Archive | July 2012

Being Poor Can Land You In Jail

In Sojourners For Justice’s Action Alert, we are reminded that living in poverty has always been a struggle, but in Alabama being poor could land you in prison.

According to a recent story in The New York Times, rural Alabama resident Gina Ray was locked up for over a month because she could not pay fees and fines related to minor traffic offenses. [1] Speeding while being poor should not land someone in jail. These punishments simply do not fit the crime nor is this legal action in the “public good”. This type of use of legal system simply helps the companies that profit from people’s misery. With that said, please tell Alabama’s governor that the welfare of the citizens of his state must come before profits. Being poor should not be a crime.

It has been reported that Alabama, like many states, has made huge increases in the fees it levies on those caught up in its criminal justice system—even for minor traffic offenses. This troubling trend is compounded by the growing privatization of the criminal “justice system”; when poor citizens cannot pay the fines and fees that serve to significantly increase a private contractor’s bottom line, they often land in jail, where more fees are assessed. against the already indigent defendant.  One judge called the situation an appalling “extortion racket.” [2]

With that said, it is important to tell Alabama’s governor to call for legislation to end this immoral practice. As aptly stated by Sojourners For Justice, “Jesus proclaimed release for the captives. Scripture calls us to care about justice for the poor. Your assistance in this pressing matter is urgently needed.

Source(s): [1] “Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation,” The New York Times, July 2, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/us/probation-fees-multiply-as-companies-profit.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

[2] “Judge in Alabama Halts Private Probation,” The New York Times, July 13, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/14/us/judge-in-alabama-halts-private-probation.html?_r=2

Photo Credit Microsoft Clip Art

 

Georgia’s Anti-Immigration Law

Georgia followed Arizona’s lead and passed stringent new legislation targeting illegal immigrants and those who harbor them.   Supporters of the new law state that Georgia enacted anti-immigration law (House Bill 87) with the overarching goal of saving money.

Supporters of the anti-immigration law contend that illegal immigrants are burdening Georgia’s hospitals, jails and public schools. Further, they assert that illegal immigrants are taking jobs in a period of record unemployment in the State. It was clear on its face that this piece of legislation would not have the anticipated result of saving money for the state or opening up jobs for citizens that were unemployed.

Prior to the passage of the law, there were rallies that opposed the legislation and urged the governor to veto the bill. Democrats vigorously fought House Bill 87 arguing that it would damage Georgia’s agricultural and tourism industries and force the state to defend itself against costly court battles. It was passed. Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal (Republican) signed the anti-immigration legislation into law.

In response to this poorly thought out piece of legislation, thousands Georgia residents rallied against the recently enacted Georgia anti-immigration law House Bill 87. The Georgia Anti-Immigration law has had serious economic consequences for the state. It has been reported that Georgia’s tough anti-illegal-immigrant law drove a sizable fraction of the migrant labor pool out of the state, and as a result, “millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops [are] unharvested and rotting in the fields.”[i]

“The jobs the migrants did paid an average of eight ($8)/hour, without benefits, a wage that is so low that the state’s probationed prisoners have turned it down.[ii] Guest-writing in the Atlantic’s economics section, Adam Ozimek doesn’t believe that the farms would be viable if they paid wages that legal American workers would take: “it’s quite possible that the wages required to get workers to do the job are so high that it’s no longer profitable for farmers to plant the crops in the first place.” [iii]

Georgia’s tough anti-illegal-immigrant law has created a labor shortage in one the state’s largest industries.[iv]  Hopefully, it is clear to the supporters of this poorly thought out piece of legislation that this law should be repealed. If not, it is certain that there will be a case filed by the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center barring its implementation in Georgia.

Sources: “Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011″; “Georgia’s anti-immigrant law leaves millions in crops rotting in the fields” Cory Doctorow, BOINGBOING, Wednesday, Jun 22, 2011. HB57- Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, Dustin, Georgia Politico, January 28, 2011. georgiabulletin.org. “Local ministers: HB 87 is NOT what Jesus would do” Gwynedd Stuart, Creative Loafing, April 25, 2011.

[1] “Georgia’s anti-immigrant law leaves millions in crops rotting in  the fields” Cory Doctorow, BOINGBOING, Wednesday, Jun 22, 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

The “War on Unemployment”

We, as a nation, are several years into a job crisis. Reports of highly disappointing employment gains highlight the urgent need for a national plan to grow the economy. The unemployment numbers throughout the country mandate legislative, tangible action to address the crisis. In response to the dismal unemployment figures, an open letter with almost two thousand (2,000) signatures was sent by the National Urban League to the President and Congress urging their support in the “War on Unemployment”.

For the past year, this blog has focused primarily on recently introduced pieces of legislation and other activities undertaken to address the  current economic crisis with a focus on addressing unemployment and the resulting  record bankruptcies, foreclosures, growth in homelessness and food insecurity. Below are several pieces of recent legislation which were introduced to address the unemployment crisis:

Promoting Partnerships to Transform Opportunities Act (H.R. 2611)

The Promoting Partnerships to Transform Opportunities Act (H.R. 2611) is one such piece of legislation. In response to record employment, the Promoting  Partnerships to Transform Opportunities Act (H.R. 2611) was introduced on July  21, 2011, by US Representative Raul Grijalva (S-AZ7).  This piece of legislation would “…amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to prepare people with multiple barriers to employment to enter the workforce by providing such people with support services, job training, and education, and for other purposes. This new piece of legislation, H.R. 2611, has four (4) cosponsors. It is in the first step of the legislative process.

H.R. 2935

Last year, another piece of legislation was introduced to amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to permit the establishment of Job Corps centers in the territories of the United States. On June 24, 2011, H.R. 2935 was introduced by Delegate Gregorio Sablan (D-MP) to amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. H.R. 2935 has 26 cosponsors. It is also in the first step of the legislative process.

Like most Americans, some members of congress assert that, “It is time for action on the most important issue of our time—economic opportunity through jobs! Every  American deserves the right to be gainfully employed or own a successful business”—said U.S. Representative Cleaver. I agree. As a result, I just signed a petition that says “America wants to work. It’s time to move on from manufactured crises and focus on jobs.

Lamont Cranston reminds us that, ” History will judge us either for  our activism or apathy. The choice is ours, but the impact of our decision is ultimately on our children.” If the pressing social issues covered in these posts are important to you, please contact your elected officials in Washington, DC.  For further information on these pieces of legislation, please visit www.govtrack.us. www.opencongress.org.

Source(s): National Urban League. US Rep. Cleaver’s FaceBook page. www.govtrack.us. www.opencongress.org Lamont Cranston. www.grio.com. www.thecincinnatiherald.com. www.theblackamerica.com. AFL-CIO.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2011 (H.R. 83)

As reported in the media, bullying is an ever increasing problem with sometimes lethal consequences. The Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2011 (H.R. 83) seeks to address this pressing social problem. The Act will “…amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to require the Attorney General to establish guidelines to prevent and address occurrences of bullying, …provide for grant funding to states for programs to prevent and address occurrences of bullying, and … reauthorize the Juvenile Accountability Block grants program.” The legislation could be an important new tool to empower the community to prevent bullying.

The Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2011 (H.R. 83) was introduced on January 5, 2011. The sponsor of the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2011 is Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas18) and there are twenty-six (26) cosponsors for this piece of legislation.

In recognition of the growing prevalence of bullying, the Obama administration has also taken important measures to combat and prevent bullying. This administration is directing resources for the express purpose of reducing bullying incidents and to raising awareness around its ramifications, and, of course, to countering its negative impact.   Toward that end, the White House convened a conference on preventing bullying, on Thursday, March 11, 2011. The Obama administration also announced the launch of a new website, www.stopbullying.gov, devoted to bullying prevention.

The Stop Bullying website provides information from various government agencies on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators, and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying. The website also provides information on bullying prevention and intervention measures. Topics on the website include but are not limited to: state policies and laws; violence prevention program directories; available online resources; and research. The website provides bullying prevention information for varied audiences such as victims, bystanders, parents, teachers, administrators, and others.

For information on bullying, there are several other websites you can visit including but not limited to: www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org; www.meganmeirfoundation.org;  ww.fightcrime.org; www.bullypolice.org; www.healthline.com; http://www.cyberbullying.us; http://www.stopbullying.org; www.isafe.org; and others.

Source(s): www.govtrack.us. www.whitehouse.govwww.hhs.govww.stopbullying.gov; Cyber Research Center; Stop Bullying, Inc.; and i-Safe, Inc.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Fair Employment Opportunity Act

What  are some of the factors contributing to long-term unemployment? Some assert that unemployed workers are being discriminated against by prospective employers. In other words, when reviewing applicants some employers are only electing to interview workers that are currently employed.In response to this observed phenomena, this month, Democratic members of congress introduced legislation to prevent discrimination against unemployed workers. Representatives Rosa DeLauro’s of Connecticut and  Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 (2501), which would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against unemployed job-seekers by refusing to consider them for employment.According to Representatives Rosa DeLauro’s press release—“In today’s tough economy, more than 6 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months. But companies across the country have begun to require current employment to be considered for available positions, and these discriminatory practices are eliminating employment opportunities.

The Fair Employment Opportunity Act will prevent employers and employment agencies from refusing to consider or offer employment to someone who is unemployed, or including language in any job advertisements or postings that states unemployed individuals are not qualified. A recent survey, conducted by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), of four of the top job search websites, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com, and CraigsList.com, found over 150 job advertisements that specified applicants must be currently employed. And the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows that there are 4.7 unemployed workers for every 1  job opening.”

The legislation, if passed by the House and Senate, would  apply to employers with over fifteen (15) employees and would provide protection to job applicants who are discriminated against because they are unemployed. Key provisions of the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 include but are not limited to:

(a) Employers – It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to–

  1. Refuse to consider for employment or refuse to offer employment to an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed;
  2. Publish in print, on the Internet, or in any other medium, an advertisement or announcement for any job that includes—

– any provision stating or indicating that an individual’s status as unemployed disqualifies the individual for a job; and

– any provision stating or indicating that an employer will not consider an applicant for employment based on that individual’s status as unemployed; and

3.Direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account in screening or referring applicants for employment.

Representatives Rosa DeLauro’s press release aptly states that, “In a tough job market, where workers are competing against tens and sometimes hundreds of others for every available job opening, it is unjust for employers to discriminate against those who are unemployed. We have seen ample evidence that unemployed individuals are increasingly falling prey to discriminatory practices reducing their opportunities to be considered for a job. The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against unemployed job-seekers, and ensure that all Americans have the same opportunities for employment.

Discrimination against the unemployed – especially the long-term unemployed – in job advertisements and hiring practices flies in the face of what we stand for as a nation: Equal opportunity for all,” said Rep. Johnson. The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 will help us level the playing field and get people back to work.”

 

Sources: Representatives Rosa DeLauro website, HR 2501, Representative Johnson website, and opencongress.org. Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Rebuilding the American Dream: One Person At A Time

People from all walks of life have come together with the singular purpose of reclaiming the American Dream for all. In every congressional district, “Rebuild the American Dream” meetings are being held in response to the challenges faced with the federal budget. It has been reported that the American Dream Movement is growing stronger by the day.

As a participant at a Rebuild the American Dream meetings, I understand that the meetings held across the country are only the first of many steps on the way to regaining the dream for all.  Participants are committed to ensuring that once again Americans are: employed, can afford to go to college, retire with dignity, and secure a future for their children and their communities.

This summer, important action is being taken to bring more people into the political process. In addition to the “Rebuild the American Dream” meetings, there were voter empowerment campaigns held this month across the country. There are three (3) stages in the voter empowerment process: registration, education, and mobilization. It has been reported that volunteers in all fifty (50) states were knocking on doors and registering new voters. The overarching goal of the voter empowerment campaigns lead by the Democratic Party is three-fold: to bring more people into the political process; to make certain that every voter who wants to exercise their right is registered; to ensure the reelection of President Barack Obama and that Democrats take back the United States House of Representatives.

Get involved. Take action that can and will change the future. If you are not already registered, get registered to vote. Seize the opportunity to cast your vote. As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” Your vote can be decisive, stand up, speak out, be heard— participate in the “Rebuild the American Dream” movement and vote!

For further information on the “Rebuild the American Dream Movement”, visit www.moveon.org.

Sources:Moveon.org. Wikipedia.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Increasing Hunger in America is the Wrong Direction for Our Country

Are we a nation that lets our elected officials in Washington DC take meals away from hungry children and seniors? Today is a national call-in day to show Congress that increasing hunger in America is unacceptable. Will you join the movement to stop additional drastic cuts to SNAP?

Tomorrow, the House Agriculture Committee will vote on a Farm Bill proposal that cuts SNAP by over $16 billion. Were you aware that more than one (1) in seven (7) Americans receives SNAP benefits?

What do the proposed drastic cuts to SNAP mean for hungry Americans?

–          500,000 households would see their benefits cut by $90 per month;

–          2 to 3 million individuals would lose their food assistance entirely;

–          Nearly 300,000 kids would lose free school meals.

More than one (1) in five (5) children lives in poverty and nearly one (1) in four (4) is at risk of hunger. Often, I write about pending legislation which impacts indigent children, youth, and families with the goal of encouraging the reader to act to protect vulnerable families. I know that ensuring America’s children and youth are connected to healthy food where they live, learn and play is as important to you as it is to me. As a result, I am writing to you today to update on the Farm Bill.

Over twenty-five (25) percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now thirty-three (33) percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

Let’s tell our elected officials in Washington that increasing hunger in America is the wrong direction for our country. We cannot let there be additional drastic cuts to SNAP happen.

If agree that increasing hunger in America is the wrong direction for our country, please call your Representative Today!

Send Congress a message. Your voice can, and will, make a difference. With that said, please take these very simple steps to help millions of vulnerable children, youth, and families across our nation.

  1. Call the toll-free hotline at 877-698-8228.
  2. Listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted. You will then be connected to your Representative.
  3. State that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from. Let them know you are calling about the Farm Bill and deliver this important message:
  • I strongly oppose cuts to SNAP and other hunger-relief programs.
  • Please vote against the proposed cuts to SNAP in the House Farm Bill.
  • Increasing hunger in America is the wrong direction for our country.

We can only make a difference when we take action.

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

Source(s): www.congress.org. Feeding America. Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bread for the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art