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January 28, 2020 — In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden shared a vision for the country that is rooted in his Catholic faith: “Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.”

In the days since, he has announced scores of executive orders and legislative plans to address the crises facing our nation.

“President Biden has taken important steps to support Americans most in need, to combat climate change, to advance racial equality and to protect the rights of migrants. We look forward to working with his Administration on a range of policy reforms in the coming years,” says Fr. Tim Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. “However, his commitment to codifying Roe v Wade and his lifting of the “Mexico City” Policy trouble all of us who care about the dignity of unborn children.”

“We will keep encouraging the Administration to work for justice for all people,” continued Fr. Kesicki. “The systemic change that the U.S. needs will require committed advocacy and prophetic action that transcends partisan divides.”

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on tackling climate change at the White House in Washington Jan. 27, 2021, prior to signing executive actions. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Here are the policies that the Jesuits are tracking and advocating for in the first weeks of Biden’s presidency.

Economic Justice

  • Federal Moratorium on Evictions Extended. Through executive action President Biden has extended the nationwide ban on evictions and forbearance on government-backed mortgages through March 2021. Although this provides temporary relief, a more permanent legislative solution is needed to prevent a housing crisis.
  • Stimulus Plan Proposed in Congress. In addition to distributing $1,400 stimulus checks, this sweeping recovery plan would increase unemployment insurance by $400 through September, gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour and extend the moratorium on evictions and mortgage foreclosure until Sept. 30. It also expands the child tax credit program, a policy that we have long supported as an anti-poverty measure for working families.
  • SNAP Benefits Expanded. President Biden signed an order which would allow states to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15% for those most in need, and asked the USDA to increase state emergency allotments, so that 12 million more households can enroll in the program. With nearly one in five families struggling to put food on the table, this relief is essential.
People  wait in a line outside a temporary unemployment office established by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet (CNS photo/Bryan Woolston, Reuters).

Migration

  • Remain in Mexico Halted. Migrants applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border will no longer be subject to the “Remain in Mexico” program, which forced asylum seekers to stay in Mexico—often in unsafe, and during the pandemic, crowded and unsanitary conditions—while awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications. While we welcome the end of this disastrous policy, it is unclear what will happen to 20,000 people still enrolled in the program. We urge the Department of Homeland Security to rebuild infrastructure at the border so that immigrants, including asylum seekers may be processed into the United States in a safe and orderly manner, and to expand the family case management system as an alternative to detention.
  • Most Deportations Paused for 100 Days. The administration will use this 100-day hiatus to reevaluate its immigration enforcement policies.
  • “Muslim” Travel Ban Lifted. Implemented in 2017, this order suspended refugee admissions and entry to the U.S. from 13 Muslim-majority countries, including countries wracked by war and famine such as Yemen, Syria and Somalia. We thank the Administration for lifting this punitive policy, and along with our partners, JRS/USA, we call for increased support for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Citizenship Act of 2021 Sent to Congress. President Biden’s proposed immigration bill would overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Most notably, the bill provides a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S. The bill also proposes much-needed reforms to the immigration courts, detention and application systems.
  • Border Wall Construction Halted. The Administration has promised that no more taxpayer dollars will go into constructing a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, which was slated to become one of the costliest infrastructure projects in U.S history.
  • Immigration Enforcement Policies Ordered for Review. This review of federal policy is a crucial step in protecting rather than punishing migrants without documentation.

Human Life and Dignity

  • “Mexico City” Policy Revoked. President Biden has removed a ban on U.S. funding for international aid groups that counsel on or provide abortions. As a Catholic organization committed to the protection of human life and dignity from the moment of conception until natural death, we urge the White House to reinstate this policy while also increasing support for education, healthcare and poverty reduction measures for women around the world.
  • Commitment to codifying Roe v Wade In a White House Statement, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris affirmed their intention to enshrine reproductive health in federal law. While we support efforts to improve access to maternal and infant healthcare, we strongly oppose any entrenchment of abortion rights.

Criminal Justice

Environmental Justice

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