Author Archives: Richard Irwin

Top 5 Things to Know about DACA Now That the Supreme Court Has Ruled (The Torch)

Top 5 Things to Know about DACA Now That the Supreme Court Has Ruled

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Luis Leyva-Castillo
JUNE 22, 2020

FIRST, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on June 18, 2020, holding that the Trump administration’s 2017 attempt to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was improper.

The Court found that the Trump administration’s 2017 termination of DACA is reviewable and that the administration’s attempt to rescind the program was done improperly and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. For now, DACA remains available. For more information about the Court’s decision, see Alert: Supreme Court Overturns Trump Administration’s Termination of DACA.

SECOND, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must continue to accept and process DACA renewal applications.

USCIS will continue to accept DACA renewal applications from anyone who previously has had DACA. Visit www.RenewMyDACA.com and the Informed Immigrant website to learn more about how to apply for your renewal and for guidance on how to fund it. There you’ll also find lists of trusted legal service organizations in your area that can help.

THIRD, USCIS should begin accepting initial (first-time) DACA applications as well as applications for advance parole.

The Supreme Court’s June 18 decision vacates the Trump administration’s termination of DACA and leaves in place the 2012 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy memo that first made DACA available. As a result, the Court’s decision requires DHS to again begin accepting first-time DACA applications (applications from people who haven’t applied before) as well as applications for advance parole from people who have DACA and want to travel outside the U.S.

However, we don’t know whether the Trump administration will attempt to act to limit these options. If you meet the guidelines for DACA eligibility but have never had DACA, we recommend you consult with an immigration attorney or an accredited Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP)–accredited representative as soon as possible before you decide whether to apply. The immigration attorney or accredited representative will be able to give you an individualized assessment of the benefits and risks of applying for DACA and help you gather the necessary materials for the application.

FOURTH, the Trump administration might try again to do away with DACA.

Even though the Court held that the Trump administration’s first attempt to rescind DACA was done improperly, the administration has the power to attempt again to make it unavailable.

FIFTH, this is an important victory, but our fight continues!

Last week, the Supreme Court protected DACA, a form of immigration relief that immigrant youth fought decades for. It’s important to celebrate this victory with our loved ones, but we must continue the fight! We encourage you to visit United We Dream’s website and to join a local or state group working in your community (such as Make the Road New York and RAICES, in Texas) to learn how to get involved and fight for the rights of and protection from deportation for all immigrants, not just those with DACA. You can also help by contributing to United We Dream’s DACA Renewal Fund.


Luis Leyva-Castillo is a rising 2L at the University of New Mexico School of Law, a DACA recipient, and a NILC intern.

Monumental Victory for DACA Recipients Before Supreme Court in Wolf v. Batalla Vidal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), 213-375-3149, [email protected]
– Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York (MRNY), 917-771-2818, [email protected]
– Ramis Wadood, Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School, 203-432-4800, [email protected]

Monumental Victory for DACA Recipients Before Supreme Court in Wolf v. Batalla Vidal

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the Trump administration’s unconscionable attempt to terminate the availability of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), ruling that the administration’s efforts to end DACA violated federal law.

The Court’s decision to overturn the Trump administration’s termination of DACA is a monumental victory for nearly 700,000 DACA recipients, who can now continue to safely live, work, and study in the United States. Today’s decision also returns DACA to its initial form and reopens the DACA program to new applicants. All eligible individuals are encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney to apply for, or renew, their DACA immediately.

“Today marks a historic victory for immigrant youth who have led the fight for respect and dignity for all communities,” said Martín Batalla Vidal, a member of Make the Road New York and a lead plaintiff in Wolf v. Batalla Vidal. “We took our power to the streets, the hallways of Congress, to the highest court in the land and we won. For almost three years we have been living with immense uncertainty, and today we are able to breathe a sigh of relief. Nonetheless, our fight does not end with the decision by the Supreme Court; our fight continues for permanent protection for DACA recipients and all undocumented people.”

The Court’s decision comes after a long string of federal courts blocked the Trump administration’s termination of DACA in 2017 and 2018. Wolf v. Batalla Vidal, the first lawsuit that sought to challenge the termination of DACA, was initially brought by six New York DACA recipients and the grassroots organization Make the Road New York (MRNY). They are represented by the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and lawyers at MRNY. The Supreme Court consolidated Batalla Vidal with other related cases and heard arguments on them on November 12, 2019.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court chose to protect the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients currently living in the United States, not to mention their families and communities. The high court is right to reject the Trump administration’s callous attempt to revoke a program as important for communities across the United States as DACA,” said Ramis Wadood, a law student in WIRAC at Yale Law School.

“During his time in the White House, President Trump has been unrelenting in his attacks on immigrant communities in the United States — from jailing and deporting thousands, to severely restricting lawful immigration, to militarizing the border. At the insistence of courageous immigrant communities and their allies who sued the Trump administration, courts have stepped in to stop those illegal and horrifying attacks from time to time. This is an incredible victory fought for and won by the very people Trump continues to want to exclude from our country. Today’s Supreme Court decision is a great day for our country,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Today’s decision is a welcome reprieve from the Trump administration’s assault on immigrant communities, but DACA recipients and other immigrants will be fully protected only by congressional action. The potential for future attacks on DACA recipients highlights the need for a legislative solution that more permanently secures immigrants’ right to live in the United States.

“We celebrate today’s decision, and we renew our commitment to combating the Trump administration’s unwavering hostility towards immigrants and people of color. As the Trump administration continues to make our immigration system more cruel, immigrant youth and many other people in our communities are still in need of permanent solutions that secure their futures here at home. We will continue our fight for justice for all,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York.

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More information at www.nilc.org/daca/.


NILC Stands in Solidarity with Black Community Members and Allies to Declare Black Lives Matter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2020

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]

NILC Stands in Solidarity with Black Community Members and Allies to Declare Black Lives Matter

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people in cities all around the country attended protests over the past week following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund, issued the following statement:

“Our hearts have been broken by and our souls ache because of the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The present outpouring of grief, pain, rage, and courageous civil disobedience on streets across our country in response to these deaths has captured the nation’s attention. For too long, we have lived within a system that perpetuates violence against Black people, casting Black lives as expendable.

“Enough. We demand change. We demand justice.

“As a multiracial organization whose mission is to defend the rights of immigrants, we see that the same system that guarantees a prison bed for anyone who makes a mistake but denies them a job, an education, or health care is part of the same system that rips immigrant children from their parents’ arms and enables for-profit incarceration of humans who simply seek a better future for their families.

“We commit to standing with Black communities to demand justice and to follow the leadership and example of Black movement leaders as we do everything we can to dismantle the systems of white supremacy, including within our immigrant justice movement. We grieve with our Black staff, board members, and neighbors, and we are committed to building an America where Black lives matter.”

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Next Senate COVID-19 Bill Must Include 5 Key Immigrant-Inclusive Provisions of House HEROES Act (The Torch)

Next Senate COVID-19 Bill Must Include 5 Key Immigrant-Inclusive Provisions of House HEROES Act

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec
MAY 28, 2020

When the U.S. Senate returns from recess in early June, your senators will have yet another opportunity to provide crucial relief to people in immigrant communities who, unacceptably, have been left out of the COVID-19 relief bills passed so far. Waiting for them is a $3 trillion measure, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 15, 2020, to provide additional economic relief made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

While the Senate’s Republican leadership has attempted to slow-walk action on further relief legislation, it is crucial that your senators move swiftly to pass the next relief bill — this time one that includes immigrant communities. The top five immigrant-inclusive provisions approved by the House in its HEROES Act that must be part of any new Senate relief package are:

1. Access by uninsured people, regardless of their immigration status, to free COVID-19 testing and treatment, as well as to any eventual vaccine, through Emergency Medicaid. In order to ensure that immigrants and their family members feel safe accessing these vital services, Congress must suspend the “public charge” wealth test for immigrants and suspend civil immigration enforcement activity.

2. Stimulus checks for immigrant taxpayers left out of previous relief bills — including millions of U.S. citizen spouses and children who were excluded from receiving stimulus checks under the CARES Act because the principal tax-return filer (or, if a couple filed jointly, one of the joint filers) filed their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number.

3. Automatic extension of work permits and protection from deportation for immigrants, including people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or temporary protected status (TPS). The HEROES Act would also provide protection from deportation and work authorization to people doing critical infrastructure jobs, including agricultural work, meatpacking, and other types of work.

4. Release of some people from immigration detention and basic care for people in detention. The HEROES Act would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to review the files of anyone detained who is not subject to mandatory detention and prioritize their release or provide alternatives to detention. The bill also provides that free and unlimited access to telephones, soap, sanitizer, and other necessary personal hygiene products be provided to people in immigration detention during the pandemic. We encourage Congress to prioritize releasing more people from civil detention custody because tens of thousands of detained immigrants are still languishing in unsafe and inhumane conditions.

5. No additional funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and restrictions on DHS’s ability to transfer funds to pay for counterproductive activity. At a time when it is particularly dangerous, irresponsible, and cruel to continue immigration enforcement and detention efforts, we must ensure that no additional funds be made available to Trump’s deportation force.

The global health crisis we are in has revealed starkly just how interconnected we all are as a society and made it clear that, in order to survive and then recover from the crisis and, as a society we must provide relief and solutions that include and protect everyone, regardless of where we were born or how much money we make. The Senate must move swiftly to pass the next relief bill and must ensure that it includes these key provisions of the HEROES Act.


Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec is NILC’s immigration policy advocate.

HEAL Act Expands Access to Health Care Regardless of Immigration Status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2020

CONTACT
– Hayley Burgess, National Immigration Law Center, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
– Nikki Metzgar, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, 202-599-7642, [email protected]

The HEAL Act Expands Access to Health Care Regardless of Immigration Status

Legislation sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) marks bill’s first-ever Senate introduction

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act to expand immigrants’ access to crucial and comprehensive health care, with support from more than 250 organizations. This year marks the bill’s first-ever introduction in the Senate, and it comes at a time when it is abundantly clear that health coverage and care are critical for every person, family, and community.

The HEAL Act would open access to care by removing the five-year bar that immigrants must wait before becoming eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It would enable undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance plans from the online marketplace made available by the Affordable Care Act and restore Medicaid eligibility to Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants.

Insured rates are considerably lower among non–U.S. citizens, including both documented and undocumented immigrants. Barriers to health coverage disproportionately harm immigrant women, who make up the majority of immigrants and are particularly likely to have low incomes and be young and uninsured. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of noncitizen immigrant women of reproductive age who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid are uninsured.

“COVID-19 has shined a punishing light on the unjust health care inequities that exist for communities of color broadly, and immigrant communities in particular,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “While we should always be working to expand access to health care for everyone, the dire current situation highlights the urgency of addressing these gaps in health care coverage. Health care is a right, and it shouldn’t depend on immigration status. We’re never going to be able to slow and stop the spread of the virus if we continue to deny entire communities access to testing, treatment, or care.”

“If it isn’t affordable, then health care just isn’t accessible. For years, policy decisions about our health have forced immigrant women to fend for ourselves,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “Now, more than ever, it’s clear that every person should be able to get health care no matter how long they have been in the U.S. or the status they have been granted. Asian American and Pacific Islander women have been leading the charge for this groundbreaking legislation because our lived experiences show that access to the health care that is central to our agency and our lives, our families, and our communities.”

“Everyone needs access to the full range of reproductive health care to live with dignity and thrive. The current pandemic has placed a spotlight on the inequities in healthcare access that many Latinas/xs, people of color, people with low incomes and im/migrants face,” said Ann Marie Benitez, senior director of government relations at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. “At the Latina Institute, we are proud to have been in the forefront among the leaders driving the push for the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act, and we applaud Sen. Cory Booker for introducing this bold legislation that would extend healthcare coverage to all im/migrant families, regardless of their documentation status or how long they have been living in the U.S. Healthcare is a human right, and the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act is a step forward in expanding healthcare coverage.”

“The current pandemic has emphasized that while Black immigrants continue to risk their lives at the frontlines of the crisis, many are unable to access lifesaving testing and treatment. The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act moves us closer to rightfully seeing healthcare as a human right rather than a luxury,” said Catherine Labiran, Gender Justice Program coordinator at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “Not only does the five-year waiting period for Medicaid result in the manifestation of preventable medical conditions, it also impacts the quality of care that people receive after that point. With a lack of medical history in the U.S., many experience misdiagnoses and have to advocate for themselves so that their concerns are heard and acted upon.”

“In these difficult times, it is abundantly clear that our personal health and well-being are interdependent with our neighbors’, coworkers’, and society’s at large,” said Kamal Essaheb, deputy director of the National Immigration Law Center. “NILC is proud to support the HEAL Act and hold it up as an example of the kind of policy solutions Congress should be passing right now. Protecting the health and well-being of immigrants will ensure the health and well-being of us all.”

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The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build collective power so that all AAPI women and girls can have full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice (the Latina Institute) is the only national reproductive justice organization dedicated to building Latina/x power to advance health, dignity, and justice for 29 million Latinas/xs, their families, and communities in the United States through leadership development, community mobilization, policy advocacy, and strategic communications.

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) educates and engages African American and Black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice. Local BAJI Organizing Committees in New York, Georgia, California and Arizona build coalitions and initiate campaigns among communities to push for racial justice. At the local and regional level, BAJI provides training and technical assistance to partner organizations to develop leadership skills, works with faith communities to harness their prophetic voice, and initiates vibrant dialogues with African Americans and Black immigrants to discover more about race, our diverse identities, racism, migration and globalization.

Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the leading advocacy or­ganization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones. NILC’s mission is grounded in the belief that everyone living in the U.S. — regardless of race, gen­der/gender identity, immigration, and economic status — should have equal access to justice, resources, and educational and economic opportunities that enable them to achieve their full human potential. NILC is committed to advancing its mission — which intersects race, immigration status, and class — through a racial, economic, and gender justice and equity orientation. NILC seeks to achieve just laws and policies that address systemic inequities, create narrative and culture change for an inclusive and equitable society, and build a healthier and more powerful movement.

Advocates Ask District Court to Block Public Charge Rule Amidst Pandemic Following SCOTUS Rejection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2020

CONTACT
– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]
– Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, [email protected]
– Alejandra Lopez, The Legal Aid Society, (917) 294-9348, [email protected]
– Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York, (917) 771-2818, [email protected]

Advocates Ask District Court to Block Public Charge Rule Amidst Pandemic Following SCOTUS Rejection

Obstacles to public benefits will exacerbate health and economic crises, attorneys argue

NEW YORK — Today, lawyers from the National Immigration Law Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Legal Aid Society, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP joined New York State Attorney General Letitia James arguing (via video) before a federal district court judge regarding three related lawsuits challenging several Trump administration “public charge” rules and seeking a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rules, which penalize immigrants who access certain public benefits or are deemed at risk of someday needing public benefits, primarily affect low-income immigrants of color. The rules are particularly harmful during the current public health crisis, as they cause families to forgo much-needed health care, food, and housing assistance. Among the issues argued today is an emergency motion to block the rule from remaining in effect during the pandemic.

“The Trump administration’s tests dangerously attack immigrants of color and low-income families who already lack health access and are currently facing food insecurity,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “As the country faces a public health crisis, allowing these racist wealth tests to continue to be imposed on our immigration system can cause catastrophic harm to our loved ones and neighbors. We urge the court to put a stop to these unlawful and inhumane policy changes.”

Earlier in the pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency request, filed by Attorney General James on behalf of three states and New York City and supported by community groups that have sued over the public charge rules, to block one of the rules from taking effect amid the pandemic. Today, the attorney general, joined by the plaintiffs in the Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli case, urged the district court to halt the Department of Homeland Security public charge rule during the COVID-19 emergency, an avenue left open by the Supreme Court decision. Also argued today were Trump administration motions to dismiss in the Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli case, as well as the Make the Road New York v. Pompeo case challenging the U.S. Department of State public charge rule, as well as a presidential proclamation that bars entry to immigrants based on their ability to pay for health insurance.

Community groups, including lead plaintiff Make the Road New York, say that all these rules chill immigrants from accessing public benefits, because under the rules doing so threatens their immigration status. The public charge rules redefine and broaden the meaning of a “public charge” from those who are primarily reliant on government aid to include anyone who is likely to use any amount, at any time in the future, of various cash and noncash benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies. The presidential proclamation requires immigrants to demonstrate the ability to obtain private health insurance within 30 days of arrival in the U.S. or financial resources to pay for future medical costs, and bars entry to those who cannot. Advocates condemn the rules and proclamation as unlawful and discriminatory wealth tests.

“During this unprecedented pandemic, everyone, regardless of immigration status, needs access to the health care and government benefits for which they are eligible,” said Susan Welber, staff attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “As long as people are deterred from seeking testing or treatment for COVID-19 and other types of vital benefits like food assistance out of fear of immigration consequences, efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus are impeded and put immigrants and nonimmigrants alike at risk.”

“The implementation of these arbitrary and discriminatory rules, which target immigrants with medical conditions and low-income immigrants of color, is unconstitutional and undermines community efforts to combat the global pandemic,” said Ghita Schwarz, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“The pandemic has brought to light how all of us are interconnected and essentially dependent upon each other. Yet this discriminatory wealth test is needlessly undermining everyone’s health, safety, and economic security,” said Joanna Cuevas-Ingram, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “The Trump administration’s relentless effort to put these new public charge regulations and his own ‘health care proclamation’ into effect puts lives at risk, hurting public health, the economy, and us all. The court heard powerful evidence today about why it can and should stop these regulations and the proclamation before they cause even more damage and harm to everyone.”

Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli was filed by The Legal Aid Society, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP on behalf of Make the Road New York (MRNY), African Services Committee (ASC), Asian American Federation, Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS), and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).

Make the Road New York v. Pompeo was filed by The Legal Aid Society, Center for Constitutional Rights, National Immigration Law Center, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP on behalf of Make the Road New York (MRNY), African Services Committee (ASC), Central American Refugee Center New York (CARECEN-NY), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS), and individual plaintiffs.

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NILC Statement Regarding $3 Trillion HEROES Act Relief Package

FOR IMMEDIATE  RELEASE
May 14, 2020

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-805-0375

National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Statement Regarding $3 Trillion HEROES Act Relief Package

WASHINGTON — Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a $3 trillion package to provide additional economic relief amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamal Essaheb, deputy director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Tomorrow, the House is set to vote on its fifth COVID-19 relief bill, which would finally give crucial relief to immigrant communities that were unacceptably left out before.

“This bill is an important step toward recognizing that the only way we’ll get through this crisis and rebuild stronger is if everyone, including immigrants, has access to the financial and health care support they need. This bill provides for access to free COVID-19 testing and care as well as any eventual vaccines, and it provides that immigrant taxpayers previously left out in relief bills — including millions of spouses and parents of U.S. citizens — will finally receive stimulus checks.

“The bill also provides that millions of immigrants, including those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS), continue to have protection from deportation and the ability to go to work, provide for their families, and help keep our communities running. Further, it would protect — and likely save — immigrant lives by seeking to release at least some of the tens of thousands of immigrants languishing in unsafe and inhumane civil detention custody.

“We recognize that the bill could have gone further in ensuring that immigrant communities can safely access health care and critical services — for example, by suspending the ‘public charge’ wealth test, stopping civil immigration actions that create fear and barriers to vital support, and prioritizing more people for release from detention. However, this bill takes important steps forward, and we call on Congress to move quickly and make sure these important provisions are part of any final relief bill.

“Every day, like so many Americans, people from our immigrant communities show up and play essential roles in caring for us through this unprecedented pandemic. We can no longer afford to wait for relief. The only way our country will get through this crisis is by ensuring that all Americans have the support and care we need, no matter what any of us looks like, how much money we make, or where we were born.”

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National and State Immigrants’ Rights Leaders and Meatpacking Workers and Their Families Come Together to Address Worker Safety Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2020

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375
Hamp Price, TIRRC, [email protected]
Jack Norman, Voces, [email protected]

National and State Immigrants’ Rights Leaders and Meatpacking Workers and Their Families Come Together to Address Worker Safety Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC — In meatpacking plants across the country, immigrants and people of color are facing disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates as plants are increasingly confirmed hotspots for COVID-19. As essential workers who are on the frontlines confronting COVID-19, plant employees who are compelled to show up for work each day are at greater risk of occupational exposure and death from the virus. On a press call yesterday afternoon, national and state immigrants’ rights leaders came together with meatpacking workers and their families to address this ongoing crisis and outline the changes that government officials and corporations must make to ensure workers’ safety.

“This pandemic has exposed the historical racial inequities of our health, immigration, and labor/employment systems, which means that immigrants and other workers of color are impacted by COVID-19 on a greater scale. Workers have the right to be safe and healthy when reporting to work each day — not just during a crisis. When deprived of these rights, it affects everyone in the workplace. And as we are seeing now, it can have consequences to our supply chain and throughout the communities where meatpacking workers live,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We cannot think of healthy employees and a resilient supply chain as two separate issues. We will continue to fight alongside workers to demand they receive access to health care, COVID-19 testing, treatment and care, as well as financial relief and protections in the workplace.”

Guadalupe Páez, a Wisconsin meat processing plant worker who recently recovered from COVID-19 said, “I’m angry at how I was treated, because they didn’t want to believe that I was sick, they just told me ‘you have a cold.’ It’s a message to my coworkers and other workers that we have to raise our voices so that our concerns are heard. I believe that we have a right to speak out, but there are many people who remain silent — but we have the right to speak out. My message to the workers is that your life is above work.”

“People are really afraid. You’re forcing them to make a choice between their life and this job. Workers see what’s happening, and in the case of Mr. Páez, his life was at stake,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “We need companies and the government to step up to support immigrant essential workers. Constant vigilance is required to do the follow-through and have the kind of public pressure and governmental agency support to fundamentally value the lives of these essential workers and their families. Today not only are we celebrating the fact that Mr. Páez and Dora (his daughter) are reunited as survivors, but because of their courage, right now, at both these companies all of the workers’ demands have been met. Their demands should be mandatory guidelines, and there should be mandatory guidelines about higher-quality masks and significant improvement in essential workplaces before we even talk about putting everybody back to work.”

“Workers in these plants are incredibly dedicated and work hard to provide for their families. Unfortunately, their employers have taken advantage of them and created a culture where workers are unsafe and feel they have no voice to speak up,” said Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz, an organizer on behalf of meatpacking workers and their families in Iowa. “Because of this, I and many of the children of these workers are hoping to bring awareness and support for them so we can hold these companies accountable and help empower workers  to share their stories.”

“Now more than ever, it is abundantly clear that our personal health and well-being are interdependent with our neighbors’, coworkers’, and communities’. This means no worker should have to put themselves at risk of getting ill in order to provide for their family,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “Workers in the food processing industry have always been essential, and we must ensure that all workers, no matter where they’re from or how they got here, are protected and safe at work.”

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Recording of the press call: https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/IMMIGRANTS-2020-05-05.mp3

The National Immigration Law Center’s (NILC’s) Winning in the States initiative aims to tangibly improve the lives of immigrants in the communities where they live and to help change the national narrative about immigration. NILC is investing in building power in these communities to accelerate the progress being made, and we are creating a structure for advocates across the country to share resources and support each other so that, together, we can ensure that every immigrant living in the United States can feel safe and supported in their community. Learn more at www.nilc.org.

550+ Advocates Say Coronavirus Response Undermined by Excluding Immigrant Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2020

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375
Tom Salyers, [email protected], 202-906-8002

550+ Advocates Say Coronavirus Response Undermined by Excluding Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON, DC — More than 550 advocacy organizations from all over the United States sent a letter Tuesday urging congressional leadership to deliver coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response legislation that extends health care and economic support to all families, including immigrant families. The letter, signed by 561 organizations, was coordinated by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center on Law and Social Policy. It warns that continued failure to address the health and economic stability of immigrant families will “greatly undermine the nation’s ability to overcome this unprecedented crisis.”

More than a dozen national health care provider and advocacy groups signed the letter. Provider groups include the National Medical Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians. Advocates include Families USA, Community Catalyst, and Health Care for America Now.

“It’s simple — if immigrant families can’t get the health care they need, we are all at risk,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Immigrants are among the essential workers helping to lead America’s fight against COVID-19 — caring for the sick, harvesting our food, delivering packages, and transporting critical supplies — yet Congress has failed to protect immigrant families from the health and economic threat of COVID-19. Immigrant families will be key drivers of our nation’s recovery from this pandemic and should be included in any future relief packages.”

“Hundreds of leading health provider and advocacy voices agree — Congress must address the needs of immigrant families,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center on Law and Social Policy. “But every day they delay puts all of us at risk. Congress must act now to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they people were born, everyone can access economic support, workplace protections, health care, and other support they need to thrive.”

The letter names specific policy changes required for an inclusive and effective COVID-19 response:

  • Halting implementation of public charge regulations that deter immigrant families from getting needed health care and assistance
  • Making health care is available regardless of a person’s immigration status, income or categorical eligibility, with COVID-19-related care covered through Medicaid
  • Increased funding for Community Health Centers, free and charitable clinics, school-based health centers, and critical access hospitals, which are essential providers in many immigrant and low-income communities
  • Delivery of information about COVID-19, health care options, and public programs in multiple languages and through trusted community providers, with interpretation services funding
  • Tax rebates for filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, as well as those who use a Social Security number
  • Extending nutrition assistance programs such as the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to immigrant families, and extending the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program through the summer of 2020

Many of these policies are incorporated in the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (H.R. 6437) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (Senate bill number not yet assigned). Legislation, also sponsored by Rep. Chu, to block implementation of the “public charge” regulations has 124 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

Research confirms that the Trump administration’s public charge regulation has deterred immigrant families from seeking health care assistance. Since it was implemented in February, public health officials have warned that public charge and other Trump anti-immigrant policies undermine the nation’s response to COVID-19. Experts have also warned that immigrant families and other families of color face additional barriers to care and economic resilience, as well as disproportionate impact from both the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. Yet response packages enacted with bipartisan support in Congress have left immigrant families out of COVID-19–related health care and economic assistance.

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To Ensure Collective Health and Safety, Federal Packages for COVID-19 Relief Must Include Immigrant Communities (The Torch)

To Ensure Collective Health and Safety, Federal Packages for COVID-19 Relief Must Include Immigrant Communities

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
APRIL 21, 2020

The COVID-19 public health crisis has demonstrated how our health and well-being — everyone’s — are interconnected. Congress has passed relief packages that help many Americans access health care, paid leave, and economic support, but these measures don’t sufficiently address the widespread harm caused by the crisis. Legislation passed to date, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), has failed to address the needs of millions of our immigrant community members and their families.

Immigrants face many structural barriers to accessing health care, and they are highly represented in jobs that put them at risk during this crisis. The impacts of COVID-19 in low-income immigrant communities — places such as Langley Park, MD, and central Queens, NY — have already been catastrophic. We urgently need legislation that protects the health and well-being of all our communities, including immigrants. Outlined here are key provisions that would make the next phase of COVID-19 relief legislation more inclusive of immigrant communities.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Everyone must have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment

During this crisis, uninsured immigrant communities need coverage for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and, when they’re available, vaccines. The uninsured rate has risen in recent years, and immigrants are disproportionately represented in the uninsured population. People who are undocumented are ineligible for most Medicaid coverage and coverage through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

The CARES Act falls short on ensuring access to essential treatment for uninsured people who are ineligible for full-scope Medicaid. COVID-19–related coverage must be available under Medicaid for any individual who is uninsured. And Congress must ensure that information about the virus, health care, and benefits are accessible, through interpretation services, to people who don’t speak or read English fluently.

Congress must halt implementation of harmful “public charge” rules

No one should have to fear that getting the health care they need could adversely affect their immigration status, but, unfortunately, that’s already happening. In February 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began implementing its new “public charge” rule that takes into consideration a person’s use of noncash public benefits, such as Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps), in determining their eligibility for lawful permanent resident status. Several courts preliminarily enjoined the rule, but these injunctions were lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

DHS’s public charge rule created a widespread chilling effect on immigrants’ accessing programs and services even before the government began implementing it. Now there’s clear evidence that immigrants are fearful of accessing medical treatment for COVID-19 because of public charge, even though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would not consider the receipt of COVID-19 testing, treatment, or preventative care in public charge assessments.

The next COVID-19 relief package should include provisions to stop the DHS public charge rule’s implementation and also that of a similar rule being implemented by the U.S. State Department, whose consulates abroad issue visas to people seeking to immigrate. Congress should also pass legislation to halt any further action by federal agencies that are intended to make public charge policies more restrictive.

Immigrants must be able to access hospitals and health care facilities without fearing immigration enforcement

Undocumented communities must also be able to access the care and services they need without fear that visiting a health care facility will put them at risk of being separated from their families. The federal government has long designated “sensitive locations,” such as hospitals, schools and churches, as safe spaces that are off-limits to immigration enforcement.

As long as the present public health crisis lasts, DHS should cease all civil immigration enforcement, to help ensure that immigrant communities stay home and focused on remaining healthy or able to access crucial medical services without the added fear of being torn from loved ones. While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it will not carry out enforcement operations at health care facilities during the COVID-19 crisis, states and localities should remain vigilant to hold ICE accountable. A NILC toolkit titled “Filing Immigration Enforcement Civil Rights Complaints for Violations of the ‘Sensitive Locations’ Policy At or Near Your School” can be used or adapted to help hold ICE accountable.

Immigrant taxpayers should be eligible for economic relief

The CARES Act provides some taxpayers a “recovery rebate” of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for jointly filing couples, and $500 per dependent child. However, many immigrant families have been left out of this program and subjected to additional financial hardship and also health risks, since many may be forced to continue working in unsafe conditions. Immigrant tax-filers who do not have Social Security numbers (SSNs) can file income taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). But under the CARES Act, households that include ITIN-filers are generally ineligible for this tax rebate.

Congress should remove the SSN requirement to ensure that all taxpayers have access to the recovery rebate and are able to provide shelter and food for their families.

Immigrant workers need to be able to keep their jobs and to work in safe and healthy conditions

Immigrant workers who continue working in industries designated as essential are encountering conditions that put their health and safety at risk every day, one of the many causes of significant racial and ethnic disparities seen in the impacts of COVID-19. Workers need a federal law, such as the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency temporary standard requiring employers to take minimum steps to protect workers during this crisis. Any safety plan should prioritize prevention of exposure, with an emphasis on increased physical distancing and personal protective equipment at no cost to workers. Workers in essential industries also need universal paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave to allow them to stay home and self-quarantine when necessary.

Congress should do all it can to avert layoffs and keep workers in their jobs — even if that means taking on temporary responsibility for covering employers’ payroll expenses. Workers who have temporary work authorization through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), temporary protected status (TPS), or nonimmigrant visas need an automatic extension of their status or work authorization for the length of time they most recently held status or were work-authorized in order to ensure that they can keep working when able and qualify for unemployment insurance when they cannot. States and localities should follow California’s lead in setting up funds to help workers who are ineligible for unemployment insurance.

IF WE ARE SERIOUS ABOUT truly stemming the tide of the crushing health and economic consequences of this pandemic, we must include immigrants in our legislative solutions. More detailed information is available in NILC’s “Understanding the Impact of Key Provisions of COVID-19 Relief Bills on Immigrant Communities.”


Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.