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. Additionally, Mercy 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.

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Here’s an overview of the legislation and actions by Congress and the Biden administration which the Mercy Justice Team is currently watching, particularly around the Critical Concerns.


The Justice Team joined dozens of other secular and faith groups in urging President Biden to reject permits for more liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals, which are exacerbating the climate crisis and compounding the pollution experienced by communities along the Gulf Coast. The president on Jan. 26th announced a pause on such projects to give time for review of the economic and environmental impacts. The Justice Team joined others in urging the president to also consider the health hazards and to include opportunities for robust public comments during this review period.


The Justice Team is coordinating faith advocacy in support of the FOREST Act, which would bar imports of goods sourced through illegal deforestation, with a focus on beef, cocoa, palm oil, rubber and soy. Nearly 100 faith organizations signed a letter urging Congress to pass this bill. The Justice Team and staff of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been meeting with key House and Senate offices to encourage more co-sponsors.

Voting Rights

The U.S. Senate on Feb. 29th re-introduced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill is a response to a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that weakened key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of violating voting rights to get pre-authorization before passing new voting laws. Since then, many states have implemented restrictive voting laws that disproportionately disenfranchise Black, brown, young and elderly voters. While this bill has little likelihood of passing this year, the Faithful Democracy coalition, which the Justice Team participates in, is working to build up support for passage in the next Congress.

Gun Violence

Mercy supported the recently passed historic legislation aimed at gun violence prevention following the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. This law offers the most comprehensive attempts at strengthening the nation’s gun laws in almost thirty years:

  • enhances background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21
  • provides $750 million to assist states in implementing Red Flag laws
  • closes the “boyfriend loophole” by disarming domestic abusers even if they are not married
  • establishes the first-ever federal laws against gun trafficking across state lines and straw purchases
  • provides $250 million in funding for evidence-based community violence prevention programs
  • expands school safety measures and mental health services and access in communities and schools

Even as we celebrate this victory in reducing gun violence in our communities, we continue to advocate for proven measures that were unaddressed by this legislation including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We call on the new Congress to continue efforts at gun violence prevention, specifically addressing violence enabled by civilian access to military-style weapons of war.

Administration Policies on Treatment of Migrants

Advocacy continues around urging the Biden administration for reforms to enable a safe and fair asylum process at the border. Public health order Title 42 (barring immigrants from entering the country) was ended in May and new procedures were set up for processing immigrants from select countries where the U.S. does not have diplomatic relationships allowing for deportations, including with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.  Other new procedure criminalizes and puts a five year bar on migrants who cross in-between ports of entry, and (similar to the Trump era) requires migrants seeking asylum at the border to show they had applied for asylum in third countries in route to the U.S.

Advocacy has been successful in urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some countries, but more durable and inclusive forms of protection are needed for those seeking refuge and establishing new connections in the United States. With Haiti, the DHS extended and re-designated TPS for Haiti, yet has continued deportation flights to Haiti, even as the country consumed in violence and chaos.

Immigration protections and pathway to citizenship

We continue to push for legislation that provides permanent protections for immigrants, including a pathway to citizenship – for DACA recipients (Dreamers), farmworkers, essential workers, and others with temporary status. These are often piecemeal legislative efforts, as comprehensive immigration reform is not expected to be taken up in the current session of Congress.  Mercy’s advocacy has been important, however, even if defensive in nature to stop legislation introduced by some lawmakers pushing an extreme anti-immigrant agenda, using immigrants as pawns to score political points.  Efforts were made by some of these Members of Congress to codify mass expulsions (including Title 42) into law, but so far these efforts have been defeated. The Schools Not Shelters Act is pending a vote in late July, legislation to prohibit the use of certain school facilities that receive federal funding from being used to house any migrants.

Pentagon Spending

Consistent with Mercy’s commitment to nonviolence, we advocate for cuts in excessive military spending and redirection of funds to programs that address the greatest threats to our security — climate change, lack of affordable housing and health care, systemic racial oppression and spiraling economic inequality. Policymakers vigorously debated cuts to human needs programs to avoid economic default by raising the debt ceiling earlier this spring, yet there was no consideration in these debates to cut the Pentagon budget, despite reports of price gouging, inability of the Pentagon to pass an audit, and the fact that half of its budget goes to private weapons contractors.

In early July, the House of Representatives voted to authorize the Biden Administration’s $886 billion budget in the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Senate is expected to take up this legislation in late July before their August recess. This amount is $28 billion more than the current year’s budget and does not even include emergency military aid to Ukraine.  

Mercy advocates joined other peace and social justice groups to call for a 10% cut in the Pentagon budget and shifting the resources to address human needs, an initiative introduced both as an amendment to the NDAA and as a stand-alone bill: People Over Pentagon Act. While an uphill challenge, this annual effort to cut 10% works as a strategy to get more Members of Congress adding their names as co-sponsors of the People Over the Pentagon demands, building momentum for successive years’ debates.

Criminal Justice Reform

The Justice Team has called for passage of the RESTORE Act, which would repeal a lifetime food assistance ban on persons with felony convictions on their records. The Justice Team also has joined faith partners in advocating for the end to the practice of solitary confinement in prisons and immigrant detention facilities, both at the federal and state levels.