Fearing Deportation, Parents Worry About Enrolling Undocumented Kids In Medi-Cal

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Luz felt relieved and grateful when she learned that her 16-year-old son qualified for full coverage under Medi-Cal. Now, she worries that the information she provided to the government health program could put her family at risk of deportation.

Luz’s son is one of nearly 190,000 children who have enrolled in Medi-Cal since California opened it to undocumented children last year. Luz, her husband and her son came to Merced, Calif., from Mexico without papers about 10 years ago. Luz asked that the family’s last name not be used, for fear of being identified by federal immigration authorities.

In the current political climate, immigration and health advocates worry that children, like Luz’s son, will drop out of Medi-Cal and that new kids won’t enroll out of concern that personal information may be used to deport families.

Luz would need to renew her son’s coverage in October, but she remains undecided even though the program paid for his hospital visit when he injured a foot. “I’m still thinking about it,” she said.

Last May, the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) implemented the new “Health For All Kids” law allowing California children under 19 to receive full Medi-Cal benefits, including dental care and mental health, regardless of their immigration status. Previously, undocumented children could receive only emergency care through Medi-Cal.

California followed Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and the District of Columbia in offering state-supported health coverage to children in the country illegally.

Medi-Cal is California’s version of the federal Medicaid program for people with low incomes. The federal government pays for a significant portion of the California program, as it does for all states. But coverage for undocumented kids is entirely funded by the state.

From last May to through April 6, 189,434 undocumented children signed up for the program, according to the most recent state data. The health care services department estimates that another 61,000 children are eligible but not enrolled. Advocates say now is the time for a push to sign up these “harder-to-reach” children and to encourage those already in the program to stay.

Immigrant families have become more reluctant to share personal information with government programs because of the Trump administration’s planned changes in health care and immigration policies, according to a recent survey of 62 individuals working for pediatric practices, community clinics, local public health departments and hospitals serving immigrant communities throughout the state.

Immigrants are also increasingly skipping doctor appointments because of similar concerns, according to the survey, conducted in March by the advocacy group Children Now.

Kelly Hardy, Children Now’s managing director of health policy, said some families even have sought to withdraw their children from the Medi-Cal program because they fear that their immigration status might be shared with immigration officials.

“Holding on to the kids who have recently enrolled is going to become critically important,” Hardy said. She said she hopes families will see that the coverage is a boon to their health and will not be scared away.

In an email last week, the DHCS reiterated to California Healthline that an applicant’s immigration status is “only used for the purposes of determining Medi-Cal eligibility.”

But that doesn’t eliminate the worry for some parents.

“This fear is horrible. We don’t know who to trust,” Luz said.

Before the coverage-for-all law took effect last year, undocumented children could get coverage through the Healthy Kids insurance program in some California counties. However, many of those children have been transferred to Medi-Cal, and the Healthy Kids programs are closing down.

Carlos Jimenez, a health policy advocate at the Mixteco Community Organizing Project in Oxnard, Calif., said the nonprofit doubled its enrollment assistance efforts after the law was implemented.

Community health educators known as promotoras, spread word about the new law in farm fields, in front of supermarkets and outside churches. Last year, enrollment counselors saw up to 400 people a month who had questions about Medi-Cal, the majority looking to enroll their children, Jimenez said.

But after the November presidential election, enrollment counselors at Mixteco saw the number of people seeking help drop by nearly half, Jimenez said. Staffers had expected more inquiries about renewals by now, he said.

Most people ask whether enrolling an undocumented child would bring any problems with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Jimenez said. “We tell them their information is safe. But even then, they’re afraid.”

The Children Now survey showed that participants had questions about the future of Medi-Cal for undocumented children — in particular, whether it would continue if the Affordable Care Act were replaced.

In an interview with California Healthline in February, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who authored the Health for All Kids law, said there was no reason for people to be concerned about the program’s durability.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown continues to make this program a priority, Lara said, noting that California is spending $279.5 million to continue benefits for undocumented kids this year. That’s up from the $188 million it provided for the program last year

Health advocates in California are hoping to extend the program to young adults. Earlier this month, the California Immigrant Policy Center and Health Access California, launched an online petition requesting that full Medi-Cal benefits be made available to people ages 19 to 26.

 

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Fear of Deportation on the Rise in L.A. County, Study Finds

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Amid White House promises to crack down on illegal immigration, fear of deportation is on the rise in Los Angeles County, with more than one-third of residents concerned they or someone they know will be removed from the country, according to a UCLA survey released Tuesday.

The second annual Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index survey, produced by the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, queried about 1,600 county residents between Feb. 28 and March 12, and found that 37 percent are worried about deportation. Of that group, more than half said they were very concerned.

“The level of anxiety over deportation among county residents is staggering,” Los Angeles Initiative Director and former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “The national debate on immigration has heavily impacted Los Angeles. The extraordinary number of people who now fear engaging local government for services should be of concern for all of us.”

A half-Latino man in his 30s in the San Fernando Valley told surveyors he worries about his girlfriend’s family. Most of them are in the country legally but one is not, he said. Another respondent, a South Bay white woman in her late 50s, told surveyors she was worried that her neighbors would be deported.

Latinos, followed by Asians, were the ethnic groups most concerned about deportation, and lower-income residents were more concerned than the wealthy.

Meanwhile, satisfaction with the overall impact immigrants are having on the region rose by four points over the past year.

Despite rising concerns over deportation, health care, gentrification and traffic, the annual study found that overall satisfaction stayed the same.

The survey found that nearly half of respondents felt they would be negatively impacted by a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

In regard to gentrification, more than half of the survey’s respondents were upset with the displacement of their neighbors by people who could afford to pay more for housing, while 19 percent viewed the phenomenon as a good thing. In Central Los Angeles, 68 percent of respondents had a negative view of gentrification.

The survey also found that the lengths of commutes were up this year, as were reported concerns about the condition of streets, causing transportation scores to drop.

Satisfaction with the cost of living also dropped, with nearly half of the respondents saying that housing costs were the most important factor in the cost-of-living category.

Meanwhile, views on race relations improved, earning the most positive rating in the survey’s index.

“Overall, county residents generally feel positively about their quality of life, the communities in which they live and their relations with one another,” Yaroslavsky said in the release.

White House Adopts Rules to Step Up Deportations

February 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The memos signed by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly released Tuesday make sweeping changes to immigration enforcement policies, making the possibility of mass deportations of immigrants in the country without permission more likely, activists said Tuesday.

Calling the changes an effort to “enhance public safety,” Kelly’s memos put in place guidelines aimed at beefing up Pres. Donald Trump’s earlier executive actions on immigration, building on his campaign promise to deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally. Trump’s order said, “Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”

Lea este artículo en Español: Casa Blanca Adopta Reglas Para Aumentar Deportaciones

In a dramatic change from the Obama Administration, not only will undocumented immigrants convicted of violent crimes be subject to deportation, so will those deemed to have “abused” public benefit programs or who “pose a risk to public or national security” in the judgment of an immigration officer.

Any unauthorized immigrant even suspected of a crime could be deported under the new rules.

The orders also call for beefing up the ranks of enforcement authorities by adding 10,000 more Immigration and Custom, or ICE officers, as well as 5,000 more border patrol agents and 500 Air & Marine Agents/Officers, but congress would first have to approve funding for the new hires.

During a telephone press conference Tuesday, Jen Smyers, Associate Director for the Immigration and Refugee Policy for Church World Service, called the implementation of the memos unprecedented and unconceivable.

“All three of these executive actions go against our core values as Americans and that is why we are calling on congress to stop these memos through the appropriations process,” Smyers said.

Local advocacy groups such as The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA), one of the areas in California most affected by recent immigration raids, labeled the newly announced measures a “deeply troubling development.”

Thousands marched in Los Angeles Saturday in support of immigrant rights, and an end to deportations. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

Thousands marched in Los Angeles Saturday in support of immigrant rights, and an end to deportations. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

“Secretary Kelly has unleashed an unprecedented witch hunt on millions of immigrant families …We are categorically opposed to these measures which threaten our families, hurt our nation’s economy, and stand directly opposite to our nation’s history and values,” said CHRILA Executive Director Angelica Salas in a press statement.

The Trump Administration has however decided to leave the Deferred Action Program (DACA) program created in 2012 by Obama intact.

Under DACA, about 750,000 people brought to the country illegally as children were granted a reprieve from deportation and allowed to get work permits. These undocumented youths or “dreamers” as they are often called, will remain “unaffected,” at least for now, by the federal agency’s new orders.

During his daily press briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the goal of these policies, “take the shackles off” and “give more authority to the federal agency to enforce immigration laws.” He emphasized that “anyone who is here illegally can be deported at any time.”

That scares Maritza Garcia.

The Inglewood resident and mother of two U.S. born children is a DACA recipient but her husband and brother are in the country without permission or any form of protection.

Her husband Carlos and brother Tomás were brought to the U.S. as children, at ages 8 and 9 respectively, but neither of the men, now in their late 20s, applied for DACA protection, fearing one-time misdemeanor convictions in their teens for drug possession would make them targets for deportation.

“They were young and stupid, but they have never gotten in trouble again,” Garcia said. “My husband and brother both work construction jobs, they support us,” she said. “If they get deported it will hurt my kids, all of us,” she told EGP by telephone.

Under the new guidelines, her fears are not without merit.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said “The administration’s immigration executive orders will have serious negative consequences for our country, ripping apart families and crippling our economy.”

She said the country should be working on reforming our “broken immigration system,” and “focusing on deporting those who are a threat to our country, not on those who are contributing members of our communities.”

A pro-immigrants’ rights march was held in downtown Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

A pro-immigrants’ rights march was held in downtown Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona, PAZ (part of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement), said during the telephone press conference that her organization has witnessed a change in morale within the immigrant communities they serve.

“Families are beginning to save money and are continuing to send their children to school but are paying close attention to the news and going to our offices to ask for help,” Falcon said.

In Los Angeles, groups like CHIRLA are also being proactive, educating the immigrant community through “Know Your Rights” sessions and by offering counseling services.

“We have been anticipating this,” said CHRILA’s political director, Apolonio Morales. He said the group has been holding “informational sessions to ensure folks understand that if they are detained they still have to go through their due process. They have rights to an attorney, to speak to family members … and don’t need to sign anything before speaking to a lawyer,” Morales said.

Morales also advises the community to stay alert and to demand to be told whether the official knocking at their door id an LAPD officer, or really an ICE agent.

“We’ve already seen ICE knocking on doors saying they’re police … so people open their doors and end up getting deported. We need to know that the distinction is being made clear,” Morales said.

On Saturday, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is hosting a “Know Your Rights!” informative forum that will offer free consultations with immigration attorneys. It will be held at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College – South Tent from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information you contact his district office at (213) 483-9300 or visit their page here.

Information from EFE and City News Service used in this report.

Deporting the American Dream: Immigration Enforcement Drives Foreclosures in Latino Communities

December 15, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

Newswise – ITHACA, N.Y. – Early in his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would deport all of the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

If the president-elect keeps his word, more deportations under his administration would mean devastating losses to legal Latino homeowners – and the communities they live in.

New research by a Cornell University demographer suggests that deportation of undocumented Latinos results in higher rates of foreclosure. That’s because a sizable share of legal Latino homeowners live with undocumented wage earners who contribute to the household income; about one-third of undocumented Latinos live in homes owned by legal Latinos. When these wage earners are deported, the household loses income and starts down the path to foreclosure.

Deporting the American Dream_12_7_sign

The reduced home ownership and the loss of wealth that comes with it illustrates how legal status and deportation contribute to racial inequality, said Matthew Hall, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell.

“To a large degree, America’s future is going to depend on our ability to successfully integrate the young Latino population. Regardless of what happens with immigration policy, the Latino population will continue to grow,” Hall said. “Foreclosure and immigration enforcement affect these households in significantly negative ways, so there’s a question of whether we are derailing our own future by handicapping these families.”

Unlike some policy areas, Trump can change immigration enforcement policies on his first day in office and does not need congressional approval to do so.

“We don’t know exactly what the Trump administration is going to do,” Hall said. “But if we take Trump at his word we should assume that deportations are most likely going to increase – and perhaps dramatically so.

The authors found that from 2005 to 2012, Latinos were buffeted by two major forces: a record number of deportations and the housing foreclosure crisis. The increase in deportations partly stemmed from a section of 1996 immigration reforms, known as 287(g), that “deputized” local police forces with unprecedented latitude to pursue and deport immigrants living in the United States. Despite heated rhetoric about existing enforcement priorities, the number of deportations exploded during the 2000s, with nearly 3 million being deported between 2001 and 2011. At the same time, Latinos were buying homes at rapid rates just when the housing bubble started to burst.

Comparing foreclosures in Latino households in 42 counties with 287(g) enforcement to counties without it, the researchers found deportations greatly exacerbated foreclosure rates among Latinos by removing income earners from owner-occupied households. Foreclosure rates in 287(g) counties were 68 percent higher than in otherwise similar non-287(g) counties.

The dynamic helps to explain why Latino households lost their homes to foreclosure more often than any other racial group during the housing crash, Hall said.

“The collision of these forces – deportation and foreclosure – was facilitated by the rapid incorporation of Latinos during the housing boom, when risky mortgage terms were the norm,” Hall said.

The bigger implication is that the negative effects of a single deportation can create a ripple effect that could damage the surrounding community. Foreclosures often result in vacant or abandoned houses, leading to crime and civic disengagement. That in turn can reduce the value of homes in the neighborhood, leading to yet more foreclosures. And communities lose out on tax revenue from those homes.

“So much of immigration policy is unfortunately driven by emotional appeal and not by cost-benefit analysis or any kind of empirical assessment,” Hall said. “My concern is that as efforts to deport people are ramped up, we do not lose sight of how deportations not only destroy families – many of whom are U.S. citizens – but also harm communities and local economies.”

Hall’s study, “Deporting The American Dream: Immigration Enforcement and Latino Foreclosures” was published Dec. 8 in Sociological Science.

 

Deportation Fears Prompts L.A. to Move On Street Vending

November 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A long-stalled plan to legalize sidewalk vending in Los Angeles will be taken up at a public hearing next month, amid concerns that misdemeanor penalties now on the books could put vendors, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, at risk for deportation under Donald Trump’s presidency.

The issue had been held up for more than a year in the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, whose chair, Councilman Joe Buscaino, announced the scheduling of a Dec. 12 public hearing on the issue at City Hall.

The plan needs the approval of members of his committee if it is to go to the full City Council for consideration.

In a letter to their colleagues announcing the hearing, Buscaino and fellow Councilman Curren Price argued that quick action to legalize vending activity on sidewalks is necessary given recent national developments.

“Swiftly moving forward to adopt this policy gives us as a city the opportunity to stand up to the overt racism that has plagued our national discourse as of late,” they wrote.

Price, who chairs the Economic Development Committee that advanced the vending legalization plan more than a year ago, said recently that the issue of street vending remains controversial among members of the City Council and their varied constituents.

Council members are “still trying to build a consensus and must properly address concerns brought up by my council colleagues, business leaders and the community at large,” Price said in a statement to City News Service earlier this month.

Street vending policy has long presented a complex challenge for council members, who have said they need to look beyond a “one-size-fits-all” policy to balance competing interests and the needs of various neighborhoods.

Enforcement has also proved a challenge, with council members saying they need tools that are strong enough to prevent non-permitted vendors from operating, while at the same time not punishing vendors excessively.

Buscaino and Price’s letter follows pressure from activists concerned that vendors who are struggling to make ends meet are being treated as criminals under the city’s current vending laws.

The scheduling of the hearing also comes as stakes have potentially been raised for undocumented immigrants following the election of Trump, a vocal proponent of deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally and have criminal records.

Activists have said that many vendors have the added worry of potentially being flagged for deportation or becoming ineligible for citizenship if they are charged with a misdemeanor.

Price and Buscaino state in their letter that “recent talks about changes to our nation’s immigration policy, including threats to deport millions of undocumented immigrants — starting with those with criminal records — has created significant fear amongst our immigrant communities.”

“Continuing to impose criminal misdemeanor penalties for vending disproportionately affects, and unfairly punishes, undocumented immigrants, and could potentially put them at risk for deportation,” they wrote.

The council members are proposing that the full City Council ask the City Attorney to prepare a revision that would “immediately decriminalize violations” in the city municipal code 42.00, which regulates sidewalk vending. This change could potentially advance faster than other elements of the vendor permitting program, according to a Buscaino aide.

Activists recently asked City Attorney Mike Feuer to suspend enforcement of the sidewalk vending ban while the council develops a new policy. But Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox told CNS that the office “will continue to enforce the law.”

The City Council passed the original street vending laws and has the ability to “remove it,” he said.

Wilcox also said the Los Angeles Police Department “is the agency that writes the citations or refers a case for prosecution.”

Since Trump was elected president, various Los Angeles city leaders have publicly assured the immigrant community that they plan to resist federal efforts to deport immigrants with low-level offenses. Among them is LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who says the police department will continue with a decades-old policy of not actively helping immigration officials looking to deport

immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.

Price and Buscaino argued that the current vending policies do not work, and even Girl Scouts selling cookies from the sidewalk could potentially be issued citations.

“The city of Los Angeles has a broken and dysfunctional policy as it relates to the vending of food and merchandise on public sidewalks,” their letter says. “We are the only major city in the United States that prohibits vending of every type, at all hours, on all of the 10,750 miles of sidewalks throughout Los Angeles.”

They also noted that there is no ban on food trucks, “even though they are utilizing the same sidewalks to sell their products, only from the other side of the curb.”

The plan that will be heard in Buscaino’s committee calls for permitting stationary vending, such as taco stands, in commercial and industrial areas around the city, as long as the walkway is not obstructed and no more than two vendors are operating per block.

Most vending in residential areas would be prohibited under the plan, though an exception could be made for smaller, mobile push-cart vendors, the council members said.

The plan also calls for doing away with misdemeanor penalties, and instead, enforcing the rules through fines, confiscation of property and the revocation or suspension of permits. Only vendors with permits would be allowed to operate in the city.

Vendors would be limited to operating during the day and evening, such as between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Other hours of operations could be permitted for special cases, such as sporting and entertainment events, the council members said.

The proposed policy would also allow for the creation of “special districts” where more permissive or restrictive rules could be established. In setting up the districts, neighborhoods would need to have a “legitimate” reason for making the rules more restrictive. Those who want more flexible rules would have to show that it would not have a negative impact, under the proposal.

Those wishing to set up such special district would be able to do it through the City Council, the Board of Public Works or a petition with signatures from 20 percent of property owners or businesses in the proposed area.

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