The American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6, passed in the House of Representatives on June 4
The bill passed with a 237-187 vote. Only seven republicans supported the bill, including our Omaha-area representative, Don Bacon. IPL has worked with leaders from the TPS association of Nebraska and OTOC Immigration Action Team to build relationships with elected officials and help communities across Omaha get to know their immigrant neighbors. In 2019 alone, leaders met with Rep. Bacon, attended town halls, and called countless times to build a relationship with him, have him get to know the TPS recipients and Dreamers in his district so that he ultimately supported this bill. Other positive community out reach and pressure is effective in making positive steps in the right direction (see this article about Chamber of Commerce support for Dreamers and TPS). Continue readying to see more about how relationship-building helped influence Don Bacon’s vote and the outcome of this bill.
“They’re in no man’s land, and we should provide them some security,” Bacon said. “I’ve committed to these guys that I would not forget them.”
Om May 7, the OTOC Immigration team and the TPS Committee secured a meeting with Rep. Bacon to renew his commitment to support legislation granting permanent status to TPS holders. Rep. Bacon continued to encourage community education about TPS and reaffirmed his support for TPS. He committed to vote for a “clean” Dream and Promise Act, the only current legislation that would have a path to citizenship for TPS holders. He fulfilled this promise on June 4 by voting FOR H.R. 6!
Nuestro entrenamiento es un taller en el estilo de un retiro. Asistir es gratis. Proveemos materiales y comida. Solo hay que registrarse. Incluye Misa el domingo. Este entrenamiento se ha hecho por tres años en: El Valle del Rio Grande, TX; Dallas, TX; Portland, OR; Des Moines, IA; y Albuquerque, NM.
Temas de Desarrollo de Liderazgo
• Entendiendo nuestro llamado de San Pablo para ser el Cuerpo de Cristo
• Que es la Misión de la Iglesia
• Presiones sobre las familias
• Aprender a escuchar con atención y encontrar nuevos líderes
• El poder que viene de ser creados a semejanza y imagen de Dios
• El Desafío del Liderazgo: Moisés y Jetro
• Cualidades de los líderes reflejados en las Bienaventuranzas
• Desarrollar un equipo para hacer el trabajo de la Iglesia
Leadership Training for Spanish-Speaking Communities
June 21-22, Friday from 5:30-8:30, Saturday from 9-7:30 College of St. Mary 700 Mercy Rd. Omaha, NE 18106
Sponsored by Catholic Campaign for Human Development & Interfaith Education Fund. Locally coordinated by Omaha Together One Community and Institute for Public Leadership.
This retreat-like workshop is free, with materials & meals provided. Sunday Mass incorporated into Sunday Programing. This training has been done around the country in places like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; Dallas, TX; Portland, OR; Des Moines, IA; Albuquerque, NM and is now available in Omaha!
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT TOPICS:
Understanding our call from St. Paul to be the Body of Christ.
Our Baptism and the Mission of the Church
Pressures on Families
Learning to listen carefully and to find new leaders
The Power that comes from being made in God’s Image
35 leaders met at Urban Abbey on February 28 to hear from Ken Smith, lawyer with Nebraska Appleseed about the state of payday lending in Nebraska. With the passage of LB 194 in last year’s legislative session, a few small steps were made to close a loop hole that could allow payday lenders to register as “Credit Service Organizations,” give a once-a-year payment plan option, and require more reporting to the Nebraska Department of Banking. The first report came out in December 2019 (view it here). See our analysis here of what this report shows about the status of where payday lending happens, how many loans are made, what people have to pay, and the average percent rate of 404%.
Ken Smith also asked supporters to practice how to respond to common arguments for payday lenders:
Payday lenders offer a valuable service to people who can’t go to other lines of credit.
Response: This is a good notion, but the issue is that fees are too high and don’t follow the basic parameters of other loan products. There is a lack of transparency in what you are signing on to and what your options are.
There are no alternatives to these types of loans
Response: There are some loan alternatives from some credit unions and nonprofits. See the Community Hope FCU in Lincoln and a nonprofit start-up in Omaha (still working on getting their credentials to offer low-interest loans)
Government should not make a habit of putting an industry out of business. The market should regulate itself.
We are not trying to put payday loans out of business, but just putting in reasonable requirements on loans. If you can’t meet those requirements, maybe you shouldn’t be in business. The Legislature actually exempted these companies from usury laws, which all other lenders have to follow, so we just want payday lenders to follow the same rules as everyone else.
The evening started with a few minutes of the Frontline documentary Last Days of Solitary which shows the Maine solitary confinement system and the changes they’re made. The film really shows the inhumane conditions prisoners live in when they are considered a treat to other prisoners and staff, and are put in what Nebraska calls “Restrictive Housing.” Restrictive housing is defined as less than 12 hours out of the cell in a week. In Nebraska, the cells are 8 ft. by 10 ft. and include a bed, desk, toilet, and chair. Because of the massive overcrowding, inmates in restrictive housing are often doubled up in the small cell. There are currently 325 inmates in restrictive housing in Nebraska, and ten have serious diagnosed mental health issues.
Climate Change Issue Cafe
60 people gathered on February 26 to hear from Stonie Cooper, a state climatologist and meteorologist, about climate change and it’s affect on Nebraska
Rental Housing Coalition Issue Cafe
40 people gathered at the Urban Abbey for an issue cafe about the current status of code enforcement and efforts for proactive policy change. OTOC leaders and housing coalition partners presented how the current code enforcement system works (and doesn’t work), the proactive registration and inspection policy we promote, what ordinances and policies are being drafted and discussed by local and sate policy makers, and how we as citizens can a raise a voice to be a part of that policy decision. Attendees heard from Beth, a tenant recently displaced from her home because of substandard conditions. If Beth’s rental home had been inspected regularly and the landlord keeping up the property, Beth and her daughter would still have a home and fewer major health problems due to mold and cockroaches. Erin Feichtinger of Together explained the politics of the current situation- LB 85 still sits waiting for a vote in the legislature, with Omaha City Council and the Mayor drafting various ordinances. Until the ordinances become public, we still encourage community members to call their city council member and their senator affirming the need for rental inspections, so that as proposals are brought forth, all policy makers know what Omaha needs. The city council will be hearing several ordinances on March 5.
Solitary Confinement and its Affects on Mental Health Issue Cafe
Seventy-five IPL, OTOC and community leaders heard from Doug Koebernick about Solitary Confinement in Nebraska and the harmful affects concentrated isolation has on mental health on February 5th
There are many factors that lead to having such a large number of inmates in restricted housing:
Restricted housing is supposed to be for the protection of other inmates and staff, so you get put in when you’ve done something dangerous. There is no set amount, you just get reevaluated every 90 days on if it is safe to bring you back to the general population. 114 inmates have been there for over 180 days. Some inmates do not know why they have been sent there, and are not able to advocate for themselves.
Overcrowding and the older facilities that have less common and classroom spaces have lead to less programming available for any type of restorative justice approach to help people before they get sent to solitary, while they are in there to get out faster, or for any sort of reintegration process.
Overcrowding leads to many more issues like less oversight and lack of space to attempt any type of reform. The state penitentiary is twice as full as it was designed for, and also has twice the number of staff.
Negative Effects of Restrictive Housing:
Psychological damage and mental health from lack of human contact and extreme boredom. Often leads to self mutilation.
Impacts future behavior. Though this is supposed to be for the safety of others, the failing mental health while they are in can lead to more violence when they get out.
Disproportionately affects Spanish and Native American inmates.
Negative impacts on staff safety and mental health as well as retention and recruitment.
Links to more info on Solitary and the Frontline Documentary:
Friday February 8th, Missioning Prayer and Despedida (Send-Off)
This past Friday, over 100 leaders from IPL, OTOC, and the TPS Alliance of Nebraska gathered to hold a Prayer Service that celebrated both culture and faith for the 9 members of the Omaha community who are representing Nebraska at the TPS Summit in Washington DC from February 10—February 13. The Opening prayer and focus statement were given bilingually by Pastor Juan Carlos Veloso, along with Fr. Chris Saenz, who gave the Blessing to the travelers.
The group traveling to Washington DC was made up of 6 TPS holders, 2 seniors in high school who are the US citizen children of TPS holders, and a Creighton University student. The group flew to Washington DC on Saturday and is currently participating in advocacy, leadership training, and the March for TPS Justice on Tuesday, Feb 12.
IPL helped organize testimony surrounding Tax Increment Financing for Omaha landlord, Dave Paladino. Paladino Development Groups has thousands of low-income units that rent to a wide range of tenants, including many refugees. In the unprecedented hearing, over ten opposing testimonies shared stories of Paladino’s treatment of tenants and business practices, lack of maintenance and upkeep, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. TIF cases tend to be automatically approved, but the city council, who listened for over an hour and a half to emotional, moving testimony, voted to postpone to vote for three weeks. They want to look into TIF approval laws, which currently do not allow decisions to be made based on the applicant’s other business practices. Click hear for complete Omaha World Herald coverage of the TIF hearing.
IPL continues to research Omaha’s substandard rental housing and complaint-based code enforcement system, and looking at national best practices, especially a proactive inspection ordinance. Leaders continues to call the City of Omaha to adopt a rental registration AND inspection ordinance so that all rental properties are routinely inspected. The testimony at this hearing showed city council and city staff that Yale Park is not the only substandard property in Omaha. Council member Pete Festersen said in his remarks that the City Council Planning Committee, which has been meeting regularly since Yale Park last September is getting ready to release it’s recommendation on what the city can do to address substandard rental housing. It is clear the tides are turning in the city, and that there is growing attention to substandard rentals and city code enforcement. The question is, when the committee’s plan is released, will it prevent another Yale Park?
Mental Health Emergency Resources
Tuesday, Nov. 20th at 6:45 pm
Hear from Miles Glasgow of Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare about their emergency response programs to help provide mental health services during high stress situations. Information about Mental Health support and education programs will also be available.
Improving Rental Housing in Omaha
Tuesday, Nov. 27th at 6:45 pm
As Yale Park Apartments illustrated, substandard housing in Omaha is a plague on neighborhoods and families. OTOC leaders will discuss the continued state of substandard rental housing and measures our community can take. Since we are all stakeholders, let’s organize to ensure public health and safety.
Refugee Experience: the resettlement process, different immigration paths, and the refugee culture groups in Omaha
Cold temperatures did not deter forty comunity from showing up at the Urban Abbey to learn more about the refugee experience from Alana Schriver, OPS Refugee Specialist. Despite the weather, the room was filled with old faces and new.
Ms. Schriver taught her listeners the difference between several terms:
To be designated as a refugee, one must cross a national border to escape from war, violence, or persecution. Persecution is defined as a life or death situation. Poverty is not a reason to apply for refugee status. Refugees are vetted in their country of residence and then by the country of destination- this takes years.
Asylum seekers –
Individuals seeking asylum from war, violence, or persecution. Asylum is not granted to families. Each individual, regardless of age, must prove that he/she is being targeted. Those seeking asylum are required to accept asylum from the first country that offers it. For those who reach the U.S., no legal representation is guaranteed to help the seekers through the vetting process.
A few months a year, the Urban Abbey, a coffe shop/bookstore/Methodist Congregation partners with OTOC, IPL’s sister organization, as community partners. As community partners in June, OTOC receives 10% of the coffee bar sales in the month (drink up in June!) as well as hosts learning opportunities at the Abbey with IPL. This June action teams are hosting four great Issue Cafes to learn more about some issues they are working on. Please join us at any and all of these events, and learn about issues affecting Omaha families.
Events are located at Urban Abbey, 1026 Jackson Street
– June 5: How we can change the Narrative for Substandard Rental Housing. 6:45-8 pm
Join leaders to hear stories and statistics from housing experts about substandard rental housing in Omaha and what we can do to change that situation together. Learn what LaVista and other cities are doing to make sure rental housing meets basic safety codes.
– June 13: Nebraska Medicaid Expansion: Now it’s up to You. 6:45-8 pm
Join leaders to learn about why Nebraska needs to expand Medicaid, the current petition drive, and how you can get involved today to help give all Nebraskans opportunities for affordable health insurance.
-June 19: A Merciful Alternative to Payday Lending. 6:45-8 pm
The Payday Lending Action Team will sponsor a presentation by Jerry Byers of Community Debt Solutions about an experimental, non-profit alternative to payday lenders that would offer short-term, small-principal loans to borrowers with limited access to credit.
– June 28: What is the Ban the Bag Campaign? 6:45-8 pm
Join environmental sustainability leaders to hear from Omaha City Council members Ben Gray and Pete Festersen about the Ban the Bag ordinance being introducing that would ban plastic grocery bags in the city of Omaha.
Each year, IPL participates in Omaha Gives!, a charitable giving day through the Omaha Community Foundation. To help celebrate giving and IPL, the Board of Directors and Advisory Boards hosted an After Work Gathering on May 23, the Omaha Gives! day. One hundred forty people gathered at Hardy Coffee at the new development in North Omaha, Seventy Five North. We were excited to partner with Seventy Five North to show off their new facility and the great work they are doing in the North Omaha community. Several local refugees made delicious foods for the crowd to try, and no one left hungry. During the event, attendees had an opportunity to give online through the Omaha Gives! website, and give they did! Thank you so much for your contributions to IPL during Omaha Gives for our continued work in the community.
185 Donors gave $18,495 through the OmahaGives site
32 Donors gave $15,000 by check or OCG account as Challenge
For at Total of: 217 Donors gave $33,495 during OmahaGives—our highest total ever
$522 Cash and Contributions (so far) after OmahaGives and
$1000 First Place Participation Prize for 4 pm to Midnight—We did it again!
for OmahaGives 2018
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
We also ranked very well among other organizations:
We won First Place for Medium organizations during the 4 pm-12 am time period
We were 5th Place overall for Medium Sized Organizations (Top 2%)
We were 4th Place of 58 Social Advocacy Organizations (Top 5%)
We were 40th of 950 Total Organizations (Top 4%)
Scroll down to see pictures from the After Work Gathering.
Photo credit to AJ Olnes, Creighton University senior
Executive Director Joe Higgs and Project Intern Greta Carlson spoke as part of the Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series (SLPS) at Metro Community College about how to use organizing for environmental sustainability. Over 100 faculty, staff, and students watched the webinar in universities across the state of Nebraska. The presentation taught about how leaders can use the cycle of organizing and organizing practices to organize their communities and enhance their sustainability efforts by growing power through their community. Joe Higgs used the example of how IPL trained OTOC leaders formed their environmental Sustainability Action Team to work on local environmental issues in Omaha. OTOC leaders first kept hearing that people were concerned about environmental issues after a great flood in 2011. Then, at an issues conference, enough people were interested and willing to take leadership, that an action team has formed and is now working on issues like the city’s new waste contract and potential ban on plastic bags. These issues use power to talk to and influence city council members as they create policies that affect the environmental sustainability of Omaha.
To view IPL’s presentation online, follow this link.
To learn more about Metro’s SLPS program, follow this link.