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.


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 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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.27.07 AM

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.

Bringing the Credit-Invisible into the Light


The Mission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco nonprofit that works to expand access to financial services, savings, and investment opportunities for low-income and working-poor families. The organization was established in 2007 to combat financial exclusion in the Latino community and among other underrepresented groups, and was a co-winner of the 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.

“The CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] released a report that said that 45 million adults in the U.S. are credit-invisible in the financial system. It’s a catch-22 scenario where if you don’t have credit you can’t get access to credit,” she says.

“A credit report is like a passport to the financial marketplace,” said José Quiñonez, CEO of Mission Asset Fund, in a 2014 New York Times article. “Without that passport, you’re denied entry.”

The process can help those who have specific goals in mind, such as paying the application fee to become a citizen. That was the case for Karla Henriquez, who has experienced the process both as a participant and as the Programs Coordinator for MAF.

“I got my mom, my sister, and I to join the Lending Circles for Citizenship program where we were able to make payments of $68 for 10 months,” she says.

Other Lending Circles programs facilitated by the Mission Asset Fund can be used to save for a deposit to rent an apartment or secure fees for a temporary work permit.

Arias says the organization also offers financial counseling and education to participants, and partners with more than 40 organizations in 14 states. Those interested in finding related services in their area can visit:

Weekly Washington Outlook — July 27, 2015

What to Watch This Week:



On Monday, the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 1138 – Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 774 – Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Del. Madeleine Bordallo / Natural Resources Committee)

3) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2499 – Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot / Small Business Committee) 

4) S. 1482 – Need-Based Educational Aid Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley / Judiciary Committee)

5) H.R. 1656 – Secret Service Improvements Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Judiciary Committee)

6) H.R. 2750 – Improved Security Vetting for Aviation Workers Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 2770 – Keeping Our Travelers Safe and Secure Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 2843 – TSA PreCheck Expansion Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 2127 – Securing Expedited Screening Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 1300 – First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Peter King / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 2206 – State Wide Interoperable Communications Enhancement Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 1634 – Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 998 – Preclearance Authorization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan / Homeland Security Committee)

14) H.R. 1831 – Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

15) H. J. Res. 61 – Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis / Ways and Means Committee) 

16) H.R. 675 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Ralph Abraham / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

17) H.R. 1607 – Ruth Moore Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

H.R. 427 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young / Judiciary Committee)

H.R. 1944 – VA Accountability Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

It is possible the House will vote on the VA Budget and Choice Improvement Act and a Conference report to Accompany H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016.


The Senate this week will continue its consideration of H.R. 22, the legislative vehicle for a six-year surface transportation reauthorization.

White House:

On Monday, President Obama will attend a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the President of Uganda, the President of Kenya, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Chairwoman of the African Union, and the Foreign Minister of Sudan. The purpose of the summit is primarily to discuss South Sudan and regional counter-terrorism issues.

On Tuesday, the president concludes his trip to Africa and returns to Washington.

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Also This Week:

Immigration – Last week, the House passed H.R. 3009, legislation that would block certain funding streams to local law enforcement in so-called “sanctuary cities.” While several related bills have been filed or are in progress in the Senate, it is unlikely these will come for a vote this week. Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark-up several bills related to border security, including the “Department of Homeland Security Border Metrics Review Act of 2015,” the “Northern Border Security Review Act of 2015,” and a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate “regarding the success of Operation Streamline and the importance of prosecuting first time illegal border crossers.”

Budget – On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee will examine overhauling the Congressional budgeting process. While legislation is not expected to come from the hearing, this is the first step in what Chairman Price (R-Ga.) has described as a multi-year process. Elsewhere, former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm will appear Tuesday before the Joint Economic Committee on dynamic scoring.

Health – Over the weekend, as part of consideration of its surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Senate took a procedural vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While this was the first time since Republicans gained the Majority in the Senate this has occurred, it nonetheless failed 49-43. Elsewhere, on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee on ACA implementation.

Financial Services – The House Financial Services Committee will continue its examination of the Dodd-Frank Act with a hearing Tuesday, “Dodd-Frank Five Years Later: Are We More Free?” Also on Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee plans to mark-up fourteen bills related to housing, financial markets, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s authority. The full list is available here. Elsewhere, the Senate Banking Committee’s Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The Role of Bankruptcy Reform in Addressing Too Big to Fail.”

Education – The Senate HELP Committee continues its work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. This week, the Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on combatting sexual assault on college campuses.

Tax – After a weekend session, the Senate this week will attempt to conclude its work on a multi-year highway bill before a July 31 deadline to fund the Highway Trust Fund. The Senate is expected to vote Monday to attach a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, setting up a possible fight with the House over this provision. Further complicating passage, the House has already cleared a five-month patch and is unlikely to pass the Senate’s multi-year bill. For House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the short-term highway bill is a means to provide leverage at the end of the year for negotiations on expired tax credits and some permanent changes to tax policy. With the House recessing at the end of the week for five weeks, the precise path forward remains somewhat up in the air.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 24


Week Ending July 24

 This week in immigration reform: new poll finds positive voter attitudes toward undocumented immigrants, House passes an anti-immigrant bill, and immigrant integration legislation introduced.

NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in the Guardian, Politico, Buzzfeed, and  EFE. Watch José Díaz-Balart and Janet Murguía discuss Donald Trump on MSNBC.

 Also worth a read is an article in the New Yorker quoting Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro and highlighting how delays in Congress and the courts impact American families across the country. Tune in to hear Clarissa discuss this and other issues important to the Latino community on Al Punto, Univision’s Sunday morning public affairs program.

 NCLR hosts press briefing exploring voter attitudes: This week NCLR hosted an event discussing the implications of new polling data from The George Washington University that found most U.S. voters have positive views of undocumented immigrants. Participating in the forum were NCLR immigration expert Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, GW Associate Professor Michael Cornfield, scholar and journalist Edward Schumacher-Matos, and Republican consultant Katie Packer. Findings show most American voters agree that undocumented immigrants are “family and community oriented” (71 percent) and “filling jobs Americans don’t want” (67 percent). A majority of those surveyed disagreed that undocumented immigrants “are ‘cheaters’ here just to help themselves” (59 percent), “belong to gangs and commit many crimes” (56 percent), or “threaten our traditional American culture” (56 percent).

“The findings show that the majority of voters disagree with Donald Trump’s offensive remarks, and that demonizing immigrants will not win the White House,” said Martinez-De-Castro. “The vast majority of Americans are in a much more pragmatic place than Congress on this issue, and they believe immigrants make valuable contributions to our nation.” Click for the GW report, read about polling on Republican attitudes, and view the entire presentation.

These sentiments echo those offered by NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía last week at the close of NCLR’s Annual Conference. She said:

“Hispanics—immigrants and citizens alike—continue to contribute to the lives, and the livelihoods, of all Americans. We are doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. We care for the country’s children and tend to the elderly. We plant and pick the food Americans eat every day. We build the buildings Americans work in, and clean them after everyone else has gone home. That is part of our country’s heritage too. The likes of Donald Trump disparage that heritage. But even worse, they also demean the proud heritage of the Republican Party… So, to my Republican friends, I ask you, I plead with you, indeed, I demand of you: stand up for your heritage. And I’ll stand with you.”

You can read the entirety of Janet’s remarks here.

House passes bill punishing cities that seek greater trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve: In the wake of a tragic incident in San Francisco, House Republicans passed hastily introduced legislation that would bar cities that choose to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement from receiving certain federal funds. NCLR strongly opposes this bill and submitted testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. Martinez-De-Castro writes: “During this time, we urge a respectful dialogue that protects all communities. Labeling immigrants as criminals is not only harmful, it is incorrect. A report by the American Immigration Council demonstrates that increased immigration to the United States has in fact coincided with a significant decrease in both violent and property crimes nationwide. We know that the majority of the immigrant population comes to this country to reunite with family and work, and make meaningful contributions that enrich their communities.

Furthermore, what we have seen as a result of the entanglement of immigration enforcement and local law enforcement is an increase in racial profiling. There is widespread evidence that delegating to states and localities the enforcement of federal immigration laws threatens civil rights and subjects entire communities to unlawful law enforcement stops, arrests, and detention.” Read the statement and a related piece by the Center for American Progress.

Immigrant integration bill introduced in the House: This week Congressman Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 3201, the New American Success Act of 2015, to promote the integration and naturalization of immigrants in the U.S. According to a press release, the bill would “channel funding to provide lawful permanent residents (LPRs) with better access to English-language and civics programs and other support through the naturalization process, and create a grant program to reduce barriers to citizenship and establish ‘Integration Success Grants’ to encourage integration partnerships among states, municipalities and nonprofits.” NCLR supports efforts like this to improve the outcomes for new Americans and to support communities already welcoming immigrants across the country.

For America to Succeed, Immigrants Must Succeed

By Victoria Benner, Senior Legislative Analyst, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

The reintroduced “New American Success Act” would allow immigrants the chance to thrive.


New citizens being sworn in at a Kansas City naturalization ceremony earlier this month.

Following on the heels of Donald Trump’s remarks casting immigrants as murderers and rapists, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, yesterday, which would penalize local police choosing to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies. H.R. 3009 would compel sheriffs across the country to abandon best practices in community policing and prioritize immigration enforcement over public safety.

While some members of the House of Representatives labeled the entire immigrant community as criminals, focused only on misguided enforcement-only solutions to our broken immigration system, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D–Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–Fla.) recognized the contributions of this vibrant population by reintroducing the “New American Success Act.” This legislation seeks to maximize the potential of new arrivals by promoting economic, civic, and linguistic integration into American life.

From the experiences of our Affiliates, we know the full and successful integration of immigrants into the American spheres of work, school, and civic life is vital to the social and economic strength of the United States. Unfortunately, immigrants face considerable challenges obtaining higher levels of education, including industry-recognized postsecondary credentials and certificates as well as the English proficiency they need to succeed in modern career pathways. Additionally, without a public investment in immigrant integration, many do not have the resources or supports needed to navigate legal and other governmental infrastructure. This bill acknowledges that an effective immigrant integration policy can help break down these barriers and ensure each and every resident, including new Americans, is a wholly productive participant in all aspects of our national systems.

If enacted, the “New American Success Act” would authorize two grant programs to facilitate immigrant integration. The Initial, Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance Grants are designed to help local community-based organizations provide direct legal assistance and related services to lawfully present immigrants naturalizing or applying for other immigration assistance. Similarly, the Integration Success Grants would fund states and municipalities that create a comprehensive plan addressing civic, linguistic, and economic integration.

Marlene-SeptA previous iteration of the “New American Success Act,” strongly supported by NCLR and other partner organizations, would have created a National Office of New Americans—a federal coordinating body within the White House responsible for multiagency immigrant integration programs. By establishing meaningful goals, indicators, and metrics to measure success at the national, state, and local levels, this National Office of New Americans would advise other federal entities how the United States can best serve its newest arrivals and put them on a path to becoming flourishing Americans.

While the recent work of the White House Task Force on New Americans is a fundamental first step in addressing a comprehensive immigrant integration strategy as envisioned by the “New American Success Act,” the nation needs a permanent office with a strong mandate to continue this work and truly implement the legislation’s purpose of establishing a federal immigrant integration strategy. As the bill moves forward we will work to restore the provisions establishing the National Office of New Americans included in the previous versions of the legislation.

The “New American Success Act” is a positive step toward an enhanced federal policy designed to meet the real needs of new immigrants. As new data show, most American voters don’t view immigrants as criminals, and this bill would help reinforce that belief. Most importantly, it will help ensure the country benefits fully from the skills and talents immigrants bring to the United States.

From Conflict of Interest to Best Interest

By Amelia Collins, Legislative Fellow, NCLR

AgingLGBT_blogpic_4Thirty-eight million working-age households have nothing saved for retirement.

This retirement savings deficit is worse for communities of color, with 62 percent of Black and 69 percent of Hispanic households with no money in a retirement account. For those who do save, their account balances are disproportionately low: three in four Black households and four in five Latino households aged 25–64 have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, compared to one in two White households.

With too many Americans already struggling to save enough for retirement, any loss in retirement funds jeopardizes retirees’ financial security. One of the biggest drains on retirement savings is “conflicted advice.” Conflicted advice occurs when those giving advice can steer clients into higher-cost products to boost their own bottom line, even if those products aren’t the best for the client’s savings. Unfortunately, current regulations allow many who market themselves as financial advisers to make these conflicted recommendations. Back in April the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed an update to prevent conflicted advice on retirement investments. The proposed rule would ensure anyone providing investment advice for a fee—whether a registered investment advisor or a broker—will suggest products that are in the best interest of their client.

The DOL regulation would also strengthen the financial security of Hispanics, who are already disadvantaged in the retirement space. Barriers already prevent Latinos from saving enough for retirement, making it all the more imperative that the advice they receive helps them improve savings and bolster account balances.

Workers of color have less access to retirement savings vehicles compared to Whites: 38 percent of Latino employees, 54 percent of Black employees, and 54 percent of Asian employees aged 25–64 work for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan, compared to 62 percent of White employees.

Further, as Latinos tend to have lower balances in their retirement accounts, higher fees represent a higher proportion of their retirement savings absorbed by advisers and financial institutions. This makes Latinos even more vulnerable to financial instability. Quality standards for advice provided for a fee are especially important to Latino and other low-income consumers to ensure the advice they receive is truly in their best interest.

As part of the regulation process, the DOL asked groups for their input on the proposal. NCLR weighed in this week in support of the proposed rule and applauds the department’s commitment to a strong, workable rule. This Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety held a hearing on the proposal. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez defended the rule, saying “as long as we don’t lose sight of the North Star—an enforceable best-interests commitment—we are very flexible on the question of how to get this work done.”