Tag Archives: Economy

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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ACA Denied for Deferred Action Applicants, DNC Convention, Economic Impact of Immigration Relief, 8/27- 9/3

5 Sep
Caduceus Crossed Through in front of Chicago Deferred Action Applicants

Original Photo by Nathan Weber for NY Times

Deferred Actors need not apply for health coverage through Affordable Care Act

Department of Health and Human Services made a ruling this past week that deferred action applicants would not be eligible to participate in the programs of the Affordable Care Act. Although the ACA has stated that it would be open to those who are “lawfully present,” it will exclude the 1.7 million young people who may request deferred action. The announcement comes in response to Republican criticism that deferred action would cost the country due to services it would provide to those with this new status. With this decision from the Dept. of Health and Human services, the Obama administration has made it clear that undocumented people, even those young people who submit form I-821D, will continue to be dealt a diminished set of rights.

Two weeks ago, in Arizona Jan Brewer issued  a more startling executive order that explicitly bans deferred action applicants from receiving drivers licenses, state id cards, and other local benefits.
Although there are many working to limit the rights of the deferred action applicants, there has been a flurry of fliers, handouts and websites to provide information for those who are considering pursing the process. Here are is a Fotonovela from the Rural Women’s Health Project describing deferred action, in Spanish and in English.

Immigration Rights at the DNC

The Democratic convention to nominate President Obama on the Democratic ticket is set to begin today. Although there were several prominent Latino speakers at the Republican National Convention, immigration as a topic was largely avoided. At the Democratic National Convention, we will likely likely hear more favorable arguments for immigration, especially from the likes of keynote speaker Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Immigrants rights groups, such as the Undocubus: No Papers, No Fear, Ride for Justice have targeted the convention as a more receptive setting to air their concerns. Here you can see a inspiring photo album of the riders.

Economic contributions of immigrants in red states are substantial

Center for American Progress has released a report examining the economic role of immigrants in states where there has been wide support for anti-immigrant laws. The report profiles Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia and asks: What would happen if all undocumented immigrants in the respective state were deported? and What would happen if undocumented immigrants were given legal status? They conclude that deportations would lead to lost revenue and fewer jobs, whereas legalization would brings more money into the state.

Often anti-immigrant arguments are flung from a place of emotion. When the right-wing academics get involved, they usually cite economic reasons, jobs, services, etc.as they reason why immigrants are bad for the economy. CAP’s report undercuts those lines of reasoning and provides evidence that the restrictive and severe immigration and enforcement policies are what actually hurts the economy.

In comparison to the states included in CAP’s report, California’s legislature has considered a long list of pro-immigrant bills: the TRUST Act that would weaken S-COMM, drivers licenses for deferred action applicants, work permits for farmworkers, and protection for taxpaying undocumented immigrants.

Economic Destruction in Alabama, 11/20-11/27

28 Nov

Mercedes Benz with the doors out

In what must have been an embarrassment, Alabama state lawmakers recently discovered that a European businessman had been caught up in the HB56 immigration dragnet. A manager with Mercedes Benz, was pulled over and arrested when he failed to produce documents authorizing his presence in the state. The charges were dropped when the AL police realized that the manager had been authorized to do business in the state. No word, however, on the other immigrants who have also been arrested for not carrying documents, but who pick fruits and vegetables instead of selling luxury vehicles. Apparently Alabama values its high-end SUVs more than nutritious food.
The manager from Mercedes Benz’s arrest serves to illustrate how the 1% are using the economic crisis to scapegoat immigrants. The Mercedes Benz plant came to Alabama in the 1990’s, almost assuredly with generous tax write offs. The plant provides jobs for some in Alabama while providing minimal revenue for the state. Alabama is left praising the generous Mercedes Benz corporation for locating their jobs to the state, glazing over the fact that the overall effect is fewer tax dollars for the people of the United States. Meanwhile, immigrants who come to the state for the labor-intensive jobs and meager wages are blamed for stealing jobs and ruining the economy.
The Occupy movement has been raising the issue of inequality in major cities across the country. The richest 1% have made incredible economic gains in the past 30 years, while the wages for the rest of 99% have remained stagnant. The difference between the haves and the have-nots is the reason schools and health programs are being defunded.
Fortunately, there are solutions. For example, a newspaper in St.Louis has invited Mercedes Benz to relocate to Missouri. The newspapers editorial recommended that the German company move to Missouri because its friendlier policies for  immigrants. Others, like Occupy SF and a collective of domestic workers (La Colectiva) and day Laborers have taken to the streets to march for immigrants’ rights. People are coming together to fight the foreclosures, investment in the detention system, and the exploitation of immigrant labor that are prime examples of how the 1% are profiting of immigrant suffering. People are standing up to say that their wellbeing is just as important as a manager for Mercedes Benz.

In the news:
New Yorker Cover-- Pilgrims crossing the borderImmigration featured on NEW YORKER cover, HUFFPO, 11.23.11
Pilgrims running across a militarized border are featured on the cover of this weeks New Yorker. The illustrator, a German immigrant, had this to say: “The debate should be about how can a country benefit from immigration. America depends on immigration. The discussion will be more valuable if it is focused on benefits.”
Black labor leader surpised by impact of HB56, COLORLINES, 11.23.11
A delegation of black labor leaders recently traveled to Alabama to see the profound impact of HB56 the state’s anti-immigrant law. Many were surprised with the severity of the law that has affected schools, work, employment, and even access to water and electricity.
Newt Gingrich tests the waters with statement on immigration, HUFFPO, 11.26.11
In a recent debate for the Republican presidential nomination, Newt dares to make a statement in favor of some undocumented immigrants. In Newt’s opinion, there should be slight compassion afforded to immigrants who have been in the country for over 25 years and go to church.