A Week with Nuns on the Bus
Editor’s note: This post was written by Richelle Friedman, CHN’s Director of Public Policy. Richelle is currently spending a week with NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus. The full Nuns on the Bus tour includes 54 events in 21 states over the course of 27 days. Learn more about Nuns on the Bus on their website and follow Richelle’s adventures via Twitter.
So why, you may ask, would 10 Catholic Sisters embark on a four-week cross country Tax Justice Truth Tour? The goal is to shatter the myth that the major tax bill passed less than a year ago benefits everyone, and that cuts in programs critical to the most vulnerable are necessary to pay for it.
There was some realization by event participants that the tax law passed in 2017 overwhelmingly benefits wealthy individuals and corporations. But participants at our town halls, rallies and press conferences were less aware of the cuts being proposed – to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, SNAP and other safety net programs – by proponents of the tax bill to help pay for the tax law. The implications are enormous. The concerns we heard focused on access to health care, immigration and lack of affordable housing.
We met amazing and brave people. During a lobby visit in her Representative’s office, Erin, mother of nine-year-old Abbey who is autistic, cannot hear or speak, happens to be a Little Lobbyist and who is on Medicaid, shared about her and her husband‘s greatest fear. “We hope we will not die before Abbey because we do not know who will take care of her.” Their other two children are also autistic.
In Akron, I met Len who anguished from just having put his 68-year-old wife suffering from dementia in a care facility. He commented to someone during our small group discussion that it doesn’t matter how much is in your 401(k) because it would need to be spent down before you can become eligible for Medicaid.
In Beaver, PA I met Don, an organic farmer, who is concerned about U.S. immigration and refugee policies. A group he is part of, Ananias Mission, raised money to give to Canada in support of six Syrian refugees who the United States would not except. He views the lack of hospitality to refugees that has been an administration policy for the last two years as cruel and unacceptable.
Nuns on the Bus also did site visits. First Friends in Kearney, NJ was started in 1999 to provide compassion and hope to detained immigrants and asylum-seekers through volunteer visitation, resettlement assistance, and advocacy. One newly released detainee who had just been granted asylum spoke of the overwhelming sense of loneliness and despair in the ICE detention facility where inhumane cruelty abounds in the form of isolation, no exposure to sunshine, and beatings. No one ever referred to him by his name but rather by his bed number. When someone from First Friends came and called him ‘Robert’ it was the first time he heard his name uttered in months. Staff at First Friends are beloved by the detainees who think of them as family.
Nora Lichtash is the Executive Director of Women’s Community Revitalization Project in Philadelphia. For 30 years she and WCRP staff have worked to empower women while building community and leadership. They know the central role having a stable affordable place to call home plays. It is critical and necessary to moving forward. WCRP makes safe and affordable housing available for 276 families.
What an amazing journey! Everywhere we went crowds eagerly awaited our arrival. Our coming seemed affirming and energizing for them. For us, it was always equally energizing and it was humbling. It is often said that youth are our hope. I met Michael who is a student at St. Josephs University in Philadelphia. Michael is bright, articulate, believes in doing service, and knows the importance of voting because who we elect matters. Michael and so many we met on the journey give me great hope!