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A failed deportation policy: Breaking up families for minor offenses

We’ve reached an unfortunate milestone under the Obama Administration – 2 million people have been deported from the U.S. under outdated policies, taking a devastating human and economic toll.

IMG_0761smLast week, The New York Times published a study that shows two-thirds of those people deported have committed only minor infractions such as traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.

This report indicates the U.S. is paying far too high a price by Congress continuing to delay common-sense immigration reform.  Millions of American families are being shattered with disastrous consequences to children’s physical and mental health and the economic health of our country.

Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill to fix our outdated immigration laws and create a clear process for citizenship for the future.  This is a common-sense solution to stop so many families from being broken apart and create a strong foundation for our communities.

Now, it’s time for the House of Representatives to take action!  Please call or e-mail Nebraska’s congressmen and ask them to support a bill that provides a clear and inclusive path to citizenship for aspiring Americans. The cost of inaction is too high.

Not sure which district you live in?  Click here to find out

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Legislative Update

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128The 2014 Legislative session comes to a close this week when senators adjourn sine die on Thursday.  We’re pleased to let you know several of our big priority bills passed this session!

Let’s take a quick look back at the highlights at the Capitol in 2014.

Immigration reform resolution passes last week

LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – In the closing hours of the 2014 session, the Legislature voted 20-3 on April 10 to adopt this bipartisan resolution that urges the federal government to pass updated, common-sense immigration laws.

With the vote, the Legislature sent a strong message that Nebraskans want Congress to fix our outdated immigration laws to stop the separation of Nebraska families, strengthen our economy, and create a strong foundation for our communities and future.

Legislature passes laws to help foster youth, stop wage theft, and ‘ban the box’

Several other of Appleseed’s top priorities were passed by the Legislature this session.

On April 2, Governor Heineman signed into law LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – a bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge to Independence program for youth who age out of foster care.  Bridge to Independence will be implemented within 60 days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approves Nebraska’s state plan amendment, which is expected to happen soon.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – Also on April 2, Gov. Heineman signed into law this bill that strengthens enforcements to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay for Nebraska employees.

LB 907 (Sen. Ashford) – This bill that contains several reforms to Nebraska’s prison system was presented to the Governor for signature on April 10 after passing 46-0 on Final Reading.

The bill passed with an amendment to “ban the box,” or prohibit public employers from requesting prior criminal history on the first round of an employment application for certain jobs without first determining if the applicant meets the basic qualifications for the job.  Employers may still ask to view an applicant’s criminal history after an interview.

The goal of “ban the box” is to ensure people have an opportunity to interview for a job and get back to work after serving their sentence.

LR 400 (Sen. Dubas) – This resolution to establish a special investigative committee for the ACCESS Nebraska system was adopted on March 7.  This committee will investigate and identify solutions for the state’s troubled system to administer public benefits.

Efforts to increase health care access, raise minimum wage fall short

The 2014 Legislature unfortunately fell short of passing several bills that would have greatly supported hardworking Nebraskans who earn low incomes.

LB 887 (Sen. Campbell) –  The “Wellness In Nebraska Act” was filibustered and fell six votes short of cloture on March 19.  This marks the second straight year a bill to help 54,000 Nebraskans get access to health insurance was blocked from receiving an up-or-down vote by a minority of senators.

Read Appleseed’s statement on LB 887 vote

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska to $9 per hour failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 on March 31.

While these results were disappointing, Appleseed will continue working with lawmakers and partners to advance policies that remove barriers to stability and increase access to health coverage for our friends and neighbors who earn low wages.

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

Even though the Legislature session is over, you can keep up with all our work year-round by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow breaking news in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

Plus, stop by our Appleseed Blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories, and visit our Vimeo page for videos of what we’re working on throughout 2014.

And, we’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard on issues you care about throughout the year!

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First ACA enrollment a success! So, now what?

EnrollNE_LogoA big congratulations is in order for all of the organizations and individuals who worked tirelessly throughout our state to make the first Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment period a success!

As of Monday, March 31st,  7.1 million people across the country have successfully enrolled in private coverage through the federally run Health Insurance Marketplace or their state equivalent. This surpassed both the initial national projection and the revised goal of 6 million that was set after the rocky website rollout.

As of the beginning of March, we know that more than 25,000 Nebraskans had enrolled, and the new state numbers for the remainder of March will likely reflect the national surge of enrollees that occurred in the final month of open enrollment.

So, now what?

If you did not get enrolled by March 31st, but you did start an application on HealthCare.gov, you may still be able get coverage. The Obama administration has extended the deadline for those who were “in line” on March 31st—people who started their application but did not complete it. You can see if you qualify for this exception by clicking here.

If you did not begin your application by March 31st, you will likely have to wait until the next enrollment period opens on November 15, 2014. There are, however, certain qualifying life events that could allow you get coverage before that date. These include:

  • Getting married

  • Having a baby

  • Moving to a new area

  • Losing other health insurance coverage.

Visit this link for more information on qualifying life events.

Beyond that, the Enroll Nebraska coalition and its partners will be working statewide over the coming months to conduct more outreach, expand our network to include more organizations, evaluate best practices, and work to ensure even more Nebraskans get the affordable, quality health coverage they need during the next enrollment period.

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Rally to support opportunities for Nebraska’s hardworking families

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Opportunity-128On Tuesday, the Nebraska Legislature voted down LB 943, a bill that would have raised Nebraska’s minimum wage to $9 per hour for hourly employees and increased the minimum wage for workers who earn tips to 70 percent of that standard minimum wage.  Introduced by Sen. Nordquist, with the tipped minimum wage amendment from Sen. Lathrop, the bill received 20 votes to pass, yet needed 25.

This vote was yet another blow this session to hardworking Nebraskans who are struggling to make ends meet.  But together we can continue to advocate for policies that will help rebuild the middle class and support our working families earning low wages.

Here are two ways you can help! Please thank those senators who continue to fight for these good policies today and then attend the Rally for Working Families next week.

Join us Tuesday, April 8 at the Nebraska State Capitol and “Rally for Nebraska’s Working Families.”

What: Rally for Nebraska’s Working Families
When: Tuesday, April 8, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Nebraska State Capitol, 1445 K St., west steps

RSVP for this rally on Facebook

This is a rally in support of policies like an increased minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, anti-wage theft, child care support, equal pay and other issues to help remove barriers to prosperity for hardworking Nebraska individuals and families. Stand with those friends and neighbors at this rally next Tuesday!

ALSO, please contact the senators who voted to support an increase in the minimum wage and thank them for fighting to make sure hard work pays in Nebraska.

Email Link

Phone Number

Sen. Brad Ashford

(402) 471-2622

Sen. Bill Avery

(402) 471-2633

Sen. Kate Bolz

(402) 471-2734

Sen. Kathy Campbell

(402) 471-2731

Sen. Ernie Chambers

(402) 471-2612

Sen. Danielle Conrad

(402) 471-2720

Sen. Tanya Cook

(402) 471-2727

Sen. Sue Crawford

(402) 471-2615

Sen. Annette Dubas

(402) 471-2630

Sen. Ken Haar

(402) 471-2673

Sen. John Harms

(402) 471-2802

Sen. Burke Harr

(402) 471-2722

Sen. Russ Karpisek

(402) 471-2711

Sen. Rick Kolowski

(402) 471-2327

Sen. Steve Lathrop

(402) 471-2623

Sen. Amanda McGill

(402) 471-2610

Sen. Heath Mello

(402) 471-2710

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist

(402) 471-2721

Sen. Kate Sullivan

(402) 471-2631

Sen. Norm Wallman

(402) 471-2620

Your voice will make a difference as we continue this fight!  Thank you for your support and for standing with our fellow Nebraskans.

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Legislative Update

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128We are just seven days away from the close of the 2014 Nebraska Legislature session and several important bills await debate, and hopefully passage.  Read on to see how your voice can influence these debates and get caught up on the Legislature action from last week.

Legislature fails to pass bill to raise minimum wage for hard-working families

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 with three senators present, but not voting on March 31.

The bill would have raised Nebraska’s minimum wage to $9 per hour over several years for non-tip earners, and would raise the minimum wage for those earning tips to 70 percent of the standard minimum wage. The minimum wage for tip earners is $2.13 and has not been raised since 1991.

We thank Sen. Nordquist and all the senators who supported this bill that was a measure proven to lift hard-working Nebraska families out of poverty.  We will continue to work alongside our lawmakers on policies that affirm the dignity in a hard day’s work, rebuild the middle class, and help families earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Support Immigration resolution that calls for Congress to keep families together

NE_Appleseed_Icons_TakeAction-128LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – This bipartisan resolution urges the federal government to pass common-sense immigration laws for our families, economy, and future. This resolution is scheduled for debate next week so it’s important for our senators to hear your voice soon!

More than 60 percent of Americans believe the U.S. needs a path to citizenship to keep families united, grow our economy, and preserve our future.  Now is the time to update our immigration laws.

Please call or write your state senator to support LR 399 because updated immigration laws that include a path to citizenship will keep Nebraska families together.

Bridge To Independence, Wage Theft Prevention bills signed into law

LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – This bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge To Independence program by adopting stakeholder recommendations was passed on Final Reading by a vote of 42-0 on March 27 and was signed into law by Governor Heineman on April 2.

Bridge To Independence was the program created by last year’s LB 216, which created a system of services and supports for young people who age out of Nebraska’s foster care system.  Thank you very much to Sen. McGill for her leadership issue and to all the senators who supported this bill.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – This bill to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay was passed on Final Reading on March 27 and was signed into law by Gov. Heineman on April 2.

The bill supports hard-working Nebraskans by targeting those few dishonest employers who fail to pay the wages promised when the work is done. LB 560 strengthens the Department of Labor’s ability to enforce the law and provide relief when there are claims of wage theft. In addition, LB 560 includes a requirement that employers, with minor exceptions, provide pay stubs to their employees.

LB 661 – This bill would allow voters to register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s web site and use their information provided to the Department of Motor Vehicles to save time and increase accuracy. It was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Heineman on March 31.

LB 907 (Sen. Ashford) – This bill creates the Nebraska Justice Reinvestment Task Force which will help provide legislative solutions for prison overcrowding.  It also establishes several provisions to aid an individual’s successful reentry and transition back into the community and workforce.  It passed Select File on March 31.

The bill passed with an amendment to “ban the box,” or prohibit public employers from requesting prior criminal history on the first round of an employment application for certain jobs (with some exceptions) without first determining if the applicant meets the basic qualifications for the job.  The goal of “ban the box” is to ensure people have an opportunity to interview for a job and get back to work after serving their sentence.

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

You can keep up with all the exciting happenings at the Legislature by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow issues and legislative hearings in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

Plus, stop by our Appleseed Blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories, and visit our Vimeo page for videos of what we’re working on throughout 2014.

We will keep you updated on the latest bill introductions, hearings, and floor debate.  And, we’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard throughout the session!

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News and Events from Nebraska Appleseed – April 2014

In this April edition of “Appleseed in Action”:

  • Wellness In Nebraska Act filibustered in Legislature
  • Priority bills advance at the Capitol
  • Inter-American Commission hearing on workers’ human rights abuses
  • “Rock Enroll” draws Nebraskans to Get Covered
  • Karen quilting exhibit showcases immigrants’ stories

Wellness In Nebraska Act filibuster denies health coverage for 54,000 Nebraskans

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Medicaid-128On March 19, a group of state senators left 54,000 uninsured Nebraskans without a path to health care coverage when they filibustered LB 887 – the Wellness In Nebraska Act that would have helped Nebraskans with low incomes get affordable health insurance. These 54,000 fall into the coverage gap and have no other avenues for coverage. The vote to end debate was 27-21, with 33 votes necessary to end debate.

Read Appleseed’s statement on the filibuster of LB 887

This marks the second straight year a bill to help tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors get health coverage has been filibustered.

But while this is a discouraging outcome, we know the fight is not over! On March 26, several of the co-sponsors of LB 887 joined advocates at the State Capitol for a press conference where they pledged to continue fighting for uninsured Nebraskans.

We urge you to thank the senators who voted in support of LB 887 and keep adding your voice to this crucial conversation! Appleseed vows to continue fighting for policies that help every Nebraskan access quality, affordable health care because we are a stronger and better state when Nebraska is healthy.

WATCH: Health care advocates vow to keep up health care fight:

Health Care Advocates Vow to Keep Fighting from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

Legislature fails to pass bill to raise minimum wage for hard-working families

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 with three senators present, but not voting on March 31.

We thank Sen. Nordquist and all the senators who supported this bill that was a measure proven to lift hard-working Nebraska families out of poverty.  We will continue to work alongside our lawmakers on policies that affirm the dignity in a hard day’s work, rebuild the middle class, and help families earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Priority bills advance at 2014 Nebraska Legislature session

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128We’re pleased to be able to tell you several of Appleseed’s priority bills have advanced during the 2014 Nebraska Legislature session.

LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – This bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge To Independence program by adopting stakeholder recommendations was passed on Final Reading by a vote of 42-0 on March 27. It now goes to Governor Heineman’s desk for signature. The Bridge To Independence was the program created by last year’s LB 216, which created a system of services and supports for young people who age out of Nebraska’s foster care system.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – A bill to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay. This bill supports hard-working Nebraskans by targeting those few dishonest employers who fail to pay the wages promised when the work is done and requires employers to provide a pay stub so employees understand how much they are being paid for how many hours work. This bill was passed on Final Reading on March 27 and presented to the Governor.

Support resolution to pass updated immigration laws

LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – This bipartisan resolution urges the federal government to pass common-sense immigration laws for our families, economy, and future. It is expected to come up for floor debate next week.

Please contact your senator and urge them to support LR 399 because updated immigration laws that include a clear process for citizenship will keep families together, provide stability for businesses, and make our communities stronger.

Appleseed, Former Nebraska meatpacking workers testify on human rights abuses

omaid_iachrOn March 25, former Nebraska meatpacking workers and Appleseed joined other civil rights groups to testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), describing how U.S. government policies have failed to protect meat and poultry workers by allowing dangerously fast work speeds that cause crippling injuries.

WATCH: Appleseed attorney Omaid Zabih testifies on the dangers of work conditions in meat and poultry plants:

IACHR hearing on meatpacking and poultry plant human rights violations from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

The hearing comes as the USDA prepares to finalize a new regulation, known as the Poultry Rule, that would further increase poultry slaughter line speeds from the current maximum of 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. This would make an already dangerous work environment even more hazardous.

At the hearing, two Nebraskans who used to work in meatpacking plants testified on the crippling, chronic injuries they suffered as a result of working at the plants.

“I packed hams for eight hours a day, 40 to 50 hams every minute. The processing line moves tremendously fast and doesn’t stop,” said Teresa Martinez. “After just 3 years I had to have surgery. When I had pain and warning signs at the beginning and reported it, they only gave me pills and ice to stop the pain. What I wanted when I worked at the plant was to be treated like a human being and not like some replaceable machine.”

Juan Martinez testified to the IACHR on the four surgeries and crippling injuries he suffered working for years in Nebraska meatpacking plants.

Juan Martinez testified to the IACHR on the four surgeries and crippling injuries he suffered working for years in Nebraska meatpacking plants.

“Working on the line, the speed takes a toll on your body,” said Juan Martinez. “You make the cuts again and again. The line runs so fast, and it doesn’t slow down when other workers are absent. Then you have to work even faster. Each day I made thousands of cuts, motions that repeated every shift. My hands became inflamed. My fingers locked. I broke three disks in my back from lifting heavy buckets of meat and fat every day.”

See photos of the IACHR hearing

Read more: Mint Press News – “Meatpacking Workers Fight Inhumane Conditions

“Rock Enroll” draws crowd to concert raising awareness to Get Covered

“This is an issue about people’s health. This is an issue about the future of our country. Health care is the largest rising cost. This is the one thing that can devastate an economy. Health care is going to be the issue of the next 10 years.”

That’s Larry Tarkington, an Omaha man currently without health insurance. Larry was one of the concertgoers who came to a unique concert event on March 20 designed to raise awareness about new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act before the national March 31 enrollment deadline.

Rock Enroll attracted a crowd of concertgoers to Omaha’s Slowdown music club where people could receive information about health insurance options available through the new Health Insurance Marketplace that already has helped more than 25,000 Nebraskans find affordable insurance. The crowd then was treated to a free concert featuring local artists “Conchance” and “Rock Paper Dynamite.”

See photos from Rock Enroll

Amanda Caillau, 28, told the crowd her own story about finding insurance for less than $20 per month through the Marketplace, which is allowing her to afford to go back to college to become a teacher.

State senator Jeremy Nordquist also encouraged concertgoers to explore their insurance options, which may be more affordable than they thought.

“It’s an easy system to enroll now. There’s a lot of help,” Sen. Nordquist said.

Rock Enroll was organized by Enroll Nebraska, Hear Nebraska, and the Nebraska AIDS Project.

Quilt of Dreams and Memories exhibit showcases immigrants’ stories

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Community-128Lincoln High School students told the stories of their memories and journeys to Lincoln from Myanmar and Thailand, as well as the stories of their dreams for the future through quilting when the new exhibit “Quilt of Dreams and Memories” opened Sunday at the Sheldon Museum of Art.

As the quilt was unveiled, students described their rural homes in Myanmar or the refugee camps where their families lived in Thailand. The Karen American students shared their plans to become teachers, doctors and nurses as well as the hope for peace in their countries in the colorful quilt that brought together traditional Karen weaving and American story quilting.

Lincoln Journal Star: “Final product of Karen group’s quilt project unveiled at Sheldon

In her own words, Paw Spai Moo, a Lincoln High student, described the small confinement of the refugee camp she lived in for fourteen years contrasted with the freedoms she experiences here: “When I was one year old my parents moved to the refugee camp. I lived for long time, about 14 years. We have a difficult time. We can’t go in the outside. We just have to live in the little same area.” Now, Paw Spai dreams of a future with equal rights and peace for all people.

You can view the Quilt of Dreams and Memories and along with other immigrant student art at the Nebraska Mosaic Art Show at the Lux Center for the Arts, April 1-30, 2014.

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Take Action – Stand up for Hardworking Nebraskans

You have the chance today to speak up for thousands of hardworking Nebraskans by asking your state senator to support LB 943 to raise the minimum wage in our state.

NE_Appleseed_Icons_TakeAction-128This bill will be debated by the Legislature either today or tomorrow, so please call or email your state senator’s office now and urge them to support LB 943.

LB 943 would raise the minimum wage to:

  • $9 per hour from the current $7.25 for hourly workers.

  • 70 percent of that standard minimum wage for workers who earn tips.

  • Both of these changes would be made gradually over the next three years.

We need to raise the minimum wage because hard work just isn’t paying like it used to.  This wage has not kept up with inflation over the years, and a full-time worker who makes minimum wage is now considered below the federal poverty level!

A Nebraskan who works full time should not live in poverty!

By raising the minimum wage in Nebraska, we can restore the dignity in a hard day’s work, rebuild the middle class, and help families earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Please contact your senator NOW and urge them to support raising the minimum wage because hardworking Nebraskans should be paid for an honest day’s work.

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Teresa’s Story: Crippling work speeds lead to permanent pain and injuries

Note: As we reported last week, meatpacking and poultry workers, Nebraska Appleseed, the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, and Southern Poverty Law Center testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 25. The Commission is investigating crippling injuries and human rights abuses in U.S. meat and poultry processing facilities. Petitioners called for better U.S. government policies to protect worker safety.

Here is the story of former Nebraska poultry plant worker Teresa Martinez, which is similar to that of thousands of people who work to put food on our tables.

In Teresa’s Words

My name is Teresa Martinez.  I worked at a meatpacking plant in Nebraska for four-and-a-half years.

I packed hams for eight hours a day, 40 to 50 hams every minute. The processing line moves tremendously fast and doesn’t stop.

Former Nebraska poultry worker Teresa Martinez told the IACHR about the injuries she suffered working more than four years in a Nebraska poultry plant.

Former Nebraska poultry worker Teresa Martinez told the IACHR about the injuries she suffered working more than four years in a Nebraska poultry plant.

After just three years I had to have surgery. When I had pain and warning signs at the beginning and reported it, they only gave me pills and ice to stop the pain. Eventually it started hurting so severely I couldn’t raise my arm. At home I was unable to do simple things like lift my baby or sweep the floor.

The surgery didn’t work. Now two years later, I still wake up from intense pain. It feels like the nerves are twisting, I can’t move right, and I want to just remove that part of my shoulder and replace it with plastic.

The recuperation from surgery was long and difficult, and when I returned to work they assigned me to the same position as before and the supervisors continued to hound us to work faster and speed up production.

What I wanted when I worked at the plant was to be treated like a human being and not like some replaceable machine.

On my part of the line there were usually eight people, and I remember all of us were working injured.  But supervisors didn’t care about people, they cared about production. I know a lot of people working at meatpacking plants and many, many have had surgeries.

When I was efficient on the line, giving it 100 percent, I was nominated on four occasions as the Employee of the Month. When I started complaining about the pain in my right shoulder, that’s when they started cutting back my hours and pressuring me to work faster, even though I had pain!  I eventually stopped working in order to take care of my premature baby.

If I were to be asked to go back to the meatpacking plant I would say, “No, because the speed of the line is slowly killing their workers and when the employees are injured they are not treated with dignity.”

How am I supposed to live with this pain? The doctors say the pain is permanent, that they have done everything they can. I have dreams and a family. The speed of the line broke my dreams.

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