Tag Archives: Latino Politics

The Curious Ostrich Immigration Policy-to-Health Framework

20 Feb

At the Curious Ostrich we provide updates and analysis on immigration news – providing health professionals and immigrant rights activists a “heads up” on immigration, xenophobia, and health. Looking at current events and national policy through a health perspective, we see that our immigration laws are powerful determinants of health for immigrants in the United States.  In the past, few public health researchers have focused on the ways immigration policies affect the rights, opportunities, and health of immigrants. But the public health field is increasingly taking notice that immigration policy is health policy. We believe that we will be more likely to achieve justice for immigrants and healthier communities when public health professionals understand (and address) the social and policy contexts that impact immigrant communities.

Last year, the American Public Health Association issued a policy statement supporting an end to the Secure Communities enforcement program.  The American Journal of Public Health published a recent study calling for more research on how state-level immigration policies, specifically, SB 1070, affect public health.  A growing number of researchers are trying to document and understand how policies and the experience of being undocumented affects health, such as immigrants’ access to health care (Stevens et al., 2010; Vargas Bustamante et al., 2011) and the impact of family separation, legal vulnerability, and stress in undocumented families (Arbona et al., 2010; Brabeck and Xu, 2010).

This is an important starting point!  Yet, the immediate experiences of immigrants and their families are the result of the full context of their lives in the United States, as well as our nation’s often anti-immigrant history, culture, politics, and laws.  Public health research and action must reflect this full picture.  

We have created a framework to illustrate the web of factors related to laws and policies that have an impact on the health of immigrants.

Immigration and Health Diagram_6

1) Our laws and policies are rooted in historical, political and cultural contexts.  The US has implemented immigration policies since it founding, including deportation and exclusionary policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Each wave of anti-immigrant policy has been driven by racist and xenophobic narratives – immigrants viewed as a threat or as undeserving. The legacies of these cultural narratives and harmful policies continue to impact how immigrants are treated both in our political and popular debates and narratives.

2) These laws and policies influence the circumstances of immigrant’s lives, specifically their rights, resources, and safety.  Can immigrants access appropriate and affordable health care services? Do immigrant workers receive fair wages and are they safe in their workplaces? Are immigrant children able to attend schools and universities?  Do immigrants feel respected and safe in their communities? All of these questions are decided by specific federal, state, and local policies that expand or limit the rights and resources that determine the opportunities for immigrants and their families, as well as their overall safety in this nation as they pursue those opportunities.  These three factors are interconnected, as rights can create safety and access to resources or safety and resources can support individuals to exercise their rights.

3) These three factors are also inseparable, because the positive presence of all three are needed to promote positive physical, mental and community health outcomes.
When protective factors – such as access to health and educational services – align, immigrants will experience greater health and well-being. The lack of any or all three of these, such as limited access to employment and educational opportunities, stress and fear due to discrimination and anti-immigrant legislation, or vulnerability to violence, result in significant health risks.

Public health professionals and immigrants rights activists will have to make critical assessments of how existing and proposed policies may protect or harm the health of our nation’s immigrants. Our hope is that this diagram provides a framework for considering how various immigration policies may actually impact immigrant communities.  For example, the debate on “comprehensive immigration reform” is just heating up. It is heartening that there is growing support for a path to citizenship, but the proposals currently being developed would make the process lengthy and burdensome and continue existing bans on receiving public benefits. The proposals would also further codify border militarization and enforcement programs. Public health has an important role to play in these debates – ensuring that the true community costs are considered as immigration policy decisions move forward.

When we look at this diagram, we also see many opportunities for action! People working in all areas of public health can incorporate an immigrants rights perspective into their work. In the coming months, we will provide information and discussion on some of the main health issue areas in this diagram. And we will share ideas and opportunities for health and immigration activists alike to participate in this work.

Stay tuned to the Curious Ostrich for up-to-date health research and analysis.


President Obama Wins a Second Term, 11/5 – 11/11

12 Nov

President Obama will have a second chance to enact comprehensive immigration reform that he campaigned for on in his first bid of the presidency in 2008. There is more hope than ever now that the Republican party has begun to realize their need to bolster support from the Latino community. In the analysis of the race, many pundits lay blame for Romney’s loss on the hard line he took on immigration. Romney advocated for “self-deportation” which would make life so miserable for immigrants, that they would return to their home country on their own volition. Romney also counted Kris Kobach, architect of AZ SB1070, among his advisors during his campaign. As a result of these stances, Latinos came out in favor of four more years with Obama by a wide margin. Notable conservatives are arguing for a new strategy that welcomes Latinos to the GOP. With the growing Latino population, GOP would be wise to listen to Sean Hannity. Otherwise, the Democratic victories on Nov. 6th might be the first of many.  Even the notorious sherriff from Maricopa County is striking a conciliatory tone, saying that he wants to meet with Latinos to explain his policies. Although, unless he dramatically changes course he is unlikely to receive a receptive audience. In addition to getting pushback from moderates, there is a growing movement that seeks to push back against his abuse of power.
In other election related news, USC’s Center for Study of Immigrant Integration has released a report on the vote of Naturalized citizens, a group that represents 3.6% of voting aged citizens in the US.

Giants Closer Sergio Romo Makes Statement with t-shirt
On October 31st, the San Francisco Giants led a parade through San Francisco celebrating their World Series victory. Sergio Romo, one of the team stars, and child of Mexican farmworkers, wore a t-shirt that read “I just look illegal.” The shirt brought attention to the debate on immigration and the stigmatizing use of the word “illegal” by many in the anti-immigrant movement. The t-shirt was a bold statement in sport that often prefers to avoid political controversy.

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.”

2/27-3/7 – Heading into the presidential election – Latino voters to send message on anti-immigrant policies

7 Mar

Yesterday was Super Tuesday, when Republicans in ten states across the country awarded over 400 delegates in the race for the GOP presidential candidacy. Although Latinos did not significantly shape these primaries (given the small Latino population in these states, and the low rate of registered Republican Latino voters), they are expected to play a critical role during the general election in many of these states. Everyone along the political spectrum is hoping to win the Latino vote.

Political and demographic analysis by CNN identified 12 key swing states for November’s election and estimated that the Latino population in these states has increased by 700,000 since the 2008 election. Many of these states, including Arizona, Indiana, and Virginia, have also passed a number of anti-immigrant laws, bringing issues of immigration to the forefront of this year’s election. The rise in harsh immigration policies contributes to the findings of a poll conducted this week, reporting that Latino voters support Obama over any of the Republican presidential candidates 6-to-1.

While the changing demographics in many swing states seem to give greater voice to the Latino vote, changes in voting laws could significantly impact voting patterns. A report released by the Brennan Center late last year found that over 5 million voters will be affected by the restrictive voting laws passed in 2011. Two elements of these laws – requiring photo ID and proof of citizenship – could pose barriers that disproportionately threaten the ability of Latino voters to exercise their right to vote.

In response to the growing focus on the role of Latino voters in this year’s presidential race (highlighted by this week’s TIME magazine cover story “Why Latino Voters Will Swing the 2012 Election”), and given the current controversies surrounding anti-immigrant legislation around the country, community organizations and political parties are reaching out to Latino voters. This week, The Hispanic Federation, The League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement announced the launch of a large-scale Latino voter registration campaign – “Movimiento Hispano” – with the goal of registering 200,000 new Latino voters by November’s general election.

Immigration policy remains an important and contentious piece of this year’s presidential politics. A strong Latino presence at the polls may be an important element in fighting against the harsh anti-immigrant policies promoted by the Republican candidates. To create safer, healthier communities, voters in November’s election need to send the message to both parties that they will not win votes by taking anti-immigrant positions.

In Other News:

Across Arizona, Illegal Immigration is on Back Burner – New York Times 2.27.12 The intense focus on illegal immigration in the state has diminished somewhat, as evidenced in last week’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate, when it took an hour before immigration was brought up.

Mitt Romney’s support from Jan Brewer could dismay Latinos – Los Angeles Times 2.27.12 Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has endorsed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and while her tough stance on illegal immigration may help him with conservative voters, it might further alienate Latinos.

Mayor Prohibits City Police From Enforcing Federal Immigration Law – WBAL Baltimore’s mayor plans to sign an executive order “that effectively stops any local enforcement of federal immigration laws.” This comes after federal officials announced that the controversial Secure Communities fingerprint sharing program would be implemented in the city.

164 Anti-Immigration Laws Passed Since 2010? A MoJo Analysis.

MotherJones Magazine has developed a database of anti-immigration laws passed in 2010-11.


Ostrich In-Depth: Primary Pandering: The GOP Primary Immigration Debate

20 Jan

By Paul Andres Young

You may have noticed a few months ago that a new season of US political game shows was upon us. It crept up earlier than usual with its manufactured pageantry that hearkened back to a simpler time when America was strong, moral, and mostly White. Of course, I’m talking about the Republican Presidential Primary, which I like to refer to as the Anyone but Mitt Show (hereafter referred to as The ABM Show).

Starting in May, The ABM Show roared to life with its first debate. New episodes came almost as quickly as the contestants rose and fell in the polls. The quick pace provided a much needed respite from the frustratingly anemic Congress. With its odd ball cast, plenty of plot twists, and a good helping of mudslinging, The ABM Show was probably the best (and scariest) reality TV show of the year. Now, with several contestants eliminated, it looks like Mitt will be the winner of Anyone but Mitt. With the show nearing the end, the editors of The Curious Ostrich invited me to do a brief overview of what this spectacle has revealed about and what it portends for immigration policy debate in this country.

While immigration played a notable role in The ABM Show, the plot lines have been unfortunately predictable. Against a backdrop of policies that are doing real and immediate harm to the health of immigrants, The ABM Show warded off a substantive discussion with slogans:“Build a fence! E-verify! Troops on the border!” That’s not to say there weren’t any twists, just not many worth noting. In fact, I can only think of two:

Rick Perry said that people who do not want to educate undocumented children “Do not have a heart.”

Newt Gingrich suggested a system that would give some undocumented immigrants legal status, but not citizenship and the rights that go with it.

In these two episodes, both Gingrich and Perry lost points for their defense of minor rights for undocumented individuals. In both cases, Mitt took a hard right stance and accused the two contestants of creating magnets to draw immigrants into the country.

The terms of the immigration debate were made clear when Perry lost as many points for calling opponents heartless as for defending affordable education for the undocumented. The ABM Show contestants and their fans, who are usually keen to use the rhetoric of morality, suddenly decided that with immigration policy, they’d rather not worry about right and wrong.

So what can we expect in the future? Congress has also been steadfast in its refusal to seriously address the immigration debate. Both Red Team and Blue Team are too entrenched in their alliances to make any real progress. They may throw it in there every now and then, but it will mostly be fan service, nothing that will affect the overall plot.

The future of Congress will depend on who wins this season of General Election. If Romney wins The ABM Show, as it looks like he will, then he will have some trouble with this issue as he prepares for the biggest political show of the year. A recent Pew Research Center poll on immigration found that sixty-seven percent of respondents supported a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens. This is a sharp contrast to Romney’s far right stance on immigration, calling for strict border enforcement, the E-verify system, and no path to citizenship. With public opposition to this stance and the importance of the Latino vote, it is hard to see how Romney can appeal to the general electorate.

Some commentators believe Romney will pull one of his legendary flip flops to get around this issue. I, however, am not so sure about that. The flip flopping reputation has been Romney’s biggest obstacle so far. He has struggled time and again to prove his conservative credentials.  Because immigration is one area where he has relatively little history, he will likely continue to use it to prove just how conservative he can be and hope that voters are too distracted by other issues to notice.

To sum it all up, we can expect another year of contestants posturing to score points in their games. Let’s hope that they consider the real effects that political games can have on the lives and health of immigrants.

Undocumented workers pay billions in Social Security taxes, 12.25.11-1.2.12

4 Jan
A common myth is that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes. But, a recent article in The Seattle Times shows that each year billions of dollars are deducted from undocumented workers’ pay checks, and this money goes to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Medicare. The funds go into what is called an Earning Suspense File, established to collect money from filers whose names do not match social security numbers. In 2009, the last year for which figures were available, there were $72.8 billion in wages from 7.7 million workers whose names did not match the social security numbers. Of this, approximately $9 billion went to the SSA system and an additional $2.1 billion went to Medicare. In addition, they also pay sales tax, income taxes and rent, which landlords use to pay property taxes. Instead of seeing the benefits from these billions, undocumented workers face accusations that they do not pay taxes.
This inaccurate – and discriminatory- accusation is just another example of how U.S. policies and society exploit and scapegoat our undocumented workers. Less obvious are the health repercussions of these false assumptions. For instance, many undocumented workers will not be able to claim the benefits to which they contribute, such as Medicare or Social Security pensions. The “immigrants-do-not-pay-taxes” myth also stigmatizes workers and encourages flawed policies, such as E-verify, that further marginalize undocumented workers. Anti-immigrant systems and policies exploit immigrant workers, when what our society needs to do is recognize the contributions of our workers and treat them fairly. One way to start is by exposing these discriminatory myths.
In Other News
Calif. bans car tow practice that hit illegal immigrants, USA Today, 12.27.11
On Sunday, a new law took effect that prohibits police from impounding cars at checkpoints if the only offense is not having a license. Immigrant advocates have long critiqued checkpoints as unjustly targeting undocumented immigrants while towing companies gain huge profits from impounding fees.
As Deportations Rise to Record Levels, Most Latinos Oppose Obama’s Policy, Pew Hispanic Research Center, 12.28.11
The report finds that “By a ratio of more than two-to-one (59% versus 27%), Latinos disapprove of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations of unauthorized immigrants.”
Immigration laws pose a test of states’ rights in Supreme Court, LA Times, 12.28.11
While federal judges have blocked anti-immigrant laws introduce by conservatives in half a dozen states like South Carolina and Arizona,  the Supreme Court’s conservative majority may shift against immigrant rights advocates.

E-verify sections of Alabama and Georgia’s anti-immigration law now in effect, 1.2.12
Employers in Alabama and Georgia are now required to use the E-verify system, which mandates employers to sign a document confirming that “they’ve e-verified their employees….[and] are complying with federal law.”

Latinos and the health care reform, 10/9-10/16

17 Oct
Hastings Center LogoLatino voters support health care reform, not the insurance mandate, Latino Decisions, 10/13/11.
New resource to clarify health care reform for undocumented patients, Medical News Today, 10/13/11
Like any other group in this country, Latinos are mixed about their support for the new health care reform law. A nation wide poll of 600 Latino voters found limited support for the affordable care act. Asked whether the law should stand, 50% said yes, compared to 29% who said no. Asked whether they were in favor of mandated insurance, a much less popular, albeit necessary feature of the act, 59% were against, compared to 32% who were in favor. There was large opposition to cuts to Medicare, with 73% opposed. Adding to the confusion, there is little clarity on what the new reform means for undocumented people.
A new effort lead by the Hastings Center a non-partisan research institution will attempt to shed light on access to health care for undocumented individuals. Many assume that they or their children do not have access to the medical where this is not the case. For example, a US born child, who has undocumented parents, does have access to health care: this is not always understood.The report will investigate how doctors and organizations navigate the challenges of serving undocumented patients. Specifically, the report with look at how laws, policies, and financial constraints are dealt with to provide health care. Along with a final report, the Hastings center will put forth a website with resources for the public.In other news
Apeals court blocks part of Alabama law, Reuters, 10/14/11
Appeals filed by the DOJ and immigrants rights groups stopped the part of the law that required public schools to keep records on immigration status of students and the part making it a crime to be in the streets without papers.Immigrant Groups to DOJ: In Alabama the situation is dire, HUFFPO, 10/10/11
Ironically, many immigrants are fleeing the state during “Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.” The law that targets immigrants has created an atmosphere of uncertainty, and has led many in the state to leave while the courts determine where the law is constitutional. DOJ has taken a proactive role to protect individuals from abuses, meeting with immigrant groups and setting up toll-free lines for people to report abuses stemming from the new law. One Alabama Latino said, “I never thought I’d be hanging out with the FBI and the Department of Justice so much, but they’re on our side,”

Latinos in Alabama are not going down quietly, ABC News, 10/12/11
Latino workers with authorization to work are standing in solidarity with the undocumented immigrants of Alabama to protest the repressive HB56. Chicken processing plants will be closed due to the work stoppages. One web commenter stated, “We must be united to be a force, now more than ever.”

Dayton Ohio has plans to become an immigrant friendly city, Reuters, 10/13/11
In a much different approach to immigration, Dayton Ohio hopes to prevent population loss and stimulate the economy by legislating a welcoming environment. Similar approaches have been taken by northern cities Detroit and Cleveland.

Immigration from Central America into México plummets, FOX News Latino, 10/11/11
Mexican government official cites extortion, kidnapping, and disappearances as the reason for the dramatic decrease in immigration into Mexico. Since 2005, unauthorized immigration has dropped from 433,000 a year in 2005 to 140,000 in 2010.