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 Freedom to Vote Act — which addresses voter suppression, election integrity, partisan gerrymandering, and other democracy reforms — with a filibuster on Oct. 20th. This is just the latest example of the filibuster blocking civil rights legislation, and 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.
Mercy advocates continue to push Congress for more robust funding and actions in the Build Back Better bill being negotiated between legislators and the White House to further reduce dependence on fossil fuels and resist false solutions that disproportionately pollute Black, brown, and Indigenous communities. The Justice Team also initiated a sign-on letter to legislators urging passage of the FOREST Act of 2021 that bans imports into the U.S. of goods produced through illegal deforestation. More than 60 faith groups signed onto the letter in support of the bill, which addresses the need to curb deforestation to maintain a stable climate and the call to defend the human rights of forest peoples who have been caring for these critical ecosystems for millennia.
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.
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 was recently struck from the bill by the Senate parliamentarian. We want to make sure legislators rework this plan to make sure protection for so many essential workers is included in the bill.
$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.