Five Things Immigrant and Mixed-Status Families Should Know about Enrolling in the ACA

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For many consumers, the 2015 open enrollment experience has been smoother than last year. For example, the website glitches that challenged many last year have been reduced, and a cleaner, more streamlined website has been developed. However, despite improvements, we are aware that some groups may still face unique enrollment challenges, particularly immigrants and those living in mixed-status families. As supporters of the ACA, NCLR will continue   our efforts to ensure the law is working for consumers and that those who are eligible and legally required to do so have the information they need to enroll.

Here are 5 things for immigrant and mixed-status family consumers and those assisting them to know about enrolling under the ACA:

  1. Immigration information provided on the health application is only used to verify eligibility, not for immigration enforcement purposes.
  2. Signing up for insurance coverage through the ACA, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program does not make someone a “public charge.” The one exception is for people receiving long-term care in an institution at government expense.
  3. While those without an eligible immigration status cannot get coverage through the ACA, they can apply on behalf of their eligible dependents. For example, an undocumented parent can apply on behalf of an eligible child.
  4. A variety of immigration documents can be used to verify immigration status on the health application.
  5. Free, in-person assistance is available to those applying and can be found at localhelp.healthcare.gov or calling 1-800-318-2596.

If you missed the December 15 deadline to enroll in coverage that begins on January 1, you still have an opportunity to get covered. If you enroll by January 15, your coverage will begin on February 1, 2015. The last day to enroll is February 15, 2015.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Dec. 19

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Week Ending December 19

This week in immigration reform: NCLR documents a wide range of supporters speaking up for administrative relief; NCLR highlights benefit of executive action to the American worker; and states continue pursuit of stopping President Obama’s action on immigration.

NCLR collects statements of support for and impact of administrative relief: Since the president announced his action on immigration, NCLR has been working closely with our Affiliates and allies to document how that action is affecting people’s lives. This week we posted a blog quoting the reaction to administrative relief of numerous members of our community. Responses range from California to Illinois to Kentucky. Ofelia from Chicago said, “It means many families will be able to live in peace and without fear. We need to do everything we can to ensure that predators don’t take advantage of this vulnerable population. We commend President Obama for having the courage to do what is right.”

In addition to personal responses, NCLR published a short piece compiling only a handful of the dozens of statements of support for executive action. The document includes quotes from elected officials, business representatives, law enforcement and faith leaders. It also includes an overview of American support for the goals of administrative relief.  This resource and many others continue to be available on our administrative relief webpage.

NCLR’S Catherine Singley Harvey emphasizes the benefit of executive action for American workers: This week NCLR’s program manager for the Economic and Employment Policy Project penned an article in the Huffington Post refuting a previous op-ed’s claims that executive action will harm American workers. Singley Harvey outlines how the country will increase revenue by issuing immigrants temporary work permits, with undocumented workers already contributing $10.6 billion in state and local taxes. Additionally, those eligible for relief are already a part of the American workforce and forcing them to work in the shadows enables exploitation of all workers, regardless of immigration status.

More than 20 states sue over the president’s recent executive action on immigration: The number of states involved in a lawsuit regarding President Obama’s action on immigration grew to 24 this week. The lawsuit contends that executive action is an unlawful unilateral suspension of U.S. immigration policy and violates the “take care” clause of the Constitution. Some are skeptical the states have legal standing to challenge the president’s directives and many law experts have attested to the legality of the president’s action.

It seems this lawsuit is a public relations stunt to hinder any and all action by President Obama. It will waste taxpayer dollars, disenfranchise immigrant families, and deny states much-needed tax revenue. The Center for American Progress wrote a piece further detailing the lawsuit and reiterating the legality of executive action.

Conversely, progress on immigration has been made in Arizona. This week in Brewer v. Arizona Dream Coalition, the Supreme Court refused to block a federal appeals court ruling. Initially, a three-judge panel ruled against Arizona, saying the state lacks a rational basis for barring DACA recipients from getting driver licenses while issuing them to other undocumented immigrants, including people contesting deportation. Arizona since asked the Supreme Court to block that ruling, which they refused to do.

Relief for Latino Families, FHFA to Fund Essential Affordable Housing Programs

Family in front of homeThis week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced plans to fund two essential affordable housing programs—the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Capital Magnet Fund.

At NCLR, we’ve long urged the FHFA to fund these programs, which would begin to correct the dire shortage of affordable housing in this country.

Nearly a year of inaction after his swearing in, we’re pleased to see FHFA Director Mel Watt take a stand for struggling families by directing FHFA to fund the much-needed affordable housing programs. To be funded from less than one-twentieth of a percentage point of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s business purchases, the funds are expected to total between $400 and $500 million annually, amounting to a boon for low-income Latino families.

Created during the height of the housing crisis in 2008 and designed to increase the affordable housing supply at a time when families were rapidly losing their homes, the critical programs remained unfunded after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed under conservatorship in 2008.

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

Since the programs’ creation more than five years ago, America’s affordable housing stock for extremely low-income households has sharply declined.

With the freeing up of funds for the NHTF and the Capital Magnet Fund, this trend could soon be reversed as the programs’ provisions take effect in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

With full funding, the overwhelming majority of NHTF money will go toward the construction of affordable rental housing stock for extremely low-income individuals. This will greatly benefit Latino families who are struggling to get by, making 30 percent or less of the federal poverty income level.

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New HouseA fully capitalized Capital Magnet Fund would also direct its funds toward the affordable housing work of registered community development financial institutions (CDFI) across America. These qualifying nonprofit organizations would be able to compete for grants to fund low-income housing developments and other projects designed to stabilize low-income communities, including workforce development, day care, and health care centers.

In deciding to direct funds toward the National Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund, Director Mel Watt and the FHFA have taken a powerful step toward mitigating the shortage of affordable housing in America. This is essential for the estimated 1.3 million Latinos having lost their homes between 2009 and 2012.

This holiday season, the FHFA announcement will help prevent homelessness and give Latino families the gift of basic housing security.

Affiliate Spotlight: Meet APM Philadelphia, a Global Leader in Green Building

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Paseo Verde. All photos courtesy of APM website

When our Philadelphia Affiliate, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. (APM), set out to build a new housing development three years ago, they didn’t expect to become a globally recognized leader in green building construction. But that’s exactly what happened. A fixture in Philadelphia since 1970, APM was founded by Vietnam War veterans who saw a critical need for social services for the city’s Spanish speakers. Over time, the organization evolved, offering new services to assist with financial access, home building, home buying, mental health, and early childhood education. Today, it is the largest Latino nonprofit in Pennsylvania.

While APM has collected many accolades over the years, it’s their most recent endeavor—the completion of the Paseo Verde development—that has generated global attention. Paseo Verde is a transit-oriented housing development (meaning it encourages the use of public transportation) complete with mixed-income housing, a community center, a medical center, a pharmacy, and the home of APM headquarters. It has also been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as the greenest neighborhood development in the United States, receiving a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development Platinum certification. This is the first certification in the country and only the second worldwide.

“It really has brought a centerpiece to the community that wasn’t there before,” said APM Director of External Affairs Rick Olmos. “It feels like home. The colors are vibrant, it doesn’t look like every other building, and it takes up an entire block.”

The development was built to appear like row houses, with green roofs, as well as grass and trees in various sections of the complex. Although the project was an ambitious undertaking, APM had experience building green units and believed the project would dramatically improve the neighborhood, situated in the Temple University area of Philadelphia.

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Indeed, it has. After securing the location and funding from 23 different sources, APM began construction with a partner, Jonathan Rose Companies, who has experience in green building. Paseo Verde finally opened to the public in January of this year with 120 housing units, 56 of which are low-income. Since opening, residents have begun to reap the benefits of living in the greenest building in the country.

“We’re already tracking the anecdotal evidence about lower rates of asthma since people have moved in,” said President and CEO of APM Nilda Ruiz. “Tenants tell us all the time how much lower their electric bills are than before.”

Building green developments is only part of the revitalization that has taken hold in this part of Philadelphia. One of the other major goals for APM is to educate residents and community members about what it means to be committed to green solutions.

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“Public education about the importance of healthy neighborhoods and green buildings is ongoing,” said Ruiz. “People associate having a car with wealth, so getting folks to take public transportation takes some time, but I think it’s starting to catch on.”

Ruiz and her staff have arranged for Zipcar (a car sharing program) to house two vehicles on-site. APM also provides education on how to maintain good air quality, and promotes the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products. To encourage walking, they have worked with the Department of Health, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to put up markers around the neighborhood so residents, especially seniors, can track how far they have walked. Together with the Horticultural Society, APM is teaching residents how to maintain community gardens, and how to plan small gardens in their own homes. For those interested in making their streets safer, there is a crime and safety group that meets regularly. No decisions about the community are made without the community’s contribution.

“With us, we have gathered the community and we asked them what their vision was,” said Ruiz. “We try to convene people to facilitate discussions around how they can better the neighborhood.”

PaseoVerde3It’s all part of what Ruiz calls APM’s theory of change: if a child is in a healthy family, he or she will thrive; if a family is in a healthy neighborhood, they will thrive; if a neighborhood has all the amenities it needs, it will thrive in a city.

Paseo Verde is undeniably an asset for the entire city of Philadelphia and should serve as a model for other community-based organizations all over the country that are interested in building healthier, more sustainable communities. As an NCLR Affiliate and member of the Board of Directors, Ruiz understands the power of the network and cites it as a contributing factor to the group’s success.

“I love our combined missions as an Affiliate. I believe this is our time and we need to take advantage of it,” said Ruiz. “The move sometimes is slow, but we’re moving in the right direction. We’re going to have a much better country at the end.”

Why American Workers Benefit from Executive Action

By Catherine Singley Harvey, Program Manager, Economic and Employment Policy Project, National Council of La Raza

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Kenneth Blackwell’s op-ed on the economic impact of President Obama’s executive action on immigration is yet another example of the fact-free zone that the immigration debate has become.

First, Blackwell’s assertion that there was an attempt to keep from the public the fact that immigrants who get good with the law will get work permits is absurd. That is precisely how our country will derive increased tax revenues from this executive action, and a principal reason the public supports it. While undocumented workers already contribute about $10.6 billion in state and local taxes, the program will increase their income tax contributions by about $2.9 billion in the first year and $21.2 billion in five years.

Second, Blackwell fails to acknowledge that these immigrant workers are not arriving in the U.S. as a result of executive action. They are already here: more than eight million undocumented immigrants are currently in the labor force. The president’s action means they will be able to work legally, which is a good thing for our workforce overall.

This executive action help prevent unscrupulous employers from gaming the system, undercutting honest employers, and exploiting undocumented workers at the expense of U.S.-born workers. By getting right with the law, immigrants will be better able to stand with their coworkers against violations of minimum wage and overtime, health and safety, and anti-discrimination laws, which will shore up working conditions for everybody. Indeed, temporary legal status will also allow some immigrants to pursue jobs outside of the low-wage sector to better match their skill sets and education, resulting in higher productivity for all. It is estimated that productivity gains from administrative relief will raise wages for U.S. workers by about $170 a year.

We agree with Mr. Blackwell on one thing–the president is no fool. This lawful executive action will generate national security, economic, and social benefits for the country. Legislation is still needed, but the country should not be denied these benefits while House Republican leadership makes up its mind. We can only hope that the incoming Congress will finally deliver a permanent legislative solution so that American workers and our nation can reap even greater economic benefits.

(This was first posted to NCLR’s Huffington Post blog)

Administrative Relief to Me Means….

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On the day following President Obama’s announcement that he would make the immigration system more rational and humane, we sent a simple question to our network: “What does administrative relief mean to you?” The emotional responses remind us that the president’s actions will impact families and communities across the country in a very real way. Here is a snapshot of some of those responses:

On family:

Gisset from Passaic, N.J.: “It means that my family will not be separated.”

Jefferson from Aurora, Colo.: “It means everything to me!!”

Maria Luisa from Salem, Ore.: “It means everything to me and my family. My husband may be able to stay with me and our children.”

Angelee from Ohio: “It means some of my prayers for the families torn apart have been answered!”

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On Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA):

Fernando from Milpitas, Calif.: “I was devastated when I didn’t qualify for DACA when it first was granted. I arrived here when I was barely 13 and been living here since. I considered the U.S. my country and now the possibility of being able to get a work permit, and most important a driver’s license, will change my life completely. My whole family are U.S. citizens and I felt so left out not being able to travel outside the U.S. with them. I hope that changes soon as well.”

On their communities:

Maria Gomez, Executive Director of NCLR Affiliate Mary’s Center, which provides health care and social services to immigrants in Washington: “Young employees who now don’t have to worry that their parents will be deported. Individuals who are being seen in our mental health unit with traumatic stress disorder because they are constantly fearful of being caught and separated from their children. Children who now don’t have to carry a plan with them describing what to do if their parents are deported. Victims of domestic violence or children that are abducted by a parent no longer have to suffer in silence because they fear being deported.”

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On education:

Maritza from Silver Spring, Md.: “It means my students will continue to have a household with their parents.”

Marta from Burley, Idaho: “It means that my students will not be separated from their family. They don’t have to make the heartbreaking decision of staying behind in the U.S. without their parents and loved ones.”

Michiko in Utah: “It will positively impact my students and their families who are in this predicament.”

On faith:

Misi from Long Beach, Calif.: “Now some of my parishioners can get out and live a little instead of being fearful.”

Patti from Sebree, Ky.: “Peace of mind for my friends and parishioners. A good first step for a needed comprehensive reform.”

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

On the work ahead:

Jaime from Reno, Nev.: “I cried…I jumped for joy…I started handing out checklists to the people I know so that they can start getting stuff together.”

Ofelia from Chicago: “It means many families will be able to live in peace and without fear. We need to do everything we can to ensure that predators don’t take advantage of this vulnerable population. We commend President Obama for having the courage to do what is right.”

On the commitment to keep fighting for reform:

George from Des Plaines, Ill.: “As a therapist who works extensively with the immigrant community, I envision tremendous emotional relief for so many families, albeit temporary. I only hope that some permanent reform passes soon.”

Weekly Washington Outlook — December 15, 2014

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House has adjourned for the 113th Congress.

Senate:

After working most of the weekend to pass the “CRomnibus“, the Senate will convene this afternoon to take three procedural votes on a number of executive nominations, including Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general.  After these are confirmed later this week, the Senate will move on to process Sarah Saldana to head the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agency, and a number of others. Later in the week, the Senate Leadership plans to bring up a one-year retroactive extension of expired tax provisions and a reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program.

White House:

On Monday, the president will travel to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey to deliver remarks expressing his gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. Further details about the president’s travel to New Jersey will be made available in the coming days.

On Tuesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Wednesday, the president will host two Hanukkah receptions at the White House. The first lady will also attend.

On Thursday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Friday, the first family will depart the White House en route Honolulu.

Also this Week:

Immigration – Over the weekend, Senators Cruz (R-Texas) and Lee (R-Utah) raised a point of order during consideration of the “CRomnibus” to force a vote on blocking the president’s executive actions on immigration. This vote failed overwhelmingly 22-74, in part because a vote in favor would have led to a government shutdown. With the weekend’s fiscal drama behind it, the Senate will vote this week to confirm Sarah Saldana to head ICE. She has committed to enforce the President’s executive actions on immigration and new enforcement priorities.

Tax – The Senate may vote this week on a House-backed tax extenders bill to renew a number of expired credits for one year. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden has said he does not expect the bill to be amended. House and Senate negotiators, before settling on the one-year option, had tried for several weeks to craft a package that would make certain tax provisions permanent and extend others for two-years.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Dec. 12

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Week Ending December 12

This week in immigration reform: the president continues spreading the word on his executive action on immigration; Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on how executive action will keep families together; and mayors join together to promote implementation of administrative relief.

President Obama speaks on executive action at the home of NCLR Affiliates in Nashville: This week President Obama traveled to Casa Azafrán in Tennessee to highlight his recent announcement of administrative relief. Casa Azafrán is home to two NCLR Affiliates, Conexion Americas and the Tennessee Immigrant Rights and Refugee Coalition. In the audience for the town hall, was a parent who is part of the NCLR Padres Comprometidos program and students who are part of NCLR’s Escalera program. During the town hall, the president took questions from the audience about administrative relief and highlighted the demographic change in Tennessee. President Obama said, “…what our history and the facts show is that generation after generation, immigrants have been a net-plus to our economy, and a net-plus to our society. And that’s what cities like Nashville prove is still the case. And this city proves that we can address these concerns together and make sure that immigration works for everybody — that it strengthens our economy, that it strengthens our communities…” Watch the town hall here.

President Obama speaks at Caza Azafran in Nashville, TN

Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on family unity and administrative relief: This Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Keeping Families Together: The President’s Executive Action on Immigration and the Need to Pass Comprehensive Reform” to focus on how recent executive action on immigration will keep families together. In a press statement, Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO, responded to the hearing, saying “As the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its last hearing in the 113th Congress, we are reminded of what is possible when both sides come to the table to resolve the country’s pressing concerns. We are also reminded that when the nation’s agenda is surrendered to a few extreme voices, as it was in the House of Representatives by Republican leadership, the business of the people remains undone.”

“We support the Immigration Accountability Executive Actions taken by the president and hope that these spur the new Congress into action, as previous executive actions by presidents of both parties have done,” said Murguía. “The lasting solution we need—the thorough overhaul of our immigration system—can only be achieved through legislation. It is time to stop holding that process hostage while our economy and families pay the consequences.”

NCLR Affiliates continue educating clients about administrative relief: Across the country, NCLR Affiliates are conducting information sessions to share with our community what we know so far about administrative relief.  From CARECEN in Washington to Centro Hispano in North Carolina, to Enlace Chicago, to the Community Council of Idaho, to TODEC in California, our Affiliates are getting accurate and reliable information out to the community. Find information and resources on our administrative relief webpage.

Dozens of mayors join together to form cities united for immigration action: This week New York City hosted the Mayors Summit on Immigration Implementation, a convening of 25 mayors from across the country. The summit was called by New York City Major Bill de Blasio to coordinate implementation efforts of President Obama’s executive action and to create a platform for sharing best practices. Also this week, law enforcement officials and faith leaders

We the People: Why Congress Must Pass a Comprehensive LGBT Non-Discrimination Act

Guest blog post by Sharita Gruberg, Policy Analyst, Center for American Progress

Photo: JBrazito

Photo: JBrazito

As we celebrate our victories on marriage equality, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people continue to face discrimination in their daily lives that prevent them from being full participants in society.  LGBT people are excluded from exercising basic rights in the majority of states. In 29 states, it is still legal to fire, refuse housing, or deny service to people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  For example, in 11 states, a same-sex couple can legally marry, but they can legally be fired from their jobs for doing so.

This week, the Center for American Progress released a groundbreaking report calling on Congress to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, and federal funding. Since these basic areas of life are so closely interconnected, a comprehensive approach to addressing discrimination against LGBT people is necessary. The report examines how LGBT people are excluded from explicit protections against discrimination in these core areas of life and the impact of this exclusion, such as disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.  A survey found discrimination in employment resulted in 1 in 4 of all transgender respondents and 30 percent of Latino transgender respondents being fired from a job. Workplace discrimination is not limited to being fired from a job, 43 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers reporting discrimination or harassment on the job. LGBT people face discrimination in other areas of life as well, with 1 in 4 same sex couples experiencing discrimination when trying to buy a home and 1 in 5 transgender people being denied equal treatment in hotels and restaurants.

As the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, NCLR believes all people deserve equal treatment. When it comes to LGBT equality, NCLR sees it as one part of the larger fight for civil rights and has said that “[e]nsuring fairness and equality while protecting people from discrimination is at the heart of NCLR’s mission.” No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. A report by the Human Rights Campaign and League of United Latin American Citizens found that LGBT Latino youth are twice as likely as non-LGBT Latino youth to say they don’t “fit in.” As CAP’s report found, more than half of k-12 LGBT students feel unsafe at school. While acceptance starts at home, it is imperative that we ensure our young people grow up in a society that treats them equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

NCLR Hosts Conference on Community Health Worker Programs

This week, NCLR, along with Peers for Progress, a program of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, hosted experts from across the country for a convening titled, “National Consensus Conference: Implementation and Dissemination Issues for Peer Support/Community Health Worker/Promotora de Salud Interventions and the Affordable Care Act”.

The National Peer Support Collaborative Learning Network, a collaboration of Peers for Progress and NCLR supported by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Together on Diabetes Initiative, has been the vehicle that for the work we have done over the last couple of years that we discussed during the convening.

For example, one of the objectives of the meeting was to review the Call to Action on Peer Support under the Affordable Care Act. Over the last several months, Harvard Center for Health Law Policy & Innovation, Peers for Progress, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and NCLR drafted a Call to Action highlighting opportunities under the Affordable Care Act to integrate and implement peer support or community health worker programs into preventative services. We are currently seeking other organizations to endorse the document and help us to spread the word. If your organization is interest in endorsing this document, please contact Manuela McDonough at mmcdonough@nclr.org

Another objective of the convening was to organize visits with Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill. We conducted visits with legislative staff from the offices of Senators Durbin, Franken, and Brown. It was great to meet with them to increase awareness and support of peer support/CHW programs and to advocate for continued funding of the Affordable Care Act.