Tag Archives: President Obama

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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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.”

SB1070 Racial profiling goes into effect in AZ, Presidential candidates visit Univision, Study on Latino Stereotypes, 9/17-9/24

26 Sep
Phoenix SB1070 Protest

Photo by: Ana Ramirez

Protests hit the streets as SB1070’s racial profiling provision moves forward

In Phoenix, AZ hundreds marched on Saturday in protest of the beginning of SB1070’s “show me your papers” provision. The injunction blocking this provision was recently lifted by a US District Court. The provision requires police to ask about legal status of people they stop and has many worried that it will lead to widespread racial profiling. Coverage on Democracy Now acknowledges the lengthy history of  “Brown Fear” and resistance in Arizona. Although the newly enacted state law will undoubtedly affect the civil liberties of Latinos in the state, it has also provoked a massive community organizing effort.

The protest in Phoenix is one of many across the country of undocumented activists who refuse to remain in the shadows and refuse to be silent. USA Today has taken note of the increasing boldness and fearless of young undocumented activists in particular. No longer content to wait for the executive and legislative branches to fulfill promises of comprehensive immigration reform, young people are fully committed to perhap the most prominent civil rights issues of our times.

Presidential Nominees appear on Univision

The Latino vote has been extensively examined in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election. This week, both candidates presented their cases for presidency at the University of Miami to Univision, the Latino media giant. A noticeably tan Romney spoke first on Wednesday when he continued to backpedal from the extremist remarks he made during the Republican primaries. His tone was softer than the Romney of a few months ago, who advocated for self-deportation, a federal Arizona style bill, and counted Kris Kobach (SB1070 architect) among his supporters. The audience was in his corner, as his campaign had orchestrated a favorable audience from Southern Florida when the networks realized that they would not be able to find enough interested college students.

Obama followed on Thursdays with a mea culpa saying that the immigration issue was his “biggest failure.” In the statement he said that he was not prepared for the flip-flopping of senator John McCain and the rest of those obstructionist Republicans.

Study about negative Latino stereotypes

A new study finds that stereotypes common in the media have an impact on public opinion of Latinos. The study by the National Hispanic Media Coalition looked at responses from participants when they heard about “undocumented” or “illegal” immigrants, and found that participants had colder feelings towards “illegal” immigrants. Further evidence of the importance of Colorlines’ Drop the I-word campaign to encourage journalists to stop referring to undocumented people as “illegal”. Also of interest, the study found that 30% of people think that the majority of Latinos are undocumented. There are 50 million Latinos in the United States, of which about 8.5 million are undocumented. Perhaps mistaken assumptions of the Latinos are behind Voter ID and anti-immigrant laws that have spread in the past few years.

States and citizens push back against Secure Communities; Immigrants continue to face labor protections, 7/2-7/9

12 Jul

CA State Senator Tom AmmianoCalifornia moved forward with legislation to limit Secure Communities

CA State Senate passed the Trust Act, a bill intended to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement policies. The bill would prevent police and sheriff officials from detaining a person for deportation if that person does not have a prior felony conviction. 75,000 people have been deported from California since Secure Communities was implemented in 2009. Fewer than half of these individuals were convicted of serious violent felonies. By limiting the reach of S-Comm, the Trust Act will decrease the fear and stress that is caused by this policy.

Secure Communities also places many citizens and legal residents at risk of detention

This week Secure Communities faced its first legal challenge from a U.S. citizen. An Illinois resident is suing the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, after he was detained for two-months in a maximum-security prison when immigration officials mistakenly identified him as an undocumented immigrant. Under Secure Communities, local police check fingerprints against immigration and FBI databases. This sharing of information is a violation of the Privacy Act – and for some, like James Makowski, results in serious violations of personal rights and freedoms. This also demonstrates that immigration policies do not limit their harm to undocumented immigrants.

Expanded protections for all immigrant workers needed

Labor abuses of immigrants coming to the US through guest worker programs continue to be uncovered. Most recently, Wal-Mart stopped supplying seafood from C. J.’s Seafood after the National Guestworker Alliance publicized severe labor violations ranging from low wages to threatened physical abuse. The H-2B guest worker visa program has been subject to investigations by the GAO for a series of complaints about wage and working condition violations. New labor laws that were to take effect earlier this year have been postponed due to pushback from large businesses and cuts in enforcement funding.

President Obama continues to court immigrant voters

President Obama attended a naturalization ceremony for active duty military members, using the opportunity to speak about the importance of legislation such as the Dream Act, which would enable a path to legal status for immigrants who serve in the military or attend university.

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.

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.