Women's Caucus News

GWC October 2021 Newsletter

Letter from the Editor

Books, pages, stone walls, and now tablets have the ability to convey thought across minds, cultures, and oceans. Humans have always used the written word to fantasize, persuade, and pose questions about our environment and way of life. It is how we connect, and this month we are practicing prose in action. As we organize ourselves to protect our reproductive rights from right-wing politicians or unite in recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we will honor the female authors who shook the writing world with a month-long literary festival. So join us in exercising our own creative and persuasive prose.

This October issue has important updates on the difficult work our action teams are doing in spite of unprecedented push-backs on reproductive rights. Don’t forget to check out our Artist’s Corner and take our September Newsletter quiz! Lastly, we love hearing from you and want your continued participation in our #MyStoryGWC campaign; this month we are asking you to share your October 2nd Reproductive Rights March stories, including from our #GWCMarch campaign.

We hope you enjoy this edition, and we look forward to seeing you at our events!

Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-director, Global Women’s Caucus

Over 10,000 members and growing! Join us

      

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DA’s new Global Disabilities Caucus

Mike Lindell’s highly criticized symposium in August failed to validate his belief that Biden did not win the election, but it did showcase attendees’ reluctance to engage with facts. One speaker began his remarks with, “…the CNNs of this world, you guys need to stop fact checking this and start reporting it.” Journalists and news organizations have a professional obligation to fact check and it is right that they do so, but facts alone don’t necessarily help to refute conspiracy theories and lies. Using facts as the main tool to convince someone that Covid vaccinations protect rather than harm, for example, can push conspiracists further into their own belief.  

This is because human beings have a built-in confirmation bias; we tune out facts that don’t confirm our existing beliefs.  Even when we present a climate change denier with geological evidence that today’s climate change is driven by humans and not part of a natural cycle, it’s highly unlikely to change their minds. It’s not because deniers are too dumb to understand the science; rather, a fact that doesn’t confirm what someone already believes tends to be either disregarded or rationalized away. Often it is the more intelligent who are the best at rationalizing a fact to fit their belief. Our brains resist evidence that goes against an opinion we’ve already formed. 

It’s not just our minds that resist belief-opposing-facts, our hearts do too. Peer pressure isn’t just powerful on the playground or behind the gym, it has a big influence as adults on which opinions matter to us, and the opinions that matter determine the facts that matter.  Political bodies have even used social media, enabled by bots (automated software) to successfully persuade voters in elections. The good news is that who we see as the “cool kids” can be influenced and can change

Storytelling, centered around facts and truth, based on deep commonalities is a very effective way to help people want to hang out with the science nerds rather than the kid with the biggest car.  You can show your uncle the figures proving cats kill more birds than windmills, or you can concede that windmills do kill some birds. Good, truthfulf storytelling can affect who we feel close to, and in turn whose opinions and what facts matter to us. It can dampen the flames of conspiracy theories and help seeds of consensus sprout in fresh ground.


GWC September 2021 Newsletter

Letter from the Editor

After a short summer holiday, the Global Women’s Caucus is back, and ready to continue the hard and necessary work to ensure a safe and equitable future for generations to come. In some ways, the current situation feels as though many of our hard won battles are once again rearing their ugly heads. Many States are making it nearly impossible for women to choose when and how they can have a family, and the use of the Filibuster is hindering any fair voting law. We are also all watching with keen attention to what’s unfolding in Afghanistan in respect to the fate of women and girls. We hope your batteries have been charged as well, and that you are ready to join us at this crucial moment as we resume raising awareness on the issues that affect women and girls, and begin to focus on the midterm elections.

This issue has important updates on the research our caucus is doing as well as articles and commentaries on current events. Don’t forget to check out our Artist’s Corner and take our July Newsletter quiz! Lastly, we love hearing from you and want your continued participation in our #MyStoryGWC campaign, where you can connect with other members through shared stories to highlight the issues most important to us.

We hope you enjoy this edition, and we look forward to seeing you at our events!

Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-director, Global Women’s Caucus

Over 10,000 members and growing! Join us

      


 

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Commentary: The Fate of the Nation State

Every ten years, the U.S. distributes a census that was first established in 1790 (US Census Bureau), approximately one year after the inauguration of the U.S.’s first president, George Washington. It was established to provide political power to states and territories based on population rather than wealth or land ownership. Nearly 230 years after its adoption, the census continues to count the heads of inhabitants – counting everyone once, and in their respective place. Mark the appropriate box, and you are included in the database – a member of the nation that will shoulder the concerns and needs of you and those like you. Don’t know which box to check? You risk not being counted: Counted in the way that the American forefathers decided to divvy power before Blacks, Native Americans, or women had rights – before the harbors opened up to an influx of immigrants and refugees, and before the nation was defined by Northern and Southern borders that stretched all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The census is a system of counting heads but not stories, and preliminary results of the 2020 census reveal just how hard it is to do that. With data showing that more and more Americans identify themselves as multi-ethnic, we are witnessing the socio-political effects of globalization and a diversifying American landscape. Far-right/white racial extremist groups are retaliating, however, with propaganda fueled by fears of a declining white population, a sentiment bound in misconception. Though it is true that a decrease in the number of people who checked-off only the “white” box for race on the 2020 census is visible, the number of people who checked off “white” and one or more other racial categories increased in the last decade. Welcome news to this author, race is increasingly considered a diffuse category, and will perhaps one day become an invalid metric for characterization.

In the meantime, however, the United States is reckoning with its past, as progressive thought challenges the notion of white nationalism, and white racial extremist groups fight back in fear that their false white status will be taken away. Therefore, the history and growth of our nation state must be acknowledged as we grapple with a new American identity fueled by a changing demography and globalization.

As colonialism took rise and sent the Spanish, English, and Dutch overseas, Native American cultures were dismantled. In colonialism’s wake, nations grew, wrapped in the cloak of a new and promising land for Europeans. Starting in 1790, the census began counting the heads of these new immigrants in America, people with lineages from another continent, yet who were claiming the American soil as their own. Nationalism grew in the new country that was individualistic in character and Christian in belief: “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all”. Meanwhile Native American cultures experienced a near erasure as manifest destiny took root and sent the new Americans west. They were discarded, and have remained in the shadows for centuries, with little voice counting towards a collective census. To many, the nation state is fallacious. Up until the 21st century, a perfect fit between politics, the economy, and information made the nation state successful as a conduit for citizen pride and benefits. Nationalism thrived in this environment, where the “unwanted” could remain mostly unseen in the shadows and without much political power. Globalization and technology have since brought the shadowed voices forward, and extended their reach far and wide, consequently shaking the blindly adopted dictates of the fraudulent nation state.

To originate from a land, yet be excluded from the collective demarcation of that land, is the unjust condition of many Americans, and many scenes around the world: India’s caste system, conflicts in the Middle East, and the European refugee influx. So how can we address ethnic inclusivity? Most nation states didn’t have to address this question before the 21st century, as the proliferation of information remained virtually contained and controlled within national borders. This is not the case anymore.

Nationalism’s largest threat is the expanse of human reach, the need to connect and move – a need that has been satisfied with the industrialization of technology. Paper trails outpace flight transportation, and with the invention of the internet, borders are becoming harder to buttress. Thoughts, ideas, inventions, and beliefs, posted in the ether or scribbled on paper, are landing in different nations every second, changing their landscapes at a rapid pace. The speed at which nations are changing, the migration of thought followed by bodies, is colliding with a fearful resistance. Thoughts have helped people move and migrate, and nations are now more than ever powerless at controlling them. Technologies like Facebook and Google have amplified the reach of thought, and nationalists are fearful of these un-vetted ideas landing in places that could sway allegiance away from the nation; pockets of nationalism are rising as the growing sentiment of injustice is migrating and proliferating in the very shadows the nation state created.  

A new nationalism reigns mighty in an America where 48.6% of its voters cast a decision on the campaign promise to “put America first,” and America is by-no-means alone. In other parts of the world, Germany has seen a rise in support of the Alternative für Deutschland party, an ultra-nationalistic patriotism, and many western countries employed a “nation first” COVID-vaccine deployment strategy; however, globalization is a fast-moving train, speeding down the oiled tracks of trade, migration, and tech, preparing the world for a new kind of global citizenship. The nation state can no longer hold off 21st century efforts to accelerate ideas and information; however, the old ways are still enforced, causing fractures in national politics.

How people identify personally, and how establishments identify people are largely in conflict given the diverse human makeup; however, things are changing. Labels are becoming obsolete as technology allows us to disguise and hide ourselves, and documents are proving insufficient at conveying the abundance of information that is individual human experience. World views are becoming increasingly progressive (e.g., gender is becoming more fluid and forms of racism are being upturned in places we thought it didn’t exist). People are uprooting, and going to extreme measures to choose new identities, reflecting an innate migratory nature, and the nation state is not changing fast enough to accommodate human kinetics, both in body and thought. Citizenship, too, is in need of reform. At its worst, it is an asset that can be boasted, bought, handed down, and exploited to gain privilege. A commentary in the Guardian reads, “even [Trump’s] poorest voters, after all, possess one significant asset – US citizenship – whose value he can ‘talk up,’ as he previously talked up casinos and hotels.” Nationalism sees citizenship as a tool of privilege, wielded to maintain a false hierarchy, inimical to true national prosperity.

I remember learning in my Sociology of Religion course that the success of any one religion is due to its dogmatic leaning, its ability to provide hard-lined rules that are easy to follow. A guide book, so to speak, provides people with the answers to ambiguous questions, a path by which to live your life, and directives about categorizing people, so that when a religion fails in this respect, fractures develop in the ideology, and factions and sects begin to split off with new dictates. Like the Earth itself, quakes in systems either reinforce or split its foundation. In a world with approximately 6 billion people, there is no one-system-fits-all model. If nationalism is a religion, in that it provides its believers with a sense of rules to follow, then we are witnessing the fractures my professor spoke of; we are witnessing cracks in the belief of America. What many of us feel, as an ominous evolution in national politics, including the rising calls of nationalism, is actually the growing charge of cultivated and unrestricted ideas that are succeeding in quaking the world’s nation states. Whether the nation state ultimately expires, or a resurgence reinforces its sway on its own operations and civilian identification, will depend on how the majority are heeded. From the imagination, our nations have been constructed, and our systems conceived, and just like these manifestations have been transfigured, forgotten, or even destroyed, so too is the nation state mutable.


DA’s new Global Disabilities Caucus

July 26th marked two important occasions: the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – the foundational legislation recognizing the rights and needs of those with disabilities – and the first official meeting of the Democrats Abroad Global Disabilities Caucus (in formation). 

The five speakers on the Zoom panel represented not just a geographic mix, with members from all three DA regions, but diverse experiences of disability. Introduced by the caucus’s acting chair, Marnie Delaney of DA France, panelists included Mike Nitz, a Navy vet and vice chair of DA Vietnam; Heather Stone, an attorney and member of DA Israel; Max McLeod and Denise Roig, members of DA Canada; and Somer Matthews, a doctoral student in special education. 

The stories shared were compelling, moving and deeply personal, from struggles with mental health to physical accessibility to discrimination in the work force. Some are members of a community that now numbers one billion worldwide; others are allies and advocates. We all share one goal, one hope: that our voices will continue to be heard. And that as members of DA’s newest caucus, we can be a source of information and support, a conduit for action. As Mike said, “Being open about my disability is not hurtful or shameful. It’s authentic and it’s empowering. Not just for me, but for the disability community as a whole.” Click here to view the July 26th event if you missed it.

While the event celebrated 31 years of the ADA’s passing, the rights of those with disabilities are hardly guaranteed. There is nothing “done” about the gains forged in that early legislation. Almost from the moment the ADA was passed, other bills – mostly written by Republicans – have been put forth to diminish these gains. In fact, two bills are currently under discussion that will undercut parts of the ADA. 

What can you do? Join us. We are committed to forming the most diverse caucus possible, with many interests, skills and concerns represented.  To learn more, click here.

Second, watch the powerful documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, the first project from Higher Ground, the production company of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. It’s available on Netflix and youtube. The film tells the story of the young activists who were the heart and engine of the disabilities movement in the 70s and 80s. Marching (or rolling – many were in wheelchairs), staging sit-ins, demonstrating, refusing to go away, they left us a legacy of making good trouble, as the late John Lewis called it. We have to be those activists now.


What is the Future for Women and Girls in Afghanistan?

“Our law exists to protect women’s rights. It looks at their welfare and safeguards their livelihoods,” stated Judge Nenney Shushaidah, one of two female judges appointed to the Syariah High Court in Malaysia. She oversees complicated cases on the basis of Islam’s legal system, Sharia law. Though many see Sharia law as a system that oppresses women, Judge Shushaidah believes that the law actually holds women in high regard, “protect[ing] the rights of women, and holding men accountable.” Examples of this are visible in her cases dealing primarily with polygamy, however issues pertaining to the welfare of women go far beyond the intimate relationships that women build, and are far broader than a women’s position as mother and wife.

In the years between 1996 and 2001, Afghanistan was under Taliban rule,  during which time women were denied basic freedoms like education, work, and travel. As the world watched the capital city fall to Taliban forces on August 15th 2021, the overwhelming dread shared by many was the fate of women and girls in an extremely punitive and archaic government. Salima Mazari, one of first female district governors in Afghanistan, is already considered to have been captured by the Taliban. One of her last statements conveyed her concern for women in power under Taliban rule, “There will be no place for women.” Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan’s youngest mayor since 2018, told a British newspaper that she was waiting for the Taliban to come and kill her. A message posted to her social media a few months ago still speaks to the hope of future generations, “Younger people are aware of what’s happening … I think they will continue fighting for progress and our rights. I think there is a future for this country.” Today, Fawzia Koofi, Afghan politician, and one of few women that was present in peace talks with the Taliban, is continuing to speak out about the current situation where women are being forced to stay in their homes and marry Taliban fighters. She had stated months ago that peace in Afghanistan “depends on Afghanistan’s women.”

Though the Taliban government is assuring everyone that life can resume as it was, girls returning to school and women to their jobs, many are worried that these statements are lies: “We are in the belief that the Taliban are putting up a front because the international community and United Nations is watching them closely.” Women and girls are not allowed to leave their homes anymore without a male companion. The consequences, according to Sharia law, are severe.

President Biden stated, “The Taliban has to make a fundamental decision. Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the well-being of the people of Afghanistan, which no one group has ever done since before – for hundreds of years? And if it does, it’s going to need everything from additional help in terms of economic assistance, trade and a whole range of things.” As we all wait with bated breath, clinging to the hope that a new Taliban generation is true in its words of a more inclusive state, evacuations continue to be underway. Many are fleeing, fearful of for their lives and livelihood, while others are staying put, as a show of activism and defiance. The days ahead will determine to what capacity the Taliban is referring when they mention “inclusiveness,” however, as we so strongly know, no government prospers without rights afforded equally to both men and women.


GWC July 2021 Newsletter

Letter from the Editor

Our bodies, our rights! This month, we celebrate women’s independent choices and freedoms. Women all over the world are largely dependent on the decisions of a few, and much of the time those few do not have women’s interests and rights in mind. Consider joining our caucus as we fight the good fight, not only for our sisters and daughters, but for our brothers and sons as well. The Global Women’s Caucus has many ways for you to join: 1. Register to vote 2. Become a GWC member 3. Volunteer with one of our action teams 4. Start a local caucus. We welcome and look forward to working with you!

Scroll down for important updates on our growing caucus, insightful articles on our research, and the June Newsletter quiz! Don’t forget to check out our Artist’s Corner. Lastly, we would love your participation in our #MyStoryGWC campaign, where you can connect with other members through shared stories to highlight the issues most important to us.

Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-director, Global Women’s Caucus

Over 10,000 members and growing! Join us

      


 

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#PRIDE

Fifty-one years ago, Frank Kameny coined the adage “Gay is good” to offset the historic anti-gay agenda that news, media and religious institutions have peddled since the first European settlers dropped anchors on American shores. Kameny’s alliterate campaign was inspired by “Black is Beautiful,” the movement conceived of by civil rights organizer, Stokely Carmichael. This is a testament to the longstanding relationship between minority groups as none of us can truly feel progress while any of us are left behind. 

 
As we enter Pride this June, we pay tribute to those who paved the way for us to celebrate so freely now. Much progress has been made in the last half century by means of expanded space in the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (+) folks through legislation, marital securities, fair housing and basic human rights. But rest we cannot. With the recent wave of attention and scrutiny trans rights have received, we are reminded to remain diligent in our protection and advocacy for every branch of our LGBTQ+ family. We must recognize the nature of intersectionality and its effect on everyone in our communities. 
 
In 2010, Michelle’s husband, Barack, said it best when he called upon Americans to "observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists.” And that is what we must continue to do. Fifty years on, we commemorate the Stonewall Riots through marches and parades every June. We take to the streets announcing “Gay is good,” as we rewrite the messaging of the conservative agenda. Most of all, we celebrate Pride month to acknowledge the many colors our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters add to what it means to be human. Please join your GWC community in celebrating Pride this June.

GWC June 2021 Newsletter

Letter from the Editor

This month the GWC is highlighting leadership! Now may be the time to ask your Country Chair about starting a local women’s caucus, join a GWC action team, or partake in some political action. Are you registered to vote abroad? Don't forget to request your absentee ballot at www.votefromabroad.org! We celebrate and honor all Democrats Abroad who are leading the fight for a more progressive and equitable world!

Speaking of equality, this month we are celebrating PRIDE with the LGBTQ+ community, fighting discrimination and intolerance, and rejoicing in human diversity!

The GWC is working to provide you with lots of materials to help in your actions. Check out our list of resources, and Meet the Faces Behind our Actions! We’ve even designed some postcards for you to send to your representatives!

This newsletter has important updates on our action teams, insightful articles on our research, as well as a May Newsletter quiz! Don’t forget to check out our Artist’s Corner, spotlighting the renowned female choreographer, Crystal Pite, by scrolling down. Lastly, we would love your participation in our #MyStoryGWC campaign, where you can connect with other members through shared stories, to highlight the issues most important to us.

We hope you enjoy this edition, and we look forward to seeing you at our events!

Stayce Camparo, Communications Co-director, Global Women’s Caucus

Over 10,000 members and growing! Join us

 

 


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Family Reunification: “Every story is sad.”

I was surprised by my first thought waking up on November 3, 2020. It wasn’t about the election, the one that not just Democrats had so much riding on, but seemingly the entire planet. I wasn’t thinking about the election-watch event planned by Democrats Abroad Canada for later that evening. I wasn’t thinking about our global GOTV effort – postcards, phone calls, podcasts, videos, lawn signs – to take back the country many of us living abroad still consider home. 

My first thought was of the children. The Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy in 2018 turned the U.S. southern border into a hunting ground. Like so many, I was horrified, mortified, shocked – there is no adequate word – by the images of children taken from their parents as they crossed the border into a country they prayed would be safer than the ones they’d fled. We’ve seen the photos, heard the cries on videos. I don’t need to describe them here. 

And, yes, thankfully Joe Biden beat out the forces behind this particular evil, but too many of those children and their parents have not. Of the 5,550 families separated at the border, only some have found their way back to one another. As of early April, more than 1,000 children have yet to be reunited with their families; the parents of 445 children have yet to even be located. 

“Intentional cruelty or incompetence?” asks Spencer Tilger, communications manager for Justice in Motion, a U.S-based non-profit founded in 2005, that’s been tasked with finding and reunifying families, especially the most difficult cases. “Who knows? The result has been the same.” Not only were many parents deported without their children, the U.S. government lost track of some of the children left behind. As Tilger explains, “The government basically said, ‘We give up. We don’t know where they are.’” (A news update this week from a Trump-appointed Inspector General, confirms not just the incompetence, but the deceit behind the policies. Department of Homeland Security officials did not, as claimed at the time, give deported parents the opportunity to take their children back with them.)

Justice in Motion – which I discovered last December when searching for an organization to donate my first CARES cheque to – has been involved with family separation since the first stunning headlines. Acknowledging that since “migration is an international issue, the solutions have to be international as well,” Justice in Motion created its Defender Network of lawyers and activists in the countries where many families are from – Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, among them. Working closely with the U.S. side of JIA and with the American Civil Liberties Union, these boots-on-the-ground attorneys navigate dirt roads to remote villages where perhaps only indigenous languages are spoken, knock on doors, piece together the barest of details. Sometimes all they have is the name of a relative; often the data is old. “There are enormous gaps,” admits Tilger.

As are the gaps in trust. After the harrowing experiences these families have endured at the hands of U.S. border officials, a trust deficit makes the work harder yet. JIM’s in-country legal counsel are especially sensitive to this, often acting as impromptu therapists. Imagine the pain and shame, Tilger says, of a deported father coming home without his child and having to admit to his family that he doesn’t know where that child is. “These families live with this everyday.”

The question is can we live with this? Can our current administration? Immigration has been a stuck place for every U.S. president since … well, since I can remember, and I was around for the Dewey-Truman election. Will we be able to guide/nudge/or shove this administration into real immigration reform? Reform that includes a pathway to citizenship not just for Dreamers, but families who crossed the border with hopes and plans, only to be sent home with so much less than they began.

Believing that time’s finally up on continued inaction, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) re-introduced the Families Belong Together Act in late April. As Castro said, “The Trump Administrations’ cruel family separation policy will go down in history as one of America’s worst moments. While we know we can never fully do right by the children who will be forever traumatized by this political decision, the Families Belong Together Act is the bare minimum our nation owes the families … as an apology and a promise to do right by them.” 

That bare minimum would provide “humanitarian parole” to eligible parents and children, would establish a process by which eligible parents and children can be adjusted to lawful resident (LPR) status. It all sounds promising, though the word “eligible” worries me. What will it take to be “eligible?” I have family members who’ve fallen outside definitions like this through successive administrations.

But as in all things immigration, it’s better to err on the side of hope. In his first days in office President Biden signed three executive orders to kick-start some of the most pressing needs. “I’m not making new law, I’m eliminating bad policy,” he said on February 2. (CNN Politics). He appointed Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security Secretary, the first Latino and immigrant to helm that position, and named Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, director of a new immigration task force. “Michelle is someone with the requisite expertise and empathy,” says Tilger, who acknowledges the “enormous challenges on the immigration front, while remaining optimistic. “The good news is that of all the issues, [family reunification] has the most bipartisan support.”

Sarah Jackson’s view of political unity isn’t quite as rosy. Jackson founded Casa de Paz, a refuge for detainees released from the massive ICE detention centre in Aurora, Colorado. If found eligible to remain in the U.S. – often after months of incarceration – detainees are unceremoniously dumped on the streets of the Denver suburb, with no money and no support to find their way to family or sponsors still waiting for them. The Casa, founded nine years ago in Jackson’s one-bedroom apartment – but which has since grown exponentially in resources and volunteers – feeds, shelters and provides transportation to the places where new arrivals should have landed in the first place. “They’re reclaiming their dignity,” says Jackson. Still, she wasn’t “dancing in the streets,” as she puts it, when Biden was elected. Not because she was a Trump supporter, but because she sees the limitations of government when it comes to immigration. “They are politicians. We are activists looking at the actual person. We’re here to welcome people humanely.”

Those limitations partly have to do with speed, or the lack thereof. Some immigration activists feel there still isn’t enough urgency from the Biden  administration. For Justice in Motion’s attorneys working in Central America, change can’t come fast enough. For Dora Melara who’s undertaken more than three dozen searches in remote parts of Honduras, it all feels urgent. Motivated by the “harm done to people who sought asylum in the U.S.,” she continues to drive to remote places, some of which can only be reached on foot in the last stretch, working to connect parent to child, child to parent. “Every interview and story I hear from the parents is sad, and it moves me,” she says. “As parents we want to protect our children.”

People like Melara, and the courageous non-profits they work with, continue to heal what has been broken. When I think of the children crying for their mamas, their papas, I think of them and it brings a measure of hope. 

Learn more about Justice in Motion’s Defender Network

To enlist the support of your senators and representatives for the Castro/Blumenthal Families Belong Together Act, please go to: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm