply if they were granted or were eligible for TPS status, or granted DED, on or before October 1, 2017. Immigrants must apply for this status change within 3 years of the bill’s date of enactment. After 5 years of LPR status, immigrants could apply to become U.S. citizens.

 

Status: Currently, it has 116 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, is in the House Judiciary Committee, and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. In the Senate, it has 22 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. TPS holders have been in the U.S. for a long time and are well integrated into U.S. communities: Most TPS recipients have been in the U.S. for at least 15 years and many over a couple of decades. They have married U.S. citizens and/or have U.S. citizen children who were born here. It makes sense to naturalize TPS holders rather than deport them and separate them from their families and communities.
  2. TPS holders contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy. In addition, 88.5% of TPS holders are in the labor force, higher than the national average. They have jobs that are essential to the economic health of the U.S.Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients alone are projected to contribute an estimated $164 billion to America’s GDP over the next decade, according to the American Immigration Council. The AFSC cites the $6.9 billion they contribute to Social security and Medicare. They pay income taxes. Their work is integral to large industries such as construction, home health care, and hospitality.
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JUSTAPAZ, a peacebuilding organization of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, learned recently that the illegal armed group “Aguilas Negras [Black Eagles]” has included them on a list of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists they threaten to kill. Please ask the authorized representative of your congregation to sign the letter of support they have prepared, which they will use in advocating with the Colombian government to investigate and judge those responsible for the death threats and provide protection for their staff and the communities they accompany. You can sign onto the letter by sending an email to justapaz@justapaz.org.

JUSTAPAZ’s statement and the sign-on letter follow:

JUSTAPAZ CHRISTIAN MENNONITE ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND NONVIOLENT ACTION
STATEMENT ON RECENT DEATH THREAT
A Call for Hope, for the Caring of Life and Continued Peacebuilding
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

JUSTAPAZ is an organization of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, with more than 26 years’ experience accompanying Christian churches, community organizations and victims of the armed conflict, strengthening nonviolent community peacebuilding processes, on which human rights and peace with justice are built.

We are pained by the increase in threats, aggressions, and systematic assassinations of social leaders from different regions of the country. Our prayer and commitment is, and will continue to be, with churches, victims of armed conflict, women, youth, conscientious objectors, and all who dream and long for a country reconciled and at peace. With hope, we proclaim that neither death, nor threats, nor wars can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37).

In this biblical spirit and in solidarity with peacebuilders in Colombia, we write to let the public know that on Saturday, July 14, 2018, we learned of a communiqué in which an illegal armed group, self-identified as “Águilas Negras”, threatened to kill a group of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists. JUSTAPAZ was included in the list.

Responding to this threat, which seeks to sow fear and dismantle citizen efforts to overcome the wounds caused by the armed conflict, we, as JUSTAPAZ:

  • CALL ON all illegal armed groups to cease all intimidating activity, to respect life and the dignity of every human being because we are all children of God. Life is sacred and we must care for it and defend human rights, peaceful coexistence and the well-being of all Colombian citizens. Therefore, we reject the use of any type of violence or intolerance that limits broad peacebuilding efforts.
  • WE BELIEVE that peace is the fruit of social justice (Isaiah 32:17). We need to overcome social exclusion, strengthen a culture of democracy and embrace the path of reconciliation, grounded in dialogue and in the peaceful solution of social conflicts. From our experience of faith, peacebuilding demands healing wounds, restoring lives and making a diverse participatory nation, founded on the respect for human dignity possible.
  • WE URGENTLY CALL FOR PRAYERS FOR PEACE IN COLOMBIA AND FOR ACTION on behalf of those of us who seek truth, justice, holistic reparations for victims and non-repetition of acts of violence. It is time for dialogue, for full implementation of the peace accords and to continue building social, cultural, political and environmental agreements to build true peace in all the regions of Colombia.
  • WE REAFFIRM THAT JUSTAPAZ, as an entity of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, has a pacifist calling inspired by the gospel of peace (Matthew 5:9), and we join the millions of citizens throughout the different regions of Colombia that promote human rights, citizen participation and the democratic values that inspire and give meaning to nation-building.

We encourage churches, faith-based communities, human rights defenders and social organizations to not falter and to join efforts for peacebuilding in our country. Please consider signing-on to the attached sign-on letter that will be used in advocacy efforts in Colombia.

Sincerely,
CHRISTIAN MENNONITE ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND NONVIOLENT ACTION – JUSTAPAZ
Bogotá, Colombia
July 17, 2018.

 

Sign-On Letter for Churches and Faith-based Organizations in Response to Death Threats Against JUSTAPAZ

As churches and organizations from around the world, we know of and support the work of JUSTAPAZ. As an organization of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, JUSTAPAZ has acted to promote peacebuilding in the midst of armed conflict for many years in Colombia. JUSTAPAZ is characterized by applying principles of nonviolence, justice and holistic peace in Colombia.

On Saturday, July 14, 2018, we learned of a communiqué in which an illegal armed group, selfidentified as “Águilas Negras”, threatened to kill a group of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists. JUSTAPAZ was included in the list.

Responding to these threats and as part of the international community:

WE EXPRESS our solidarity, support and accompaniment of JUSTAPAZ in face of this threat.

WE REJECT all forms of violence that could affect the staff of JUSTAPAZ and the communities that
they accompany in different regions of Colombia.

WE DEMAND that the government of Colombia act with celerity and efficacy in investigating and
judging those responsible for the death threats against JUSTAPAZ. Additionally, we demand they
provide appropriate protective measures for the staff of JUSTAPAZ and the communities they
accompany, with the goal of guaranteeing the continuity of the human rights and peacebuilding
efforts they accompany, as a faith-based organization in Colombia.

Signed,

**Please indicate your willingness to sign-on by emailing us at: justapaz@justapaz.org

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CRLN is a member of the national Honduras Solidarity Network, which put out a statement recognizing today as the 9th anniversary of the U.S.-supported coup in Honduras. 9 years later, the oligarchy that initiated the coup has consolidated its power and democratic norms have eroded.

Click here to read the statement and to take action on three items:

  1. Sign an Amnesty International action alert to free political prisoner Edwin Espinal
  2. Send an email to demand fundamental changes in U.S. policy on Honduras
  3. Ask your Representative to cosponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (in Illinois, Reps. Rush, Lipinski, Gutierrez, Quigley, Davis, Schakowsky, and Foster are already co-sponsors)

 

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2019 Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon

Beneficiary groups and project descriptions

To donate to Pedal for Peace, click on the name of any group. Donations will be divided equally among the groups. 

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)  

Founded 30 years ago, CRLN builds partnerships among social movements and organized communities within and between the U.S. and Latin America.  We work together through popular education, grassroots organizing, public policy advocacy, and direct action to dismantle U.S. militarism, neoliberal economic and immigration policy, and other forms of state and institutional violence.  We are united by our liberating faiths and inspired by the power of people to organize and to find allies to work for sustainable economies, just relationships and human dignity. Because CRLN has dedicated restricted funds for travel scholarships and for the support of human rights defenders, Pedal for Peace donations will go for general operating support of our regular programming.

Contact person: Sharon Hunter-Smith, shunter-smith@crln.org

 

 

Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities  

Cinquera, El Salvador, is a small community of around 3,000 people in the central part of the country.  In 1992, Cinquera, which had been abandoned during the horrific civil war, was repopulated after the peace accord.  Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities has been working with a progressive community organization, the ARDM, for many years.  This year, the ARDM has again designated Pedal for Peace donations for scholarships for five college students who are majoring in computer science, agricultural engineering and education.  The donations will cover their enrollment fees, tuition, transportation, food and housing.  During and upon completion of their studies, the students have made a commitment to live in and work on behalf of the Cinquera community and to support the scholarship program for future students.

Contact personJim Hoover, jimmyishere@hotmail.com

 chicago-cinquera.org

 

Chicago-Guatemala Partnership  

Saq Ja’, Guatemala, is a rural Mayan community of around 50 families located in the western highlands.  The community was destroyed in 1981-82 during the Guatemalan civil war, many survived in the wilderness for years and returned to resettle their lands after the Peace Accords in 1996.  After much hard work, they succeeded in building a primary and middle school to educate children through 9th grade.  The Chicago-Guatemala Partnership, which has accompanied the community since 1999, will again designate this year’s Pedal for Peace funds toward support for the middle school and scholarships for those going on to higher levels of schooling. In addition, money may be used to support a school trip to the ruins of an ancient Mayan city at Tikal to learn about their Mayan history and heritage.

Contact person:   Mary Naftzger, maryandbob.n@sbcglobal.net 

 

Concern America (C/A)

The Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon will support C/A’s community-centered health and leadership program in rural Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities in the isolated and war-torn Chocó region of Colombia, providing primary health care services to 20,000 people previously without access to such services. This innovative and successful model, known as Health Promoter Practitioners (HPPs), engages the most valuable resource in every village–the people themselves. With a depth of knowledge, skills, and ability to provide health care comparable to the work of nurse practitioners in the U.S, HPPs are able to meet 80% of the community’s health care needs. This year, the program will build its own HPP-run clinic training center and dormitories for course participants, a huge step! Funds received from Pedal for Peace will help equip the new program center.

Contact  person:  John Straw, jstraw@concernamerica.org

 

 

La Voz de los de Abajo   

La Voz de los de Abajo has worked in solidarity with campesino and indigenous organizations in Honduras for nearly 15 years on community radio projects, human rights accompaniment and support for initiatives by small farmers and their organizations. Since the coup in June 2009, it has also organized multiple delegations from the U.S. to Honduras to provide human rights accompaniment to the organizations and communities resisting the coup.  2019 Pedal for Peace funds will be sent to the National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC), which provides legal and organizational accompaniment to thousands of campesinos struggling for land reform. In addition, funds will be used to support Garifuna health and educational initiatives.

Contact personVicki Cervantes, vickicervantes@yahoo.com

 

 

Autonomous Tenants Association  

The Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU) engages in grassroots organizing alongside tenants, leveraging the power of tenant unions to halt evictions, keep rent affordable, and preserve our community through advocacy and education. We recognize that our struggle for housing justice is deeply connected to other struggles, which is why we collaborate with organizations around the city to mutually support one another in our growth. Currently ATU is part of the Lift the ban campaign that is trying to repeal the provision at the state level that prohibits rent control to be implemented in any municipality. ATU is collaborating on this coalition and, if achieved, it will open the door for more campaign organizing around passing a rent control ordinance in the city of Chicago, which will impact tenants across the city for years to come.

Contact person: Antonio Gutiérrez, gutierrez.atu@gmail.com

 

 

 

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Contact SHunter-Smith@crln.org by June 20th to sign on! See copy of letter to Senator Durbin below. An identical letter will be sent to Senator Duckworth. 

 

June 21, 2018

Senator Richard J. Durbin
John C. Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn St., #3892
Chicago, IL 60604

Dear Senator Durbin,

We write to you as leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations and Organizations in the Greater Chicago area to ask that you personally contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to request a stay of deportation and release on order of supervision for Yesica Jovel (A-208276158). Her family, who have a pending case for asylum, is sponsored by Lake Street Church in Evanston. Yesica’s situation concerns us greatly for the following reasons:

1) First and foremost, as people of faith, we are grounded in our religious practices of welcoming the immigrant and the stranger. Our scriptures enjoin us to have the same laws governing immigrants that we have governing ourselves, to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, to treat others as fellow children of the one God. We find ourselves living in a time and a place when immigration policy and enforcement practices are most egregiously counter to these tenets of our faith.

2) In Yesica’s case, we are alarmed that although her entire family had been threatened with death by MS-13 in El Salvador after gang members killed Yesica’s father, only Yesica’s mother and two brothers were allowed to come to Evanston to apply for asylum, while Yesica was separated from her family at the border and
coerced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to agree to deportation. This strikes us as an unfair application of the law as it pertains to asylum seekers; ICE took advantage of Yesica’s youth and inexperience to frighten her into agreeing to deportation, which is at the root of all that happened next. Our faith, in contrast, calls us to be particularly attentive to and protective of the most vulnerable among us.

3) In El Salvador, she went to live with relatives and was sexually abused by an uncle. She moved in with other relatives, but he kept hunting her down. MS-13 also learned that she was back in El Salvador and began persecuting her again. Finally, in desperation for her life, she fled again to the U.S., hoping to be reunited with her family. She was detained after crossing the border in Texas and has remained in detention for two years, despite the best efforts of Lake Street Church members and her lawyer to have her released. We believe she had no choice but to leave her
country given the threats against her life; given the trauma she experienced, she needs the comfort and care of her family to heal. Nevertheless, ICE and the courts in Texas, so far, have only focused on the fact that she crossed the border twice, instead
of questioning ICE’s separation of the family. Her lawyer is still appealing that ruling.

4)As a survivor of sexual assault, persecution, torture and the murder of her father, and as a lesbian,Yesica is a member of several protected social groups under international asylum law. We believe that Attorney General Sessions’ announcement last week removing membership in several of these social group categories as valid considerations for asylum puts the U.S. at odds with international law, with U.S. asylum case law since the 1990’s, and certainly goes against our religious mandate to care for the welfare of all God’s children. We hope that you and others in the Senate will challenge Attorney General Sessions’ new ruling on who qualifies for asylum.

 

We strongly support Lake Street Church’s efforts to advocate for a stay of deportation and release from detention for Yesica Jovel. We appeal to you to use the power of your office to personally contact ICE officials on behalf of her release so that the suffering of this young woman can end.

Sincerely,

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On Sunday, Guatemala’s volcano Fuego erupted twice with explosive force, sending ash skyward upwards of 15 kilometers and releasing lava and 100 m.p.h. pyroclastic flows that buried communities close to it.  At present, more than 3,200 people have been evacuated, but the death toll is at 69 and expected to increase.

 

We’ve listed below links to trustworthy organizations in Guatemala that are doing direct relief work and receiving donations to help assist with buying medicine, cleaning supplies, and clothing; rebuilding homes and communities; and other aspects of disaster relief. Some of these organizations are also posting daily updates on their work.

 

Common Hope: https://www.commonhope.org – click on the “For more information” in the red bar. There is a donation link at the bottom of the information.

 

Wings:  https://wingsguate.giv.sh/6a14

 

Friends of Guatemala: https://www.facebook.com/fogrpcv/posts/1638548842927425?hc_location=ufi – earmark “Volcan de Fuego” (donation button is on the facebook page)

 

Alticultura: https://www.gofundme.com/Alticultura – earmark donations for “Volcan de Fuego”

 

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11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of Central Americans and other immigrants with Temporary Protected Status and would suspend U.S. military aid to Honduras. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support the following House bills:

 

American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253)

 

Background: Until the recent past, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for renewable periods of 6 to 18 months to immigrant applicants from countries in which civil unrest, violence, epidemic or natural disasters made it unsafe for them to return to their countries. In return, immigrants could get registration documents and authorization to work. Up through January 1, 2017, there were people from 13 countries eligible for TPS.

Under the Trump Administration, DHS is conducting a country by country review to assess whether or not to extend TPS. So far, DHS has ruled that TPS holders from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan will have to leave the U.S., despite continuing violence or lack of recovery from natural disasters in their countries of origin. TPS will continue for Syrians who came to the U.S. before August 2016, but those who came after that date cannot apply for TPS, despite the continuation of the war. The decision on whether or not to extend TPS for Hondurans has been delayed until June 2018.

 

Bill summary: H.R. 4253 would change the status of eligible immigrants from 13 countries with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to a status of LPR, lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Immigrants would be eligible to apply if they were granted or were eligible for TPS status, or granted DED, on or before October 1, 2017. Immigrants must apply for this status change within 3 years of the bill’s date of enactment. After 5 years of LPR status, immigrants could apply to become U.S. citizens.

 

Status: Currently has 97 co-sponsors, is in the House Judiciary Committee, and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 4253. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. TPS holders have been in the U.S. for a long time and are well integrated into U.S. communities: Most TPS recipients have been in the U.S. for at least 15 years and many over a couple of decades. They have married U.S. citizens and/or have U.S. citizen children who were born here. It makes sense to naturalize TPS holders rather than deport them and separate them from their families and communities. In addition, 88.5% of TPS holders are in the labor force, higher than the national average. They have jobs that are essential to the economic health of the U.S.
  2. TPS holders contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy. Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients alone are projected to contribute an estimated $164 billion to America’s GDP over the next decade, according to the American Immigration Council. The AFSC cites the $6.9 billion the contribute to Social security and Medicare. They pay income taxes. Their work is integral to large industries such as construction, home health care, and hospitality.

 

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1299)

 

Bill Summary: This bill prohibits U.S. funds from being made available to Honduras for the police or military (including for equipment and training), and directs the Department of the Treasury to instruct U.S. representatives at multilateral development banks to vote against any loans for the police or military of Honduras, until the Department of States certifies that the government of Honduras has:

  • prosecuted members of the military and police for human rights violations and ensured that such violations have ceased;
  • established the rule of law and guaranteed a judicial system capable of bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses;
  • established that it protects the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, government critics, and civil society activists to operate without interference;
  • withdrawn the military from domestic policing; and
    brought to trial and obtained verdicts against those who ordered and carried out the attack on Felix Molina and the killings of Berta Caceres, Joel Palacios Lino, Elvis Armando Garcia, and over 100 small-farmer activists in the Aguan Valley.

 

Status: Currently has 71 co-sponsors and is in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It needs more co-sponsors, preferably some Republicans, to get out of Committee. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1299. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. The U.S. should not fund security forces that have committed such an alarming number of human rights abuses with a 97% impunity rate. Some argue that U.S. training for Honduran troops will professionalize them or that funding Honduran troops will give the U.S. influence over them, but there is no evidence of improvement since the 2009 military coup d’etat. Those who planned that coup are still in power. In fact, there is credible evidence that units of the Honduran military trained by the U.S. are operating as “death squads” and have hit lists of the leaders of various social movements. Berta Cáceres was one casualty. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/28/berta-caceres-honduras-military-intelligence-us-trained-special-forces
  2. The U.S should not entrust funds to an administration as corrupt as that of Juan Orlando Hernández’ in a country with such a weak judicial system. There is rampant institutional corruption in Honduras. High-level officials siphon off money from public institutions for their own gain or for political advantage. The looting of at least $350 million from the social security system by its chief administrator, part of which funded National Party efforts to elect current President Hernández in 2013, is an example. Officials also have been implicated in taking bribes from drug trafficking gangs in exchange for allowing gangs to operate without police interference. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/corruption-honduras-result-of-functioning-system-report
  3. The U.S. should not fund security forces used by an illegally installed president to repress nonviolent dissent against his electoral fraud. President Hernández ran for a second term, forbidden by the Honduran Constitution, and the vote count was labeled “highly irregular” by the Organization of American States, whose initial call for new elections was rebuffed. The U.S. congratulated Hernández on his “victory.” Hondurans call this a “second coup.” Hernández uses the military in domestic policing, also forbidden by the Constitution, and has formed a Military Police Force in addition to the National Police. All security forces have been deployed against the many people who protested the election results, with 30 people killed, scores wounded, and many rounded up and thrown into prison since the November elections. https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/us-policy-perpetuates-violence-honduras

 

 

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11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of immigrants. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support the following:

 

At a very high level, the federal budget for FY18 provides big increases in funding for both ICE and CBP. It provides $14.018 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $1.831 billion more than last year. It also provides $7.076 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), $641 million more than last year. $370 million of this increase is for “Custody Operations”, the account that funds immigrant detention.

 

ICE has a lot of discretion over how those extra $370 million will be used. This means there’s little to guarantee that number of people held in immigrant detention won’t increase. Given this, and given that we’ve been raising concerns since last fall that ICE would use claims of increased per diem costs to get more money to fund expansion, we remain gravely concerned about the risk of large scale expansion despite the negotiated ADP numbers.

 

Although the appropriator added new language requiring ICE to submit weekly reports about the number of people it is holding in detention, we will be asking members of Congress to aggressively intervene if/when ICE begins using its funding to expand detention.

 

If your Representative or Senator voted against the bill (for the right reasons, of course), we will make sure to thank them. If they voted for the bill, especially if they had previously joined a DefundHate letter or otherwise expressed support for cutting funds, we hope to hold them accountable for their vote. We ask that members of Congress continue to push publicly for significant funding cuts to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in the federal budget for FY19.

 

Resources:

Op-Ed – ‘We need a federal budget that values families, not one that destroys them’

Video Series – ICE lies, hides, and retaliates

Op-Ed – ‘These federal program incentivize policing. Why did Congress fund them?’

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