Living In Fear of Losing My Best Friend

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By Brenda

As a teacher, I have seen firsthand the devastation families suffer due to deportation. About 4.5 million U.S.-citizen children have a parent who is undocumented. Every day, these children fear that their parent or parents may not be there when they come home from school. The emotional toll of having a parent deported impacts these children both emotionally and academically. Parents usually make the decision for their children to continue attending school in the United States, as they know education is paramount for success in life. I often pose the question to my students, “How many of you have heard your parents tell you to go to school and study hard so you do not have to work as hard as I do?” In 17 years as an educator I have never had a student fail to raise her or his hand. Deported parents often make the supreme sacrifice of leaving their children in the United States in the hope that they will have a better quality of life.

Immigration reform would ensure that families can live without the anxiety of having a loved one taken from them. That is why we need legislation that would permanently provide a solution. However, since Congress has failed to pass legislation, President Obama should do everything that he can to make sure that millions of hardworking immigrants with strong ties to the United States come forward, register with the government, work legally, and pay their fair share of taxes.

This would include my husband. We have been married for nine years and have not been able to regularize his immigration status. My husband is an amazing man with much to offer this country. He regularly volunteers with a local nonprofit organization as well as with the Humane Society. He is a productive member of society; however, I live in fear that he could be detained.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with stage Forward Graphicfour breast cancer. My husband was my primary care giver through chemotherapy, surgery, and months of radiation treatment. He attended each and every one of my appointments. My husband tended to me when I was too weak to get myself a glass of water. His care was instrumental in my ability to overcome the disease for which I still receive monthly treatment. I cannot imagine my life without him. President Obama must act so that I could live without the fear of losing my best friend and partner in life.

NCLR Joins Leading Civil Rights Groups in Call to End Racial Profiling

In the wake of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, concerns about racial profiling, including profiling of the Latino community, have once again become part of a much-needed national conversation on how to reform the frayed relationship between communities of color and law enforcement. In this vein, NCLR has joined with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, as well as more than 100 other organizations representing a broad array of communities affected by and concerned with these issues, in calling on Congress and the Obama administration to end the practice of racial profiling.

Racial profiling has had a devastating effect on communities of color, particularly young men of color, and it has been toxic to the trust between law enforcement and their constituents which must exist if we are to ensure public safety for all. Steps we are calling for include updating the Department of Justice’s guidelines regarding the use of race in state and local law enforcement and urging Congress to vote as soon as possible on the unconscionably delayed “End Racial Profiling Act.”

Read the full statement here.

Affiliate Spotlight: Five Questions for Congreso de Latinos Unidos

The Affiliate of the Year Award is made possible through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.

For this month’s Affiliate Spotlight, we travel to Philadelphia, home of our 2014 Affiliate of the Year, Congreso de Latinos Unidos. We caught up with them after the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference in July and asked them to answer five questions about who they are, what they do, and where they’re headed. Enjoy!

NCLR: What is the history and mission of Congreso? Who do you serve? What services do you provide?

Congreso: Our mission is to strengthen Latino communities through social, economic, educational, and health services; leadership development; and advocacy. Over the last five years we have served more than 56,000 unduplicated individuals. Sixty-five percent of our clients are Latino and 33% are Black. Our programs are diverse and include an associate’s degree program; afterschool programs reaching 800 students in grades K–12; GED classes and testing; a federally qualified health center; Pennsylvania’s first Latina domestic violence program; health promotion and wellness; financial literacy; housing counseling; social services; a K–8 dual language charter school; an HIV/AIDS program that conducts testing, provides prevention education, as well as medical case management and meals; and a partnership with the United Way to provide resources for the elderly.

NCLR: This year, Congreso was named NCLR’s Affiliate of the Year, a high honor from NCLR for exemplary work. What has receiving this award meant to the staff at Congreso? How will it shape how you do your work going forward?

Congreso: We are honored to receive the 2014 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award. As an NCLR Affiliate since 2000, we have turned to this impressive network of Latino providers countless times for partnership opportunities, best practices, and peer exchanges. As a Top Workplace in the Philadelphia Region, our staff’s overwhelming response to what keeps them at Congreso is their direct impact on the Latino community. To be recognized for this work by a national organization, and specifically among the nearly 300 Affiliates who are equally impacting the lives of Latinos throughout the nation, was a meaningful honor. Moving forward, this award emphasizes our commitment to working with partners from all over the country. Fulfilling our mission to strengthening Latino communities is not confined to geographical boundaries, and if we can do so elsewhere by helping smaller nonprofits build their infrastructure or measure outcomes, we are thrilled to begin with the NCLR Affiliate Network.

NCLR: What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing the community you serve? What do you think Congreso’s role is in helping to solve these problems?

Congreso: Residents of Congreso’s service area experience disproportionate rates of poverty compared to the rest of the city. Fifty-four percent of residents in zip code 19133 (where the majority of Congreso’s clients reside) are living in poverty. It also has the dubious distinction of having the lowest median household income ($14,586) in the city (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013). Our service area also shows other indicators of economic hardship, including one of the largest concentrations of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families recipients in Pennsylvania (PA Dept. of Public Welfare).

Since 2008, Congreso’s service area has also experienced a disproportionate fall in housing prices (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2011). Eastern North Philadelphia is encompassed in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District and in 2011, 99,000 (61%) of children under age 18 lived below 150% of the federal poverty line (Kids Count Census Data, 2000).

Reinforcing these indicators of economic hardship, Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which encompasses this area, reported the highest rate of food hardship (31.2%) in the state and is ranked fourth highest in the nation (the national rate is 18%) (Food Hardship—Data for the Nation, States, 100 MSAs, and Every Congressional District, 2011). We are in the 10th poorest congressional district in the United States, and the poorest in Pennsylvania (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).

In 37 years, Congreso has evolved to meet the diverse needs of this community. However, in addition to meeting their current needs, we use our client-centered Primary Client Model (PCM™) to build on the great capacity we see in this community to become self-sufficient, establish short and long-term goals, and provide a continuum of services that will help clients achieve them. Our strategies are both preventive and remedial. Faced with a 50–60% Latino dropout rate, for example, we founded an evidence-informed dropout prevention program at Edison High School, which only has a 38% high school graduation rate. Knowing that the barriers to graduation start long before 12th grade, we also founded a bilingual K–8 charter school to help solidify students’ educational aspirations before they reach high school. As our ability to influence their choices post eighth grade was affected by limited high-quality options, we are now pursuing the expansion of our charter to include a 9th–12th grade continuum.

NCLR: What major initiatives/campaigns are you gearing up for in the near future?

Congreso: Our 2015–2020 strategic vision includes:

  1. Expanding our K–8 charter school to include a high school. This includes launching a capital campaign to open the fourth building on our campus and developing the curriculum for a high-achieving charter high school.
  2. Extending our educational continuum to include early childhood education and Head Start.
  3. Growing our data consulting work, which currently serves nonprofits throughout the country.
  4. Continuing to expand our services outside of Philadelphia County. This past year, for the first time in its history, Congreso is providing direct services outside of Philadelphia. (our clients come from throughout the region, but this is the first time we are delivering services elsewhere).

NCLR: Where would you like to see Congreso go in the next 10 years?

Congreso: In 10 years, we hope to continue to strengthen Latino communities by expanding our programs, services, and thought leadership throughout the nation while growing our impact on the progress of Latino Philadelphia. In 37 years, we have developed a significant level of expertise in specific areas, and we want to help minimize the learning curve for smaller nonprofits in areas where Latinos are just now arriving and growing. There are many areas around the nation whose infrastructure is ill-prepared to deal with an influx of Spanish-speaking populations or who lack strong case management and outcomes measurement models. We are leaders in these areas, and want to be a resource for the ultimate benefit of Latino communities everywhere.

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education, and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit the Ford Motor Company Fund website.

We Salute the U.S. Air Force

This past December, the NCLR familia sent 150 comfort packages and also letters of support to our men and women in the U.S. Air Force who were deployed to Afghanistan. Recently, the Air Force awarded us with the beautiful globe below in appreciation for our efforts. 

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We salute all the men and women serving in all branches of the military and we thank you for your service!

An Undocumented Military Spouse: The Story of Fanny Lopez

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“When Our Troops Serve, Their Families are Serving, Too.” So says the slogan of Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama’s national initiative to bring attention to the needs of military families. But what happens if a family member is undocumented? Does this mean that they are serving their country any less?

This was the challenge faced by Fanny Lopez, the wife of U.S. citizen David Martinez, a member of the Army Reserve. After their marriage in 2008, David hoped to sponsor his new wife for a green card, but Fanny was ineligible because she had entered the United States without authorization as a child.

Fanny Lopez and David Martinez

Fanny Lopez and David Martinez

“So, why are you still undocumented?” Fanny was often asked. Her friends and family could not believe that an army wife was struggling to get a green card. After all, it is expected that being married to a U.S. citizen should automatically grant you legal status, even more if your spouse is fighting for our country.

Two years after they married, David was deployed to Afghanistan with his reserve unit. He left the United States with uncertainty about what would happen to Fanny while he was gone. He was stationed thousands of miles away from his wife and felt powerless to help. This stress weighed heavily on him and at times distracted from his mission. Fanny also felt the stress of her husband’s deployment.

“My world turned upside down. I started thinking about all of the things that could happen while he was gone,” said Fanny.

While David served on the front lines, Fanny was home worrying not only about her husband’s safety, but also about her own because she knew that she could be deported at any time. Yet Fanny continued to provide emotional support for David and tried not to show her concern.

“We are constantly reminded that our husband’s mental and emotional readiness depends on us,” said Fanny.

In addition to her other responsibilities, Fanny was also an excellent college student. One of her professors, who knew of Fanny’s situation, sent her an article from the New York Times that discussed an internal memo from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about a little-known process called parole in place (PIP). This program provides a path to a green card for undocumented immediate family members of U.S. military personnel. The aim of the program is to promote family unity and secure the readiness of the soldiers.

David needed to be in the U.S. at the time of application, which was impossible while he was stationed in Afghanistan. So while he was gone, Fanny researched the complicated process and waited for David to return home safely.

“Back in 2010, there was almost no information about PIP and the application process,” said Fanny. “It was so uncommon that even immigration lawyers had no knowledge that it existed.”

Fanny_HIBblog_560x372A year later, David returned home uninjured. But as with many veterans, David had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. He leaned on Fanny for support but also worried about her future in the United States. Fanny remained strong for her husband because she knew that, regardless of the situation, undocumented family members are still expected to support their soldiers.

At the same time, Fanny and David hired a lawyer, Isabel Martinez, who helped them research parole in place. Together they fought through the maze of red tape for a year and a half. In September 2013, they succeeded in getting her green card.

Fanny and David believe that regardless of her immigration status, as an Army wife, she has provided a service to this country.

“Our soldiers have fought for this country and the least they deserve is to have the certainty that their families will be protected no matter where they are,” said Fanny. “After all of our sacrifices, our service to this country must be honored.”

Today, Fanny is no longer at risk of being deported, but she worries about other undocumented immigrants, including her close relatives and friends, who face the threat of deportation and separation from their families. She continues to work with immigrant rights organizations that fight to stop deportations and seeks to empower undocumented immigrants in the Chicago area.

“It is unacceptable that we have to deal with a broken immigration system,” she said. “We all deserve a chance to live free from the fear of deportation. We all deserve resources that will allow us to provide a better life for our families.”

Forward GraphicWant to show your support for Fanny and the millions like her? Sign our petition to let the president know the time for administrative immigration relief is now!

New Report Reveals Impact of Health Coverage Gap on Texas Latinos

Image: Ray Bodden

Image: Ray Bodden

A new report released today with the San Antonio Hisapnic Chamber of Commerce reveals the negative impact of not expanding Medicaid in Texas, especially the effects on the Latino community which comprises 50 percent of the state’s uninsured population.

The report “Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap in Texas: A Latino Perspective” shows that Texas, home of the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured in 2012, has the potential to help nearly 600,000 Latinos by expanding Medicaid.

“Despite broad public support and the clear economic benefits of Medicaid expansion—including an estimated boost in the state’s economic output by $67.9 billion during fiscal years 2014–2017 and generating an additional 231,000 jobs in Texas by 2016—the state of Texas has chosen to reject federal funding to expand the program and has yet to bring forth a viable alternative to bridge the coverage gap,” said Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR. “It is unacceptable that our most vulnerable populations and the very workers we count on to stimulate the state’s economic engine lack the critical coverage that they need to remain healthy,” said de la Vara.

“It’s time to take a step in the right direction and expand access to care for more Texans; it’s the right thing to do to move Texas forward,” said Ramiro Cavazos, President and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Expanding access to health care will help create robust communities, allowing opportunities to reduce incidences of persistent health concerns.”

Read the whole report below:

President Obama Must Act on Immigration Reform

The refusal of House Republicans to act on immigration reform leaves the president with no choice but to act. Join us in telling President Obama it’s time to bring relief to the country and millions of aspiring Americans now! Sign our petition today!
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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending August 15

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Week Ending August 15, 2014

This week in immigration reform: New poll findings reflect growing support for children fleeing violence in Central America; Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales voices support for executive action on immigration reform; NCLR celebrates 2nd Anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program through a new installment of its “Hanging In the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans” blog series.

–NCLR commemorates 2nd Anniversary of DACA. This week NCLR celebrated the 2nd Anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by highlighting the positive impact the program has had on the more than 587,000 people who have received it. Our blogs this week have explored the tools and resources to better navigate the DACA process; featured the stories of DACA recipients who have benefitted from the temporarily relief; and looked at the need for President Obama to use his executive authority to expand relief from deportation.

Learn more about the DACA impact here and check out this week’s installment of “Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans” here.

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–Former White House Counsel urges President Obama to act on border crisis, immigration. In an op-ed for USA Today, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales voiced support for President Obama’s potential use of executive authority to address the humanitarian crisis along the southwest border. The former White House counsel also expressed concern over the impact congressional inaction and bickering have had on the children fleeing violence and our broken immigration system, and urged Congressional leaders move forward in crafting a comprehensive immigration plan.

–New poll reflects growing compassion for plight of child refugees. Results from a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll reveal a growing percentage of Americans support allowing the child refuges remain in the United States for some length of time. Poll findings showed 51 percent of respondents believe the unaccompanied children should be allowed to stay in the U.S. at least temporarily, including 38 percent who believe they should be sheltered and cared for until is it safe for them to return home.

Workers Deserve Better: It’s Time for a Fair Workweek for All

By Ricky Garza, Communications Coordinator, NCLR

Workers_fairworkweek_newLatino workers are overrepresented in low-wage jobs, which can often create more problems beyond a smaller paycheck.

Training the spotlight on this issue, a recent New York Times Magazine piece profiles Jannette Navarro, a young Latina mom working as a Starbucks barista. Juggling her responsibilities as a mother, a college student, and a highly competent employee become nearly impossible due to her unpredictable work schedule; automated scheduling software creates her schedule only days in advance.

In the profile, Ms. Navarro’s situation slowly deteriorates as she struggles to make a living commuting three hours, arranging sporadic child care for her son, and working exhausting “clopening” shifts, which couple back-to-back late-night closing and predawn opening shifts.

From the New York Times Magazine piece:

Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.

Navarro often ended her shifts at 11 p.m. and was assigned to open the store hours later at 4 a.m. the next morning. Though she requested it, management never allowed her to work a full 40-hour workweek.

By knowing someone personally who held this job, I realized this is part of the irony of being an involuntary “part-time” barista: taking a second job is impossible without knowing your free hours, and a full workweek is also out of the question because the store hires too many workers in the same situation competing for hours and shifts.

The company swiftly responded to the magazine’s profile, vowing on Thursday to reform their scheduling policies for all 130,000 Starbucks baristas. Starbucks says they will ban clopening shifts, require baristas to receive their schedules at least one week in advance, and work to relocate workers with long commutes to closer stores. If properly implemented, these reforms could go a long way in making workloads more manageable for Starbucks workers.

While this is welcome news for low-wage Starbucks employees, there are millions of struggling workers who will not be affected by the change. Currently, 43 percent of all Latino workers earn poverty wages, and many are stuck with the same types of jobs offering irregular schedules that wreak havoc on workers’ lives. The instability harms not only their livelihoods, but those of the people around them, preventing them from securing doctor’s appointments, child care, time with family, or even arranging a short, well-earned vacation.

Labor-Day-Banner-Photo-4_newThough steps taken to improve working conditions by individual companies like Starbucks will improve the lives of low-wage workers, employees cannot afford to rely on the benevolence of corporate actors alone. That’s why members of the House of Representatives have introduced the “Schedules That Work Act,” which would encourage employers to grant hourly workers stable schedules when they request them. The bill would require employers to approve schedule changes to accommodate care-giving, health care, educational, and other employment responsibilities, and contains measures that would discourage employers from abruptly sending wage workers home in the middle of a shift without full pay.

Today, “just-in-time” scheduling is a systematic challenge for workers in the retail and food service industries. It deserves a legislative and permanent solution. It’s time to ensure a fair workweek for all so all workers are able to hold good jobs with dignity.

DACA: Two Years Later

By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR

Advocacy Central Immigration sisters (2)_resizedTwo years ago today, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented youth who have grown up in the United States. Lines of young people formed across the country to apply for temporary relief from deportation and for work permits. In Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and other cities, young people filed into NCLR Affiliates and other community-based organizations to receive help in filling out the newly released applications. We’re wrapping up this week by telling the stories of those who have applied for and received DACA.

More than 500,000 people have received DACA, and with it, the ability to work and continue contributing to communities across the country. While DACA is not the permanent solution that is needed, it is an important protection from deportation and recognition that people who have grown up in this country can contribute even more if they are able to continue their education and put their talents to use.

Katherine DACA (2)_resizedDACA recipients have unique stories to tell of their application experience and what it has meant for them, but one thing that is noticeable in hearing their stories is that there is a physical transformation in the people when they get to a certain point in their story. When they describe that they received the notice in the mail and when they saw their social security number, they break out in a smile. You can see that a weight has been lifted. And I have seen that when people describe that they applied for a driver’s license or a state ID, they stand a little taller—they seem a little more confident or assertive as they describe that they feel that they belong. They now have official recognition that they are part of the communities they have called home. Katherine, a student in Maryland, told us, “I always felt like an outsider throughout my elementary and high school career. I am not sure if it was shame or fear that held me back from fully integrating to the ‘American life,’ but in the back of my head I felt different from everyone else.” DACA has been transformative for her and she states, “DACA gave me hope to continue fighting for my dreams in the United States.”

At the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference, I met Jessica, who told her story of growing up in California. She had arrived as a child from Mexico and began kindergarten in California. Her father told her to work hard in school because no one could take her education away from her, and she did. It wasn’t until she reached high school, like many other DREAMers, that she learned she was undocumented. Soon after, school became less important to her. She said, “What’s the point of getting a degree if I don’t have a social [security number]? Who’s going to hire me?” But her father continued to believe in her and urged her to continue her education. It was her father who recommended she apply for DACA. Jessica and her sister applied, and in the video below, she describes what it was like to have her application accepted and the happiness in realizing that she was going to have a California ID. DACA allowed her to realize that she could work to achieve her dream of managing a business in the fashion industry; DACA motivated her: “I want to do something with my life.” Like Jessica, her sister Nadia is also working on her studies so that she can achieve her dream of becoming a civil engineer.

There is much more work to be done to ensure that people who are eligible for DACA can come forward and apply. Now more than ever, we need President Obama to exercise a legitimate use of his executive authority to expand relief and limit senseless deportations in order to keep hardworking aspiring Americans together with their families and in the communities where they have been contributing.