WBEZ | Immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en To pay her tuition, undocumented student enters beauty pageant http://www.wbez.org/news/pay-her-tuition-undocumented-student-enters-beauty-pageant-112219 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/SenoritaFiestaDelSolContestants.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children have made gains in recent years. Many are now eligible for work papers and driver&rsquo;s licenses. But when it comes to paying for college, they still face big barriers.</p><p>In Illinois, undocumented students are ineligible for financial aid from either the state or federal government. To get their degrees, they have to get creative. Zulybeidi Maldonado, 22, of Arlington Heights, is trying to pay for her next semester by competing in a Chicago beauty pageant whose prize is $1,500 for college.</p><p>&ldquo;I just need the scholarship to go back to school,&rdquo; said Maldonado, who was born in the Mexican state of Guerrero. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t do it without a scholarship.&rdquo;</p><p>But María Bucio, an expert on financial aid for undocumented students, has big questions for anyone who thinks a pageant might be the way to pay for an education. &ldquo;How much effort are you putting into this initiative and how much are you going to get out of it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Our story (above) follows Maldonado through months of preparation for the pageant. It turns out she&rsquo;s hoping to get more from the contest than a college scholarship.</p></p> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 08:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/pay-her-tuition-undocumented-student-enters-beauty-pageant-112219 Global Activism: 'ConTextos' finds the good in violent El Salvador http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-finds-good-violent-el-salvador-112164 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-ConTextos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-cdf0efc7-d9dd-8dbb-a7b5-5af3d50420b2">Because Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, &nbsp;wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive, she started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a> and moved to El Salvador. For our Global Activism segment, Gittler is back from El Salvador and will update us on her progress since expanding her mission to work with prisoners in El Salvador&rsquo;s criminal justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/207688530&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 28 May 2015 09:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-finds-good-violent-el-salvador-112164 Sheriff calls on feds to investigate Puerto Rican agencies that send addicts to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-calls-feds-investigate-puerto-rican-agencies-send-addicts-chicago-112079 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/tomdart ap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is asking the federal government to investigate P<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/puertoricochicagopipeline/">uerto Rican agencies and government officials who send addicts to Chicago</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Dart filed a fraud report with the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general this week. In it he warns the inspector general that recipients of HUD funding in Puerto Rico may be using federal funds to send heroin addicts off the island.</p><p dir="ltr">He said he hopes his report will move to the top of the inspector general&rsquo;s pile.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When you have instances where people have committed some type of fraud where the only individual who was harmed was a governmental entity &hellip; it&rsquo;s a heck of a lot different than when you literally pluck people out of their country and drop them thousands and thousands of miles away,&rdquo; Dart said.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852">WBEZ reported last month</a> that Puerto Rican agencies and government officials have been sending people seeking treatment to unlicensed rehab centers on the mainland. Dart said that violates requirements that recipients of the federal funding &nbsp;only use licensed or certified rehab professionals. He also said the HUD rules direct organizations to minimize displacement. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;These deceptive at best operations of giving people one way tickets to the United States ... are gonna be in violation of the contracts that they have with HUD,&rdquo; Dart said.</p><p dir="ltr">Dart&rsquo;s report lists two examples of possible fraud:</p><p dir="ltr">The first is the municipality Bayamon, which operates the Nuevo Amanacer program. It has been receiving HUD funding since at least 2007, according to Dart&rsquo;s report. In 2014 Bayamon got a $217,977 HUD Emergency Solutions Grant.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It is unknown what portion of this grant is awarded to the Nuevo Amanecer program,&rdquo; the fraud complaint reads. But if it is being funded by HUD money, the program is in violation of several federal regulations, Dart alleges.</p><p dir="ltr">The second example sites the program Vuelta a la Vida. According to Dart, Vuelta a la Vida received more than $1.5 million from HUD in 2014 in the form of a continuum of care grant.</p><p dir="ltr">The rules for that grant require groups to use services that are in compliance with all state and local licensing laws. But none of the rehab centers identified in WBEZ&rsquo;s reporting are licensed by the state.</p><p dir="ltr">Dart said if the inspector general confirms his allegations, the groups could lose their federal funding. He also said his office is continuing its own investigation to see if unlicensed, unofficial addiction-help centers in Chicago are breaking any local laws.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>. Adriana Cardona-Maguigad contributed to this story.</em></p></p> Fri, 22 May 2015 15:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-calls-feds-investigate-puerto-rican-agencies-send-addicts-chicago-112079 Culturally-sensitive workouts yield health results for immigrants http://www.wbez.org/news/culturally-sensitive-workouts-yield-health-results-immigrants-111973 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Asian-exercise.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a Sunday afternoon at a small martial arts studio in a Lincolnwood strip mall, a dozen or so South Asian women warm up by marching in step to a thumping merengue beat.</p><p>Some of them wear stretchy yoga pants and t-shirts, but several sport traditional headscarves, and long, colorful tunics over billowy pants. Most of them are recent immigrants to the U.S. from India and Pakistan. All of them are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.</p><p>With flushed cheeks and glistening foreheads, they keep up with instructor Carolina Escrich as she barks out instructions. They jump, punch, squat, do push-ups and smile.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel happy &mdash; I&rsquo;m so happy,&rdquo; said Manisha Tailor giddily, after finishing the hour&rsquo;s workout right at the front of the class.</p><p>Tailor is one of thirty women recruited to participate in a 16-week study led by researchers at Northwestern University. She&rsquo;s been coming to the classes since February, and it was an entirely new experience for her.</p><p>&ldquo;I never danced before,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So, I like (to) dance. And I feel very comfortable.&rdquo; She adds that she also lost four pounds since coming to the class twice a week.</p><p>Tailor, like most of the participants, said she never exercised in her native India, and the thought of joining a gym was too intimidating. But now she&rsquo;s considering joining a women-only gym once the study finishes.</p><p>For Namratha Kandula, Principal Investigator of the Northwestern study, this is a breakthrough.</p><p>&ldquo;They have a lot of barriers to doing exercise,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;South Asians uniformly are less physically active than other groups. This group has high rates of overweight and obesity, and high rates of physical inactivity.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kandula said this directly relates to the prevalence of diabetes among South Asians. Nearly a quarter of these immigrants in the U.S. develop the disease &mdash; a rate higher than that of Caucasians, African Americans and Latinos.&nbsp;Kandula&rsquo;s research at Northwestern&rsquo;s Feinberg School of Medicine focuses on crafting effective interventions for communities who are underserved and unaware of best health practices.&nbsp;</p><p>Kandula said on top of sedentary lifestyles, South Asians are genetically predisposed to developing diabetes. Still, research has shown that individuals can improve their odds of avoiding the disease through healthy eating and exercise.</p><p>&ldquo;The problem is that that research was not reaching the South Asian community in the sense that they weren&rsquo;t necessarily hearing the same messages, they weren&rsquo;t getting more physically active,&rdquo; said Kandula. &ldquo;And we know that a lot of evidence-based programs &mdash; they don&rsquo;t reach some of the more disadvantaged communities or communities that are isolated because of culture or language or geographic location.&rdquo;</p><p>Kandula&rsquo;s team is monitoring the women&rsquo;s weight and blood sugar to see if they show any changes over the course of the program. They partnered with Metropolitan Asian Family Services, a social services agency that works with many South Asian immigrant families on Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side. MAFS recruited participants and provides them free transportation to and from the classes.</p><p>The study aims to educate immigrant women, in particular, about eating healthier and the importance of exercise. In crafting the workouts, Kandula had to consider cultural hurdles that stood in the way for many women who were most at-risk for developing diabetes.</p><p>&ldquo;Modesty is something that&rsquo;s really important,&rdquo; explained Kandula, &ldquo;and women didn&rsquo;t feel comfortable working out at a regular gym or recreational facility.&rdquo;</p><p>Additionally, many women told Kandula that they prioritized their families over their own health. So she worked that into the design of her program by offering free martial arts classes to their children once a week. The only condition was that the mothers had to come to their workouts at least twice a week.</p><p>In fact, many women attend three times a week &mdash; and on the days they show up, several will stay for two classes back-to-back.</p><p>Rehanna Patel, a 49-year old mother of four, said the class works for her because it is fun and there are no men.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s important for it to be women&rsquo;s-only and having that secure space,&rdquo; she said through a translator.</p><p>Many other women echoed the thought, saying that they would feel less free to move about in the class if men were included, or if men could walk by and see them.</p><p>Patel said the class helped dispel her assumption that exercise is only for younger people.</p><p>&ldquo;I had always thought that these steps would only be done by a 20 or 25-year-old girl,&rdquo; she said, referring to the dance routine of the class. &ldquo;But the instructor did a great job.&rdquo;</p><p>Teaching these women was a new experience for instructor Carolina Escrich, too.</p><p>&ldquo;I needed to adjust the class and be careful with the type of music that I should use,<br />she said.</p><p>Escrich said it took two months to modify her usual Latin-inspired Zumba workouts into something more appropriate for her culturally conservative students. She modified the song selections to be less explicit, and has shifted the emphasis from sexy dance moves to more of an aerobics routine.</p><p>If the program shows significant health improvements, Namratha Kandula hopes they&rsquo;ll win funding for a wider study. But the women here have a more immediate concern.</p><p>&ldquo;I would feel really sad when the classes end,&rdquo; said Patel. &ldquo;The way we do it here, it&rsquo;s different, we enjoy it, I feel good and my body feels light.&rdquo;</p><p>Patel says even after the study ends she wants to keep exercising at home.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 01 May 2015 10:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culturally-sensitive-workouts-yield-health-results-immigrants-111973 Health care tax rules trip up some immigrants http://www.wbez.org/news/health-care-tax-rules-trip-some-immigrants-111785 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Immigrant-Obamacare.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The deadline&rsquo;s coming to file tax returns, and aside from the usual headache, this year it&rsquo;s proving particularly thorny for undocumented immigrants. That&rsquo;s because, for the first time, there are penalties under the Affordable Care Act for those lacking health insurance.</p><p>But the law is complex, and when it comes to people living in the U.S. illegally, many are getting slapped with fines they shouldn&rsquo;t have to pay.</p><p>Adalberto Martinez, a mechanic at an auto body shop in Chicago, is one of them. Like many undocumented immigrants, Martinez pays income taxes, using an IRS-issued taxpayer identification number, called an ITIN. But this year, he noticed something different when he sat down with his tax preparer.</p><p>&ldquo;They told me that there&rsquo;s a box where you have to answer whether you have insurance or not,&rdquo; he explained in Spanish. &ldquo;So she put down that I didn&rsquo;t have insurance. She didn&rsquo;t explain to me exactly why, just that there was a box there and I didn&rsquo;t have insurance.&rdquo;</p><p>Afterwards, Martinez found he was hit with a $200 fine for not having health coverage in 2014. The official name for the penalty was the &ldquo;shared responsibility payment.&rdquo;</p><p>Most lawful U.S. residents are required to have health coverage under Obamacare, and those who don&rsquo;t will have to pay the penalty. But under the law, undocumented U.S. residents, like Martinez, are exempt from all that. But Martinez&rsquo;s story is not unique.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve heard from at least 10 to 15 organizations that have been hearing this issue in the community,&rdquo; said Luvia Quinones, health policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.</p><p>Quinones said it&rsquo;s not clear how many undocumented immigrants may have improperly paid the fine, but she said thousands in Illinois could be at risk.</p><p>&ldquo;We know that in the state of Illinois, there&rsquo;s about 310,000 undocumented, uninsured individuals in addition to about 70-80 thousand DACA youth that are eligible also to get their work permit,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>DACA youth, also known as DREAMers, are immigrants that arrived in the U.S. as children and obtained temporary relief from deportation under President Obama&rsquo;s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They have valid Social Security numbers, which could be used to file tax returns. This puts them at particular risk for mistaken penalties, because while their Social Security numbers may suggest that they are lawful U.S. residents, and therefore subject to the health care penalty, Obamacare explicitly excludes them from the health coverage requirement.</p><p>Quinones said in some cases, she believes immigrants are being entrapped in fraudulent schemes by unscrupulous tax preparers who are pocketing the penalties themselves. An advisory from the IRS indicates that the federal agency is aware and concerned about these reports as well.</p><p>But often, Quinones said, these instances are mistakes, where tax preparers are unclear about the new law.</p><p>That&rsquo;s what Graciela Guzman found when she was forced to tackle the issue. As a health care navigator at Primecare Community Health, a bilingual clinic in the city&rsquo;s Wicker Park neighborhood, she helps people enroll in health insurance plans.</p><p>Technically, Guzman&rsquo;s job has nothing to do with taxes, but recently patients whom she&rsquo;d told were ineligible for health coverage under Obamacare started showing up at her clinic. They&rsquo;d prepared their tax returns, and they were mad at her.</p><p>&ldquo;Like, &lsquo;you told me I was not going to get penalized,&rsquo;&rdquo; Guzman recalled them saying. &ldquo;Like, &lsquo;you educated us and you said we are not going to get penalized, and we got penalized. Why?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Guzman realized lots of tax preparers were making mistakes, so she and her colleagues decided to educate them.</p><p>On a recent weekday afternoon, she canvassed Fullerton Avenue in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood on foot, carrying a bag of informational flyers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ll hit a new corridor every two or three days,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll probably hit 10 to 15 income tax places per corridor, so we&rsquo;ve probably hit about 120 income tax places.&rdquo;</p><p>Guzman pops into tax preparers&rsquo; offices, as well as check cashing sites, speaking briefly in Spanish to explain her purpose, and to leave a stack of papers. The sheets detail, in English and in Spanish, how undocumented immigrants should claim an exemption from the penalty.</p><p>Guzman said the penalty can be a hardship for many people at her clinic. It&rsquo;s at least $95 per adult who&rsquo;s not insured. But in most cases it&rsquo;s a lot more, depending on the family&rsquo;s income.</p><p>&ldquo;A penalty of $300-$400, it can absorb half if not more of what they would have gotten back in refund,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>So why has it been so hard to get it right? One reason is that none of the information you provide on your tax return is an absolute indicator of your residency status. Not everyone who files taxes using an ITIN is undocumented; conversely, not everyone with a Social Security number is a lawful U.S. resident.</p><p>There are different opinions on how tax preparers should handle this.</p><p>&ldquo;If they are using services of a tax preparer, they should tell preparer directly that immigration status is that of someone not in the U.S. legally,&rdquo; said Enrique Lopez, a CPA in Chicago. In fact, Lopez said that his office will refuse to file a tax return for a client who does not disclose his or her residency status.</p><p>But others worry that this might backfire.</p><p>&ldquo;I think not only is it going to create more fear in the community, but it could also affect the likelihood of undocumented individuals or DACA youth wanting to file taxes,&rdquo; said Quinones.</p><p>Instead, Quinones recommended that tax preparers keep things general. Instead of asking whether a client is undocumented, he or she could ask if the client qualifies for any of a number of exemptions that fall under the same <a href="http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i8965/ch02.html#d0e1463">code</a>. That way, someone who&rsquo;s undocumented can indicate that they are exempt without disclosing the specific reason why.</p><p>As for Martinez, he was able to go back to his tax preparer and file a tax return amendment. He hopes he&rsquo;ll get his $200 back. In the meantime, he said he&rsquo;s doing a little outreach himself.</p><p>&ldquo;I started telling people,&rdquo; he said, through a translator. &ldquo;My cousin in Indianapolis, he came to Chicago, and he told me they charged him $300. I told him, &lsquo;Hey cousin, you need to find out what happened &lsquo;cause they shouldn&rsquo;t have charged you.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, immigrant advocates and others are warning the public that anyone who pays the penalty directly to a tax preparer, by cash or otherwise, may be a victim of fraud. The IRS recommends filing a <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14157.pdf">form </a>to report the activity. Consumers may also file a complaint with the &nbsp;<a href="http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.">Illinois Attorney General</a>.</p><p>In cases where someone has improperly paid the penalty to the IRS, they can file a tax amendment to get the money back. Get Covered Illinois advises anyone with questions about the health care requirement or the tax penalty to call its hotline at 866-311-1199.</p><p><em>Ivan Favelevic and Aurora Aguilar assisted with language translation for this story.</em></p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&#39;s North Side bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/health-care-tax-rules-trip-some-immigrants-111785 House votes to undo Obama immigration policies http://www.wbez.org/news/house-votes-undo-obama-immigration-policies-111400 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP408512381832.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Shunning a White House veto threat and opposition within their own party, House Republicans approved legislation Wednesday to overturn President Barack Obama&#39;s key immigration policies and expose hundreds of thousands of younger immigrants to expulsion from the U.S.</p><p>The 236-191 vote came on a broad bill that would provide $39.7 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year, legislation that lawmakers of both parties said was sorely needed to pay for counterterrorism, cybersecurity and other priorities at a moment when the Paris terror attacks have underscored dire threats.</p><p>Democrats accused Republicans of putting that money at risk by attaching veto-bait amendments on immigration, and some Republicans voiced the same concern. But House GOP leaders and most of their rank and file accused Obama in turn of reckless and unconstitutional actions on immigration that had to be answered.</p><p>&quot;This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the Constitution itself,&quot; said House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. &quot;The people made clear that they wanted more accountability from this president, and by our votes here today we will heed their will and we will keep our oath to protect and defend the Constitution.&quot;</p><p>But Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the Republicans were simply pandering to the far right.</p><p>&quot;Shame on Republicans for attacking the Latino community,&quot; Sanchez said. &quot;Republicans are consciously targeting millions of families who work hard, contribute to our communities and are just trying to give their children a chance at the American dream.&quot;</p><p>One of the immigration amendments, approved 237-190, would undo executive actions that Obama announced in November to provide temporary deportation relief and work permits to some 4 million immigrants in the country illegally, mostly people who have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents. The amendment also would cancel earlier directives to immigration agents aimed at giving them discretion in focusing deportations on criminals.</p><p>A second amendment would delete Obama&#39;s 2012 policy that&#39;s granted work permits and stays of deportation to more than 600,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children under age 16. That measure passed narrowly, 218-209, as 26 of the more moderate Republicans, some representing large Hispanic populations, joined Democrats in opposition.</p><p>The underlying bill passed on a mostly party line vote, with 10 Republicans voting &quot;no&quot; and two Democrats voting &quot;yes.&quot;</p><p>But even with Republicans in control of the Senate, the bill faces tough sledding there. Republicans are six votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most legislation, and some GOP senators have argued that the Homeland Security bill shouldn&#39;t be the vehicle for a contentious debate on immigration.</p><p>Within the House GOP, too, there&#39;s frustration from some centrist lawmakers that two weeks into a new session of Congress, with a bigger party majority in the House, the most conservative lawmakers are still calling the shots, successfully pushing leaders for a vote to undo the 2012 policy dealing with younger immigrants known as &quot;Dreamers.&quot;</p><p>&quot;If we were just specifically dealing with the November overreach of the president, you&#39;d have Democrats who&#39;d be voting with us on that piece of it but we&#39;ve gone well beyond that,&quot; said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. &quot;We&#39;re passing a bill for political reasons, a bill that has no ability to pass the Senate.&quot;</p><p>Before leaving town for a two-day retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Republicans also steered the House to approval of legislation to ease the landmark Dodd-Frank law, which aimed to rein in banks and Wall Street. The new legislation would give U.S. banks two extra years to ensure that their holdings of certain complex and risky securities don&#39;t put them out of compliance with a new banking rule. The Dodd-Frank changes, approved 271-154, also face an Obama veto threat.</p><p>Given the growing importance of Latino voters, Wednesday&#39;s immigration votes could end up raising questions in the 2016 presidential election for the eventual GOP nominee. Potential candidates weren&#39;t touching the issue Wednesday. Requests for comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former GOP nominee Mitt Romney went unanswered. At an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky refused to say if he would back his House colleagues&#39; efforts.</p><p>Democrats, on the other hand, were eager to weigh in.</p><p>Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois warned Republicans they were igniting &quot;the mobilization of an immigrant community throughout this nation that will be the death knell to the future of your party.&quot;</p><p>Wednesday&#39;s votes were set in motion late last year, after Obama infuriated Republicans by announcing executive moves on immigration not long after the GOP swept the midterm elections. Republicans passed full-year spending bills for most of the government but kept the Homeland Security Department on a short leash in order to revisit the issue when they would be in full control of Congress.</p><p>Yet given Obama&#39;s veto pen and Senate rules granting significant rights to the minority party, it&#39;s not clear that the GOP has much more leverage now than it did before. House and Senate Republican leaders have ruled out a government shutdown or any disruption to Homeland Security funding, so it appears likely that once the House bill is rejected by the Senate or vetoed by the president, the House will have to accept a version with less contentious language on immigration.</p><p>Current Homeland Security funding expires at the end of February, so House leaders have given themselves more than a month to find a solution. It&#39;s expected to be a topic of debate at the Hershey retreat.</p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 11:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/house-votes-undo-obama-immigration-policies-111400 Quinn issues orders aimed at helping Illinois immigrants http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-issues-orders-aimed-helping-illinois-immigrants-111342 <p><p>Outgoing Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has issued two executive orders he says are aimed at making the state more welcoming to immigrants.</p><p>Quinn on Monday ordered the Governor&#39;s Office on New Americans to appoint a liaison in each state agency to help immigrants benefit from President Barack Obama&#39;s recent executive action. The action curbs deportation and gives work permits to some immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally.</p><p>Quinn also says Illinois&#39; 10 existing Welcoming Centers should assist people applying for the federal action, and state agencies must provide information on how to obtain necessary records.</p><p>The Chicago Democrat says it&#39;s possible 4 percent of Illinois&#39; population could benefit from Obama&#39;s action.</p><p>Quinn also issued an order prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from detaining anyone based solely on an immigration detainer.</p></p> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 09:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-issues-orders-aimed-helping-illinois-immigrants-111342 Global Activism: ConTextos expands literacy programs to El Salvador prisons http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-ConTextos Prisoners.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-155d2028-16ca-6861-496d-14f15cdaca8d">When we first met Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, she wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive. To do this, Debra started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. She now lives in El Salvador. For our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> segment, Gittler is back in Chicago and will update us on how her work has expanded into El Salvador&rsquo;s justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179980678&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Debra Gittler told us some of what she&rsquo;s been up to since her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy">last Worldview appearance</a>:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">ConTextos has expanded into the Justice System in El Salvador and are now working with inmates in prisons, juveniles delinquents in the &quot;foster&quot; system, and the teachers and guards who work with both of these populations. The &quot;foster&quot; system in El Salvador is tangled octopus that oversees foster care, orphans, victims of child and sexual abuse, child criminals (including homicide), gangs, and deportees. Child deportees arriving back in El Salvador pretty much get off a bus and have to walk home; those without families end up in foster care.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...we are overwhelmingly moved by the healing power of story to address issues of trauma in a country plagued by generations of violence. Many of the inmates we are working with are gang-affiliated and directly affected by the reality of transnationalism-- some inmates are English-speakers who spent most of their life in the US. We are just starting to work more and more with the juvenile population...It&#39;s been a fascinating journey to confront stereotypes about this population...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At the same time, ConTextos is just about to publish our student reading metrics. We use the Early Grade Reading Assessment to evaluate student reading outcomes; this is the same tool that USAID implements all over the world. Our results are stunning...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Finally, we are thrilled to start partnering with <em>Worldreader</em>, based in Africa, to bring e-readers into our schools.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...We&#39;ve been working with iPads for quite a while as a tool to motivate writing, but e-readers provide a unique opportunity to bring unlimited numbers of text through an accessible, teacher-friendly (and rural-friendly) technology. We&#39;re still seeking funding to launch the initiative.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons Hoosiers divided over Obama’s executive action on immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/hoosiers-divided-over-obama%E2%80%99s-executive-action-immigration-111144 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Indiana Immigration 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In his speech Thursday night, President Barack Obama spoke about the kind of immigrants he hopes to help with his executive action.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches,&rdquo; Obama said on national TV.</p><p>The president could have been talking about St. Mary&rsquo;s Catholic Church in East Chicago, Indiana. Located in a working class city, where half the city&rsquo;s 35,0000 residents are Hispanic, the church is expecting lots of undocumented immigrants in the coming days.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to be swamped with people,&rdquo; said Jose Bustos, executive director of the Casa Santo Toribio Center at St. Mary&rsquo;s Church, a place where undocumented immigrants regularly seek assistance from his small, mostly volunteer staff.</p><p>&ldquo;Basically we&rsquo;re telling the folks to start gathering all the documents they have to prove that indeed they had been here in this country from the day they are going to claim that they got here,&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>But others, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a possible presidential contender, is looking for ways to block the presidents&rsquo; actions.</p><p>&ldquo;The American people do not want comprehensive immigration reform. Part of the solution is to prevent the administration from overturning laws that have been enacted,&rdquo; Pence told NBC earlier this week.</p><p>Pence has instructed Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to look into suing the Obama administration.</p><p>&ldquo;It is beyond frustrating both that Congress has thus far failed to exercise its authority to reform immigration policy and that the President has apparently exceeded his authority by declining to enforce certain laws, in an area where states are prohibited from acting,&rdquo; Zoeller stated in a news release. &ldquo;Inaction by the federal legislative branch does not justify the federal executive branch overstepping its bounds.&nbsp; Two wrongs don&rsquo;t make a right.&rdquo;</p><p>In the meantime, East Chicago residents like Enriqueta and Alejandro, who asked that her last name not be used, are relieved by the President&rsquo;s action.</p><p>The couple arrived in Indiana more than a decade ago from Mexico City. Both clean houses for a living while their American-born kids go to school.</p><p>Alejandro said he welcomed the president&rsquo;s efforts.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel happy that the President is going to try to help immigrants,&rdquo; Alejandro said in Spanish while sitting in Bustos&rsquo; office. &ldquo;Obama is providing calm and peace to those who are undocumented.&rdquo;</p><p>Until now, Enriqueta constantly worried about being arrested and deported.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not the only one who is afraid but there are others like me who would rather just stay home and not go outside. But we have to go outside to work,&rdquo; Enriqueta said in Spanish.</p><p>The State of Indiana has long had a reputation for cracking down on undocumented immigrants.</p><p>In 2011, the Republican-led Indiana General Assembly adopted measures nearly as strict as the border state of Arizona.</p><p>It included provisions for state police officers to stop suspected undocumented drivers. But some in Indiana&rsquo;s small but growing Hispanic community loudly objected, saying police would be racially profiling motorists.</p><p>The law in Arizona was ultimately deemed unconstitutional, effectively nullifying Indiana&rsquo;s law.</p><p>Under the President&rsquo;s action, federal immigration authorities would stop the deportation of parents with American born children who have been living in the country for at least 5 years.</p><p>&ldquo;President Obama set forth a bold plan to secure our nation&rsquo;s borders, help keep families together, and expand our economy.&nbsp; The President&rsquo;s action was a necessary step in a Republican Congress that has refused to take up immigration reform,&rdquo; U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, said.</p><p>Many immigrants are drawn here to work on Hoosier farms &ndash; from Northwest Indiana communities like Crown Point and Lowell &ndash; to southern Indiana cities bordering Kentucky.</p><p>The comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year included a guest worker program designed to help those farms.</p><p>The Indiana Farm Bureau supported it, as did U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly.</p><p>But yesterday Donnelly, a Democrat from South Bend, said the President was now going too far.</p><p>&ldquo;It is clear the immigration system in this country is broken, and only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it. The Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform last summer with my support, though we are still waiting on the House to debate this issue,&rdquo; Donnelly wrote in a statement. &ldquo;I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the President shouldn&rsquo;t make such significant policy changes on his own.&rdquo;</p><p>That sentiment was echoed by many in Lake County.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s wrong. What about the people who did it the right way?&rdquo; said Larry Hine, the owner of Larry&rsquo;s Barber Shop in downtown Crown Point, about 25 miles south of East Chicago. &ldquo;They did it the right way and these people just walked across the line and we&rsquo;re paying for them, our tax dollars.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked about the notion that undocumented immigrants take low paid farm jobs that most Americans don&rsquo;t want, Hine acknowledged it was an issue but said, &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t prove that one way or the other.&rdquo;</p><p>Fellow Crown Point resident John Moose says this is about more than just economics. He thinks the President is ignoring the resounding defeat his party suffered in the mid-term elections.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s wrong with all this and the American people spoke a couple of weeks ago and they spoke clearly whether he wants to say he heard it or not,&rdquo; Moose, who runs an insurance company, said. &ldquo;I love immigrants. This is what this country is all about. Even the American Indians are immigrants. They came over from China. People should be sent back and they should come through the normal process.&rdquo;</p><p>Back in East Chicago immigrant advocate Jose Bustos isn&rsquo;t sure what the fuss is about.</p><p>&ldquo;The state of Indiana has always been anti-immigrant. It is something beyond me. If you look at the demographics, if you look at the numbers, we are something like not even 2 percent of the population of the state. What is it that they are afraid of? These are people who are not criminals. These are people are helping the economy,&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>Bustos adds the President&rsquo;s move will end the fear many undocumented parents and their American-born children have felt for years.</p><p>&ldquo;These kids are in fear. They are in fear of losing mom and dad. They go to school and come back with an empty home. Where is the justice in that?&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>Bustos admits the executive order will only aid about 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;As the old saying goes, we didn&rsquo;t get the whole loaf. We got a little bit under a half of loaf,&rdquo; Bustos said. &ldquo;But this half a loaf is going to alleviate the fear that so many, so many people are going through right now.</p><p>Today, a group of lawyers from nearby Valparaiso University will be helping Bustos counsel immigrants on how to take advantage of the President&rsquo;s move.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hoosiers-divided-over-obama%E2%80%99s-executive-action-immigration-111144 As temp work grows, African Americans push for their fair share http://www.wbez.org/news/temp-work-grows-african-americans-push-their-fair-share-110945 <p><p>Between his wife, children and grandchildren, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Kenny Flowers&rsquo; home. But he says it has been a decade since his last full-time job. And he lost one of his two part-time jobs a few months ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;So I&rsquo;ve been coming to MVP to pick up [work] and just get some honest money,&rdquo; says Flowers, 38, referring to Most Valuable Personnel, part of Personnel Staffing Group, a chain based in the Chicago area with operations in eight states.<br /><br />Flowers, a lifelong resident of the city&rsquo;s West Side, says he has gone at least four times this year to MVP&rsquo;s office in the Town of Cicero, a suburb bordering the city. He says he has spent hours and hours in the waiting room.<br /><br />But MVP has yet to give Flowers any work. Asked why, a company spokesman responds that Flowers &ldquo;calls the office frequently and is advised to come in the following day to be assigned out for work&rdquo; but &ldquo;does not arrive to be sent out.&rdquo;</p><p>Flowers calls that baloney and wonders whether MVP is trying to hide something he has noticed in the waiting room. &ldquo;I see more Latinos going out than I do African Americans,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />Flowers suspects that many of those Latinos are in the country illegally. He says MVP assigns them work on the belief that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to raise a stink when employers short them out of pay or put them in dangerous conditions. The staffing firm denies that allegation.<br /><br />MVP&rsquo;s Cicero location is among 933 offices of temp agencies registered to operate in Illinois. Nationwide, more than 2.9 million people were employed as temps in September, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Temp jobs, once mostly clerical, are now mainly blue-collar and constitute about 2 percent of the nation&rsquo;s employment.</p><p>Those are all record numbers, but African Americans say they are not getting a fair shot at the work. They are accusing the staffing companies of discrimination. And their claims are getting attention from temp-worker advocates, federal regulators and some Illinois lawmakers.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few African Americans sent to bakery</span></p><p>Flowers takes me to that MVP office, part of a strip mall along the border between Cicero and Chicago. In the waiting room I see more than four dozen blue-collar workers hoping for an assignment. Some say they have been there for hours. While they wait, they are not getting paid. Nearly all are black.<br /><br />I pull out my audio-recording gear and take a few photos of Flowers on the sidewalk, where workers have spilled out from the waiting room. Within minutes a woman who helps run this MVP office comes out and commands everyone to go back inside. Everyone, that is, but Flowers and me. She tells us to leave, and we do.<br /><br />But we do not get far. As I interview Flowers on a residential sidewalk around the corner, a Cicero police car pulls up, then another. &ldquo;We have the subjects,&rdquo; one of officers tells his radio dispatcher.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/waiting%20room.jpg" style="height: 426px; width: 620px;" title="At the Cicero office of Most Valuable Personnel, dozens of black workers fill the waiting room. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to need to see IDs from both you gentlemen,&rdquo; the officer tells Flowers and me. The cop says it was MVP that called the police on us.<br /><br />After they run our driver&rsquo;s licenses for warrants, the officers leave us alone. But the whole experience signals that discrimination allegations in the staffing industry have touched a nerve.</p><p>MVP is a defendant in two class-action lawsuits in federal court. Both claim employment discrimination against African Americans. Temp-worker advocates, meanwhile, have come to the company&rsquo;s Cicero office to hand out flyers about wage theft. MVP claims the leafleting is an effort to &ldquo;coerce&rdquo; the company to settle the litigation.</p><p>But Christopher Williams, the attorney who filed the suits, says MVP has only itself to blame. &ldquo;Where there&rsquo;s a staffing agency within two miles of zip codes that have a population that&rsquo;s 97-98 percent African American, why were no African Americans &mdash; almost none &mdash; sent to work jobs at Gold Standard Baking?&rdquo;<br /><br />Gold Standard, an industrial bakery on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side, relies on MVP for labor. The two companies are co-defendants in one of the suits. The claim is that the bakery asked for immigrant temps instead of African American temps and that the staffing agency fulfilled that request.<br /><br />&ldquo;Over a four-year period, when approximately 5,000 workers were sent to Gold Standard Baking, only 85 of those were African American,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;These are low-skilled jobs that people on the West Side of Chicago need to have access to.&rdquo;<br /><br />At the same time, Williams says, MVP focused its recruiting on Spanish-speaking workers, and the company sent out vans to pick them up in heavily immigrant neighborhoods such as Little Village.<br /><br />In court, MVP has countered that the reason its workforce is mostly Latino is because of the office&rsquo;s location. Nearby Chicago neighborhoods may be black, but Cicero is mostly Latino.<br /><br />&ldquo;MVP does not discriminate against African Americans,&rdquo; Elliot Richardson, an attorney for the company, tells me. &ldquo;MVP sends out the very best employees for the positions that fit what those employees can do. There are plenty of job offerings at MVP right now. They are looking for workers. Regardless of their race, we welcome people to come in and to apply.&rdquo;</p><p>Gold Standard officials, for their part, referred WBEZ questions about the suit to a lawyer. He sent a statement that denies the allegations and calls the company &ldquo;an equal opportunity employer&rdquo; that is &ldquo;proud of its diverse workforce.&rdquo;</p><p>Last week MVP brought a suit of its own. The claim, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses the temp-worker advocates and their group, the nonprofit Chicago Workers&rsquo; Collaborative, of defamation.<br /><br />&ldquo;Their goal is to destroy the temporary employment agencies in the city,&rdquo; Richardson says. &ldquo;MVP does not steal its employees&rsquo; wages.&rdquo;<br /><br />The temp-worker advocates respond that they are not trying to destroy the agencies, just some of their practices, such as the alleged race-based hiring.<br /><br />Leone José Bicchieri, the collaborative&rsquo;s executive director, calls it &ldquo;sad that one of the major staffing agencies in the state of Illinois has decided to use so much time, energy, resources and money on lawyers&rdquo; instead of addressing worker grievances. Bicchieri says the defamation suit is an effort to silence workers.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Allegations hard to prove</span></p><p>If some temp agencies are discriminating, it is difficult to find out how many. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not tally complaints against staffing firms.</p><p>But a few of those EEOC complaints in recent years have led to six-figure settlements from those companies. &ldquo;There have always been staffing agencies willing to steer employees based on race and other illegal factors, and that&rsquo;s certainly ongoing,&rdquo; said Jean Kamp, a top attorney of the EEOC&rsquo;s Chicago office. &ldquo;As more people are working through staffing agencies, it&rsquo;s more of a problem.&rdquo;<br /><br />Besides filing EEOC complaints, temp workers alleging race-based hiring discrimination&nbsp;are also dragging staffing firms into federal court. In the Chicago area, Williams is representing plaintiffs in three class-action suits. The defendants include MVP, four other temp agencies and three companies that contracted with the agencies for labor.<br /><br />But alleging discrimination is easier than proving it. In court, MVP has claimed that it does not keep records on people who arrive in search of a job. That claim, contradicted by a company vice president at a July forum recorded by WBEZ, has made it difficult for the plaintiffs to gather information about the job seekers&rsquo; race.<br /><br />&ldquo;This issue is about to be resolved,&rdquo; state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) said last week as he came out with draft legislation that would tighten up record-keeping requirements. His proposal would require staffing firms to keep a contact form on each job seeker and enable those workers to indicate their race and gender on that form. The idea is to make hiring discrimination easier to find.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hopefully we&rsquo;ll get to the bottom line in resolving this open and blatant discrimination against African Americans, [whose] unemployment rate is just as high as our Latino brothers and sisters,&rdquo; Dunkin said.</p><p>The two main trade groups representing temp firms in the state &mdash; the Staffing Services Association of Illinois and the Illinois Search and Staffing Association &mdash; both declined to comment about the discrimination allegations and Dunkin&rsquo;s proposal.<br /><br />Dunkin says he will introduce that bill this fall or winter after gathering co-sponsors.</p><p>In the meantime, Flowers is still hoping to find more income. &ldquo;Holidays are coming up and it&rsquo;s real rough on me,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be winter and the heat and gas bills are going to go up even more. I would like my kids to have a nice Christmas like everybody else.&rdquo;<br /><br />He might be eligible to file a claim under one of the class-action suits against MVP, but the company is not showing much interest in settling.<br /><br />So, Flowers says, he will keep showing up at the temp agency. Some day, he says, it might send him out to work.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/temp-work-grows-african-americans-push-their-fair-share-110945