As often happens at the end of the year, Congress is addressing some important issues related to human life and dignity.

Many families affected by migration here in the United States need our support and action today. For example, since 2012, nearly 800,000 undocumented young people have passed background checks, paid a fee, and received permission to live and work in America through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Originally they were brought to the U.S. as minors through no fault of their own. The DACA program is now being terminated by the administration.

As the Catholic bishops of Iowa said in their recent letter to Congress, “These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.”

The bishops believe it is both our moral duty and in our nation's best interest to protect them and help them reach their God-given potential. One way we can do that is to enact the Dream Act. These youths should not be forced to live in constant fear that they will be deported and separated from their families. 

To help highlight the immigration issue, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, the chair of the Iowa Catholic Conference board of directors, visited a detention center on Dec. 7. You can see coverage of the event on our Facebook page.

The bishops also support maintaining our leadership of the international humanitarian system by funding life-saving U.S. humanitarian assistance. More than 65 million people are forcibly displaced around the world, and more than 22 million are refugees. These are historically high levels.

You can help with both of these issues by sending a message to your members of Congress at https://www.votervoice.net/ICC/campaigns/55662/respond.

Another priority of the U.S. Catholic bishops is the Conscience Protection Act. This bill will strengthen federal law that is already supposed to ensure that those who provide health care and health coverage can do so without being forced by government to help destroy unborn children. There is a chance that this legislation can be included in the year-end budget deal. Go to https://www.humanlifeaction.org/action-alert/urge-congress-enact-co... to send a message today.

A priority of the current administration and leaders of Congress is to pass a tax reform package. As Congress prepares to reconcile the House of Representatives and Senate tax reform bills, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, insisted that “Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral concerns . . .”

“According to Congress’ own nonpartisan analysis, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bills recently passed by the House and the Senate raise taxes on the poor and cut taxes on the rich, violating basic principles of justice,” wrote Bishop Dewane. “Congress has proposed a web of wide-ranging and complex changes to the tax code, yet is approaching the process at a pace that makes it difficult even for experts in the impacted areas to analyze effects.”

Bishop Dewane expressed support for proposals contained in both the House and Senate bills, such as doubling the Standard Deduction, expansion of 529 savings plans, increases for deductions for educator expenses, and the idea of expanding the child tax credit, though he urged a robust expansion that includes the refundable portions of the credit.

However, the bishop also highlighted serious problems that remain in one or both of the proposed bills:  elimination of personal exemptions, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate apart from broader health care reform, and failure to include changes that will protect against a steep drop in charitable giving, among others.

Click here for a copy of Bishop Dewane’s letter.

You can call Congress to let them know what you think about tax reform at (202) 224-3121. An action alert from the U.S. bishops on private school-specific concerns is at https://votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/55533/Respond.

Thanks for taking time out during Advent to stand up for those who are vulnerable.

Here in Iowa, the state legislature comes back into session on Jan. 8. This fall we have been working with legislators and other groups on several priorities identified by the bishops, including: 

  • Supporting an Education Savings Account program and enhancements to the Educational Opportunities Act/School Tuition Organization tax credit
  • Supporting final passage of Senate File 359, outlawing trafficking in fetal body parts
  • Supporting an increase in the state’s minimum wage
  • Opposing Senate File 481 related to the treatment of immigrants
  • Opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty

You will be hearing more about these issues – and others that pop up - as the session progresses next year.

AND FINALLY,

The Iowa Secretary of State is mailing out Voter ID cards to those without a valid ID card from the DOT. Click here for their news release and additional information. This is important information for many citizens who don’t want to lose their ability to vote.

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