Justice Updates – September 17, 2019

There’s hope.  The July 5, 2019 issue of Science explains that the restoration of trees remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation.  Scientists showed through modeling that an additional .9 billion hectares (a hectare is about 2.471 acres) of forest (around 500 billion trees) could be planted that would store more than 200 gigatons of additional carbon.  Can’t plant 500 billion trees?  Plant one.


Administration is rolling back rules requiring more energy-efficient bulbs.  In 2007, a bipartisan Congress said that requiring energy efficient light bulbs was the right idea.  This administration disagrees.  Read more here.

My heart breaks each time the administration rolls back another environmental protection.  What are we giving to our grandchildren and nieces and nephews?  Here is a list of 85 environmental rules being eliminated by the president from The New York Times.

According to a poll conducted by National Public Radio, most Americans want to see Congress Pass Gun Restrictions.  Here’s more. The Senate hasn’t done ANYTHING. Call them now and demand action to address gun violence in our country.

So far, the House of Representatives has passed H.R. 8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and H.R. 112 Enhanced Background Checks Act.  The House Judiciary Committee just voted to move the following acts to the floor:

  • R. 1236, the “Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of2019”: This bill would provide grants to help state, tribal and local efforts to remove firearms from individuals determined to be a danger to themselves or others. Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws are more commonly known as “red flag” laws. What are they? Check here.
  • R. 1186, the “Keep Americans Safe Act”:This bill would regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices, such as a magazine or belt, making it illegal to import, sell, manufacture or possess such devices.
  • R. 2708, the “Disarm Hate Act”:This bill would prevent a person convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from obtaining a firearm.

Do you want to know why gun safety activists want to get assault weapons off the market?  Consider this information from the Brady Organization. Here’s the breakdown of the weapons used in some of the deadliest mass shootings of the past few years:

Poway: AR-15
Aurora: AR-15
Dayton: AR-15
Odessa: AR-15
Orlando: AR-15
Parkland: AR-15
Las Vegas: AR-15
Tree of Life Synagogue: AR-15
Sandy Hook: AR-15
Umpqua Community College: AR-15
Waffle House: AR-15
Texas Church: AR-15
San Bernardino: AR-15

Call your legislators – federal and state – and tell them you want these weapons banned and support the bills moving onto the floor of the  House of Representatives (HR 1236, 1186, 2708.)

National voter registration day is soon.
If you are registered to vote, please check to make sure because some states are purging their roles.  It is especially important if you have moved since the last election.  Check here to find out if you are registered.

Nik Mitchell, Ph.D. of the Jesuit Social Research Institute has written that white terrorism has been with us from the beginning of slavery
400 years ago in his blog Bigots, Bullets and Blood: 400 years of white terrorism from Jamestown to El Paso.

It is ghoulish coincidence that, as of the writing of this essay, another act of domestic terrorism has happened in the same month that marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colony of Jamestown. These men and women were not the first enslaved Africans in the Western Hemisphere, but it does mark the introduction of an ideology into the foundation of American civilization that stretches across the centuries from slave ports of Africa and the Caribbean to the auction blocks of Jackson Square, the burning of Rosewood, the detonating of a truck bomb outside the Federal building in Oklahoma City, a race riot in Charlottesville, and to a Walmart in El Paso in 2019— white supremacy. In America, we often ignore the fact that white supremacy is one of the most consequential political ideologies in human history.

First, I feel it is necessary to state the obvious—being a racist is not a mental health issue. People choose to be racist. The classic retort of “it’s the way I was raised” is a cop-out that screams, “I am not a self-actualized adult, and I have surrendered my ability to think.” Racism is, and the same is true for all forms of bigotry, an enabler that allows a racist to ignore the screams of their victims while they destroy their humanity, physically and spiritually. White supremacy is this brutality elevated to a political ideology, and its chief historical and contemporary currency is terrorism. This begs two questions. First, “What do the white supremacists want?” White supremacists want what their name suggests, a return to a society where they could oppress with impunity. Second, “What do white supremacists fear?” They fear churches next to synagogues next to mosques. They fear interracial and multilingual families. They fear being locked out of cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural villages. They fear a better way of being.

It is not the job of the targets of white supremacist terrorism to cure a virus that incubates in white society, because they, the targets, have no access to the spaces where this form of bigotry germinates. This is not merely a matter of educating the ignorant. Contrary to the widely taught maxim, racism is not an act of ignorance. It is a willful decision that requires a racist to deny all evidence, which is robust, that disproves their assertions. The demand from sections of white society that the marginalized attempt to convince the willfully racist of their humanness is grotesque. To be clear:

  • Political correctness is not the problem.
  • Bilingual communities are not the problem.
  • Immigration is not the problem.
  • Feminism is not the problem.
  • LGBTQ visibility and rights are not the problem.
  • The coming population shift is not the problem.

White supremacy is the problem.

White supremacy is a foundational idea in American culture, but so is the resistance, including white resistance, to white supremacy. I do not hold every white person walking the street as responsible for white supremacist terrorism, but I will lay the task of eradicating it at their feet because, in the end, only white people can truly banish this ideology to the dustbin of history. They must refuse to tolerate it in their midst, regardless of whether it is a view held by family member, a friend, or even a lover. In this case, silence is a form of complicity. (Jesuit Social Research Institute. Number 98. August 2019)

Sixty of the 100 killings that occur with a gun EVERY DAY, are suicides.  Daniel Misleh describes how you can help someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

US Catholic Sisters against human trafficking posted this heartbreaking story about trafficking in Those Who Don’t Survive. . . And Those Who Do By Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA

Lisa McCormick and her son Jeffrey

Most often we speak about the “survivors” of human trafficking when we reference people who have escaped the violent control of their perpetrators. Less often do we talk about those who do not survive, those who have died at the hands of their traffickers. This story is about Lisa McCormick and her son Jeffrey. Jeffrey did not survive the events which ultimately resulted in his death. With a home in rural Wisconsin, Jeffrey was a 17-year-old boy recruited into a sex trafficking ring out of Madison, WI and exploited until his death in September 2016. His mother, Lisa, has survived the horrific reality of losing a son who was trafficked.

Lisa never dreamed that this would happen in their family. The family moved from Alabama to Wisconsin when Jeff was in the first grade. In his rural school, Jeff tried hard to “fit in” over the years. Although making efforts to succeed in sports, it was not his thing. In middle grades, he was their best dancer, and for that he was bullied and picked on by other boys. Jeff became anxious and depressed. There were angry and violent days when he started cutting himself. At the age of eleven (6thgrade) he began using marijuana and by 7th and 8th grade was experimenting with drugs such as Triple C, an over-the-counter medication for colds. Taking 20, 40 and 60 pills at a time, Jeff developed severe gastrointestinal issues. In grade 9 he began stealing meds from his father’s medicine cabinet. Even more lethal drugs like meth, cocaine, and LSD became a regular diet for him. Changes in his skin, dry hair, panic attacks, and hallucinations were easy to see. He could no longer verbalize his needs.

In Jeff McCormick’s short life as a vulnerable youth, there are stories about running away, becoming homeless, getting picked up by men who promised him good things, but who forced him to have sex with women and dance in gentlemen’s clubs in order to make money to pay back his traffickers. He was missing for weeks, kept in a drug stupor and physically violated in various ways evidenced by the burn marks on his body. Although 17 years in age, he was considered and treated like an adult by law enforcement and transferred numerous times in and out of treatment centers, jails, shelters, and hospitals. The traffickers began threatening his mother on social media with verbal violence while insisting on knowing Jeff’s court dates. Lisa, his mother, knew nothing about what Jeff had been through—the fact that he had been sold on Craig’s list, forced to work in Sioux City, Iowa, overdosed in a hospital and eventually released to his mother.

In June of 2016, Jeff was at home as a very violent and disturbed son. He continued to run away, returning to Iowa on one occasion. A few months later on September 30, 2016, Lisa was notified by the sheriff that Jeff had died of an overdose of fentanyl laced with other substances. During funeral preparations, an envelope was sent to the home with photos of physical violence by the traffickers showing how they exercised control over Jeff. Two traffickers stalked the family by putting their pictures on social media, showing up at the funeral visitation and at the cemetery. Lisa states that she “lost it” at that point, vowing that she would do all in her power to prevent other families from going through such an ordeal.

Lisa has turned this experience into a personal mission to help others. She has made it her life’s purpose to share her family’s story so others understand trafficking and how easily our vulnerable children can get caught up in it. She speaks on the topics of sex trafficking, drug addiction, bullying, acceptance, and her faith throughout her personal journey as a parent survivor of a sex trafficking victim. She educates groups to encourage them to know the signs of at risk youth, to not be afraid to talk to them and show them care and to give them someone to trust. Walking alongside parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others, Lisa is a living beacon of hope so that they are not alone in this journey. She is a member of the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Council and is featured in the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families documentary film, It Happens Here, on youth sex trafficking in Wisconsin – soon to be released along with a school curriculum on human trafficking in 2020. She is a frequent speaker throughout Wisconsin for educational and professional organizations as well as at schools, churches and public awareness events. Lisa has been instrumental in developing a program with the Janesville, WI police department called SLOTH (Supporting Loved Ones through Hardships). Over the long term, Lisa’s continuing efforts will be evident in the development of Destiny Center in Juneau County, a residential home for girls in recovery from addictions and trafficking.

When the author of this column was educated by survivors of human trafficking in Washington D.C. while serving on the White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (2012-2013), survivors would convey that the life expectancy of trafficked individuals, particularly women, was between 37-50 years of age. The reasons were obvious: their bodies were spent and worn out from multiple rapes, beatings, from diseases resulting from sexual contact, multiple forced abortions and relentless work under inhuman and illegal conditions. One author states that “The average life expectancy of someone in commercial sexual exploitation is seven years. Start at 14, dead by 21. The mortality rate for someone in commercial sexual exploitation is 40 times higher than for a non-exploited person of the same age.”

The calculations are brutal, yet believable, especially when considering U.S. Life Expectancy by gender and race or ethnicity. (See the attached chart.) The data is informative and convincing that human trafficking creates a major health issue in the world. Moreover, it is a life issue which begs a place at the heart of our moral reasoning and action.

And then there are the traffickers themselves – Jeffrey Epstein, for example! He didn’t survive either! But for reasons altogether different. And that would be another story.

In this critical moment, the President is deciding the number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States.
Let the President and Congress know of your strong support for refugees and resettlement.  As September 30, 2019, (the end of the fiscal year) approaches, the Trump Administration is required to announce the Presidential Determination (PD) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which determines the number of refugees allowed to be admitted to the United States. The FY2019 PD was set at 30,000 refugees, the all-time-lowest number in the history of resettlement. Meanwhile, there are nearly 26 million refugees worldwide with 1.4 million needing resettlement.

Despite the continued global need, some in the Trump Administration are reportedly calling to “zero out” the program for FY 2020. USCCB said that zeroing out the refugee program “would be contrary to America values.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom registered their “alarm.” The Senate and House have both introduced the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement Act, GRACE Act, S. 1088, H.R. 2146, which would set 95,000 as the minimum PD.

As Catholics, we affirm the inherent dignity of every person and the ability of refugees to seek security and safety for themselves and family members. We continue to be deeply concerned that low admission numbers mean that refugees fleeing persecution are left in harms’ way and that refugee families are left separated across the continents. Learn more about refugees and refugee resettlement, check the USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants resource page.


Urge President Trump:
To admit 30,000 refugees in FY 19 and 95,000 in FY 20.

Urge your U.S. Representative and Senators:
(1) To urge the Administration to admit 30,000 refugees in FY 19 and 95,000 in FY 20;
(2) To provide robust oversight and appropriations to achieve both goals, and
(3) To support the GRACE Act that would establish a minimum annual refugee admission goal of 95,000.

Click here to send the following message to the President and your U.S. Representative and Senators:

President Trump,

Please do not “zero out” the refugee resettlement program. Return to robust refugee resettlement which is a life-saving program that exhibits U.S. leadership.

The Catholic community is committed to supporting people seeking refuge in our country, and we stand with you in providing protection and safety for refugees. Thank you for your work!

Members of Congress,

We urge you to utilize oversight and support the Administration in all efforts to ensure refugees can arrive to the United States during the rest of 2019 and in 2020. And co-sponsor and support the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement Act, GRACE Act, S. 1088/H.R. 2146, which would establish a minimum annual admission goal of 95,000 refugees.

During this crucial time of decision, the Catholic community stands with you in supporting protections for refugees, and we thank you for your work.

If you want more information on the latest rule change on immigration mentioned in the blog, click here.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

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