This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 3

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Week Ending July 3

This week in immigration reform: celebrating citizenship in light of Independence Day; the growing influence of the Latino community; and Delaware extends driving permits to undocumented immigrants.

This Fourth of July, Let’s Celebrate New Citizens: This Saturday marks America’s 239th birthday. As we head into the holiday weekend, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is preparing to welcome more than 4,000 new citizens in more than 50 naturalization ceremonies between July 1st and 4th.  A San Jose Mercury News article covered a naturalization ceremony during which 92 new Americans took their oaths of citizenship. New American Sergio Saporna Jr., 43, came to the U.S. almost 16 years ago from the Philippines: “Today, in the ceremony, I was thinking about where I came from, but also about all the benefits and wonderful things that have happened to me. I think becoming a citizen is the best way for me to give something back to the country that has already given me so much.” This weekend follow #newUScitizen for photos and tweets of people celebrating the 4th of July as new Americans. 

Also this week, Univision, along with NCLR, NALEO, LULAC, and CitizenshipWorks launched a campaign to promote the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen. “There are an estimated four million Hispanics eligible for citizenship in the U.S.,” said Roberto Llamas, executive vice president for Human Resources & Community Empowerment. “Our goal is to help them understand the benefits, rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship, particularly how to qualify and prepare themselves to vote.” Check out UnivisionContigo.com for information and resources on applying for U.S. citizenship.  

The Latino community’s growing influence is already changing the 2016 election landscape: This week, 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is facing consequences after making derogatory remarks about Latino immigrants. Media companies NBC and Univision have cut ties with the business mogul and Macy’s Department Store will no longer carry his menswear line. NCLR issued a press statement applauding NBC and Univision for their decision: “NBC deserves an enormous amount of credit for reaffirming what their company stands for and, as importantly, what it does not stand for. We know that this was not an easy choice for NBC and its parent company, Comcast, nor was it easy for Univision, and they will have NCLR’s full support going forward. We applaud those in both companies who worked so diligently behind the scenes to address this issue and ultimately make this difficult decision. It was the right thing to do,” stated NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

An NPR story linked the backlash from Trump’s comments to the growing influence of the Latino population, especially as consumers. Latinos are one of fastest growing groups of consumers, with their collective purchasing power expected to reach $1.5 trillion this year, up 50% from 2010. Further, the average age of the Hispanic population is 27 and they are just entering their prime buying years. The media is also vying for the Latino audience. Candidates and companies alike can no longer risk insulting or alienating our community without paying an economic price.

Delaware passes law allowing undocumented immigrants driving permits: A Washington Post article reports this week that Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to give driving privilege cards to undocumented immigrants who have ties to the state. The state will begin issuing the cards in six months.

 While Delaware is implementing helpful, welcoming policies for undocumented immigrants, other states are still holding up federal deferred action programs that would provide social and economic benefits nationwide. This week the three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was chosen to hear arguments on July 10th regarding the Texas lawsuit stopping expanded DACA and DAPA. Many remain confident that the judicial system will eventually side with the Obama Administration. In a New York Times op-ed, Matt Barreto writes: “Just as with same-sex marriage and Obamacare, the issue of immigration is before the federal courts, and if past decisions are any indication, it is very likely that 12 months from now the Supreme Court will continue to validate the progressive movement by affirming Obama’s immigration orders as constitutional and in line with U.S. public opinion.” The Justice Department hasn’t ruled out taking the case to the Supreme Court, but they are currently allowing the case to work its way through the Fifth Circuit.

Our Changing Conversation on Race and Ethnicity: Fostering Dialog for Millennials

By Patricia Foxen, PhD, Deputy Director of Research, NCLR
enGRtub - ImgurThere is no doubt that our country is going through a profound period of reflection regarding the treatment of race. Last Friday, the elation produced by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the legality of same-sex marriage was contrasted, later that day, by the overwhelming sadness behind President Obama’s eulogy at Clementa Pinckney’s funeral. The death of Reverend Pinckney, one of nine victims killed in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church by a 21-year-old racist, reminds us how very far we still have to go in confronting and healing race relations.

Watch the moving speech below:

By his own admission, the shooter’s beliefs were largely influenced by organizations, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, that foment racial fear and hatred through disinformation. As history buffs know, such hate mongering, used by powerful actors to rationalize the social exclusion of entire groups of people, has long involved dehumanizing “others.” The contrast between this hateful imagery and the kind, generous spirit of those killed in Charleston made the violence all the more shocking. But while most Americans are appalled by the explicit and virulent racism the killer demonstrated, more subtle forms of structural racism and implicit bias continue to taint the everyday experiences of our nation’s minorities.

Latinos have not been spared from this “othering” process, as Donald Trump’s recent derisive comments on Mexican immigrants clearly illustrate. Thankfully, leading Latino organizations (including NCLR) responded swiftly to Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, and rapists, leading Macy’s and NBCUniversal, among others, to cut ties with the presidential candidate. However, the consequences of negative stereotyping of Hispanics and immigrants—which can range from bias and discrimination in housing, employment, and education all the way to violent hate crimes—have tended to be largely absent from our nation’s on-going discussions on race.

YvhqQYr - ImgurGiven the rapidly changing demographic landscape in this country, where non-Whites will become a majority of the population within the next two decades, and the various forms of racial and ethnic tensions that lurk beneath the surface, it is high time that we open up the national discussion to include everyone: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and White Americans.

In an effort to help in this process, NCLR partnered last year with MTV’s Look Different campaign, which helps young people think through and speak about race and other forms of bias. Recently, Look Different announced the July 22 release of White People, a groundbreaking television documentary that explores whiteness in America. In addition, the campaign’s website has added Look Deeper, a powerful interactive feature and safe space where young people can hold conversations about bias in their own lives and in the news. A Creator Competition will also allow people to submit ideas for video projects about racial privilege.

If we want to prevent the propagation of racism and exclusion in future generations, we must encourage youth to speak openly and honestly about race and ethnicity, and we must provide them with the language, tools, insight, and empathy to do so.

Workin’ Overtime? Making Less Than $50k? You Might Get a Raise.

By Catherine Singley Harvey, Manager, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

How we felt when the proposed rule was announced.

How we felt when the proposed rule was announced. From Diana Ross’ “Workin’ Overtime.” Click to watch her video.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a proposal to greatly expand the number of workers who would be eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.

The proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor would raise the salary threshold to determine which workers are covered by overtime protections from $455 a week ($23,660 a year) to about $970 a week ($50,440 a year). The administration estimates that five million salaried workers would see their wages rise next year if this change is approved. Latinos would especially benefit since 44 percent earn less than $50,000 a year.

This widely popular change is long overdue. In 1975, 62 percent of salaried workers were covered by overtime; today only 8 percent are covered. As a result, millions more Americans are working long hours but are still unable to cover basic costs like proper nutrition, school supplies, and rent. In fact, the current salary threshold for overtime is below the poverty line for a family of four. Outdated overtime rules are contributing to stagnant wages that are holding working families back.

Strong resistance from business lobbyists has halted all but one update to the overtime threshold since the 1970s. But President Obama made it a priority for his second term, instructing U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to fix overtime in 2013. Secretary Perez’s proposed rule does that, plus it calls for the salary threshold rise automatically so that it doesn’t get stuck again.

Now it’s up to us, the public, to show our support. Visit fixovertime.org to calculate what the change could mean for your take home pay and to tell Secretary Perez to make fixing overtime a reality.

Weekly Washington Outlook — June 29, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning the week of July 6.

Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning the week of July 6.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host a working dinner with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will host a bilateral meeting with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil at the White House. This meeting will be followed by a joint press conference.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

On Saturday, the president and the first lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, concert and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn. Staff and their families from throughout the Administration will also attend this event for the concert and fireworks viewing.

After Recess:

Appropriations – Both chambers continue work on FY16 spending bills, but the final passage of all twelve remains unlikely, with Senate Democrats vowing to block all measures upholding sequestration funding levels. With the formal appropriations process untenable, few options to fund the government remain. Congress must pass something by October 1 and a continuing resolution is one possibility. House Republicans view a CR as less than ideal, with last minute measures to avoid government shutdown reflecting poorly on the majority. Another option is to revive work on a budget deal to appease Congressional Democrats into supporting the appropriations measures. A combination CR/Omnibus spending deal seems most likely.

Education – Attention remains on the Senate as members prepare to take up the “Every Child Achieves Act,” a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization, next week upon return from the Fourth of July recess. The business and civil rights community is continuing to work to get support for strengthening the bill’s accountability system for minority students and English Learners. The future of the H.R. 5, the House ESEA reauthorization, is still unclear.

Health – Last week the Supreme Court upheld the availability of federal subsidies to those purchasing healthcare through both state-run and federally-run Affordable Care Act exchanges. In anticipation of a ruling against the government, Congressional Republicans had developed several legislative proposals subsequently rendered unnecessary by the Court’s decision. However, attempts to repeal the ACA could continue, with a July 24 deadline for Republicans to decide whether or not to use reconciliation to repeal the tax and spending components of the healthcare law. Reconciliation requires a simple majority, but the president seems certain to veto any bill repealing major portions of the ACA.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending June 26

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This week in immigration reform: California’s state budget leads the way on immigrant integration; helpful tips for DACA renewals; and this weekend marks the two year anniversary of the Senate passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

California state budget is an example for others states and the U.S. Congress to follow: California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state budget that will make significant investments in California’s families. Included in the budget are important measures that are examples of successful integration of immigrants and lift up working families. For example, the budget which begins next month creates a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for working families. During our recent California Latino Advocacy Day, representatives from NCLR Affiliates met with lawmakers to show their support for AB 43, the EITC bill. The state legislature also made history when it included $40 million to expand the state’s Medi-Cal program to undocumented children. It is estimated that 170,000 young people under 19 years old could qualify for the expansion. Speaking at a news conference, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon said, “We are the first legislative body—we are the first state in the union—to invest in children without legal status. With this budget, we’re saying that immigrants matter, irrespective of who you are or where you’re from.” Another laudable measure is the wise investment in community-based education, outreach, and application assistance for both deportation relief and naturalization that will advance immigrant inclusion and prosperity across the state. 

USCIS shares helpful tips for successful DACA renewals: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently shared helpful tips to ensure that the DACA renewal process goes smoothly for everyone. More than 600,000 individuals have received an initial two year grant of deferred status and a work permit that is renewable. USCIS is mailing renewal reminder notices to DACA recipients 180 days before the expiration date of their current period of deferred action to ensure sufficient time to prepare renewal requests. Individuals who have a pending renewal request and want to check on the status of the renewal after it has been pending for more than 105 days can visit egov.uscis.gov/e-request or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (TDD for the hearing impaired: 1-800-767-1833). Help spread the word about DACA renewals by sharing our blog post with more tips. 

 Two years ago this Saturday, the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation: This Saturday, June 27 marks the two year anniversary of the Senate overwhelmingly voting in favor of passing immigration reform legislation. The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives never allowed for any votes on comprehensive immigration reform bills, so the prospects of a version of the senate bill getting to the president’s desk came to an end at the close of the 113th Congress.  Our colleagues at the Center for American Progress published a report highlighting all the ways that our country would benefit if the House of Representatives had acted to pass legislation. “So what would the country look like today had S. 744 become the law of the land? Put simply, millions of people would be on their way to permanent legal status and citizenship, thousands of families across the nation would be together, and the U.S. economy would see significant gains.”

California’s Legislature Shows That It Can Work for the People

California is leading the way once again. This time it’s doing so with provisions in its budget that benefits its most vulnerable residents.

The 2015–2016 budget, which was approved last week, included $380 million to create a State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an especially important provision that NCLR vigorously supported. During our recent California Latino Advocacy Day, representatives from NCLR Affiliates met with lawmakers to show their support for AB 43, the EITC bill. This was the right thing for California to do. While the state and much of the country have recovered since the Great Recession, low- and middle-income working families, especially Latino households, have struggled to follow suit. The disparity is borne out by the statistics, which show that the bottom three-fifths of the state’s income distribution has stagnated, while the top fifth has grown by 52 percent.

The EITC is a smart solution that the federal government and 25 other states have implemented to lift more people out of poverty. Researchers have long cited the federal EITC as one of the most effective tools for reducing poverty across the country. In fact, from 2010 to 2012, the federal EITC put 1.3 million people above the poverty line in California alone. The legislature’s passage of the state EITC also underscores the need to extend the federal EITC and the Child Tax Credit, which will expire in 2017. Congress should follow California’s lead by working in a bipartisan manner to protect two of the most successful antipoverty measures this country has ever known.

We were also glad to see $15 million allocated for the One California proposal. This wise investment in community-based education, outreach, and application assistance for both deportation relief and citizenship will advance immigrant inclusion and prosperity across the state. Further, investing in a director of immigrant integration within Governor Jerry Brown’s administration offers a key opportunity for the state to develop a thoughtful, long-term strategy to fully include and honor our diverse immigrant communities.

In the health care arena, the legislature also made history when it included $40 million to expand the state’s Medi-Cal program to undocumented children, It is estimated that 170,000 young people under 19 could qualify for the expansion. Speaking at a news conference, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon said, “We are the first legislative body—we are the first state in the union—to invest in children without legal status. With this budget, we’re saying that immigrants matter, irrespective of who you are or where you’re from.”

We applaud state legislators for creating opportunities for immigrants rather than putting up obstacles, which many in Washington have opted to do. Through a state EITC, the One California proposal, and expansion of Medi-Cal to undocumented children, the California legislature has shown what can happen when partisan differences are put aside to achieve something greater. We salute California for crafting a budget that serves the interest of all its residents.

Marriage Equality is Now the Law of the Land

Today, in a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of same-sex marriages, granting gay and lesbian couples across the nation the right to marry. We applaud this decision, which is a monumental victory for equal treatment and justice for all.

“The decision handed down today ends once and for all an injustice that millions of Americans have endured,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “We are pleased to see that the Court agrees with the majority of Americans who believe that LGBT couples deserve equal rights, benefits and protections under the law.”

A 2012 study released by NCLR found that Hispanics were as tolerant as their fellow Americans, if not more tolerant, toward the LGBT community. Nearly half of all Latinos polled supported gay marriage, while about 60 percent supported civil unions. Similar to the overall population, Latinos have since increased their support for same-sex marriage and show high support for legal protections for hate crimes and job discrimination toward LGBT individuals. Read the full decision here.

NCLR was at the Supreme Court today to get reaction from some gay Latinos who were there to show solidarity.

Joyous cries erupted shortly after 10 a.m., when decisions are handed down, indicating that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriages across the country.

Numerous married couples were also at the Supreme Court, including Ruben Gonzalez (pictured below, right) and Joaquin Tamayo. RubenJoaquin Ruben shared his reaction to the news and why being at the Court on this decision day was so special.

Also in attendance was Latino GLBT History Project board member, Jesse Garcia. As a long time civil rights activist, Jesse felt privileged to be able to join marriage equality supporters on the steps of the Supreme Court for this historic day.

Jesse Garcia (center) joins Latino GLBT History Project members at the Supreme Court.

Jesse Garcia (center) joins Latino GLBT History Project members at the Supreme Court.

Jesse shared with us what today’s decision meant to him and what he hopes the LGBT rights movement goes next.

Today’s decision was indeed a historic one and we look forward to working with the LGBT rights movement for equality and justice for all.

Boston joins USCIS to create “Citizenship Corners”

Every year, there are thousands of lawful permanent residents eligible to become citizens. According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Massachusetts had 200,000 lawful permanent residents eligible to naturalize in 2013. Now, Boston has decided to make a change to provide assistance to permanent residents.

Earlier this month, the city of Boston and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) signed a letter of agreement to expand a partnership to strengthen citizenship education and awareness efforts in their communities.

“USCIS is proud to partner with Mayor Walsh to provide immigrants with greater access to information and resources as they pursue the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship here in ‘The Cradle of Liberty’,” said (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez. “We look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians and other city services in providing tools to help immigrants contribute to a thriving, welcoming and innovative Boston.”

According to USCIS, the Boston Public Library branches will establish “Citizenship Corners” to make USCIS citizenship preparation materials more accessible to people throughout the city. USCIS plans to provide training to librarians and city officials about the naturalization process and the free preparation resources available to immigrants who come to local public libraries in search of information.

“There could be no better time for this kind of effort,” said Mayor Walsh. “Like so many places in our country, Boston is becoming more diverse, and this agreement will further the work being done by USCIS and our Office of New Bostonians, which is vitally important to our future.”

Under the agreement signed at City Hall, USCIS and the city of Boston also plan to:

  • Provide citizenship information through schools, community centers and other city facilities.
  • Expand community partnerships to hold naturalization information sessions throughout Boston.
  • Broadcast citizenship education videos and public service announcements highlighting the letter of agreement on the city’s public access television station, Boston City TV, and city websites.
  • Raise awareness of how to avoid immigration scams.

In addition to Boston, there are 5 cities that have agreed to join this initiative: Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta and New York City.

Congratulations to Boston and Mayor Walsh in recognizing the growing immigrant population for creating these open spaces to learn about the citizenship process within their own communities. This is a great step forward to support the successful integration of immigrants into American society.

Millions of Latinos Can Keep Their Health Coverage

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The Affordable Care Act survived the latest, and hopefully final, attack today with a highly favorable decision from the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the federal and state market exchanges where Americans are able to purchase health insurance. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court said that all people who buy health coverage through federal or state exchanges should receive premium tax-credit subsidies if they meet eligibility requirements.

In the case of King v. Burwell, the plaintiffs had challenged the law, claiming that the provision was written in a way that only extended the tax credits and cost-sharing reductions to enrollees in states that had established their own exchanges. In the 34 states that have not set up their own exchanges, including Texas and Florida, two states with large numbers of Latino voters and families, about nine million people risked losing their subsidies.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, more than four million Latinos have obtained quality, affordable health care. Today’s ruling now ensures we can move forward with the hard work of reaching the millions more who remain eligible for coverage.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the health and safety of our country. It means that millions of Americans, including Latinos, will continue receiving critical financial help to purchase a quality, affordable plan through the insurance marketplace,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía in a statement. “But the job is not done and our work continues, since one in four Latinos is still uninsured. We know that the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act is something our community needs and supports.”

We stand with other civil rights and health equity organizations in affirming the critical role the ACA has played in improving the lives of millions of Americans, including millions of Latinos.

“Given today’s decision, it’s time to stop trying to repeal or weaken the law and instead start working on substantively building on the gains we’ve made. There remain millions more eligible people waiting to benefit, including limited-English-proficient individuals and those from mixed-immigrant-status households,” said Murguía.