Tag Archives: Deferred action

2013: New opportunities for healthy immigration reform?

9 Jan

The Curious Ostrich has big plans for 2013! We are now moving to a monthly format, providing readers with in-depth analysis and commentary on the public health impact of immigration policies and national conversations around immigration. As always, our mission is to bring attention to the ways immigration policies affect health and to provide information and resources for health and immigration advocates alike. Want regular updates on immigration issues? Like our Facebook page!TCO cover

Over the course of 2012, a number of policies and events across the country significantly, and often negatively, affected the health of immigrants and their communities. Deportations continued at an all time high, separating families and at great cost to our economy. Due to programs such as Secure Communities 1.6 million people were deported during President Obama’s first term. Our nation’s growing immigration enforcement system now receives more funding than all other federal enforcement agencies combined. This focus on enforcement and a militarized border increased border violence and resulted in many deaths, some perpetrated  by the US Border Patrol itself.

Immigrants also continue to be denied many basic rights. For example, while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes a long way in expanding access to health insurance, undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-approved individuals are barred from new health insurance programs. At the state level, although the Supreme Court knocked down many of the provisions in Arizona’s immigration bill SB 1070,  the “paper’s please” provision will move forward.  Other states continue to follow Arizona’s lead in anti-immigrant legislation.

The impact of xenophobia and anti-immigrant politicking is not limited to immigrant communities. For example, in 2012 the Violence Against Women Act, a traditionally non-controversial, bi-partisan bill, failed to be reauthorized for the first time in its history. This was in part due to Republican supposed opposition to protections for immigrant women.

In 2012, we also saw promising policies and inspiring activism by undocumented immigrants, particularly youth. Influenced by ongoing activism by DREAMers, President Obama granted deferred action to “childhood arrivals” (DACA), creating the largest opening in many years for undocumented individuals to gain work permission and protection from deportation. While not a long-term solution, DACA created opportunities for many young immigrants.

Exciting grassroots mobilizations also helped raise the profile of immigrant issues and pushed forward a more progressive policy agenda. The Caravan for Peace turned attention to the human impact of border violence and the United State’s role in drug war violence; undocumented youth are using art and creativity to assert their rights; DREAMers sat-in at Obama campaign offices; the Undocubus shared stories at the Democratic National Convention; and the Campaign for the American Dream team walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about immigration policy.

Moving into 2013

Building on this momentum, 2013 brings new opportunities for making immigration policy more just and protecting immigrant communities. President Obama’s re-election turned new attention to the power of communities of color in our political system and we now have the most diverse Congress in US history. Polling suggests that the public and elected officials are ready to consider immigration reform. President Obama has repeatedly stated that comprehensive immigration reform will be a priority early on in his second administration. However, for too long, political debates about immigration have focused on controlling immigration through the criminalization and stereotyping of immigrants.  Therefore, we hope to see these policy discussions and decisions acknowledge the importance of immigrants to our society and economy and affirm that all people, including immigrants and regardless of their immigration status, have rights as residents of this nation.  Specific policies that we would like to see from the 113th congress include:

      • Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the US.  The increasing numbers of young immigrants applying for deferred action demonstrates that creating a process for undocumented immigrants to apply for papers is not only relatively politically non-controversial, but is feasible and has tremendous positive impacts. This is a start, but temporary status for a small portion of undocumented immigrants is not enough.  There are still roughly 11 million individuals who lack papers and a path to citizenship. This is an injustice, not only to these individuals, but to their families and communities and the nation as a whole.
      • Reduce deportations and keep families together.  Enforcement programs and deportations needlessly tear people from their jobs, communities and families, with devastating emotional and economic impacts.  A simple fix would be to end programs such as Secure Communities.  In addition, policies are needed to end the fear that deportations have caused by creating clear delineations between local police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
      • Create accountability over and reform the detention system. The unregulated and unhealthy network of privatized detention centers must be reformed and regulated. This should include expanding accountability and oversight for current detention centers.  The all-historic-high number of detention beds in centers and county jails creates a gross profit motive and should be reduced.
      • End the militarization of the border.  Border fence and patrolling policies throw money into militarization, rather than the true safety of people in the United States.  There should be an end to financial support for the border fence, reduction in funding for the Border Patrol, and increased oversight over the Border Patrol, including the training and background of officers and their use of surveillance technology.
      • Increase access to education and social services for all immigrants.  Immigrants should be positively included in public policies.  This is a matter of both fairness and of effective crafting of public policies, as economic, social service and health policies ultimately have an impact on immigrant communities, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

The connection to health

At The Curious Ostrich, we believe that all of these policies and their resulting challenges and opportunities for immigrants are public health issues. Immigration policies, and related social and economic policies, directly impact the health of immigrants in a number of ways – from reduced access to essential services and resources to the  fear and stress that result from discrimination, criminalization and deportation. Over the course of 2013, we will continue to explore these links between immigration policies and health:

      • Access to health care— Many people are barred or have limited access to health insurance and health care services due to their immigration status. Access to regular primary care is important in preventing many diseases (e.g. diabetes), while limited emergency care services results in unnecessary deaths.
      • Diminished rights and protections— Fear of deportation diminishes the rights of undocumented individuals by shaping their decisions about accessing services such as education or police protection. For instance, many undocumented workers are victims of wage theft, yet they do not have legal recourse without risking deportation.
      • Access to resources— Diminished rights lead to reduced access to resources to lead a healthy life. For example, undocumented immigrants may choose not to access public resources, such as education or social services, because they believe they are not eligible or they are afraid of coming into contact with government officials.
      • Discrimination— There is widespread anti-immigrant sentiment embedded in our national policy and media discourses, and anti-immigrant groups continue to advocate effectively for policies that devalue and dehumanize immigrants because of their lack of legal standing. From conservative politicians campaigning on deportation policies, to widespread discriminatory commentary in the news, there is a strong national narrative that a lack of papers justifies less-than-humane treatment.

There are feasible policy solutions that can reduce the risks to and protect the health of immigrant communities. There are dynamic and mobilized advocates who will continue to fight for the rights of immigrants.  Public health advocates can play a critical role.  Therefore, in 2013, our hope is to see not a continuation of the short-term and enforcement-focused policies often associated with “comprehensive” immigration reform, but rather the promotion of healthy immigration reform.

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“Reform” for whom?; deportation is the problem; DACA update; and the 10 worst detention centers 11/12-11/18

18 Nov

Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham

What’s really in immigration “reform”?  
Seth Freed Wessler of Colorlines.com posses the question: “What qualifies as “reform,” for whom and at what price?“ Those who are concerned about the well-being of immigrants should be wary of the political rhetoric starting to fly about the halls of Congress and the airwaves of the mainstream media. The dominant narrative in the US is that the immigration system is broken.  This narrative helps perpetuate the view that undocumented people are criminals or lawbreakers.  As a result, the policy “solutions” that are likely to be re-introduced in the next Congress focus heavily on enforcement measures.  Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham, who co-authored a bill that failed in 2010, are likely to take the lead.  In interviews after the election, both stated that their plan would be “heavy on enforcement and avoid anything that sounds like amnesty.” As Colorlines.com reports, immigrant advocates are prepared to take a stand against so-called reform measures that increase enforcement.

Deportation the problem, not immigration courts
A report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department highlights our nation’s broken enforcement and deportation policies. The report determined that the backlog of cases in immigration courts are due to increased deportations, not problems with the court system.  Currently, immigration judges are ruling on an average of 1,200 deportation cases each year and the system still has a backlog of over 300,000 cases of individuals awaiting to see whether or not they face deportation.

 
Over 50,000 individuals approved under DACA
In total, over 300,000 applications have been filed.  Data released by USCIS show that over 80,000 applications have been submitted by individuals in California, almost 50,000 from Texas, and almost 20,000 from New York.  It is predicted that as many as 100,000 individuals will be approved by the end of the year.  The New York Times predicts that the number of applicants is likely to increase now that President Obama’s re-election ensures that the policy will continue.

“Expose and Close” campaign pushes for closure of 10 detention centers
Detention Watch Network’s campaign to end the nation’s detention system has released a report highlighting the conditions in 10 of the worst detention centers in the US.  They document the chronic human rights violations in these 10 centers as a means of drawing attention to the rampant abuses and lack of oversight across all 250 of ICE’s detention facilities.

Support health insurance access for deferred action youth! 10/20-10/25

25 Oct

Submit comments to HHS to allow DACA-approved individuals to participate in the Affordable Care Act – [Deadline October 29th]
The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network has released a call for advocates to submit comments to the Department of Health and Human Services to speak out against the recent decision to exclude DACA-eligible individuals from the Affordable Care Act.  Anyone can submit comments and, to make the job easier, a sample letter is available.  Simply follow these instructions to submit comments electronically:

  • Step 1: Go to www.regulations.gov
  • Step 2: Search for document ID ” CMS–9995–IFC2″ to find the regulation on DACA and health care. Make sure you are commenting on the “Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan” Interim Final Rule (Thanks to Natalie for the clarification)
  • Step 3: Click on “Comment Now” button to submit comments

CPHEN’s call reminds us that this policy:

  • Runs counter to the primary goal of the ACA – to expand access to affordable health coverage.
  • Will lead to higher health insurance premiums for everyone by excluding young, healthy individuals from enrolling in coverage in the Health Benefit Exchange.
  • Will likely lead to poorer health outcomes and increase health disparities by denying young immigrants the care they need.

Despite this effort to reverse the recent HHS decision, other undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for less than five years are excluded from new coverage opportunities under the Affordable Care Act.  States such as California that have large immigrant populations will continue to have many uninsured individuals.  For more information, visit The Kaiser Family Foundation, which provides an excellent overview of immigrants’ eligibility to participate in health coverage expansion from the Affordable Care Act.

“Adios Arpaio” in full force
A vibrant “Adios Arpaio” campaign has been actively registering voters and mobilizing to ouster Joe Arpaio from his position as Sherriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  Just this week, a lawsuit was filed against the sheriff for the death of Ernest “Marty” Atencio while in county custody.  The Adios Arpaio campaign is made up of a coalition of Latino and immigrant rights advocates and local unions, such as UNITE HERE, and has registered 34,000 voters.  Particularly active are students from the local high schools who have become politically mobilized because, in the words of one, “they have the same issue inside, that they can’t stand discrimination against Latinos.”  Organizers say this is a long-term strategy to mobilize the Latino vote in Arizona: “The next one will be Jan Brewer.”

President Obama says he’s confident he can achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform during a second term
In an previously off-the-record interview with an Iowa newspaper, President Obama expressed confidence that he could achieve an comprehensive immigration reform bill during a second term, specifically, because “the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community…George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America.”

Boycott to Mi Pueblo and ICE’s Silent Raid, Immigration at the Presidential Debate, First Wave of Deferred Action Applicants Approved , 10/8-10/19

20 Oct

Oakland Immigrant Rights Activists to Boycott Mi Pueblo Foods

On Saturday immigrant rights activists will be demonstrating outside of grocery store chain Mi Pueblo. The chain has become the target of ICE’s “silent raid,” where employee immigration records will be audited. The chain has said that they will be dismissing employee’s that do not have valid work documents. This will likely result in the dismissal of many long standing employees. Recognizing the impact this will have on the immigrant communities that frequent the 3,000 employee, 21 store-chain, Saturday’s protest aims to drum up attention for economic harm that will impact immigrant communities that host Mi Pueblo stores.

Click here for a flier to the picket on Saturday in front of Mi Pueblo in Oakland

Presidential Debate Speaks on Immigration

President Obama and Governor Romney both had a chance to share their views on immigration at Tuesday’s presidential debate. While self-deportation Romney has tempered his remarks as he pivots to the center, he still presents the anti-immigrant candidate. Obama rightly pointed out that Romney’s immigration advisor has been Kris Kobach, the author of SB1070, and the nation should be concerned, Romney accurately replied that Obama has little room to comment on immigration when he has failed to enact immigration reform. Neither one is talking about 400,000 people who are deported every year; it seems they have  come to an understanding on deportation policy. Obama referred to those being deported as gangbangers, insinuating that these are people causing trouble, and that this country would be better off without them, further criminalizing immigrant communities. This is the big problem, on one sideThe big problem with the presidential race is that the only option are a man with a terrible record, and his challenger who promises to be even more cruel.

First Wave of Deferred Action Appicants Approved

4,591 undocumented youth who have submitted applications to receive a work permit have been processed. In addition to the lengthy application and $450 application fee, youth have had to a biometrics appointment. 180,000 applications have been submitted so far and almost 2,000 are going to be sent letters of “Intent to Reject,” those who receive these letters will have a period of time where they can provide missing documents, or fix other gaps in their applications. The Pew Hispanic center has estimated that 1.7 million will be eligible, meaning there are still 1.5 million youth who could apply to this program.

Deferred Action Begins, Paul Ryan Pick, Powerful 67 Sueños Mural Unveiled in Fruitvale, 8/7-8/15

15 Aug
Road sign with the number 30

Photo by stevechihos/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Deferred Action Begins, 8.15.12
Yesterday, forms became available on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website for deferred action. Today is the first day they can apply by submitting form I-821D. Deferred action would allow certain youth to receive a two year work permit which will provide relief from the threat of deportation and new economic opportunities as they would be allowed to enter the documented workforce To be eligible youth must have been under 31 years old on June 15th, 2012, must have been in the US continuously for the past 5 years, must have arrived before 16 y.o, and must meet a few other requirements as well. Once all requirements are met, participants must submit documentation proving the above as well as a $465 fee.

The Migration Policy Institute has estimated that 1.76 million will be eligible to participate. To prepare those that are eligible, many immigrants rights groups are providing resources to ease the confusion: NNIRR has created a Deferred Action resource center with several factsheets and links. For those in San Francisco; SFILEN has compiled a list of clinics  by immigrantion rights orgnanizations. While certainly a step forward, the deferred action does little for the other 9 million undocumented folks who live and work in the US.

Citizen student denied scholarship access because of her mother’s status.
In New Jersey, a student was denied access to the state financial aid pot because of her mother’s immigration status. Even though the student has lived in NJ for 15 years (and was born in NYC), she was rejected because of ”residency requirements.”  Evidently her Guatamalan mother’s immigration status played a role in her NJ residency. The student was not able to attend the university of her choice because she was unable to secure financial aid. Two democratic senators in NJ are working on the case, and to ensure this student and others are not subject to the discriminatory policy.

Paul Ryan, Romney VP pick
One columnist from Reuters is of the opinion that the Romney Campaign has given up on the Latino vote with the selection of the representative from Wisconsin. VP candidate Ryan’s views on immigration are consistent with the anti-immigrant arguments that were championed during the GOP primary. He opposes the DREAM Act, he is against amnesty or any type of relief for undocumented immigrants, and he favors the H2 visa program that provides few labor rights for seasonal and temporary laborers..

67 Sueños’ Migrant Women’s Health Mural Unveiled on Saturday; Undocubus
On Saturday, several hundred came to Fruitvale Plaza for the unveiling of their Migrant Womyn’s Health Mural. The mural is a project of 67 Sueños, a high school youth group working for migrant rights. The purpose of the mural was to highlight the health impact of the punitive US immigration system on migrant women. Youth interviewed women in the community and worked with local artists to put their images on the 8ftx 40ft mural. To provide a concrete benefit to the local Fruitvale residents, 67 Sueños also had a health fair at the event. In other news from fearless undocumented organizers, the Undocubus is currently winding through the Southeast to share their stories. The tour’s last stop was New Orleans where they met with day laborers and received a tour of the city that is still dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. The bus tour is scheduled to finish in North Carolina in early September for the Democratic National Convention.

Obama’s deferred action for undocumented youth – a step in the right direction for US immigration policy, 6/12-6/19

21 Jun
President Obama at his big immigration address

AP Photo

Media sources around the country are abuzz about President Obama’s recent immigration policy memo. The new policy will halt deportation of certain youths who arrived in the US under the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, are not above the age of 30 and who have no criminal record. The new rules are estimated to affect 800,000 young people who will now have greater rights and access to opportunities that were previously prohibited, specifically the opportunity to obtain a temporary work permit.

As Obama recognized in his speech, the new law provides a long-awaited reprieve for many young people who have lived their entire lives in the US, and yet are barred from participation in the most basic rights of citizenship.

“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

The President’s speech acknowledges that young undocumented people are valuable and make important contributions to the nation.  Unfortunately, this acknowledgement has yet to be extended to all immigrants.  In his speech, the President perpetuated the idea that the parents of these young people are to blame.  He said that it would be tragic to “expel” these youth “simply because of the actions of their parents.”  The news coverage, similarly, played into this commonly held view that immigrants who came to the US for opportunities are criminals. Many news outlets further perpetuated the “criminal immigrant” stereotype with wide usage of the i-word, a pejorative term that has been denounced by the Society of Professional Journalists. While this policy memo will be critical for the improved opportunities of a small group of undocumented immigrants, it will also continue to be critical to fight the ongoing criminalization of other immigrants who are not considered young, bright or innocent.

Not surprisingly, the move by the President, has been seen as a highly political decision. In the Republican primaries, Romney took a very harsh anti-immigrant stance – but has since changed his tune as he prepares for the general election. The President’s plan has drawn a stark contrast between his and Romney’s approach to immigration. Early polls show strong popular support for the new policy, including among key constituencies such as Latino and Independent voters, and voters in battleground states such as Florida, Colorado and Arizona.

Meanwhile Republicans have scrambled to come up with a response to the memo. Senior Republicans – particularly those engaged in campaigning for November – have largely kept quiet on the issue. Romney avoided answering any questions about immigration at several campaign events during the week. And Marco Rubio, previously working on a Republican version of the DREAM Act, has abandoned his efforts in light of Obama’s announcement. However, some of the more conservative Republicans are actively pursuing efforts to overturn the law. Republican congressman Ben Quayle introduced a bill, “Prohibiting Back-Door Amnesty Act of 2012” to prevent the President’s law from taking effect.

This policy is an essential first step in reforming an immigration and deportation system that causes enormous health and economic harms for immigrant families and our communities. However, the rules offer only a temporary legal status, not a path to citizenship. Even Obama acknowledges that the law is not a “permanent fix” but rather “a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.” Truly addressing the health consequences of our immigration system will require longer-term measures that provide more extensive protections and opportunities to all of the country’s immigrants.