Washington Memo newsletter

Prophetic witness: A look back at 2018 and ahead to 2019.

January 7, 2019

Looking back at 2018 and ahead to 2019

As we begin 2019, we are grateful for the advocacy work that we have been able to do together with you over the past year. We celebrated reforms to our criminal justice system, legislation on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the renewal of funding to fight HIV and AIDS globally, and a historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. 

But many other issues still await action, including meaningful reforms to our immigration system, common-sense gun policies and humanitarian aid that is not politicized.

We hope you enjoy this year-end issue of our newsletter, looking back at 2018 and ahead to what we can expect in 2019.


Join us for a webinar with congressional staff


What happens to those emails you send to your members of Congress? What helps a letter or phone call stand out? What are things to avoid when communicating with Congress?

Join us for a webinar addressing these and other questions on Tuesday, January 15, at 6:00 pm EST. The webinar will also be recorded if you cannot join at that time.



Communicating with Congress: A conversation with congressional staff

Tuesday, January 15, 6 pm Eastern / 3 pm Pacific

Speaker: Julia Stafford, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Kurt Schrader and a former intern in the MCC U.S. Washington Office

RSVP here


Policy updates

Border wall and shutdown: Parts of the federal government shut down on December 21 after the White House increased its request for border wall funding to more than $5 billion. The Senate had passed a bill containing $1.3 billion for fence and wall construction but, with many House Democrats opposed to funding for border barriers and with President Trump committed to seeking more, it is unclear how the impasse will be resolved. Urge your members of Congress to oppose funding for fences or walls.

Criminal justice reform: Thanks to the efforts of advocates like you, the House and Senate passed the First Step Act before adjourning and President Trump signed it into law on December 21. The law will make a number of sentencing and prison reforms. Read more.

DR Congo: On December 30 the long-awaited parliamentary election finally took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but with flaws that marred its credibility. Statement by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Engel | Former Chairman Royce

Immigration: Investigations continue in the deaths of two young children in Border Patrol custody in December. Thousands of Central American migrants remain in Tijuana, Mexico, waiting for their turn to cross into the U.S. to claim asylum, as border officials allow only 40-100 asylum seekers to cross through that port of entry each day. As frustrations rise, tear gas was used by Border Patrol for the second time since November. Read more.

Native American concerns: In December the Senate unanimously passed Savanna’s Act to address violence against Native women and girls. It was not taken up by the House, primarily due to opposition from outgoing House Judiciary Committee Chair, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Palestine and Israel: Efforts to slip the Israel Anti-Boycott Act into a year-end spending bill fell short when those negotiations collapsed for unrelated reasons. But already in this new session of Congress, there are efforts to move related legislation.

Syria: On December 19 President Trump announced that he would be withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria. Although many in Congress have expressed their disagreement with the decision, this is a step in the right direction, and we urge the U.S. to follow through on this commitment. Read more.


Recent articles

A first step for criminal justice reform

Courage is knowing what not to fear (immigration)

DR Congo’s uphill battle for peace

Withdrawal of troops a step in the right direction (Syria)


An MCC Borderlands Learning Tour in October 2018 gave participants the opportunity to learn, reflect and pray about the many complexities of human migration in Mexico and the U.S. MCC photo/Laura Pauls-Thomas.


Action alerts

Oppose border walls

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Make sure your member of Congress knows you

November/December MCC Immigration update (Spanish)

Funding for border fences and walls falls far short of faith values (PDF)

Instead of building fences/walls, modernize U.S. ports of entry (PDF)



Upcoming events

January 15: Join us for our webinar, “Communicating with Congress: A conversation with congressional staff” 

January 25: Time is running out to enter our high school essay contest and win up to $750! Topics are gun violence, immigration and North Korea. Essays must be submitted by Friday, January 25.

April 5-8: Make plans now to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Organize a group of friends and register today!



Staff updates

Cherelle Dessus wrapped up her term as Legislative Assistant and Communications Coordinator in early January. We have greatly appreciated Cherelle’s contributions these past two years and wish her all the best. If you or someone you know has interest in this role, which focuses on mass incarceration, gun violence and office-wide communications tasks, apply here.

On December 11, Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach met with members of the Social Issues class from Dock Mennonite Academy.