Bend the Arc leaders are fighting for a moral budget across the country

Bend the Arc leaders are fighting for a moral budget across the country

August 04, 2023
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) meeting with Bend the Arc leaders from Champaign-Urbana in July.

“Budgets that prioritize human needs rather than carceral systems will help move toward more humane treatment for all of us.”

— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Pittsburgh

In the richest nation in the world’s history, there is enough money for all of us to be safe and thrive. This year, Bend the Arc has petitioned and lobbied both the President and Congress to invest in the community-care policies we really need by divesting from policing and detention.

As Congress moves towards finalizing next year’s budget, 12 Bend the Arc chapters wrote letters to their members of Congress to emphasize the impact their funding choices have in the communities they represent, and urge them to invest in a future with safety for all of us.

Here are some highlights from the chapter letters:

Cutting police funding

In their letter, Bend the Arc Jewish Action: Altanta told their members of Congress what they have learned from their work to #StopCopCity, a $90 million investment in police:

“By continuing to fund efforts like Cop City at the local level, and by providing additional funding for grants to local law enforcement from the federal level, we are adding additional fuel to these forces which do not actually protect our communities or our democracy.”

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Memphis, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, and Southern California also shared stories and data on the people killed by police in their communities.

Demilitarizing our communities

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action New Mexico told their Congressional delegation about their work with a local synagogues to develop a safety plan for the Jewish High Holidays that, “for the first time, did not include armed policing, or law enforcement-led training,” noting “the work drew from the wealth of wisdom that exists already within impacted communities, particularly Black-led organizations.”

The chapter shared testimonials from synagogue members about the positive impact this shift has had, how the program will continue, and made clear:

“As we continue to work toward new ways to keep our Jewish community safe in New Mexico beyond guards and guns, we have seen firsthand how much safer we feel without a militarized presence in our houses of worship — we know this kind of demilitarized safety is both possible and necessary in our broader New Mexico community too.”

Investing in community safety programs

Four Bend the Arc chapters — Cincinnati, New Jersey, San Luis Obispo, and Southern California — told their members of Congress about crisis response and violence intervention programs in their communities that are staffed by health professionals, which could benefit from grants provided by increased funding from Congress.

Nearly every Representative and Senator issues a press release after the government is funded each year, showing how much money they were able to bring home and for what purpose — so this is a great opportunity to put popular and critically necessary programs they could champion on elected officials’ radar.

Cuts for detention and deportation, more funding to welcome immigrants with dignity

Four Bend the Arc Chapters — New Jersey, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, and Southern California — talked about their local deportation defense work and fights to close detention centers in their communities.

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Maryland reminded their members of Congress that this is an issue they’ve discussed with them several times and talked about their chapter’s organizing with the Defund Hate campaign.

And the Champaign-Urbana and New York chapters shared how their chapters’ work on pretrial bail reform and parole justice have driven home for them the extreme negative impact that being “separated from a supportive community has on a person’s life and well being.” Champaign-Urbana leaders also noted:

“...our criminal legal system is too often seen as disconnected from the immigrant detention system but we know how sprawling the ‘crimmigration’ system has become and our work in our state has shown us this first hand as well.”

This values-aligned work is part of what motivates these Bend the Arc chapters to call for cuts to immigrant detention funding and investments in programs that will actually welcome immigrants with dignity. Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Champaign-Urbana members were also able to raise the issues in their letter with Sen. Durbin (D-IL) directly.

Now what?

When Congress returns from August Recess in September, they will have just one month to finish figuring out how to fund the government — where to increase funding, where to decrease funding. That’s why it’s critical your members of Congress hear from you right now.

After Congress and the President finish this government funding cycle, the process will start over again (in fact, the Biden Administration is already working on the President’s budget for the next fiscal year, FY2025), and we get another chance to make an impact.

This kind of advocacy is just one way that Bend the Arc is fighting for community safety. We’re fighting this fight because, as Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Memphis wrote,

“a just federal budget means directing resources away from excessive, violent policing and toward community-centered programs that actually keep people safe.”

We’re fighting for the safety of Jews to live free from antisemitism. We’re fighting for Black, brown, AAPI, indigenous, queer, trans, and disabled Jews to be able thrive within the Jewish community, and for everyone in our broader American community to be able to live in a just and equitable United States free from white supremacy, where Black liberation is realized, and all people are thriving.