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NAKASEC Legislative Update [April 28, 2009]

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If you should have any questions, feel free to contact NAKASEC at 323.937.3703 or 202.339.9318.

The Obama Administration – New Appointments and Nominations
Department of Veteran Affairs: Tammy Duckworth was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Veteran Affairs (VA) on April 22, 2009, previously serving as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She is the first woman to serve in this position. In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq. As assistant secretary, Duckworth will direct VA’s public affairs, internal communications and intergovernmental relations. She also will oversee programs for homeless Veterans, consumer affairs and special rehabilitative events.

Just & Humane Immigration Reform
Background: The broken immigration system affects the Korean American community: 1 in 5 Korean Americans are undocumented, thousands of bright youth cannot fulfill their dreams, countless others are separated because of the immigration backlogs, and there are those languishing and dying in detention centers. In recent years, attempts to pass legislative reform have been stymied by a vocal minority. Instead, families have been torn apart and communities have been devastated by the ramping up of raids and other enforcement activities by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). State and local governments also took matters into their own hands and passed anti-immigrant measures.

Solution: For more than a decade, Korean American communities have been engaged in national efforts to realize long-term systemic change. In doing so, we have reached a level of consensus that any legislative proposal must contain the following components:

1) Bring millions of hard working undocumented immigrants and their children out of the shadows and provide them a path to citizenship.

2) Keep families together by preserving the family immigration system, eliminating the immigration backlogs, stopping mandatory & indefinite detentions and cruel deportations for minor infractions

3) Protect all workers regardless of their immigration status.

4) Allow students to reach their full potential through access to college.

5) Protect and restore basic rights and liberties, including allowing every person to have their day in court.

6) Promote the social, economic, and political integration of immigrants.

Building Momentum for Immigration Reform in 2009: Cecilia Muñoz, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, confirmed that President Barack Obama will speak publicly about the issue of immigration reform in May in an interview with the New York Times. In addition, the Administration will convene working group to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.

On April 14, 2009 the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) representing 56 national and international labor unions and Change To Win, representing the UFCW, SEIU, UNITE HERE, UFW, LIUNA, Teamsters and Carpenters unions, unveiled an unified set of principles supporting comprehensive immigration reform. The unified statement came after months of deliberations and was announced at a labor-convened briefing with various stakeholders, including NAKASEC, present. To read more, click here.

An exciting national effort that joins business, community, faith, labor and other diverse sectors is being rolled out. After consultation with hundreds of organizations nationwide, the “Reform Immigration for America” campaign has principles for reform, brings together multiple stakeholders, and seeks to harness community organizing to influence the policy and political debate. Your organization can formally join the campaign by visiting www.immigrationforum.org/action. Signing onto the campaign means endorsement of the comprehensive immigration reform principles and a commitment to participate in the campaign’s decisions and activities. For questions about the campaign, contact NAKASEC.

SSA no-match: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has asked for another extension, until June 10, 2009 to decide whether to support the previous administration’s SSA no-match rule. Under the Bush Administration, DHS proposed to use SSA-no match letters as evidence that employers knowingly hired undocumented workers and that if workers are unable to correct their Social Security records within a 90-day period, the employer must fire them or risk being prosecuted for violating immigration laws. NAKASEC continues to oppose this expanded use of SSA no-match as an immigration enforcement tool as it fails to address real concerns. Implementation of the SSA no-match rule will result in workers in being more vulnerable to discrimination, profiling and unjust termination and creating undue burdens on business owners. Click here to download bilingual guides – for workers and employers – about SSA no-match.

In fact, studies and data overwhelmingly demonstrate the opposite – that SSA no-match letters are in no way a reliable indicator of immigration status. The SSA Office of Inspector General estimates that 13 million of the 17.8 million records in SSA’s database contain discrepancies that could generate a no-match letter. SSA itself is unable to estimate how many of the un-matched wage items in its database belong to undocumented workers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified before Congress that the Earnings Suspense File (ESF) contains “hundreds of millions of records, many unrelated to unauthorized work,” and that “in terms of poor earnings reporting, its focus is not on unauthorized workers.” GAO further stated that “most” of the earnings that have been correctly reinstated belong to “U.S.-born workers, not to unauthorized workers.” In the Safe Harbor rule itself, DHS also admits that it “does not have adequate data to estimate the percentage of unauthorized employees with SSNs that are listed on no-match letters.”

Immigrant Student Access to Education
Background: Each year, 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools unable to realize their full potential. These immigrant students were raised in the United States and are denied the opportunity to build a future in America – the country that they call home. As undocumented students, they face difficulty pursuing higher education because they are denied financial aid, scholarships, loans, and in-state tuition rates in most states. Those that have the resources to graduate are unlikely to work in the field of their choice or study. And more tragically, they live daily with the fear of being deported to a country that they barely know.

DREAM Act: On March 26, 2009, the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Lieberman (I- CT), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Senate as S. 729 and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Joseph Cao (R-LA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) in the House as H.R. 1751.

This bipartisan legislation would provide undocumented students a chance to pursue higher education and obtain legal status. As a result of a series of legislative visits organized by NAKASEC affiliated youth groups in Chicago and Southern California over the April congressional recess, new co-sponsors have been secured. For example, staff of Rep. Susan Davis shared with college students of University of California San Diego that are affiliated with KRC her decision to sign on as a co-sponsor.

The youth-driven national DREAM Act campaign will collect 12,500 postcards, continue to organize legislative visits with key Congressmembers and launch an interactive website this summer. To take action, contact HyunJoo Lee at hlee@nakasec.org. Click here to download bilingual fact sheets about the DREAM Act.

Health Reform
Background: Korean Americans are underserved by the current health care system. Across the United States, roughly 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 Korean Americans are uninsured. Nationwide, healthcare is an unaffordable human need for many Korean Americans who are more than twice as likely as whites to go without health insurance. Moreover, racial disparities in health constitute a national crisis. When health care services are only available in one or two languages, it results in disproportionate and discriminatory treatment of groups based on their race or national origin. Korean Americans in particular face language barriers that limit their ability to communicate effectively with their health care provider, sometimes leading to life-threatening misdiagnoses. In addition, numerous health care facilities fail to deliver culturally competent care where a high percentage of the patient population is Korean American. The lack of health coverage forces many Korean Americans to delay medically necessary care while those with coverage are unable to receive quality health care services.

Health reform legislation is currently in its “tenth hour.” Proposed legislation is being crafted in two Senate Committees (Finance and Health, Labor, Education and Pensions or HELP), and in the House. The House bill is being overseen by the Energy and Commerce, the Ways and Means, and the Education and Labor committees. The bill will be introduced in early June, with passage of a bipartisan bill hoped for in September. In order to inject support for ensuring immigrant inclusion, regardless of status, in such a bill, NAKASEC and its affiliates have accelerated advocacy efforts. Community members shared their concerns with staff and legislators during the April congressional recess. These district-level visits will be complemented by follow-up correspondence to their DC offices.

Eliminating Health Disparities Through Stronger Enforcement of Language Access Requirements: On April 20, 2009, NAKASEC joined a panel of advocates to present community stories on the need to strengthen compliance and enforcement mechanisms of language access rights guaranteed under federal law to the Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance are prohibited from discriminating against an individual on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically held that Title VI prohibits conduct that has a disproportionate effect on limited English proficient persons because such conduct constitutes national origin discrimination. Formed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, over 35 federal agencies are represented in the group.

Language access is particularly important to the Korean American community. 57% of Korean Americans are speak English less than very well. For Korean American over the age of 65, that figure rises precipitously to 95% according to a recent survey conducted by the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles. In fact, NAKASEC reported to the Federal Interagency Working Group that seniors receiving Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federally funded Medicaid program, continue to be sent notices in English only. One senior had his benefits terminated because he did not understand that his notice required him to complete the enclosed redetermination form to maintain the benefits he was receiving.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Divisions has made implementation of language access requirements under Title VI and its regulations an absolute priority in her department. She encouraged federal agencies, advocates, and community members to work collaboratively in ensuring meaningful access for all limited English proficient persons.

Voting Rights
Voter ID Laws in Texas: Legislation that would require photo identification at poll sites on elections has passed through the Texas Senate, and there are several versions of the bill on the House side. It is expected that the bills will be discussed on the State House floor sometime in May. NAKASEC has joined national and local AAPI organizations in signing a letter addressed to the Texas House of Representatives stating photo ID voter laws will disenfranchise voters, particularly seniors, low-income and immigrant voters, who either do not have a photo ID or have limited access to one.

Proof of Citizenship Law in Georgia: On April 17, 2009, NAKASEC signed onto a letter addressed to Governor Purdue of Georgia urging his veto of SB 86, a bill that would require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Requiring proof of citizenship is a discriminatory barrier that will deter many eligible voters from registering and having their voices heard in the political process. Georgia is home to the second fastest growing Asian American pop ulation and it is imperative we work to protect the right of all citizens to register and vote, especially those from immigrant communities who already face challenges to their civic participation such as language and unfamiliarity with the electoral process.

What you can do
1. Sign the Health Care for America Now petition to demand the passage of health care legislation that guarantees quality, affordable health care for all. For more information, contact Hemi Kim at hkim@nakasec.org or 202-339-9318.

2. Invite NAKASEC or one of our affiliates to your classroom, place of worship, workplace, or community organization. We have experience organizing workshops and presenting on a range of issues, particularly as it impacts the Korean American and AAPI communities, including access to public education for undocumented students, civic engagement, voter empowerment, community organizing, immigrant rights (immigration reform & DREAM Act), and health care access.

3. Become a member in 2009. Your membership dollars support NAKASEC’s mission to project a national progressive voice on major civil rights and immigrant rights issues and promote the full participation of Korean Americans. Reduced rates are available for students and low-income community members.

About NAKASEC – National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) was founded in 1994 by local community centers to project a national progressive voice and promote the full participation of Korean Americans as a part of a greater goal of building a national movement for social change. NAKASEC maintains its national office in Los Angeles and an office in Washington, D.C. NAKASEC also has affiliates in Los Angeles (The Korean Resource Center) and Chicago (The Korean American Resource & Cultural Center). NAKASEC is a member of the APIA Vote, Campaign for Community Values, Detention Watch Network, Fair Immigration Reform Movement/Immigrant Organizing Committee, Health Care for America Now, Health Rights Organizing Project, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Gender and Equity Campaign, Reform Immigration for America Campaign, Rights Working Group, and the We Are America Alliance. For more information and resources, visit www.nakasec.org or call 323.937.3703 / 202.339.9318.

Headquarters
900 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tel: 323.937.3703 Fax: 323.937.3753 www. nakasec.org

D. C. Office
1536 U Street NW
, Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-339-9318 Fax: 202-387-4893

Korean Resource Center (founded in 1983)
900 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tel: 323.937.3718 Fax: 323.937.3526

Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (founded in 1995)
6146 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659
Tel: 773.588.9158 Fax: 773.588.9159



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