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Justice for families facing hunger

NE_Appleseed_Icons_FoodSecurity-128When kids and families experience tough times the last thing they need is uncertainty about where they will find their next meal.

Yet approximately 30 percent of all Nebraska households applying for food assistance needlessly wait longer than a month for approval for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Because of the State of Nebraska’s troubled ACCESS Nebraska benefit processing system, these families are forced to wait beyond the 30-day federal requirement for applications to be approved or denied – some waiting as many as 45 to 60 days for approval.

That means hundreds of Nebraska kids and families every month face hunger and uncertainty awaiting a simple response.

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Legal-128That’s why Appleseed filed a class action lawsuit in August (Leiting-Hall v. Winterer) on behalf of a working mother and her children to ensure families who are eligible for food assistance receive it in a timely manner.

Please consider giving a donation – whether it’s $5 or $50 – and join us in this fight to ensure families don’t go hungry in Nebraska.

No child or family should face hunger alone. But they won’t be alone with allies like you standing up for justice in our state.

Your donation to Appleseed will help ensure SNAP efficiently serves the more than 170,000 Nebraska kids and families who utilize the program today.

Give a donation to Appleseed today and bring justice to hundreds of families facing hunger in Nebraska.

Sincerely,
Becky Gould
Executive Director – Nebraska Appleseed

 

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RELEASE – Nebraskans call Administrative Relief a good first step on immigration

***For Immediate Release***

November 24, 2014

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Immigration-128Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
jsheldon@neappleseed.org
 

Nebraskans call President’s Administrative Relief a good first step on immigration

Immigrant, faith, & community leaders now urge Congress to take action for long-term, common-sense laws

LINCOLN — Today, Nebraska faith, immigrant, and community leaders gathered to support the temporary administrative relief from deportation for some immigrants announced last week by President Obama.

But the group, which included young Nebraska immigrants and advocates speaking at Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Lincoln, made clear this small step must be followed by long-term policy reform from Congress that will allow Nebraska families to live without fear of separation.

Reverend Scott J. Jones, Bishop of the Great Plains United Methodist Conference, which includes Nebraska, said our Nebraska and American values call for us to be kind to those who are in need and welcome people who will enhance our country.

“As Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Nebraska, I stand with other Christian leaders who welcome immigration reform and advocate for it. It’s the moral thing to do,” Rev. Jones said. “I welcome President Obama’s executive action. I think it’s a good step, and yet I want to call attention to the fact it is so, so temporary. It might be changed under a future president. It doesn’t really fix it because there are millions who are not going to be affected by this action. We call upon the Members of Congress to take the steps to bring about immigration reform in a more-permanent way.”

Lincoln Administrative Relief – Bishop Scott Jones from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

Armando Becerril, who came to the U.S. at age five and will soon graduate from UNL as an accounting major, spoke about how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is allowing him to continue his profession with an internship at a Big Four accounting firm. If Congress creates a clear process for citizenship, more Nebraskans like Armando can contribute fully to their communities without the concern of having their temporary legal status expire.

“My parents told me at a very young age, ‘It’s not going to be the papers that are doing the work, it’s going to be you,’” Becerril said. “I’m not one to complain because I feel that I have been fortunate enough to have a great family and a great attitude toward this situation. But there are millions of people out there that are struggling to get by, in a nation with outdated immigration laws. People like me, that already pay their taxes and like me would like to be here legally, but for that to happen we need to update our immigration laws.”

Lincoln Administrative Relief – Armando Becerril from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

Juan Gallegos, moved to Nebraska from Mexico at age 12 after his parents’ business failed after new corn imports from the U.S. under NAFTA flooded the Mexican market. While he has DACA status, he constantly lives in fear his parents, who do not have legal status, may be detained or deported.

“Since my parents came to the U.S. with all their children over 12 years old, they don’t have any American citizen children or permanent resident children, they don’t qualify for relief,” Gallegos said. “I am scared of the day that they will be taken away from us because of a broken immigration system. I invite every Member of Congress to get together with their colleagues and work on a comprehensive solution that will address the needs of this nation and the needs of all of our economy.”

Lincoln Administrative Relief – Juan Gallegos from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

For more than a year, a diverse coalition of more than 50 Nebraska business, faith, and community organizations have joined together to urge Congress to pass updated immigration laws that provide a clear process for citizenship that will move our economy, communities and country forward.

“The President’s action is a reasonable, modest, and temporary step. We can fix this. It’s time,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Nebraska Appleseed Immigrants & Communities Director. “More than 50 Nebraska organizations support our Members of Congress in moving forward. We are counting on the leadership of our Nebraska Members of Congress to work aggressively to get us to common-sense immigration laws.”

Lincoln Admin Relief – “We can fix this. It’s time.” from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

Participants & coordinators of today’s press conference included: the DREAMers Project Coalition, Heartland Workers Center, Justice for Our Neighbors, Nebraska Appleseed, NAACP – Lincoln Branch, Saint Paul United Methodist Church, Great Plains United Methodist Conference, League of Women Voters, YWCA Lincoln, American Immigration Lawyers Association – Nebraska Chapter, Voices for Children in Nebraska, and others.

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A very fond farewell

Jennifer Carter is Appleseed's outgoing Public Policy Director. She usually wears pearls.

Jennifer Carter is Appleseed’s outgoing Public Policy Director. She usually wears pearls.

Today is my last day at Nebraska Appleseed and it is bittersweet. I came to Appleseed over 11 years ago. I was new to Nebraska and looking for work that I would find more meaningful than the commercial litigation I was doing at big firms in New York.

What I found at Appleseed was more meaningful and fulfilling than I could have imagined. It has been the best and most important professional experience of my life. It has also been profoundly important to me personally.

When I moved to Nebraska I only knew my husband and my in-laws. Thank goodness Milo Mumgaard gave me a chance and invited me into what was then a much smaller Appleseed fold. Here, I found people I enjoyed so much and work that inspired me and made me feel like I was making a difference. It is the kind of place that let me try new things, take risks, and explore strengths and talents I would not otherwise have known I had.

It’s also the place I found friends and colleagues that mean so much to me. It’s where I brought both of my children when they were just infants so they could be with me for much of their first year of life. We have had many babies at work with us at Appleseed. How wonderful is that? How many places can you have a meeting about serious topics and serious issues facing so many, while also being reminded of the joy and beauty of life by the smiling baby at the table?

I am so grateful for so many things. I am grateful to Becky Gould, our Executive Director, for being such a good and effective leader, taking Appleseed to new levels, and trusting me with my work. I am grateful to my co-workers for their faith in me and for the countless respectful and excellent conversations and deliberations we have had day in and day out. I am grateful to them for their good humor, kindness, and understanding. And I am grateful for the abundance of laughter.

Little George Barry

Jennifer’s son George was one of the many kids who were a frequent presence in our office.

I am excited for the time I have ahead with my family and this new adventure. And I’m excited for Appleseed and the new and exciting opportunities that naturally come of change.

But I will miss Appleseed very much. I am a better person for having worked here, on these issues, and with all the people inside and outside of Appleseed with whom I’ve had the privilege of working. I am aware of what a special time in my life these last 11 years have been. I treasure them and the people that made them so special.

I hope I can continue to support this amazing organization in different ways in the future. For now, I am filled with gratitude for the past and looking forward to the future.

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Appleseed Statement on President’s Administrative Action on Immigration

For Immediate ReleaseNE_Appleseed_Icons_Immigration-128

November 20, 2014
Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
Email: jsheldon@neappleseed.org
 

Nebraska Appleseed statement on President’s Administrative Relief for Immigrants

Tonight, Nebraska Appleseed Immigrants & Communities Director Darcy Tromanhauser released the following statement on President Obama’s announcement of temporary administrative relief from deportation for some immigrants in the United States.

“President Obama’s announced administrative relief will temporarily stop the needless separation of millions of American families and is similar to actions taken by every U.S. President since Dwight Eisenhower,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Nebraska Appleseed Immigrants & Communities Director. “This is a wise and reasonable temporary step, but we continue to urgently await action by Congress to create a long-term solution to our outdated immigration laws. Our communities, our economy, and our future will all be strengthened by common-sense immigration laws with a clear process for citizenship.”

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New federal law addresses trafficking for youth in foster care

NE_Appleseed_Icons_ChildrensHealth-128In September, Congress passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980), one of the most significant pieces of domestic legislation passed by this Congress and a great child welfare victory.

Nebraska’s U.S. Senators and Representatives all voted in support of this legislation (Rep. Adrian Smith was also a co-sponsor of H.R. 4980). This bipartisan success shows commitment to ensuring youth in foster care, guardianships, and those awaiting adoption can have safe and happy childhoods. The bill requires state child welfare agencies to screen, document, and assist children who are at-risk for being trafficked or are survivors of sex trafficking. The Act also contains other important provisions, including the reauthorization of adoption incentives with improvements to promote guardianship and the extension of funding for Family Connection Grants.

Nebraska Appleseed is particularly interested in the provisions of H.R. 4980 related to human trafficking.  Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of youth in foster care have become victims of human trafficking.  And we have recently started looking into the trafficking of youth in care.

In the coming months, it will be important for states to implement this federal law in a manner that maximizes its impact for at-risk children and youth in the foster care system. Appleseed will be monitoring how H.R. 4980 is implemented in Nebraska and working to make the most of it for children and youth in our state.

Click here for more information on the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act from our friends at the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center.

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Executive Action a wise first step on fixing Immigration

Today, we learned that President Obama will announce his intention to take executive action as a first-step, temporary solution to our outdated immigration system. The announcement will be made during a televised address Thursday at 7 p.m Central with a detailed speech on the plan coming Friday in Las Vegas.

 

Administrative relief granted by the President is a wise, reasonable, and precedented action that could put an immediate stop to the destruction of thousands of American families every day.

Action from the President does not in any way replace the need for Congress to pass updated immigration laws that reflect the current needs of our communities and economy. In fact, it is a good first step toward that. It is a temporary policy on the road to long-term immigration reform that comes after more than a year of the House failing to take action.

Recently, the national immigration group America’s Voice put together a list of reasons to illustrate why Executive Action from President Obama is a necessary and prudent step for the United States.

It’s time to do something productive on immigration.  

Nebraska families sent messages to our Members of Congress this summer urging an updated law that keeps families together.

Nebraska families sent messages to our Members of Congress this summer urging an updated law that keeps families together.

Since Congress has refused to deliver on a legislative fix, the President must move the ball forward. The real radical option is doing nothing and maintaining the harmful status quo.  The only way to fix our antiquated immigration laws for the long-term is for Congress to work together to pass bipartisan legislation.  Yet after an historic 68-32 bill passage in the Senate in June 2013, the House of Representatives refused to even vote on common-sense immigration reform. 

Executive action is smart law enforcement and makes our communities safer.

Executive action is a smarter use of U.S. tax dollars. It will better direct law enforcement and immigration resources at national security threats, human traffickers and serious criminals, rather than spending billions of dollars deporting law-abiding immigrants who have lived in our country for years, working and raising families.

Executive action would expand the tax base. 

Undocumented immigrants already pay significant local, state, and federal taxes, and executive action would boost our economy even further. If undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years are eligible to apply for work permits, a report by the Center for American Progress estimates that this will add $6 billion more in payroll taxes in just one year.  Over five years, it would contribute $45 billion in payroll taxes to the U.S. economy.

Executive action would help immigrants who are American in every way but their paperwork.

Those likely to be eligible for executive action are hardworking members of American families who came here for the same reason earlier immigrants came to America: to build a better life.  They have deep ties in this country, are law-abiding, and may have children or spouses who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  But under our outdated immigration system, there is no line to get into, no process to sign up for and no way to fix their situation.

There is a long history of presidents taking action on immigration within their well established legal authority.

Legal experts agree: the President of the United States has broad authority to take executive action on immigration.  And over the past 60 years, every President since Eisenhower, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, has taken immigration-related executive actions (a total of 39 times).  For example, President George H. W. Bush’s Administration issued a “Family Fairness” policy that allowed 1.5 million spouses and children of legalized immigrants – nearly half of the undocumented population at the time – to apply for deferred action.

This is a practical first step while Americans wait for Congress to do its job and deliver a legislative solution.

There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, a population the size of the state of Ohio.  Most live in families and have deep ties to America, yet there is no line for them to get in until we fix our outdated laws. Separating all of those families through continued deportation or arrest is as impractical as it is immoral.

The most pragmatic, humane, and sensible option — not only for immigrant Americans, but for our country — is for Congress to pass common-sense immigration laws that include a clear process for citizenship. This keeps families together, boosts our economy, and lets us all move America forward together.

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The Bridge to Independence Program in Action

Sarah met with Governor Dave Heineman at the State Capitol to advocate for improvements to the system for youth in care.

Sarah met with Governor Dave Heineman at the State Capitol to advocate for improvements to the system for youth in care.

We could not be more excited that the Bridge to Independence (B2I) program has finally begun! B2I provides young adults who age out of foster care with extended services and support to age 21, including housing support, guidance from an Independence Coordinator and Medicaid coverage.  We’re thrilled for the B2I start because now young adults like Sarah will have the assistance they need to help them in their transition into adulthood.

At age 19, Sarah will soon be starting classes to become a firefighter.  As a dedicated member of Project Everlast’s Lincoln Council, Sarah is a passionate advocate who stands up for systemic improvements to Nebraska’s child welfare system. She was one of the many devoted young adults who made their voices heard in support of LB 216, the bill that established the B2I program.

Sarah signed up for B2I when the program began in October and has begun meeting with her Independence Coordinator.  She believes B2I, “will be a great opportunity [for her]” as well as for “future youth who age out.”  Sarah says she has enjoyed meeting with her Indepence Coordinator who has assisted her in accomplishing some of her goals including financial guidance and housing support. Sarah and her Independence Coordinator have also spent time in the last month volunteering together at the Foster Care Closet.

Young adults who may be eligible and are interested in signing up for the Bridge to Independence program can check out the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services B2I website and can complete this online application.

By the end of the first month of the program nearly 75 young adults had enrolled. We are excited about the progress of the B2I program and hope it continues to reach even more young adults in the coming months.

To learn more, Appleseed’s B2I page also has a number of resources for young adults, service providers, judges and other professionals.

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Nebraska Supreme Court decides Indian Child Welfare Act case

***For Immediate Release***

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Legal-128November 14, 2014

Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
jsheldon@neappleseed.org

Nebraska Supreme Court makes influential decision on Indian Child Welfare Act

Court holds ICWA protections apply to state wards placed in parental home

LINCOLN – Today, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act’s active efforts requirement applies to cases involving state wards who are placed in their own home as part of a juvenile court case.  The active efforts requirement is the state’s heightened obligation in child welfare cases involving Native American children to prove that services have been provided to prevent the separation of the family.

This decision in the case In re Interest of Shayla H., will have significant implications as Nebraska increases efforts to place more children in their own homes.  According to the most recent Kids Count in Nebraska Report, in 2013, more than 800 children were placed in the parental home as part of a juvenile court case (2,614 were placed out-of-home).  Today’s decision made clear that, in cases involving Native American children, the state’s heightened requirement to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs to prevent the separation of the family applies even when the children are placed in-home.

“Today’s decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court reaffirms that ICWA applies in all juvenile court cases involving Native American children,” said Robert McEwen, staff attorney for Nebraska Appleseed. “This decision is a great victory for native families and tribes. Nebraska Appleseed is very proud to partner with Legal Aid and attorneys from the Winnebago, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Omaha tribes to preserve the rights of native families and tribes.”

Had the Court not upheld the Court of Appeals’ ruling, and decided that the ICWA does not apply unless children are removed from their home, it would have created a significant negative impact on Native American families in Nebraska’s juvenile court system.

The case involves the disposition of a juvenile court case regarding three children, who are enrolled and eligible for enrollment in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.  The Indian Child Welfare Act, which governs child custody proceedings involving Native American children, requires, among other things, that the state prove that “active efforts have been made to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family.”

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted by Congress as a means of addressing the disproportionate number of Native American children removed from their homes and placed in non-Indian foster or adoptive homes by state agencies.  According to the 2013 Kids Count report, 4.9 percent of foster care entries in Nebraska involve Native American children, which is higher than their proportion in the population.  According national reports in recent years, Nebraska has had one of the highest rates of disproportionality of Native American children in the foster care system in the country.

Patrick Carraher of Legal Aid of Nebraska represented the Appellant father.

An amicus brief was filed in this case by the Nebraska ICWA Coalition by Rosalyn J. Koob of Heidemann Law Firm, L.L.P. on behalf of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska; Brad S. Jolly of Brad S. Jolly & Associates, L.L.C. on behalf of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska; Jennifer Bear Eagle of Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan, L.L.P. on behalf of the Santee Sioux Nation; and Robert McEwen and Sarah Helvey on behalf of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest.

The Nebraska ICWA Coalition is a group of tribal representatives and advocates committed to the full enforcement of ICWA in Nebraska.  

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