Square 10: Families Belong Together

This square was inspired by a simple principle, families belong together

We have a flawed and extremely complicated immigration system. Regardless of citizenship, a person must enter the United States via a port of entry or a border inspection point. Crossing into the US at any other point that has not been designated by US immigration officials is illegal. First time offenders who improperly enter the US can be charged with a misdemeanor which may result in a fine, 6 months in prison or both¹.

Seems simple. If a person is caught crossing into the US illegally they will be charged, prosecuted and deported back to their country of origin. However, as a signatory to the 1967 Protocol, and through U.S. immigration law, the United States has legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees, regardless of how they enter the country. A refugee is defined as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

On average, asylum seekers are detained for 102 days². During past administrations, vulnerable groups of immigrants, like asylum seekers, families with children and unaccompanied minors, were granted special protections and were released from detention while awaiting their case to be heard in immigration court. This practice is often referred to as ‘catch and release’.

In April, the Trump administration instituted a zero tolerance policy requiring all adults who enter the US illegally to be criminally prosecuted. As a result, families who were seeking asylum and improperly crossed into the US were being separated by the US government. Between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, at least 2,700 children were seperated from their parents³.

These children have been scattered across the country with little regard to how these families would be reunited in the future. Per a federal judge, “The practice of separating these families was implemented without any effective system or procedure for (1) tracking the children after they were separated from their parents, (2) enabling communication between the parents and their children after separation, and (3) reuniting the parents and children after the parents are returned to immigration custody following completion of their criminal sentence. This is a startling reality,”

After national outrage, the President signed an executive order ending the separation of immigrant families that was caused by his administration’s zero tolerance policy, but it made no mention of reuniting the parents that had previously been separated from their children. On June 26th a federal judge ordered government officials to reunify all parents with their minor children who are under the age of 5 within 14 days and reunify all parents with their minor children age 5 and older within 30 days. In addition the order also mandates that officials provide parents contact with their children by phone within 10 days, if the parent is not already in contact with his or her child.

According to the latest available statistics only 522 children have been reunited with their parents. There are sill thousands of parents that have not seen or spoken to their children in weeks and in some cases months. Today, protesters are taking to the streets to take a stand against the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy and demand that all families be reunited. Visit familiesbelongtogether.org to learn more about the more than 600 Families Belong Together marches taking place across the country.

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Square 9: Run the World

This square was inspired by the girls who run this motha

Today kicks off the 19th annual National Women’s Health Week. This week serves as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and build positive health habits for life. This initiative is led by the US Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health. Their mission is to provide national leadership and coordination to improve the health of women and girls through policy, education and model programs. Unfortunately, the actions of the current administration and the Republican-led Congress have run counter to that mission.

This administration is using its executive and administrative authority to curtail access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services.  Last October the Department of Health & Human Services rolled back the Obama-era birth control mandate that required employers to offer insurance that covered contraception for women. Now employers can claim an exemption for religious beliefs or ‘sincerely held moral convictions’. Of the 28 leadership positions at HHS, only seven (25%) are held by women.  At the state level, new eligibility requirements are making it harder to access Medicaid, which finances half of all births in the US. Currently, only six (12%) governor’s mansions are controlled by women.

Republicans failed to fulfill a longtime campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The House of Representatives, comprised of 351 men and 84 women, passed a bill that would have made pregnancy a preexisting condition and allowed insurers to charge higher premiums or deny coverage to pregnant women. In the Senate, a working group of 13 men was assembled to draft healthcare legislation that would determine what constitutes necessary services for women. The legislation was drafted without any input from any of the seven women that sit on the 23 member committee on health.

Although women make up 50% of the population, they are severely underrepresented in our government. Women should have proportionate representation when it comes to creating policy, particularly as it relates to women’s healthcare. This year, a record number of women are running for elected office at all levels of government. 309 women have filed candidacy papers to run for a seat in the House, 40 women are running in governors races and 29 women are running for the Senate. All of these candidates move us closer to a more effective and representative government by bringing much needed diversity of experiences and perspectives to the forefront.

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Carry the House Wine Tote

I knit to flip New Jersey’s 4th district

Today Republicans control 34 governorships, 67 legislative chambers, 236 House seats, 51 senate seats and the White House. November 6th is the next best chance for Democrats to regain control of our Government.

The current representative of NJ04 is Chris Smith (R), who was first elected to Congress in 1980. He has not held a town hall in 25 years and he is unresponsive to requests from the constituents he is elected to serve. It’s time for a change. We need a representative who is present in the community and is focussed on improving access to affordable healthcare, curbing senseless gun violence, combatting wage inequality, reforming the criminal justice system and protecting our environment.

I knit to flip New Jersey’s 4th district by raising awareness of important social and cultural issues ahead of the midterm elections. Whether you knit for fun or to make a political statement I hope my knitting patterns inspire others to participate in the political process and foster a respectful debate.

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Square 8: Blue Wave

This square was inspired by a big beautiful blue wave

Don’t let the tweets fool you, Democrats have been winning special elections and flipping seats across the country. From a deep red Alabama Senate seat, to a House seat in rural Pennsylvania, to a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, Democrats have flipped nearly 40 seats¹ since Trump was elected.

Today, voters will decide who will fill the seat left vacant by Rep. Trent Franks (R) in Arizona’s 8th district. Although Trump won this district by 21 points, recent polls² show the Democrat, Hiral Tipirneni, in a statistical dead heat with former state Sen. Debbie Lesko (R).

Whatever the outcome of today’s special election, there’s no denying that the Democrats have momentum heading into the midterms. We are poised for a wave election, but just like in a packed stadium, the wave only works if everyone participates. So, on November 6th, stand up and vote.

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Hot Button Issue: Facebook

Move slow and break things.

Facebook was founded 14 years ago in a Harvard dorm room and has since grown into a behemoth. The tech company, now headquartered in the fast paced Silicon Valley, has more than 2 billion monthly active users and over $40 billion in revenue¹.  However when news broke that the data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, Facebook became a hot button issue.

Congress, a reactive body known for their notoriously slow pace, grilled Mark Zuckerberg, founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook for nearly ten hours over the course of two days. Questions ranged from tech support,

Senator Wicker (R-MS)

to trying to wrap their heads around Facebook’s business model,

Senator Hatch (R-UT)

to trying to define Facebook in terms they could understand.

Senator Graham (R-SC)

Throughout the hearings Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that the industry could be regulated and legislators couldn’t agree more.

Rep. Pallone (D-NJ)

On average it takes 264 days² to sign a bill into law, so it is unlikely that we will see any major regulatory legislation passed prior to the 2018 midterms. The question now is, will voters, especially millennial voters, trust this Congress to regulate Facebook and the other social media networks or will they be looking to elect new leaders in Congress who understand modern technology and can navigate the complexities of big data?

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Hot Button Issue: Amazon

It’s Prime time

Who would have thought Amazon, an American company, the largest internet retailer in the world and the eighth largest employer in the US, would be a hot button issue for the leader of the party of free market capitalists?

Amazon Tweets

Amazon, like most e-commerce companies, uses the USPS as their delivery boy because that’s literally the job of the Postal Service. They deliver packages that ‘last mile’ to people’s doors. Should the Postal Service be charging more for parcel delivery? Yes, according to the person who campaigned on the economic anxiety of the American worker. However, like the tariffs on steel and aluminum the increased cost will ultimately be passed on to the consumer. So, in addition to paying more for that can of soup you will also have to pay more to ship that can of soup. Hopefully you were one of the lucky 4 million Americans who received a $1,000 bonus from the tax cut bill and can offset the additional cost.

You know who really benefited from the tax cut bill? Amazon. Thanks to the Republicans and their generosity to corporate America, Amazon netted $789M¹ when the corporate tax rate was lowered at the end of last year. Amazon collects sales tax (in all states that levy them) on products they sell directly to consumers. However, Amazon has millions of third-party sellers, most of which only collect sales tax in the states they have a physical presence².

Who are these third-party sellers who have drawn the ire of the President? The majority of them are small business owners, like independent retailers. Some may think that traditional retailers and Amazon would be unlikely bedfellows, however retailers who are willing to adapt to changing consumer needs have been able to leverage Amazon and their services to grow their customer base beyond their brick-and-mortar locations and create a national presence online.

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Hot Button Issues

What’s your issue?

The primary role of Congress is to pass laws. However as of March 30th 2018, the 115th Congress, which gaveled into session in January of 2017, has only managed to pass two major pieces of legislation through both chambers. For context, President Obama signed more major pieces of legislation¹  into law during his first month in office.

What was on the legislative agenda for the party of fiscal conservatives?  Last month they passed a $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill to overt a third government shutdown. Prior to that, a $1.5 trillion dollar corporate welfare bill disguised as a middle class tax cut was signed into law. Instead of legislating, Republicans used their congressional majorities to reshape the judiciary by appointing a record number of judges deemed ‘not qualified’ by the American Bar Association to lifetime appointments on the bench. They’ve cut environmental regulations and loosened policies  in an effort to undermine consumer protections.

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