News and Events from Nebraska Appleseed – December 2013

In this December edition of “Appleseed in Action”:

  • Prayer vigils for updated immigration laws
  • Free screening of “I Learn America” immigrant film
  • Legislative hearing examines disparity of Native American children in foster care
  • Medicaid expansion would narrow health care coverage gap
  • Poultry Rule endangers food and workers during holidays
  • Sign online petition for fair, responsible Nebraska tax structure
  • Support Appleseed’s fight for justice & opportunity for all

Community and faith leaders hold prayer vigils for updated immigration laws

This dinner table was set with one place empty to symbolize Nebraska families who have been separated by outdated immigration laws.The holidays are a time for the shared love and bonds of families, however many Nebraska families will find themselves separated from a loved one for the upcoming holidays because of our outdated U.S. immigration laws.

Appleseed recently joined other community, faith, family, and immigrant leaders to participate in a series of prayer vigils to lift up the stories of these separated families and show our federal representatives Nebraskans want a common-sense immigration law passed this year that will make it a priority to keep families together.

On November 7, Columbus faith and youth leaders held a press conference urging Rep. Jeff Fortenberry to support 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 our immigration system.

Supporters held another vigil outside Rep. Fortenberry’s Lincoln office on Nov. 21, and nearly 100 supporters joined a candlelight vigil in downtown Omaha on December 3.

Thousands of Nebraskans have already made their voice heard that Congress should pass an updated immigration law before the end of the year to keep families together, strengthen our communities, and grow our economy.

Please call your congressman now and urge them to support an updated immigration law with a pathway to citizenship.

Free screening of “I Learn America” Thursday, December 5 in Omaha

You’re invited to a special screening of I Learn America,” a must-see new film on the experiences and challenges faced by a group of young immigrants adapting to their new country.

What: “I Learn America” screening

When: Thursday, December 5
6pm Dessert Reception, 7pm Film Screening
A new storytelling website tool – ideal for teachers and local community members – will be demonstrated during the reception.

Where: Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street, Omaha

“I Learn America”  follows five students as they strive to master English, adapt to families they haven’t seen in years, confront the universal trials of adolescence, and search for a future they can claim as their own. Through these five vibrant young people, their stories and struggles, and their willingness to share their lives with us, we “learn America.”

This film is sponsored and brought to you free of admission charge by: Omaha Public Libraries, SSCA Omaha, You’re Welcome In Omaha, and Nebraska Appleseed.

A new Immigrant Nation storytelling website will be demonstrated at the reception preceding the film, sharing local stories of immigration through the decades. The interactive project includes a web platform where you can record your own immigrant story.

Legislative hearing examines disparity of Native American children in foster care

NE_Appleseed_Icons_SystemicReform-128In Nebraska, Native American children represent 1 in every 10 children in the foster care system.  That’s 10 percent, which is drastically higher than the percentage of our state’s population that identify as Native American (1.5 percent).  That’s an alarming disparity.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed by Congress in 1978 to address this and other issues pertaining to the well-being of Native American children in foster care.  Nebraska passed a state version of the law in 1985 which is similar to the federal law.

Appleseed is a member of the Nebraska ICWA Coalition, whose goal is to work with stakeholders to improve compliance with the ICWA through identifying issues and concerns within Nebraska’s county, juvenile, and tribal courts.

On November 14th, members of the Nebraska ICWA Coalition spoke at a legislative interim study sponsored by State Senator Colby Coash on issues surrounding the high rate of Native American children in the state’s child welfare system.

Omaha World-Herald:  Rising disparity seen in rate of Native American kids in foster care

The Nebraska ICWA Coalition believes a more specific state ICWA law with provisions that address issues unique to our state would provide more clarity in ICWA cases and reduce this problematic disparity that removes a high percentage of Native American children from their homes and endangers their ties to their culture.

Appleseed and other members of the Nebraska ICWA Coalition will continue to work to identify and support solutions that will make ICWA more effective and preserve the essential ties of family and heritage in decisions made within our child welfare system.

New Medicaid program would help U.S. narrow health care coverage gap

Commonwealth Survey HC graphicA recent study by the Commonwealth Fund looked at the access and affordability of health care for adults in 11 countries, including the United States.

The results don’t speak well for us here in the U.S. when stacked up against other developed nations.  The survey found that adults in the U.S. were more likely than peers in other countries to not seek care because of cost and struggle to pay medical bills.

The Affordable Care Act was passed to fix this broken system that left people unable to afford the health care they needed or facing dire financial circumstances to pay for care.

Appleseed, along with many other Nebraska organizations, continues to work for the best implementation of the ACA in Nebraska.  This includes supporting a new Medicaid program to cover more adults with low incomes during the upcoming 2014 Legislative session.

With more affordable health care coverage options, including an expanded Medicaid program, more people in our state will be able to get the health care they need and less people will go into debt or be forced into bankruptcy because of medical bills.

Holiday season draws attention to safety of food and poultry workers

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Meatpacking-128As millions of Americans get ready to sit down for holiday meals with their families, most don’t think about what it takes for food to make it from the farm to the table.  But consumers may want to take a closer look, particularly if a proposed regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) moves forward.

The USDA rule change would pull government food inspectors out of poultry plants and allow companies to speed up production lines, threatening the safety of poultry products and the workers who process them.

On November 22, Appleseed co-hosted a media call and webinar presentation with a group of food and workers’ safety advocates including Southern Poverty Law Center and NCLR to urge U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to withdraw the harmful rule and work with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to develop safety rules to slow work speed in meat and poultry processing plants.

In September, a coalition of 15 civil rights organizations submitted a formal petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the USDA calling on the agencies to create safety rules to slow down poultry and meat processing line speeds in order to provide safe food for consumers and safe workplaces for workers.

Putting a stop to this dangerous new rule will better ensure a safe holiday season for families who eat poultry products as well as the workers who make sure our food is clean and safe to eat.

Sign online petition to support a responsible, fair tax system in Nebraska

The Nebraska Tax Modernization Committee finished its public hearings this fall, but there’s another chance for our state senators to hear from you about the future of our state’s tax system.

Please consider signing this online petition started by Rebuild Nebraska telling our state senators you believe Nebraska is strongest when we have a tax system that:

  • Gives our state the revenue necessary to meet its obligations
  • Allows for responsible investment in the areas that grow our economy (like education and infrastructure), and
  • Is progressive so our lower-income and middle-income families do not pay more in taxes than the people with highest incomes.

It was clear from the committee’s hearings that people’s main concern is the property tax rate. Very few people believed Nebraska needs to cut income taxes. Yet, certain interests still are pushing for large income tax cuts that will not create jobs and only will benefit a few of the wealthiest Nebraskans while not giving much benefit to middle and low-income families.

It is important to show our lawmakers many Nebraskans support a balanced tax system that does not jeopardize our relatively strong economy and funds areas that do grow jobs and protects our quality of life.

This online petition outlines the principles of a balanced, responsible, and fair tax system.  Please consider signing it to voice your support for a tax system that works for all Nebraskans and allows our state to invest in The Good Life that we have built carefully over many years.

Donate to support Appleseed’s fight for justice and opportunity for all

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Justice-128This year is rapidly winding down, but at Appleseed we’re gearing up to continue our fight for justice and opportunity for all in 2014!

Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation today in support of Appleseed’s efforts in the year ahead.

Your gift will help Appleseed and our community of supporters:

  • Advocate for federal immigration laws with a clear roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans, and promote practices that welcome and integrate immigrants into the community.
  • Push to extend health care coverage to at least 54,000 uninsured Nebraskans under the Affordable Care Act’s new Medicaid program.
  • Continue Appleseed’s class action lawsuit K.D. & S.L. v. Winterer, which seeks to restore access to medically necessary behavioral health care for children with autism and developmental disabilities who have been wrongly denied treatment under Medicaid.
  • Expand opportunities for low-income parents to access good jobs, higher education, nutritious food, and quality child care support.

Join us in our fight and give a gift today

Together, we can can build a more just society for every Nebraskan wherever we can do the most good – whether that’s at the courthouse, at the statehouse or in the community.

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