Last week, Lutherans around the country acted quickly to support vulnerable children and families fleeing violence in Central America. Your voices let Members of Congress know that our communities want policies that honor our proud history of being a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge.
Today, we write to provide an update on what happened in Congress last week and to let you know what to expect in the coming months, and share with you a new guide to advocacy during the August recess.
Congress did not enact emergency funding legislation, leaving governmental agencies without much-needed resources to welcome refugees and care for children fleeing to the United States. The Senate’s bill (S. 2648) died after failing to clear procedural hurdles.
The House of Representatives passed their emergency funding bill (H.R. 5230), which LIRS staunchly opposed, late on Friday night, after dramatically pulling the original version, delaying recess by one day, and reintroducing a modified bill. To gather enough votes for passage, the final version of the bill included $35 million in additional funds for the National Guard and decreased legal protections for children included in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
“This bill will undercut due process for vulnerable children which could result in their removal to life threatening situations in foreign countries.”
Alongside the funding bill, the House also passed the No More Dreamers Act (H.R. 5272), which denies approximately 500,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) the ability to renew their status and avoid deportation. These young people were brought to the United States as children and attended American schools. The bill also bars any expansion of deportation relief to other groups. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) voted against the bill and told Telemundo:
“[This bill] takes away hope from these young people that in the last few years have been working, studying and contributing to the greatness of our country.”
Neither bill passed in the House is expected to move in the Senate or be signed by the President, with both Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama issuing statements in opposition.
Here at LIRS, we will continue advocating for vulnerable children and families seeking refuge. Although Congress doesn’t return until September 8, families and children seeking protection continue to arrive and our demands for compassion and justice cannot wait. While Members of Congress are home during August, they will be listening to their constituents. Now is the time to raise your voices of welcome for those seeking safety and justice and to urge Congress and President Obama to do the same.
Rumblings are loud here in D.C. regarding a pending announcement by President Obama that will affect migrants. We also expect the funding debate to continue on Capitol Hill after Congress resumes session. Decisions must be made on how to fund governmental agencies impacted by children and families coming to America seeking refuge before the next fiscal year begins on October 1.