Our work of Mercy involves meeting the needs of the suffering wherever they are: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned. But Mercy also demands attention to structural sin and the root causes of poverty and injustice, including advocating for better policies and laws to support the most vulnerable. Here’s an overview of the legislation the Mercy Justice Team is currently watching and encouraging action on, particularly around the Critical Concerns.
Freedom to Vote Act
Republicans stalled the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act with a filibuster on Nov. 3rd. This is in addition to a filibuster of the more comprehensive Freedom to Vote Act two weeks before, on Oct. 20th. The Justice Team will be advocating for elimination of this undemocratic procedural rule that allows a minority of senators to block consideration of a bill.
Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Nov. 5th. In addition to funding roads and bridges, this bill upgrades the electricity grid to accommodate transmission of more renewable energy sources, expands clean energy technology and assists communities struggling with wildfires, storms and other intensifying climate impacts. But Mercy advocates are pushing Congress to do even more in light of commitments made at the United Nations climate talks (COP26). That includes investing in climate mitigation in the Build Back Better bill still being negotiated in Congress and halting deforestation through measures such as the FOREST Act of 2021 that bans imports into the U.S. of goods produced through illegal deforestation.
A bill that would create a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations to African-Americans (HR40) has passed out of a committee in the House of Representatives and advocates are now calling for a full House vote. The Mercy Justice Team has signed onto the H.R. 40 Can’t Wait campaign.
Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year but has not yet been brought to a vote in the Senate. This bill has been reauthorized routinely since 1994, but some Republican senators balk at new provisions that provide protections for transgender women and that expand the definition of who is barred from purchasing a firearm due to previous domestic violence offenses.
Haitian Immigration Crisis
Like others around the globe, we have been outraged by the recent treatment of Haitian migrants at the border and the uptick in deportation flights justified by COVID-19 under Title 42. With Haiti in turmoil from natural disasters worsened by climate change, the assassination of its president, crushing poverty and the pandemic, we are asking the Biden administration to change course on its immigration policy and work towards democracy and human rights in Haiti as this crisis sits at the intersection of all of our Critical Concerns.
Immigration protections and pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation bill
Our focus on immigration continues as we push for the inclusion of a pathway to citizenship in the ongoing Build Back Better budget plan. Protection of DACA (also known as Dreamers) recipients and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) workers was originally included, but the Senate parliamentarian advised against it. This is currently under reconsideration. While immigration language in the House BBB bill was changed from a call for a pathway to citizenship/registry to parole/temporary protections, we want to make sure legislators hear that we need to ensure permanent solutions and protections for as many undocumented immigrants and essential workers as possible.
$5B BBB gun violence
The Build Back Better plan also includes $5 billion for community-based nonviolence strategies to combat our nation’s epidemic of gun violence. We are asking Congress to include these measures to promote peace with these intervention programs.
Congress is on track to approve a Defense Department budget of $777 billion for Fiscal 2022. This massive spending (larger than the next twelve countries combined) does little to foster genuine security. Consistent with our commitment to nonviolence, we continue to call for cuts in in military spending and the redirection of funds to programs that address the greatest threats to our security — climate change, ongoing systemic racial oppression, pandemic disease and growing economic inequality.