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Insights: Catholic Advocacy Day; Tax Credits and Assistance Available

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March 31, 2017

SF Mission District Landlords Exploiting Undocumented Immigrants

San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, where the city began in 1776 with the founding of Mission Dolores, today is a dense mix of people.

Affluent techies, long-time Mission residents, undocumented immigrants and even homeless people in tents can all be found living in a single block.

In that environment undocumented migrants feel especially pressured, and some landlords seem to be taking advantage of them to raise rents or push them out. The migrants fear being reported and deported, so they feel extremely vulnerable to landlord threats, real or perceived, to raise rents or threaten eviction.

The pressure is especially high in the Mission and Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. Both have large populations of immigrants. Many have poor English, low job skills and limited experience with American cultural and economic practices.

At Catholic and other community workshops designed to help immigrants with their residence status, housing pressure is an increasing concern along with the fear of government action.

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Tax Credits and Preparation Programs Ease Tax-time Hardships

This issue of Because We Are Catholic is available as a bulletin insert in both English and Spanish.

Taxes. They come each year with precise predictability, yet are met by many with angst and foreboding. The fear of having to pay an unexpectedly large tax bill or for tax preparation services can be budget crushing, especially for low-income wage earners and others who constantly face financial hardships.

However, there are some programs in place in California that are often overlooked that are designed to benefit working people with low to moderate income.

The state of California has enacted the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), which provides a rebate to low-income workers based on a percentage of their income. Unlike most tax credits, the CalEITC is refundable, and some may be eligible for refund of up to $4,824, depending on income and the number of children under their care.

CalEITC is a compliment to the Federal version – established during the Reagan presidency – which has been described by both sides of the aisle as the most effective poverty-fighting program in the U.S.

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Catholic Advocacy Day Bills Aimed at Improving Lives of Children

Mark your calendars – this year’s Catholic Advocacy Day will be taking place April 25 and the California Catholic Conference is focusing on bills that promote the health, education and well being of the state’s children.

Participants will be speaking to lawmakers about several bills including AB 1520 (Burke, D-Inglewood), the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act of 2017. The bill aims to cut childhood poverty in California by 50 percent over the next 20 years and provides a comprehensive framework of research-backed solutions to achieve it. 

Other bills include SB 257 and SB 68 (Lara, D-Bell Gardens), which both address education issues for undocumented individuals, giving in-state tuition rates to undocumented individuals who have attended school in the state, and allowing children of deported parents to remain in school.

SB 304 (Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge) would create specialized transition plans for students detained for more than four consecutive schooldays. AB 842 (Lackey, R-Palmdale) would establish the Transitional Housing for Homeless Youth Grant Program and provide residential and counseling services and access to resources. AB 586, (Holden, D-Pasadena) the Teacher Tax Credit, creates a tax credit for professional teacher development expenses. 

The CCC is also focusing on SB 320, which would require student health insurance plans offered by campuses of the California State University and the California Community Colleges to include coverage of abortion as part of the student health insurance plan.

Stay tuned for more information and visit www.cacatholic.org for the latest.  

 

Cesar Chavez’s Commitment to Christ and the Poor

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, and while most know Chavez as a crusader for migrant farm workers, it is less known that it was his Catholic faith and love of Christ that drove his unyielding commitment to improving conditions for the poor.

It was a Catholic priest that Chavez met who ministered to Mexican American migrant workers who ignited his lifelong passion. The priest told Chavez about Catholic teachings concerning the rights of workers. According to the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults Chavez said, “I would do anything to get Father to tell me more about labor history. I began going to the bracero (guest worker) camps with him to help with the Mass, to the city jail to talk to the prisoners, anything to be with him.”

Chavez’s work included founding the United Farm Workers union, as well as staging a massive consumer boycott, in which he asked the American bishops to support the boycott. Chavez once said, “I am convinced that the truest act of courage is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice.”

Over twenty years after his death, Chavez’s legacy continues today at the Capitol. This year, legislators have introduced bills in the same vein as Chavez’s work including

AB 71 (D-Chiu) that would allocate $25,000,000 to farmworker housing projects,

SB 275 (D-Monning), would require agricultural employees who receive sexual harassment training is given in a language understood by the employee and AB 815 (D-Cooper) that mandates that the Labor Contractor Special Enforcement Unit within the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement office in Fresno has sufficient resources to process examinations, licensing and complaints.

 

U.S. Bishops Chairman Opposes Environmental Executive Order

WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order on March 28, 2017 that rescinds and weakens numerous environmental protections, and effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest pollution-emitting sector, making up just under one-third of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions.

"The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship and has called consistently for 'our own country to curtail carbon emissions,'" said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in response to the order. "This Executive Order places a number of environmental protections in jeopardy and moves the U.S. away from a national carbon standard, all without adopting a sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation. Yesterday's action means that, sadly, the United States is unlikely to meet its domestic and international mitigation goals."

The USCCB has voiced support for a national carbon emission standard in recent years, though the Church does not privilege one set of technical, economic, or political approaches over another.  Bishop Dewane stresses that, although the CPP is not the only possible mechanism for reducing carbon emissions, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.    

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March 31, 2017
Vol. 10, No. 12