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New Hampshire Issue Advocacy Groups Join Forces, Rally Ahead of Democratic Presidential Debate

Rally and Downtown March Called on Democratic Candidates to Articulate Vision for a Clean Energy Future, Invest in Economic Security for Families and Small Businesses, and Put Voters Ahead of Special Interests

2015-12-19 march 1MANCHESTER, NH – Today, more than 20 issue advocacy groups gathered in Manchester to share a collective vision for a better future in advance of the New Hampshire Democratic Primary Debate.  The march and rally, titled “The Future We Want,” made its way down Elm Street in a show of unity. The march began at the Radisson Hotel, where leaders from across the region discussed how the activist community is coming together to demand action on the issues that matter to New Hampshire and the nation.

“There are so many great organizations doing important work in the state,” said Mike Padmore, State Director for NextGen Climate New Hampshire. “Every group here is working together for justice and progress, by protecting our planet, restoring democracy through campaign finance reform, supporting reproductive rights, investing in economic security for working families and defending the refugees seeking safety and a better life.”

Close to 200 people attended the event. Participants discussed how their work supports a unified vision to move our state and country forward and the importance of working together to ensure a fairer and more just future for all Americans. New Hampshire has a long tradition of using its First-in-the-Nation Primary status to vet candidates on the issues that matter most to Americans and for months Granite State “bird dogs” – issue advocates that follow the candidates and pin them down on the tough questions – have worked the Democratic Primary field. Rally speakers pointed to tonight’s Democratic Primary Debate, happening just two miles away at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, calling it an opportunity for candidates to be champions of justice and progress.

“In New Hampshire, we have a unique opportunity to be in the spotlight of the national conversation in the months leading up to the First in the Nation primary” said Will Hopkins, Executive Director of New Hampshire Peace Action. “With that opportunity comes an important responsibility to engage with the candidates and articulate a vision for the future that demands strong leadership on the issues that matter to Granite Staters.”

The participating organizations from today’s rally and march will continue to work together to articulate and demonstrate a fair, just, and progressive vision for America during the Presidential Primary.

2015-12-19 march 2

 

NextGen Climate NH is a non-profit, non-partisan dedicated to averting climate disaster and promoting prosperity for all Americans. NextGen is calling on our elected leaders to get America to 50% renewable energy by 2030.

350 Action is pushing presidential candidates during the New Hampshire Primary to keep fossil fuels in the ground. It empowers New Hampshire residents to use creative direct action and bird dogging to influence our leaders.

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

People For the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our operational mission is to promote the American Way and defend it from attack, to build and nurture communities of support for our values, and to equip those communities to promote progressive policies, elect progressive candidates, and hold public officials accountable.

Moms Clean Air Force is a community of parents working together to combat air pollution, including the urgent crisis of our changing climate – to protect our children’s health.

The American Friends Service Committee’s “Governing Under the Influence” project is a non-partisan, educational effort to raise awareness about the excessive power held by the ultra-wealthy and major corporations, especially those that profit from militarism and incarceration.  To date the project has trained more than 1000 NH people to be effective “bird dogs,” brought its giant GUI banners to dozens of political events, sponsored educational programs with hundreds of participants, and engaged all major presidential candidates in substantive discussions about nuclear weapons spending, the immigrant detention mandate, the influence of the military industrial complex, and other issues.

The cross-partisan NH Rebellion has mobilized thousands of citizen rebels to #FightBigMoney in politics by walking the talk for democracy all across the Granite State – 30,000 miles and counting. #NHRebellion educates candidates and voters on how our democracy could be fixed through its We the People pledge,  including overturning Citizens United, ending the Legislator to Lobbyist revolving door, requiring donation transparency, and other reforms. #NHRebellion is part of Open Democracy, the nonpartisan organization founded by legendary reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock.

The New Hampshire AFL-CIO is a strong statewide voice for all working people, bringing together the unions of New Hampshire under one banner to fight for economic and social justice in our workplaces and communities.

Rights and Democracy is bringing people together to take action to build healthy communities and make the values of our communities guide the policies of our government. Together, we create change through grassroots organizing, educating and mobilizing around the issues that affect our communities, recruiting and training candidates to run for office, and working through the political and electoral process to advance progressive policies that lead to happy, healthy, and just communities for everyone.

New Hampshire Sierra Club represents over 15,000 Members and Supporters who care about the environment and the future of the Granite State. NHSC supports pollution-free clean energy future that can benefit the local economy and create jobs, like energy efficiency, wind and solar energy. Our goal is to have a zero carbon polluting economy by the year 2050.

The members of New Hampshire Peace Action are dedicated to making a contribution to world peace. We envision a world in which nuclear disarmament, mutual security, global understanding, international cooperation and respect for human rights create social, economic, and environmental benefits for all humanity.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including legislative education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy. Follow us on Twitter.

After nearly 40 years NH Citizens Alliance continues to lead the movement for social and economic justice in the Granite State. We focus on creating a more engaged electorate through issue education, leadership development and voter engagement and mobilization. Central to our work is a women’s economic justice framework. We must take action now to ensure that women have equal rights and receive fair treatment on the job, in health care and in the new economy.

Better Future Project works to build powerful grassroots movements to address the climate crisis and advance a rapid and responsible transition beyond fossil fuels in Massachusetts and beyond.

350 Massachusetts for a Better Future is building a powerful statewide social movement to confront the climate crisis, hold our politicians accountable and undermine the destructive influence of the fossil fuel industry.

 The UNH Peace and Justice League is a social justice advocacy group.  We have worked on issues ranging from the student debt crisis at UNH to the nationwide issue of money in politics.

Divest UNH is pressuring the University of New Hampshire to divest their endowment from fossil fuels.  No one, especially universities, should be profiting of the devastating effects of climate change.  Our goal is not just to push the University of New Hampshire to divest but to create a long lasting student movement to fight for climate justice.

At the Organic Garden Club we manage an organic farm on campus.  Our goal is to provide a place for students to learn how to garden and to educate our community on where their food comes from.

The UNH Student Environmental Action Coalition is a collaborative of sustainability initiatives and committees seeking to promote a better environment and a stronger community

350NH is a climate movement of neighbors. We work as a community to turn off new fossil fuel infrastructure and turn on New Hampshire’s potential for a renewable energy future.

Support Our Local Community Non-Profits: The NH Labor News’s Suggestions For #GivingTuesday

giving_tuesday_logostackedToday is Tuesday, December 1st, 2015.  Not only is it my birthday – Thank You – but it is #GivingTuesday.  #GivingTuesday is a relatively new tradition following #BlackFriday, #SmallBusinessSaturday, and #CyberMonday.

#GivingTuesday is intended to inspire you to give something back this holiday season.  There are millions of great organization out there doing amazing work on a variety of issues.  These organization tend to be very lean because as non-profits they do not have a boatload of funds to fuel their agenda.

Donations to a Non-Profit are also tax deductible. Double bonus.  Unfortunately the NH Labor News is not a non-profit charity so if you choose to make a donation to us you cannot write it off on your taxes.

To help narrow down the monstrous list of possible places you can donate to I have compiled a short list of NH based non-profits, with links to their websites.  I have worked with each and every one of these groups on different campaigns over the last six-years.  (In no particular order.)

Special Note: Some of the groups listed below have sent out emails stating that if you act today, #GivingTuesday, your donation will automatically be matched by an anonymous contributor.  If you miss the double matching, it is ok, they will still be happy to receive your donation.

Granite State Progress: An all encompassing organization that monitors the NH Legislature.  Led the fight against ALEC in our state house, transparency in our legislative process, higher minimum wage, blocking Right To Work and more. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

The NH Citizens Alliance: A champion of low-wage workers, women’s rights and all Granite Staters.  Pushing for equal pay, higher minimum wage, paid sick time and more. They have also launched a new campaign #StandWithWomen to guarantee full and fair opportunities for women to succeed and take care of their families. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

The AFSC- New Hampshire: For 40 years Arnie Alpert has been fighting Right To Work in the NH Legislature. This Quaker organization is dedicated to helping working families as well has making the world a better place.  Fighting for social and economic justice and bringing back the founding principles of our democracy. If you have not already you must sign up for their State House Watch! (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

MIRA: The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) is the largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees. Eva Castillo is the NH director and together with help from the NH Labor News and other community activists we hosted a welcoming vigil for refugee children last year. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

League of Women Voters: The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

The NHFPI: the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England: PP offers low-cost or even free healthcare to thousands of Granite State women. Preventative medicine is the best medicine.   (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

Every Child Matters Education Fund of NH: ECMEF is a non-partisan, non-profit focused on improving the lives of our future generation by ensuring they get a quality education.  They lobby for early childhood education and expanding public school.  Along with education, ECM pushes back against cuts to programs designed to help combat poverty. ECMEF-NH Director MaryLou Beaver is also a feature commentator on the NH Labor News with her weekly Granite State Rumblings update.  (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis: A charity organization to help people suffering with the little known, life threatening disease, Pulmonary Fibrosis.  The organization was started when my good friend Ron Geoffroy’s wife, Marylou, was diagnosed with PF. After her passing, Ron continues to lead the organization and help others who are suffering with PF. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

Whether you give $5 or $500 dollars, every dollar is appreciated.  

Please make a contribution to any or all of these great groups and let them know that Matt from the NH Labor News sent you

Governing Under The Influence: “Bird Dogs” For Democracy Shake Things Up On 2016 Campaign Trail

american friends service committee logo (AFSC)

gui_logoPHILADELPHIA, PA — How can everyday people influence a national election? In the lead up to the 2016 presidential primaries, one organization takes an innovative approach.

As presidential candidates traverse Iowa and New Hampshire, the American Friends Service Committee has launched a non-partisan campaign called “Governing Under the Influence,” designed to challenge corporate influence in the political process. They have trained hundreds of “bird dogs,” volunteers who attend candidate events and ask presidential hopefuls about corporations that profit from building bombs and filling prisons. Many of these encounters are documented and shared on http://gui.afsc.org.

“In New Hampshire, we have incredible access,” said Eric Zulaski, the campaign’s NH Grassroots Education Coordinator. “Most of the candidates have made multiple visits to the state for the 2016 race, and you can bet they will be back. Twice already, I have talked to Senator Rand Paul about the militarization of New Hampshire’s police forces, and that’s just one example”

According to the campaign, “Excessive corporate power is a key factor behind mammoth budgets for military weapons, the U.S.-Mexico border region’s transformation into a war zone, the incarceration of millions of people, and many other problems the U.S. is confronting today.” They point to the influence of corporate lobbyists and large campaign contributions, noting the “[m]illions of dollars spent on lobbying, with high-level government officials passing through the revolving door from public administration to high-priced lobbying firms.” Their goal: shine light on these issues and push candidates to take a position.

AFSC_GUI_Article_10Already the approach has yielded some success. Bird dogs have attended dozens of events, and had the opportunity to question Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Martin O’Malley, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, and others. And the candidates are taking note. In October, students from Scattergood Friends School asked Hillary Clinton about the immigrant detention bed quota, a policy that mandates the federal government incarcerate 34,000 immigrants on any given day. Clinton responded “no one’s ever asked me that before. I’ll look into it.” Six months later, she spoke out against the detention quota during an immigration roundtable in Las Vegas.

Campaign organizers hope that their efforts will not just influence specific candidates, their staff, and the media, but shift the national conversation about the impact of money in politics and the over-sized role of corporate interests. The website itself is a resource for media and for the public—an inside source on what candidates are doing and saying on the campaign trail.

“If we don’t ask the questions, who will?” said Kevin Rutledge, Iowa Grassroots Education Coordinator. “We’re showing people that you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to make your voice heard in this country.”

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

NH House Republicans Push Through Their Immoral Reckless Budget

 

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Today hundreds of Granite Staters filled the State Capitol building holding signs and asking legislators to oppose these reckless cuts to the New Hampshire budget.  Labor leaders, community activists and concerned citizens delivered over 800 signed petitions opposing these reckless budget cuts.

“A budget is a statement of our priorities as a community and in that sense it is an expression of our values,” explained the Rev. Jonathan Hopkins, President of the NH Council of Churches and pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church. “Our faith leads us to pay attention to the common good, not just to the interests of individuals. Our faith calls for a budget that is fair and just.”

One area of the proposed budget cuts that drew outrage today were the cuts to social programs to help people overcome their additions to drugs and alcohol. Hundred gathered and participated in a “die in” on the State House steps. (Images above of the ‘die in’ courtesy of Steve Kloppenburg)

Their voices and concerns were ignored as the House Republicans pushed through their budget with devastating cuts to a variety of state programs.

“In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse,” stated Governor Maggie Hassan. (Full Statement Here)

“To gain the support of Bill O’Brien and the Koch Brothers, House Republicans passed a budget today that is so extreme that even the Republican House Finance Chair admitted that our state would suffer if it were actually enacted,” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

“The House did a fantastic job of making New Hampshire more free market and more competitive, and forth and for most it takes out all the tax increases,” said AFP State Director Greg Moore in an press conference last week.

During the debate on the House floor Representative William O’Brien, who pushed a similar budget cuts through the House in 2011 when he was Speaker, offered an amendment to raid the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to find extra money to make their budget work.

“From raiding dedicated funds to downshifting costs onto local communities, the O’Brien-Jasper budget proves once again that New Hampshire Republicans can’t be taken seriously on fiscal responsibility,” said Buckley. “Possibly the most fiscally irresponsible action in the O’Brien-Jasper budget deal — and that’s saying something — is O’Brien’s floor amendment to empty the state’s rainy day fund.”

“As lawmakers entered the State House, today they were greeted by hundreds of protesters decrying the O’Brien-Jasper budget’s drastic cuts. But instead of listening to the outcry from every corner of the state, O’Brien and Jasper decided to wipe out the state’s rainy day fund and threaten a credit downgrade to make even deeper cuts, including cutting funding for community colleges, further cutting our already strained corrections system, and laying off nurses at New Hampshire hospital,” continued Buckley.

“Voters will not stand for the fiscally irresponsible Jasper-O’Brien budget that empties the state’s rainy day fund, raids dedicated funds, slashes critical economic priorities for small businesses and middle class families, and downshifts costs onto local property taxpayers,” concluded Buckley.

One of the budget tactics used by Republicans to fund their disastrous budget would reverse the pay increased negotiated by the State Employees Association. These are the same workers who are now facing the potential of massive layoffs.

“When I was a child growing up in NH, the state leaders were fiscally conservative and responsible,” said Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “The legislature was primarily Republican and when need be, they would find ways to raise revenue for items our state’s citizens needed and there was a good balance between revenue and spending. That is no longer the case.”

The Tea Party extremists have taken over the House and refuse to raise revenues even though the state desperately needs it.

“The members of SEA/SEIU 1984 want our state to be a safe place for everyone to live, work, and prosper. The NH House budget does not promote these priorities – it disrupts them,” wrote the State Employees Association. “Even though they did not prevail, we salute the legislators who voted in favor of funding the state employees’ contract.”

“While today’s vote was gravely disappointing, we now look to the NH Senate to prepare a budget that is frugal yet reasonable and responsible,” concluded the SEA.

Community groups and fiscal watchdogs were quick to blast Republicans in the House for passing this budget that is guaranteed to harm our state and our economy.

“The House version of the budget is foolhardy and shortsighted. It unnecessarily pits important state priorities against one another rather than making real investments in our community, our infrastructure, and our people,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “It kicks the can down the road on identifying reasonable revenue sources that ensure the wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share, and it turns its back on programs that, if funded today, will save our state money in the long run.”

“The House budget pits vital public services against one another in an attempt to achieve a misguided sense of balance. This budget puts many of our state’s most vulnerable residents at risk, forcing cities and towns — and local taxpayers – to take on greater responsibilities and to face higher costs in the long run,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. (Full Statement Here)

Now we look to the New Hampshire Senate to see how they blend their two proposals together and craft the budget for the next two years. We already know that the Senate passed a business tax reduction that gives away millions to businesses while force deeper cuts to state agencies.

Will the Senate find a way to fix the cuts proposed by the House, or will they bend to the Tea Party extremists and force New Hampshire backwards?

 

Related article and recommended reading:

Republican Budget Cuts In New Hampshire Provoke Backlash From Clergy

 

Prominent Journalist to Help AFSC Launch Presidential Campaign Season Project

John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation, to speak Sept. 27 in Concord

John Nichols (Richard Hurd FLIKR CC)

John Nichols (Image by Richard Hurd FLIKR CC)

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – The American Friends Service Committee will launch its New Hampshire-based Presidential Campaign Project at a September 27 benefit dinner featuring John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and co-author of Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.

The AFSC plans to conduct educational programs from now until the 2016 New Hampshire Primary on the theme of “Governing Under the Influence,” a slogan meant to illuminate the outsized control over government policy held by major corporations.

“Since President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the military-industrial-complex, corporations have found even more ways to exercise their influence over public policy in Washington,” said Arnie Alpert, the Quaker organization’s long-time New Hampshire Director.   “The loud voices of the corporations threatens to drown out the voices of real people.”

According to Alpert, the AFSC will train grassroots activists to make the issue of corporate influence one of the signature issues of the unfolding campaigns in New Hampshire and Iowa.   The project’s “Governing Under the Influence” banners made their national debut last weekend outside Senator Tom Harkin’s “steak fry” in Iowa.

The AFSC event will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 274 Pleasant Street in Concord, starting with snacks at 5:30 PM, followed by a buffet dinner and the program with John Nichols.  Suggested donation for the event is $20 to $75 per person “as you are able.”

In addition to writing for The Nation, John Nichols is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.  He is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that works worldwide on programs supporting peace, social justice, and humanitarian development.  Since 1975 its New Hampshire Program has led efforts on a wide range of issues, including establishment of Martin Luther King Day, expansion of opportunities for affordable housing, and support for the rights of immigrants and refugees.  In earlier NH Primary cycles, AFSC’s educational efforts have driven concerns over nuclear weapons, the cost of the previous Iraq war, and international trade policy into the nation’s political discourse.

See http://afsc.org/event/afsc-nh-annual-fundraiser-john-nichols for additional information.

NH Program Seeks Intern for Presidential Primary Project

american friends service committee logo (AFSC)The AFSC NH Primary Project will promote civic engagement during the period leading up to the 2016 NH Presidential Primary on corporate domination of US political life and its impact on shared security and economic health.  The project will also support similar activity in Iowa during the same period and create resources which can be used by AFSC programs in other states.  Responsibilities will include research on corporate influence, with a focus on corporations that profit from weapons and prisons.  It will also involve networking with other groups, tracking the visits and views of likely Presidential candidates, and developing resources for grassroots activists.

This part-time, paid position is ideal for someone who has an interest in the ways grassroots activists can affect political discourse.

See the job Internship Description for more details and send a letter and resume toaalpert@afsc.org by January 13, 2013.

Related Documents:
NH Primary Project Internship Description

May Day Is For Immigrants Too (From Arnie Alpert)

NHLN Editor Note: Below is an Op/Ed from New Hampshire AFSC Coordinator Arnie Alpert who is routinely is reposted here in on the NHLN.  Arnie and AFSC have been tirelessly working to push forward on immigration reform and the labor issues associated with immigrant workers.

From CNN Blog

Imagine that you have made it to the United States from a country where economic opportunities are absent. You’ve found work in a laundry, a restaurant kitchen, a nursing home, or on a construction site. The pay is low by U.S. standards, but you save enough to send some every month to your family back home.

Every day you put up with hazards and harassment, knowing that if you raise your voice in protest you risk, not only getting fired, but getting reported and deported. Some weeks you don’t get paid at all, but you keep your mouth shut and live with the abuse.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrant families across the country live this each day. Now, as Congress considers sweeping changes to a broken immigration system, we must press the case for a more humane approach to immigration — and protections for all workers, immigrant and native-born alike.

International Workers’ Day, or May Day, started in 1887 as a day for workers to press their demands for an eight-hour work day. It commemorated a violent suppression of a Chicago labor rally the year before. Immigrants, their advocates and allies took the holiday observed on the first of May to another level in 2006, when they connected workers’ rights to the need for repairs to a broken immigration system.

On this May 1, the American Friends Service Committeewill join them in cities from Concord, New Hampshire, to San Diego, California.

It’s not only workers without the right papers who suffer; when employers can get away with exploitation, the whole workforce suffers and deplorable conditions ripple through the entire labor market.

Immigration reform legislation offers the prospect of ending such exploitation, by providing a path to citizenship for qualifying individuals and a provisional legal status along the way. This would enable workers to stand up for their rights without fear of deportation simply for being an unauthorized worker.

That could be one of the outcomes of passing the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act,” the official name of the massive immigration bill now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For future immigrants, the creation of a new visa category, the W visa, would provide opportunities for low-skilled workers to move from one employer to another without losing the authorization to work. This category would ensure that pay levels are set between minimum wage and medium wage for the particular job, and also would require that labor recruiters be registered and regulated. Additionally, holders of “W” visas would be able to seek Legal Permanent Residency for themselves and their immediate family members.

The bill also would create a “blue card,” an improvement for agricultural workers. Those who qualify for these visas would be offered a faster track to permanent residency status.

The bill is not without problems, such as the provision that mandates that all employers, public and private, use the federal E-Verify system, which checks workers’ immigration status. This ties access to jobs to a massive data-management system with a long history of errors and abuses. Making participation in this flawed system obligatory as a condition for a immigration bill is misguided and wrong.

About 8 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S are workers. They want what workers everywhere want: safe working conditions, fair wages, and protection from abuse. The American Friends Service Committee sees that as a reasonable desire, consistent with a belief that all work should confer dignity on workers, employers, and consumers. As we say in our policy paper, “A New Path Toward Humane Immigration Policy,” all workers are entitled to humane polices that protect their labor and employment rights.

This year we must take the opportunity to set a long-sought pathway to protection for workers’ and immigrants’ rights — so that May Day 2014 can be a day to celebrate the progress we have made together.

CNN Editor’s note: Gabriel Camacho is the coordinator of Project Voice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Arnie Alpert is the coordinator of the New Hampshire program. Both are part of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization working for peace and justice in the U.S. and around the world.

NH Program Calls Immigration Bill “a Modest Start”

Path to Citizenship Must Reflect More Humane Principles

Following the formal release of immigration legislation today, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called the bill “a modest start,” noting provisions that address family unification and workers’ rights and create a narrow path to citizenship for some immigrants. But the Quaker groups said the bill also reproduces many of the current failed immigration policies, making it a far cry from the just and humane reforms that immigrant communities, faith, labor and advocacy groups have been calling for.

“The Senate bill makes meaningful improvements for immigrants with temporary protected status, undocumented youth, and agricultural workers by providing a fast track to legal permanent residency.  However, it would not end the current cruel, costly and inefficient system of detention and deportation, or the militarization of the border that has devastated communities on both sides of the border,” said Maggie Fogarty of the organization’s New Hampshire Program.

Fogarty said the 844-page bill not only doubles down on some failed policies, it also elevates them to the status of mandatory measurable triggers, including universal E-Verify, a 90 percent border ‘security’ metric, and a new entry-exit port system.  “It would waste billions on drones, costly high-tech gadgetry, additional fencing, and personnel,” she said.

According to AFSC, the bill does offer greater accountability and oversight of border enforcement, a long-standing demand by immigrant communities and their allies.  It would establish a task force of border community stakeholders to evaluate and make recommendations regarding immigration policies along the border.

“Since 2010, the Border Patrol has claimed the lives of 20 unarmed civilians, and no official has been held accountable for these deaths,” Fogarty said.  “Federal agents seemingly operate with impunity, systematically violating the human rights and civil liberties of border residents.”

The bill also includes the right of due process and worker protections under the mandatory E-Verify provision. However, E-Verify and other employment verification programs remain highly flawed, problematic and costly, according to AFSC.

“We are gratified to see that the bill does begin an important conversation about future flows of workers to the U.S., by identifying significant labor and wage standard protections and opportunities to apply for permanent status and supporting family unity,” said Fogarty.

The bill strives to keep families together by restructuring a fundamentally flawed system with long waiting periods into one that provides new opportunities for people to migrate lawfully.

Still, Fogarty said there may be many who continue to live in the shadows, subject to the cruelties of a broken system including exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous employers.

The AFSC implores Congress to adopt compassionate and effective immigration reforms that are grounded in the following principles:

•           Develop humane economic policies to reduce forced migration.

•           Protect the labor rights of all workers.

•           Develop a quick path to legal permanent residency and a clear path to citizenship.

•           Respect the civil and human rights of immigrants.

•           Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border.

•           Make family reunification a top priority.

•           Ensure that immigrants and refugees have access to services.

AFSC’s views are laid out in its publication, A New Path,  which outlines policy priorities for humane immigration reform that protects the human rights of all people.  Fogarty said the New Path principles are derived from nine decades of work with immigrant communities, “whose voices must be heard as we seek meaningful and humane policies.”

For more on AFSC’s immigrant rights work, visit
http://afsc.org/project/immigrant-rights.

3-DAY SPEAKER TOUR TO SHED LIGHT ON PRIVATE PRISON DEBATE

Caroline Isaac, AFSC's office in Tucson Arizona, program director (copyrighted by AFSC)

The actual cost and performance of privately run prisons is the theme of next week’s New Hampshire speaking tour featuring Caroline Isaacs, who has conducted original research and written extensively about for-profit prisons in Arizona.

From September 4 through 6, Isaacs will speak at public events in Concord, Keene, Nashua, and Lancaster.

The New Hampshire Departments of Corrections and Administrative Services, with help from a private consultant, are currently evaluating proposals from four private companies to build and operate New Hampshire’s prisons.   Although the contents of the bids are still confidential, the names of the bidders and some details of their proposals have become public.  Three of the four bidders — Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation — run prisons in Arizona.  The fourth, LaSalle, has also proposed to operate prisons there.

As Program Director in the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Arizona office in Tucson, Isaacs researched and wrote “Private Prisons, the Public’s Problem: a Quality Assessment of Arizona’s Private Prisons,” released in February 2012.  With detailed information about the performance of CCA, GEO, and MTC in that state, Isaacs’ report revealed “widespread and persistent problems in private facilities around safety, lack of accountability, and cost.”

“The record these corporations have created is the best way to predict what would happen if any of them gained control of prisons here,” said Arnie Alpert, the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program Coordinator.

MGT of America, the consulting firm helping the state departments review the private prison bids, is expected to complete its report by October 5.  Any contract with a private prison company would have to be approved by the governor and the Executive Council.

Isaacs’ speaking tour, sponsored by the New Hampshire office of the AFSC, will visit regions of the state that CCA is considering as potential prison sites.

At this time, the speaking tour includes:

Tuesday, September 4

Noon – CONCORD – UNH Law School, Doug Wood Board Room, 2 White Street, sponsored by UNH Law School Social Justice Institute.

7 pm – KEENE – Mountain View Room, Keene State College Student Center, sponsored by KSC Criminal Justice Department.

Wednesday, September 5

7 pm – NASHUA – Nashua Unitarian Church, 58 Lowell St., sponsored by Nashua Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee.

Thursday, September 6

9 am – CONCORD – Tad’s Place Auditorium, Heritage Heights, 149 East Side Drive, sponsored by NH League of Women Voters.

6 pm – LANCASTER – Lancaster Town Hall Auditorium, 25 Main Street, sponsored by NH State Employees Association.

All events are free and open to the public.

Additional details are posted in the events listing at www.afsc.org/newhampshire.

Isaacs will also be a guest on “The Attitude” with Arnie Arnesen on WNHN Radio at 11 am on Tuesday, September 4.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who believe in social justice, peace, humanitarian service, and nonviolence.  Its New Hampshire Program, based in Concord, conducts public education and advocacy efforts on many issues, including prison privatization.

Click here for a short description of Caroline Isaacs.

Click here to read the full contents of or an executive summary of Private Prisons, the Public’s Problem: a quality assessment of Arizona’s private prisons.

Click here to download a photo of Caroline Isaacs.

Click here for a commentary by Arnie Alpert about the New Hampshire prison privatization debate.

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