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Sí Se Puede : Effective Advocacy with Latino Immigrant Populations. Case to Cause. You’re working with a family who discloses that they don’t have electricity because the power company won’t turn it on without a Social Security Number on the account.

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case to cause
Case to Cause
  • You’re working with a family who discloses that they don’t have electricity because the power company won’t turn it on without a Social Security Number on the account.
  • Your client is distraught because her teenage daughter has started to skip school, after having great grades. You find out that the girl was told by a prejudiced school counselor that “it doesn’t matter what classes she takes; she’ll just end up pregnant like the rest of the Mexicans.”
  • An undocumented man has a stroke; he’s recovering in the hospital but must be discharged, but no facility will take him without insurance coverage.
  • In your domestic violence shelter, you have a survivor who is undocumented; her abusive husband and her children are all U.S. citizens.
  • Your client is a Lawful Permanent Resident; her husband dies suddenly, leaving her to care for their 3 children. She speaks little English despite having been in the U.S. for 6 years.
  • Your 76-year-old client has been a LPR since 1999, but her limited English makes her ineligible for naturalization. She has serious disabilities and needs nursing home care.
  • Marta comes to you pregnant, undocumented, and desperate. Her husband has just been deported, and she is due to give birth in 3 weeks. She is afraid to travel back to Guatemala in her condition. She has never seen a doctor and doesn’t know what to do now that she is alone.
some definitions to start
Some Definitions to Start
  • U.S. Citizen
  • Lawful Permanent Resident
  • Hispanic v. Latino v. Chicano v. “Mexican”
  • Undocumented Immigrant
  • “Illegal Alien”
  • Refugee
  • Asylee
  • Mixed-status Family
  • English-Only v. Official English
  • Non-immigrant
myths v realities
Myths v. Realities
  • An estimated 60% of Hispanics in the U.S. are native-born.
  • Approximately 64% of all Hispanics in the U.S. are of Mexican origin.
    • Central Americans in the U.S. are more likely to be foreign-born than Mexicans.
  • 51% of Hispanics (and 58% of the foreign-born) are married.
  • 27% of Hispanics, compared with 13% of all Americans, live in families with 5 or more people.
  • 31% of Hispanics speak only English at home.
    • 50% speak Spanish at home but also speak English ‘very well’, and 18% speak English less than very well.
  • In 2000, 91% of Latinos lived in urban areas in the U.S., but suburbanization is increasing.
  • Latino unemployment rates are similar to non-Latino whites’ and significantly lower than rates for African Americans and Native Americans (5.2% in mid-2006).
  • For most of the past decade, Latinos have accounted for more than 40% of new workers added to the U.S. labor market (90% foreign-born).
landscape of injustice
Landscape of Injustice
  • 24% of Hispanic families earned less than $20,123 in 2006.
    • 29% of Hispanic children and almost 20% of Hispanic elderly lived in poverty in 2006.
    • Hispanics have the lowest home ownership rate of any ethnic/racial group, at 46%.
  • 24% of Hispanics (and 34% of the foreign-born) have less than a 9th grade education.
  • 28% are high school graduates, and only 12% are college graduates.
  • A Mexican with LPR will wait ~18 years to bring spouse and minor children to the U.S.; a U.S. citizen from Mexico waits 15 years to bring a sibling.
  • Immigrants are suffering especially in this recession; the unemployment rate for foreign-born Hispanics increased from 5.1% to 8.0%, from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008 and has continued to outpace the unemployment rate of the native-born.
is an immigrant eligible for benefits
Is an Immigrant Eligible for Benefits?
  • Is the benefit a public or privately-funded service?
    • If it’s a public benefit, at what government level, and with what specific funding?
  • What is the immigrant’s immigration status?
  • If the individual is lawfully present, is he/she a ‘qualified immigrant’?
  • What are the specific rules for eligibility for the benefit?
  • What, if any, possible consequences are there for the individual if he/she uses services for which eligible (related to public charge, privacy)?
  • What barriers to service may exist (language, cultural insensitivity, etc…)?
navigating eligibility federal programs
Navigating Eligibility—Federal Programs
  • U.S. citizens
    • By birth (in US, Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands)
    • By acquisition (at birth, through US citizen parent)
    • By derivation (through parent’s naturalization)
  • Nationals
    • persons born to countries under possession of U.S. (e.g. American Samoa)
  • Qualified Immigrants
    • Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR)
    • Refugees and Asylees
    • Persons granted withholding of removal/deportation
    • Persons paroled into the U.S. for at least one year
    • Cuban/Haitian entrants
    • Certain “battered spouses and children”
rules after 1996 welfare law prwora
Rules After 1996 Welfare Law (PRWORA)
  • Federal public benefits generally limited to
      • Citizens
      • “Qualified” immigrants
  • 5 year bar
      • applies in select federal programs to immigrants who enter after 8/22/96 – even if they have “qualified alien” status (also a reason to encourage people to naturalize)
      • for this, and other reasons, it may be relevant whether a person entered before or on/after 8/22/96 (if LPR)
  • States can use state funds to cover others
      • non-qualified immigrants or qualified immigrants during their first five years
      • approximately half of all states provide some state-funded benefitsto immigrants ineligible under federal rules
examples of federal programs open to everyone
Examples of federal programs open to “everyone”
  • Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
  • School lunch programs
  • Emergency Medicaid (for treatment of emergency medical conditions)
  • Disaster relief (not necessarily rebuilding aid), immunizations, most public health
  • No federal immigration restrictions on locally administered programs that don’t:
      • condition assistance on income or resources and
      • are necessary to protect life or safety.

E.g., child protective services, parenting classes

emergency medicaid
Emergency Medicaid
  • Available regardless of immigration status ...
  • for persons otherwise eligible for Medicaid...
  • for treatment of an “emergency medical condition”
  • Not limited to most extreme, life-threatening emergencies of the kind taken by ambulance to emergency rooms (although these DO count)
  • Practices vary depending on the state. Examples of treatment have included:
    • Eye surgery to avoid having detached retina
    • Hysterectomy
    • Cancer evaluation and treatment
    • Renal dialysis
  • Emergency Medicaid does not cover organ transplants.
  • What is an emergency medical condition?
  • A condition -- including labor and delivery -- with acute symptoms of such severity that the lack of immediate medical treatment could reasonably result in:
      • serious jeopardy to the patient’s health, or
      • serious impairment to bodily functions, or
      • serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
barriers for those eligible
Barriers for those Eligible
  • Deeming
    • Once immigrant adjusts status, sponsor income may be added or “deemed” to the immigrant’s income at the time of application for a federal means-tested public benefit(Medicaid, SCHIP, Food Stamps, SSI, TANF)
    • Deeming may push immigrants over the income limit for public benefits programs, making them ineligible due to income and not to their immigration status. If immigrant has 40 quarters at time of adjustment, no affidavit of support required (but many will not have these 40 quarters)
    • Immigrants reluctant to use benefits due to fear that their sponsor will be held legally responsible to repay the government for benefits used by the immigrant and/or that they will be prejudiced in their own naturalization application.
  • Verification/Reporting

Immigrants may fear that if they apply for benefits, they or a family member will be reported to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

  • Public Charge

Fear that USCIS will deny a person a green card, admission to the U.S., or future naturalization because they use benefits.

  • Lack of Language Access

Reluctance or inability to use services because of lack of interpreters and translated material.

  • Confusion about Eligibility

Immigrants may assume that they are not eligible due to confusion and misinformation about the rules and publicity related to anti-immigrant attacks on public benefit eligibility.

navigating eligibility state programs
Navigating Eligibility—State Programs
  • State-administered federal programs must follow federal rules regarding immigrants’ eligibility (housing programs, some health care).
  • Programs that are state or locally-funded, or those specifically left to state options, may include eligibility beyond federal rules.
  • This makes it essential that advocates investigate the funding sources for programs and understand which rules apply.
  • In 2008, Missouri both passed restrictions on immigrants’ receipt of ‘public benefits,’ mirroring actions in other states (VA, GA, OK, CO).
  • KS rejected compromise on similar legislation, although versions passed each chamber, opening future possibilities for attacks.
  • For the most part, these new laws simply reaffirm existing rules and are limited to only those immigrants not lawfully present in the U.S. (much smaller restricted categories than federal law).
  • There are concerns about the definitions, though, particularly that domestic violence shelters may be considered ‘housing’ and that some local health care services may be affected.
  • Also of concern is the effect that these rules will likely have on immigrants seeking services, particularly given misunderstandings about exactly who and what is covered.
navigating eligibility nonprofit organizations
Navigating Eligibility—Nonprofit Organizations
  • Many nonprofit agencies include Social Security requirements and/or rules about immigration status not because any law or funding source requires it but because of political pressures/fears and/or a reflexive addition of these requirements.
  • While nonprofit agencies must follow the law regarding eligibility, social workers have an obligation to advocate with funders, agency executives, and other decision makers to question when these rules are really necessary and to suggest alternative ways to establish eligibility.
special populations mixed status families
Special Populations: Mixed-Status Families
  • Need to evaluate eligibility for services separately for each family member
  • Inclusive, non-threatening access points help family ‘brokers’ to navigate services
    • e.g. intake forms that don’t require information on those not requesting services
  • Need advocacy messages that avoid splintering different segments of the Latino immigrant population
    • e.g. can’t win educational opportunities for immigrant kids by pointing to “sins of their parents”
special populations immigrant dv survivors
Special Populations: Immigrant DV Survivors
  • Eligible for most benefits if:
    • Approved or pending:
      • Visa petition filed by US citizen or LPR spouse/parent or
      • Self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or
      • Application for cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation under VAWA
    • Applicant no longer lives with the abuser and
    • Substantial connection between the abuse and the need for benefits
special populations refugees and asylum seekers
Special Populations: Refugees and Asylum-Seekers
  • Few migrants from Latin American countries eligible for asylum (Cuba being the obvious exception)
  • Far more generous eligibility for assistance than other categories of ‘immigrants’, but significant barriers to full integration:
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder and other crisis-related mental health strains
    • Language barriers, often complicated by shortage of interpreters
    • Difficulty finding employment, particularly in this economy (and benefits are short-lived)
latinos and your organization
Latinos and your Organization
  • Language access essential, but only a start
  • Effective outreach channels:
    • Spanish-language radio (locally)
    • Partnership with faith communities
    • Outreach to Latino-owned businesses
  • Removing internal barriers:
    • Staff representativeness
    • Intake requirements
    • Hours of operation
    • Culturally-appropriate programming
advocating alongside
Advocating Alongside
  • Strong tradition of collective action
    • Barriers regarding language, logistics need to be addressed, but the idea of coming together with others to oppose injustice familiar to many
  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. institutions of power
  • Informed consent to share knowledge of risks, to greatest extent possible
  • Cultural awareness, including of cultural power differentials
    • Communication styles, dealing with conflict, primacy of relationships
  • Ideas to weave into practice:
    • Delegations to negotiate with powerful interests
    • Public protests, rallies, forums
    • Celebration of small victories
justice for all
Justice for All
  • Social workers who advocate for Latinos have an obligation not to engage in ‘zero-sum’ games that pit ethnic groups against each other.
    • This means NO “largest minority group,” “work harder than,” “jobs Blacks won’t do,” “at least not on welfare,” “new slavery,” etc…
  • The policies, programs, and strategies that support Latinos can also empower African Americans: good schools, fair wages, Affirmative Action, reformed justice system, strong social services.
arguments that work
Arguments that Work
  • Appeal to shared values: family, work, faith
  • Emphasize the broken status quo—be ready to answer, “why didn’t they just do it the right way?”
  • Point to pragmatism, especially for campaigns at the local, state level--“we’ve got to deal with reality”
  • Use your programming to facilitate community building across boundaries
  • Educate others on the limits of their responsibilities (and authority)—“you’re not ICE”
anti immigrant attacks and how to counter them
Anti-Immigrant Attacks and How to Counter Them
  • Jobs
    • Labor protections and CIR eliminate the perverse incentives to hire unauthorized workers
  • Drain on public resources
    • Public services are investments in quality communities
  • Quality of life/Cultural dissonance
    • Bringing immigrants into the mainstream communicates shared expectations
    • Strength in diversity
  • “Takeover”
  • Crime and homeland security
    • Immigrants far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crimes
  • Law and order/“fairness”
    • A broken system that hurts good people; can’t effectively enforce unenforceable laws
  • The kitchen sink
    • You’ll never win over everyone!
inspiration and examples
Inspiration and Examples
  • Organization’s frontline staff and clients convince utility to create unique identifiers for immigrants without SSNs
  • Community starts ESL and Spanish “Bienvenidos a los EEUU” classes during breaks at a meatpacking plant
  • Social worker and youth clients change school to policy disallowing LEP students from team sports
  • Successful instate tuition campaign garners support of Regents, K-12 schools, faith leaders, Chambers of Commerce, organized labor, League of Women Voters, and others
  • Social service organization starts workers’ center to teach labor rights, take complaints, and address community concerns re: loitering
agenda for change comprehensive immigration reform
Agenda for Change: Comprehensive Immigration Reform
  • Family reunification
  • Path to legal status for undocumented immigrants
  • Work authorization for needed workers/reform of verification system
  • Civil rights and civil liberties protections
  • Citizenship and immigrant integration
  • Smart enforcement
agenda for change ichia
Agenda for Change: ICHIA
  • Would give states option of providing health coverage (with federal match) to lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women under Medicaid or the SCHIP without imposing an arbitrary 5 year waiting period.
  • Approximately 20 states currently provide health coverage to some groups of lawfully residing immigrants during their first 5 years.
  • Cost-effectiveness of providing preventative care is particularly profound for children and pregnant women.
  • ICHIA--introduced in both the House and Senate--would provide fiscal relief to these states and encourage other states to provide health coverage.
agenda for change supporting language diversity
Agenda for Change: Supporting Language Diversity
  • Investment in English-as-a-Second-Language courses, for children and adults
  • Language instruction for native English speakers, to promote global competitiveness
  • Multilingual outreach and emergency services
  • Rejection of bigoted ‘English-only’ laws
    • States like New Mexico have adopted “English-plus” measures that emphasize English acquisition while celebrating additional language competencies
agenda for change workers rights
Agenda for Change: Workers’ Rights
  • Vigorous enforcement of wage and hour, health and safety rules
  • Legislative repeal of the Hoffman Plastics decision
  • Reform of exploitative temporary worker programs to allow full portability, full labor rights
agenda for change access to identification
Agenda for Change: Access to Identification
  • With increasing requirements for government-issued photo identification for a variety of functions, access is essential for immigrant families
  • Social work advocates must work with libraries, schools, and other entities that issue identification to create equitable access/alternatives
  • Short of comprehensive immigration reform, all in the United States deserve some form of identification
    • Promotes inclusion but also security
resources to help ways to get involved
Resources to Help, Ways to Get Involved
  • National Immigration Law Center: www.nilc.org
  • Kansas City Worker Justice Project: http://kcwjp.org/index.html
  • National Employment Law Project: http://www.nelp.org/site/issues/category/immigrants_and_work/
  • Reform Immigration for America: http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/
  • Pew Hispanic Center: http://www.pewhispanic.org
  • U.S. Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov
  • National Council of La Raza: http://www.nclr.org