Category Archives: September 2014

Families Losing Health Coverage

September 30, 2014

Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

As Families Lose Health Coverage, Groups File Complaints and Attempt to Find Out Why

National Immigration Law Center and others fear eligible families were unaware of immigration or citizenship data inconsistencies in their applications

LOS ANGELES — After months of missteps and technological glitches, eligible immigrant families may lose their health insurance coverage tomorrow, advocates say, and they don’t know why.

Attorneys with the National Immigration Law Center and the law firm Holland & Knight joined advocates in Pennsylvania and Illinois to fileadministrative complaints contending that recent notices of termination of insurance were sent only in English or Spanish, violating the antidiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The National Immigration Law Center and Holland & Knight also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the 115,000 people who bought health coverage but earlier this month were notified that they had not provided sufficient proof of their immigration or citizenship status and that therefore their coverage would be terminated on September 30.

Many of these immigrant families have fought verification challenges for months, submitting paperwork proving their eligibility several times. Furthermore, the health care termination notices were sent only in English or Spanish, which leaves immigrant families from Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa particularly vulnerable to losing health coverage they need.

“The language you speak, the money in your pocket, or your zip code shouldn’t determine whether or not you have access to affordable health care,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Unfortunately, these factors will result in a loss of coverage for immigrant families who don’t speak English or Spanish and did not receive meaningful notice from the federal government. We will continue to fight to ensure that these people aren’t living one accident or illness away from bankruptcy.”

The Freedom of Information Act request seeks information about how the 115,000 termination notices were sent, open rates for termination notices sent electronically, and information about whether those notified of health coverage termination had previously indicated that they prefer to receive information in a language other than English or Spanish.

“Part of what makes this problem so discouraging to consumers is that it was completely preventable: had the Marketplace communicated with consumers in a language they understand, many of the families would have been able to realize the urgency of these notices and respond promptly,” said Thoai Nguyen, CEO of Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, which assisted Asian immigrants with their health insurance applications. “It is very important for the Marketplace to collect better data on the preferred languages of consumers and commit to translating notices and announcements in their primary languages or coordinate with community-based organizations to assist with consumers whose English proficiency is limited.”

Health and Human Services officials have struggled for months to verify the immigration or citizenship status for many who bought insurance under Obamacare. In August, the department sent notices to more than 300,000 families informing them that they needed to resubmit information verifying their eligibility to purchase health insurance through the federal Marketplace. According to advocates, many of these individuals had already submitted paperwork several times, causing growing frustration for health care applicants.

“We don’t know what happened to the immigration documents we helped customers to file over several months, and many of our clients fear that their information was simply misplaced,” said Luvia Quiñones, health policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which filed the administrative complaint in Illinois. “For months, we felt like we were simply sending these documents into a bureaucratic black hole.”

Still, according to health officials, the vast majority of applicants who submitted paperwork before the September 5 deadline proved to be eligible to buy health insurance. Advocates believe that many of the remaining 115,000 who did not respond to governmental requests for additional paperwork are also eligible for Obamacare, but they may have been unaware of a need to file additional information to keep their coverage because either they had already submitted information in the past or they got notices only in a language they could not understand.

The Freedom of Information Act request and administrative complaints are available at

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ICE to Open New Family Detention Center

September 23, 2014

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

Plans To Open Massive Family Detention Facility Show Anything But Compassion

National Immigration Law Center decries expansion of family detention in Texas

WASHINGTON — Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities announced today that they intend to open a 2,400 bed immigrant detention facility designed to lock up mothers and their children. This facility would represent a dramatic increase in family detention as well as a reversal of the Obama administration’s earlier policies to avoid detaining children and families.

Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. Hincapié visited the Artesia, NM, family detention facility in July 2014, where she interviewed women who had been detained with their children for several weeks. The Artesia detention facility was created earlier this year to house women and children fleeing violence in Central America.

“No child should be locked up behind barbed wire. No parent should have to live the nightmare of spending time with her daughter in ICE detention. Sadly, this practice will become more common for mothers and children fleeing violence in Central America, now that the government has announced it will dramatically increase the number of families they intend to put behind bars.

“Today’s news is merely the latest disappointing announcement from an administration that has promised to uphold basic rights, only to trample upon them when it is politically expedient to do so. As we have seen in the Artesia detention center, the physical and psychological damage children incur when they are jailed in this fashion is impossible to overstate. The scars will be long-lasting. To subject a greater number of children and their parents to similar detention standards and practices is, simply put, unconscionable and extremely costly.

“We will continue to advocate for due process rights of detained Central American women and children in our communities, with Congress, and, if necessary, in the court room.”

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Obama Delays Action on Immigration

September 6, 2014

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

President Puts Politics of Fear Over Sound Policy

Decision to delay executive action on immigration will tear more families apart, hurt the economy

WASHINGTON — Several major media outlets have reported that President Obama will delay making any decisions about changing immigration policy until after the November 2014 elections. This is a stark reversal from the June 30 promise he made in the Rose Garden, when he stated that, once he’d reviewed recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice at the end of the summer, he would “adopt those recommendations without further delay.”

This decision, though not unexpected, was widely discouraged by advocates, who sent a letter to the president signed by more than 180 Latino and Asian American groups, along with labor, faith, and immigrants’ rights organizations, to encourage him to act without delay. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“Today, President Obama let the politics of fear get in the way of standing up for justice and fairness. It is ironic that at a moment when immigrant, Latino, and Asian American communities have shown their strength — at the ballot box, at the workplace, and in their communities — the president has chosen to stand instead with politicians and others who would prefer a short-term political gain instead of doing what is right and what will have the greatest long-term benefits.

“The president’s decision to delay any action will only allow our dysfunctional immigration system to continue to devastate families, communities, and our economy. The Obama administration now shares blame for this devastation: The president has noted that his staff have already provided recommendations that could prevent further separation of families and remove the threat of deportation, leaving the choice entirely up to him.

“Although immigration reform voters and the communities they represent are deeply disappointed today, we will not back down. We will continue to fight for policies and laws that allow all aspiring Americans, regardless of economic status, to live fully and freely in this country. We hope President Obama’s disappointing detour from the path to justice is short, and that he joins us on this fight soon. While many immigrants will find it hard to believe that the president will indeed follow through on executive action before the end of the year, the National Immigration Law Center remains steadfast in advocating for administrative reforms that we know will be life-changing for immigrant families and communities, and good for our country.”

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Obamacare September 5 Deadline

September 5, 2014

Adela de la Torre, 213-400-7822, [email protected]

Hundreds of Thousands Risk Losing Health Coverage

Advocates say immigrants were not properly informed of need for additional verification

WASHINGTON — More than 200,000 families must submit additional information to the government by the end of the day today to verify their immigration or citizenship status. Failure to do so could cut off the coverage they purchased on federal health insurance exchanges.

This new deadline is the latest in a series of governmental gaffes over the online application system, identity verification, language access, and enrollment hurdles, and advocates are calling upon the government to keep families from losing coverage while people update their information. Below is a statement from Jenny Rejeske, health policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center:

“Immigrant families overcame many logistical and technological challenges to enroll themselves and their families in affordable health coverage through the federal exchanges. Their actions are good for everyone: when more people have access to health coverage, everybody’s health improves.

“But some logistical and technological problems have not yet been fixed, and the federal government has failed to provide adequate notice to people who speak languages other than English or Spanish. Too many people have complied with the requests to submit more information but still are told there are problems. And too many are still unaware of what they need to do to avoid losing their health insurance because of the government’s failure to communicate with them in a language they can understand.

“That’s why it’s so befuddling that the government has threatened to stop coverage for so many people when it hasn’t fully fixed its own systems. These actions are irresponsible and harmful, and detract from the central promise of Obamacare.

“Immigrant families who received a notice to submit additional information should know that it’s not too late to send in their information. We urge the administration to work with families and advocates to collect the information they need without cutting people out of coverage. However, the government shouldn’t impose such draconian measures upon people who overcame challenge after challenge to enroll, and whom the government’s system is still failing.”

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Immigration Law Professors’ Letter to Obama

September 3, 2014

Adela de la Torre, NILC, 213-400-7822, [email protected]
Wendy Feliz, American Immigration Council, 202-507-7524, [email protected]

136 Leading Experts on Immigration Law Agree: President Has Legal Authority to Expand Relief to Immigrants

WASHINGTON — U.S. law professors sent a letter today to the White House stating that President Obama has wide legal authority to make needed changes to immigration enforcement policy. The president is considering how to use his authority to mitigate the damage caused by our dysfunctional immigration system and protect certain individuals from deportation.

The letter was written by Stephen H. Legomsky, John S. Lehmann University Professor at Washington University School of Law and former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chief Counsel; Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law; and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. It was signed by professors from 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“As part of the administration’s legal team that ironed out the details of DACA, I can personally attest that we took pains to make sure the program meticulously satisfied every conceivable legal requirement,” said Legomsky. “In this letter, 136 law professors who specialize in immigration reach the same conclusion and explain why similar programs would be equally lawful.” (DACA is the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program the president initiated in June 2012.)

In their letter, the law professors point out that “The administration has the legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for managing resources and protecting individuals residing in and contributing to the United States in meaningful ways.” The letter goes on to explain that presidents from both parties have used prosecutorial discretion to prevent specific, and often large, groups of immigrants from being deported.

“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Wadhia. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”

This is the second major letter about prosecutorial discretion that law professors have sent to President Obama. The first letter, sent in 2012, outlined the legal argument for expanded administrative relief, which later became the blueprint for the president’s DACA program. That program allows qualifying noncitizens who came to the United States as children to apply for relief from deportation and work authorization.

“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Motomura. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities.  Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA, for granting temporary relief from deportation.”

The National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Council helped to distribute the letter that was sent today. Recently, the Council also released a report by Professor Motomura, “The President’s Discretion, Immigration Enforcement, and the Rule of Law,” which provides further legal and historical background on this issue.

A copy of the letter is available and

To learn more about how President Obama can restore order to our dysfunctional immigration system, visit NILC’s Administrative Relief & Prosecutorial Discretion webpage.

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