From Iowa to Washington, D.C.
My Faith in Action
When you think of going to Washington, D.C., from Iowa, I’ll bet your first image is of visiting very large buildings and museums, eating different kinds of food and riding the subway. I have enjoyed those activities during my five weeks, but I have also been putting “love in action” as Iowa United Methodist Women’s social action mission coordinator volunteering at the United Methodist Building.
The United Methodist Building houses the General Board of Church and Society, the Washington Office of Public Policy for United Methodist Women, an office of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and various other faith-based groups. Here I am, right across the street from the Supreme Court, with the Capitol building a three-minute walk away. The House and Senate office buildings are a few minutes on foot.
This is just ideal for work on two United Methodist Women’s issues that are important to me: immigration reform and human trafficking. These are issues that we are focusing on at the district and conference level for Iowa United Methodist Women.
While here I have learned more about the problems with our current immigration system, especially the high costs of enforcement. These costs come in several different forms.
First is the anguish of families separated by harsh enforcement practices like Secure Communities—quite a misnomer. One parent may be deported while the other becomes a single parent raising the children, or a parent may be deported and leave children with relatives or friends to continue their education alone.
Second is the enormous burden on the federal budget of ineffective and unnecessarily harsh programs like Secure Communities, a Department of Homeland Security strategy. The millions and millions of dollars for this program and other immigrant apprehension measures support the taking of working immigrants from their jobs and families and jailing them for a period of time, after which they are deported, this often after running afoul of the law for a minor traffic offense or other misdemeanor.
Finally, Secure Communities stands accused by the advocacy community of using racial profiling to a significant extent as the means to identify immigrants for deportation. The most recent report of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the enforcement arm of federal immigration regulations, shows that 79 percent of immigrants deported through Secure Communities had no prior arrests or misdemeanors on their record. The stated objective of this program as mandated by Congress was to deport only the most serious criminal aliens, not to stop immigrants for something as innocuous as a malfunctioning taillight, thus identify them for deportation.
Another priority I had was to contact my congressional delegation about human trafficking legislation pending in Congress. The Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act (TDVSA) was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the week of Aug. 9. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa sits on this committee.
I visited his aide, Nick Podsiadly, to request that Grassley sign on as a sponsor of the bill, and I was disappointed when told that he probably would not. I have also visited aides of my Iowa Congressmen Boswell, King, Latham, Loebsack and Braley to request that they all sponsor this legislation in the House of Representatives, where it is known as H.R. 5575: Combat Child Sex Trafficking.
While the information I brought from United Methodist Women Action Alerts on human trafficking was received, no commitments for sponsorship were forthcoming. I will make follow-up calls and e-mail my United Methodist Women conference officers and presidents who are meeting this weekend to make contacts as well.
The congressional recess is a great time for United Methodist Women members to visit their congresspersons and talk about human trafficking. It is surprising that the aides with whom I spoke weren’t aware of the legislation in the House. Unless we talk to them, they don’t know that concern exists.
Volunteering time here is a great way to learn and to find information to take back to the United Methodist Women officers and to the School of Christian Mission and Mission Education Event as well as to my local unit. I am reminded again of how many people are never heard in the halls of power unless we speak up for them. Truly, social action is an important part of the overall program of the United Methodist Women, just one more way that we put faith, hope and love in Action.
Judy Kading is a United Methodist Women member and United Methodist Women social action mission coordinator for Iowa Conference.