Our Meetings with the Offices of Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, Congressman Sarbanes, & Congressman Ruppersberger:

March was Ignatian Family Advocacy Month with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and ISN has designated Immigration/Migration Justice & Environmental Justice as their areas of advocacy focus for 2021. During the month of March, members Justice & Peace Committee, the Environmental Justice Subcommittee and the Immigration Justice Subcommittee met with representatives from the offices of Senators Van Hollen and Cardin as well as Congressmen Sarbanes and Ruppersberger.

On behalf of the St. Ignatius Catholic Community, we thanked the Senators and Congressmen for supporting the American Rescue Plan and asked for support and advocacy on bills supporting voting rights and anti-voter suppression, justice in policing, and racial justice proposal bills.  

Our Environmental Justice Subcommittee specifically focused on advocating for creating a path for our national environmental strategy, and encouraging direction in establishing strong environmental policy for the future of our nation. Members discussed key concerns of climate change, the need for sustainable infrastructure, and the importance of inclusivity of people who have not historically been considered in major national programs to be included in environmental and infrastructure programs under the Biden Administration.

In our meeting with Senator Van Hollen, representatives were very supportive of the work of St. Ignatius Catholic Community, and responsive to our Asks. We are happy to report that Senator Van Hollen recently signed on to the Environmental Justice For All Act, which passed the House last session, and is predicted to pass through the House and Senate this session. 

We also learned about the Healthy Climate Family Security Act– a bill that requires the Department of the Treasury to establish a carbon trading program that caps the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from crude oil, coal, and natural gas. The bill would ensure crude oil refineries, petroleum importers, coal mines, coal importers, and natural gas suppliers or processors must purchase carbon permits equivalent to the amount of CO2 that would be emitted by covered fuels.  This bill establishes a declining cap on the quantity of permits issued to reduce CO2 emissions until 2040 when the permits issued represent an amount 80% below 2005 CO2 emission levels. Corporations would be charged for going over the cap, and the dividend would go directly to Americans. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color would directly benefit from these dividends. 

In our meeting, we were also reminded of Senator Van Hollen’s Hope for Homes Act of 2020. This bill would help people retrofit their homes to be more energy-efficient. The Senator is also passionate about matching The Build Back Better plan to support the American people. Finally, Senator Van Hollen is in support of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator Act, wherein the Accelerator shall ensure that over the 30-year period of its charter 40 percent of its investment activity is directed to serve climate-impacted communities.

From left to right: Len Heckwolf, Emily Bruce, Vonetta Edwards, Candra, Healy, Terry Cavanagh, Theresa Furnari, with Shelby Davis-Prettiman of Senator Van Hollen’s Office 

Representatives from Congressman Ruppersberger’s office noted that there was very little discrepancy between our goals and the goals of the Congressman. She was thankful for organizations like ours that keep their offices informed about the various asks of his constituents. Congressman Ruppersberger worked with Congressman Sarbanes on the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization, and they are very aligned in their environmental efforts.

Senator Cardin’s office stands with us and supports all of the Chesapeake Bay issues we mentioned. The Senator is on the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, and so he is doing a lot of work there, in addition to his consistent work on preserving the Chesapeake Bay. His next big project is a highway reauthorization which is a part of the Build Back Better program. There is a lot of grant funding there which will insure that any big infrastructure projects can be done correctly and with a low environmental impact. 

Our members brought up the topic of environmental racism, and Senator Cardin’s office told us that there is a community connectivity pilot program that targets racist highway programs that can cut off communities. The program plans to start healing spaces with these issues (for example, Route 40). 

Our Immigration Justice Subcommittee specifically focused on seeking immigration policies that meet the needs of and respect the humanity of immigrants. They specifically requested that the Biden Administration end Title 42 and other egregious policies at the Southern Border. Our group also urged officials to efficiently process migrants currently waiting and restore to policies that allow humane access to asylum processing, as well as support legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients and TPS holders.

Senators Van Hollen and Cardin introduced The Secure Act  (Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and Emergency Act) into Congress in February of 2021. This bill would provide a process for granting lawful permanent resident status to aliens from certain countries who meet specified eligibility requirements. We thanked them for their support, and asked for their votes of support for S.264, The Dream Act. This bill would authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain individuals who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States as children.

Representatives from Senator Cardin’s office assured us that the Senator will push forward with TPS (Temporary Protected Status) -holder advocacy efforts. His office is also concerned about the situation at the border with Title 42 and is open to continuing transparent conversation about that in the future.

After meeting with Senator Van Hollen’s office, we were reassured by his representatives that the Senator will continue to publicly advocate for making access to citizenship more affordable. In the summer of 2020, both Maryland Senators spoke out publicly against an increase in fees, and President Biden has included a clause in the Secure Act about affordability and keeping fees accessible. Representatives from both Senate offices are also pressing the Administration frequently for transparency about what is happening at the border. They have weekly calls with the various agencies involved there.

Representatives from Congress Ruppersberger’s office reminded us that Congressman Ruppersberger is aligned with almost all of the values of the St. Ignatius Catholic Community.  We thanked Congressman Ruppersberger for consistently being one of the most pro-immigrant members of Congress. Right now, Congressman Ruppersberger’s main priority is protecting Maryland TPS visa holders. TPS holders, as well as DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants as we know, are important, essential, and thriving members of our communities. Throughout the past year, his efforts have been tirelessly focused on advocating for DACA recipients, visa overstays, and appropriations. This Congressman continues to be open to our feedback and suggestions.We also have the support from Congressman Sarbanes, and his goals are aligned with us when it comes to immigration and the environment. The representative from Congressman Sarbanes let us know that conversations are being had frequently about immigration, accessibility, and forging a path to citizenship. Since our meeting with Congressman Sarbanes, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R.6) passed in the House and will go on to the Senate next for consideration. We were given the Sarbanes Standard as a resource to keep updated with the Congressman’s latest news and activity.

From left to right: Kathleen Leslie, Emily Bruce, Lorraine Cuddleback-Gedeon, Terry Cavanagh, Candra Healy, Vonetta Edwards, David Heitlinger of Congressman Ruppersberger’s Office, Len Heckwolf, Theresa Furnari (call-in), & Kendall Strong of Congressman Ruppersberger’s office

Our Discussion Points and Asks from the meeting can be referenced following the links below:

Our next Justice & Peace Zoom meeting is Thursday, May 13th. Please email Angie Turner at aturner7@stevenson.edu to receive an invitation to attend.

We hope to see you there.