Best of Neighborhood News 7/26: Minneapolis Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs hires immigration attorney Michelle Rivero

New director for new department: Minneapolis Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs hires immigration attorney Michelle Rivero

Established just this year, the Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs in Minneapolis has hired a director for their office, immigration attorney Michelle Rivero. The office was created to accommodate an increasing need for social and legal services for immigrants in the Twin Cities, providing full-time advocacy to more effectively support these constituents. Rivero’s role as director will include developing new programs for immigrants, as well as promoting education around immigration policies, rights and existing services. “Minneapolis has wisely made the decision to follow the footsteps of other cities such as New York City, Chicago and Seattle, recognizing that we’re stronger when we’re welcoming our immigrant communities,” said Rivero. Read a full interview with Rivero at MinnPost. Continue Reading

Community Voices: Student video shows personal and political toll of ex-offender disenfranchisement

In this video, created by South High VOICES students Keeler Gonzalez, Lindsey Morris and Marie Berlovitz, local voting rights advocates discuss how ex-offender disenfranchisement makes it more difficult for felons to rehabilitate and reintegrate into community, and how the practice also disproportionately affects people of color. Continue Reading

Minnesota rolls out online voter registration

When my husband moved to Minnesota from Maine 17 years ago, he was met at the curb by our friend Tim, who handed him a voter registration card. As most Minnesotans know, voters have had the choice of filling out a registration card in advance or taking advantage of same-day registration at the polls. But late last week, it became even easier to register to vote, said Deputy Secretary of State Beth Fraser, when Minnesota became the 15th state to allow online voter registration, launching an online tool at mnvotes.org. The tool also allows absentee ballot requests from Minnesotans who are living outside the U.S. or in the military. It’s available at mnvotes.org.“We have been watching other states, hearing rave reviews from both political parties,” Fraser said. Continue Reading

Even if we have to start all over

Here is what I remember: hundreds of people riding a train from DC to Montgomery, Alabama in the heat of a southern spring. Here is what I saw: priests and teenagers, college students and old men, professors and lawyers and dentists and ministers, pouring into the railroad car. I remember the long ride and standing along the back of the train feeling the warmth and sweet smell of flowers along the way that night. We sang songs, of course and we napped in each other’s arms and we watched as FBI agents surrounded our car and spoke on their walkie- talkies as we pulled into the station. We walked through the city to get to the organizing field where we were joined from others from all over the country. During that walk we passed stores where men and women stared, flinty eyed, their hands resting on the barrels of their guns. Dr. King went around shaking hands before we began the walk back into the capitol. By now this scene may feel like a cliché. Our bodies and our voices and our singing may feel like something so historical, so long gone and over, so unnecessary that this picture may be meaningless to many people who read this blog. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | The Little Engine that Could: How Minnesotans Beat the Voter ID Amendment

“Victory has a thousand fathers,” President John F. Kennedy said after the biggest test of his leadership. Nothing could be more true of the defeat of the “voter ID” amendment in Minnesota, except that the victory was won by a thousand fathers and mothers.The startling, come-from-behind victory was the fruit of thousands of courageous conversations and actions by women, men, nonprofit organizations and government officials all over the state, leveraged in the final days by a media campaign.That nonpartisan grassroots effort was a tidal wave that the amendment proponents failed to anticipate and could not withstand.The victory over this ill-conceived ballot question shows that when our rights are threatened, Minnesotans can and will step up. The victory not only safeguards voting rights today but will chill political temptations in the future to try to stack the deck against the common good.The seeds of the defeat lay with the little-known Voting Rights Coalition, which was formed in the early 2000s and began to battle against a photo ID requirement in the 2011 legislative session. The coalition was made up of nonpartisan nonprofit organizations, including League of Women Voters Minnesota, Citizens for Election Integrity, the American Civil Liberties Union, TakeAction Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.In 2011, photo ID proponents offered a bill at the state Legislature that contained some of the same provisions later set out in the proposed constitutional amendment. Members of the Voting Rights Coalition, senior citizens, women living in shelters, the disabled, students, county election officials and township representatives testified that the bill was costly and harmful, and there was no need for it. Despite their efforts, the bill passed but was vetoed by the governor.Shortly after the veto, several legislators announced that they would pursue a constitutional amendment to require a photo ID for voting. Continue Reading