Author Archives: Connie Andersen

Rapid Response: Proposed “Public Charge” Rules Regarding Legal Immigrants

The Trump Administration’s Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to change long-standing rules regarding what would disqualify applications for Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR or “Green Card”). This a threat to many Arizona families.  When an immigrant applies for a visa or green card, the government looks at different aspects of their life. Under current federal rules, a person is considered a ‘public charge’ if the government believes they may become dependent on public assistance as their main source of support.

What the new rule would do:
• Expands the “public charge” analysis to include: non-emergency Medicaid, Medicare Part D, public housing assistance and SNAP (food stamps)
• There would be stricter standards for age, health, and income when deciding whether an immigrant is considered a public charge.
*DHS is also requesting comment on inclusion of CHIP, Arizona’s KidsCare, as a disqualifying service.

Who this affects directly:
• People applying to enter the U.S.
• Legal immigrants who are seeking LPR.
• Lawful Permanent Residents who have left the country temporarily (over 6 months) and want to re-enter.
***The determination only applies to the LPR applicant, not the use of benefits by family members.***

Why We Oppose the ‘Public Charge’ Rule Change
1. The proposed rule harms lawful immigrant and mixed-status families: This will not only keep many families separated but will force legal residents to choose between keeping food on the table or a roof over their heads and their future ability to apply for legal residency.
2. The rule targets lawful immigrants: This rule would target those who are living lawfully in the United States, or those who lawfully want to immigrate here. These are the people trying to “follow the rules”.
3. Fear of the new rule can cause families to withdraw from programs that provide for vital health and nutrition needs of their children, even if the rule does not apply to their situation.

In Arizona, 1 in 4 children is in an immigrant family (at least one parent is not a citizen). And most of those children are citizens!

This rule will affect hard-working, new American families. These workers are critical to our economy, but in lower-paying jobs they may rely on assistance to keep afloat. These programs provide adequate food or housing for children, or allow the family to bridge a rough period.


 Learn more about the Public Charge rule change:

 Submit Public Comments Before Dec. 10, 2018 (by 9:59 p.m. in AZ) Every comment is important, as each unique comment will be considered. Write a short note, in your own words, opposing the Public Charge rule. Include a personal story if you have one to share.
Submit your comment now:

VIP Responds to the Shooting in Pittsburgh

Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) stands with the Metro Phoenix Jewish community in this time of grief and fear. We condemn the shooting that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. In the aftermath of this tragedy, we urge our leaders to end the inflammatory rhetoric that has become the norm in political speech.

We are alarmed at the rise of anti-Semitism and violence in this country. Increasingly, people of faith are fearful to gather in their house of worship. It is unacceptable that what should be a sanctuary would become a place of fear. We see a direct line from the current public discourse to the violent actions against not only people of faith, but others in society as well….

Click here for complete statement

Remembering Timothy Leffler…

Timothy E. Leffler | 1966 – 2017

VIP remembers our friend and fellow leader Timothy Leffler who died August 5. The details of his memorial at Trinity Cathedral are found below.

For many of us, Timothy is the human face of why expanding and preserving Medicaid means so much.

He first told us his story at a house meeting in the spring of 2013. In his professional life, Timothy was a musician and vocal performer. For many years, he was employed at Arizona State University. State budget cuts in the era of the Great Recession resulted in the slashing of positions. Timothy lost his job, and with it his health insurance: a fearful prospect for someone with type 2 diabetes and progressive neural disease. He had been covered by Medicaid through stop-gap measures, but was now facing the loss of his coverage at the end of 2013.

State action to expand Medicaid would secure coverage for Tim and thousands of other Arizonans. But the decision had become the center of an intense ideological contest, the outcome uncertain.

Timothy took center stage and told the story of the tough reality he faced to an assembly of 800 Valley Interfaith Project leaders, the Governor, legislators and business leaders. He spoke with courage and conviction.

After the critical vote had been taken, Tim and I had a chance to reflect. “Thank you,” he said in a way that let me know he meant the combined effort of VIP leaders, “thank you, for helping me make my story powerful.”

Timothy was very proud of the work we all did together. He arranged for blue lanyards with “VIP” printed on them to be made. He wanted us to be able to “show our colors” at the Legislature.

Certainly, there is no better way to honor our friend Tim’s memory than to redouble our efforts to preserve Medicaid. We know it changes lives.

Choral Evensong in Memory of Timothy E. Leffler will be held at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at Trinity Cathedral.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Timothy studied choral music at Drake University and vocal performance at Arizona State University. He worked for fifteen years at ASU’s School of Music. An avid performer, Timothy sang as a professional soloist around the Valley, and was a member of the Grammy-winning Phoenix Chorale for over ten years, appearing on many of their award-winning recordings. Timothy was a staff singer at Trinity Cathedral for over a decade where he also conducted the Compline Choir.

Rapid Response: Show Your Support for DREAMers

As President Trump Weighs Rescinding DACA, Show Your Support for DREAMers

The Trump administration has signaled that President Trump may rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA) program. This action would leave DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers”, at risk of being deported

Ending DACA will affect the approximately 800,000 individuals in the United States who have registered for the program. They were brought here as children and have grown up here knowing no other home country but the United States. DACA has allowed them to have temporary legal status to live and work in the United States.

As the Catholic Bishops of Arizona and New Mexico stated this week, “Through DACA they have furthered their education, started small businesses and become integral members of our communities in Arizona and New Mexico.”


  • Tell the White House to keep DACA in place until Congress acts
  • Call on the Arizona Congressional Delegation to pass the Dream Act to prevent deportation of Dreamers and allow them to live normal, productive lives in the United States.

Contact President Donald Trump:

        (202) 456-6213   OR  

Contact both U.S. Senators and your U.S. House Member:

        Senator McCain (202)224-2235 or (602) 952-2410 or

        Senator Flake   (202)224-4521 or (602) 840-1891 or

Click here for US House of Representatives Contact Information

NAIC Warns: Rural Health Care Under Siege

Sister organization Northern Arizona Interfaith Council warns fellow residents that:

“The Senate’s attempt to restructure health care policy will, among other things, wipe out Medicaid expansion, which helps to cover nearly half of our children and makes rural health possible.

These changes will affect millions nationally. But areas like ours will get hit hardest. Numerous analyses of the legislation, such as from Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, all say that that the impact of Medicaid cuts will be more prominent in rural communities. The state’s recent expansion of Medicaid provides care for many of our children; 44 percent of Yavapai County’s children are Medicaid recipients….”

Health Care in Rural Areas Under SiegeDaily Courier [pdf]

Restructuring Medicaid Will Cause Irreversible Harm

[Excerpt below]

“Beware Arizona. The potential restructuring of Medicaid, as approved by the House and undergoing secretive deliberations in the Senate, will cause irreversible harm.

Close to 500,000 Arizonans will lose health care coverage, endangering lives and undermining an open public process.

As clergy leaders with the Arizona Interfaith Network, we are profoundly concerned that the proposed changes under the American Health Care Act would affect virtually every dimension of family life, especially for middle and lower income families.

From caring for people in our congregations, we know that Medicaid saves lives….”

Health-care Bill is a Danger to the People of Arizona, Arizona Republic

Interfaith: Restructuring of Medicaid Will Cause Irreversible Harm, Scottsdale Independent [pdf]

VIP Leads Capitol Rally for Public Education Investment

1605 - VIP - AZEd - #NowItStarts Rally at Capitol - Croppped[Excerpt]

“Even before the results of the Prop. 123 special election were known, teachers, students, parents and community members came together at the #NowItStarts rally at the state capitol on Thursday afternoon to focus on the serious funding issues Arizona schools face Arizonans are ready to discuss concrete steps for further investments in public schools, said The Rev. Martha Seaman with Valley Interfaith Project.

“The relentless pattern of disinvestment has to stop,” Seaman said at the rally.

“The future of our families and our shared prosperity requires strong schools.,” Seaman said. “We can’t have a viable economy without a high level of education. It’s the best investment we can make. We can’t tax break ourselves into prosperity.””

In photo, Rev. Martha Seaman with VIP speaks on the Capitol lawn.  Behind her are Jessica Johnson (VIP) and Christine Marsh (Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2016 Teacher of the Year) along with VIP organizer Joe Rubio.

[Photo Credit: Lisa Irish / AZEdNews]

Community Comes Together to Support Education at #NowItStarts Rally, AZ Ed News [pdf]

Despite Reservations, Prop 123 Needed

happy kids with hands up

[Excerpt below from Oped by Rev. Martha Seaman and Rabbi John Linder of VIP]

“As the Prop 123 election draws to a close and sentiment around it is more polarized, we need to underscore the importance of its passage. While admittedly imperfect, it does provide a way to get beyond the long-standing school inflation lawsuit.

We wish the agreement provided more than 72% of what the schools are owed. We’d also prefer that the dollars came directly from the General Fund rather than the State Land Trust and that it would omit seemingly arbitrary spending ceilings. But Arizona has dug such a deep hole for education funding for over three decades that our schools need an immediate infusion of funds, particularly to pay teachers long overdue raises….

The proposition can be a constructive first step—if it is connected to a plan…”

Despite Reservations, Prop 123 NeededArizona Capitol Times [pdf]

VIP Leaders Call on Governor to Reinstate KidsCare for Uninsured Children

1604 - AIN and VIP - Hand Delivery of Letter to the Governor - Cropped
VIP leaders hand delivered a letter signed by 81 Arizona clergy, asking Gov. Ducey to reinstate KidsCare for 30,000 uninsured children. The legislature is set to debate and pass the state budget any day now, and the KidsCare measure needs to be included to allow for KidsCare to resume. There will be no cost to the state general fund.

KidsCare Supporters Urge Governor to Act, Jewish News [pdf]

Letter to Governor DuceyArizona Interfaith Network