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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Square 7: March for Our Lives

This square was inspired by the students who March for Our Lives

All eyes are on Congress and yet there is no indication that our elected officials are taking any action to end the epidemic of mass school shootings. This is why students and their families are taking to the streets of Washington DC and cities across the country to demand change. The organizers of March for Our Lives, are calling for a ban on the sale of assault weapons, prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines and closing the loopholes in the background check system.

Although polling¹ suggests the majority of Americans are in favor of these gun reform measures, there are some on the other side of the debate who think the only way to solve a gun problem is with more guns, because you know, the Second Amendment. But, if a good guy with a gun is the solution, why aren’t lawmakers pushing for federal funding to man every school in the country with resource officers? Instead, we’ve heard half-baked proposals to arm teachers. The safety of our students should not be dependent on a teacher volunteering to put their life on the line for a $500 bonus. If more guns are truly the answer, than every school in the country should have dedicated, competent and adequately compensated personnel who’s first and only priority is the safety of the students and faculty.

As with most complicated policy issues, reasonable people can disagree on the right path forward. But inaction is unacceptable. We the People, have had enough. Lawmakers need to do what they were sent to Washington to do and pass legislation to end the senseless gun violence in America.

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Square 6: The Pod

This square was inspired by the podcasts that ‘inform, entertain and inspire’

During the 2016 primaries I was like a groundhog. I would poke my head out from the pages of ONTD to check the political climate and then I would burrow back into my trivial world of Hot Topics and Real Housewives. Then, shit got real. I took a break from my regularly scheduled programming, turned the channel to CNN and watched a person who was politically, temperamentally and morally unqualified, accept the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States. I haven’t changed the channel since.

CNN was my gateway drug into politics. Podcasts are what got me hooked and turned me into a full blown political junkie. Despite the 24 hour programming and being fully integrated into my daily routine, New Day with my coffee, Inside Politics at lunch, power through my workout with The Lead, a nightcap with a Lemon chaser, brunch to State of the Union, CNN never fully satiated my need for more. Between the commercial breaks, panel discussions devolving into political cat fights, and ‘breaking news’ alerts abruptly changing the topic, I felt like I was only getting the CliffsNotes. I wanted more than just a superficial understanding of the day’s news.

Podcasts pick up where cable news leaves off.  They extend the conversation by providing historical context, diving into the weeds on policy and discussing potential implications in a way you simply can’t do in a 15 minute segment. At the end of each episode you feel like you’ve been fully debriefed by a subject matter expert and can engage in a substantive debate with any political pundit.

Have you ever seen that movie Born Yesterday? Real Estate mogul, John Goodman, and his ex-showgirl girlfriend, Melanie Griffith, arrive on the DC social scene. Goodman, embarrassed by his girlfriend’s lack of social graces, hires the young, witty, down to earth journalist, Don Johnson, to smarten her up. Thanks to his relatable and charming approach to US history, law and politics, Melanie Griffith transforms into a smart, savvy political butterfly. Podcasts are my Don Johnson.

Want to smarten up? Check out some of the pods in my feed.

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Evil Eye Glove

We the People, are watching

On March 24, students and and their families will March For Our Lives and take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end the epidemic of mass school shootings in America. Krista Suh, the creator of the Pussyhat Project, is calling on craftivists to help create a sea of eyes at the march to show Congress just how many pairs of eyes are on them right now.

For information on how you can contribute and participate visit the March for our Lives facebook page and kristasuh.com.

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Square 5: Pennies from Heaven

This square was inspired by dollars and common sense

A little over a year ago, a bleak picture was painted during the presidential address to a joint session of congress. 94 million Americans out of the labor force. Over 43 million people living in poverty. 43 million Americans on food stamps. Fortunately, there was light at the end of that long dark tunnel paved with American carnage.  On December 22, 2017 this administration’s first (and only) major piece of legislation was signed into law.

The Republican tax bill, touted as the ‘middle-class miracle’, gives corporations a permanent tax cut, saving them billions of dollars per year. In addition, workers can temporarily expect to see their paychecks go ‘way UP’, by an average of $4,000 per year.

This is all good news, particularly for those who have already seen tangible benefits. Like the 3 million Americans who received a one-time taxable bonus from their employers, or the secretary who’s paycheck increased by $1.50.

“More great news as a result of historical Tax Cuts and Reform: Fiat Chrysler announces plan to invest more than $1 BILLION in Michigan plant, relocating their heavy-truck production from Mexico to Michigan, adding 2,500 new jobs and paying $2,000 bonus to U.S. employees!” – Presidential tweet

But what about the forgotten men and women who were supposed to be forgotten no more? For every tweet boasting about bonuses and promises of new jobs, there is an article reporting a reduction in the workforce and the shuttering of factories.

“Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kleenex and Huggies, says tax bill helps fund plan that includes more than 5,000 layoffs” – Washington Post

If the economic anxiety people felt just a year ago was genuine, will this tax cut have a real impact on the 57% of Americans who have less than $1,000 in their savings account¹? Will it significantly improve the circumstances of the average household carrying credit card debt of $15,654²?  And what about millennials? This year is the first time they will surpass baby boomers as the largest share of the electorate. Will this tax bill motivate young people, who graduate with an average of $37,172 in student loan debt³ ,to go to the polls and pull the lever for Republicans? That, is the 1.5 trillion dollar question.

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Square 4: The Yellow Bus

This square was inspired by the bus Democrats repeatedly throw Hillary Clinton under

When news broke that the senior faith advisor for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, Burns Strider, was accused of sexually harassing a young female staffer, headlines blasting Clinton flooded timelines and news feeds.

Clinton ‘Overruled’ Firing Staffer Accused of Harassment – Politico

Clinton Kept Adviser on 2008 Campaign Despite Sexual Harassment – CNN

Hillary Clinton Chose to Shield a Top Adviser Accused of Harassment – NYT

Clinton Protected Campaign Staffer Accused of Sexual Harassment – The Hill

From these headlines one would assume Clinton used taxpayer money to fund settlements to silence the accusers or simply dismissed the accusation as ‘Fake News’. When in reality, Clinton believed the accuser and took action to punish Strider. She demoted him, docked his pay and ordered him to go to counseling. Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not that punishment was sufficient. However, instead of having that uncomfortable conversation, Democrats chose to throw Hillary Clinton under the bus, again.

When asked to comment, Democrats could have said, ‘Personally I would have fired Strider, however I appreciate that Clinton took the accusations seriously and not only punished Strider but tried to rehabilitate him. As elected officials, our job moving forward is to create policies that foster a safe work environment as well as put forth legislation that prevents abusers from continuing that behavior in the future.’

At this moment, there is a real opportunity for Democrats to take the lead and propose policies that address the systemic problem the #metoo movement has exposed. Employers should have a no tolerance policy. Any credible accusation of harassment in the workplace should lead to termination of employment. But that person won’t stay unemployed forever. There also needs to be a targeted and proactive approach to break the cycle of sexual harassment and misconduct. Whether it’s mandatory training for all new hires, required counseling for offenders, or a registry where employers can screen candidates prior to making a hiring decision, safeguards need to be put in place to prevent known abusers from continuing the behavior in the future.

The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it. TIME’S UP

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Square 3: The Cure

This square was inspired by the Democrat’s newly elected trifecta in my home state of New Jersey

Conventional wisdom dictates that one should treat the disease, not the symptom. So, while knitting is a great way to relieve the mind-numbing disappointment caused by our elected officials, it’s certainly not the cure. To create the change that you want to see, vote.

Unfortunately, 2018 is not a Presidential election year, however there are many upcoming state and local races. The midterm elections provide an opportunity to pushback against the policies and politicians that don’t properly represent your beliefs, your needs or your community. These local elections are where progress begins.

State and locally elected officials, like the mayor, state legislators and the governor, will make policy that will have lasting implications for years to come. Whether it’s school quality, public safety, affordable housing, public transit or civil rights these officials are making decisions that have a direct impact on your daily life. Their decisions can also form the foundation for future federal policies.  For example, the first minimum wage laws were introduced at the sate level in 1912. It wasn’t until 1933 that the first piece of legislation was passed by Congress to establish a federal minimum wage. This is just one of many examples of how important it is to elect local and state officials that will create policies and laws that are inline with your beliefs.

So, feel free to knit the anxiety away as long as you commit to get out and vote in the next election. It’s the only way to cure the disease.

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Square 2: Women’s March

This square was inspired by the Women’s March and the pursuit of equality

January 21st marks the one year anniversary of the Women’s March. Over 4.5 million people participated in what became the largest single-day protest in US history. Women, men and children took to the streets to advocate for legislation and policies that protect our rights, our safety and our health.

A year later, momentum continues to build. Organizations, like She Should Run, are channeling that positive energy and galvanizing women to run for office. As a result, it’s projected that 2018 will see a record number of women run for congressional house seats. As more and more women step forward to make their voices heard we move closer to electing a more effective and representative government.

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Square 1: Time’s Up

This square was inspired by the Time’s Up movement

“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something”.  Time’s Up, an initiative, led by a group of 300 prominet women in Hollywood, launched via an open letter published in The New York Times on January 1, 2018. Time’s Up is more than a hashtag, it’s a call to action.

To-date the organization has raised over $15,000,000 for a legal defense fund to support lower income women seeking justice for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. In addition, the group is partnering with advocates to improve laws, employment agreements and corporate policies that will curtail workplace harassment and achieve gender parity across various industries.

In an effort to steer the conversation towards their agenda, actresses will be wearing all black to this year’s Golden Globes. Tonight’s red carpet is not about standing out, it’s about standing up to show support and raise awareness.

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