Articles on this Page
- 03/27/12--08:07: _Looking Out for the...
- 03/27/12--10:24: _Anti-Injunction, Wh...
- 03/27/12--11:34: _The Real Hunger Gam...
- 03/27/12--14:47: _Graduation Rates In...
- 03/28/12--12:21: _The Biggest Health ...
- 03/28/12--15:26: _NCLR Started This H...
- 03/28/12--15:35: _This Is Going to be...
- 03/29/12--09:48: _My Day at Court
- 03/29/12--13:06: _Will Mississippi Ch...
- 03/29/12--13:42: _Supreme Court Must ...
- 03/29/12--21:53: _Hopefully, a Good O...
- 03/30/12--12:10: _A Look Back at Our ...
- 03/30/12--12:10: _A Look Back at Our ...
- 03/30/12--14:34: _Today We Honor the ...
- 03/31/12--06:54: _Why Anti-LGBT Tacti...
- 04/02/12--08:28: _With SB 1070 on Dec...
- 04/03/12--07:05: _A Send-up of Tucson...
- 04/03/12--11:02: _Vote and Move the N...
- 04/04/12--20:09: _Autism in the Latin...
- 04/05/12--08:52: _Was Rick Santorum R...
- 03/27/12--10:24: Anti-Injunction, What’s Your Function?
- 03/27/12--11:34: The Real Hunger Games Are Those We Play with Nutrition Programs
- 03/27/12--14:47: Graduation Rates Increasing, But Not Fast Enough for Latino Students
- 03/28/12--12:21: The Biggest Health Story that You Missed Yesterday
- Most Americans, including Latinos, are insured and will still be insured after the Affordable Care Act’s enactment. NCLR often discusses the point that Latinos are the most uninsured community in the country, because we fight for those with the least access to health care. Still, nearly seven in ten Latinos already have insurance.
- In fact, in accordance with President Obama’s classic line, “you can keep what you have,” most people will still get insurance through their employers and nothing will change. This includes about four in ten Latinos who have employer-sponsored insurance.
- Half of the uninsured would soon gain health care through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program through new coverage in the Affordable Care Act. This will be critical for Latinos; one in four uses those programs today.
- The other half would have ready access to a new insurance marketplaces, exchanges, and anyone under 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) would get a tax benefit to help pay for coverage.
- 03/28/12--15:26: NCLR Started This Historic Health Care Week With Tweets
- 03/28/12--15:35: This Is Going to be Close and Ugly
- Justices Ginsburg and Breyer both recognized that any decision striking down the individual mandate could raise serious questions about the constitutionality of other federal programs that have long protected the country’s most vulnerable and at-risk people.
- This is going to be a bitterly divided opinion.
- The cliché that this court has become Justice Kennedy’s is very true. He will probably be the swing vote yet again.
- 03/29/12--09:48: My Day at Court
- 03/29/12--13:42: Supreme Court Must Uphold Affordable Care Act
- 03/29/12--21:53: Hopefully, a Good Offense Really Is a Good Defense
- 03/30/12--12:10: A Look Back at Our Week at the Supreme Court
- 03/30/12--12:10: A Look Back at Our Week at the Supreme Court
- 03/30/12--14:34: Today We Honor the Life and Legacy of César Chávez
- 04/02/12--08:28: With SB 1070 on Deck, Supreme Court Decision Will Be a Game-Changer
- Cast a chilling effect over the ability of Hispanic schoolchildren in Arizona to obtain an education
- Prevent Latinos from applying for federal benefits to which they are entitled
- Increase discrimination, racial profiling, and harassment from police
- Cause irreparable damage to Arizona’s businesses
- 04/03/12--07:05: A Send-up of Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies Ban
- 04/03/12--11:02: Vote and Move the Needle on Housing Challenges
- 04/04/12--20:09: Autism in the Latino Community: A Cultural Menace
- 04/05/12--08:52: Was Rick Santorum Right About College?
By Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director, Health Policy Project, NCLR
Hispanic-owned businesses have been flourishing for several decades. In fact, some say business is actually booming. According to the 2007 National Survey of Small Business Owners, there are 2.3 million Hispanic-owned firms, and more than nine out of ten of those businesses are designated as small businesses. Still, it’s not always easy for these types of businesses. Small business owners struggle daily to stay on their feet and gain the financial security that keeps them sustainable. At least once a month, I get a call that usually goes something like this:
“I’m a Latino small business owner. I want to provide health coverage for my employees, but what’s on the market is just too expensive. Where can I find something that I can afford?”
Over the past several decades, insurance costs have escalated and employers—the source of most coverage options for Americans—have had to make difficult choices. The lucky ones negotiated fiercely to keep premium increases at bay. But most other large employers took the hit of the costs themselves or passed along the costs to their employees, increasing premiums or cutting benefits packages.
The financial strain was much more difficult for small businesses to handle. Because small businesses can’t enroll a large number of employees in coverage, negotiating against increases was almost impossible. The ones that could absorb the costs may have continued coverage for their employees, but they also had to scale back business operations. Many had to drop health insurance altogether.
Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s health reform law, when I received one of those calls, I often had no clue where to send those small business employers. What’s unfortunate is that these businesses were just trying to do the right thing—trying to protect the health and well-being of their employees. But when the Affordable Care Act arrived two years ago, circumstances changed.
Almost immediately after enactment, the Affordable Care Act provided options for small businesses to get some support for insurance premiums. Today, most small businesses with fewer than 25 employees can qualify for a major tax credit if they pay a fair share of their employee’s premiums.
There are also other benefits coming down the pike. In 2014, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees should not have to negotiate alone again. Each state can either choose to set up a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) or ask the federal government to do so. In a SHOP, a small business can purchase plans just like any large employer because they are joining together with other businesses instead of standing alone.
This is incredibly important for Latinos, who are also overrepresented in the small business workforce. One in three Latinos (36.2 percent) is employed in a small business. And nine out of ten have fewer than 50 employees who now stand to gain access to affordable coverage—some now and some in the future.
Now, it’s clear—the Affordable Care Act looks out for the little guy. Even mom and pop shops have a fair shot at accessing affordable health insurance.
Health Care Reform at the Supreme Court, Day 1
By Sergio Muñoz, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR
No, we didn’t come up with an entire song set to the School House Rock classic on conjunctions, but maybe we should have. It might have lent more staying power to memories of the Tax Anti-Injunction Act (“Anti-Injunction Act”), the opening topic at hand during Monday’s kickoff to the Supreme Court oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a disappointing turn for those who hoped the Anti-Injunction Act might postpone a decision on the ACA until 2015, the Court early on made clear that the applicability of this 1867 law to health care reform was likely a fading and losing argument, its appearance in the ultimate decision is but a footnote.
If the Justices’ apparent skepticism about the relevance of the Anti-Injunction Act is foreshadowing, the first day of the Court’s hearings on the ACA may well have been dedicated to laying the groundwork for a ruling about how to make their ruling. Confused? You aren’t the only one. Yesterday’s discussion of tax law meets jurisdictional law, wrapped up in statutory analysis, was almost predictably and laughably impenetrable. The consequences, however, are sweeping and could decide if this case ends with a whimper and decides nothing, or reaches far more than just health care reform and resets the very nature of American federalism. If yesterday’s hearings were any indication, the former is unlikely. These ACA cases look set to run right over the threshold issue of the Anti-Injunction Act and end with a bang.
So what exactly is the Anti-Injunction Act? Basically, before you can argue with the government about whether you should have to, you gotta pay your taxes. Not to say you can’t do both; you most certainly can. But in order to ensure that the treasury collects what is presumptively owed, almost 150 years ago Congress decided that it was better to have people pay their taxes before they challenge their legitimacy. A commonsense hedge against human nature as it applies to the taxman, if you will.
What Congress in its reasoned judgment determined in 1867 still holds true today: the challenges may be many, but the successful attempts to escape tax liability are exceedingly few. Therefore, exercising its powers under and limited by the U.S. Constitution, through the Anti-Injunction Act Congress denies federal courts the jurisdiction to hear tax challenges before prospective plaintiffs first pay what is due. Why is this relevant to the three ring circus currently underway at the Supreme Court? Well, the individual responsibility requirement that everyone must carry health insurance has at times been referred to as a penalty. But it can also be referred to as a tax. And if it is a tax, then maybe everyone has jumped the gun, the Anti-Injunction Act applies, and a decision on the constitutionality of health care reform has to wait until the first penalty for not having health insurance in 2014 is assessed in 2015.
As a quintessential threshold issue for a case to be decided before a federal court, therefore, the Anti-Injunction Act could have derailed the entire show. And maybe it still will—the argument that the Anti-Injunction Act prevents the Court from even ruling on the constitutionality of the individual responsibility requirement is a legitimate one. If it applies, the Court would not have the authority to rule on the still contentious health insurance requirement that all sides agree is perhaps the linchpin to the entire ACA.
Yet neither those arguing for reform nor those against it chose to argue that the Anti-Injunction Act applies to the individual responsibility requirement, so the Court was forced to appoint counsel to argue that it did. Despite his best efforts—poor guy—none of the Justices seemed particularly convinced. Granted, oral arguments don’t always tip off the contours of the ultimate decision, but in big cases they certainly can provide some clues as to the Justices’ inclinations. And the early reports were on the money: enough Justices appear to want to fully rule on the constitutionality of the most significant advancement in the country’s social and economic fabric in generations and not take the jurisdictional out the Anti-Injunction Act provides.
Indeed, it seems everyone wants to know if the ACA is constitutional as soon as possible. Which makes sense—if you think your ocean liner is going to hit an iceberg, it’s better to turn around sooner rather than later. If yesterday’s pointed remarks by the Justices are any indication, it looks like all of the parties, none of whom wanted the Anti-Injunction Act to apply in the first place, may get their wish after all.
The opening act is over, everyone. On to the main event.
Also, check out a short video of the scene outside the Court.
By Kara D. Ryan, Senior Research Analyst, Health Policy Project
Were you one of the millions who saw the book-turned-blockbuster The Hunger Games over the weekend? The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world where most residents routinely live with abject poverty and hunger. Each year, teens are forced to fight in a prolonged televised battle for survival where there can only be one victor—whose home district will be lavished with enough food to feed everyone for the coming year.
While the plot is fantasy, the reality of poverty and inequality exists in this day and age in our own country. It’s undeniable that there are American kids who are suffering in the U.S. today, and it’s taking a toll on their health. Sadly, it seems that decision-makers are willing to play political games with programs and resources that are critical to our children’s well-being.
At this very moment, about one in five families with children don’t have enough money to pay the bills, keep a roof over their heads, and still have enough left over to afford healthy foods at every meal. As a result, nearly 16 million kids and teens are at risk of hunger on any given day, a problem that is even more pervasive among children of color. Nearly one in three Hispanic and Black children, compared to one in seven non-Hispanic White children, live in households where they can’t always be certain that there will be enough to eat. Many families are skipping meals or compromising the quality of their meals in order to make sure everyone has a full belly. That means that Latino kids are at greater risk for nutritional deficits that lead to developmental delays, overweight and obesity, and chronic diseases that follow them into adulthood.
At a time when we should be concentrating on lifting up policy solutions to the child nutrition crisis—including comprehensive approaches that tackle the social and environmental factors to healthy food access—there is reason to be concerned that some of the most important resources for these families are under threat. Just last week, the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI) released a budget that would—among other things—convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to a block grant program, eliminating its ability to serve all who qualify and resulting in reduced eligibility as well as benefit levels. (The Ryan budget bill has already passed the House budget committee by a vote of 19–18.)
This the latest in a series of legislative actions in recent years, brought forward by both sides of the aisle, that would weaken SNAP; during the 2010 reauthorization of child nutrition programs, for example, compromise was brokered through cuts to SNAP. As a result, temporary benefit levels passed in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (which have been found to boost children’s health outcomes) are set to expire next year, meaning that the average family will see their SNAP resources plummet by 10% unless action is taken. That might not sound like much, but with an average benefit level working out to about $4.50 per person per day—for all meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner—that cut will add up quickly over the month for our families. For a program that serves one in six Americans and has proven to lift about four million people out of poverty, nearly half of them children, politicians seem more than comfortable ignoring the needs of a large part of their constituency.
We’ve heard directly from Latino families who tell us how important SNAP is to putting healthy meals on the table for their kids. From Geannette from El Paso, a mother of two who works at a minimum wage job while attending school part-time: “Actually, with my salary, if I didn’t have [SNAP], no, I don’t think I could even buy food…I work very much and I make very little.” At the end of the day, SNAP helps Geannette buy the healthy foods she wants to give her kids, including fresh fruits that are a staple of her daughters’ diets. (For more from Geannette, read her story or watch her video below).
It’s clear that SNAP is part of a comprehensive solution for improving our kids’ nutrition, and we should be focusing our efforts to increase Latinos’ enrollment in the program; formal and informal barriers result in eligible Hispanics’ low participation rate. Instead, our attention will be divided, spent on protecting the program from policy changes that will end up hurting some of the most vulnerable in the community.
By Erika Beltrán, Senior Education Policy Analyst, NCLR
Imagine a high school with ten empty desks in every 12th-grade classroom. Ten seats that, for whatever reason, were wasted, thrown away, discarded. It’s an image that came to mind after reading the report released last week by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. The findings show a somewhat improved, but still dismal graduation rate for Hispanic students.
Overall, the report has good news: there was a 3.5 percentage point increase in graduation rates nationwide between 2001 and 2009. But it also reminded us of how far we have yet to go in building a “graduation nation,” especially for children of color. The data from this report show that only 65.9 percent of Hispanic students are graduating on time from high school, compared to 82 percent% of White students.
The graduation rate for Latino students means that, of the 25 fourth graders I taught in Houston almost a decade ago, only 16 of them graduated and nine of them dropped out. It’s shocking to think about, considering the huge amount of potential they had as ten-year-olds in my classroom and the enthusiasm they had for learning. And it’s especially shocking considering the hopes and dreams that their parents and I shared for their future. It makes little sense to me that more than a third of my students would not finish high school. How is this possible?
Building a graduation nation must be a priority for our country, for our schools, and for our communities. No Child Left Behind has certainly made graduation rates a priority and a focus for schools. Based on the trends we’ve seen thus far, the number of children graduating has increased, and the number of drop-out factories—schools with less than a 60 percent graduation rate—has decreased, but it’s not good enough. The message to federal policymakers should be clear. We need to maintain a strong focus on graduation rates; ten seats in every classroom is a terrible thing to waste.
By Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director, Health Policy Project, NCLR
If there’s one thing that people know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s that the nation’s health care law includes an individual mandate, or requires that all Americans obtain health insurance beginning in the year 2014. If there’s one thing that people don’t know about the ACA, it’s that this responsibility will not apply to most Americans, including most Latinos. Since the day of the ACA’s passage, there has been misinformation leading many to believe that this requirement will be far reaching and leave many Americans vulnerable to serious penalties. Luckily, the Urban Institute has come forward to clear this matter up. Yesterday, they released a brief that shows, for all intents and purposes, that only about 7 percent of non-elderly Americans would actually face the mandate in any real way.
The facts are that most Americans will either already have insurance; others will be able to get it with new options. Here’s the breakdown:
Where the challenge lies is with those who remain uninsured after the ACA is fully carried out, a good 23 million Americans by Congressional Budgetary Office (CBO) estimates. What will happen to them? Most will have the ability to claim an exemption from any responsibility to purchase health coverage. The Affordable Care Act contained safeguards that said that if you cannot afford to pay, face hardship, have religious beliefs that dictate you remain uninsured, or are among a series of people who were prohibited from buying insurance or to whom the law did not apply—you will not be penalized if you remained uninsured. That’s a lot of the 23 million. In fact, this was one of the conditions of NCLR support for the Affordable Care Act. A mandate is only fair if the people who don’t have means to fulfill it are free from repercussions.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States spent hours in hearings to decide whether or not the mandate was constitutional, and will soon decide whether or not the fate the entire ACA is tied to this part of the law. Why does this matter to Americans if it applies to only a select group? Without the mandate, the estimates of the number of Americans who would go uninsured after health reform would increase from the original 23 million to between 40 and 42 million—an increase of nearly 40 percent over the mandate projections. This result has a lot to do with the likelihood that those Americans who chose uninsurance would be the healthiest Americans…at the time. And those who chose insurance would more likely have a greater need for health care and would be more expensive to cover. Urban Institute estimates that health insurance premiums would increase between 10–25 percent, putting affordable health insurance out of reach for many more Americans.
If the justices decide that the mandate does not hold up to our forefathers’ vision, the Affordable Care Act can still move forward—but at what consequence?
Health Care Reform at the Supreme Court, Day 2
By Sergio Muñoz, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR
On day two of the oral arguments over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Supreme Court tackled the centerpiece of health care reform, the individual mandate to carry health insurance. Unfortunately, it became painfully obvious that the answer to this incredibly important question may very well be split down ideological lines.
During his confirmation hearings, Chief Justice Roberts claimed the analogy that a federal judge is like an umpire—objectively calling balls and strikes under commonly accepted rules. If anything concrete came out of Tuesday’s acrimonious argument, maybe it’s that we can finally put to rest his misleading visual. Sharp comments on the constitutionality of the responsibility requirement showed that not only are the justices calling the pitches differently—and ideologically—they might not even be playing the same game.
Under the ACA, Congress eliminated the practices that were leading to spiraling health care costs and positioned the individual mandate as a balancing solution to an out-of-control system. No longer can insurers rampantly discriminate against those with high health care costs—people with preexisting, chronic, or otherwise serious conditions. In exchange for the guarantee of affordable care, the uninsured must either obtain public or private health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
That’s the individual mandate. Is it constitutional? Yesterday’s arguments revealed that there are three answers to that: Yes! No! And, maybe.
The one thing that was clear is just how political this case has become. The notion now seems improbable that two of the court’s conservative members, Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts, might adhere to the logic of their prior decisions and uphold the mandate. The ACA’s protector, the U.S. Solicitor General, attempted to defend the individual mandate under Congress’s constitutional powers to regulate interstate commerce or to tax for the general good; with their relentless and skeptical rhetorical pummeling, Scalia and Roberts left little question as to their ideological allegiance.
Indeed, it became apparent that the main reason that liberal justices of the court likely thought the individual mandate was a constitutional exercise of one of those two powers was due to the fact that they spent most of their time bolstering the government’s arguments.
These divisions remained as the opponents of the ACA offered their arguments, but with two notable shifts. Justice Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, seemed to suggest that the limiting principle for Congress’s powers to regulate problems such as the health care market was the effect of the uninsured upon the health care market at large. An effect that is not present in other commercial industries, making the uniqueness of the health care market itself a limiting principle. Chief Justice Roberts as well seemed to think that health insurance was not directly analogous to other industries, such as the automotive industry—a comparison that was repeatedly made by multiple lawyers and justices.
Even more, Chief Justice Roberts seemed to highlight the inseparability of the tax penalty from the individual mandate, hinting that the easier sell would perhaps be the clearer power of Congress under its taxing authority, as opposed to its commerce powers. Make no mistake though: these friendly comments were hardly saving graces. The Obama administration had a very tough day.
Ultimately, these are just tea leaves. The justices have three months to ruminate if they haven’t already made up their minds. When we look at the final decision in June, we may look back on these questions as just questions, however, a few things are certain.
The question of whether the individual mandate is constitutional may break down on ideological lines as the four liberal justices seem convinced it is constitutional, and at least three conservative justices have indicated that they think it is not.
If Chief Justice Roberts wants to make sure that the ensuing decision isn’t starkly political, however, he better take his umpire duds out and start figuring out a way to avoid a 5–4 decision. Someone’s going to have to step up to the plate or this will result in a decision as deeply dividing as Citizens United or Bush v. Gore.
By Kara D. Ryan, Senior Research Analyst, Health Policy Project
Every day is a fantastic day to be a health equity advocate, but Tuesday was especially meaningful for me. I was lucky enough to be on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building with hundreds of my fellow advocates. Being in a crowd full of people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, chanting in both English and Spanish with messages supporting health care for all—it was both humbling and invigorating.
Monday through Wednesday, demonstrators have turned out in droves (some with their pets) to make their voices heard on whether the Supreme Court should uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the historic health reform law that promises to make health care more affordable for millions of uninsured Americans. (Read our posts breaking down each day of oral arguments, as well as what’s at stake—or rather, who’s at stake—in the case for civil rights law, seniors, and small businesses, among others). I’ve been at the court each day to document the massive outpouring of support for a health care system that brings us closer to realizing health equity. But like I said: Tuesday was my favorite day.
I got my first taste of supporters’ energy before I’d even reached the court steps. I heard them coming—women and men, clad in pink, holding signs reading “Protect Women’s Health,” marching two-by-two to take up their positions in the rally of supporters. After they passed, I headed to the court, where supporters continued to spill onto the plaza as well as the grounds of the U.S. Capitol across the street. Drums and tambourines kept the beat for the supporters marching in a long line that looped down the sidewalk, and I couldn’t help but sing along: “The health law is for you, the health law is for me, the health law is for every American family!” Opponents of the law were on hand, and occasionally the two sides would exchange words—one woman materialized beside me and shouted, “Who’s gonna pay for it?” at a singing, dancing supporter—but all kept their tempers and the march continued peacefully.
As I took some video, a woman in purple on my left said to me, “Isn’t this great? It’s got such a civil rights vibe.” Turns out I was standing beside Dr. Toni Lewis from SEIU, a major champion for health equity. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to chat with her one-on-one, and took advantage of the moment to ask her to say a few words on film. Here’s what she had to say:
Next up, I crossed a street to take in the scene and wound up talking to a medical student named Colin, who had spotted my t-shirt that matched his “I [heart] Health Equity” button on his white lab coat. Colin was at the rally because he wants to focus on keeping his patients healthy and happy, not worrying whether they will have to forgo the care, treatments, or medicines they need because they are unaffordable. This is a particular concern to Latinos, by the way, who are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to live with financial insecurity and skip necessary health care due to cost.
I headed back across the street to join the marchers, who were then chanting “We! Love! Obamacare!” Then our friends at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), resplendent in blue and yellow ribbons and signs proclaiming “Soy Poderosa,” switched up the chant to “Yo! Quiero! Obamacare!” The chant spread quickly, and soon the whole crowd was chanting in Spanish. (Check out one of my favorite tweets in response.) I asked two NLIRH staffers, Natalie and Anjela, to step out of line and speak on video about why the health reform law is so important to Latinas. Here’s what they had to say:
In the early afternoon, I left with my NCLR colleagues to refuel with some food and head back to upload the videos and pictures from the rally. The day had also refueled me spiritually. For those of you who couldn’t be there on the Supreme Court steps, know that we at NCLR stand with you in solidarity and we’ll keep pushing to protect and build upon health care gains for Latinos and other underserved communities.
By Elena Lacayo, Immigration Field Coordinator, NCLR
It appears some of Mississippi’s lawmakers are showing neighborly love in the worst way possible–by attempting to push through a copy of Alabama’s HB 56 in their own legislature. Like its widely reviled predecessor, Mississippi’s HB 488 is designed to make living conditions so unbearable for immigrants that they have no choice but to uproot their families and leave the state. And in the process of doing so, the law would trample on the civil rights of citizens, lead to enormous economic losses to the state, and encourage racial profiling and discrimination against all communities of color.
The author and the supporters of this bill seem to be turning a blind eye to the detrimental effects that such legislation has had on other states and will have on their own state. Arizona’s SB 1070, the first of these extreme laws, has led to $750 million in losses to that state. Farmers in South Carolina and Georgia, where copycat bills passed, are facing debilitating labor shortages that pose serious threats to the economic well-being of the their states. And in every state where an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law has been approved, the laws have not only been legally challenged, but have had portions of the bills blocked by the courts.
Furthermore, when State Rep. Becky Currie authored this bill, she chose to duplicate the harshest and hands down most reprehensible anti-immigrant law to date, HB 56. Alabama’s law is so bad that many of those who initially supported that bill admitted that changes needed to be made in the wake of the resulting consequences and are currently grappling with how to make those adjustments. More than a thousand children were pulled out of schools after the HB 56 brought immigration enforcement into Alabama’s classrooms. In an embarrassing move that local authorities most definitely do not want to repeat, a German Mercedes-Benz manager was detained and a Japanese Honda manager was charged for not carrying the required documents under the law. To top it all off, a study published by the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama shows that HB 56 could shrink Alabama’s economy by $2.3 billion annually and will cost the state no less than 70,000 jobs.
While the legislature ultimately stripped some provisions from the bill, opposition to the proposal has grown out of the concern that it will nonetheless lead to discrimination, economic losses, and a tarnished state image. In fact, yesterday a broad and impressive coalition of Mississippi law enforcement officials, county administrators, business associations, building contractors, and agriculture groups, publicly announced their opposition to HB 488, severely hindering its support in the state.
Mississippi cannot be another lemming that blindly follows others to its doom. Lawmakers must seriously weigh the consequences that passing this bill could have on its economy and its citizens. And like Alabama, Mississippi’s attempt to pass anti-Latino legislation signals to the rest of the country and the world that the state is all-too willing to return to its dark past with civil rights, where racial profiling and discrimination was the law of the land. This is not a part Mississippi’s history worth repeating.
These anti-immigrant and anti-Latino laws, along with the voter suppression laws that have been passed under the guise of immigration reform, have made it altogether clear that discrimination is a common struggle that affects many communities and that this is a paramount moment to come together to protect Americans’ civil rights. This is why earlier this month, NCLR, along with a coalition of other civil rights organizations, including National Action Network, the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and a host of other organizations, labor groups, and committed individuals, marched from Selma to Montgomery to demand that lawmakers protect our civil rights by restoring voting rights and repealing HB 56. We need to stand strong with our brothers and sisters and show Alabama, Mississippi, and every other state that Americans will not stand for laws that trample on liberty and justice for all.
Health care reform will provide coverage for millions of Latinos
This week, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) joined more than 100 organizations on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate support for the Affordable Care Act and highlight the meaningful changes that have occurred in the two years since the enactment of the law.
“With seven other attempts starting more than 100 years ago, no other administration has succeeded in taking this step forward to fix health care in America,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “The enactment of the Affordable Care Act was historic and has already had a profound effect on the lives of Latinos. The investments in no-cost preventive care and consumer protections, such as the elimination of lifetime caps on health coverage, will help guarantee Latinos and other Americans better quality care. This legislation has also significantly helped Hispanic young adults, almost half of whom are uninsured, by allowing nearly 750,000 to be covered under their parents’ insurance plans.”
“I am deeply concerned that any rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act will drive up uninsurance and exacerbate the health inequities that exist in the Latino community. Overturning the law would not only destabilize the health care system, but could also encroach on other civil and economic rights. This law has clear standing, and we should not stop the progress that has been made to cover all Americans. It is critical that the Supreme Court of the United States uphold the Affordable Care Act. ”
Health Care Reform at the Supreme Court, Day Three
By Sergio Muñoz, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR
Before day two and day three of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hearings, the vast majority of legal experts predicted that the Supreme Court would follow decades of clear precedent, uphold health care reform, and accordingly protect similar safety-net programs enacted during the New Deal and the Great Society. As oral arguments closed and the case was submitted, it’s no longer just the fate of health care reform that has people concerned. Medicaid as it has existed since 1964—along with a myriad of other antidiscrimination and public interest laws ranging from the Environmental Protection Act to Title IX—is now in serious peril.
The morning of day three was dedicated to the not-so-clear doctrine of “severability.” That is, if a court determines part of a duly enacted law is unconstitutional, can the rest of the statute stand? Prior to day two’s arguments on the individual mandate, yesterday’s discussion of severability was thought to be a sideshow to the main events. However, after it became clear that the fate of the individual mandate likely depends on the swing vote of moderate Justice Kennedy, discussion about what would happen to the rest of the ACA if the requirement is struck down took on a chilling—and unpredicted— significance.
Although NCLR had hoped that politics would be kept out of the court and that incontrovertible case law would hold sway, almost immediately those justices aligned with the conservative wing showed no qualms about chucking out the entire ACA. Justice Scalia, for example, had no problem accepting the plaintiff states’ assertion that without the mandate, the law would be reduced to a disposable hollow shell. Progressive justices on the court were appalled at this disregard of congressional intent for health care reform, and the blatant inaccuracy of a description of a law that contains vastly more health reforms than those solely aimed at the insurance market. Rather, at least four of the justices were much more receptive to the U.S. government’s argument that if the individual mandate falls, then only those provisions closely connected should fall as well. As Justice Ginsburg put it, the severability doctrine requires a “salvage approach,” not that of a “wrecking operation.”
Sensing dire prospects for the ACA, progressive justices continued to bolster and even make the U.S. government’s legal arguments during the afternoon session on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion. Of particular importance, these justices repeatedly pointed out if the expansion is rejected, grave consequences will befall other federal programs that benefit the most vulnerable Americans. For example, Justice Sotomayor highlighted the counterintuitive logic of the challengers’ “coercion” claim, through which states have argued that they are forced into voluntarily participating in Medicaid. To the disbelief of Sotomayor and her colleagues, the states admitted that yes, under their completely unprecedented theory, the bigger the problem faced by our country’s most at-risk populations, the less we are able to help. The conservative justices were seemingly nonplussed by such consequences. They were equally unconcerned with Justice Kagan’s observation of the logical conclusion to which the states’ slippery argument will lead: the declaration that all of Medicaid, not just the ACA expansion, is unconstitutional. This result would literally upend the modern American society that was forged in response to the ravages of the Great Depression and which attempts to ensure that there is a certain level of misfortunate that is unacceptable.
Justices will cast their first private votes on the fate of the ACA within a week, most likely. Then will come three months of crafting opinions for a decision, probably to be issued at the end of the term in late June. On almost all of the questions presented to them over the past three days, perhaps with the exception of the threshold Anti-Injunction Act issue, the court seemed bitterly split along ideological lines despite the intense third day effort of the progressive justices to explain how revolutionary a decision against the ACA would be. A strikingly close decision on the question of the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the Medicaid expansion, and on what would remain of the ACA if parts are tossed out, now seems like the most probable outcome.
In his closing remarks, the U.S. Solicitor General made an impassioned plea to the court to remember that at the end of the day, after all of this arcane legal and policy doublespeak, health care reform has always bedeviled our nation. The ACA may well be the foreseeable last best chance to ensure that all of us, not just the most fortunate, have access to affordable quality health care—a problem that Latinos, the most uninsured group in the country, know all too well. One hopes the justices were listening. For as the Solicitor General correctly pointed out, without the ability and right to maintain one’s health unencumbered, the “blessings of liberty” are just words.
Today is Cesar Chavez Day and NCLR is proud to honor this true champion of civil rights. Chavez was relentless in his pursuit of justice for farmworkers. Several years later, the Chavez legacy lives on. This week the White House honored his life and legacy with its“Champions for Change" event.
By Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Policy, NCLR
Even by Washington standards, the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) unmasked strategy to drive a wedge between Blacks and Latinos and the LGBT community is stunningly cynical. In a series of documents obtained this week in a court proceeding by the Human Rights Campaign, NOM outlined a bewildering campaign to make opposition to gay marriage “cool” and “hip” among young Latinos and convince other Latinos that supporting gay marriage was tantamount to “forced assimilation.”
The cravenness on display from NOM is reminiscent of another bastion of intolerance, the anti-immigrant movement. They too have enough political savvy to realize that first, Latinos are an important demographic and voting block and second, that movements built on bigotry and intolerance are most successful when their shameful agenda stays hidden from the public.
That’s why the granddaddy of the anti-immigrant movement, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has created front organizations purporting to represent both anti-immigrant Latinos and Blacks. In classic “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” fashion, they somehow believed that no one would notice the deception—as if everyone is too dumb to notice the man who chooses to hide by standing still in room with a lampshade over his head.
If NOM had stopped its indefatigable scheming for just a moment to learn something about our community, this diabolical plan would never have been hatched. First, not all Latinos are immigrants. Second, Latino immigrants welcome integration into American society. Third, Latinos are not foolish enough to believe that NOM has our best interests at heart. And, fourth, despite what NOM may think, the Latino community overwhelmingly supports LGBT equality. The Movement Advancement Project released research recently that showed that 74 percent of Latinos “support marriage or marriage-like legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples.”
Fortunately, this truly offensive idea has completely backfired. The documents reveal an organization rife with bigotry, willing to do anything to advance intolerance in our society. If anyone wondered if Black, LGBT, and Latino leaders have woken up to realize that we have common enemies that seek to divide us, these revelations and reactions from civil rights leaders this week show that we have and are ready to work together to defeat those enemies.
By Laura Vazquez, Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR
As one battle dies down, another heats up. With the oral arguments in the Supreme Court on health care reform over, millions of Americans across the country are turning their attention to the highly contentious case over Arizona’s extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latino bill, SB 1070. NCLR has wasted no time jumping full force into this case, filing an amicus brief alongside a host of other national organizations that advocate on behalf of Latinos, including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic National Bar Association, Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.
So what’s at stake? The amicus brief details a number of concerns raised by SB 1070, including its potential to:
Our groups are not alone in voicing disdain for this bill. More than 300 organizations joined 19 amicus briefs supporting the U.S. government in its legal challenge against Arizona’s SB 1070. From faith, labor, business, and law enforcement communities, we voiced to the court that we cannot stand by and simply ignore the very real threats to all Americans that could result from allowing this law to stand.
Overturning the injunction on SB 1070 not only jeopardizes the safety of Latinos, subjecting them to increased violence and harassment, but it also encourages and legitimizes other states’ attempts to pass anti-immigrant bills.
SB 1070 and the similar racial profiling bills that have followed are disguised as policy solutions for our broken immigration system. They have done nothing but demonize immigrants, undermine the civil rights of all Americans, and drain states of millions of dollars in business.
We will be listening closely on the steps of the Supreme Court as oral arguments begin on April 25, and we hope the justices take our concerns seriously. Once again, we find ourselves in a battle that hinges on the decision of the Supreme Court. And once again, we find ourselves in a battle that the Latino community cannot afford to lose.
The ethnic studies ban in Tucson, AZ is pretty deplorable and has only further solidified Arizona's role as a state not very welcoming of immigrants, especially if you're Latino. Last night, The Daily Show's Al Madrigal traveled to Tucson, AZ to take a closer look at the notorious ethnic studies ban and to find out what's really going on there. Enjoy!
By Nancy Wilberg-Ricks, Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR
2012 is the year of the voter. After many months of chaos, Americans continue to seek no-nonsense solutions to a floundering housing market. Indeed, we are tired of Washington’s antics but still have confidence that we can change the status quo. Being informed is critical to understanding the current state of the housing market and what true long-term solutions look like.
Just today, I attended The Atlantic’s Economy Summit and someone noted how astounding it was that despite the enormous number of educated Americans, many of us do not have a firm understanding of our own financial investments, the very foundation of our family’s economic livelihood. While this statement is a bit simplistic—and, to be fair, understanding one’s own mortgage terms is no small feat—she had a point. The biggest investment most families will make is purchasing a home, yet many families do not obtain sufficient information before diving in. That knowledge gap increases when it comes to understanding how broader housing policy affects our day-to-day lives. Greater education in this area is imperative, though, because despite claims that our economic health is improving, the housing market continues to struggle and we can expect further deterioration.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has assembled a voter guide—2012 Election Spotlight: See How Your Congressional Members Voted on Jobs and the Economy (Spanish version)—which will help explain economic decisions made on Capitol Hill. The guide indicates how congressional members voted on several pieces of legislation—two Senate bills and two House bills—which deal with consumer protections, housing market improvements, and job creation. This guide is a simple place to start and can help voters understand key political decisions that impact the economy.
In this election year, we must sharpen our understanding of what true accountability looks like in the market and why the fate of many is tied to that of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other market aspects. Strong community engagement and voter education can absolutely move the needle in overcoming barriers to a stable mortgage market.
This was first posted to the Race Talk blog.
A recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stirred up concern among Latino health advocates. The CDC released new findings last Thursday that show autism rates are increasing among young children in the U.S., with one in every 88 children diagnosed with autism-related disorders. While the number of non-Hispanic White children who receive this diagnosis has been traditionally higher than the number of affected Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black children, the report also shows that autism rates among Hispanic children are increasing at a faster pace as compared to any other ethnic group.
Fox News Latino reports:
The largest increases in autism rates over time were among Latino children at 110 percent, followed by black children at 91 percent [and white children at 70 percent].
However, experts warn these numbers may not reflect the “real” increase in Latino children suffering from autism because they may respond to other factors such as culture and language.
“Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served,” said Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities to HealthDay.com. “Although exactly how much is attributable to these factors is not known.
The picture isn’t completely grim. The fact that more Latino children with autism are being adequately diagnosed means that they gain the opportunity to receive proper treatment—that is, if they have health insurance. Latino children represent two-fifths of the uninsured children in the U.S. This figure serves two purposes. It underscores the importance of extending health coverage to Latino children through initiatives such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act (ICHIA), and highlights the importance of arming health providers, parents, and families with adequate tools for the proper diagnosis of Latino children at risk.
If you are interested in learning more on this topic and potential solutions, join NCLR’s Institute for Hispanic Health (IHH) and the Health Policy Project (HPP), with generous support from Eli Lilly, at the 2012 inaugural Health Summit, held July 5 and 6, 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center.
You can also get the latest on health policy and read analysis from fellow Latino health advocates on our Facebook group here: www.facebook.com/groups/nclrhealthsummit/
By Raul Gonzalez, Director of Legislative Affairs, NCLR
No; of course not. When Senator Santorum said that President Obama is a snob for suggesting that more Americans should get a college education, he was clearly wrong. If we’re going to compete globally, more of us need to go to college. Americans with a college degree are less likely to be unemployed today than those with just a high school diploma. Today’s manufacturing jobs require higher-level skills than those from previous generations. Clearly, a college degree is an advantage—for those who can afford it. The problem is not that college is for “snobs,” but that access to college is increasingly reserved for the most affluent among us.
For working-class Americans, a college degree is a ticket to the middle class and beyond. It captures the hopes and dreams of families who work hard so that their children can get a postsecondary education, climb the economic ladder, and become our nation’s next generation of leaders. But four-year colleges have priced themselves out of the middle-class marketplace, placing at risk their ability to promote social and economic mobility. They are too expensive an investment for working- and middle-class families, whose children have to choose between being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt from a four-year college and purchasing a home.
The current housing crisis notwithstanding, property ownership is typically a way to climb up the economic ladder and remains the embodiment of the American dream. It might not be available to a working- or middle-class college graduate awash in college debt. More affluent young people can either get help from their parents to pay for college or for their first homes. Could it be that four-year colleges, because of cost, are contributing to economic inequality gaps, rather than closing them? That’s a critical question for our times, but some politicians don’t seem to care.
The House of Representatives recently passed a budget proposal that would cut financial aid for those who need it most. Over the next decade, Pell grants could be cut by nearly $3 billion dollars—completely eliminating aid for almost 400,000 students and affecting millions more. These federally funded grants help more than 8 million low-income students, including 40% of Latino undergraduates, attend postsecondary programs all over the country. With the financial burden of college on the rise and postsecondary education necessary to compete in a globalized economy, now is not the time for legislators to remove rungs from the ladder to success.
Although Senator Santorum’s comments miss the mark regarding who should attend college, they raise an important point about our nation’s future—how young people from working-class families fit in, and whether or not our country will invest in those families. Congress is currently in recess, so now is a good time to ask your senators and representatives what they’re doing to keep the cost of college down, and what they’re doing to help working-class families pay for college. Young people shouldn’t have to choose between a better education and manageable debt.