Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition

MPJC Position on Peace and Justice Issues

2005

2006

2008

2009

2010

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2012

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2015

2016

 

  MPJC Position on the Draft

The Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition is opposed to the military draft and supports the right of each person to follow his or her conscience in the event of war.

Furthermore, we are opposed to the economic or "back-door" draft that is currently in place. As funding for schools and universities decline, and unemployment rises--especially in communities of color-- military service is one of the only ways of securing a decent job or funding for higher education. We support the expansion of real job and educational opportunities for young people, including lowering the costs of higher education, expansion of scholarship programs, and job creation which will give them real non-military options.

At the same time, the coalition believes that there would be significant disincentives for going to war if a broad-based, gender-neutral, "auto-onset" draft were instituted, one which would be activated any time Congress authorized military aggression (as opposed to defense from attack). Such a draft would assure that politicians would think more seriously about the consequences of military aggression and the advantages of resolving conflict through diplomatic and legal means, and many more citizens would be motivated to consider the true impact of a decision to go to war and to express their opposition to such a decision.

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MPJC Position on Withdrawal from Iraq

MPJC position on Withdrawal of troops from Iraq

The United States attacked Iraq without justification and now has a moral obligation to repair the damage it caused. Coalition members believe that the United States must withdraw its troops from Iraq immediately.

The last time we sampled the membership, there were a number of opinions about how soon to withdraw, depending on the UN or some other multinational force replacing US forces. At this point it is clear that the UN is not coming in; there is already a civil war going on, and the presence of US troops is exacerbating it. The reality check of more US soldiers coming home in body bags and even more of them coming home "alive" minus an arm, or a leg, or a face, in addition to the mounting Iraqi casualties, either caused directly by US military action or by the terrorist attacks that are a direct result of our military adventurism there, has caused MPJC to rethink its previous position.

In all likelihood there will be dangers to Iraqis when the United States pulls out, but they will be far less than the dangers they will face if US troops are not withdrawn. Iraq cannot make progress while it is occupied by the United States.

After three years of war and twelve years of sanctions, the United States has a moral obligation to restore the homes and infrastructure that have been destroyed, but the rebuilding can only begin after the dust settles and the smoke clears. The first step is to get the troops out\u2014NOW!

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MPJC Position on Torture

Torture is never justified, because torture is both immoral and unreliable.

It is immoral because it licenses people to do into others what they would never want done to themselves. Soldiers are trained to think of the enemy as less than human so they can kill without hesitation or remorse. The same mind set encourages an interrogator to act inhumanely.

It is unreliable because a suspect will not necessarily provide correct information or a valid confession under torture but merely whatever the victim imagines the torturer wants to hear. In the oft-cited case of the ticking time bomb, even a culpable suspect can lead investigators on a series of wild goose chases by naming false locations. The torture scenario also usually presupposes the guilt of a suspect without due process. Many an innocent person has been tortured in the name of judicial expediency.

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MPJC Position on Nuclear Disarmament and Nuclear Power
See also http://www.warresisters.org/Reviving_Resistance.pdf

1. Nuclear Disarmament

The Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition rejects any development, testing and use of nuclear weapons. We demand that the Oakridge, TN, nuclear weapons facility stop refurbishing and resume dismantling all our nuclear warheads. It is dangerous and hypocritical for the U.S. to maintain a nuclear weapons stockpile while insisting that the rest of the world disarm. We demand that our government accept resposibility for its serious contamination of earth and water by cleaning up any and all waste from nuclear weapons development facilities.

2. Use of Depleted Uranium

Depleted Uranium (DU) is what is left after U-235 is extracted from uranium ore. It is very heavy and is used to coat armor-piercing shells and other ordnance. When the ordnance explodes, the DU vaporizes and is ingested by the military on both sides and by civilians. It is thought to be responsible for Gulf War Syndrome and the high incidence of lung cancer and birth defects in the regions where it was used (Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Puerto Rico, and the Balkans).

Because the contamination from storage and use of DU lasts virtually forever, the Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition calls for immediate cessation of the mining and processing of uranium ore and sealed storage of weapons containing DU as well as other DU waste.

3. Nuclear Power

The Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition rejects the use of conventional fusion nuclear power for electricity production or propulsion of land, sea, air, and space vehicles. Far from being a source of clean, cheap energy, "dirty" radiation is produced all along the production and operation cycle , and the high level waste from spent fuel rods and decommissioned reactors will be hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years. Scientists have shown that nuclear power will not prevent climate change from global warming.

MPJC encourages its members and others to reduce their consumption of fossil-fuel energy by walking or riding bicycles instead of driving, and avoiding the use of electricity whenever possible. In addition we encourage the greatly increased use of renewable solar, wind, and water electricity generation and recommend that electric companies allow individual home solar arrays and wind turbines to be connected directly to the grid to save money, to reduce dependence on non-renewable electricity sources, and to help democratize the local means of energy generation.

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MPJC Position on Voting

The MPJC feels that the basic right to vote, while still strong in this country, is being faced with numerous challenges. After the controversy in Florida during the 2000 presidential vote and in Ohio during the 2004 presidential vote many new regulations were implemented to help prevent voter fraud and other irregularities. We must ensure that any steps taken to protect the integrity of the voting system do not infringe on the rights of the poor, of minorities, and for anyone who does not have a photo id. We must also ensure that our elections are not influenced by the party in power, corporate interests, and intimidation by poll workers. While the new voter I.D. laws both in Indiana and the ones proposed on a national basis do provide some protection against fraud, they cause a larger problem by instituting a "poll tax" in the form of a charge for an acceptable form of I.D. We must work to make the polls accessible to all who wish to participate on election day without undue complications or discouraging measures. The voting system must be accountable for all votes cast. Steps that could encourage greater turnout would be the institution of election day as a national holiday, which would give everyone ample opportunity to go to the polls, a longer election period, and instant runoff voting.

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MPJC Position on War Tax Resistance - Revised February, 2010

End the War – Stop Paying for it!

For over eight years peace activists have voted, lobbied, marched, and taken direct action to first prevent and then end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Courageous soldiers have refused to fight the wars. But, still the wars go on and still we/they pay for it. Congress repeatedly votes to appropriate billions of dollars to continue the wars. War tax resistance is no less futile than the efforts of peace activists mentioned above and quite to the point. It is one more way to raise consciousness. It's time for taxpayers who oppose this war to join together in nonviolent civil disobedience and show Congress how to cut off the funds for this war and redirect resources to the pressing needs of people. This can be done by refusing to pay some or all of our federal income taxes. Fifty percent of these taxes are used to fund the military, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. http://www.warresisters.org/federalpiechart

Resistance begins with your W4 and 1040!

Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition endorses the War Tax Boycott "Withhold from War / Pay for Peace," initiated by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), and supports any of its members who participate in this boycott. More information about the campaign as well as a registration form is available at www.nwtrcc.org. There is a pdf version of FAQ about why folks who work for peace don't do war tax resistance at http://www.nwtrcc.org/why-isn't-rick.pdf

This campaign to boycott and redirect war taxes was launched in September 2007 as Congress began its consideration of a Bush Administration request for an additional $190 billion appropriation for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is still in effect. It was begun in the fall, ahead of tax season, so that those who wanted to refuse to pay for war could explore the options, decide what to do, and prepare to resist well before 2007 taxes were due. The campaign is being promoted by peace activists around the country. To engage in war tax resistance, it is important to adjust your W4 in the beginning of the year so you will owe taxes when you fill out your 1040. See www.nwtrcc.org/practical1.html

Refusing to pay taxes because of war is an act of civil disobedience, but it also provides the opportunity to use that money for positive, healing, and rebuilding programs. War tax boycott participants were encouraged to redirect their resisted taxes to a project providing health care among Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria (this organization went out of business at the end of 2009), a health care center in New Orleans providing free care to survivors of Katrina www.commongroundclinic.org, or to a humanitarian project of their own choosing. (One of our MPJC members is directing a program to help Iraq refugees get a college education in the U.S. - www.iraqistudentproject.org)

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MPJC Position on Withdrawal from Afghanistan

The United States attacked Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11/2001 attack on the twin towers, after the Taliban refused or was unable to turn over the al Qaida leadership to the UN, and now the U.S. has a moral obligation to repair the damage it caused. MPJC believed in 2001 that the correct policy was to use police forces to bring the leaders of Al Qaida to justice, not start a war of revenge on an entire country. Coalition members still believe that the United States must set an early deadline (a few months) to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Civilians who would be in imminent danger of death should be evacuated as well. In addition to withdrawal of troops, the U.S. must stop the use of remote controlled Predator drones to do its killing.

In all likelihood there will be dangers to Afghanis when the United States pulls out. The Taliban is likely to regain control of the country and reinstitute severe social practices. The situation for women which has improved marginally since 2001 would likely deteriorate. MPJC is deeply concerned about the suffering of Afghanis both now and after the withdrawal, but believes that it is the responsibility of Afghan citizens, not the U.S. or the world community, to bring about changes in their government and way of life nonviolently.

The following quote has been taken from the National Priorities Project website page – The Cost of War in Afghanistan(www.nationalpriorities.org). The legitimacy of the Afghan government per the October 2009 elections is more open to question than ever before.

“Today the Kabul government is losing support among the Afghan people. The Taliban and other insurgent groups are gaining recruits because there is neither basic security nor jobs. Corruption and an unwillingness to address human rights abuses have undermined support for the government. The behavior of foreign troops has often violated cultural norms and created fear and humiliation. Practices like night raids, use of drones and aerial bombardments tend to increase support for insurgents. As the conflict widens, meager education and health services become even more limited. People in Afghanistan have consistently called for basic services, food, civilian rule of law and healthy institutions that can be trusted. As one of the poorest countries on earth, Afghanistan will continue to need aid and outside investment for years to come.”

After eight years of war, the United States has a moral obligation to restore the homes and infrastructure that have been destroyed, but the rebuilding can only begin after the foreign troops have departed and their bases have been dismantled. We acknowledge that the Taliban is unlikely to be receptive to any aid for rebuilding from the U.S., but believe that continued presence of coalition troops is steadily drawing more support for the Taliban, making it more likely that the Afghanis will welcome the Taliban when the inevitable withdrawal occurs. The first step is to get the troops out.

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Food Justice

There is a growing consciousness that food distribution and consumption is a justice issue. In addition to the fact that many people are going to bed hungry, there is the whole question of what we are doing to the earth in the process of feeding the people that we do, including ourselves. This issue is closely tied to a number of others, including the fairness of trade (or lack thereof), the heavy reliance on oil for food production and distribution, human and animal health, and environmental sustainability. Progressives must therefore become increasingly engaged in this area, if they are not already.

Fairness of trade: This is more than paying coffee growers and others fair prices for their agricultural products. It extends to such concerns as trade agreements that flood foreign markets with food priced so low that it drives local farmers out of business. A key example is shipping corn from the U.S. to Mexico. Genetic modification has been touted as being responsible for a great deal of increased productivity, but this claim has not been sustantiated, and the safety of this produce is being called into question. Farmers in some countries that have converted to "modern" methods in the name of "development" are finding themselves unable to keep up with the costs of these methods, and some are even committing suicide over the despair of not even being able to feed their own families, let alone grow a product to market. As we all know, right here in the United States, family farmers are a dying breed, and the few that remain are at the mercy of agribusiness such as ADM, which tells them what to grow, how to grow, and what they will get paid for it.

Reliance on oil: The fertilizers and pesticides in common use in "modern" agriculture are in large part oil- and gas-based. Modern farm equipment uses massive amounts of oil It comes as no news to any of us that fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce, and at some point during this century will totally run out. The typical supermarket relies on regular cross-country shipments of both raw and processed foods delivered by truck, further contributing to oil scarcity.

Human and animal health: Across the country, meat production relies heavily on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO's), commonly resulting in pollution of ground water systems from animal waste. The extensive use of grains in these operations results in a net reduction in actual food available for people, as has been documented for years. CAFOs also rely on far-flung distribution systems heavily reliant on fossil fuels, with the same problems as the distribution of plant products. Furthermore, as it is not natural for animals to live under such crowded conditions, the extensive use of antibiotics is required to keep the animals "healthy." These antibiotics eventually find their way into the bodies of people who eat such meat, contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Thus, both animals and humans suffer negative effects from CAFO's. The medical/nutritional community is increasingly calling on us to eat less meat simply to avoid the fat therein, and encouraging us to rely more heavily, if not totally, on a plant-based diet. Years ago, Francis Moore Lappe documented how the same amount protein (grain) fed to animals, when fed directly to people, feeds many more people with the same amount of food.

Environmental sustainability: In addition to heavy reliance on oil, the sheer size of modern farm equipment results in extensive soil compaction, which is not healthy for soil, as it destroys the microflora and microfauna. Overtilling is less of a problem than it once was, but the experience of "less developed" farmers shows that farming with animals, oxen for example, actually helps work the soil without compacting it. When Russia cut off Cuba's oil supply in the wake of its own economic crisis, Cuba rediscovered "primitive" and organic farming methods, and thus provides a model for the rest of the world in surviving the oil crisis. An unplanned benefit in the process was the renewal of neighborhoods since people learned from each other as the economy shifted to a more agricultural model.

Solutions? Fairness of trade is primarily political, and calls for our political engagement in this area. Our over-reliance on oil for getting our food can be reduced by a) supporting local grower/buyer cooperatives such as Purple Porch Co-op(only available online) and grain shares. We can all adjust our eating habits in the direction of vegetarian, or even vegan, diets. We can engage in backyard gardening and participate in Unity Gardens, using organic and other environmentally sustainable methods. We can also encourage efforts to reduce wasted food and to develop methods to prolong food life. A word of caution: if getting to a CSA results in using more gasoline than going to the grocery store, one needs to rethink the benefits of participating in this type of agriculture. Another problem with organic produce is the lack of knowledge on how to cook it. We cannot feed everyone a balanced diet from unity or backyard gardens or local buyer/grower coops alone. It is a good start on sustainable agriculture, however. It is only a matter of time before South Bend passes an ordinance permitting and regulating backyard chickens -- and why not backyard rabbits? We may not achieve food independence, but as oil becomes scarcer and more expensive, we will find ourselves ahead of the game. We can reconnect to the earth, and teach our children where food really comes from.

Organic agriculture provides a set of beliefs and actions that work with and sustain natural cycles, and promotes the health of individuals, animals, communities, ecosystems and the planet. Organic agriculture:

  • meets the needs of people, animals and ecosystems without artificial inputs or poisons
  • conserves and replenishes natural resources
  • reduces emissions of global warming gases and sequesters CO2
  • respects fundamental rights of humans, animals, and ecosystems
  • respects and promotes biodiversty
  • respects and acknowledges interdependence
  • enhances the development of community supported agriculture (CSA) and reduces dependence on industrialized agriculture
  • does all of the above and much more when coupled with zero waste technologies, clean production technologies, clean energy technologies, and major emphases on energy efficiency in all sectors of society.

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MPJC position on Ending War and reducing the deficit

Military spending for the Pentagon, the wars, and nuclear weapons comprises 56% of the discretionary spending requested in FY 2012, according to WAND figures. While all other discretionary spending is subject to cuts or spending caps, historically military spending continues to grow. Simple arithmetic tells us that without cuts to this largest portion of discretionary spending even very deep cuts to domestic and international programs will not alleviate deficit spending and the rising debt. Thus, it is not surprising that the recent bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform called for \u201csubstantial defense reductions over the next 10 years. Furthermore, creating jobs is crucial to our economy and University of Massachusetts economists found that public dollars invested in clean energy, health care, and education all create significantly more jobs within the U.S. economy than investing an equivalent amount in the military.

We believe budget decisions should reflect our nation's values and we can cut military spending without harming national security or undermining troops. Every dollar we spend on a weapon is a dollar we don't have to educate our future workforce or rebuild a crumbling bridge. As we face some of the most difficult budgeting challenges in our nation's history, it is essential that we restrain military spending. A good start would be to end U.S. participation in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, cancel orders for expensive military equipment, and reduce significantly the size of our armed forces as well as military aid to other countries. Approximately one quarter of all military spending goes towards the recruitment, retention, wages and benefits for military personnel stationed in 737 bases throughout the world.

Taxpayers in Indiana's 2nd Congressional District will pay $898.5 million for proposed Department of Defense spending for FY2012. For the same amount of money, the following could be provided, according to the National Priorities Project::

  • 508,205 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
  • 15,028 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
  • 17,041 Firefighters for One Year OR
  • 127,776 Head Start Slots for Children for One Year OR
  • 180,684 Households with Renewable Electricity - Solar Photovoltaic for One Year OR
  • 481,824 Households with Renewable Electricity-Wind Power for One Year OR
  • 133,203 Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for One Year OR
  • 192,440 People Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
  • 15,984 Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers for One Year OR
  • 104,319 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
  • 161,893 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550

* The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: An Updated Analysis, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Department of Economics (October 2009) FY2012 Budget Letter Sponsored By Women\u2019s Action For New Directions (WAND)

Contact: Elaina Ramsey, Field Coordinator 202.544.5055 ext. 2602 ceramsey@wand.org www.wand.org

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Uplifting Stories of Non-Violence

The following stories were shared at our meetings or by email:

Rey Hernandez

On the 6th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, a the interdenominational peace advocacy group of Battle Creek, MI, sponsored a speaker and discussion.  The speaker was Dr. David Braverman, an American Jew advocating for justice for Palestinians (visit http://www.arabdetroit.com/newsphp?id-2088).  A question and answer period over refreshments followed.  Several minutes into the session, a tall man, carrying a shoulder bag of unknown contents,  stood up and began a tirade repeating phrases such as "What would you do if I started throwing rocks, rotten eggs, and tomatoes at you."  He was obviously not of the same persuasion as the rest of us, and I would guess that he was a Zionist.  Various attempts to have him quiet down and respect the purpose and format of the meeting were unsuccessful, until I felt called to try.  He towered over me by nearly a foot, but I got close up and personal, whereas everyone else's efforts had been from a distance. 

I gently reminded him that this was Dr. Braverman's time, not his, and would he please ask his question and wait for the answer.  He would not be dissuaded from his rant, only now it was focused on me.  To his threat I first answered, "We would try disarm you, but we would not hurt you."  He responded, "And what would you do if you could not take my weapons?"  I answered, "Then we would endure your violence, but we would not hurt you."  I also tried to tell him about the many indignities being suffered by the Palestinians, such as homes bulldozed, crops destroyed, flocks and people attacked.  He would not listen.  What was interesting is that not only did I approach him with a soft voice, and kept lowering it, but that he in turn lowered his voice.  We continued our conversation in hushed whispers while the question and answer session resumed around us.  After a few minutes, he left so quietly that most of those there were unaware he had left.

Reflecting on what had happened, I have two observations:  First, I gave this man a personal hearing and a personal response.  He had a need to be heard, and I respected and responded to that need.  Secondly, he apparently came looking for a fight, and when it became apparent he was not getting one, he lost his purpose for being there, so he left.  We can be grateful that his level of violence did not rise to the point where he was willing to attack people who would not counter-attack.

Wanda and Galen Mangus

Wanda and Galen told a story about Alex Lewis, who had been incarcerated 31.5  years.  Wanda was coordinator of volunteers for the URC from 1976-87.  In 1978 the penal code was changed due to overcrowding.  All lifers without definite year terms were reevaluated.  Alex Lewis was one of 38, who was eligible for parole, if he had a sponsor.  His wife had moved to Michigan City after his sentence, so she could visit him once every ten days.  Twelve years after he was incarcerated she died, and he was not allowed to attend her funeral.  Following her death he really had no visitors.  So, we sponsored him, and he lived with us five years before finding a place of his own.  Alex told the story of his nickname.   After his crime of murder in 1948, he fled to Florida where he had family, but he was apprehended there.  A white policeman was sent down to bring him back but the segregation laws would not allow them to travel together. They finally sent a black policeman to fly him back to Fort Wayne, and a journalist wrote the story and titled it "Flying Home."  It was published in the Fort Wayne newspaper.  When Alex reached the prison, the inmates said his name would be "Flying Home."  While living with us Alex took care of the local Fair Cemetery, and he earned the praise and gratitude of everyone in the surrounding area.  He died July 24, 2001 and was buried in the Fair Cemetery.

Lois Clark

The shocking terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 causing the NYC World Trade Center twin towers to disintegrate, a civilian plane hijacked in Pennsylvania, and an assault on the Pentagon complex were used as an excuse for the U.S. Military to invade Iraq. Thousands around the world gathered to beg America not to go into Iraq. Our Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition and thousands around the country joined in the plea.

The group on our corner (Main and Jefferson in front of the Federal Building), numbering about twenty-five, faced an approximate number across the street supporting the war. When their shouts of "traitors, scum, etc." evoked no response from us, they crossed the street and marched around us in single file, still yelling obscenities. One of the angry women screamed at me, "I suppose you'd like Hussein to cut off your ears like he did to his people?" as she stomped back across the street.

The next week the same crowds met on their sides of the street. As I pondered the reality that both groups were standing on the SAME street in the SAME city and both were there because they believed strongly in what they thought their country should do, I decided I needed to go over to let them know I respected their right to stand for their belief, and thought we should be able to discuss our differences in a civil manner, so we could discover a way to find common ground for the sake of our country.

As I approached the group, a young mother said, "I cannot agree with you, but I have to respect you because I can see you are my elder!" I was headed to the other end of the crowd to talk to the four POW representatives whose large POW flags were anchored to their motorcycles. (Both sides were displaying large U.S. Flags.) When I got close enough, three of them turned away, snarling that they wouldn't talk with "such scum." However, the other one, whose blue eyes were full of anger, met mine as I asked if we could talk. He said, "I really don't want to talk with someone who spit on us when we came home from Vietnam." I agreed that I was in the streets trying to bring the troops home then, but that I did not, nor would I ever spit on anyone with whom I disagreed.

At that moment, a reporter from a local radio station walked up with a Norelco tape recorder and asked me if I would tell her why I was there. I touched the vet's arm, asking, "Would you please excuse me, sir, for a few minutes?" I don't know if it was what he heard in my response to the reporter, or what, but when I turned back to him, the anger had melted from his eyes and he put his hand on my arm and said, "God bless you!"

During the following week, I recalled the German White Rose story about students who nonviolently called attention to their countrymen concerning the need to speak up and oppose the tyranny that was taking over their country, telling them that their apathetic complicity was giving evil men the opportunity to act as they were. I decided to take a half dozen white roses, "the symbol representing purity in the face of evil," to give to the POW representatives. When they were not there, I was told I might find them at the Marine Post. They were not there, but I left the roses. As the weeks went by, the crowd on the other side continued to dwindle till no one came.

Our Coalition has continued our Monday 5-6pm vigil for the ensuing ten years since 2001. Once in a while, someone will ask, "Do you really think it does any good to stand on that corner for one hour every week?" Some seeds take a LONG time to germinate.

Pamela Florey

Pam told how she got a job at Gilbert's just after she and Ron arrived in South Bend in 1967. The management did not want any employee to wear their hair long or engage in protests against the war. They were going to fire a young man who had long hair and Pam threatened to quit if they did. Fortunately for both the young man and Pam, the management backed down. This story made the papers, both in South Bend and back in England. She explained that she came from a pacifist family and is always trying to explain to people why war is not the answer.

Glenda Rae Hernandez

Glenda Rae spoke of a very belligerent IRS agent who came to their door in the early days of their war tax resistance. She refused to be intimidated and answered his accusations by calmly stating that she and Rey could not in conscience pay for war. After a while he went away upset that he had not instilled any fear of the IRS into her.

Peter Smith

Peter told the story of his encounter with the Chief Finance Officer at St. Mary's, who was angry when the IRS came to St. Mary's to garnish Peter's wages for refused war taxes. He tried to have Peter fired but was not successful. 20 years later when this CFO retired, he sent Peter a letter expressing his appreciation of Peter's faithful witness to his principles.

Carol Dillon

Carol told about her husband Bill's decision to give up his job working on the Talos missile because of its use in warfare. That is how he began working for the water works.

Mohammad Salah Mahdi

Mohammad Salah Mahdi came to Chicago from Suleimaniya in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to give a keynote address at the CPT Congress 13-16 October 2011. Besides working as the translator, advisor, and driver for the CPT Iraq team, Mahdi teaches English to sixth and seventh grade teachers at Seventh Azar Basic School in Suleimaniya. Before he left Suleimaniya, he asked his students to write letters to students in Chicago and videotaped them singing songs of greeting and friendship in English.

On 12 October, Mahdi visited CICS West Belden School on the west side of Chicago accompanied by CPT Iraq team reservist and Chicago area resident David Hovde. Military recruiters come to the school and Tim Doran, one of the teachers, feels the students may not think they have many alternatives to what the military offers them. Doran’s class of mainly Latino students sat on the floor in the gym to view Hovde’s slides of his time on the CPT Iraq team. Then Mahdi showed the video of his students singing. “The leaders of our countries talk to each other, but the common people don’t. Making friendships between the common people of our countries is a way to make peace,” Mahdi told the students.

One of the students asked what kind of music people liked in Kurdistan. Mahdi mentioned a popular Kurdish musician. A teacher immediately looked the musician up on the web and played a music video on YouTube for the class. While the music played, Hovde suggested that Mahdi teach them Kurdish dancing. Mahdi led a line of students and teachers holding hands and danced with them around the gym as he waved a colorful piece of fabric with his free hand. The demonstration ended with a showdown between Mahdi and one of the male students, with each showing new moves that the other tried to copy. The student won by moving himself along the floor with his hands like a caterpillar, which Mahdi did not try doing.

Mahdi then gave his students’ letters to Doran, explaining to the class that since he is from a Muslim context, his female students wanted their letters to go to female students and his male students wanted their letters to go to male students. As Mahdi and Hovde left the school, the security guard, a veteran of the Iraq war, mentioned he was sorry he could not hear Mahdi’s presentation.

On 19 October, Mahdi and Hovde returned to the school. This time Mahdi spoke to fifth, sixth and seventh graders, giving some of his students’ letters to each class. Mahdi expressed his hopes to the classes that, besides letter writing, the students could also exchange artwork to put on display at the schools. Perhaps in time students could even visit each other’s schools. When asked what his biggest accomplishment was, Mahdi said, “I’m doing it at this moment, building peace between our countries for the next generation.”

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Position on Iran

The Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition strongly opposes any military engagement with Iran, including troops on the ground, attacks from the air, or shelling of Iranian naval ships or submarines. In keeping with this position, we urge the U.S. government to rethink its policy of sanctions which can easily escalate to open warfare on both sides.

The purported reason for sanctions is the belief that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but we wonder if the real U.S. goal is to gain control of Iran's vast oil reserves, or at least to destroy their ability to pump large quantities of oil, as we did in Iraq. All U.S. agencies charged with monitoring Iran's nuclear program, as well as the International Atomic Energy Commission, have stated that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program nor are they trying to start one. On March 18, during the show "Face the Nation," United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta openly admitted that Iran is not, in fact, developing nuclear weapons, yet still justified the Western assault on their nuclear program.

What Iran does have is a domestic nuclear energy program, and, as signatories of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to develop nuclear capacity for civilian purposes. This is what Iran has consistently said it is doing and what multiple UN inspections of facilities over many years, including those at the plant at Qom, have verified. The enrichment of uranium constitutes "nuclear capability" and is an essential part of harnessing nuclear energy for civilian energy generation and for making medical isotopes. Iran has triggering devices, but these have other industrial uses. Iran's missiles cannot reach the U.S. but can reach Israel. Hopefully, Israel knows that it would be highly counterproductive to attack Iran, but this scenario is very worrisome.

MPJC urges the U.S. government to reopen diplomatic ties with Iran, including naming an ambassador to that country. Diplomatic efforts and offers of assistance, such as the rescue of Iranian sailors in distress, will do more to influence Iran to maintain peaceful behavior towards its neighbors than will saber-rattling. End the Sanctions; Maintain the Vigilance.

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War on Women:2012:

The war on women is a term applied to efforts throughout the US and indeed the world to reverse decades of gains by women in areas of pay equity; pension and insurance reform; protection against domestic violence; reproductive choice; and of access to health care. These efforts are neither fair nor just and they are not economically defensible.

The right to collective bargaining was restricted for public employees in Wisconsin and Ohio, including the rights of teachers, nurses and social workers. Huge numbers of these workers are women. The Republican controlled Wisconsin state legislature passed a law repealing an earlier law making it easier for women to bring pay discrimination cases to court. The governor pushed for the bill and signed it immediately. A Wisconsin legislator argued that "money is more important for men than women".

The effort to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act will disproportionately affect women. Despite the fact that the bill was a compromise worked out after years of work by many organizations, committees, and businesses and without any concrete alternative that will address the issues of portability, the uninsured, and workforce disparities, the Congress is being led by Republicans to repeal the bill.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The US House of Representatives also passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act that removed protection for persons on tribal grounds and GLBT persons which had been included in the passed Senate version of the bill. A technical difficulty now prevents the VAWA bills from going to reconciliation. A state legislator in Georgia tried to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." Victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would have remained "victims."

The US military had over 3000  formal reports of rape by military personnel on other personnel. One in five women and one in fifteen men have reported sexual assault.  Many others are thought to go unreported.  However, women are not allowed to obtain abortions under military coverage unless their life is in danger from the pregnancy.  There are no exceptions for incest.  If women are in areas without access to safe abortion, even if she pays herself, she cannot get one

Budget items -- See the Ryan budget bill which according to the GAO would not cut the deficit or debt. It includes the following:

  1. Cuts of nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids…..or more.
  2. Cuts to Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool. Maryland Republicans say that women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
  3. Cuts for funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens. Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women. Many spent years out the work force caring for family members, thus limiting their chances to save for retirement and/or to accumulate social security credits.

Anti-family planning

In 2011 over 1000 bills restricting birth control and abortion were introduced into state legislatures and 162 were passed in at least 16 states. Measures declaring a fertilized egg a person are on state ballots in Nov 2012. (Such a ballot was defeated in Mississippi in 2011, by 58-42%.)

Eight state legislatures have voted to defund Planned Parenthood over the past several years in order to prevent so-called "taxpayer-funded abortions," and the US House voted to block Title X money to Planned Parenthood last year.

House Republicans cut the international family planning program by 40 percent and they passed legislation to eliminate Title X, the national family planning program. More than 200,000 women worldwide who do not wish to get pregnant lack access to contraception. There are about 47 million abortions yearly worldwide and 47,000 maternal deaths, most of the latter from illegal and unsafe abortions.

All family planning funding was eliminated in New Jersey and Gov. Chris Christie did not veto this. Funds for family planning were slashed in 9 other states. Planned parenthood is a major provider in many states, but not the only provider.

The Roman Catholic bishops have begun series of lawsuits against the United States Health and Human Services Department Affordable Care Act claiming that coverage of family planning violates their religious liberty. They have held several rallies in South Bend and many around the country to push this issue. They wish all people whether Catholic or not to follow their particular religious dogma about contraception and abortion even though their own members do not believe or follow it.

Additionally "Shunning and Gag rules" are everywhere from nonprofits refusing to share room with Planned Parenthood on advertising posters in order to avoid losing Catholic donors in South Bend to the "investigation into the Girl Scouts" by the US Roman Catholic hierarchy and the attempt to dishonor the Girl Scouts in the Indiana legislature this past term because some troops have had talks by persons who have also had ties to Planned Parenthood. It includes the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood grants for breast cancer screening and referral by some in the Susan B. Komen Foundation.

It also includes the continuing efforts by Republicans to permanently disallow US funding of the United Nations population fund as a way to codify the Mexican City Gag rule with UNFPA. When these funds have been restricted during Republican tenures in the White House, family planning programs are cut, and abortions and maternal deaths increase around the world.

In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life. In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortions.

The District of Columbia representative Eleanor Norton Holmes, a decades old advocate for women and children, was refused a chance to testify about a proposed federal ban on nearly all abortions in the District 20 weeks after fertilization. The bill flouts the Roe v. Wade standard of fetal viability. Similar bans are being proposed in several of the states, some even earlier than 20 weeks.

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney says that he will strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding if he is elected.

Find out how the candidates in your district have voted on issues important to women's lives at many voting sites (one of which does not wish to be named in handouts....email me at address below if you want the link off list).

Sources:

Kaiser Family Foundation. www.kff.org and http://www.kff.org/globalhealth/upload/8073-02.pdf

NOW www.now.org

Feminist Majority www.feminist.org

National Women's Law Center www.nwlc.org

The Guttmacher Institute www.guttmacher.org

NARAL www.naral.org (see state by state laws on reproductive health) and http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/government-and-you/us-government/congress.html See voting records

http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8329.cfm Majority favor the ACA post Supreme Court decision

Ellyn Stecker etstecker@earthlink.net July 9, 2012

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Faithful Budget Synopses:

Humanitarian Aid

The United States designates .02% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for foreign aid. Although we lead in dollar amounts, we are last among the developed nations, which average .045% of GDP. As a percentage of federal budget, USA gives away less than 1%. Wealthy nations have set for themselves a goal of .07% of GDP for foreign aid. Some, the US not among them, have achieved this.

Currently about $22 billion is the annual amount of humanitarian and poverty-oriented United States (US) aid, as compared to $733 billion budgeted for the military in 2012. The unwillingness of US to increase aid impairs the world's ability to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in the areas of global nutrition and agricultural development, education, clean water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS and other global diseases, disaster assistance, migration, and refugee assistance.

A Faithful Budget will:

  • Increase funding for community-based international agricultural development and seek to help farmers with small acreage.
  • Support nutrition and nutrition-sensitive programs that help to ensure pregnant mothers and infants receive extra nutrition when they need it.
  • Fully fund bilateral programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
  • Fully fund multilateral education initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Education.
  • Invest in increased access to clean water and sanitation throughout the world.
  • Include the highest levels of funding for AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria as a part of the Global Health Initiative.
  • Make a strong commitment to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the multilateral Global Fund for AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
  • Provide robust funding for the International Disaster Assistance account to ensure resources are in place both to provide life-saving aid in ongoing disasters and conflicts and to meaningfully respond to future disasters.
  • Fully fund Migration and Refugee Assistance programs.
  • Fully fund the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance draw-down account.
  • Include adequate funding for international adaptation and mitigation efforts that are related specifically to addressing global climate change in the world's most vulnerable developing nations.

In summary, A Faithful Budget will respond with compassion and justice for our neighbors in need around the world. For FY2013, we urge Congress to take a small step toward that commitment by increasing bilateral and multilateral aid to our global neighbors in need by at least 10 percent over FY2012 funding levels. Even with a 10-percent increase, poverty-focused aid will still constitute less than 1 percent of the U.S. Budget. In addition, we call on Congress and Administration to take seriously the goal of ramping up humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance in the years ahead to reach 0.7 percent of our national income (GDP) or 4 percent of the federal budget.

Security

In the last 10 years the U.S. has spent 1.3 trillion dollars on the off-budget wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, doubled the base military budget since 1998, wasted resources by deporting 400,000 immigrants including 100,000 parents of children born in the U.S., and arrested 184,000 people on federal charges – double the number from 1995.

A faithful budget invests in a world that respects the rights of all persons and seeks a security not on a culture of fear and violence, but on peace and stability through deeper investment in long-term human security both at home and abroad. Specifically it will:

  • Call for a mechanism to track defense spending (currently the Pentagon is exempt from producing auditable financial documents), and use this mechanism to enable effective and strategic cuts to defense spending.
  • Invest in our veterans and their caregivers and provide jobs initiatives and vital mental health and suicide prevention services. (In 2009, 6,000 veterans committed suicide)
  • Increase funding for the Complex Crisis Fund, Conflict Stabilization Operations, and the Office of Transitional Alternatives so we can act quickly to diffuse conflicts when they escalate. Also, meet our global obligations to international peacekeeping efforts. Research shows that conflict prevention is 60 times more cost effective than intervening after the violence has begun.
  • Make no new investments in nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and reduce the number of warheads and nuclear armed ships and aircraft.
  • Cease unlimited increases in the Border Patrol budget for ineffective initiatives such as increased patrols; cease cooperation with state anti-immigration laws; and reduce funding for the employment verification and similar programs.
  • Fund efforts to reduce lengthy waits for visa adjudication and replace immigrant detention centers with more cost effective methods such as electronic monitoring and regular check-ins with Homeland Security.
  • Allocate all authorized visas each fiscal year, help legal immigrants integrate and pursue citizenship, and protect undocumented immigrants against labor violations and exploitation.

HEALTH CARE

In this section, the Faithful Budget embraces a system of health care that is inclusive, accessible, affordable, and accountable. It begins with the assertion that providing such health care for all those in the country is a shared responsibility for everyone, people and government. It points out that there is too large a group of people who do not have regular access to health care, groups that include those who are poor, older, and with chronic debilitating diseases.

The nuns highlight the 20% of individuals with severe disabilities who depend on Medicaid; the approximately 25 million individuals on Medicare who have annual incomes below $22,000 and low savings amounts; and the growing numbers of young people ages 13-29 with new HIV infections which will require immediate as well as long term treatment to control. They support the provision of all primary care services to children, to women, to the elderly and to special populations such as Indian tribes.

They deplore the elimination of 5 billion dollars from the Prevention and Public Health Care Fund, approved in the Affordable Health Care Act, and which was meant to promote wellness, disease prevention and early treatment of chronic disease. The money was diverted in order to avoid a 27.5% drop in Medicare payments to physicians under a Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. Congress has not updated the SGR formula, which most agree is flawed, for many years and it is in dire need of update.

The nuns and their sponsoring group, Network, remain in support of the Affordable Care Act because it intends to reduce health care disparities in the country.

A Faithful Budget will

  • Fully fund the Affordable Care Act
  • Restore funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund
  • Address shortages in primary care and encourage efficiencies in health care delivery
  • Restore funding for long term care
  • Preserve Medicaid as a federal-state partnership covering all people who meet the income criteria and fairly compensate doctors who take Medicaid patients.
  • Continue to close the doughnut hole and allow Congress to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients and fairly compensate doctors who take Medicare patients. Avoid raising the age of eligibility for Medicare.
  • Ensure sufficient funding for quality health care programs that provide womwn with the care they need and deserve.
  • Address the critical shortage of health centers in underserved areas.
  • Continue to make improvements to the Indian Heath Service)

DOMESTIC HUMAN NEEDS

A Faithful Budget promotes social and environmental sustainability, ensuring a livable world for generations to come. We encourage our national leaders to consider decisions of revenue and spending in the context of how they will benefit our children's children as well as how they impact our own lives.

Even before the recession, too many families were struggling to make ends meet. In most areas, a family of four needs to earn 200% of the federal poverty line in order to provide children with basic necessities. In 2010, 1 in 3 people and almost 1 in 2 children did not attain this income level. Many are kept out of poverty only by unemployment insurance and other programs designed to meet rising need in times of economic trouble.

A Faithful Budget must invest in a social safety net, providing the essential needs of our communities, ensuring safe and healthy development of families and individuals into the future, and supporting those who are most vulnerable due to unemployment, sickness, and old age, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religious or sexual orientation. Many programs supporting health and public safety have been devastated in recent years. The budget elements described below would shift the direction, taking steps toward positive development of people and communities.

Economic Security and Mobility

Two general strategies are necessary in order to bring about greater economic fairness. The first is to ensure a level playing field for individuals, families, and communities to access resources. The other is to ensure that when members do fall into a state of poverty, there is a strong safety net to allow them to live in dignity.

The Faithful Budget will ensure a level playing field by:

  • Creating Mobility by extending the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits
  • Expanding access to Individual Development Accounts.
  • Improving access to safe and affordable financial service
  • Investing in the modernization of public school facilities.
  • Preserving funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title IX.
  • Continuing to invest in Head Start and other early childhood programs.
  • Continuing to fund the Federal Pell Grant Program.
  • Channeling resources to create sustainable jobs.
  • Providing continuing assistance for unemployed workers and their families.

The Faithful Budget will create a strong safety net by:

  • Providing additional units of affordable housing to very low-income households.
  • Funding the National Housing Trust Fund.
  • Providing funding for permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless people.
  • Protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Funding the WIC Program.
  • Funding school breakfast and childcare feeding grants.
  • Funding the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
  • Investing in and increasing access to affordable childcare.
  • Increasing forms of transportation assistance, such as public subsidies .
  • Providing states with substantial increase in funding and incentives to assist more families out of poverty.
  • Encouraging states to provide increased access to education, job training, and other support services.

A FAITHFUL BUDGET FOR ALL OF CREATION

Introduction

A faithful Budget must encompass a reverence for our created environment, making choices that protect our air, water, and land – the entirety of Creation.

  • Clean air is necessary for life, yet much of the nation's air contains unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.
  • Without sufficient funding for our system of public lands, these lands may not be available for future generations.
  • The infrastructure that supports clean water in USA faces a shortfall, and $200 billion will be needed over the next 20 years to update it.
  • Global climate change, perpetuated by the use of carbon-intensive energy sources threatens the health and well-being of all Creation.

A Faithful Budget will protect Air and Water, and will:

  • Equip the EPA and our public health officials with the resources and tools needed to reduce pollution and mitigate its consequences.
  • Protect the EPA's regulatory authority and funding while rejecting harmful policy riders that impose policy restrictions through the simplified voting process under budget rules.
  • Heal those disproportionately impacted communities whose health has suffered as a direct result of air- and water-polluting industries and energy projects and ensure funding for a transparent and comprehensive assessment of new energy projects before they are approved.
  • Provide critical funding for the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that our water supply is clean and reliable.

A Faithful Budget will Celebrate the Goodness of Creation, and will:

  • Provide land management agencies in the Departments of Interior and Agriculture with sufficient funding to ensure they exercise care in managing those spaces and protect treasured lands for future generations.
  • Provide support for lands protected under the National Landscape Conservation System.
  • Fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been critical in protecting local watersheds and recreation lands around the country.

A Faithful Budget will stand with Impacted and Marginalized communities, and will:

  • Fund the EPA's environmental Justice program, which seeks to connect with those who have been historically underrepresented in environmental decision making to ensure all people enjoy the same protections from environmental and health hazards.
  • Include adequate funding for international adaptation and mitigation efforts that are related specifically to addressing global climate change in the world's most vulnerable developing nations.

A Faithful Budget will Invest in a Sustainable Energy Future, and will:

  • End subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, including coal, oil (onshore and offshore), and natural gas.
  • Provide energy subsidies, if any, for renewable energy research and development and energy efficiency technologies.
  • Increase funding for research and development of new types of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures that can be distributed widely.

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MPJC Position on Drones: Good, bad, indifferent?:

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles of various sizes. Their flight is controlled either autonomously by computers in the vehicle or under the remote control of a pilot who may be a great distance away. Drones are used for both civilian and military purposes. MPJC is opposed to their military use.

They are currently deployed predominantly for military and special operation applications, but also used in a small but growing number of civil applications. Their non-military use is expected to grow as is their military use. They can be employed to do work that is dull, dangerous, dirty, and/or difficult for humans to do. There are over 4,000 designs around the globe ranging in size from that of insects to small planes. More than 70 countries are using drones in some capacity and there are hundreds of companies in the market.

The military has put a lot of money into drone research for military purposes. Global defense spending on robotics is expected to exceed $13.4 billion at the end of 2013. The US Department of Defense spending on unmanned systems accounts for nearly half of that figure, at $6.5 billion. North America, Europe and Asia are the largest markets for unmanned systems, particularly aircraft. According to Time magazine, the military now has over 7500 drones and is training more people in how to use them than it is in training for military aircraft. They can be used for surveillance and used to kill people without putting our military personnel at risk in the operation. They can also be used to kill us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHYLEXbMl9I&list=UU-knc0hUG0d7Dcuxxq_TSZA David Cortright video

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2013/May/Pages/Worldwide,DronesAreinHighDemand.aspx

The use of drones represents another leap in military technology which can increase killing in war and other times. In this it is similar to leaps such as the ancient war chariots, submarines, tanks, the Hummer, airplanes, airplane carriers, etc. It is uniquely different in that the operator of the drone and the military commanders do not have to put themselves at risk in the encounter. A huge problem is that of accuracy of a drone attack is not perfect and is made by an operator without accurate knowledge at times. Such stories are many. Thousands of non-combatant civilians have been killed by drones meant for combatants, many more civilians than were killed in the Syrian chemical weapons attack, for example.

Here are some issues about drones beyond spying and killing:

  • Usage is controlled by the Federal Aviation administration in the United States.
  • State laws are variable. International law is not established.
  • Elevation limitations can limit function.
  • Crashes are a problem.
  • Security against hacking is a problem.
  • Personal privacy is an issue, with drones mounting a possible challenge to the Fourth Amendment.
  • Legality in war is an issue
  • Morality in war is an issue.
  • Who gets the development money and licenses to develop more drones, both civilian and military?
  • Since many of the drone strikes are carried out under the orders of a computer operator far away from the war territory, a new form of PTSD might develop in these operators.

Outside of military use, civilian uses are many and here are some of them: search and rescue; monitoring of pipelines; surveying; forestry management; coastline monitoring for erosion; border patrol monitoring; police work; fire detection and management; weather research and monitoring; oil, gas and mineral exploration; disaster evaluation and management; tracking fish and animals; crop management; air quality management; medical monitoring; oceanographic exploration; volcano surveillance; transport of medical and other supplies to remote areas; manufacturing inspection; security detail; sports and other video photography; etc.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/12/world/europe/civilian-drones-farnborough
http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/31/why-we-shouldnt-fear-personal-drones/
http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/307900/beyond-warfare-9-non-lethal-uses-for-drones/5
http://peacepolicy.nd.edu/2009/10/01/combat-drones/
http://peacepolicy.nd.edu/2013/03/28/assessing-drone-warfare/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniature_UAV
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2135132,00.html

We decry the military uses of drones. We urge Congress to ban the use of drones for warfare or at least to impose greater controls on who gets targeted. We appeal to the consciences of drone operators and ask them to refuse to use the drones to kill.

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MPJC Anti-Fracking Position Paper:

Natural gas is being increasingly promoted as a clean alternative to oil, for everything from heating homes to powering vehicles. Increasing production of natural gas is part of President Obama's program for making America energy-independent. The downside of this is that gas is still a fossil fuel that contributes to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a major cause of global warming. As with oil, world supplies have peaked, driving the oil and gas industries to resort to more extreme methods of extracting from the less productive regions of the planet. In the gas industry, this is called hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as "fracking."

MPJC opposes the use of fracking because of the pollution to air and groundwater which it causes. Safety regulations, if properly enforced, might decrease the chances of wastewater polluting the water table, but there are no guarantees - to wit - the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Fracking disincentivises the build up of alternative forms of energy. The money spent on fracking should be put into alternative energy development. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already above 400 ppm, and we need to get it down to below 350 ppm to avoid serious climate change. Global warming is raised by gas drilling which produces methane, a substance 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

As with tar sands oil, also known as "heavy crude," the extraction of gas by fracking carries with it a high risk of mishap and even catastrophe. To understand how this happens with gas extraction, one needs to understand the fracking process. As with oil, conventional gas drilling has traditionally relied on vertical drilling. Geologists have determined that gas reserves exist that are trapped in deeper shale formations far below areas where traditional reserves were mined in the past. Frack wells are first drilled vertically, and then drilling takes a 90% turn to become horizontal, running through the shale play often in several directions. What comes next is the reason this method is called "hydraulic fracturing". Millions of gallons of water (averaging at least 3 to 5 million gallons of fresh water per well) is mixed with a wide variety of hazardous chemicals to decrease friction and make the water slick as well as kill bacteria living in the shale that can clog the well. Also added is sand which acts to hold open the crevices so the gas can escape. This cocktail is injected into the shaft under high pressure fracturing the shale and releasing trapped gas. The frack fluid is then allowed to return to the surface and most of the sand remains, allowing the gas to flow.

The negatives? In addition to land often being diverted from other purposes such as recreation or farming and the requirements for infrastructure development to accommodate the increased traffic and heavy vehicles, the process requires massive amounts of water, thus jeopardizing the water supply that the world relies on. Methane can escape from the well head after fracking has occurred. Methane is a more complex carbon based molecule than CO2; it is at least 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Any potential gains in the reduction of carbon dioxide from replacing coal with natural gas are lost; in fact, as fracking increases, greenhouse warming will likely accelerate. The equipment used onsite at fracking pads as well as the heavy industrial trucking used to transport fracking chemicals, sand and fresh water in and wastewater out, combined with the pipelines and other infrastructure needed to transport the gas to market cause frack well sites to become heavily industrialized areas, now often seen in the middle of cornfields or built near city neighborhoods.

The next inherent problem is what do to with the waste water, now toxic. In the beginning, frack water was often left in open retention ponds where chemicals could "evaporate" into the atmosphere. In some states, it was run through public waste treatment facilities and then dumped into rivers and streams. Most of this activity has been halted, because much of the waste, including radioactive material (radium, strontium, barium) along with heavy metals in the very deep shale that comes up with the frack water cannot be removed by these methods. Now, most frack water is taken offsite and injected into disposal wells. Also called injection wells, these disposal wells are for the most part old vertical wells from oil or natural gas drilling that were mined in the past and are no longer in use. The condition of the pipe and its cement casing that runs through the underground aquifer (where drinking water resides) as well as the former reservoir where the oil or gas once resided and the waste water is being pumped into is often not well known. Yet millions of gallons of toxic frack water are injected into these inactive wells.

For an excellent analysis of the pollution risks, including seismic pollution, see http://frackfreewales.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/the-scientific-and-technical-evidence-against-hydraulic-fracturing.pdf. Here is a quick synopsis of the risks. The possibility of open retention ponds spilling or causing other contamination problems should be self-evident. The impact on the water table cannot be ignored. It gets worse, and here is where we get into the kind of problem most making the news; water contamination from waste water leakage from the wells themselves. Stories coming out of as many as 12 states, notably Pennsylvania and Texas, in particular, indicate that well malfunctions have resulted in water so contaminated it is unfit for any human use. http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/incidents_where_hydraulic_frac.html.

Even if the benefits of fracking outweighed the risks, one can see that fracking would have a major impact on our local quality of life. The energy gains are short-lived, and the extended profitability of wells thus "finished" is so limited that gas drillers must keep moving on to new locations, leaving behind their waste and environmental destruction. Shale gas and oil corporations and Wall Street are gaming and committing communities and decision makers to a dishonest short-term shale bubble that can't possibly be sustained, and that is undermining and delaying a transition to the clean energy, energy efficient, sustainable approaches and jobs we so urgently need. Below find several sources that document the importance of this issue.

Besides the economic effects of the bursting of the shale bubble, the claim of cheaper energy is also a myth. The producers are now pressuring Congress to export the products obtained from fracking, which, in addition to destroying our land and water, will raise our energy prices yet again.

Furthermore, the Josh Fox HBO documentary "Gasland" states that EPA is failing its mission of protecting the environment and the consumer and is under a gag order by the Obama administration to not acknowledge the despoiling of water, land, and community by pollution directly linked to fracked wells. The fact is that one family after another, sometimes entire small communities, have been driven from their homes for lack of safe water resulting from leaking well casings. In some places where fracking has despoiled the water supply, people have lit water from faucets and hoses on fire. While the industry will claim that these incidents are rare, Dr. Anthony Ingraffea from Duke University states that 5% of new well cement casings fail. Period. Over time, it is estimated that 50% of cement casings in fracking wells will fail within 30 years. This disaster could occur much sooner in areas prone to earthquakes. The implications for the future of safe water are horrendous, and the consequences of global warming almost inconceivable.

BAN FRACKING NOW. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAUCET FIRES!

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MPJC Position on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

Historical perspective:  In the late-19th century, persecution of Jews, particularly in Europe, led to the creation of the Zionist movement. Following the British conquest of Syria, the Balfour Declaration in World War I and the formation of the Mandate of Palestine, Aliyah (Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel) increased and gave rise to Arab–Jewish tensions, and a collision of the Arab and Jewish nationalist movements. Israeli independence in 1948 was marked by massive migration of Jews from both Europe and the Muslin Countries to Israel, and of Arabs from Israel leading to the extensive Arab-Israeli conflict.[1] About 42% of the world's Jews live in Israel today. (cited from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Israel)  Since then numerous outsiders have attempted to exploit the conflicts for political and economic reasons.  

This area of great beauty and a heritage of ancient civilization is situated on the east end of the Mediterranean Sea and holds importance as a crossroads between Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Three major religions of the world. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity have their origins here.  Many groups have fought for control of the region for centuries, including Jews, Arabs, Romans, Turks, the Ottomans, etc.  Jews, seeking refuge from persecution in Euro-Asia, returned in increasing numbers from their diaspora of two millennia, as chronicled in Leon Uris' novel, Exodus.  In doing so, they gradually displaced Palestinians (primarily Arabs), who had occupied the area in the absence of the Jews.  Following a series of Arab-Israeli wars in 1948, Israel was recognized as a state, but not Palestine, despite the UN partition of 1947 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Arab%E2%80%93Israeli_War.  The conflict between the two groups is driven by land claims as well as religious differences.  

Israel has a population of about 8 million people, just a bit over the population of Indiana.  The United States has been Israel's principal ally since 1970 and has contributed over $100 billion in aid over the last 40 years or more, most of it in direct military aid.  The U.S. claims religious affinity, common security interests, and common democratic values with Israel and recognizes it as a state.  Palestine has about 4.5 million people, and is not recognized by the U.S. as a state, although it has been so recognized by other governments.  Efforts by the U.S. to broker a peace process have met with varying degrees of minimal success,   

These attempts have been hampered, on the one hand, by Hamas, and on the other hand by Israeli settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians.   Hamas is  a political party that has traditionally refused to recognize Israel as a state, and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and its allies.  In a recent development (May, 2014) Hamas and the other major Palestinian political party, Fatah (descended from the PLO/Palestinian Liberation Organization), have decided to form a unity government, and it is said that Hamas is finally willing to grant Israel the right to exist as a state.  Given the history of rocket attacks and suicide bombing by Hamas against Israel, prompting disproportionate Israeli military response, Israel's government remains wary of Hamas and has kept its hard line against Palestine.  

Hamas has operated from Gaza which is on the shores of the Mediterranean and has been kept under an Israeli blockade. Israeli expansion in the West Bank of the Jordan River takes the form of illegal settlements and a wall. Palestinians have permission to use only certain roads and must endure time-consuming checkpoints. These have made it difficult for Palestinians to access fields, schools, jobs, and medical care.  The blockade and the settlements continue to be major sticking points in negotiations, along with traditional Hamas intransigence.  

MPJC recommends that the U.S  rapidly reduce military aid to Israel, transferring at least some of these funds to meeting humanitarian needs.  Given the long-standing residence in the area by Palestinians, the U.S. should recognize either a two-state solution or a unified state of Israel-Palestine in which all occupants would have equal citizenship and economic rights.  We recognize that borders, intergovernmental cooperation, security, water and energy sources, access to religious sites and settlements are all issues that must have solutions, and these problems can only be solved by all sides committing to work together.  We urge the media to give fair and complete coverage to the suffering on both sides so that the people of the U.S. have an objective grasp of the situation.  We also ask that the World Court take up the issue of the illegality of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.  

All folks with an interest in the area should be committed to helping the occupants on both sides resolve their differences peacefully.  

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MPJC Position on Indigenous Peoples' Rights:

The Native populations who lived in our country for thousands of years were not the savages we have been taught they were, but they were people who lived in orderly, beautifully put together communities where each member of the many tribes worked for the good of the tribe. They believed that they were a unit of one, and that each was responsible for the other.  They lived in every kind of environment that is found in the Americas, from the very hot, to the very cold, and they survived.  From the far eastern coast of North America, to the far western Coast, and from the far north to the far, far south, there were Indians living successfully and well.  (from "American Holocaust:  Columbus and the Conquest of The New World," by David Stannard)

That was before the coming of Columbus and the onslaught of the Europeans.

Europeans, who came here from afar looking for a better way of life, had values directly opposed to those of the Indians and almost completely annihilated them. Those, they did not murder with guns, small pox, measles blankets, or alcohol, were put into reservations where the Indians were dealt with through treaties.  In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress.  This allowed Andrew Jackson to negotiate treaties that exchanged land east of the Mississippi for land west of the Mississippi.  100,000 Native Americans were relocated.  The Indians were now under total control by the white man, who hated their communal values and wanted to totally annihilate their way of life, treating them as animals.

In an attempt to do this, whites began taking Native American children, putting them into reservation schools, placing them with white families, and, ideally, putting them in boarding schools.  The documentary film "Unrepentant,"," produced by Kevin Arnett, describes the massacre of Indian children in Canada in an attempt to wipe out Native Americans in that country. The children in U.S. boarding schools were stripped of their tribal clothing; their hair was cut; their language could not be spoken; they were taught about private property, material wealth, individualism, and the self-directing power of thought. The children would be taught Christianity by people who didn't know the first thing about what true Christianity was about. The school officials worked to instill values of possessive individualism, meaning you care about yourself and what you as a person own.  Col. Richard Henry Pratt said, "Kill the Indian, save the man."  These schools were run by the Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, and other churches, including Quakers.  The children came out of these schools emotionally and psychologically damaged. (from Ancestry.com, Native American Rights.)

Native Americans began a self-determination movement back in the 1930s, when the Indians were given help by the administration of FDR.  Many tribes re-established self-government under the federal Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, created by John Collier, commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs under FDR.  Collier respected tribal cultures and values.  The Act was passed by Congress, but with many changes.  It enabled the restoration of tribal governments.  Up until this time, the Indians were controlled by the U.S. government on reservations which were created for them through treaties, most of which were broken by the white man.  But, due to intervention by lobbyists, the Act fell short of "Indian self-determination without termination."  In the 50s politicians recommended termination of many of the tribe's special relationships with the government under federal recognition of their status, in favor of assimilation, and over 100 tribes were terminated. Termination caused loss of land, and those who stayed on the reservations came more and more under the control of the federal government.

Self-determination was not official federal government policy until 1970.  Nixon said in a Congressional  message that it was time "to break decisively with the past and to create the conditions for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.  In 1968, the Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act.  The government recognized that the policies of Indian termination were a failure and that the goal of assimilation was wrong.  The tribes were allowed to manage their own affairs after 1970.

The Indian Financing Act of 1974, the Education Act of 1975, The Indian Child Welfare Act (1978), The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978) are all important bills which have been passed to aid the tribes in self-determination--restoration of tribal community, self-government, cultural renewal, reservation development, educational control, and gave them an equal role in controlling input into federal government decisions concerning policies and programs.  The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 consolidated grant programs for housing funding.

Native Americans have been fighting for years to become fully independent, self-governing people in all aspects of their lives.  In this regard, since 1960, they have developed organizations to further their desire for self-determination.

One of these organizations is the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).  Recognizing the threat of termination, this organization stressed the need for unity and cooperation among tribal governments for the protection of their treaty and sovereign rights. The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a national legal-advocacy and nonprofit organization founded by Indians in 1970 to assist them in legal battles in five essential areas:  preservation of tribes; protection of tribal natural resources; promotion of Native American human rights; accountability of governments to Native Americans; and development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues. Local groups have been formed to benefit Native Americans directly. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

On September 13, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia voted against this resolution. One by one, they have all signed on. The U.S. was the last to do so.

"The Declaration affirms the collective rights of Indigenous People as human rights across a broad range of areas including self-determination, spirituality, land rights, and rights to intellectual property; thereby providing some balance to an international rights framework based largely on individual rights.....The Declaration is not a perfect document but it contains much language and many ideas and concepts supplied by the indigenous peoples themselves, thereby establishing "...the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well being of the indigenous people of the world." (From Legal Review, Native American Rights Fund, Volume 36, No. 1, Winter/Spring 2011)

Nevertheless, indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere continue to fight for enforcement of treaty rights in the name of protecting land against rapacious commercial interests. Indigenous peoples continue to point the way to living in harmony with the environment.  In Canada, one notable example is in the Grassy Narrows area, where there is a history of mercury contamination with serious human consequences, and where lumber companies are again threatening lumber operations, again raising the mercury levels.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/mercury-poisoning-effects-continue-at-grassy-narrows-1.1132578.  In the United States, the Cowboy Indian Alliance is providing much of the energy in opposing and Keystone XL proposed pipeline and other environmentally risky issues.  This article from the online magazine Counterpunch is one of several on this subject:  http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/23/the-cowboy-indian-alliance/

MPJC supports what the Native Americans are doing to become a self-determined people and endorses their right to practice their religions, maintain their culture, and protect their traditional lands without interference. We are sickened by the past treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. And Canadian governments, and especially by the atrocities perpetrated against them by organized religious institutions and commercial interests. We hold the federal government responsible for continuing to respect Native American autonomy and provide funding to help the tribes bring each of their members out of poverty.

We challenge each of you to read the book "American Holocaust," watch the documentary "Unrepentant," and take action to right the terrible wrongs described above.

Climate Change Position Paper:

Climate change has been happening for at least 650,000 years, as evidenced by ice core samples taken in the Arctic. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth's orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives. What raises the concern about climate change currently is that it is happening at a much higher rate than in the past. As of 1950, the rate of change has significantly increased, a change which corresponds directly with the increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide over the same period. The correlation between carbon dioxide levels and changes in Earth's average temperature is well established since the 19th century. It is also well known that the burning of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide as a by-product, thus explaining why average temperatures have increased, as carbon dioxide, especially at higher altitudes, acts as a blanket, trapping solar heat that would otherwise escape the atmosphere and dissipate into space. Other gases, such as methane, also contribute to the solar blanket; methane levels are also on the rise on account of fracking, during which significant amounts of methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, escape into the atmosphere. Although methane, in the short term, is a greater contributor to global warming, it lasts for a shorter period of time, but long enough to do long term damage.

The increases in Earth's population, economic development, and consequent rise in demand for energy have all contributed to a rapid increase in the burning of fossil fuels, thereby fueling rising global temperatures. This creates a tension between environmentalists on the one hand and politicians and economists on the other. Environmental activists point to changes in climate patterns such as storm intensity, warmer winters, unhealthy air, ocean acidification, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and possible links to species imbalance and/or extinction. Economists and politicians point to the need for energy to fuel the economic development needed to meet the needs of rising populations and their corresponding rising expectations. The hunger for and the profitability from exploiting and marketing fossil fuels at least in part explain the wars and other tensions in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. These tensions need resolution soon in order to save the earth from climate disaster.

Many energy experts point to nuclear energy as a solution. Unfortunately that brings with it another pollution problem, that of disposing of nuclear waste, not to mention the links between the peaceful generation of energy and the reprocessing of nuclear fuels for military purposes. Nuclear proliferation, a matter of general world concern, also drives international tensions such as those raised by Iran's nuclear program.

The other main component that could feed the world's appetite for energy is solar. Here it should be pointed out that all energy other than geothermal is ultimately solar, including the creation of fossil fuels through the decomposition of organic materials through the centuries. Solar energy is what drives ocean currents, precipitation patterns, and winds. There are various ways of capturing solar energy: photo-voltaic conversion to electric current, wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, parabolic mirrors that on an industrial scale can heat water to drive steam turbines, and even solar ovens, which can use the sun's rays directly for cooking food or concentrating heat for other uses. The beauty of solar applications is that they are intrinsically more environmentally friendly, so environmentalists are pleased. Is it possible to please the politicians and economists?

It may be easier to please the environmentalists than the corporate interests that profit from the continued exploitation of fossil fuels. The rate of conversion to solar and other alternative energy is also hampered somewhat because alternative solutions are slightly more expensive, at least initially; alternative energy has already come down in cost to where it is competitive with oil and gas. Critics of solar energy point out that although Germany as a nation has made the greatest strides of any in converting to renewables, energy costs have as much as tripled.

As Naomi Klein, environmental activist and author, has pointed out,  "in a world where profit is consistently put before people and the planet, climate protection is intrinsically a moral and ethical issue". This position is elaborated in Klein's books, notably The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and This Changes Everything (both available in the South Bend public library and available for purchase from a variety of book sources). Because of this position, Pope Francis has engaged her as an ally in his efforts to address the moral aspects of global warming. Climate activist Bill McKibben states that even with no further extraction from reserves, just burning what has already been extracted will result in global warming beyond the tipping point, where it will no longer be possible for the climate to return to a sustainable state. So, all at once, the dimensions of climate change are moral, ethical, spiritual, and about the long-term health of the planet.

As Klein points out in This Changes Everything, there are those who believe that we can engineer our way out of global warming, but she warns against that as a solution. As a synopsis of this book says,  "She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not — and cannot — fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism." The only solution to global warming, then, is to significantly reduce, if not totally eliminate, the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.

Because of climate change's overarching justice dimensions, MPJC takes the position that it is real and demands a sweeping change in the way we think about and use energy. Engaging in and preparing for war is a major contributor to climate change. Weapon production and use adds significantly to ground and atmospheric pollution. Also, it is the poor and dispossessed who suffer the most from lack of potable water, shortage of food, loss of land, and extreme weather, all caused by climate change.

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Issues in Admitting Refugees into the U.S. :

The issues concerning immigration to the United States are varied and complex. What standards must an immigrant meet before admission? What is the vetting process? Should those of certain nationalities or religions be summarily barred? What do we do about undocumented immigrants already in the country? I will try to take these on one at a time. This statement is intended to be introductory in nature, and not intended to be comprehensive.

The following is drawn from, among others, http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/how-united-states-immigration-system-works-fact-sheet You may copy the address(es)into your web browser for the full text. Your further research through the search engine of your choice using key words from this article is encouraged.

  1. Standards: The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), the body of law governing current immigration policy, provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members. Congress and the President determine a separate number for refugee admissions. Immigration to the United States is based upon the following principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity.

  2. Who may immigrate? Preference is given to "persons of extraordinary abilities" (athletes, performers, writers, and the like), professionals, and skilled workers suited to the needs of the US market. Lesser preference is given to certain other classes, including entrepreneurs with adequate capital who will create at least 10 permanent jobs for U.S. citizens. Allowance is also made for refugees and asylees. Both groups must have a reasonable fear of persecution if they return to their home country. Asylees apply for asylum from inside the U.S. Refugees apply outside the U.S.

  3. Vetting: This is an issue that has received considerable attention since it was learned that one of the attackers on Paris in 2015 came into Europe as a refugee. Refugees and prospective asylees are subject to a lengthy screening including biometric data and background checks. The entire process is outlined in https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states

    1. Donald Trump's call to ban Muslim immigration is not without precedent. As of 2016, the last 6 U.S. presidents have used executive authority to ban certain classes of immigrants. http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/16/the-past-six-presidents-have-all-used-executive-power-to-block-certain-classes-of-immigrants/ The same executive authority may be invoked to deport undocumented immigrants.

    2. As of this date, President Barack Obama has come under increasing pressure from immigration advocates who have accused him of moving too slowly on reforming the nation's immigration system, while the number of deportations under his watch reaches 2 million.

  4. The DREAM Act ( Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for undocumented immigrants in the United States that would first grant conditional residency and upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency. Eligible immigrants have to have entered the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here for more than 5 years. It was first introduced in 2001 but has failed to pass. (Wikipedia)

  5. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an American immigration policy that allows certain illegal and undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. President Obama instituted this policy by executive action in 2014, but the Supreme Court struck it down by a 4-4 vote in 2016.

  6. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), sometimes called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, is an  immigration policy to grant deferred action status to certain illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children who are eitherAmerican citizens or lawful permanent residents. Deferred action is not full legal status but would come with a three-year, renewable work permit and exemption from deportation. (Wikipedia). President Obama included DAPA in his executive order and this policy was also struck down by the Supreme Court.

A comprehensive immigration reform bill that would improve border security and offer a path to citizenship for the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants was approved by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate in 2015, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has refused to take up the issue. MPJC urges Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill quickly and include in this bill protection for the rights of immigrants, especially access to education and health care and protection from discrimination and abuse in the workplace.

This statement is subject to revision as more information becomes available due to actions of the President, Congress, the Courts, and/or other agencies.

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