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.”Omaha World Herald
Building relationship with Rep. Don Bacon
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!
Bacon also committed to working with OTOC and IPL to appear on local radio programs with a TPS holder to explain to their audience why Nebraska needs our TPS community. Bacon also committed to help TPS holders in Nebraska keep their drivers licenses through January 2019 (currently expires in September 2018)
Who is My Neighbor- relationship building between communities
IPL coordinates a series of presentations called Who Is My Neighbor? These educational opportunities provide space for Omaha neighbors to describe their experiences with the US migration system with others in the community who are not aware of the hardships immigrants face. Sunday, June 2nd Augustana Lutheran Church hosted one of these presentations where TPS recipients and family members of TPS recipients shared their stories. Around twenty congregants heard from Temporary Protected Status recipients!
These presentations “lets one’s heart engage with an issue. This is different when you just have head knowledge or the facts. When you hear how people are living with this issue it transforms the issue. You have to respond because anyone in their shoes would want what they want: families together.”Gloria Austerberry, member of the Augustana Lutheran Church and co-chair of the OTOC Housing Action team
The presentation first started with a quote by the South African Bishop Tutu, “I need you in order for me to be me, and you need me in order for you to be you. WE are bound together. I need other human beings to be a human being. A person is a person through other persons.” Here, the presentation was centered on this theme that all human beings are members of the body of Christ, meaning if one feels pain than another too will feel pain because we are all connected. This biblical idea of solidarity translates especially throughout this presentation to understand and listen to the TPS community right here in Omaha.
Sister Kathleen then opened the conversation with stories about her experiences at the border. She explained the major role the US has contributed to the migration crisis. Due to many US business and corporate practices in Central and South American countries, many of these countries become unstable with limited opportunities. Sister explains how this then makes many people want to migrate to the US. Then the TPS recipient and family members of TPS recipients shared their stories. Esmeralda, a daughter of TPS recipients, explained how she wants the support of her parents when she starts college this next year, not of struggling parents in a different country. According to Greta Carlson, community organizer of IPL, “People were really enthralled and stunned that this was happening in Omaha and people did not have access to get residency.”
Looking back at the three-month-long TPS Alliance Advocacy Tour to DC, Gloria Austerberry explained how what many of these TPS recipients are doing is a level of citizenships that most US citizens do not even do, such as taking messages to DC and elected officials. Austerberry suggests that “there needs to be an entire awakening about what citizenship is” and these presentations are “a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation that just amazes people.”
TPS recipient Jose Molina then asked the people in the room to call their US Representative to support H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which will provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMERs, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders in the US. A lot of people said they were going too! Austerberry said she called Don Bacon’s office three times; the first two messages were too long but “the third time was a charm!” She even mentioned she was going to go home and call some friends other states to also call their US representative.
This event, just in time for the House of Representative’s vote for the Dream and Promise Act, helped neighbors meet each other, and then decide to take action for each other. Don Bacon was one of just seven Republicans who voted for the bill, and it is thanks to constituent calls to push him in the right direction.