• Advertisement

Documented Or Undocumented, Immigrants Are Human Beings And Deserve Care And Respect

Protestors at an anti-Trump rally (FLIKR CC Alisdare Hickson)

by Carol Backus and Eva Castillo Turgeon

Last Sunday’s editorial headline about police practices when encountering undocumented immigrants is deeply offensive to people of faith and good will across the Granite State. While we agree with the editor’s assertion, “State and local police should not be stopping people based on skin color or foreign accent,” we are troubled by language elsewhere in the editorial that dehumanizes immigrants.

Human beings are not fish or game to be caught and released. We are not domestic animals to be penned in barns. Actions, not people, can be illegal. To label immigrants as illegal is an attempt to dehumanize them. When people are dehumanized, they are easily targeted as undeserving of respect and basic human rights. Labeling people negatively may be unintentional, but it is nonetheless harmful.

People who are unable to produce citizenship papers are human beings and deserve the same care and respect as members of the Union Leader editorial board and staff or the authors of this op-ed.

A person may be in New Hampshire without documents for a variety of reasons: they may have overstayed a tourist visa; they may have jumped off a merchant ship; they may have crossed a border without stopping at a check point; they may be a victim of human trafficking; their abusive spouse may have taken their documents; they may have an expired student visa; or for any number of other reasons. Unless we know a person’s story, we don’t know why they are here without documents. When we know their story, we can decide whether they have committed an illegal act, and if so, whether it was justified.

The process for sorting out these situations must be humane. A humane attitude on the part of police and the larger community will lead to resolution of policies affecting the millions of people who live in the U.S. without documents. We at the Granite State Organizing Project, a New Hampshire faith-based community organization, laud the efforts of state and local police departments to clarify their roles regarding immigrants.

As a matter of public safety, it is crucial for everyone in our communities to feel safe reporting a crime, calling for help on the roadside, escaping from an abusive spouse, or cooperating with the police on community projects. As so many of our immigrant neighbors come from mixed status families (e.g. a parent without documents, children who are citizens, etc.) it is very important for everyone to know that casual contact with local police will not result in the catastrophic family separations we have been reading about in the news.

Decisions of local police departments not to act as enforcement agents on immigration issues that do not involve serious misdemeanors or felonies seems to us reasonable and a wise use of resources. We hope that the state police will also develop wise and humane policies.

Wise policies will also recognize that immigration has always strengthened our country. Wise policies will be good for our state’s economy as we seek to find workers that our employers tell us are needed to fill job vacancies.

Except for a handful of Native Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants. First came the European colonists who were undocumented from the perspective of the people already living here. After its establishment as a colony of Great Britain and later as a state, New Hampshire benefitted from waves of immigration as French-speaking, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants came to live here. Each wave experienced its share of conflict as those longer settled resented the newcomers. With time New Hampshire gained the gift of diversity that resulted from this immigration.

Now we find ourselves with undocumented people living in our midst. Many of them have been here for years and even decades, living as quietly as they can, trying to keep their families together. Our challenge is not how to deport them, but how to offer a path for their legal integration into the social, economic, and civic fabric of our state. If we undertake this, New Hampshire and its citizens will not be diminished, but will grow stronger.

 

Carol is President of the Executive Committee of the Granite State Organizing Project and Eva is First Vice President.

Granite Staters Speak Out Against Cuts To Medicare And Medicaid

Granite Staters Call for No Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to Pay for Tax Breaks for the Rich and Corporations at Manchester, NH Community Forum

National Day of Action Calls on Congress to Protect Health Care for Millions in the Budget and Reject Massive Tax Breaks for Wealthiest Americans

Manchester, NH – After Congress spent weeks once again attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, over thirty Granite Staters attended a community forum co-organized by Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP) and Rights & Democracy (RAD) on Wednesday, October 4 to educate the public on the Congressional  budget proposal. New Hampshire seniors, working people, Representative Robert Backus, and voices from the front lines of healthcare including doctors gathered to discuss what’s at stake under budget plans. These Granite Staters joined hundreds of others across the country at similar events for this national day of action led by Health Care for America Now (HCAN). On this day of action, grassroots groups across the country mobilized against the latest effort to strip health care from millions of Americans while at the same time advancing a tax cut proposal that benefits primarily the richest 1% of households.

The event highlighted the devastating impacts of the House  Budget Resolution, which cuts $1.5 trillion from health care, especially Medicaid while giving tax breaks to the rich and corporations. The resolution includes the adoption of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) repeal proposal that the House passed in May that could take healthcare away from over 23 million people and make permanent cuts to Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, children, and veterans.  House Speaker Paul Ryan plans a vote on the House budget proposal this week.

“We’ve seen time and again that Congress will stop at nothing to strip millions of Americans of vital care, and now they are using the budget process to make the same kind of devastating cuts to health care that were so unpopular in the last few repeal bills,” said Viola Katusiime, an Organizer for GSOP. “Americans across the country rose up to beat back repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we will remain vigilant as Congress tries to gut essential health care programs to pay for tax breaks for the 1 percent.”

The proposed budget cuts would fundamentally transform Medicaid for the worse, ending its guarantee of coverage for children, seniors, and people with disabilities including 171,500 New Hampshire Medicaid recipients. These cuts would also be a devastating blow to New Hampshire’s state budget and cripple its ability to face public health emergencies like the opioid crisis, which is ravaging communities across the Granite State (since under the administration plans it will be up to each state alone to manage health care emergencies without additional support from the federal government).

Medicare serves over 55 million people ages 65 and over and people with permanent disabilities, including 266,210 people in New Hampshire. But the Medicare cuts of $487 billion over 10 years and efforts to privatize Medicare through vouchers in the budget resolution would devastate this program and leave seniors and people with permanent disabilities without an affordable option for care.

At the same time, the federal budget proposal includes trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Under the administration’s proposed tax plan, wealthy households’ income tax rate will be reduced by almost 5 percent, and the corporate tax rate will drop by 15 percent, among a variety of other tax breaks. These tax cuts in total will cost $1.5 trillion – the same amount as the health care cuts in the House budget resolution, including significant Medicaid cuts and $500 billion in new cuts to Medicare, a vital program for seniors.

While Senator Jeanne Shaheen regrettably could not attend the event she voiced her solidarity with the Granite Staters in attendance in a letter she sent to them:

“I share your commitment to supporting the individuals who rely on the quality, consistent access to health care services that Medicare and Medicaid offer. We must continue to invest in them and resist reckless attempts to cut these programs by prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy. Please be assured that, in reviewing any new tax proposals, I will be looking to see how the plan will impact middle-class families and small businesses across the state of New Hampshire.”

To learn more about how Granite Staters are fighting this unjust and immoral budget, please contact Viola Katusiime with Granite State Organizing Project at violakat@granitestateorganizing.org or Kathy Staub with Rights & Democracy at kathy@radnh.org.

At Raising Wages Summit The “Voices Of Workers” Highlight The Struggles Of Working Families

The first ever New Hampshire Raising Wages Summit was held in Concord on Saturday. The summit, a policy discussion with a focus on the importance of raising wages, drew more than 200 people to hear a whole host of speakers.

The headliners, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, both spoke about raising the minimum wage and the affects of the proposed TPP on workers.

Interlaced between the headliners was what organizers referred to as the “Voices of Workers.” The Voices of Workers were short speeches from local workers and union activists.

Deb Howes, a Nashua teacher and American Federation of Teachers member, talked about the impact of our current low-wage employment system on the children in her classroom. She explained how living in poverty affects a child’s ability to learn, and chastised politicians who want to take away free lunch programs that ensure that children can get at least one healthy meal a day.

Howes is also the chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition that is currently building momentum against the proposed privatization of AFSCME custodians in the Nashua School District. At the summit Howes stated, “eliminating good paying jobs for low-wage contractors will only hurt our community.”

(video link)

The elimination of good paying jobs was the forefront of the Fairness at FairPoint campaign as International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communication Workers of America (CWA) members spent months on strike last winter.

James Lemay, an IBEW member and FairPoint employee spoke about how hard it was for workers during the strike. He talked about how the company did not seem to care about the workers or bargaining in good faith with the union, they only cared their stock prices and earnings statements.

After months on strike the IBEW and CWA reached an agreement with FairPoint and workers could finally go back to work.

(video link)

Janice Kelble, a retired postal worker and American Postal Workers Union member, talk about her struggles bouncing from job to job and the discrimination she endured as a low-wage worker.   Even though it has been a number of years since Kelble was living on minimum wage, the fact is that her story could have been told by any low-wage work struggling to survive on today’s poverty wages.

Kelble eventually got a job with the USPS service where she immediately joined the union, became a steward and began her unofficial career as an advocate for workers.

Kelble said she often wonders how different her life would have been if not for her good paying union job.

(video link)

As Kelble pointed out it has been many years since she had to survive on minimum wage, that is not the case for recent Manchester high school graduate Adol Mashut.

As an immigrant, a woman, and a recent graduate she has quickly learned how hard it is to live on minimum wage. Mashut struggles to balance her work and college classes in hopes to get a degree that will allow her to get a better paying job in the future.

Mashut is also the product of an amazing community outreach program called the Granite State Organizing Project. GSOP is a faith based, non-profit that helps immigrants and low-income families through mentoring and assistance. GSOP continues to push for policies that help working families like raising the minimum wage and expanding access to affordable healthcare and opposes policies like “title loans” that charge people upwards of 400% for an emergency loan.

 

(video link)

Mashut is working and taking classes in the hopes of acquiring a college degree, but college is not for everyone. Thanks to unions there is still a way for workers to learn a valuable skill and work their way into the middle class.

Samantha Novotny is starting her second year as an apprentice with the IBEW local 490 in Concord. “The union provides great classroom training as well as on-the-job training and work experience,” she said.

As she progresses in her apprentice training she will continue to gain more certifications and real world experience which will ultimately result in higher pay and the chance to start saving for her retirement.

Novotny recently became “sworn in” as an official member of the IBEW. “I truly feel that I am setting myself up for a long-lasting and successful career,” said Novotny.

(video link)

 

While many of these Voices of Workers’ stories were positive, the reality of low-wage workers is not as bright and shiny. Many are living paycheck to paycheck working 50 to 60 hours a week between multiple jobs with little to no hope for the future.

Millions of people across the country are living in poverty due to the fact that we have failed to ensure that their hard work will actually pay the bills.

As the 2016 elections continue to ramp up, we need to ensure that every candidate, from Presidential to State Representative to Mayoral will work to raise the minimum wage and help lift these workers out of poverty.


 

Please read our other stories about the Raising Wages Summit

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Addresses the NH Raising Wages Summit

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro Inspires The Crowd At The NH Raising Wages Summit

Governor Hassan Will Continue To Fight To Raise Wages and Expand Middle Class Opportunity

How Raising Wages Effects Seniors and Social Security, a speech by NH Alliance for Retired Americans President Lucy Edwards.


 

 

Granite State Organizing Project Honors Community Heroes

Micah In Community Action Heroes honored for volunteer service to community

Granite-State-Organizing-Project_logo-blueThe Granite State Organizing Project announced today the 2015 Micah In Community Action Hero awardees. GSOP President Brian Mitchell said, “I am so proud to be honoring these unsung heroes who exemplify the spirit of Micah 6:8:   “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Vice President, Sister Carol Descoteaux, CSC added, “These valiant men and women devote countless hours and boundless energy to community service. Whether they are serving meals to the homeless, welcoming new comers, providing warm winter coats for low income children or simply ministering to shut ins, these are the people who make our state great and I am honored to have the opportunity to celebrate with these remarkable individuals and their families!”

 

2015 awardees include: 

Colonel Gail Prince

Colonel Prince lives in Bedford where she founded an organic farm for refugees from Nepal and Africa – Common Earth Farms. Gail works year round to help refugee farmers manage the land and resources to practice their traditional farming profession and earn income.

Sister Mary-Elizabeth Leonard, CSC

It was in 1954, at the young age of 19, that Mary-Elizabeth heard God’s call, entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Cross and dedicated her entire life to meeting the needs of God’s poor and suffering children. Sister Mary Elizabeth’s “magic SUV” is a welcome sight across the city as she feeds the poor and warms the homeless. 

 John McAllister

John McAllister is a 3rd generation Firefighter who has been serving Nashua NH for the past 15 years. Last year, John and the Nashua Firefighters worked with local businesses in the Nashua area to raise money to buy new winter jackets for poor children. After raising thousands of dollars, the Nashua Firefighters Association purchased over 200 new jackets for needy children before the winter.

Jim and Yolande Walsh

Jim and Yolande are active members of the St. Anne – St. Augustin Parish. They were very active in welcoming new African refugees to Manchester and the parish. 

Natalie and Larry Welch

Larry and Natalie Welch have been part of the fabric of Blessed Sacrament Parish for a long time. Larry for 52 years and Natalie for 34 years. Whenever there is need this dynamic and caring couple responds generously and kindly. 

Phyllis Appler

Phyllis Appler has served as Missions Chairman at Main St. United Methodist Church in Nashua since at least 1986, working with the food pantry, Church World Service, Heifer, and other projects. 

GSOP unites religious, labor, and community groups to address issues and shape decisions that will positively affect quality of life in our communities. More information is available at granitestateorganizing.org

 

Political Extremism in Congress is Stifling Efforts to Improve Social Security and Medicare

2013-08-15_shaheen_social_securityYesterday, about 60 people gathered in the Dover Public Library to celebrate the 78th anniversary of Social Security.

Special guests included NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Max Richtman, President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Both speakers emphasized the need to take Social Security out of the federal budget debate.  “Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus,” Richtman observed.  “It is not contributing to the federal deficit.”

Shaheen was frank about the situation in Washington right now, describing the political polarization and its effects.  She explained how a minority of extremists has kept the Senate from appointing members to a conference committee on the federal budget – essentially blocking Congress from passing a bill that would fund the federal government during the fiscal year that starts in six weeks.  She said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is expected to run for President in 2016, had single-handedly blocked the appointment of conference committee members on the last day before the Senate left for its August recess.

2013-08-15_shaheen_social_security3Shaheen said she understands that many seniors have a hard time making ends meet on their Social Security benefits, and said she supports raising benefits “in principle”.  “We need to have that conversation in Washington,” she said.  “But that’s not going to happen unless the partisan environment changes.”

Both speakers supported the idea of a special commission to look at the long-term future of the Social Security program, similar to the “Bipartisan Commission” that was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. “Back in the 1980s, there were only four months of solvency left,” Richtman recalled.  “Now, even without any changes, Social Security will remain solvent at least through 2033 – possibly longer, if the economy improves.”

Both speakers also endorsed the idea of raising the cap on earnings that are subject to the Social Security tax.  Right now, only the first $113,700 of an individual’s earnings are subject to Social Security taxes.

Richtman described how increased economic inequality has affected program revenues.  Historically, between 91% and 92% of all wages paid in the United States had been subject to the Social Security tax; but now, only about 81% of wages are covered by the tax.  As the middle class has lost ground, Social Security has lost revenues.

Both speakers also discussed a bill sponsored by Sen. Shaheen, which would allow the Medicare program to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies regarding drug prices.

When Medicare Part D was enacted in 2003, Congress specifically prohibited Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for group discounts.  “I wonder who was in the room when that piece of the bill was drafted?” Richtman asked, and the audience laughed.

Economists have estimated that Medicare could save between $50 billion and $100 billion a year in prescription drug costs by negotiating prices.  The Veterans Administration, which does negotiate drug costs, pays an average of 58% less than Medicare providers for the most-commonly prescribed medications.

In the current partisan environment, GovTrack.us gives the bill a zero percent chance of passage.

Yesterday’s “birthday celebration” was sponsored by the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, the Granite State Organizing Project, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 12,447 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement