Immigration Reform

Fast4Families’ DJYoon is coming to Omaha Mon. Feb. 17

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Immigration-128We have a very special opportunity this Monday, Feb. 17. Dae Joong Yoon, one of the national leaders of Fast for Families, is coming to Omaha speak about the moral crisis of our outdated immigration laws.

Starting in November, he was one of the three core people who fasted (water only, no food) for more than 20 days on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in support of fixing our immigration laws.  Their tent was visited by national leaders, including President Obama and Michelle Obama, and their effort brought attention to the urgency of immigration policy reform.

Mr. Yoon will be in Omaha Monday to speak with local faith, student, and other leaders about fasting as a way to lift up the urgent need for immigration reform in the spirit of other civil rights leaders.

Join us at one of these two events to begin planning a fast with your group or congregation!

Our families can no longer wait. Act | Fast | Pray for immigration reform.

Monday, Feb. 17, Omaha:

College of St. Mary
72nd and Mercy Rd. at Mercy Hall

First United Methodist Church
7020 Cass, Room 112, north side

Download a flyer for Monday’s events here

Event co-sponsored by Catholic Charities| Creighton Center for Service & Justice | College of  St. Mary | Justice for Our Neighbors | Nebraska Appleseed | Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) | Dreamers Coalition | and many others…

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Nebraska Appleseed Statement on LR 399 to recommend supporting new, common-sense immigration laws

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Immigration-128Today, Nebraska Appleseed Immigrants & Communities Director Darcy Tromanhauser released the following statement on LR 399, which was heard Wednesday afternoon by the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

“Fixing our outdated immigration system is long overdue. Our antiquated immigration laws needlessly separate thousands of Nebraska families and prevent many people who already work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to our communities from being full members of our society,” Tromanhauser said. “Nebraskans support the values of family, community, and hard work. We fully support LR 399 asking our members of Congress to pass common-sense immigration laws with a clear and sensible processes for citizenship. Up-to-date immigration laws are critically important to Nebraska’s families, communities, economy, and future. It is for this reason that over the past year more than 40 Nebraska organizations from a wide range of perspectives representing thousands of people have come together to say we can’t afford to delay any longer. Now is the time for action.”

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House takes steps toward new immigration laws


Last week, the House Republican leadership released a set of principles for updating our country’s immigration laws. We were encouraged to see the release of these principles as an indication that this year’s legislative agenda will include immigration reform, which unfortunately stalled in the House after the Senate passed a historic bipartisan bill last year.

This inaction – in the face of daily calls, numerous meetings, civil disobedience, fasting on the National Mall, and broad consensus from the public to update our outdated immigration laws – led to the needless separation of thousands of families and to 11 million aspiring Americans unable to fully contribute to their communities and economy.

While this is a welcome step forward, it is only a first step. We need something more than principles – we need detailed legislation that sets a timeline for action and outlines how we will update our immigration laws, keep families together, make our economy stronger, and help us move forward.

A clear roadmap to citizenship should be a core component of any common-sense immigration legislation because it would reflect who we are as a nation by allowing aspiring Americans, who are already a crucial part of our communities, to become full participants in American society.

Nebraska’s U.S. House members are an important part of this debate.  You can take action by calling or e-mailing your congressman today to let him know that Nebraska families, businesses, and communities are counting on him to modernize our immigration laws, create a clear and attainable process for citizenship, preserve families, and lead to stronger Nebraska communities.  It’s time for action.

District 1 – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (202) 225-4806 or (402) 438-1598

District 2 – Rep. Lee Terry (202) 225-4155 or (402) 397-9944

District 3 – Rep. Adrian Smith (202) 225-6435 or (308) 384-3900

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Nebraska Appleseed statement on Wellness In Nebraska bill LB 887

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Medicaid-128Today, Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director Rebecca Gould released the following statement on LB 887, which would help more working Nebraskans get access to affordable health care coverage.

“A strong economy, a productive workforce, and a thriving future for our state all depend on having a health care system that works for all Nebraskans.  LB 887 would provide health insurance to thousands of Nebraskans, bridging the coverage gap that low-income families now face in Nebraska,” Gould said.  “Under the Wellness In Nebraska plan, we have an opportunity to bring billions of dollars back to our state, use innovative ideas to improve our health care system for all Nebraska residents, and ensure everyone has access to affordable health insurance coverage.”

“Currently, there are at least 54,000 uninsured Nebraskans who cannot access coverage in the insurance market.  LB 887 is the only realistic means for them to get coverage and play an active role in managing their health,” Gould said.  “The bill will reduce the cost to the state in uncompensated care and bring in federal dollars that will support thousands of jobs.  Bottom line, everyone wins with the Wellness In Nebraska plan.”

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ACA In Nebraska: Windrum family finds affordable coverage

NE_Appleseed_Icons_AffordableCareAct-128Omaha resident Carol Windrum remembers the fear of not knowing if you were going to get what you paid for in the days before the Affordable Care Act.

Carol had survived cancer, but because of the disease, it was difficult for her to find affordable insurance through the private market.  She was only able to get expensive health care coverage through the Nebraska Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool, which was a last-resort option for people unable to get other coverage because of preexisting conditions.

Carol’s husband is self-employed and had a privately purchased individual plan, however, the coverage contained many exclusions that could have kept him from receiving treatments if he got sick.

But, now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Carol and her husband have an affordable family plan that meets their needs and fits their budget.  After attending a helpful presentation about coverage options under the ACA presented by AARP Nebraska, Carol used the Healthcare.Gov website to find the plan she and her husband currently use.  “It only took about an hour,” she said.  “It was amazing.”

Carol and her husband have an income that make them ineligible to receive subsidies to purchase the insurance, but she said their plan still is more affordable than their previous coverage.  The vast majority of Nebraskans who use the Health Care Marketplace will qualify to receive a premium subsidy.

“I believe in the common good,” Carol said.  “I believe everyone should have the right to affordable health care.”

Enrollment in plans sold through the Marketplace continues through March 31, 2014.  Go to Healthcare.Gov to find a plan that fits the needs and budget of your family.

Read More: What to Expect From the Affordable Care Act in Nebraska

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A long and earned path to citizenship

One of the mistaken sentiments expressed by opponents of updating our immigration laws is that creating a clear process for citizenship somehow moves undocumented immigrants “to the front of the line” ahead of people who already have taken steps in the citizenship process.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Immigrants currently stuck in backlogs would be processed first, and the new process created for undocumented members of our communities is a long one.

As this graphic from the Center For American Progress shows, the path to citizenship is a long, 13-year process that costs thousands of dollars.

immigration hurdles graphicAnother thing to remember is that until we update our laws, for most undocumented Americans, there literally is no line to get into under our current system.  Unless you already have family members who are legal U.S. residents or you qualify for a high-skilled business visa, you essentially have no way to apply for immigration papers at this time.

What supporters of new immigration laws have long been pointing out is that creating a path to citizenship finally lays out a legal process to follow.  If there’s a workable way to follow the law, then there’s less chance of breaking the law.

The process created by the Senate’s immigration bill – S. 744 – which passed in June, finally lays out a path to citizenship for people living in this country, raising families, and contributing to our communities.

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.  Don’t let anyone tell you the path created by the Senate bill is easy.


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Interfaith candlelight vigil brings Nebraskans together to call for updated immigration laws

Rabbi Aryeh Azriel lights a menorah at a candlelight vigil on Dec. 3, 2013.  The vigil was held on the 7th night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Rabbi Aryeh Azriel lights a menorah at a candlelight vigil on Dec. 3, 2013. The vigil was held on the 7th night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Tuesday evening, a crowd of around 100 faith, family, and community leaders joined immigration reform supporters for a candlelight vigil outside the Roman Hruska Federal Courthouse in downtown Omaha to support common-sense U.S. immigration laws being passed before the end of the year.

The candlelight vigil, held in conjunction with the 7th night of Hanukkah, was held to lift up Nebraska families who are separated by outdated immigration laws and to show Nebraska’s U.S. House of Representatives members that Nebraskans want updated immigration laws passed yet this year that will stop the needless separation that affects so many Nebraska families this holiday season.

Candlelight vigil for new Immigration Laws from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

This week, the Fast for Families continued in Washington D.C., where supporters of reform have abstained from food on the National Mall since November 12, while groups nationwide announced fasts and vigils across the country urging House action.

“Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger among us,” said Jossy Rogers of Catholic Charities.  “Now, Congress has an opportunity to create a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants for whom the system is now inaccessible and prohibitive.  If we fail to create an accessible pathway to citizenship, a permanent underclass of people will remain—people who have come to know and love the United States as their home. We must act now to uphold the dignity of those who aspire for citizenship and stop the devastating impact and family separation created by our current, outdated system.”

“It is urgent that we move forward on both moral and practical grounds,” said Rabbi Aryeh Azriel. “As community members we light a candle this evening in a spirit of hope and common-sense that our members of Congress will move quickly to create immigration laws we can once again be proud of.”

Other speakers at the vigil included:

  • Fr. Mike Eckley –  St. Pius X Catholic Parish
  • Manape LaMere – Dakota and Ho-Chunk Nations

This vigil is part of a series of events that have shown Nebraska’s House members that Nebraskans passionately support passing updated immigration laws before the end of the year.  Recent data shows more than 60 percent of Americans — regardless of political affiliation — support a pathway to citizenship.

The U.S. Senate passed a historic, bipartisan immigration bill with a path to citizenship in June, and now, it is the House’s turn to act.  This prayer vigil is held in the hope our U.S. House Representatives show leadership to fix this outdated system, protect the sanctity of families, strengthen the economy, and lay out a stronger future for our state.

Tuesday’s vigil was co-sponsored by: Anti-Defamation League Plains States Region | Black Men United | Catholic Charities | Creighton Center for Service and Justice | Heartland Workers Center | Inclusive Communities | Justice for Our Neighbors | Latino Center of the Midlands | League of Women Voters | Malcolm X Memorial Foundation | National Council of Jewish Women (Omaha) | Nebraska ACLU | Nebraska Appleseed | Nebraska Restaurant Association | Nebraskans for Peace | Omaha Together One Community | Rabbi Azriel | Sisters of Mercy West-Midwest Community | and many others.

Previous recent vigils calling for modernizing our immigration system have been held outside Rep. Lee Terry’s office in Omaha, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s office in Lincoln, and Rep. Adrian Smith’s office in Grand Island.

More than 40 diverse Nebraska organizations representing thousands of Nebraskans from business, labor, faith, civil rights, and children’s and families’ perspectives have called for reform this year, including numerous statewide events and roundtables during the August recess and a march of 2,000 Nebraskans on October 12.

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Lincoln leaders hold prayer vigil for updated immigration laws

This table, with the head place setting left empty, symbolized Nebraska families torn apart by outdated immigration laws.

This table, with the head place setting left empty, symbolized Nebraska families torn apart by outdated immigration laws.

As the holiday season approaches, Lincoln-area faith, youth, civil rights, and family leaders came together outside Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s office today for a prayer vigil expressing the urgency of updating federal immigration laws this year to stop the separation of Nebraska families.

The group gathered around a dinner table with one place setting missing to symbolize the many Nebraska families that are separated by the current laws. As the holiday season approaches, participants recognized the many loved ones who are missing each day at family meals in Nebraska because of long out-of-date immigration policies.

“As people of color, we have a responsibility to stand up for social justice whenever it is violated.  That is why the NAACP has joined other civil rights and human rights organizations to support a comprehensive immigration reform,” said Jareldine Mays, President of NAACP, Lincoln Branch.  “Across the country, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in a permanent, second-class status.  At current rates of deportation, more than 400 U.S.-citizen children per day have a parent taken away from them by detention or deportation.  It is important to pass common-sense immigration laws that prevent parents who are immigrants from being deported and leaving children alone.”

Mays, a retired teacher, pointed out these policies have proven to be harmful for children’s mental, physical, and behavioral health.

At the vigil, attendees from NAACP, League of Women Voters, Nebraskans For Peace, and other Lincoln community members prayed for Nebraska families that have been split apart because of outdated immigration policies.

“My heart aches to see how strong family bonds are shattered due to the vulnerability the current, outdated system creates,” said Sheila Soto, 21, a student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.  “It is agonizing to see my friends’ high hopes and dreams for a higher education crumble to the ground because of their residential status.  No one should be deprived of an education because of incomprehensible laws.  I have seen my friends grow as leaders in schools and potential leaders in the community.  Undocumented students have larger obstacles, but the same determination, passion and drive.  Together we pray for a brighter future for these students and their families.”

Lincoln leaders pray for updated immigration laws from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

This is part of a series of recent events to show all of Nebraska’s House members that Nebraskans want updated immigration laws passed in 2013.

On November 7, Columbus faith and youth leaders held a press conference urging Rep. Fortenberry to keep families together by supporting a new immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans.  On the same day, Omaha area faith leaders joined a prayer vigil outside Rep. Lee Terry’s office in support of fixing the immigration system.

In addition, Grand Island community members held a vigil on October 21, dozens of events took place statewide during August recess, and on October 12, more than 40 Nebraska organizations and 2,000 Nebraskans held a families’ march and rally for common-sense immigration laws.

Nebraska’s House members have the opportunity to support a new bill that includes a clear process for citizenship and keeps families together.  H.R. 15 was introduced in the House in October and has growing bipartisan support.  The U.S. Senate passed its own common-sense bill in June, S. 744.


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Nebraskans hold vigils, events to urge House action on immigration this year

The four-person dinner table contained settings for only three.  The head of the table sat empty, its absence most conspicuous.

This dinner table was set with one place empty to symbolize Nebraska families who have been separated by outdated immigration laws.The symbol was a powerful one.  Representing Nebraska families who are missing a loved one because of detention or deportation, this dinner scene was not whole, incomplete.

Thursday, Nebraskans in several cities gathered together to urge our state’s House of Representatives members to take action this year in support of families torn apart by our outdated immigration laws.

In Omaha, more than a dozen faith leaders came together with community, families, and immigration advocates for a prayer vigil outside the office of Rep. Lee Terry.  The vigil was organized by Omaha Together One Community with assistance from the Sisters of Mercy West – Midwest, Creighton Center for Service and Justice, and many others.

At the vigil, attendees prayed for families who are separated by current U.S. immigration laws and lifted up the hope Nebraska’s congressmen would support common-sense laws with a clearer process for citizenship so families can be reunited and no Nebraska family would be torn apart in the future.

A table set with one seat empty symbolized families who are missing members because of detention or deportation due to the outdated immigration system.

Watch a video of the prayer vigil and view an online photo album.

On the same day in Columbus, NE, faith and immigration advocates held a press conference organized by Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska urging Rep. Jeff Fortenberry to back a common-sense immigration law that stops the separation of Nebraska families.

Coverage from the Columbus Telegram: Immigration rally urges lawmakers to ‘keep families together’

Brother Damien Cayetano of St. Benedict’s Center in Schuyler, himself an immigrant from the Philippines, told reporters the U.S. approach to immigration policy must reflect Nebraska values of family, dignity, and compassion.

Brother Damian Cayetano speaks at a press conference in Columbus calling for updated immigration laws. Photo credit: Jim Osborn/The Columbus Telegram

Photo credit: Jim Osborn/The Columbus Telegram

“Care and concern for the family is a fundamental value that should inform our approach to immigration reform. The laws and policies of our nation should preserve the fundamental right of all people to provide a dignified life for their families through meaningful work. We must encourage our legislators to help pass common-sense immigration policies that provide a clearly defined earned path to citizenship that will help keep Nebraska families together and contribute to the economic and social welfare of our state.”

Columbus businessman Fernando Lopez spoke to the press about how his family was broken apart because of an immigration error.  Lopez was deported to Mexico and spent two years away from his family fighting his case in the courts.

“I respect the laws of the United States and share the ideology on the implementation of laws, but unfortunately, the immigration system is a dinosaur out of function to current needs,” Lopez said.  “If the system were perfect, laws would not need local, state, or federal representation.”

Grand Island residents also held a recent vigil urging action on immigration this year.

As we enter the holiday season, you too can take action to urge Nebraska’s House members to support updated immigration laws that preserve families, leading to stronger Nebraska communities.  Please consider calling or writing your congressman.

Modernizing our immigration laws and ensuring a clear and attainable process for citizenship will make sure families can remain together and no more empty places at the table.

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Updating immigration laws would boost U.S. economy

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Immigration-128We know updating our immigration laws to include a pathway to citizenship for people living in the U.S. would go a long way toward keeping families together, improving health outcomes for Nebraska children, and reflect our state’s values of compassion and dignity.

But, there are bottom-line, dollar-and-cents reasons to fix our outdated immigration system as well.  This article from “Immigration Impact” summarizes a new report from the Bipartisan Research Center and research firm Macroeconomic Advisers, which finds that fixing our immigration system, specifically with the provisions of the U.S. Senate bill (S. 744) passed in June, would lead to a large boost to the American economy.

Read the full report: Immigration Reform: Implications for Growth, Budgets and Housing

According to the report, fixing our immigration system with S. 744 would have the following positive effects over the next two decades:

  • Increase GDP economic growth by 4.8 percent.
  • Lower the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion ($180 billion during the first decade, and $990 billion during the second decade).
  • Increase demand for housing and increase demand for construction of roughly $68 billion per year.
  • Increase the size of the labor force by 8.3 million workers (an increase of 4.4 percent).
  • Offset the aging, U.S.-born workforce population decline by adding 13.7 million people to the workforce.  Most of these people would be younger than age 65.
  • Raise wages in the long term by 0.5 percent.

Members of Nebraska’s business community, restaurant industry, and agriculture sector already have spoken out for the need to update our immigration laws to create stability for our businesses and the families who work in them.  This new report shows passing updated and common-sense immigration laws with a clear path to citizenship is not only beneficial to our families and communities, but will fortify a U.S. economy looking for a boost after the recent recession.

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