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NAKASEC Legislative Update, 2/17/2009

By February 17, 2009 No Comments

This is a first in a series of regular updates developed by NAKASEC and its affiliates. If you should have any questions, feel free to contact NAKASEC at 323.937.3703 or 202.339.9318.

Economy
President Obama signed into law today the $787 billion “American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (H. R. 1) following House passage by a vote of 246-183 and Senate passage by a vote of 60-38. At a time when the unemployment rate has soared to a 25-year high, among other provisions, will create an estimated 3-3.5 million jobs.

NAKASEC has consistently opposed the implementation of electronic employment verification system and therefore applaud the stripping of this provision from the final package. If passed, E-Verify would have mandated use of highly error-ridden database by any organization receiving economic recovery funds. Study after study has shown that workers are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and unjust termination, particularly minority and immigrant workers. Those hurt most by the economic recession, such as small business, would have borne disproportionately high costs to implement E-Verify.

A more detailed analysis is forthcoming.

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 have 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.

Potential for Immigration Reform in 2009: There are strong signs that immigration reform is a national priority for lawmakers. President Barack Obama named immigration as one of the seven transition policy teams and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced immigration reform as one of the first ten bill placeholders (S. 9). While there is less certainty about the timing for a bill’s introduction, communities across the country have made it clear that immigration reform must be prioritized in the first term, first year.

New DHS Secretary: Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona, was confirmed on January 20, 2009 to serve as the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ms. Napolitano has since issued a wide-ranging directive to department heads. The directive requires a final report to be submitted within a month with special interest to: immigration enforcement partnerships with state & local governments (including the 287(g) program), deportation proceedings, the electronic travel document program, naturalization & green card application backlogs, smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border, coordination with the National Guard, widows & widowers of U.S. citizens, immigration detention facilities, and the E-Verify program. This call to review & assess DHS operations is a necessary shift towards transparency and accountability for the actions of the previous Administration.

Executive Memo on SSA no-match: On January 20, the Obama administration issued a memo directing federal agency heads to consider delaying implementation of certain regulations so that they would have an opportunity to review them. Among other measures, DHS selected the SSA no-match rule for review. On January 29, DHS filed a motion requesting a 60-day extension from the Feb 9 brief filing deadline. The federal court in the Northern District of California granted the motion and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano now has until April 10 to decide whether to support the previous administration’s rule.

These development means that the SSA no-match remains under court ordered injunction and should not be implemented. If implemented, the no-match rule will contribute to widespread cases of racial profiling, discrimination and unjust termination of authorized workers. The U.S. economy will be devastated by pushing over 7 million undocumented workers further underground and creating an unregulated cash economy. NAKASEC has revised two bilingual guides on SSA no-match for workers & employers, which can be downloaded at www.nakasec.org.

Moratorium on Raids: Raids on worksites, college campuses, and individual homes by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sometimes in conjunction with state & local law enforcement, are tearing families apart and devastating local communities and businesses. In response, NAKASEC has joined with communities nationwide to urge the new Administration to implement a moratorium on the raids within the first 100 days. We have also prioritized the education of our community members through “Know Your Rights” bilingual materials and trainings.

DREAM Act: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) have expressed interest in re-introducing the DREAM Act in the 111th Congress by late March. The DREAM Act or “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act” would create a pathway to legalization for certain eligible immigrant students upon completing 2 years of college or serving 2 years in the military. The bill was first introduced in 2001. Each year, 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools, uncertain whether they will be able to realize their dreams. These students are U.S.-raised children of immigrants who 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. Passage of the DREAM Act is a legislative priority for NAKASEC and is a leading member of the United We Dream coalition.

Health Care Reform
Background: Across the United States, roughly 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 Korean Americans are uninsured. Nationwide, health care is an unaffordable human need for many Korean Americans who are more than twice as likely as whites to go without health insurance. One result is that children of color – which include Asian Americans – are less likely than white children to have a usual source of care, or have health insurance. The reasons for such high rates of non-insurance in the Korean American community include high rates of self-employment, unaffordable costs of private health insurance, immigration status, and language barriers to understand and make fully informed decisions. With a great amount of uncertainties about timing or content, it is clear that health care reform is a priority for the new Obama administration. Moreover, it is hoped that the recent signing of CHIP will be a down payment for larger, broader reform proposals. With an eye to supporting sound, workable proposals, in the weeks to come, NAKASEC will monitor the introduction of health care reform proposals in Congress and developments in the nomination process for the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary.

Children’s Healthcare: On February 4, 2009, President Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 or H.R. 2 into law. On February 4, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) or H.R. 2. CHIPRA included a provision to remove the five-year bar for legal immigrant children & pregnant women. This was a tremendous victory for health care advocates, families, and immigrant communities nationwide. NAKASEC and other allies with the America’s Future Starts with Healthy Children’s campaign attended the bill signing. Next steps include working groups to help states think about how to make sure their state takes up the ICHIA option. NAKASEC is also working on outreach efforts to ensure that eligible Korean American families across the country are aware of CHIPRA and are taking advantage of this program. Reauthorization of children’s health care is a great first step towards larger healthcare reforms that would benefit all.

For more information on the campaign, visit www.iwanttobehealthytoo.org.

What you can do
1. Call members of Congress to thank them for supporting SCHIP, which included the provision to lift the five-year bar for legal immigrant children and pregnant women. Check to see how your Senators & Representatives voted. Use the Capitol Switchboard at 202.225.3121 or find their phone numbers using www.senate.gov or www.house.gov.

2. Support the DREAM Scholarship Fund – Another way to address barriers to higher education is by ensuring that all are afforded the same opportunities regardless of immigration status. Created by the NAKASEC-Affiliate Youth Groups for their peers, the scholarship fund is in its second year to support talented low-income students who are ineligible for most existing scholarships or federal aid program. Please contact NAKASEC on how to contribute and get involved. View information and download application at https://nakasec.org/1302.

3. Download and distribute bilingual public awareness materials, such as “Know Your Rights” about raids and the SSA no-match guides for workers and employers.

4. Keep up to date with important policy matters. Sign up to receive updates by clicking here.

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About National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
NAKASEC was founded in 1994 by local community centers to build a national movement for social justice within the Korean American community. They include the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center in Chicago and the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles. In September 2008, NAKASEC opened its first D.C. office. NAKASEC and its affiliates represent a strong and unique organizing network forwarding a new empowerment model that is relevant to today’s immigrant communities. Our affiliates also play a key role in determining the policy direction and programs of NAKASEC.

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
www.krcla.org

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