Tag Archives: Supreme Court

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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The Supreme Court, Electoral Politics, and Changing Immigration Trends, April 24- May 1

1 May Supreme Court 2010

Supreme Court 2010The US Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona’s 2010 anti-immigration law SB 1070. Although a ruling is not expected until June, there is a widespread sense that the Court will uphold the law’s central component. While this current case turns on state vs. federal control over immigration policy, some speculate that if the law is upheld appeals will be filed based on issues of racial/ethnic discrimination.

The case is being watched closely, by states that have enacted or are considering similar pieces of legislation, by immigrants rights groups, and by agricultural and business organizations that have raised increasing concerns over the laws’ unintended economic consequences.

Meanwhile, immigration continues to play a central role as the presidential campaigns get fully underway. Marco Rubio, Republic senator from Florida, campaigned with Mitt Romney ahead of what some predict will be a vice presidential candidate. The move is seen by many as an attempt to bring Latino voters into the Republican party, despite polling showing 70% support for Obama.

Obama’s campaign – seeking to ensure that Latino supporters are not prohibited from registering or voting in November – is responding to the numerous new voter registration laws in states like Florida by providing training for campaign workers to guarantee that registration drives are in compliance.

A report released by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that Mexican immigration to the US has slowed significantly, reversing a decades long trend. The causes of this include discriminatory laws, increased border security and deportation, high unemployment, and declining birth rates, among others. However, while the overall trend in immigration is shifting, significant challenges remain; this year found a large increase in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, straining the capacity of the shelter and legal system to provide adequate services and legal rights to these minors.

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.”

Cruelty at the Border, 9/18-9/25

27 Sep
No más muerte painting

Photo by Steve and Paige

New report reveals border patrol abuse, NACLA, 9/21/11
A new report, “Culture of Cruelty,” from a humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths, outlines the abuse faced by migrants at the hands of border patrol agents. Examples of the abuse experienced by a significant proportion of border patrol detainees include: denial of water, denial of emergency aid, death threats, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation.
The dangerous conditions at the southern border represent the most concrete examples of health threats that immigrants face on their way to the United States. The last few decades has seen an increase in the militarization of the border.  This has led to more perilous crossings because migrants are going to more desolate parts of the border, or are trying riskier methods to cross.
Although the Curious Ostrich often focuses on the myriad and sometimes indirect ways our immigration policy is harmful to people’s health, the dangers at the border are perhaps the most obvious and directly endanger people’s lives. People are dying at the border because of the misguided notion that our borders need to be militarized. The report gives recommendations to reduce the health threats, such as increasing access to water and making the border patrol more accountable with civilian oversight committees. Read the report to see how you can help No More Deaths. Continue reading