This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July31

Immigration_reform_Updates_blueWeek Ending July 31

This week in immigration: NCLR responds to Donald Trump’s mass deportation proposal; check out the facts about immigrants and Medicare; and read a blog post featuring citizenship lending circles.

  • NCLR Deputy Vice President, Clarissa Martinez de Castro was interviewed by Univision for their nightly news segment on Donald Trump’s proposal that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country should be deported:  You can see her response here.
  • This week Medicare — which provides healthcare coverage to America’s seniors — turned 50.  It’s a good opportunity to highlight that immigrants have been contributing to Medicare and helping to sustain the program.  Check out our infographic for more info:
  • This week on the NCLR blog, we featured the work NCLR Affiliate, Mission Asset Fund (MAF).  MAF recently received an NCLR Family Strengthening Award at this year’s NCLR Annual Conference in Kansas City.

MAF has formalized the process of Lending Circles, in which a small number of people agree to lend money to each other at no interest, by having registered participants’ payments reported to the national credit bureaus. This helps people who may not otherwise have had access to get into the mainstream financial system, says Ximena Arias, Financial Services Manager at MAF.

Lending Circles can help those who have specific goals in mind, such as paying the application fee to become a citizen. Watch the video to hear Karla Henriquez who has experienced the process both as a participant and as the Programs Coordinator for MAF.

Happy 50th, Medicaid!

As part of our larger mission to reduce disparities and advance equity, NCLR has long worked to increase the number of individuals with affordable and accessible quality health insurance coverage and care. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Medicaid program, it’s important to pause and remind ourselves what a critical resource this program has been to millions of Americans—especially children, those with disabilities, and low-income families. Today, Medicaid covers 72.2 million Americans, including 33 million children, representing the largest source of health insurance in the country.

As all of us know, the value of health insurance goes beyond better health. We know having access to the basic necessity of good health care improves the lives of people overall. It provides greater financial and social stability to families. It also markedly improves the educational prospects and chances for success later on in life for children. In short, health care is a critical building block of a better life.

Medicaid Yields Long-Term Returns

As various studies have demonstrated, Medicaid is an investment that yields long-term returns beyond the benefit of quality, affordable health insurance coverage and care. One review of the latest research highlights the various ways in which the Medicaid program provides long-term returns for children, including better health status as adults, greater academic achievement, and enhanced economic mobility. For example, children with access to Medicaid have lower incidences of high blood pressure, and report lower rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits in adulthood. Additionally, Medicaid coverage plays a role in greater academic achievement, as those who have benefited were 9.7% less likely to drop out of high school and 5.5% more likely to graduate from college.

Medicaid_Ann_020Medicaid Has Been Good for States

Medicaid expansion is also reducing the costs of uncompensated care for hospitals. Overall, there was a $7.4 billion decrease in uncompensated care costs for hospitals between 2013 and 2014. States implementing Medicaid expansion programs accounted for 68% of that decrease.

Medicaid Is a Critical Resource for Latinos and NCLR Is Working to Expand that Opportunity

At least 15 million Latinos currently receive coverage through the Medicaid program. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of expanding eligibility for their Medicaid programs. This would be particularly beneficial for Latinos, who remain the most uninsured group in the country. In states that have expanded their Medicaid programs through the Affordable Care Act, 26% of Latino adults aged 19–64 were uninsured, compared to 46% in states that have not expanded the program. In Florida and Texas alone, two states that have yet to expand, nearly one million Latinos stand to gain coverage.

NCLR will continue to champion the value of quality, affordable coverage—particularly the Medicaid program and its expansion—so that even more Americans, including Latinos, have the opportunity and ability to be healthy.

America Needs a Raise

By Stephanie Román, Economic Policy Analyst, NCLR

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009, while the cost of most everything has increased since then. Worse, the minimum wage for tipped workers has stayed frozen at $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. Yes, you read that correctly, 20 years. It’s clearly time to raise the minimum wage. The “Raise the Wage Act” sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D–WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D–VA) would do just that by raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 and gradually bringing the tipped minimum up to parity with the minimum wage.

This badly outdated minimum wage heavily affects Latinos, who are concentrated in low-wage jobs. Latinos are 16% of the labor force, yet represent nearly one-quarter (8.5 million) of those who would benefit from raising the minimum wage. As a result of low wages, many hardworking Latino families struggle to cover the rising cost of living. Raising my voice to raise the minimum wage is important to me because the financial struggles of low-wage workers are the struggles my parents and community members faminwage_presentationce.

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to talk about what raising the minimum wage means to our community at a congressional briefing at the U.S. Capitol. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D–MD) also spoke and stressed the importance of raising the minimum wage, particularly for women of color. At the briefing, I emphasized the critical role raising the minimum wage has in helping to lift 4.2 million hard-working Latina women, our mothers, sisters, and wives, out of poverty.

Too many Latinas are living in poverty. In 2013, almost one-quarter of all Latinas were in poverty. Under the proposed $12.00 increase by 2020, nearly half (43%) of all working Latinas would get a raise. Higher wages are especially important to hardworking mothers. Nearly half (1.8 million) of all working Latinas who would get a boost in pay are mothers, including almost 900,000 single mothers. A minimum wage increase for Latina working moms is critical because almost half of Latina single-mother families lived in poverty in 2013. Hard-working Latina moms earning poverty wages shouldn’t have to decide between paying the bills and putting food on the table for their kids.

MinWage_2in5Latinas

Latinas are not alone in facing these economic hardships. Raising the minimum wage is a critical issue for the entire Latino community. A vast majority (78%) of Latinos polled supported an increased minimum wage in 2014, according to an election eve poll. Raising the wage is a Latino voter priority. Our community continues to feel the economic strains of the recession with high rates of poverty and higher levels of unemployment than the national average, even as they have the highest rate of labor force participation among all groups.

Raising the minimum wage is a critical poverty-fighting tool we support because it will mean increased economic security and greater opportunities for Latino workers, our families, and our communities to thrive.

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: Spotlight on LAMDA

By Sarah Neuberger, Institute for Hispanic Health Intern, NCLR

“Every grandchild deserves a story.”

Constantina Mizis had a personal reason for founding the Latino Alzheimer’s & Memory Disorders Alliance (LAMDA): she does not want others to go through the same battle she endured as a child watching her grandmother struggle with dementia.

“The stories a grandparent tells a grandchild are a very special thing. With memory loss, you not only lose memories, but beautiful stories,” says Mizis, who serves as CEO of LAMDA, a community-based organization in Chicago that belongs to the NCLR Affiliate Network.

Caregiver_resizedAs National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, NCLR wants to recognize the outstanding work that LAMDA has done to address issues related to the mental health and well-being of Latinos. LAMDA’s mission is to educate, empower, and engage caregivers and family members of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders.

According to Mizis, LAMDA takes a comprehensive approach to establishing bridges of understanding between patients, caregivers, family members, and physicians. The organization provides compassionate support programs and training to strengthen skills, and it has served more than 750,000 Latino families and health care providers since its inception in 2008.

“There are several objectives to the program,” she says. “We want to show patients and caregivers how to read information about medication and how to have a conversation with a doctor. We have bilingual and bicultural support programs, memory screenings, and English-as-a-second-language practice sessions. Also, we offer nutrition programs, since so many of the health issues Latinos face mean they have an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.”

In addition to enhancing the care provided to Latinos by health care professionals, LAMDA organizes programs for physicians interested in deepening their understanding of cultural issues specific to Latinos when providing medical care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the Latino community, there is a considerable need for the services LAMDA provides. Not only are Latinos at a disproportionately higher risk for conditions associated with mental illness, they are also much less likely to seek treatment or receive culturally and linguistically appropriate care. They face issues such as later diagnoses, low rates of health insurance, limited access to medical services, higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, and cultural beliefs that are not conducive to addressing Alzheimer’s symptoms at an early stage. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Latino life expectancy will increase to 87 by 2050, exceeding all other ethnic groups in the U.S.

“Between 2008 and 2030, the Latino population aged 65 and older will increase by 224 percent. The non-Hispanic population of that age will increase by 64 percent,” says Mizis. “Given that the senior population will continue to grow in coming years, we recognize the importance of educating and empowering Latino families. And when you empower one person, you empower the whole community.”

LAMDA has been a key partner in the implementation of NCLR’s Mantenga Su Mente Activa (Keep Your Mind Active), a project led by promotores de salud (community health workers) that aims to increase awareness, knowledge, and actions with regard to Alzheimer’s disease among Latinos.

To learn more about the work LAMDA is doing to reduce mental health disparities and how you can preserve your loved ones’ stories, visit their website at http://latinoalzheimersalliance.org. For more information about Latinos and Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Association, which has information available in Spanish as well as English.

The “Equality Act” Offers a Path Toward Eliminating LGBT Discrimination

Last month, the country took an important step toward guaranteeing equality for LGBT Americans when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. With varying levels of enthusiasm, all states are acknowledging that marriage equality is now the law of the land. However, same-sex couples are not out of the woods yet when it comes to discrimination. In more than half of all states, an LGBT person who simply tells a coworker about his or her nuptials could be given a pink slip for no other reason than their sexual orientation.

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Although many Americans assume that workers cannot be fired for identifying as LGBT, the fact is that in 29 states, laws banning discrimination in the workplace, as well as in housing and public accommodations, do not protect people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Workers can be fired simply for being gay. In a move that we hope will address this problem, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled earlier this month that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, as we’ve seen in the past, the courts frequently disagree, and this decision only protects against anti-LGBT discrimination at work.

Thankfully, we have at our fingertips the permanent solution we need. Last week, Democrats in both chambers of Congress introduced the “Equality Act,” robust antidiscrimination legislation designed to protect the LGBT community not just in the workplace, but also in housing, education, public accommodations, and federal programs. The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and will prevent individuals from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to legally discriminate against the LGBT community.

The decision for our lawmakers is simple. Acceptance of the LGBT community is well beyond the tipping point in this country. According to a poll released earlier this year by the Human Rights Campaign, almost 70 percent of likely voters support a federal nondiscrimination law. Another poll released earlier this month found that nearly 60 percent of small business owners across the political and religious spectrum oppose laws allowing individuals, associations, or businesses to legally refuse service to anyone based on religious beliefs.

In a relatively short amount of time this country has made dramatic progress toward equality for LGBT individuals, yet discrimination persists. To root out inequality and discrimination, our lawmakers must take a proactive approach to protecting our most vulnerable communities. We hope that Congress will capitalize on the promise of the “Equality Act” to make our country safer and more equal for LGBT Americans, including our Hispanic LGBT brothers and sisters.