Tag Archives: Undocubus

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.

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.

Immigrants fight for right to unionize and vote; Hospitals grapple with how to serve undocumented, 7/23-7/30

1 Aug

Immigrant workers on strike in Wisconsin – for the right to unionize
Workers at Palermo’s frozen pizza factory in Wisconsin have been on strike since June 1, protesting the mass firing of 89 workers in May. At that time, 150 employees submitted a petition to Palermo’s indicating the intent to unionize. After workers submitted their petition, the company asked workers for legal documentation of their ability to work in the US – in cooperation with ICE, and then fired the majority of them. Labor organizers, arguing that the move was intended to prevent workers from unionizing, filed a complaint with ICE. ICE stayed the enforcement action that ended with the workers firing. This decision was in line with a December 2011 agreement between ICE and the Department of Labor to prevent ICE from engaging in enforcement efforts tied to labor disputes, and was the first time ICE has granted such an action. Workers are asking supporters to boycott Palermo’s products.

Pennsylvania voters seek injunction on voter ID law
Ten Pennsylvania voters are going to court to seek an injunction on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, testifying that they were denied identification and, therefore, under the new law, the right to vote. A study conducted by the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethics, Race and Sexuality estimates that 1.3 million people in the state (over 14% of the voter-eligible population) do not have ID. The outcome of the Pennsylvania ruling is being closely watched, as states and courts around the country debate a number of voting laws with severe implications for the rights of communities of color and immigrant communities. To find out what is happening with voting rights in your state, check out this voting rights website in The Nation.

Access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants at risk under health care reform
Undocumented immigrants are not covered by health care reform, and there are concerns that coverage will decline as the law comes into effect. Currently, the Federal government reimburses safety-net hospitals for many of the services that are accessed by low-income communities; but these reimbursements will be cut as more individuals purchase health insurance or enroll in Medicaid. For hospitals that serve large numbers of undocumented immigrants, cuts in Federal reimbursement will make it increasingly difficult to provide care. For undocumented immigrants, who are unable to purchase insurance on the private market, this will further reduce already limited access to adequate health care services. As health care reform moves forward following the Supreme Court decision, hospitals are beginning to plan for the reduced funding and advocate for solutions that will enable them to continue providing care.

Candidates and advertisers increasingly turn to Spanish-language media
Univision and Telemundo, the largest Spanish-language television outlets in the country, are increasingly targeted in electoral media campaigns. Both stations hosted interviews with Barack and Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney. The stations are receiving a much larger share of political advertising money than in prior elections.The increasing interest in Spanish-language media is one more sign of the candidates efforts to win Latino and immigrant votes – a key constituency in November’s election.

Undocumented individuals travel to DNC to raise awareness of harmful immigration policies
A group of undocumented immigrants began a trip around the country on Monday to bring the issue of immigration policy to the center of electoral politics. The riders on the UndocuBus plan to travel through states with the harshest immigration laws – in time to bring their message to the Democratic National Convention.