Health Care, Immigration, Fair Pay & You’re Welcome!

Quite a bit has happened these past two weeks on health reform and immigration! Last week, the Supreme Court issued two important rulings striking down most of Arizona’s notorious immigration law (SB1070) and upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Obama administration announced a new, common sense policy granting relief from deportations for America’s undocumented youth known as the DREAMers. And in the weeks ahead Appleseed will be hosting events in Omaha with fair pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter on July 10 and kicking off an exciting campaign with many community partners on July 20 to show that Omaha is welcoming of all of its immigrant neighbors. In this edition of “Appleseed in Action”:

Health Reform: Quality, affordable and constitutional health care for all

On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically, the Court upheld the individual responsibility provision and ruled that the law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage is constitutional. The Court, however, ruled that the federal government cannot withhold Medicaid dollars if a state does not agree to the expansion. Ultimately, this means that the expansion is optional for states. [Read Appleseed health care attorney Jerusha Hancock’s analysis of the decision]

Moving forward, the ACA will extend additional benefits and consumer protections to hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans. In 2014, insurance companies will not be able to deny anyone coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. And states can now move forward and implement exchanges, or new marketplaces, where families can purchase affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage, and, in some cases, receive tax subsidies to make that coverage more affordable.

“Thursday’s ruling marked a great day for Nebraskans and the future health of our country, our families, and our friends and neighbors,”  said Rebecca Gould, Executive Director at Nebraska Appleseed.  “This is the right legal result and means the benefits that are already helping thousands of Nebraskans will continue and many more protections will be implemented in the future. Now that the legality of the ACA is clear, it is time to move forward at both the state and federal level to implement this law with a focus on the consumer it is meant to serve.”

Read the Supreme Court’s decision online

Arizona’s SB1070: Socially toxic and unconstitutional

On Monday last week, the Supreme Court struck down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s notorious “show me your papers” law, a state-level immigration policy that Nebraska and many other states have already rejected due to its high costs and negative community consequences. The Court found most of Arizona’s law unconstitutional and made clear that the remaining “show me your papers” section is still subject to pending civil rights challenges.

The Court’s decision emphasized that immigration needs to be a single, cohesive federal system – not a confusing patchwork of 50 state immigration systems – and struck down sections 3 (making it a state crime to violate federal immigration law or fail to carry immigration papers), 5(C) (making it a state crime to seek or perform work), and 6 (authorizing warrantless arrests if officers believe an individual has committed a deportable offense).

Under this first, narrow challenge on the basis of whether federal immigration law trumps state law, the Court did not yet strike down the provision (2B) that requires police to attempt to determine immigration status for any person lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested where they have reasonable suspicion of improper immigration status. The decision is the first case to reach the Supreme Court on Arizona’s law. Other challenges to the law based on civil rights violations are still making their way through the courts.

“While today’s decision highlights the legal problems with the law, states have already turned away from an Arizona-style approach after seeing that the results are socially toxic and economically self-defeating,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Director of Appleseed’s Immigrant Program. “No state has moved forward with similar legislation this year. These laws violate our national values and our national interests. Instead, we need common-sense immigration laws at the federal level that support Nebraska families, businesses, and communities.”

Read Appleseed’s fact sheet on how SB1070 has socially and economically damaging consequences

Read Appleseed’s June 28 Omaha World-Herald op-ed, “Arizona-style Laws Wrong Approach”

“How Federal Courts Impact our Lives: One Woman’s Battle for Justice”

For 10 years, Lilly Ledbetter fought to close the gap between women’s and men’s wages, sparring at the Supreme Court in a historic discrimination case against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Although Ledbetter won a jury verdict of more than $3 million after having filed a gender pay discrimination suit in federal court, the US Supreme Court later overturned the lower court’s ruling. In spite of her defeat at the Supreme Court, Ledbetter continued her fight in Congress. On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed into law the first law of his administration: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

When:  Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 7pm
Where:  DC Centre,11830 Stonegate Drive Omaha, NE 68164
What:  A forum discussion with Lilly Ledbetter and book signing following the event
Book Signing will follow the event and books will be available for purchase

Sponsored by the Nebraska Coalition for Constitutional Values

Special thanks to the National Council of Jewish Women, Creighton University School of Law, the League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha, and the Nebraska State AFL-CIO.

You’re Welcome in Omaha!

Join Appleseed, eighteen community organizations, and numerous artists and musicians on July 20 at the House of Loom to celebrate the kick-off of You’re Welcome in Omaha!, a new collaborative effort to celebrate Omaha as a welcoming and inclusive community of all of its immigrant neighbors.

The event will feature artists and musicians celebrating the cultural richness new neighbors bring to our community and will include live music and an unveiling of new screen prints and mixed media art. It’s also free and open to the public (21+).

You’re Welcome is based on the simple notion that immigrants settling in a community have a far better chance of integrating if the others in that community are receptive to including their new neighbors.

Join us at the event at the House of Loom (1012 S 10th St, Omaha) at 8pm on Friday, July 20. Get updates about the event on Facebook.

Sponsored By:
Anti-Defamation League-Plains States Region
Black Men United
Building Bright Futures
Greater Omaha Young Professionals
House of Loom
inCOMMON Community Development
The Jewish Federation of Omaha
Justice for Our Neighbors
Mayor Jim Suttle
Metro Young Latino Professionals Association
Nebraska Appleseed
Nebraska Is Home
Omaha Together One Community
South Omaha Community Care Council
Southern Sudan Community Association
Welcoming America
Voices for Children in Nebraska
Young Jewish Omaha

Throughout the summer, You’re Welcome will also be presenting photos of Nebraskans sharing why they believe Nebraska is and should be a welcoming place. Follow You’re Welcome in Omaha on Facebook and on our blog to see the photos!

We also encourage you to take your own photos, too! Send them to Christa Yoakum at

More about You’re Welcome:
You’re Welcome in Omaha is a part of Nebraska Is Home, a community-led initiative focused on creating a welcoming atmosphere – community by community – in which immigrants are more likely to integrate into the social fabric of their adopted hometowns.

Nebraska Is Home is affiliated with Welcoming America, a national grassroots-driven collaborative to promote mutual respect and cooperation among foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans.

TAKE ACTION: Opportunity for the DREAMers

On Friday, June 15th, President Obama announced an encouraging new policy that will grant relief from deportations for undocumented youth who are known as DREAMers. These young immigrants grew up in United States and dream of using their education and skills to contribute to society. They are American in all ways except for one—paperwork. The Obama administration’s announcement was a long-awaited step toward allowing them to continue their education and contribute to their communities without the fear of being separated from the family and community they love.

As reported in the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star, this new policy provides a measure of hope for young Nebraskans like Juan Gallegos and Quetzalli Pliego, who have been caught in limbo and unable to fully contribute their talents due to our outdated and unproductive federal immigration policy. Juan earned private scholarships to the University of Nebraska-Kearney and started his own small business in graphic and website design, but faced obstacles to building the business due to his immigration status. Now he says, “I can see that maybe one day I can create jobs for others who need them.”

Another young Nebraskan, Quetzalli, earned a bachelor’s degree in 2010 with a focus on legal studies, but instead of applying her skills to the legal field is helping her mother clean homes because she lacks work authorization.

We all will reap the benefits of this policy change because it will enable Juan, Quetzalli, and our country’s 800,000 DREAMers to fully realize their potential and help their communities prosper.

A frequently asked questions page on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website (USCIS) website is here. The memorandum explaining the policy is here.

The announced policy stops deportations of DREAMers and provides them the opportunity to apply for work permits that are renewable every two years.  DREAMers qualify for the new policy if they:

  • are 30 years old or younger
  • came to the United States under the age of 16
  • lived here for the last five years and were in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
  • are currently in school, graduated from high school or have a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or Coast Guard of the United States
  • have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors not all stemming from the same incident.

The hard work and courage of DREAMers and community allies produced this positive first step. However, the President’s new policy provides only temporary relief and does not provide a means to apply for permanent residency or citizenship.

Therefore, we urge Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a bill first introduced more than a decade ago and supported by a majority of Americans that would create a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, graduated from high school, and attended college or served in the military. Passing this important and common-sense legislation will result in a positive and productive solution for us all.

Take a moment today to ask Congress take the next critical step. Contact your senators and your representative and urge them to pass the DREAM Act:

Senator Ben Nelson

Senator Mike Johanns

Representative Jeff Fortenberry (NE 1)

Representative Lee Terry (NE 2)

Representative Adrian Smith (NE 3)

Please also take a moment to thank the President for this decision that is good for the country.

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