NC JUSTICE NEWS: Meet the Staff - Suijin Li + Defenders of Justice 2014 + Tax Day

April 15, 2014

MEET THE STAFF: Suijin Li, Administrative Assistant

Born and raised in Venezuela, Suijin Li first came to the United States in 1992 for vacation, and took a shine to Raleigh and the whole state of North Carolina. She has now been based in North Carolina full-time for more than 10 years.

"I always wanted to come back," Suijin says. She had volunteered for social causes and offered what she could to her local community in Venezuela, and wanted to do the same here. "After years of working on benefits and jewelry, I wanted to give more to the community, and that's why I found this job."

Long before she joined the NC Justice Center as an administrative assistant, Suijin went to design school at NC State University, where she studied jewelry-making and industrial design, using wood, plastics, and plaster, and eventually discovering metal work as well. A fellow designer served as her mentor and sponsored Suijin for an internship, and after returning home to Venezuela, she started her own jewelry business, which she continues running to this day. Suijin can often be found wearing her very own pieces—unique and creative metal designs that immediately catch one's eye.

"I was always into creative stuff, and making my own things," Suijin says. "I always had that creative mind." She still designs jewelry in her spare time, all by hand and casting, with each design of precious metals and semi-precious stones made to order. These days, she wears a bracelet that says "Venezuela belongs to me," perfectly representing her passion for both design and social justice.

"I came to work at the Justice Center because I believe in what they do," says Suijin. "Working here, I'm not a lawyer or a reporter, but what I do by supporting the staff and the Justice Center—I can also give that to the community, and what we do to improve equality and the state we all fight for."
Suijin's previous employer sponsored Suijin for a working visa and green card, and she is now eligible for citizenship. "Soon I will hopefully be a new addition to the U.S.," says Suijin, who's waiting for the next available naturalization ceremony.

"Every day is different with the people I work with," Suijin says of her time at the Justice Center. "Everybody is so unique, and I learn a lot from my coworkers in every area—their work, or a new recipe. They inspire me to try new things, like my garden. Every day I encounter something different and learn something new. I go to the legislature; I organize events, and manage logistics. It's stressful but it all adds some excitement to my day."

You can help Suijin and the rest of NC Justice Center continue their work by making a donation today.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE 2014: Buy your ticket today!

Mark your calendars!  This year’s Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards will be held NEXT WEEK on Tuesday, April 22, at the William and Ida Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

Purchase tickets and learn more about sponsorship opportunities here. We are pleased to announce an incredible slate of honorees for this year.

  • Legislative & Administrative Advocacy
    Congressman G.K. Butterfield voiced strong support for unemployment benefits for laid off workers, expansion of Medicaid to cover more uninsured families, and held numerous town halls for citizens to learn about the Affordable Care Act.
  • Policy Research & Advocacy
    Planned Parenthood in North Carolina mobilized and led a coalition of groups and individuals fighting for reproductive justice for women bringing constant attention to the reproductive rights debate in our state.
    League of Women Voters – Piedmont Triad organized its members and the public in fights for voting rights, campaign finance reform, and immigration reform among many other issues, and they championed a campaign for health care access through the Affordable Care Act.
    League of Women Voters – Charlotte-Mecklenburg, much like their counterparts in the Triad, also focused tremendous attention and advocacy around the changes in the state’s tax structure and state budget, fighting for progressive tax reform and investments in the state’s future.
  • Litigation
    Mona Lisa Wallace, partner in the Salisbury law firm of Wallace and Graham, has long fought against predatory lenders and payday loan operators who have trapped low and middle class families in unscrupulous loans. She has been a leading litigator fighting for workers who have been harmed by unsafe workplaces.
  • Grassroots Empowerment
    NC MomsRising taps into the power of mothers who feel underrepresented and disempowered by providing presentations about issues such as how education cuts will harm our children, and what rights mothers have in the workplace.
    NC Raise Up is leading efforts for a living wage for fast food workers in the state and bringing attention to the struggles they have to make ends meet, while noting that the government must often provide them with benefits because of their low wages and poor working conditions.

TAX DAY 2014: Who are the winners and losers under the new tax plan?

This tax season marks the final year taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code. By next year, there will be clear winners and losers under the state's new tax plan, which has not only reduced available dollars for investing in public services but also increased the tax load for many North Carolinians.

The tax plan passed by lawmakers last year shifts paying for public investments on to middle- and low-income taxpayers, and provides tax cuts to profitable corporations and wealthy taxpayers. The plan replaced the existing graduated personal income tax rate structure with a flat tax rate that will largely benefit wealthy taxpayers who will now pay a much lower income tax rate. A number of tax provisions that benefit middle- and low-income families – such as the personal exemption and child and dependent care credit – are eliminated under the tax plan. In short, an already upside-down tax system will become even worse.

On top of all of this, state leaders allowed the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to expire. The EITC is a proven tool for offsetting the negative impact of sales taxes on low income workers. Allowing the tax credit to expire results in a tax increase for nearly 1 million North Carolina families across the state’s 100 counties, who will claim the tax credit for the last time this tax season.

Shifting the tax load to middle- and low-income taxpayers is unlikely to spur economic growth, and will only challenge the tax system’s ability to fund essential public services. The tax shift resulting from the new tax plan does not represent a fair tax system that promotes shared economic prosperity for all North Carolinians. It will only undermine the state’s economy and the ability of the tax system to fund essential public services.

This morning, the Budget & Tax Center held a press event along with Dr. David Ribar of UNC Greensboro, MomsRising NC, and the League of Women Voters to highlight the importance of the EITC. Afterwards, they delivered hundreds of postcards from North Carolinians to Gov. McCrory asking for a reinstatement of this vital lifeline. There are also a few ways for you to take action today and tell legislators that they need to correct at least one aspect of this harmful tax plan by reinstating the state EITC. Sign our petition, send an email or call your legislators, and write a letter to the editor about why the EITC is important to working North Carolinians.

MORAL MOVIES: Film series will bring documentaries to cities across NC

You’ve heard about Moral Mondays, but what about Moral Movies? The NC Justice Center is proud to be a collaborator, along with the NC NAACP and Working Films, on the Moral Movies film series, which is bringing award-winning documentaries to cities across North Carolina to jumpstart community dialogue and action on social, economic, and environmental issues.

Moral Movies will take place the last week of each month from April through July in Wilmington, Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Greenville and Durham. The NC Justice Center will host all of the July screenings of the documentary Inequality for All throughout the state.

If you’re in one of these locations please join us to kick off the series with a free screening of American Teacher. Screenings start on April 24th! (See the event info for your city below). American Teacher follows the lives and careers of four teachers and offers an opportunity to spotlight teacher pay and public education in North Carolina, which recently dropped to 46th nationally in rankings of teacher salaries.

After the screening representatives from the NCAE and Tar Heel Alliance of Classroom Teachers will be on hand to share more about how to get involved and support public education in North Carolina. You can check out the trailer here. Moral Movies is a collaboration among national nonprofit Working Films (based in Wilmington), the NC NAACP, and allied organizations across the state. For the full four month schedule and more information about the series please see the Working Films blog.

Hosted by The Mountain People’s Assembly
American Teacher: Friday, April 25th, 7pm
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville, NC 28801

Hosted by the NC Association of Educators (NCAE)
American Teacher: Thursday, April 24th, 7pm
NCAE, 301 S McDowell ST. Suite 1200, Charlotte, NC 18204
Parking is available in the lot beside the building and your parking pass will be validated

Hosted by the Durham People’s Alliance
American Teacher: Tuesday, April 29th, 7pm
Motorco, 723 Rigsbee Ave. Durham, NC 27701

Hosted by The Beloved Community Center
American Teacher: Thursday, April 24th, 7pm
Joseph M Bryan Jr. Auditorium, 5800 West Friendly Ave. Greensboro, NC 27410

Hosted by Pitt County NAACP
American Teacher: Thursday, April 24th, 7pm
ECU Mendenhall Student Center, Hendrix Theater, Greenville NC

Hosted by Action NC
American Teacher: Tuesday April 29th, 7pm
NCAE Headquarters, 700 S. Salisbury St. Raleigh, NC 27601

Hosted by The Black Arts Alliance and the New Hanover County NAACP
American Teacher: Thursday, April 24th, 7pm
Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S. 17th St. Wilmington, NC 28412

LICENSING FOR ALL: Licenses for undocumented would support public safety

More than 90 percent of North Carolinians use a car to get to work, either by driving alone or carpooling. We also rely on cars to take our children to school and run every day errands. Yet each day hundreds of thousands miss out on the opportunity to fill basic family needs and participate more fully in the state’s economy. Expanding access to driver’s licenses to undocumented North Carolinians could improve public safety, boost the state’s economy, and benefit hundreds of thousands of North Carolina families.

Ensuring that all drivers are licensed and insured supports broader public safety goals that are important to every North Carolinian. A growing number of states—12 as of 2013— have allowed undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. In each of these instances, there has been little to no additional cost to the state from this policy. The benefits, on the other hand, have been substantial.

Based on estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in North Carolina and the state’s adult population, as many as 254,545 people would benefit from a policy that expands access to licenses to all North Carolinians. Some of these drivers would undoubtedly be heads of households, thereby delivering benefits to their children as well.

A recent report from the Department of Public Safety also finds that driver's licenses would mean more consumer spending and more profits for businesses. When all North Carolinians have safe, legal access to transportation, it improves their ability to get to work regularly and on time and gives them greater opportunities to fully participate in local economies.

Research & Publications: