from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director
PRIORITY CONSIDERATIONS IN FEDERAL DELIBERATION: The ELCA continues high-level advocacy with members of Congress, leadership and staff on making the child tax credit permanent along with other priorities as negotiations continue around both the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed in the Senate and initiation of a multi-trillion budget reconciliation process in both chambers. Advocacy program directors have also worked with interfaith partners to plan a livestreamed 12-hour vigil, “Keeping the Faith,” on the U.S. Capitol grounds on Oct. 20 to raise awareness in Congress of these priorities.
As negotiations on the reconciliation package advance with congressional leaders and the Biden Administration, the Washington Post reported in early October that early commitments, such as funding to address housing affordability and access to home ownership, may prove among the first to “hit the cutting room floor.” Housing commitments, historically, have often been the first to be left out of stimulus and spending bills. This comes as the U.S. faces an immense shortage of available housing across all income levels and as unaffordability is becoming one of the leading causes of homelessness in our communities. An ELCA Action Alert was issued in mid-September highlighting the need to include affordable housing in the reconciliation bill. Advocates in the faith community are among the few actively supporting such provisions as a high priority, and feedback from religious leaders will be paramount for lawmakers to hear in the coming days and weeks.
PIVOTAL COP26: The ELCA is sending a delegation to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (COP26) being held in Glasgow on Oct. 31-Nov. 12. COP26 will be the most significant since COP21 adoption of the Paris Agreement, advancing achievement of the commitments.
The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. The aims of COP26 negotiations include to reduce emissions, strengthen adaptation and resilience to climate impacts, scale-up finance and support critical to finalizing the “Paris Rulebook” (detailed rules and procedures for implementing the Paris Agreement), and conclude outstanding issues from COP25. Key specific priorities include enabling ambition through carbon markets; enabling enhanced adaptation action; averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage; identifying means of implementation, including the initiation of deliberations on a new goal for global climate finance after 2025; and responding to the latest science and the ambition of current emission reduction targets.
COVID-19 VACCINES: President Biden announced that the U.S. will donate an additional 500 million Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. This brings the U.S. commitments to donate vaccines to a total of 1.1 billion by fall 2022. The World Health Organization has said 2.4 billion are needed by the end of 2021.
AFGHAN ARRIVALS AND REFUGEES: After intense pressure from advocates, the Administration mounted a coordinated response to support evacuations, screening, immigration services and general processing of Afghan arrivals from interim military installations to final destinations.
Thousands of Afghans have been welcomed by communities across the country. Operation Allies Welcome brought on former Delaware Governor Jack Markell to coordinate the hub as the U.S. prepares to resettle as many as 95,000 Afghan newcomers. A stop-gap funding bill passed by Congress in Sept. injected much-needed funding for resettlement services along with other provisions. Congress must still pass a future Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow certain arrivals the opportunity to seek legal permanent residence. The Witness in Society staff response to Afghan arrivals has included statements, letters and participation in vigils and informational webinars. Advocacy staff will continue to monitor developments on the Hill that prepare communities for a long welcome.
BORDER AND ASYLUM UPDATE: Thousands of migrants have attempted to seek legal asylum at the border over the past few months, but a public health authority known as Title 42 continues to be invoked. This issue came to a head when the Del Rio sector experienced an increase of Haitian migrants, including families with children and adults.
Around 13,000 camped under the Del Rio bridge before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deployed a response that forcibly deported around 6,000 people to Haiti and released several thousand others into the U.S. to start immigration proceedings. Through AMMPARO, the church has been active in advocacy against Title 42 and other barriers to asylum that affect migrants in transit, like Remain in Mexico. We’ve also welcomed positive announcements, like expanded eligibility for the Central American Minors Program (CAM).