Projection: 90,000 Unaccompanied Children will hit the US Border by Year End

Familes and Children Held In U.S. Customs and Border Protection Processing Facility

The number is astounding, and begs the question, “why kids?”

In a recent interview with the National Journal, Leslie Velez, senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, explains why tens of thousands of children are fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—some of the most dangerous places in this hempisphere. On Capitol Hill, the numbers have increased the debate over border policy, and led the Obama administration to declare “an urgent humanitarian situation”, prompting emergency response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Statistics released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal that 47,017 unaccompanied children ages 17 and younger have already been apprehended at the border during the 2014 fiscal year, a 92% increase over FY2013. But the question still remains…“why kids?”. Brian Reslick from the National Journal posed the question to Velez.

“The kids are vulnerable because they are children. And they are being targeted. We liken the situation very much to the situation of the recruitment of child soldiers on other continents. Children are particularly vulnerable, they are susceptible to harm, they are easily terrorized, and the very fact that they are children is the single factor in the harm that they are experiencing. They are specifically being target to be recruited. They are the ones who are being bullied.”

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FEMA will coordinate with several agencies that play a role in apprehending and caring for the children, including the departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense, and the General Services Administration to provide housing, care, medical treatment and transportation.


Do you believe that these children should fall under protections guaranteeing them refugees status in the US? What do you think of FEMA’s involvement? As always, we’d like to hear from you.

For a link to the full article click here.

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Student Loan Relief: The Presidential Memoranda

Pay as you earn

Are you paying off student loan debt?

If you are like millions of Americans across the country, the answer is yes. Monday, President Obama signed a student loan memorandum enabling an increased number of borrowers to receive student loan payment relief.

There are five key actions as outlined in the memorandum:

– Expanding the Pay As You Earn Plan to More Federal Direct Loan Borrowers. Within 1 year after the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of Education shall propose regulations that will allow additional students who borrowed Federal Direct Loans to cap their Federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.

- Improving Communication Strategies to Help Vulnerable Borrowers. By December 31, 2014, the Secretary of Education shall develop, evaluate, and implement new targeted strategies to reach borrowers who may be struggling to repay their Federal student loans to ensure that they have the information they need to select the best repayment option and avoid future default.

- Encouraging Support and Awareness of Repayment Options for Borrowers During Tax Filing Season. By September 30, 2014, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Education shall invite private-sector entities to enter into partnerships to better educate borrowers about income-based repayment plans during the tax filing season in 2015.

- Promoting Stronger Collaboration to Ensure That Students and Their Families Have the Information They Need to Make Informed Borrowing Decisions. By September 30, 2014, the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, shall develop a pilot project to test the effectiveness of loan counseling resources, including the Department of Education’s Financial Awareness Counseling Tool.

You can read the Memorandum here.

How are student loans affecting you or your family? Do you believe the actions outlined above will in fact provide relief?

As always, we want to hear from you!

My Brother’s Keeper: The Task Force Report

mybrotherskeeper

Have you been following the progress made on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative?

“There are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.” – President Obama’s remarks upon announcing the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

Recently the task force charged with investigating the roots of the problem and recommending solutions, published its first report. Before we share those with you, we would like to share an excerpt from a recent article published by the New York Times, This Fugitive Life. The article shines a light on the depth of the problem that threatens us as a nation – the highly functioning and systematic mass incarceration of our young men and boys of color. They are routinely collected, much like a city’s trash, and ushered into the lucrative (for private investors), yet life-damning (for the young men and boys) “correctional” system. An excerpt from the New York Times article came be found below:

“Tim’s first arrest came at age 11. One of his older brothers, Mike’s friend Chuck, was driving Tim to school in his girlfriend’s car, and when a cop pulled them over, the car came up as stolen in California. Chuck had never been to California and had no idea which one of his girlfriend’s relatives had stolen the car. The officer took both brothers into custody. Down at the police station, they charged Chuck with receiving stolen property and they charged Tim as an accessory to the crime. Later, a judge in juvenile court placed Tim on three years’ probation.”
– Excerpt, This Fugitive Life, published by the New York Times.

Three years of probation for an 11-year old on his way to school? Not to mention the disruption to his psyche, time away from school while waiting to be sentenced, followed by the consequences of probation. Do you know any 11-year olds? How would their lives be altered by this same type of justice?

The effect the My Brother’s Keeper initiative will have remains to be seen. What is encouraging is the conversation and action toward change stemming from our highest levels of government. A few of the task force’s recommendations can be found by clicking here.

Leaning into Love: A Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya_Angelou_Inauguration

This week the planet became a little less poetic as we witnessed the passing of the iconic and incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou. For her son, Guy, my beloved friends, colleagues and others who were members of her immediate and most intimate extended families, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Having spoken to some of you this week, I know you miss her deeply and seek the way to find comfort in her words, counsel and the memories of her big-hearted love for each of you and humankind. For the countless others who claim association through her writings, speeches, presentations and bigger than life as we know it presence on the planet, her passing presents an opportunity to lean into and lean on all she had to share. Love. Wisdom. Compassion. Beauty. Grace. Hope.

I recall the times I had an opportunity to meet her and work on causes and with people she loved deeply — Bennett College for Women, efforts related to diversity and inclusion, equal rights, humanity generally and children particularly. Today, I especially cherish receiving an autographed copy of her book, Letters to my Daughter, delivered to me by Dr. Gloria Herndon after she attended one of Dr. Angelou’s Thanksgiving gatherings that are legend amongst her family and closest associates. I didn’t get to attend one of those holiday gatherings, but word is, they were a truly special coming together in communion and in celebration of the best life has to offer — good people, good food and libations, invigorating conversation, fun, laughter and love. Name calling and intolerance for others was not tolerated, and persons who crossed that line would be asked to leave. My. My. I can only imagine.

Interestingly, several years ago, I had the honor of accepting an award on behalf of Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College for Women. The award was being given to Dr. Cole by the Maya Angelou Charter School (See Forever Foundation) located in Washington, DC. David Dominici and James Forman, Jr. founded the school to help at-risk youth, with an initial focus on those in the juvenile justice system. Vivid images of the award ceremony now come to mind. Dr. Angelou sitting in a box near the stage of the historic Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC, located in the historic African American Shaw neighborhood, right next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl. It was an incredible celebration in support of the school and the youth who attend it. Beloved Angelou confidant and friend, charter school board member, Robby Gregg, moved about adroitly to ensure that the program was engaging and on time. Many dignified folks and celebrities participated. In fact, the co-founder of BET, Sheila Johnson, also received an award that evening along with other Washington notables. But honestly, the memorable and magical moments I recall most deeply are of looking around the theater and seeing the hundreds of African American students, many of whom were once at-risk, but whose life trajectories were now changed indelibly because of the school. The other most profound and soulfully extraordinary moment that is permanently etched in my spiritual DNA is what Dr. Angelou had to say. Her remarks were not a part of the program, and she never left her box. But, she let the organizers know she had something she wanted to say, and they gave her the mic — but of course.

My. My. Before she spoke, she took a breath. With one breath, the room fell silent. Absolutely silent — and still. A stillness that connected each of us, one to the other, accompanied by a quiet that connected us to a place where there was no time and space, only truth. And then, she spoke — not from her head, but from her heart and the depths of that soul space where genius is born and faith is rooted. The auditorium was suspended in the now and consciousness was awakened as one body comprised of many parts. The essence of what she said cannot effectively be shared within the parameters of a quote. But her message that evening is part of our charge today. What she said, paraphrased, is this: “These children, each of these children, all of them belong to us. Black, white, brown, rich, poor, bitter, buttressed, broken or displaced, they are our responsibility. Whether they are from the hills of Appalachia, villages of Africa . . . these are our children. We must love them, care for them and provide the opportunities that allow them to soar. This is a responsibility from which we should not and cannot run. It is a responsibility we must embrace and run toward.” With the completed enunciation of the very last syllable of what she had to say, the auditorium took a slow, collective silent breath, as the essence of what she said settled into the essence of our beings. With that deep inhaled breath, we accepted the charge.

Dr. Angelou’s love for children is undeniable, and her love for all people of every race, hue and persuasion are the lasting lessons that connect each of us to her and a piece of eternity. Let us move forward boldly, leaning into and on the memories, words and legacy emanating from that which she shared, that which is true and good.

This is just a little slice of what I want to share about one incredibly brilliant and beautiful woman that blazed a trail big enough for a world of people to fill. For those who love her deeply, the loss may have created a void for now. In time, her legacy and love for humanity will reveal itself as a portal of knowledge and opportunity that’s more extraordinary and phenomenal than we currently understand, but will grow to know in the most expansive parts of our minds and the deepest parts of our souls.

Do you have any thoughts or memories you would like to share about Dr. Angelou? How are you choosing to honor her legacy? What are you doing in your life to help others, or someone other than yourself? Take a moment and share your thoughts here.

200 Kidnapped Children: A Cause for Us All

Bring Back Our Girls

Is #BringBackOurGirls losing momentum?

While #BringBackOurGirls began as a way to show support for the girls abducted from their school, their families and the many working behind the scenes to bring them home, it became a way for millions to make their voice heard.

As day 48 comes to an end, our girls are still not rescued. It’s important that we continue to support the efforts to bring them home. Use the tools in our sidebar to contact your states Congresswomen and Congressmen. No child deserves to be discarded. Let’s keep the pressure on!

Do you believe the federal government is doing enough to help these young women? What additional action would you like to see. As always, we want to hear from you!

Reading Rainbow: Cutting Across the Rainbow of Love and Experience

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Remember Reading Rainbow?

“Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high. Take a look, it’s in a book, a reading rainbow. I can go anywhere, friends to know, and ways to grow, a reading rainbow…” These are well-known lyrics from the theme song of the popular children’s series that first aired on PBS in 1983. For over two decades, the series and host Levar Burton, encouraged children to read and expand their imagination in the process.

This week, Reading Rainbow made history with its Kickstarter Campaign.

In under twelve hours, the show had reached its $1 million dollar goal.
No matter where you went, adults who grew up watching the show were singing the theme song, and spreading the word!

Reading Rainbow cuts across the rainbow of experience. No matter white, brown, purple or red, many of us are transported back to the days of being not only entertained, but educated by the power of the written word – the power of imagination.

Kudos to Burton for his work then, and his imagination now! At $3.2 million raised as of the writing of this entry, Reading Rainbow is sure to be back, helping a new generation of children expand their imagination – and fall in love with reading.

The Most Important Black Man in the World: What’s Next?

State of the Union Address

President Obama is a little over two years from completing his last term as President of the United States. Arguably, he has been a Commander-In-Chief who has tackled the issues affecting our nation’s most vulnerable. From healthcare, to the rights of the LGBT community, to equal pay of women, President Obama has gone where President’s before him dared not, or dared yet were not able.

The looming question remains however. What is next for the most important black man in the world?

Will he continue efforts like the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, the fight for increased economic opportunity among America’s most vulnerable, or choose a different path? At 55 years of age, President Obama will be a relatively young man when he departs office, and still have the clout of the Presidency to go with him. To get a glimpse at the possible answers this question, we look at the current activities of our nation’s former Presidents.

President Carter: To many people, Jimmy Carter has provided Americans with an ideal model of post-presidential life. In fact, some consider him to be the nation’s greatest former President. He has emerged as a champion of human rights and worked for several charitable causes. To that end, Carter founded the Carter Presidential Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The center, began in 1982, is devoted to issues relating to democracy and human rights. Additionally, Carter worked with Habitat for Humanity International, an organization that works worldwide to provide housing for underprivileged people. Through such projects, Carter has maintained a high profile; he is often seen on television, helping with Habitat home construction or providing his opinions on the issues of the day.

Read more here.

George Bush: When George H. W. Bush left the former President volunteered at church and sat on various boards, including one for a local hospital. Bush also threw himself into preserving his legacy through his presidential library. The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated in 1997 on the west campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The library and museum holds the official documents and private papers from Bush’s career including his presidential years.

Bush also joined with former President Bill Clinton after a tsunami from the Indian Ocean struck Southeast Asia in December 2004. The two former Presidents created the Bush-Clinton Houston Tsunami Fund, a national fundraising campaign to provide assistance to damaged communities throughout the region.

Read more here.

Bill Clinton: The former President keeps an office in New York City and maintains an active speaking schedule. His energies are devoted to two common post-presidential chores: writing a memoir and overseeing the creation of his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Moreover, as one of the youngest men ever to depart the presidency, he is still actively involved in issues of public concern, especially through the work of the Clinton Presidential Foundation. The Foundation’s agenda includes combating HIV/AIDS, fostering racial and ethnic reconciliation, and promoting the economic empowerment of poor people. Clinton also retains a reputation as one of the most astute political analysts within the Democratic Party.

Read more here.

George W. Bush: The former President maintains a relatively low media profile. However, that has not keep the 43rd President from being active.

The George W. Bush Institute, founded by the former President and Mrs. Bush in 2009, is a public policy center in Dallas with the mission of advancing freedom by expanding opportunities for individuals at home and across the globe. Built on principles that guided the Bushes in public life, the Bush Institute uses leading research to develop and implement policies that offer practical solutions to pressing problems in the United States and abroad. The Bush Institute engages in the following areas: Economic Growth, Education Reform, Global Health, Human Freedom, Military Service Initiative
and Women’s Initiatives.

He has also written several books including Decision Points, a memoir, and The 4 Percent Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs.

Read more here.

What initiatives would you like for our 44th President to continue after he leaves office? As always, we want to hear from you!

Grateful for Your Service and Sacrifice

Memorial Day 2014

In what way will you honor our nation’s fallen Armed Forces members?

It could be with a moment of silence, or simply by hugging your loved ones a little tighter on Monday. However you choose to spend your Monday, let’s be reminded that Memorial Day is a federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces are remembered.

The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

This 2014, we send our gratitude to the families of those who made the highest sacrifice for the freedoms enjoyed in our country and around the world.

Let us know how you spent the day. As always, we want to hear from you!

Women In Office: Another Record Breaking Election in 2014?

Diversity of Congress

Were you impressed by the number of women elected to Congress in 2012?

The 2012 election cycle saw a record number of women elected in Congress. In fact, 102 women currently serve in the 113th Congress: 82 in the House (63 Democrats and 19 Republicans) and 20 in the Senate (16 Democrats and 4 Republicans). One hundred one women were initially sworn in to the 113th Congress, one female Republican House Member has since resigned, and two Democratic House Members have been elected. This is higher than the previous record number of 95 women.

By many accounts, the 2014 Congress is also likely to bring a record number of women, not only to Congress, but to public offices around the country. The Women’s Campaign Fund, a nonpartisan organization, working to dramatically increase the number of women in elected office, has compiled a list of 40 Game Changers, all women running for office in 2014.

The list includes:

1. Meshea Poore - As an attorney, Meshea has defended women in family court and as a state delegate, she consistently stands up for women’s health and choice. West Virginia has never had an African-American representative to the U.S. House or Senate. Meshea has consistently demonstrated that she’ll prove the strongest champion of equal opportunities for all West Virginia families.

Meshea is running for the U.S. House of Representatives – West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, an Open Seat. The incumbent and only woman to represent West Virginia in Congress, Shelley Moore Capito, is currently running for U.S. Senate.

2. Alison Lundergan Grimes – Growing up in central Kentucky, Alison learned the value of public service at an early age. As the youngest woman in the country currently serving as a Secretary of State, and as the only woman holding statewide office in Kentucky, Alison is an inspiration to women in Kentucky and across the country. Her campaign highlights the vital role that women play in politics and why we need more young women at all levels of government.

Alison is running for U.S. Senate – Kentucky as a Challenger to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been a vocal opponent of the Violence Against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and legislation aimed at improving women’s health. Former President Bill Clinton is actively campaigning for Alison.

3. Mary Sosa – Mary has overcome many obstacles, as a woman of color, a single mother who was once homeless, and a domestic violence survivor, to be where she is today. Her story is a source of inspiration for countless Latinas and women in similar circumstances. She is also a retired Oklahoma City employee, grandmother, and a tireless community leader. In addition to her unique perspective, Mary would bring her fierce determination to lead and a genuine understanding of the struggles that Oklahoma’s working class families’ face.

Mary is running for the State House of Representatives – Oklahoma’s 89th District – an Open Seat.

Will any of these women receive your vote? Tell us about the women running for office in your city or community. As always, we want to hear from you!

CBO on Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act of 2014

Legislation

Have you heard of H.R. 4121?

There has been a lot of activity surrounding the SBA in recent weeks, including the appointment of Maria Contreras-Sweet Sworn as SBA Administrator. Recently the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on H.R. 4121, the Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act of 2014.

H.R. 4121 would direct the Small Business Administration (SBA) to develop procedures to govern the collection of data about Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) that receive grants from the SBA. The bill also would require the SBA to prepare two new reports, one describing the agency’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship and another providing information about the SBA’s efforts to collect data from SBDCs. Finally, the bill would amend rules affecting SBDCs by, for instance, allowing SBDCs to market their services.

Based on information from the SBA, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4121 would cost about $1 million per year over the 2015-2019 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, for additional data collection and monitoring activities. Enacting H.R. 4121 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

H.R. 4121 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.

What do you think of this piece of legislation? Do you agree with members of the House that the oversight and reporting is necessary? Alternatively would you like to see the associated costs funneled to small businesses in some way?

As always, we want to hear from you. Also, use the tools in our sidebar to contact your state’s Congressmen and Congresswomen.

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