Alleviating the immigration crisis

Hostility, not hospitality, toward immigrants seems to be growing worldwide as nations debate their obligation to accept men, women and children fleeing their homelands for a better life. Fixing the immigration “problem” for the short term requires followers of Christ to welcome the stranger, to honor the mandate of Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

The long-term fix, and one that doesn’t get much press these days, requires the patient untangling of the reasons why men, women and children feel compelled to leave their homelands in the first place.

Let’s get to basics: Food, shelter, clothing, health care, education and safety are basic human needs that, when met, allow men, women and children to flourish. We see that every day in the land of plenty, the United States of America.

In this country, we have the opportunity to help satisfy one of those needs, global hunger, through the Farm Bill, which Congress is in the process of finalizing. International food security programs are a component of the Farm Bill crucial to ensuring that people in need of food overseas have the ability to access it. Three of these programs — Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Food for Progress — fulfill this basic need, and more.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) reports that “These programs provide lifesaving emergency assistance when disasters strike, help communities in poverty grow more of the food they need, support small farmers to participate more in markets, and promote literacy and education for primary school children through school lunches.” These programs together helped more than 47 million people worldwide in Fiscal Year 2016, CRS stated.

But these programs are by no means a shoo-in for passage in the coming days and weeks. The House and Senate each passed Farm Bills at the end of June that went to a Conference Committee to hammer out a compromise. The existing Farm Bill is set to expire Sept. 30, so passage of the 2018 Farm Bill is at a critical stage.

CRS reports that both versions of the 2018 Farm Bill continue the three programs mentioned above and even make some important improvements to the programs. Under the Food for Peace program, for example, the Senate bill would reduce overhead expenses and permit more food aid to be sourced from locally or regionally produced commodities, vouchers and debit cards to buy food in local markets. Food for Peace serves people overseas by reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition, responding to famine and food crises and helping people to build resilience to shocks. The program also advances U.S. security, economic and humanitarian interests overseas (H.R. 5276 Food for Peace Modernization Act).

The McGovern-Dole Food for Education program provides U.S. commodities and financial and technical assistance to countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia and Guatemala to reduce hunger and promote literacy, especially for girls. CRS reports that the program also strengthens the quality of education through support for teacher training, curriculum development and school building rehabilitation. Including local farmers in this program is an important improvement that warrants inclusion in the finalized Farm Bill.
Food for Progress “helps developing countries and emerging democracies modernize and strengthen their agricultural sectors,” the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service website states. “U.S. agricultural commodities donated to recipient countries are sold on the local market and the proceeds are used to support agricultural, economic or infrastructure development programs.” The Senate Bill provides for some direct funding that CRS believes will allow the program to reach more people.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in his online newsletter that he looks forward to passing a Farm Bill that “gives farmers and American agriculture the safety net it needs to feed the people of this country and the world.”

Advocate for these international aid programs contained in the Farm Bill by contacting Grassley and his colleague from Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst, and your U.S. representative (www.govtrack.us/congress/members/IA). These programs won’t end the immigration crisis, but they provide one step in the right direction — that leads to home.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor
(arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org.)

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