By Katie Stanton
Social Media & Online Engagement Manager, YWCA USA
Congress returned to work as of Monday of this week, and although they have a long to-do list, there are certain issues that we think it’s time to prioritize before additional sequester cuts kick in on October 1. From voting rights to immigration reform, this week’s Five on Friday covers the YWCA’s legislative concerns for our nation’s women and their families.
Visit our Action Center and let your elected officials know what your priorities are!
1. Over a hundred women activists and reform supporters gathered in Capitol Hill yesterday to demonstrate for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform, blocking an intersection and getting arrested and removed by Capitol police. There’s still time to vote on historic legislation that would reform our immigration laws, if Congress acts.
Don’t abandon us! Immigration reformers assail Congress, by Benjy Salin, MSNBC
“Underscoring the sense of urgency among the pro-reform crowd, over 100 female immigration activists blocked an intersection outside the Capitol in an attempt to get arrested. Capitol Police obliged, arresting them as they sat arm-in-arm, and charging them with crowding and obstructing. A number of the participants have family members facing deportation proceedings. The act of civil disobedience, which brought together prominent immigrant and women’s rights groups, was intended to draw attention to stress placed on families by deportations and visa restrictions.”
2. SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, may face even more cuts this fall as House Republicans have proposed slashing the program’s funding by up to $40 billion over the next 10 years. More than 40% of SNAP recipients are women, and the proposed cuts and changes to the program would severely impact their ability to feed themselves and their families. As the below article details, a recent Gallup poll shows that, right now, one in five Americans struggle to put food on the table.
1 in 5 Americans struggling to put food on the table, by Jeff Black, NBC News
“Before the economic recession of 2007-2009, fewer than 17 percent of the people surveyed reported having trouble paying food bills.
‘These findings suggest that the economic recovery may be disproportionately benefiting upper-income Americans rather than those who are struggling to fulfill their basic needs,’ the national polling company said.”
3. Key provisions in the Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year, leaving many voters at risk of disenfranchisement through practices like voter ID requirements, redistricting, and changes to early voting. Signs this week point to new hope in restoring those provisions, and we hope Congress will make it happen. (By the way, don’t forget to celebrate National Voter Registration Day later this month!)
Congress May Fix the Voting Rights Act This Year. Here’s Why, by Brentin Mock, Colorlines
“After hearings Sen. Leahy staged on the Voting Rights Act in July for his judiciary committee, the chairman said he was very encouraged that a bipartisan solution was possible, according to a judiciary committee aide who didn’t want to be identified. Since then, Sen. Leahy has been negotiating with many members from both parties on new VRA language, said the aide, and he agrees with Sensenbrenner that legislation should be passed before the end of the year.”
4. The Military Justice Improvement Act, spearheaded by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, would work to combat sexual assault in the military by removing the victim’s chain of command from the investigative process – a method that would enable victim’s to more freely report assaults without fear of retribution. Many surmise that this would dramatically increase the number of reports – a recent review by the Navy revealed that the number of reported assaults has increased by 50% in the past year alone.
Official: Reports of sex assault in Navy increase, by Lisa De Bode, Al Jazeera America
“‘We have no idea how these cases are being reported. Ultimately the commander still has the right to dismiss the charge or not even investigate,’ he told Al Jazeera, saying there is a need for ‘an independent justice system’ that would remove the authority to prosecute alleged perpetrators from the victim’s chain of command.
A Defense Department report released in May estimated that across all military branches, 26,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. At the same time, only 2,949 sexual assaults were officially reported, apparently indicating a fear of retaliation.”
5. Finally, let’s take a moment to celebrate a legislative victory that Congress passed 19 years ago. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law in 1994 by President Clinton, and was reauthorized in February of this year after a long Congressional debate over the inclusion of provisions for same-sex couples and Native American women, and to allow battered undocumented individuals to claim temporary visas (known as U-Visas). Read more about VAWA and our work to renew this legislation on the YWCA website.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), by ywca.org
“The 113th Congress took up the Violence Against Women Act again in January of 2013. An inclusive VAWA that included provisions helping immigrant, Native American and LGBT victims of violence (S. 47) was approved in the Senate, and the House of Representatives approved that version of VAWA. The vote was 286-138. The YWCA supported S. 47.
The bill was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013.”
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