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. Here’s an overview of the legislation and actions by the Biden administration which the Mercy Justice Team is currently watching and encouraging advocacy, particularly around the Critical Concerns.
Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Nov. 5, 2021. 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, which the House passed Nov. 21, 2021, and the Senate is now considering. It also includes halting deforestation through measures such as the FOREST Act of 2021 that bans imports into the U.S. of goods produced through illegal deforestation.
Administration Policies on Treatment of Migrants
Advocacy continues around urging the Biden administration to restart a safe and fair asylum process at the border. On March 4th, a Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued a positive decision in a class action suit blocking public health order Title 42 (barring immigrants from entering the country), but it will not take immediate effect.
The administration continues to use the cruel and inhumane Migrant Protection Protocols (known as Remain in Mexico), requiring asylum seekers to wait in extremely dangerous Mexican border areas where they are threatened by criminal gangs, traffickers and local law enforcement. The administration also has expelled 20,600, Haitians – at least 45% of whom are women and children – to a country consumed by violence and political instability.
Immigration protections and pathway to citizenship in Build Back Better legislation
We continue to push for inclusion of permanent protections for immigrants in the Build Back Better legislation, or other reconciliation package. The plan has faced political and procedural obstacles in the Senate including decisions by the unelected Senate parliamentarian. Our goal is to make sure that lawmakers understand and appreciate the urgency of the situation and act to maximize the number of undocumented immigrants who can access permanent solutions and protections.
$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.
Consistent with our commitment to nonviolence, we continue to call for cuts 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. Particularly in light of the war in Ukraine, we continue to urge policymakers to put greater priority on strengthening global diplomacy and other nonviolent alternatives to war, and on addressing root causes of conflict.
The U.S. Senate failed to advance the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act in a series of votes January 19th. This bill combined the voting rights and democracy reform measures in the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Republicans stalled the new bill with a filibuster, the third time in the past several months that they have blocked passage of voting rights protections. The Mercy Justice Team will continue to advocate for passage of common-sense democracy reforms and voting rights bills at both the federal and state levels.
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
Five-year reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was included in the federal government spending bill signed into law by President Biden on March 15th. The bill includes a number of enhancements that our Mercy advocates had been advocating for, including for Native women who are disproportionately at risk for gender-based violence. The provisions include expanded tribal jurisdiction, improved access to federal crime databases, and increased protections for survivors and their families.