Top 10 Reasons Why Protecting Pregnant Workers Is Good For Us All

In late March, the Supreme Court issued an important ruling for pregnant workers, stating that employers cannot impose a “significant burden” on pregnant workers and that an employer is not justified in making accommodations for a large percentage of non-pregnant workers, while denying the same kinds of accommodations to pregnant workers.

This was awesome. But more is needed.

That’s why we’re supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a federal bill modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to make reasonable, temporary accommodations for pregnant workers who need them, as long as doing so won’t be an undue hardship for the employer. The bill will ensure women nationwide can continue to contribute to the economy and support their families, while having healthy pregnancies.

Check out the top 10 reasons why the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is important, not just for pregnant workers, but for us all:

  1. It’s good for families.

    The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will be good for the economic security of women and their families. When women are forced out of the workplace while pregnant, they can lose their income and health benefits just when they and their families need them most, sometimes sending them into a dangerous financial spiral.
     

  2. It curbs discrimination.

    The bill prevents employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace by placing them on unpaid leave, firing them, or forcing them to quit when they are denied the reasonable accommodations that they need to continue working safely during their pregnancies. The bill thus puts women on an equal footing in the workforce.
     

  3. It’s good for business.

    Employers have every reason to want to keep their good employees producing for them. A happy employee makes a company richer (it’s proven), and a pregnant worker who is protected under the law can continue to work during her pregnancy. It’s in everyone’s best interest — pregnant workers, employers, coworkers and family members — to keep those in the workforce working and protected so they focus on doing the best job possible.
     

  4. It’s good for the economy.

    What’s good for business is good for the economy. When women are forced out of the workforce despite being able and eager to work, they are less able to contribute to the economy and may need to turn to social services just to get by. Everyone benefits when women fuel our economy, including when they’re pregnant.
     

  5. It’s good for our health.

    Under current law, women are too often forced to choose between their jobs and the health of their pregnancies, and some may feel compelled to do work that their doctors recommend they avoid while pregnant. This bill will help ensure women don’t face that choice and will lead to healthier outcomes.
     

  6. It provides a clear rule for businesses to follow.

    The Supreme Court in March ruled in favor of pregnant workers, holding that employers can’t cut them out of accommodations that other workers receive. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act goes further by providing a simple, uniform standard: Employers must provide reasonable accommodations as long as it’s not an undue hardship to do so, regardless of how it treats other workers.
     

  7. It promotes safety.

    A pregnant worker shouldn’t have to choose between keeping her job and having a healthy pregnancy. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will ensure that a pregnant worker can carry out her job duties without risking her safety, the safety of her pregnancy, and the safety of those around her. A safe work environment means decreased chances of accidents on the job and increased confidence among employees.
     

  8. The bill has a lot of support.

    A broad range of business associations, women’s advocacy groups, and workers’ groups support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. States and cities across the country have already acted on a bipartisan basis to pass laws protecting pregnant workers, which lawmakers recognize as common-sense measures that benefit everyone. The bill introduced on the federal level today already has bipartisan support.
     

  9. It impacts a lot of people.

    In the past 12 months alone, 62 percent of pregnant women and new moms were working. More than 4.2 million women gave birth in the last 12 months alone. Of course, pregnancy doesn’t just impact the person having the baby, but the partners, spouses, children, parents, siblings, and more whose lives and livelihoods may be affected.
     

  10. It’s the right thing to do.

    It can’t be easy carrying a baby and working full-time. We shouldn’t make it any more difficult by allowing employers to fire pregnant workers at will or putting them in dangerous situations where they have to choose between a healthy pregnancy or a job.

We have the power to protect pregnant workers, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is our chance.

Learn more about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ensures pregnant workers don’t have to choose their health and safety over their job.

Texas Says ‘No Thanks’ to LGBT Discrimination

Everything is bigger in Texas, including apparently the legislature’s desire to use religion and any other means to discriminate against gay and transgender Texans.

In the last legislative session, the legislature threw virtually everything it had at the wall. One bill would have prohibited state funding of marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Another would have removed the hard-won civil rights protections in the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A third bill would have allowed organizations receiving taxpayer funds to undermine children’s best interests by denying adoption or foster care placements and health care services, including reproductive care and counseling, under the guise of religious freedom. In other words, some state politicians really wanted to remind gay and transgender Texans that many of their elected representatives appeared to be working actively against their interests.

Fortunately, bigger still was the coalition that came together to defeat all of these bills. Yes, you heard it right: Every single one of nearly two dozen discriminatory pieces of legislation failed to pass. What was the magic formula? Credit is due to an incredibly broad swath of Texans — including faith leaders, business owners, and thousands of ordinary citizens — who made calls, visits, and otherwise reached out to the legislature to tell them in no uncertain terms that these mean-spirited bills do not reflect Texan or American values.

Our victory in Texas is the latest example of how the country is rejecting the use of religion to discriminate. We learned from and built upon our successes in 2014, when sports teams, politicians, religious leaders, and Americans across the country united in opposition to Arizona’s notorious SB 1062. Just a few months ago, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana paid a heavy price, both in dollars (estimated to be in the “hundreds of millions” according to one in-state economist) and in poll numbers (a double-digit drop in his approval rating in just two months), for signing a bill into law that he steadfastly denied was for discriminatory reasons, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Even though the so-called “fixes” to the Indiana and Arkansas RFRAs were inadequate (see our statements on Indiana and Arkansas), the vigorous public outcry and eventual fallout led legislators in Georgia, Maine, Montana, and Nevada to wisely say no thanks to discrimination.

While we pause to celebrate our progress, we are still keeping a close eye on state legislatures that have yet to heed the warning. Yes, we are looking at you, Michigan and North Carolina. And we are preparing for 2016, when marriage equality may be a nationwide reality.

Will legislatures do the right thing? We certainly hope so, but of course don’t know for certain. However, what we do know is that people across the country stand ready to fight back.

Our victory in Texas is the latest example of how the country is rejecting the use of religion to discriminate.

Texas Says ‘No Thanks’ to LGBT Discrimination

Everything is bigger in Texas, including apparently the legislature’s desire to use religion and any other means to discriminate against gay and transgender Texans.

In the last legislative session, the legislature threw virtually everything it had at the wall. One bill would have prohibited state funding of marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Another would have removed the hard-won civil rights protections in the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A third bill would have allowed organizations receiving taxpayer funds to undermine children’s best interests by denying adoption or foster care placements and health care services, including reproductive care and counseling, under the guise of religious freedom. In other words, some state politicians really wanted to remind gay and transgender Texans that many of their elected representatives appeared to be working actively against their interests.

Fortunately, bigger still was the coalition that came together to defeat all of these bills. Yes, you heard it right: Every single one of nearly two dozen discriminatory pieces of legislation failed to pass. What was the magic formula? Credit is due to an incredibly broad swath of Texans — including faith leaders, business owners, and thousands of ordinary citizens — who made calls, visits, and otherwise reached out to the legislature to tell them in no uncertain terms that these mean-spirited bills do not reflect Texan or American values.

Our victory in Texas is the latest example of how the country is rejecting the use of religion to discriminate. We learned from and built upon our successes in 2014, when sports teams, politicians, religious leaders, and Americans across the country united in opposition to Arizona’s notorious SB 1062. Just a few months ago, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana paid a heavy price, both in dollars (estimated to be in the “hundreds of millions” according to one in-state economist) and in poll numbers (a double-digit drop in his approval rating in just two months), for signing a bill into law that he steadfastly denied was for discriminatory reasons, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Even though the so-called “fixes” to the Indiana and Arkansas RFRAs were inadequate (see our statements on Indiana and Arkansas), the vigorous public outcry and eventual fallout led legislators in Georgia, Maine, Montana, and Nevada to wisely say no thanks to discrimination.

While we pause to celebrate our progress, we are still keeping a close eye on state legislatures that have yet to heed the warning. Yes, we are looking at you, Michigan and North Carolina. And we are preparing for 2016, when marriage equality may be a nationwide reality.

Will legislatures do the right thing? We certainly hope so, but of course don’t know for certain. However, what we do know is that people across the country stand ready to fight back.

Our victory in Texas is the latest example of how the country is rejecting the use of religion to discriminate.

Why Is Arizona Forcing Doctors to Lie to Women Who Need Abortions?

Ask yourself this question: Should the government be able to force your doctor to lie to you about medical care?

You are probably thinking that this is a no-brainer — that it’s too obvious for words that the government shouldn’t be in the business of forcing your doctor to practice bad medicine. 

And it is, unless you’re a woman who lives in Arizona.

In April, politicians passed a law that forces doctors to give patients inaccurate information. Under Arizona’s new law, doctors must mislead their patients by telling every woman seeking an abortion that a medication abortion may be reversed.

Simply put, this law would force doctors to practice bad medicine. There is no credible medical evidence that any abortion, medication or otherwise, may be reversed.

That’s why the leading organization of women’s health care physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, opposes Arizona’s extreme law. And that’s why we filed a lawsuit today against the state of Arizona — because allowing politicians to force doctors to violate their patients’ trust and lie to them is grossly unethical and unconstitutional.

But what’s really frightening: Arizona’s offensive new law is just one of a profusion of recent bills based on politics, not medicine, which are aimed at preventing women from getting an abortion or shaming and humiliating them if they do.

In the first quarter of 2015 alone, more than 330 abortion restrictions were introduced in 43 states.

This includes bills from Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina, which force a woman to wait for days before she can get an abortion after she’s already made the decision. The message couldn’t be any clearer or more patronizing: “Honey, you should go home and really think this through.”

It includes new laws from Indiana and Tennessee that impose burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements on abortion clinics with the sole goal of forcing them to close down.

And it includes a slew of attempts by politicians in Wisconsin, West Virginia, and even Congress to simply ban abortions.

It’s clear that extreme legislators aren’t slowing down. But we aren’t either.

Our message is clear. Politicians should stop trying to play doctor, because the exam room is no place for politics.

Doctors must mislead their patients by telling every woman seeking an abortion that a medication abortion may be reversed.

Why Is Arizona Forcing Doctors to Lie to Women Who Need Abortions?

Ask yourself this question: Should the government be able to force your doctor to lie to you about medical care?

You are probably thinking that this is a no-brainer — that it’s too obvious for words that the government shouldn’t be in the business of forcing your doctor to practice bad medicine. 

And it is, unless you’re a woman who lives in Arizona.

In April, politicians passed a law that forces doctors to give patients inaccurate information. Under Arizona’s new law, doctors must mislead their patients by telling every woman seeking an abortion that a medication abortion may be reversed.

Simply put, this law would force doctors to practice bad medicine. There is no credible medical evidence that any abortion, medication or otherwise, may be reversed.

That’s why the leading organization of women’s health care physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, opposes Arizona’s extreme law. And that’s why we filed a lawsuit today against the state of Arizona — because allowing politicians to force doctors to violate their patients’ trust and lie to them is grossly unethical and unconstitutional.

But what’s really frightening: Arizona’s offensive new law is just one of a profusion of recent bills based on politics, not medicine, which are aimed at preventing women from getting an abortion or shaming and humiliating them if they do.

In the first quarter of 2015 alone, more than 330 abortion restrictions were introduced in 43 states.

This includes bills from Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina, which force a woman to wait for days before she can get an abortion after she’s already made the decision. The message couldn’t be any clearer or more patronizing: “Honey, you should go home and really think this through.”

It includes new laws from Indiana and Tennessee that impose burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements on abortion clinics with the sole goal of forcing them to close down.

And it includes a slew of attempts by politicians in Wisconsin, West Virginia, and even Congress to simply ban abortions.

It’s clear that extreme legislators aren’t slowing down. But we aren’t either.

Our message is clear. Politicians should stop trying to play doctor, because the exam room is no place for politics.

Doctors must mislead their patients by telling every woman seeking an abortion that a medication abortion may be reversed.

Call Her Caitlyn But Then Let’s Move on to the Issues Affecting the Trans Community

Today Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world in a fabulous Vanity Fair spread. “Call me Caitlyn,” she tells the public in this latest cover story and through her recently launched @Caitlyn­­_Jenner Twitter handle.

It is important that people do actually call her Caitlyn.

Words matter and erasing the identity of trans people by calling them by their birth names and birth-assigned sex is an act of hatred — one that is inextricable from the brutal violence that so many trans people, particularly trans women of color, encounter just for existing in the world.

How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.

And because young trans people are dying by suicide and trans women of color are being murdered at alarming rates, those of us forming public narratives about trans celebrities have an obligation to tell those stories with care.

When we write about Caitlyn Jenner, her name and narrative will give enough context. There is no need to mention what her name used to be or what sex she was assigned at birth. And as writer and activist Janet Mock brilliantly explained to Piers Morgan, neither Janet nor Caitlyn were “born boys.” They were born babies and they are women — brave and fabulous women.

But as brave and fabulous as Caitlyn Jenner is, and she is both of those things, her story is so far from the story of most trans peoples’ lives and should not eclipse the truth of the fight for trans justice.  

Telling her story with care means using the right name and pronoun, but it also means highlighting the extent to which it is not the typical trans story. Her story can only be told by also telling the stories of the trans people who are struggling to survive systemic discrimination.

Health care for transgender people remains highly stigmatized and largely unavailable for the majority of trans people. Both private (i.e., employer) and public (i.e. Medicaid) insurance plans continue to have blanket bans on coverage for health care related to gender transition. Even where there has been progress on coverage generally, insurance coverage for care that trans women need is still elusive.

For example, the facial feminization surgery that Caitlyn describes in Vanity Fair is almost universally excluded from coverage. This means that most trans people, particularly trans women of color, cannot access the basic care that they need. It means that going to the doctor feels like a battle — if a trans person can get there at all. It means that trans people participate in criminalized economics like the drug and sex trades to pay for the health care they need or seek the care from friends or unsupervised black markets. It means that trans people die seeking the care they need to live.

To tell Caitlyn’s story with care is to demand justice for trans people.

We must not tell Caitlyn’s story in a vacuum that erases the history of trans organizing, mobilizing, and celebrity of the many trans women who came before her and made her Vanity Fair cover possible. Janet. Laverne. Major. Sylvia. Marsha.

We must not exclaim that Caitlyn looks “fabulous” without interrogating our standards for which trans people get to grace the covers of magazines and all the while continuing to keep the health care that brings life to trans people out of reach.

We must not celebrate Caitlyn without mourning Islan, Lamia, Penny, and the hundreds of other trans women, mostly of color, we have lost to violence. This violence isn’t just at the hands of hateful partners or strangers, but violence in the arms of hateful and exclusionary systems.

Thank you, Caitlyn, for bravely sharing your truth. May your platform shed light on these injustices and the leaders who have been fighting to make them known. 

How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.

Call Her Caitlyn But Then Let’s Move on to the Issues Affecting the Trans Community

Today Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world in a fabulous Vanity Fair spread. “Call me Caitlyn,” she tells the public in this latest cover story and through her recently launched @Caitlyn­­_Jenner Twitter handle.

It is important that people do actually call her Caitlyn.

Words matter and erasing the identity of trans people by calling them by their birth names and birth-assigned sex is an act of hatred — one that is inextricable from the brutal violence that so many trans people, particularly trans women of color, encounter just for existing in the world.

How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.

And because young trans people are dying by suicide and trans women of color are being murdered at alarming rates, those of us forming public narratives about trans celebrities have an obligation to tell those stories with care.

When we write about Caitlyn Jenner, her name and narrative will give enough context. There is no need to mention what her name used to be or what sex she was assigned at birth. And as writer and activist Janet Mock brilliantly explained to Piers Morgan, neither Janet nor Caitlyn were “born boys.” They were born babies and they are women — brave and fabulous women.

But as brave and fabulous as Caitlyn Jenner is, and she is both of those things, her story is so far from the story of most trans peoples’ lives and should not eclipse the truth of the fight for trans justice.  

Telling her story with care means using the right name and pronoun, but it also means highlighting the extent to which it is not the typical trans story. Her story can only be told by also telling the stories of the trans people who are struggling to survive systemic discrimination.

Health care for transgender people remains highly stigmatized and largely unavailable for the majority of trans people. Both private (i.e., employer) and public (i.e. Medicaid) insurance plans continue to have blanket bans on coverage for health care related to gender transition. Even where there has been progress on coverage generally, insurance coverage for care that trans women need is still elusive.

For example, the facial feminization surgery that Caitlyn describes in Vanity Fair is almost universally excluded from coverage. This means that most trans people, particularly trans women of color, cannot access the basic care that they need. It means that going to the doctor feels like a battle — if a trans person can get there at all. It means that trans people participate in criminalized economics like the drug and sex trades to pay for the health care they need or seek the care from friends or unsupervised black markets. It means that trans people die seeking the care they need to live.

To tell Caitlyn’s story with care is to demand justice for trans people.

We must not tell Caitlyn’s story in a vacuum that erases the history of trans organizing, mobilizing, and celebrity of the many trans women who came before her and made her Vanity Fair cover possible. Janet. Laverne. Major. Sylvia. Marsha.

We must not exclaim that Caitlyn looks “fabulous” without interrogating our standards for which trans people get to grace the covers of magazines and all the while continuing to keep the health care that brings life to trans people out of reach.

We must not celebrate Caitlyn without mourning Islan, Lamia, Penny, and the hundreds of other trans women, mostly of color, we have lost to violence. This violence isn’t just at the hands of hateful partners or strangers, but violence in the arms of hateful and exclusionary systems.

Thank you, Caitlyn, for bravely sharing your truth. May your platform shed light on these injustices and the leaders who have been fighting to make them known. 

How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.

The Patriot Act’s Time is Up

The Senate is in gridlock – but the tide is shifting in favor of surveillance reformers.

The showdown between hawks and reformers was on full display over the weekend, as the Senate took up two separate bills to address the looming Patriot Act expiration deadline.

The first, the USA Freedom Act, offers modest reforms to NSA surveillance authorities but does not go nearly far enough. The second, a two-month extension of the expiring provisions, ostensibly preserves the law that has been misconstrued to allow mass spying.

Both fell shy of the 60 votes needed to proceed under Senate rules.

But, the bigger surprise: even with a deadline looming, warnings of impending doom from surveillance justifiers, and pressure from Senate leadership, the extension received less support than the reform bill.

In other words, more senators believe that the prospect of completely losing some surveillance authority is less damaging than allowing the government to continue its current surveillance practices.

This is a seismic shift from where our country was just years ago. To put it in context, in 2011, a four-year extension easily passed both chambers and was barely a blip in the news cycle.

What’s different this time around?

For one, the public. In the wake of 9/11, and the panic that ensued, the public was overwhelmingly supportive of the Patriot Act and the country’s counterterrorism policies. In 2003, only 22 percent of people were concerned by the Patriot Act. Today, close to two-thirds of Americans support reforming the Patriot Act, and over 80 percent are concerned by the fact that the government can access intimate information about Americans without a warrant.

With the weekend’s vote, Congress is still a step behind the public. Notably, however, many of the Republicans who bucked leadership to vote for reform were newly elected in 2014 – meaning public opinion may be starting to shift Congress.

Two, we now know about the government’s illegal activity. Congress has reauthorized provisions of the Patriot Act four times – in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2011. But, this is the first time they have considered them with eyes wide open.

As a result of Edward Snowden’s disclosures, we now know that our surveillance systems are so massive that they leave no American untouched. “Collect it all” is the NSA’s motto and they have been doing just that. Call records, emails, financial records – all have been swept up in bulk. And, as a federal court ruled earlier this month in relation to the call record program, the government has been operating illegally.

Finally, the intelligence agencies’ fearmongering is increasingly falling flat. By exposing the NSA’s activities, Snowden not only triggered a debate, he also forced the government to try and justify the effectiveness of some of the domestic spying programs. And, they can’t.

An independent analysis of the call records program – where the government collected information about all calls made in the country for over a decade – revealed that it had never made a concrete difference in any terrorism investigation. And, a recently released Justice Department Inspector General’s report showed that FBI agents couldn’t identify any major case developments that had resulted from information received under Section 215 – one of the laws currently being considered by Congress.

Any other federal program that had failed so miserably would have been scrapped long ago. And, in the face of this data, Congress is finally considering doing just that.

The Senate returns to the Capitol on May 31 – just eight hours before provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire. And, after the latest vote, it is clear that the scale no longer tips in favor of maintaining the dismal surveillance status quo. Congress has to enact far reaching reform or allow provisions of the Patriot set to expire to sunset. Otherwise, they risk being seen as increasingly irrelevant and out of touch with the public.

This piece was originally published by The Hill.

The Senate is in gridlock – but the tide is shifting in favor of surveillance reformers.

Nebraska Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto and Gives Dreamers Their License to Drive

Maria Marquez Hernandez just graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in psychology, but she still can’t give her younger sister a ride. That’s because she’s a Dreamer — brought to the U.S. by her parents and raised undocumented as a child.

Shortly after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was announced in 2012, Maria applied for DACA and received a Social Security number and work authorization card, which ordinarily would have allowed her to apply for a Nebraska driver’s license. But the former and current governor decreed that Dreamers could not qualify for driver’s licenses, even if they presented that documentation. This has made daily life difficult for Maria, but not being able to do what other big sisters do bothered her most.

Buckle up. This week that changed when the Nebraska Senate voted in dramatic fashion to let Dreamers drive.

Maria loves Nebraska, which she has called home since the age of five. But as she has noted, standing up for herself and others in the face of injustice is part of being an American. So when Maria was denied a license because of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ adherence to an unfair and unlawful edict, she joined with several of her fellow Dreamers to challenge it in court. But rather than simply waiting on a court to decide, Dreamers and their allies, including the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, convinced the legislature to consider a bill to reverse the discriminatory policy.

At first, it seemed like a long shot. Republican members of Congress are trying to scrap DACA altogether. Republican governors and attorneys general in 26 states — including Nebraska — are suing to stop the DACA program from expanding. How were Dreamers going to convince a majority of Republicans to override their Republican governor?

Ask them. Last week, the legislature passed a bill ensuring that Dreamers with DACA — and anyone else with deferred action — are eligible for driver’s licenses. When the governor vetoed the bill, the senators stood strong, and voted 34-10 to override the veto. This vote is a victory for Dreamers, and for all Nebraskans.

But it is also of national significance for two other reasons.

First, it successfully concludes nearly three years of a nationwide, state-by-state legal and political struggle by ACLU and partner organizations to support Dreamers’ fight to win recognition of their right to driver’s licenses. As soon as President Obama announced his DACA initiative in August 2012, most states embraced the opportunity to integrate young immigrants and to ensure that they are trained, tested, licensed, and insured as drivers. Some states, however, vowed to deny driver’s licenses to them. Others stonewalled.

There was more than driving at stake. For states and Dreamers alike, a driver’s license symbolizes belonging, membership, and acceptance. In most cases, recalcitrant state officials relented in the face of strong legal advocacy, organizing, and the broad public consensus favoring fair treatment of Dreamers.

Three states held out: Michigan, Arizona, and Nebraska. Dreamers had little choice but to sue, with the support of ACLU and other partners. Michigan began issuing licenses soon after being sued. Arizona began issuing licenses earlier this year, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the state’s policy violated the U.S. Constitution. This left Nebraska standing alone, the last state clinging to discrimination.

Wisely, rather than await yet another unfavorable court ruling, the legislature took the affirmative step of passing a law to end two governors’ losing battle. The law is effective immediately, meaning that Dreamers granted DACA finally have the right to apply for driver’s licenses in all 50 states.

Second, the Nebraska vote brings an underreported trend to the surface: the unwillingness of state legislatures in both red and blue states to penalize Dreamers and others granted deferred action.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of numerous failed anti-immigrant state laws, boasted earlier this year that he was in consultation with lawmakers from a dozen other states about state legislation to target Dreamers and others who benefit from federal executive actions on immigration.

Yet from Kansas to Georgia to Texas, Republicans state legislators are refusing as a matter of state policy to penalize Dreamers. Why? It’s one thing to file a bill attacking Dreamers, and it’s quite another to have to face them, hearing after hearing, and to listen to their stories, which always disrupt simplistic stereotypes regarding “illegal immigration.”

The media rebroadcasts those stories of young people overcoming extraordinary obstacles to contribute actively to their communities, and public opinion turns even further against legislators seeking to punish Dreamers. The Nebraska vote is another strong indication of support, on the ground, for Dreamers and the presidents’ deferred action initiatives. Republicans may disagree with the way in which the president has gone about his reforms, but they appear to agree with the policies themselves.

Either way, Maria Marquez Hernandez, other Dreamers, and their allies will keep fighting — and winning.

All 50 states now recognize Dreamer's right to a driver's license.

Nebraska Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto and Gives Dreamers Their License to Drive

Maria Marquez Hernandez just graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in psychology, but she still can’t give her younger sister a ride. That’s because she’s a Dreamer — brought to the U.S. by her parents and raised undocumented as a child.

Shortly after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was announced in 2012, Maria applied for DACA and received a Social Security number and work authorization card, which ordinarily would have allowed her to apply for a Nebraska driver’s license. But the former and current governor decreed that Dreamers could not qualify for driver’s licenses, even if they presented that documentation. This has made daily life difficult for Maria, but not being able to do what other big sisters do bothered her most.

Buckle up. This week that changed when the Nebraska Senate voted in dramatic fashion to let Dreamers drive.

Maria loves Nebraska, which she has called home since the age of five. But as she has noted, standing up for herself and others in the face of injustice is part of being an American. So when Maria was denied a license because of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ adherence to an unfair and unlawful edict, she joined with several of her fellow Dreamers to challenge it in court. But rather than simply waiting on a court to decide, Dreamers and their allies, including the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, convinced the legislature to consider a bill to reverse the discriminatory policy.

At first, it seemed like a long shot. Republican members of Congress are trying to scrap DACA altogether. Republican governors and attorneys general in 26 states — including Nebraska — are suing to stop the DACA program from expanding. How were Dreamers going to convince a majority of Republicans to override their Republican governor?

Ask them. Last week, the legislature passed a bill ensuring that Dreamers with DACA — and anyone else with deferred action — are eligible for driver’s licenses. When the governor vetoed the bill, the senators stood strong, and voted 34-10 to override the veto. This vote is a victory for Dreamers, and for all Nebraskans.

But it is also of national significance for two other reasons.

First, it successfully concludes nearly three years of a nationwide, state-by-state legal and political struggle by ACLU and partner organizations to support Dreamers’ fight to win recognition of their right to driver’s licenses. As soon as President Obama announced his DACA initiative in August 2012, most states embraced the opportunity to integrate young immigrants and to ensure that they are trained, tested, licensed, and insured as drivers. Some states, however, vowed to deny driver’s licenses to them. Others stonewalled.

There was more than driving at stake. For states and Dreamers alike, a driver’s license symbolizes belonging, membership, and acceptance. In most cases, recalcitrant state officials relented in the face of strong legal advocacy, organizing, and the broad public consensus favoring fair treatment of Dreamers.

Three states held out: Michigan, Arizona, and Nebraska. Dreamers had little choice but to sue, with the support of ACLU and other partners. Michigan began issuing licenses soon after being sued. Arizona began issuing licenses earlier this year, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the state’s policy violated the U.S. Constitution. This left Nebraska standing alone, the last state clinging to discrimination.

Wisely, rather than await yet another unfavorable court ruling, the legislature took the affirmative step of passing a law to end two governors’ losing battle. The law is effective immediately, meaning that Dreamers granted DACA finally have the right to apply for driver’s licenses in all 50 states.

Second, the Nebraska vote brings an underreported trend to the surface: the unwillingness of state legislatures in both red and blue states to penalize Dreamers and others granted deferred action.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of numerous failed anti-immigrant state laws, boasted earlier this year that he was in consultation with lawmakers from a dozen other states about state legislation to target Dreamers and others who benefit from federal executive actions on immigration.

Yet from Kansas to Georgia to Texas, Republicans state legislators are refusing as a matter of state policy to penalize Dreamers. Why? It’s one thing to file a bill attacking Dreamers, and it’s quite another to have to face them, hearing after hearing, and to listen to their stories, which always disrupt simplistic stereotypes regarding “illegal immigration.”

The media rebroadcasts those stories of young people overcoming extraordinary obstacles to contribute actively to their communities, and public opinion turns even further against legislators seeking to punish Dreamers. The Nebraska vote is another strong indication of support, on the ground, for Dreamers and the presidents’ deferred action initiatives. Republicans may disagree with the way in which the president has gone about his reforms, but they appear to agree with the policies themselves.

Either way, Maria Marquez Hernandez, other Dreamers, and their allies will keep fighting — and winning.

All 50 states now recognize Dreamer's right to a driver's license.