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 permeant 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.

A Helpful Guide for DACA Renewal

More than 600,000 people have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and had their lives positively impacted by the temporary status and work permit. DACA recipients need to remember to apply for DACA renewal before their work permit expires. It’s always best to begin the renewal process early. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently shared the following information to ensure that the DACA renewal application process goes smoothly for everyone.

Follow these steps to properly fill out your DACA renewal:

  • File on time. Submit your renewal request between 150 days and 120 days before the expiration date listed on your current Form I-797 DACA approval notice and Employment Authorization Document.
  • Correctly submit all required forms and fees. USCIS will reject your renewal request unless you properly submit all of the following:
  • Avoid processing delays. Be sure to submit:
    • Any new documents and information related to removal proceedings or criminal history that you have not already submitted to USCIS in a previously approved DACA request
    • Proof of advance parole if you have traveled outside the United States since you filed your last DACA request that was approved
    • Proof of any legal name change
  • Respond to Requests for Evidence. USCIS may deny your renewal request if you do not respond to a Request for Evidence in a timely manner.

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. For further instructions, go to the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals page.

You may submit an inquiry about the status of your renewal request after it has been pending for more than 105 days. To submit an inquiry online, please 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).

Use these helpful steps and reminders to ensure that your DACA renewal process goes smoothly, you avoid delays, and you receive your work permit on time.

A School Year in Review: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

By Heather McManus, Principal, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy
(Cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders blog)

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As another school year winds down, educators throughout California will reflect on the last 10 months of student progress, overall growth toward goals, and how we have changed as individuals and professionals. This year’s evolution was memorable for us at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) as well as at many other schools across California.

This school year brought with it many celebrations and challenges. Wrapping up a $36 million construction project that was delayed for nearly a year, we packed up 15 years’ worth of school memories and moved into Belmont High School to experience a co-location. Co-location, also known as “Prop 39,” pairs up public charter schools with local public district schools that are underenrolled to share the space and school facilities.

Co-location can be challenging for all parties involved. Due to the expensive nature of land and real estate in California, Prop 39 remains an important option for many public charter schools in underserved neighborhoods. This year, the California Supreme Court impacted the law’s implementation in some school districts. In April, the Court ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had been violating Prop 39 and required LAUSD to make changes to ensure that its methods of allocating classrooms to all schools are lawful.

CaminoNuevo_pic5The past year also brought an influx of revenue directed toward public schools and a new state funding mechanism: the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under this revolutionary model, schools receive a base amount of money, and those that serve a majority of students who live in poverty, are English language learners, or are foster youth receive a concentration and supplemental grant above the base amount. Historically, schools in the most needy areas operate on fewer dollars than schools in more affluent areas because they are funded by community tax dollars.

With the implementation of LCFF, schools are held accountable by creating a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). At Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, parents, staff, and students participated in budget meetings, surveys, and presentations related to the eight state priorities and CNCA-specific priorities. Our plan prioritized, among other things, providing mental health services, interventions for struggling students, and a well-rounded education. As the year winds down, schools are measuring progress toward the goals outlined in the accountability plan and writing updated versions of their plan for next year.

CaminoNuevo_Pic1Finally, this school year saw the first full-year implementation of the new California Common Core State Standards. These standards require schools to dramatically shift classroom instruction. This spring, students throughout the state engaged in the first round of the Smarter Balanced Assessments. At CNCA, students in grades 3–8 took four assessments over eight days and a total of 16 hours. They had to successfully navigate the new technology testing platform as well as more rigorous standards. While California will not use this year’s results in calculating the state’s accountability tool, the Academic Performance Index, at CNCA we are anxiously awaiting our scores to help us push our work forward.

In these final few days of the school year, we’re working to close it out while moving swiftly toward the next. We are already planning and hiring for 2015–2016 and look forward to continuing to provide students with an excellent education.

Here’s to a great school year and a restful summer!

When It Comes to Eating Fruit and Vegetables, Keep It Colorful!

By Elizabeth Carrillo, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

Most of us know that eating fruit and vegetables is good for our health: they increase our energy, provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, control our weight, and reduce the risk for chronic diseases and some types of cancer. Yet, despite this knowledge, the majority of us are still not eating enough of them.

Latinos in particular are less likely than other groups to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This is not to say that all adults should be eating five servings per day; in fact, the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables depends on our age, sex, and level of physical activity. Nonetheless, few of us know what a “serving” consists of.

Servings are typically measured by the ½ cup and cup. Examples of one serving of fruits and vegetables include:

  • 1 medium whole fruit, such as a banana or an apple
  • 2 cups of raw leafy greens (1 cup if chopped)
  • ½ cup of cut-up fruit or veggies

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The key to getting the most out of our fruit and vegetable consumption is to eat a variety of them. We should think in terms of colors and strive to eat fruits and vegetables that represent a whole rainbow of benefits.

For example, red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, red bell peppers, and strawberries contain lycopene, which may reduce the risk for certain cancers, and antioxidants that keep our hearts healthy. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangos contain carotenoids, which also promote good heart health as well as eye health.

For our next meal, let’s remember to keep it colorful. Here are a few tips on how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our daily lives:

  1. Keep fruit where we can see it. The convenience factor is a powerful thing. If it’s within our eyesight, it’s within our reach.
  1. Be adventurous in the produce aisle. Choose something new every so often. After all, variety is the spice of life.
  1. Save money by purchasing fruits and vegetables that are in season or frozen. Buying seasonally will also inject some variety into our meals and keep things interesting.
  1. Start early. While it’s never too late to try new foods, starting earlier is better. The earlier children are introduced to fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to continue consuming them as adults.
  1. Make it a meal. Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads and stir-fry are two ideas for getting tasty vegetables on our plates.

 This blog post and infographic is part of Comprando rico y sano, a program supported by the Walmart Foundation and General Mills, Inc.