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2007.10.02 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@mail.unomaha.edu

UNO to Host "By The People" Discussions About Immigration for NET Television Special

Omaha - Nebraska's immigrant population is growing and the faces of our communities are changing. About five percent of Nebraska's 1.7 million people are foreign-born residents, including a number of undocumented immigrants. And, the state relies heavily on the largely Hispanic workforce that supports the meatpacking industry. Although nationwide, immigration continues to be a leading topic of discussion, Congress has failed to enact any comprehensive legislation and states have been forced to address the issue themselves in a patchwork form.

On Sunday, Oct. 14, more than 100 randomly selected Omaha residents will participate in important "By The People" conversations about immigration issues in Nebraska. They will discuss the availability of public services to both documented and undocumented workers, including how local school districts should respond to influxes of immigrant students; who should qualify for state-financed health services; and what motor vehicle driving rights should be offered to undocumented immigrants. The participants will also provide input to several state senators who will listen and respond to questions as part of a panel discussion.

“This will be a thoughtful, interesting discussion,” said Paul Sather, director of the UNO Service Learning Academy.  “A large part of UNO’s mission is to engage the community, and this event is a great example of bringing different people and perspectives of the city into an environment where their voices can be heard.”

UNO faculty, students and staff members from communications, political science, public administration and other areas are working together in support of “By The People.”

NET Television is one of several Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations selected to host these discussions as part of the "By The People" project. "By The People" is a local-national initiative of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions that is designed to engage local citizens in the political process. More than 1,000 Americans in communities around the country will join together in deliberations about a variety of issues.

The roughly 100 people, representing a randomly selected sample of the Omaha area, will convene at the Milo Bail Student Center on the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) campus for this "Citizen Deliberation." Omaha is one of about a dozen communities across the country to participate at the local level of these national discussions about domestic issues. UNO is hosting these "By the People" discussions in collaboration with NET Television and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Public Policy Center.

The discussions will end with a "Deliberative Poll®" in which citizens will offer their opinions after they have had a chance to discuss the issues. The Public Policy Center will be involved in the compilation of responses from the Omaha residents.

Excerpts from the Nebraska dialogue and those from around the country will be the subject of local and national programs scheduled to air later this year on NET Television. NET Television is a service of NET. Complete program schedules are available online at netNebraska.org/television.

Call (402) 554-2762 for more information.

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