This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Feb. 27

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Week Ending February 27

This week in immigration reform: Janet Murguía and advocates meet with President Obama on immigration; NCLR launches a new blog series; the Department of Homeland Security funding debate continues; and NCLR gears up for National Latino Advocacy Days.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in Slate and EFE Newswire and featured on Kansas City Public Radio.

President Obama meets with advocates and participates in townhall on immigration: This week Janet Murguía attended a meeting with President Obama where he encouraged advocates to continue to get out the word about DAPA and the broader eligibility for DACA. The president also told advocates at the meeting that, despite the temporary delay of the implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA because of the court injunction, the priorities enforcement memo from November 2014 is in effect and the administration will continue to prioritize public safety, national security, and border security. Read more in a Huffington Post article. Murguía tweeted about the meeting (below) and made a statement afterwards, saying “the law is on our side and that while we need to move forward through the legal process, we believe that we will win this case and make sure that we can move forward with implementation with the executive order.” Watch a video of her complete statement.

The president continued defense of his executive action on immigration during an appearance with MSNBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart for an immigration town hall in Miami. Watch the video in our blog. Additionally, President Obama wrote an op-ed in The Hill urging comprehensive immigration reform.

NCLR launches a blog profiling deferred action success stories: A new blog series began this week with the story of Emilio Vicente, a DACA recipient and soon-to-be college graduate. Emilio has advocated for immigration reform, is an active member of his university community, and hopes to continue his work on immigration upon graduation from the University of North Carolina. On what DACA has meant for him, Emilio said:

“DACA for me means not being under the threat of deportation at any moment and being able to use my degree once I graduate. I can also sleep better at night knowing that my brothers and sisters-in-law, who qualify for DAPA, won’t be deported and separated from their families at any moment. We need a humane immigration bill that is permanent but until then, DACA and DAPA will protect many of us from the separation of our families.”

The blog, ‘Living the American DREAM,’ will also profile individuals who will come forward to apply for the expanded DACA and new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs.

Congress continues to debate funding for DHS, which expires at midnight: The fight over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security has played out all week on the Hill. Just today, the Senate passed an amended version of HR 240, a ‘clean’ DHS funding bill to fully fund the agency through the fiscal year. House Republicans might try to call a conference committee to negotiate a final bill and to potentially add language into the bill to prevent implementation of executive action. Minority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to block a conference committee and is quoted in an article from The Hill saying: “If they send over a bill with all the riders in it, they’ve shut down the government. We’re not going to play games.”

The Senate then proceeded to vote on a bill by Senator Collins (R-Maine) that would overturn President Barack Obama’s most recent immigration actions. That vote failed 57-42. In the House, Republicans attempted to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund DHS through March 19. That vote failed 203-224. It is unclear how Congress will proceed and NCLR will keep you informed as this debate continues.

Latino advocates come to the Washington next week to voice concerns and support for their communities: Next week, 300 Latino leaders from 23 states and the District of Columbia will come to Washington D.C. for National Latino Advocacy Days. NCLR is excited to welcome members of the NCLR Affiliate network and will be facilitating a day-long training to prepare participants before they visit their elected officials.

A Chat About the Role of Community Health Workers in Communities of Color: Highlights

Today NCLR joined our friends at Peers for Progress and Black Women’s Health Imperative for a twitter chat on how community health workers are vital to improving minority health. We’ve put together some highlights for you. Thanks to Black Women’s Health Imperative and Peers for Progress for working to produce this spirite Twitter chat today!

The Real Problem with Sean Penn’s Green Card Joke at the Oscars

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

As I was watching the final moments of a very long Oscars telecast, all but certain that Birdman was about to be announced Best Picture, I was not offended so much as baffled when Sean Penn joked about Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s green card since Penn, while a talented actor, is not known for being a bigot or, for that matter, funny.

I realize that both Penn and Iñárritu later said that this was some good-natured ribbing between friends, an inside joke. But I also understand—and they should, too—why so many people in the Latino community took offense. Even on the most triumphant Oscar night ever for someone of Hispanic heritage, Penn’s joke reinforced what Latinos have long suspected: our perception—borne out of history and experience—that Hollywood believes our community does not belong at the Academy Awards. Not only were there no Hispanic acting nominees, but a Latino has not been nominated for Best Actor since 2011, or a Latina for Best Actress since 2006. If you are a U.S.-born Hispanic, the landscape is even grimmer: no Best Actor nomination since 1988 and no Best Actress nomination since… ever. That’s right: no U.S.-born Latina has ever been nominated for Best Actress. In nearly a century of Oscars, you can count the number of total acting awards won by Latinos on one hand… plus an extra finger.

Our virtual invisibility at all Hollywood award shows—not just the Oscars—is why NCLR created the NCLR ALMA Awards® 20 years ago. We realized that if the many contributions of Latino talent both on-screen and behind the camera were going to be recognized and honored, we would have to do it ourselves. Unfortunately, two decades later, that still seems to be the case. After 15 ALMA shows honoring hundreds of Latinos and Latinas in Hollywood, the Oscars still managed to only showcase a couple of us—Jennifer Lopez and Zoe Saldana—as presenters on Sunday night’s show.

But we also do ourselves a disservice by dwelling on Penn’s dopey, spur-of-the-moment quip because it overshadows the best moment for Latinos on television in a long time: Iñárritu’s Best Picture acceptance remarks. It is a tribute to Iñárritu that in the greatest moment of his career thus far, he chose to focus on the plight of those who are too often invisible. He said, “I just pray [Mexicans here in the United States] can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones that came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”

In just one sentence, Iñárritu captured the hopes and dreams of the nation’s 55 million Latinos. And he did so in front of the estimated billion people around the world watching the event, giving voice to something never before heard on such a large scale. The best way to make sure that people forget Penn’s crassness is for us to make sure that people do not forget these timeless and eloquent words.

Consumer Protections Are Under Attack!

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist, NCLR

CFPB_LogoLatino families have benefitted from consumer protections that were created to prevent another economic crisis. These protections were established through the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. As you may know, Dodd-Frank created a new federal agency solely dedicated to serving the consumer—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Since the CFPB opened its doors in 2011, we have seen a more consumer-focused economy for the 21st century.

Many families have already benefitted from the CFPB:

  • It made wiring money abroad easier and more transparent.
  • It eliminated many bad credit card practices.
  • It wiped out many mortgage lending tricks and traps that got us into the housing crisis.

These successes are very important to ensuring that families, not just the banks, thrive. Unfortunately, they are under threat by policymakers striving to roll back strong regulations. Take a look at some of the changes being proposed:

  • Impairing the Bureau’s strong leadership. One problematic proposal is to replace the CFPB’s director with a less effective team of five commissioners. Historically, five-member boards have hobbled decision-making and increased gridlock.
  • Chipping away at its funding. As with every banking agency, the CFPB’s independent funding insulates it from the partisan attacks. Dodd-Frank established this funding stream of nontaxpayer dollars for the Bureau from the Federal Reserve.
  • Imposing unwarranted bureaucratic burdens and diminishing authority over nonbanks. In 2010, Congress gave the CFPB authority to oversee previously unregulated entities, such as debt collectors, remittance providers, and payday lenders—industries that have taken advantage of consumers with high fees and unscrupulous practices.

Many of you helped achieve these victories for families by supporting the CFPB. We need your help once again. Lend your name to our petition and help protect the CFPB from these harmful proposals!

President Obama’s Immigration Town Hall — Full Video

Last night, President Obama joined MSNBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart for an immigration town hall. The president answered some tough questions from Diaz-Balart and the audience and reiterated his defense of his administrative relief. Watch the full video below.

Living the American DREAM: Emilio Vicente

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Today we are starting a weekly series highlighting people who have come forward and applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as those who will be coming forward to apply for expanded DACA or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Since President Obama announced DACA in 2012, more than 638,000 people have received deferred action, meaning they can live without the fear of deportation and continue their contributions with a work permit. While DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, we know that it has been transformative as recipients are able to pursue their dreams and improve their economic well-being.

The expansion of DACA and DAPA has brought hope to millions of immigrants and families, including those who were initially unable to apply for DACA because they were over the age of 31. The president’s plan to expand DACA and establish DAPA would let up to 5.2 million more people live without the fear of losing a loved one due to deportation policies. When he announced that he was using his legitimate authority, we heard from our network that administrative relief would change their lives and keep their families together.

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Emilio Vicente (in blue) with Eva Longoria (left), NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, and MSNBC anchor, Jose Diaz-Balart (right) at the 2013 NCLR Annual Conference

One person who has benefited from DACA and who has created incredible opportunities to give back to his community is Emilio Vicente. Emilio grew up in North Carolina and is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We met him back in 2010 when he was regularly traveling from North Carolina to Washington, DC, to share his story with his senators and urging them to support the DREAM Act. Emilio became a regular at his senators’ events; the senators and their staff knew that he was there to deliver a message of the DREAM Act’s implications for him and for his state. He continued his advocacy efforts for immigration reform, joining NCLR during the National Latino Advocacy Days in 2011, and serving as a member of the NCLR Líderes Youth Advisory Committee. He also participated in a town hall panel at the NCLR Annual Conference in New Orleans alongside NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía and Eva Longoria.

During this time, Emilio has worked at competitive internships in Seattle and Washington, DC, and has raised money for scholarships for undocumented youth. Last year, Emilio ran for UNC student body president and drew the attention of national press in doing so. The New York Times reporter who spent time with him during the campaign described Emilio as a “one-man whirlwind of engagement.”

On what DACA has meant for him, Emilio said:

“DACA for me means not being under the threat of deportation at any moment and being able to use my degree once I graduate. I can also sleep better at night knowing that my brothers and sisters-in-law, who qualify for DAPA, won’t be deported and separated from their families at any moment. We need a humane immigration bill that is permanent but until then, DACA and DAPA will protect many of us from the separation of our families.”

Once he graduates in the spring, Emilio hopes to continue advocating for immigration reform in Washington, DC. Receiving DACA will allow him to put his incredible talent and experience to use—so Washington better look out!

President Obama’s myRA Retirement Plan Holds Promise for Latinos

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist, NCLR

USCurrency_Federal_ReserveLatino families often have fewer opportunities to save for retirement than their White counterparts. Two-thirds of Latinos are employed by companies that do not offer any type of retirement plan at all. In fact, many work in low-wage jobs for small, private companies or in industries where retirement savings plans are not commonly offered, such as construction, hospitality, and maintenance. Working for an employer who does not offer a retirement plan presents considerable obstacles when trying to save for the future. There are solutions, though.

In early 2014, President Obama created the myRA plan by executive order. The myRA is a public retirement plan that provides savings opportunities for workers at companies that do not offer retirement programs. It gives individuals the opportunity to save for retirement, supplementing existing IRAs, Roth IRAs, and 401(k) retirement accounts. This savings vehicle has several unique, attractive characteristics that address some of the reasons why Latinos are disproportionately excluded from workplace retirement plans. These include:

  • Automatic deposits. This simplifies savings and mitigates administrative costs, making the plan more cost-effective for employers and employees.
  • Small payments. An initial investment of just $25 is required to open a myRA, and subsequent contributions can be as low as $5. Many retirement plans have high thresholds and leave out people of modest income. Lower payment parameters help families achieve more reasonable, incremental savings goals.
  • Principal protection. Contributions—the money workers put into the myRA account—will never decrease in value. While the rate of return would be relatively low compared to private funds, the government would guarantee that none of the initial principal would be lost.
  • Nominal penalties. Contributions can be withdrawn at any time, cost-free and without penalty. Earnings can be withdrawn tax-free after five years and once the saver is 59 and a half years old. This is important, as many Latino families with 401(k) plans are more likely than Whites to take early withdrawals.
  • Portability: The myRA account is not tied to any one employer. This is especially promising for younger workers who are expected to hold as many as 15 to 20 jobs throughout their career.
  • Generally cost-free with no fees. One must invest $25 to open an account, but this goes into savings. There are no real fees or hidden costs. This is essential, as other plans frequently have confusing fee structures and hidden service costs.

To further motivate families to save, the president enhanced the myRA program by proposing to expand access for part-time workers who are normally excluded from retirement plans. The administration aims to fuel these new measures by closing loopholes that serve the very wealthy. These proactive measures, in tandem with improved outreach, should enhance retirement outcomes for the workers most in need.

Weekly Washington Outlook — February 23, 2015

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will meet in pro forma session. No votes are expected.

On Tuesday, the House will consider three bills under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 212 – Drinking Water Protection Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 734 - Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 1020 – STEM Education Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith/Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • S. 227 - Strengthening Education through Research Act (Suspension of the Rules) (Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander/Education and the Workforce Committee)
  • H.R. 529 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve 529 plans (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins/Ways and Means Committee)
  • H.R. 5 – Student Success Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. John Kline/Education and the Workforce Committee)

It is possible that members may also vote on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate:

On Monday, Senator Hoeven (R-N.D.) will deliver Washington’s Farewell Address (a Senate tradition). Later in the day, Senators will vote for the fourth time on a procedural motion to bring up H.R. 240, the House-passed Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with the National Governors Association. In the afternoon, he will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office. At this event, President Obama will receive the credentials from foreign Ambassadors recently posted in Washington. The presentation of credentials is a traditional ceremony that marks the formal beginning of an Ambassador’s service in Washington.

On Tuesday, the president will host the Amir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, at the White House to discuss political, economic, and security issues of mutual concern.

On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Miami to participate in an immigration town hall hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC.

On Thursday, the president will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, president and the first lady will host a reception celebrating Black History Month in the East Room.

On Friday, President Obama will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to the White House to discuss a wide range of topics including the ongoing Ebola response, the region’s economic recovery plans, and other issues of mutual interest.

Also this Week:

Appropriations – The Senate plans to try again to advance a House-backed bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security until September 30. The measure includes five amendments approved by the House that would block implementation, defund, and otherwise undermine the President’s immigration actions from late last year. Democrats and Senator Heller (R-Nev.) have held their position on the need to pass a “clean” spending bill and have blocked this same vote three times already. Several other Republican Senators have also suggested passing a clean bill including Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senator Kirk (R-Ill.). The precise path forward remains somewhat unclear, given that Speaker Boehner has so far insisted that the House has acted and it is now up to the Senate. In light of last week’s ruling in Texas, it is possible there could be a compromise short-term continuing resolution. The current DHS spending bill expires February 27. If Congress fails to act, the agency has indicated up to 30,000 employees will be furloughed.

Immigration – As the Senate considers funding DHS, the House has planned two hearings related to Administrative Relief. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet Wednesday to examine enforcement priorities, including apprehension and detention. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hear from a panel of law professors on the constitutionality of the president’s actions on immigration.

Education – This week, the House has scheduled a vote on the Student Success Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last reauthorized as No Child Left Behind). In its current form, it would weaken accountability systems and performance standards put in place in the last rewrite. It is possible that members may also vote on an amendment that would eliminate annual assessments in favor of assessments once in elementary school, middle school, and then high school that has bipartisan support but is opposed by civil rights and business groups. The House will also vote on legislation related to STEM education and education research. In the Senate, HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are still working on a compromise to reauthorize ESEA. While these talks are ongoing, the Committee has planned a hearing on higher education on Tuesday.

Budget – Members of the Cabinet will continue to appear on Capitol Hill this week to defend the President’s budget request. House Appropriations subcommittees on Wednesday will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

Tax – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday with a number of public policy professors speaking to the economic benefit of tax reform. In the House, the Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Wednesday will hear from the Department of Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George and National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. On the House floor, members will vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill from Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) to expand tax-advantaged college savings plans under section 529 of the tax code.

Nominations – The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on Thursday on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General.

Banking – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. She is expected to receive questions about the Fed’s transparency and accountability.

Labor – The White House is expected to back a Department of Labor proposal this week that would establish a fiduciary standard for advisers and brokers giving advice about retirement savings. Labor Secretary Tom Perez has said that the rule will be open for stakeholder comment in the coming months.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Feb. 20

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Week Ending February 20

This week in immigration: a District Judge temporarily halts the implementation of new administrative relief programs and the federal government will appeal; advocates continue to help individuals and families prepare to apply for relief; and a webinar next week will provide updates on implementation. NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Hill, and Univision, among others.

District judge temporarily blocks implementation of expansion of DACA and DAPA programs; federal government will appeal: This week a judge in Texas issued an order that temporarily blocks implementation of expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents). This does not affect the DACA guidelines that were announced in 2012 and individuals who are eligible under those guidelines can continue to apply. “We disagree with the court’s decision and believe a higher court will reaffirm the legitimacy of administrative relief, siding with countless legal scholars that the president was well within his authority to act,” said Janet Murguía. See the press release here.

The federal government responded quickly to the decision with statements from President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson stating that they disagreed with the decision and the federal government would appeal. The Department of Justice will seek a stay asking the court to allow the programs to move forward while the administration pursues an appeal. Stay tuned to NCLR for updates.

Upcoming webinar: The Committee for Immigration Reform Implementation (CIRI) is hosting a free webinar, “Administrative Relief Update,” on Friday February 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm Eastern / 2:00 pm Central / 1:00 pm Mountain / 12:00 pm Pacific. This webinar will discuss the lawsuit and Texas district court order to stop implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA; and how organizations and the community can respond. The panel will cover:

– The process, timing and implications for the lawsuit;
– Community education and helping our clients prepare for the future; and,
– Strategies for practitioners with potentially eligible clients who are in detention or proceedings.

To register, visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3522713574246405633.

NCLR Affiliates and allies continue to help individuals prepare to come forward to apply for expanded DACA and DAPA: Despite the ruling from the District Court Judge, organizations across the country continued to hold information sessions and workshops this week to help individuals get ready to apply for expanded DACA and DAPA.  For example, NCLR Affiliate, TODEC, hosted a workshop in Perris, California. NCLR staff and NCLR Board Member Mary Alice Cisneros attended a press conference in San Antonio with Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) encouraging the community to use this time to continue to gather the necessary documents to come forward and apply for expanded DACA and DAPA.

Coming up next week: We have been following closely the ongoing debate in Congress over funding the Department of Homeland (the agency is currently funded through February 27).  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is planning to have a fourth vote on the House passed legislation that includes measures blocking DACA and DAPA.  It is expected that this vote will also fail and all the Democrats will oppose the bill.

Also next week, President Obama will be at a town hall event to discuss immigration in Miami on Wednesday held at Florida International University led by Telemundo and MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart.

New Report Shows Improved Latino Educational Achievement, Persistent Disparities

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The Latino dropout rate has seen a steady decline over the last two decades to an all-time low of 12.7 percent among 16-24-year-olds–less than half of the 1993 rate of 27 percent. These findings were released in a new NCLR education brief, “Latinos in New Spaces: Emerging Trends and Implications for Federal Education Policy.” The publication comes just as Congress begins debating the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the student population, and by 2023, they will represent almost 30 percent of all students enrolled in U.S. schools.

“Latino children have made important strides in our schools, and their educational achievement is attributed to their own hard work, along with rising academic expectations and standards by school districts, administrators, teachers and parents,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, NCLR. “The data show why the civil rights community has supported increased accountability and standards-based education reforms for the last two decades.”

As of 2012, Latino students had a high school completion rate of 73 percent, which was an increase from 61 percent in 1993. Between 2000 and 2013, the percentage of eighth-grade Hispanic students who achieved or surpassed proficiency levels in mathematics more than doubled. College attendance has also reached a record high: Hispanics enrolled in postsecondary education increased from 13.4 percent in 1972 to 37.5 percent in 2012.

While these gains represent significant improvements, more is needed if Latinos are to reach parity with their peers. In reading proficiency, only 22 percent of Latinos score at or above proficiency, compared to 46 percent of their White counterparts. They are also less likely to be enrolled in preschool. Fifty-seven percent of of Latino three- to five-year-olds were enrolled in preschool, compared to 66.7 percent of Whites and 65.8 percent of Black students.

“The gains that Latino schoolchildren have made are impressive, and it’s important that we continue to build on this success. That is why we must ensure that Congress passes a robust ESEA that maintains a commitment to equity in our schools and vital civil rights protections,” said Rodriguez. “A decade ago, national education policy put a spotlight on Latinos and English language learners, which led to increased accountability and standards that have produced results. Reforms should make our schools better and ensure that all children have an equal chance at getting a good education.”

Read the whole report below: