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Archive for November, 2017

OTOC 2017 Delegates Congress

November 28th, 2017

An enthusiastic room of 215 people from thirty five member congregations, solidarity members and guest congregations filled the Parish Hall at St. Pius X Catholic Church on November 13th for OTOC’s 2017 Fall Delegates Congress. They arrived eager to learn how OTOC can become a stronger organization with a more powerful voice for the common good, through expanded membership, financial support and diversity.

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Following a lively roll call and focus statement, Rev. Marshall Johnson engaged the room using props to recall the Joshua story and getting everyone to join in singing the familiar Jericho tune. He went on to remind everyone that since biblical times, people seeking justice have had to confront “giants,” just as we do today, and that takes power.crowd 1

Speakers’ stories told of how OTOC has successfully brought people together to achieve common goals for over 20 years—from organizing meat packers and improving the legal process for immigrants to getting the city to devote more money to demolition of condemned houses.  In the stories we heard that frequently people involved in one issue lend support to additional action groups because we know that together we are stronger and our relationships form a bond.

Looking forward, leaders offered ideas to expand the organization as a whole and within individual congregations. They included having more one-on-one meetings, developing core teams, reaching out to additional institutions and others. Cheri Cody and Pat Bass shared specific plans already in place at Second Unitarian and St. Benedict the Moor.  The room welcomed OTOC’s newest member, San Andres Lutheran Church, and its pastor, Rev. Sergio Amaya, who presented the church’s first commitment payment.

Pat Bass Presenting about next steps

The evening culminated with an inspirational final blessing, led by more than 30 clergy and religious womenhigh energy agenda covered a lot of ideas in a stimulating way. It left people so engaged that when it ended early, they stuck around to discuss their congregations’ commitment to build OTOC. Each promised to report back at the February Steering Committee meeting.

Don’t forget that the work isn’t over- meet with your congregation’s core team, fill out your commitment card, and let’s keep the momentum of this event carry us through the growth of people for power.


Written by Susan Kuhlman, Holy Name Catholic Church

Immigration, Mental Health, and Predatory Lending Advocacy at City Council

November 22nd, 2017

In the past two months, OTOC Action teams have been present in city council meetings to testify on different issues.

OTOC adds support to City Council Resolution to tell Congress to act swiftly for DACA Dreamers

On October 17th, Jean Reiner of St. Stephens and the Immigration and Refugee Action Team testified about a Resolution for Omaha City Council to urge Congress to act swiftly on behalf of Dreamers and create a plan to protect DACA recipients. The Council voted in favor of the resolution after OTOC and many other individuals and organizations testified in favor of the resolution and City Council’s support of people in Omaha with DACA status. City Council passed the Resolution with five in support, two passing.

Jim Morely at City Council

Jim Morley testifying at he City Council meeting

OTOC and Allies get unanimous City Council support on Pay Day Lending and Mental Health

Omaha City Council  voted 7-0 on Tuesday Nov 21 to support LB 194 or similar legislation to better regulate Pay Day Lending. CM Pete Festersen introduced the resolution for the City to include this support in their  Priority for the 2018 Unicameral Session.  Jim Morely of Urban Abbey and the OTOC Predatory Lending Team testified that OTOC has ahad several house meetings in the last month and an Issue Cafe at Urban Abbey last Friday, all about Pay Day Lending. He said that over 90 people have attended these sessions and most were amazed that lenders are permitted under Nebraska law to charge so much in fees and interest and to trap borrowers in a cycle of debt. 

Jim was joined by leaders of several of our allies in this effort including Amanda Brewer, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Nebraska Appleseed Attorney Ken Smith and Julia Tse of Voices for Children. The lively hearing involved lots of questions from City Council members, all of whom pledged at OTOC’s May 1 Accountability Session that they would work with OTOC to seek reform of Pay Day Lending in Nebraska. Their unanimous action today means that they have taken the first step in keeping their pledge to OTOC.

Click here to see KETV’s Coverage of the Council’s support for LB 194

Sarita Penka testifying at the City Council Meeting

Sarita Penka testifying at the City Council Meeting

Sarita Penka of St. Leo Catholic and the Mental Health Action Team testified in favor of two resolutions related to making Mental Health Care more accessible. The first resolution indicated City Council supports legislation that would allow mental health care professionals to initiate Emergency Protective Custody proceedings, and not just law enforcement officials as is now the case in Nebraska. Sarita told a moving family story to which CM Brinker Harding asked follow up questions and Sarita responded with authority and wisdom. 

Sarita then testified in favor of a resolution seeking a change in state law to  allow patients in Emergency Protective Custody to be transported to other states if no beds are available in state. Sarita cited the example of the wisdom of allowing patients from Omaha to be taken across the river to Council Bluffs if there a mental health beds free there at a time when none are free in Omaha.

Both of the Mental Health resolutions also passed City Council and will be included in the City’s Legislative Priority List for 2018. Click here to see the Omaha World Heralds story about City Council’s Legislative Package


OTOC is growing relationships, awareness and solidarity with Salvadorans with Temoprary Protected Status

November 4th, 2017

OTOC leaders have been working with Omaha’s Salvadoran people who are recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration status given in 2001 because of the major earthquake in El Salvador. These families have been living and working in Omaha since then, renewing their TPS status every eighteen months. Now their immigration status is threatened as the White House Administration threatens to cut their protection along with many other countries that have TPS in the US. To learn more please click    HERE.

Media Coverage of Temporary Protected Status:

On November 9, Nebraska Lutheran Bishop Brian Maas, Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Tim McNeill, and College of St. Mary President Maryanne Stevens, joined OTOC in an OWH Guest Column asking for an 18-month extension of Temporary Protective Status (TPS).

To see the article, click here: OWH Opinion Guest Column

OWH article pic

On November 4, OWH feature writer Erin Grace wrote a  front-page story about Wilfredo Rivera, a 20-year resident of Omaha who is a supervisor in a meat packing plant, homeowner, church member and father of U.S. citizen children. Erin met Wilfredo though OTOC and invited the public to hear Wilfredo and others at a November 6 OTOC/IPL Issue Café at Urban Abbey.

To see the article click here: OWH Grace Article



Wilfredo with his daughter- cover photo of newspaper article

Local Actions:

UA speaker

Mario, the head of the Salvadoran TPS Society in Omaha

On November 6, ninety-five concerned community members came to an OTOC/IPL Issue Café at Urban Abbey to hear from Creighton Law Professor Dave Weber and 4 long-time Omaha residents with TPS. OTOC leaders challenged those present to educate their congregations and members of Congress about extending TPS so that Salvadorans, Hondurans, Haitians and others who have lived productive lives in the US for many years will not be forced back to homelands where they would be in extreme danger. 

On October 14 OTOC, IPL, San Andres Lutheran and TPS Association of Nebraska shared a papusa and tamale dinner so where   TPS families shared their stories with 70 OTOC and community leaders. The benefit raised funds to help San Andres join OTOC and for 13 Omaha residents with TPS  to travel to Washington D.C to talk to their members of Congress about extending TPS



OTOC Leaders meeting TPS families over shared meal




Get Involved:

We need your help to protect these members of our community. 

Please call our Congressional representatives about our neighbors who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  We have been told that our senators and representatives actually count the number of calls they receive about specific issues and are more likely to respond to issues for which they have received many calls.

Senator Deb Fischer  202-224-6551

Senator Ben Sasse 202-224-4224

Representative Don Bacon  202-225-4155  (most of Omaha area)

Representative Jeff Fortenberry 202-225-4806  (some parts of Sarpy County)


Sample Script you can use:

“Hi my name is ________, and I live at ______________ in ___________.  I’m calling about our fellow Nebraskans who have Temporary Protected Status and are now at risk for deportation. 

There are over 440,000 persons with TPS in the US.  They were granted TPS as a result of armed conflict or natural disasters.  Many of them have lived in the US for years because they can’t safely return to their countries of origin.  They work and own homes in the US.  Their children and grandchildren are US citizens.  

Over 400,000 of them are from two of the most dangerous countries in the world – El Salvador and Honduras— or Haiti where almost 60,000 people remain in makeshift camps after the 2010 earthquake. 

I am asking that you

  • Become informed about Temporary Protected Status
  • Consider the risks to these families of returning to unstable and dangerous countries
  • Affirm the importance that we as US citizens place on family unity. Thank you”

You can also write a letter to the editor to create more positive press in Omaha

Please consider writing a letter to the editor for the Public Pulse section of the Omaha World Herald. This will help spread the word and show that people are concerned if many people are writing in.

The parts of a letter (should be under 200 words):

– Start with why it matters to you- personal connection that gives you credibility. Can be your own story of immigration, someone you know, or Wilfredo’s story

-Then use a shared belief or value that most people would agree with- family, American Dream, upward mobility, community, equality, etc.

– Share a fact or story that shows that the value is not being upheld.

            -Build off of another story or event that you read or attended:

– “Grace: In Omaha nearly 20 years, El Salvador native with protected status faces uncertain future.” Omaha World Herald. Nov. 4, 2017

-“Brian Maas, Maryanne Stevens and Timothy F. McNeil: Don’t end protected status” Omaha World Herald. Nov. 9, 2017

-OTOC Issues Café at Urban Abbey with Wilfredo Rivera on November 6 

-OTOC TPS Factsheet (HERE)

Submit letters to: OWH Public Pulse

You will need to give your name, phone number, and address (number and address are not posted with the letter).

You could also send this same letter to your Members of Congress. Just do a search for their website and look for their comment form under “Contact”

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