Obama edict raises new questions about benefits for illegal immigrants

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When the Affordable Care Act was being written and debated, President Obama took care to emphasize that no illegal immigrants would be eligible for its benefits. Obama and the Democrats who passed the bill were sensitive to public concerns that those who entered the United States illegally should not receive assistance intended for those here legally.

Indeed, an Obama promise along those lines played a role in one of the most notorious incidents of the president’s time in office. “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants,” Obama said in a Sept. 9, 2009 healthcare address to a joint session of Congress. “This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

At that moment, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled out, “You lie!” leaving the president and lawmakers stunned.

Wilson’s action was inexcusable, but the suspicions behind it were entirely understandable. Republicans have always suspected the administration wanted to extend not only Obamacare but a whole range of federal benefits to illegal immigrants. And now, the president’s unilateral executive action on immigration seems to be confirming some of those fears.

On November 11, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell participated in an online chat with a group of Latino bloggers. Burwell was asked a two-part question. Would the young immigrants known as Dreamers be eligible for Obamacare subsidies, and can so-called mixed families — for example, a family with illegal parents and legal children — receive benefits?

Dreamers are not eligible, Burwell said. But she left no doubt that she — along with officials at the highest levels of the Obama administration — wants that to change. “I think that everyone probably knows that this administration feels incredibly strongly about the fact we need to fix that,” Burwell explained. “We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need that will lead to benefits in everything from healthcare to economics to so many things — a very important step that we need to take as a nation.”

Burwell went on to tell the bloggers that families with illegal members are welcome to receive benefits. “Mixed families should come, they should seek and try, go on the site, they’ll find out they can get financial assistance,” Burwell said. “They may be eligible for different programs for their children or themselves.”

Finally, Burwell stressed that no one in the government will ask applicants if they are here legally or not. “Everyone should come on, and folks should not be scared,” Burwell said. “No questions will be asked, and it is not about an immigration issue.”

Coming from the cabinet officer in charge of administering the Affordable Care Act, Burwell’s words left some Republicans convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the White House breaks Obama’s promise. “It’s reasonable to assume that the administration would have no compunction about issuing some sort of regulatory guidance to HHS to make [immigrants affected by Obama’s action] eligible for subsidies,” says one well-connected GOP Hill aide. “The administration has sufficiently re-interpreted Obamacare and re-interpreted the immigration laws that it would not be at all surprising if they follow through on what Burwell said.”

Republican concerns have been intensified by Obama’s slippery language about other federal benefits. In announcing executive action, for example, the president said to those affected that if, among other requirements, “you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes,” then “you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

The phrase “pay your fair share of taxes” suggests to most ears that Obama meant immigrants involved would pay their fair share of taxes. But in fact Obama’s action will make many immigrants eligible to be paid by the government, and not the other way around; many will now be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, which could mean they receive thousands of taxpayer dollars each year.

In addition, Obama’s use of the phrase “get right with the law” is itself a bit misleading; a reasonable listener might assume that Obama was conferring legal status on those involved. But the Justice Department issued an opinion that his programs “would not ‘legalize’ any aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States.” So the illegal immigrants involved are still illegal immigrants, which leads to the question: If Obama is making millions of still-illegal immigrants newly eligible for certain federal benefits, why would anyone believe he will stop there?

It’s not clear exactly how far-reaching the effects of Obama’s immigration edict will be. But there’s no doubt it has increased the already high level of mistrust between the president and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Poll: Latino voters want more, more, more

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By Paul Bedard | November 24, 2014 | 1:13 pm

A new poll of Latino voters finds that most want President Obama to issue more executive orders to cover all illegal immigrants and protect them from deportation if Congress doesn’t agree to comprehensive immigration reform.

The Latino Decisions survey found that 73 percent of the 405 registered voters polled want “additional executive orders” to protect immigrant workers not impacted by Obama’s decision last week targeted at four to five million parents facing deportation.

“We would prefer much more,” said Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities.

He added that 2016 presidential candidates should be welcoming to immigrants or face a voter backlash. “We will make sure that it is a central issue in the coming election,” he said.

The poll, conducted on behalf of Presente.org and Mi Familia Vota, also found that 64 percent of the Latino voters know “somebody who is an undocumented immigrant.” Some 42 percent said that they were both a friend and a family member.

Obama’s move won overwhelming support from those polled, with 89 percent supporting it strongly or somewhat strongly.

“This 89 percent is the highest and most unified we have ever found,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions.

Republicans took a big hit in the poll, with most, 64 percent, blaming Republicans for inaction on immigration reform.

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• 66 percent — Yes, additional executive orders.

• 24 percent — No.

• 9 percent — Don’t know.

The executive order enacted by Obama would protect from deportation an estimated 4 to 5 million undocumented immigrant parents who have U.S. citizen children. However it would not provide relief for other immigrants who do not have children and are working in the agriculture, restaurant or hotel service, or construction sectors. If Congress fails to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill do you think President Obama should use additional executive orders to protect the remaining undocumented immigrant workers?


• 73 percent — Yes, additional executive orders.

• 21 percent — No.

• 6 percent — Don’t know.

FLOOD OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS POUR INTO NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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Department of Education plans this year to enroll 2,350 migrant children from Central America — with many more to come

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Youths hitch a ride atop a freight train in Oaxaca, Mexico, on their way to the US border, where they would join a flood of unaccompanied minors seeking to enter the country.

By Susan Edelman and Isabel VincentNovember 23, 2014 | 4:10am

New York has sent a warning to its schools: Expect more illegal immigrants.
The city Department of Education has told principals it plans this year to enroll 2,350 migrant children from Central America who crossed into the United States unaccompanied — with many more to come.
“It is expected that children will continue to arrive in large numbers in the coming years,” says a DOE memo to principals obtained by The Post.
The notice comes as the city rolls out a $50 million red carpet for 1,662 minors who crossed the border this summer to escape ­violence and gangs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
In the “surge,” 5,000 of the 63,000 migrant kids caught trying to cross US borders — or who turned themselves in for refuge — have been released to relatives or other “sponsors” in New York state. Most live with other illegal immigrants.
In the city, Queens has received the highest number of unaccompanied children, 732, followed by Brooklyn (434), The Bronx (433), Manhattan (63) and Staten Island (less than 50), federal reports show.
The recent arrivals join an estimated 350,000 children of illegal immigrants already in New York state — about 12 percent of the public-school population.
The DOE refused to discuss the exact numbers of recently enrolled children, claiming it would violate student privacy. Officials ignored questions about the cost.
The city’s per-pupil spending in the 2012-2013 academic year averaged $20,749, which would bring the total for the migrant kids to $48.7 million.
But the costs could soar, because the youths — many of them victims of poverty and abuse — will need state-mandated English-language instruction, free or reduced-price lunch, and a range of other services, including psychological counseling, medical and dental.
‘THE DOE BELIEVES THAT EVERY CHILD HAS A RIGHT TO A GREAT EDUCATION, AND WE ARE COMMITTED TO PROVIDING… A PATH TO LONG-TERM ACHIEVEMENT.’
– Devora Kaye, DOE spokesperson

“The DOE believes that every child has a right to a great education, and we are committed to providing children who have escaped violence with the academic foundation and access to services that they need to establish a path to long-term achievement,” said DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye.
But parent leaders worry the ­influx will strain school budgets.
“Unless the mayor, governor or president announces that funds will be made available immediately, our already-struggling schools will have to provide more,” said Sam Pirozzolo, vice president of the New York City Parents Union.
“NYC public schools are already failing to meet the needs of the students they have — 70 percent cannot read, write and do math at grade level. How can they handle thousands of new students competing for the same services without things getting worse?”
Under US law, all children have a right to enroll in school and ­receive government services, ­regardless of immigration status.
On Long Island and upstate, several school districts have been accused of blocking enrollment of migrant youths by demanding a birth certificate, proof of residency and education records from their home countries.
DOE has instructed staff to register them without delay and follow up later on documentation.
“In the city, they don’t tend to give you a problem,” said Manhattan-based immigration lawyer John Cavallo.
DOE representatives even sit at a desk in Immigration Court downtown, where the migrant kids appear for hearings, to help them enroll in school and sign up for free health care.
In court, Melvin Bonilla, 17, said he traveled alone from Honduras on a “scary” journey to the United States four months ago. He lives with an uncle in Brooklyn but has skipped school.
‘HOW CAN [NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS] HANDLE THOUSANDS OF NEW STUDENTS COMPETING FOR THE SAME SERVICES WITHOUT THINGS GETTING WORSE?’
– Sam Pirozzolo, NYC Parents Union vice president

Bonilla told Immigration Judge Virna Wright he finished sixth grade in Honduras and had not enrolled in a school here because his uncle wanted him to learn English first and was paying for lessons. Wright ­instructed him to register.
Children can stay in the country if they convince authorities that they faced harm or persecution in their native land. Judges may also grant “special immigrant juvenile” status to a child found abused, neglected or abandoned.
The migrant kids are not directly affected by President Obama’s executive orders last week to let 5 million illegal immigrants stay in the country. One order exempts from deportation the parents of permanent residents or anyone born in the United States. Another expands relief to “Dreamers” brought here illegally before age 16 — and before Jan. 1, 2010.
The orders place “recent arrivals” in the same priority for ­deportation as suspected terrorists and felons. The feds are processing the recent flood of ­migrant kids more quickly, Cavallo said.
“While others wait years for their hearings, the recent arrivals get scheduled within weeks or a few months at most,” he said. “The message is: You come now, you’re going to get arrested and deported right away.”
But Obama vowed to deport “criminals, not children,” and critics contend his actions will encourage more kids to flee to the United States to get amnesty.