Tag Archives: DREAMers

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.

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.

Affordable Care Act constitutional, expands coverage, not for everyone, 6/26-7/2

5 Jul

Photo: Paul Miller

ACA Ruled constitutional, undocumented still left out
The Affordable Care Act was ruled constitutional on the last day of the Supreme Court season. ACA will expand coverage for citizens and legal immigrants, however, undocumented immigrants, including children will not be included in this expanded coverage.

Further discussion on SCOTUS SB 1070 decison
After the decision, both immigrants’ rights, and anti-immigrant groups declared victory. Several provisions were rejected, some were kept. As the Nation highlights, many immigrants rights activists are rightfully concerned about the racial profiling that will likely come out of the “reasonable provision.” National immigrants rights network NNIRR agrees in a press release that warns about the implications of the SCOTUS decision.
Another development on the federal level is the decision to end 287g, to expand Secure Communities. The program that deputizes local law enforcement as immigration agents will end, but will coincide with the expansion of the program (SCOMM) that shares fingerprints of local law enforcement subjects with federal immigration databases.

California DREAM Graduation

Photo: National Immigrant Youth Alliance

California DREAM Graduation in San Francisco
In San Francisco on June 30th, young undocumented activists celebrated their accomplishments with Angela Davis in front of City Hall in San Francisco. The DREAMers have a lot on their mind, from the SB1070 SCOTUS Decision to the recent deferred action memo, but their activism is not done yet. As one graduate, Mohammad Abdollahi was quoted in the Huffington Post, “We need to stand up for our human rights”

DREAMers begin walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., 3/5-3/12

12 Mar
The Curiuos Ostrich bloggers meet the walkers of The Campaign for an American Dream

The Curiuos Ostrich bloggers meet the walkers of The Campaign for an American Dream.

On Saturday, March 10, youth from across the US left San Francisco to walk in support of the DREAM Act.  Their organization is the aptly named Campaign for an American Dream.  As Republicans and Democrats vie for presidential votes, these young people will also engage with voters, sharing the stories of their struggles to motivate DREAM Act supporters and to challenge the assumptions of opponents.  They will arrive in Washington,D.C. in time for election night in November.

Last weekend, Curious Ostrich bloggers had the opportunity to sit down with Raymi, Jonatan, Lucas and Nico to hear about their plans and motivation for this journey.  Over plates of spaghetti and between bites of garlic bread, they discussed everything from their strategy for crossing the Rockies to how they may handle threatening situations.  They have been meeting weekly by phone for months with an extensive group of activists from around the nation that are supporting the effort.  A legal team is providing them with legal advice and working with local law enforcement in each county they walk through to ensure their protection.  A logistics team is coordinating volunteer hosts to provide food and lodging in each town and city they visit.  This network of support will allow the walkers to focus on their goal, which is, in their own words: “To create positive, productive dialogue around the passage of the DREAM Act and fairer immigration policies in general.”

They have each put aside their studies, jobs and family responsibilities for the nine month trip.  Lucas, one of the first members of the organization, explained by email why they decided to organize this walk: CAD was inspired by the Trail of DREAMs in 2010, which was a walk that took place from Miami, FL to Washington DC. When we came together to discuss the possibilities for the DREAMer movement in a re-election year, we wanted to create a walk on a larger scale that would take us across America. By reaching out to more communities in the nation throughout the West Coast and the Midwest, we can plant the seeds for a real change in America. A change that not only takes place legislatively, but through the public’s hearts and minds.

Despite the challenge ahead, they all displayed a healthy dose of humor, cracking jokes at one another about who would carry who when the going got tough.  Between laughs and discussion of their strategy, glimpses also emerged of the sorrow and disappointment of living within the confines of our immigration system and of the challenge ahead of them.  Jonatan, a recent college grad from Georgia, had recently spent four weeks in a detention center. Raymi, born in Utah, represents one of the 8.8 million people in the US who are in mixed-status families.

As the walkers made their final preparations this week, news came out of Georgia that the state legislature has moved closer to barring undocumented students from all 60 public colleges and universities (currently, they are barred from the 5 most competitive colleges in the state system).  Jonatan shared his thoughts with The Curious Ostrich via email about the developments in his home state:

If Senate Bill 458 becomes law, undocumented students will not be able to attend state colleges even if the students can pay full tuition upfront. This is flat out unacceptable. I am very ashamed that the state of Georgia refuses to see the abundance of bright minds in the undocumented youth. I am not going to sit with my hands crossed, I will make it known that I am walking for the undocumented youth in Georgia and I will not rest until we are able to fight this bill down. I was educated in a public university in Georgia so what does that say about my degree? I think that this is a matter of discrimination to undocumented youth and we are being bullied by lawmakers. This isn’t right.

At the heart of what is so exciting and inspiring about these youth and other young DREAM activists is their resilience and creativity.  In the face of the risk of “coming out” as undocumented and the potential for deportation, DREAMers have used creative, direct-action tactics to hold lawmakers accountable and provide each other with support.  Just as importantly, young activists such as Raymi, Jonatan, Lucas and Nico give the American public a human side of the immigration debate.

 Follow their walk at http://www.cadwalk2012.org

In other News:
ICE Closes 1 Percent of Deportation Cases, New America Media, 3/9/12
John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that ICE has reviewed half of the 300,000 pending deportation cases and that only 1,500, or 1 %, were closed.
Court blocks more parts of Alabama immigration law, Reuters, 3/8/12
A US appeals court expanded its injunction against additional parts of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law.  Pending further ruling, the state will not be able to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining a driver’s license or from entering contracts with the state.
Silicon Valley leaders take up the Dream on behalf of young migrants, Los Angeles Times, 3/7/12
A group of Silicon Valley corporate donors is working to support undocumented students’ access to higher education and access to jobs through paid internships.