From the Hill is a monthly look at what’s happening in Washington, D.C. on the Columban four priority justice areas. Columbans work to bridge the divide between marginalized and impacted communities and policymakers in our nation’s capital. This month we discuss the DACA program, the Clean Power Plan, and the appropriations process.
What is DACA?
Enacted by former President Obama, DACA allowed young people brought to the U.S. by their parents before a certain age to be granted temporary relief from the threat of deportation and given permission to work, study, and obtain driver’s licenses. DACA recipients were required to apply for the program, provide personal information to the government, and pass rigorous security and background checks to be eligible. Before the announcement, 800,000 young adults benefitted from the DACA program.
What was the effect of this decision?
The president’s announcement left communities across the U.S., especially DACA recipients, in vulnerable and uncertain situations, not knowing whether they will be able to continue their education, provide for themselves, or stay with their families. The administration is no longer processing new applications and those whose status expires before March 5th, 2018 (if they were unable to meet the renewal deadline of September 5) will be vulnerable to deportation. The program will then be phased out as more and more young adults’ statuses expire.
Since the administration abdicated their responsibility to protect vulnerable members of our communities, it falls on Congress to develop a solution. Columbans, along with the broader faith community, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Dream Act (S. 1615/H.R. 3440). This legislation would put the protections of the DACA program into law, allowing these young adults to live without the threat of being deported and separated from their families. They will be able to contribute to the communities they call home.
DACA recipients contribute to our economy, are veterans of our military, members of our parishes, and leaders in colleges and universities. Columbans across the United States ministry to DACA recipients in our parishes and other faith-based programs. For many recipients, the United States in the only home they can remember.
Congress is negotiating now about how they will pass the Dream Act. We are calling on Members of Congress to pass a ‘clean’ Dream Act that includes a pathway to citizenship. This means the Dream Act must not be attached to any other measures that would potentially increase the detention or deportation of other migrant populations, including the families of DACA recipients, or increase inhumane border security measures.
What can you do?
Congress must pass protections before March 5th when the program begins to phase out, leaving hundreds of thousands of young people open to deportation and incredible uncertainty as to their jobs and education.
In his address to Congress, Pope Francis reminds us of Jesus’ welcome the stranger: “Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”
Call your Member of Congress today and let them know that you expect them to pass a clean Dream Act as soon as possible. It will only take you 5 minutes.
You can also learn more about how to join the faith efforts to advocate for DACA recipients here!
In last month’s From the Hill, you read about the administration’s intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, to rollback of many environmental protections, and to increase development of fossil fuels. The administration has made clear that caring for creation is not a priority.
This month, a new development came when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
What is the Clean Power Plan and why is it important?
Former President Obama released the Clean Power Plan blueprint in 2015 as a strategy for reducing the United States’ carbon emissions from coal and natural gas-fired power plants. This would have reduced our contribution to climate change. These plants are responsible for about 1/3 of our carbon emissions. Under the plan, states were required to submit their own, individually tailored plan to meet the reduction standards. The Clean Power Plan was a critical step to fulfilling our promise to the world, through the Paris Agreement, to lower our carbon mission as a country.
Why do the Columbans care about the Clean Power Plan?
The U.S. is one of the highest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. The impacts of these emissions are wide-ranging and often devastating: from the increasing frequency and intensity of the recent hurricanes that have decimated coastal communities in the U.S. and small island nations to persistent drought and incredibly high temperatures in Pakistan, where Columbans live and serve, that have led to deaths from heat and water scarcity.
Our faith and the communities we serve tell us that we have moral duty to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions. We are fundamentally harming our planet and our most vulnerable sisters and brothers, who are often unable to respond. Click here to find quotes from multiple faith organizations opposing the repeal.
What does this repeal mean?
Although the Clean Power Plan had yet to be implemented, the announced repeal of the plan effectively prohibits it from moving forward. Some states, such as California, are moving ahead with their own plans to reduce emissions regardless of the repeal. While this is true for other states, the repeal also means that a number of states will not meet the emissions-reduction goals laid out in the plan.
The EPA is legally required to regulate climate pollution, which includes greenhouse gases. This obligation means the EPA must come up with a new plan for regulation, which could take many months to finalize.
Earlier this year, From the Hill took a deep dive into the federal budget process, or what’s called “appropriations.”
At the time, Congress was working on their proposals for how they want the U.S. government to spend its money. This included a series of hearings and discussions on each part of the government and how much money it is to receive. Congress must pass a budget by the end of September. If they do not, the government shuts down. In order to prevent a government shutdown because they could not reach an agreement on spending by that September deadline, Congress passed a ‘continuing resolution’, which kept the spending levels the same as the previous year.
Why do we care about appropriations?
The federal budget is essentially a moral document. Our faith calls us to ensure the just allocation of resources for the common good. The federal budget is a reflection of the values and priorities we hold as a nation. This is why we are very concerned about the current funding proposals: they dramatically cut the amount of money allocated to programs that benefit the poor and increase the amount of money for programs that would harm them.
We are concerned about cuts to environmental protections and international aid, while simultaneously concerned about proposals that would wastefully and unnecessarily increase spending for the detention and deportation of migrants and increase border security. Read more about our concerns in the budget here.
What happens now?
The continuing resolution expires on December 8th, which means Congress must either pass a budget by then or pass another continuing resolution if they are unable to reach an agreement by then. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities for action as the December 8th deadline nears!