Supporters Of Immigration Overhaul Remain Focused

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 12/04/2013 @ 02:00 PM

Tags: immigration, policy

This blog was originally featured on NPR's blog on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 6:10/8:10am ET. Read the original blog here.

Activists Cristian Avila (left), Dae Joong Yoon and Eliseo Medina ended their fasting for immigration reform after 22 days in Washington, D.C. [Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP]

Listen to the audio.

By: Hansi Lo Wang

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill face a lengthy to-do list before they head home for the holidays. Near the top is an issue deemed a priority after last year's election — immigration reform. So far, only the Senate has passed a bill.

Despite the standstill, supporters of immigration reform are pushing to keep the issue alive on a crowded legislative slate.

For a group of protesters on the National Mall, the strategy has become dramatic and drastic. After 12 days of no food, just water, dark rings circle the eyes of activist Rudy Lopez.

"The hunger has gone from sharp pain to now more of a constant companion that I've gotten used to," says Lopez, a community organizer from East Chicago, Ind., with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

He's part of a rotating cast of activists, including union and faith leaders and now Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, fasting to put pressure on the House of Representatives to take up immigration reform.

A 'Very Important Issue'

Lopez says he plans to fast until his body "can't continue," stressing that none of the demonstrators has a "martyrdom syndrome" in mind.

Instead, the group is trying to raise awareness of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the U.S. who, the protesters insist, should have a path to citizenship. It's a message that President Obama, two House Republicans from California and other politicians have heard firsthand during recent visits with the group.

Eddie Carmona, a citizenship campaign manager for PICO, a network of faith-based community organizers, started fasting Saturday. He says they've gained lawmakers' attention, but they're still waiting for legislative action.

"We need to see [lawmakers] move legislation forward, and we need to see [House Speaker John Boehner] move legislation to the floor for a vote," Carmona says.

At a recent press conference, Boehner called immigration reform a "very important issue" that has been the focus of behind-the-scenes discussions on Capitol Hill.

"Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not," Boehner told reporters. "I've made clear going back to the day after the last election in 2012 that it was time for Congress to deal with this issue."

Patience, though, among some activists is running thin.

A speech on immigration by Obama was interrupted last week in San Francisco by Ju Hong, an unauthorized immigrant from South Korea.

"You have a power to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country," Hong told the president.

"Actually, I don't. And that's why we're here," responded Obama, who stressed the need for a legislative solution.

Different Timelines

Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, strongly supports the push for immigration reform. But he's operating on a different timeline.

"The real clock is this session of Congress doesn't end until next December," says Wilkes, who expects that the House will vote on immigration bills by April or May.

"This has been a long, long process for us, well over 20 years, and we're not so impatient that we can't wait four more months," he adds.

Other supporters of immigration reform say the wait has lasted long enough.

"We want action now, and we will continue to demand action now," says Cristina Jiménez, managing director of United We Dream, a network of organizations advocating for young immigrants.

"For us, it's not about the timeline that the legislators say," Jiménez explains. "If we were to be guided by the legislators' timeline, we will never have certainty on the fight that we need to lead for our communities."

Jiménez's group recently helped organize a protest outside Boehner's home in Washington, D.C. — part of a wave of demonstrations around the country that have focused on winning support in Congress.

Despite the pressure, Boehner has told reporters that he remains committed to taking a "deliberative" approach.

"The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time," Boehner said at a news conference.

Those steps are taking too long for activists like Jiménez, who says her group plans to push the president to take executive action in 2014.

Spotlight on our Partnership

By Brent Wilkes on 11/29/2013 @ 09:20 AM

Tags: sponsor, walmart

LULAC and Walmart

LULAC is proud of its partnership with Walmart which builds awareness regarding the importance of healthy living in Latino communities. Together we have sponsored health festivals in Puerto Rico, California, and Texas where thousands of Latinos have benefited from information and resources on how to live healthier lives. Walmart has supported these efforts because it believes in providing our community with every opportunity to succeed. Other efforts which demonstrate Walmart’s commitment to improving our community include providing job opportunities resulting in increased financial stability to Latino families across the country.

At the Los Angeles Feria de Salud, pharmacists from the local Walmart informed festival participants of affordable options for prescription insurance at the stores. Over 16,000 participated in the most recent Feria de Salud. For more pictures, click here.

Political Odd Couples Should Pair Up for the Bipartisan Immigration Reform Party

By Brent Wilkes on 11/01/2013 @ 03:45 PM

This post was originally on the Huffington Post and can be read here.

If you listen carefully, you will hear the rare sounds of bipartisanship in Washington. I fear saying this publicly and jinxing the softer tone, the laying down of the sharpest rhetorical weapons, the actual sights of a Democrat and Republican walking around the halls of Congress together, in search of support for commonsense immigration reform.

Remember a couple of years ago when Republicans and Democrats paired up as "dates" to attend the presidential State of the Union Address? This is a thousand times better and more important.

The bipartisanship is happening, I venture to speculate, because this team of House members -- a Democratic freshman and a Republican sophomore -- determined that they came to Washington to get things done and they dared to lead on a policy issue that is vitally important to their families, their districts and the nation. Clearly, they decided the issue was worth incurring the wrath of fellow party members who are more accustomed to the ugly partisanship that has poisoned Capitol Hill.

This duo of new leaders -- first-term Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida and two-term Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California -- are proof that bipartisan immigration reform with an earned path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants can happen, if only their parties' leadership teams let it come to the House floor for a vote.

Denham was the first to break the ice. He was one of more than two dozen Republicans who, during the August congressional recess, said he favored immigration reform with earned citizenship. He fortified his commitment by taping a bipartisan video that called on the public to call Congress and demand action. Then, in recent days, he announced he would become a cosponsor of the Democrat's bill and added on to it his ENLIST Act, which would let undocumented immigrants become citizens after serving in the military.

The next day, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, a long-time supporter of immigration reform, signed on to the bill. On the third day, Rep. David Valadao, R-CA, became the third Republican to do so. As Valadao considered endorsing the House immigration reform bill, he told a California reporter, "If my signing on to it helps move the [process] forward, I'm happy to do that." Yes! Denham and Garcia convinced him the support was vital and he endorsed the bill. Denham and Garcia expect more to sign on.

The fundamental fact is that there is no reason for the House to delay a vote on a bipartisan bill that overhauls the immigration system, keeps tabs on border security, holds employers accountable, and most importantly, keeps families together.

The old and tired arguments against immigration by the nativists, such as immigrants taking jobs of U.S. workers, have been shot down by the facts and studies showing that immigration reform will add to the growth of the economy and help increase the viability of Social Security and Medicare.

The real reason why top leaders haven't worked together on this is that Republicans fear the minority Tea Party -- the group that led them down the disastrous path of the recent government shutdown -- and Democrats do not want to resolve an issue that would serve as a mighty club against Republican with Latino voters.

Excuse me, but to both parties, I say, "Wake up!" Both parties lose without immigration reform being accomplished this year.

There are slightly more than one dozen days left in this legislative calendar year, so Congress needs to hurry up and act.

And if the leaders won't, then perhaps the rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans can pair up and sign on to bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform.

The time is now.

--

Wilkes is national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Follow @huffpostpol on Twitter.

Protect Yourself from Fraud in the Health Insurance Marketplace

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 10/23/2013 @ 11:30 AM

Tags: health, policy

Your best protection against fraud is being informed! Starting October 1, 2013, you can apply for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, on HealthCare.gov. Here are a few things to help you protect yourself while getting you the coverage you need.

Be informed.

  • Visit HealthCare.gov, the official Marketplace website, to learn the basics.
  • Compare insurance plans carefully before making your decision.
  • Look for official government seals, logos, and navigator and assister certifications.
  • Know the Marketplace Open Enrollment dates — October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. No one can enroll you in a health plan in the Marketplace until Open Enrollment begins or after it ends unless you have special circumstances.
  • Know that Navigators and certified application counselors should not ask you for money to enroll in a health plan in the Marketplace. Consumers should be suspicious of anyone who charges them a fee in connection with enrollment.
  • Know that if you have Medicare, it’s against the law for someone to sell you a Marketplace plan.

Protect your personal information.

  • No one should ask for your personal health information.
  • Keep personal and account numbers private. Don’t give your Social Security number or credit card or banking information to companies you didn’t contact or in response to unsolicited advertisements. Note: If you get help from a Marketplace assister, they may need certain personal information like your Social Security number to help you enroll.
  • Never give your personal information to someone who calls or comes to your home without your permission, even if they say they are from the Marketplace.
  • Ask questions and verify the answers you get.

    • The Marketplace has trained assisters in every state to help you at no cost. Visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 to find local help in your area. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325.
    • Ask questions if any information is unclear or confusing.
    • Write down and keep a record of a salesperson’s name or anyone who may assist you, who he or she works for, phone number, street address, mailing address, email address, and website.
    • Don’t sign anything you don’t fully understand.

    Report Anything Suspicious

    If you suspect fraud, report it! Call the Health Insurance Marketplace consumer call center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Or contact local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies or your state department of insurance. If you suspect identity theft, or feel like you gave your personal information to someone you shouldn't have, call your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338. TTY users should call 1-866-653-4261. Visit ftc.gov/idtheft to learn more about identity theft.

    Message brought to you by the Department of Health and Human Services. Download the PDF here.

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