WBEZ | Immigration http://www.wbez.org/tags/immigration Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Obama announces immigration action http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-21/obama-announces-immigration-action-111146 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP495613859531.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In an address to the nation last night, President Obama announced executive action that could shield millions from deportation. As we consider the impact of the new measure we&#39;ll take a look at how Australia has addressed immigration with Madeleine Sumption of the Migration Policy Institute.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-announces-immigration-action/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-announces-immigration-action.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-announces-immigration-action" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Obama announces immigration action" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-21/obama-announces-immigration-action-111146 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 Obama to announce action on immigration http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-20/obama-announce-action-immigration-111137 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP771579917554.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Obama will lay out his plan tonight for changes to U.S. immigration policy. We&#39;ll talk with two members of IIT&#39;s Undocumented Students and Allies organization about what they hope to see happen.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-japan-s-pm-calls-for-early-elections/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-japan-s-pm-calls-for-early-elections.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-japan-s-pm-calls-for-early-elections" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Obama to announce action on immigration" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-20/obama-announce-action-immigration-111137 Lawyers fear speedy deportations harm minors http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rocket docket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawyers who work with unaccompanied, illegal child migrants in Chicago are raising the alarm over new fast-track deportations, saying the process may result in a denial of due process in court. Referring to the expedited schedulings as the &ldquo;rocket docket,&rdquo; many fear that children may be scheduled for court hearings so quickly that they may not have time to find lawyers, or if they do, their lawyers will not have enough time to craft a defense case. Ultimately, this could result in more children returning to the dangerous environments that they&rsquo;d fled.</p><p>&ldquo;We somehow got notice of hearings that they had been scheduled to attend in Chicago on a Monday, and this was on a Thursday or Friday when they contacted us, &rdquo; said Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center. &ldquo;We thought it was a fluke or a glitch in the system.&rdquo;</p><p>The NIJC helps thousands of immigrant children that pass through federal shelters in Chicago. Koop said kids who arrived in the Spring originally had seven or eight months between the time the Department of Homeland Security filed a Notice to Appear in Chicago&rsquo;s immigration court, and the &ldquo;master calendar hearing,&rdquo; which signals the opening of removal proceedings against an immigrant. But those hearings have suddenly been moved up several months, to August.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a lot of time to secure an attorney, begin to develop case theory, start to strategize about how this case ought to be prepared and presented moving forward,&rdquo; said Koop.</p><p>In fact, Koop said scores of children whose master calendar hearings were moved up had not even received notice of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;We very quickly learned a lot of the children weren&rsquo;t aware they had these hearings,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;either because the notices hadn&rsquo;t reached them yet or because the notices had been sent to an incorrect address.&rdquo;</p><p>The address discrepancies were likely because the child had been reunited with family elsewhere in the country shortly after the Notice to Appear had been filed in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve really shifted gears and our whole staff is just calling all of these kids that are on dockets, and trying to figure out where they are, and letting them know they have court,&rdquo; she said. Koop said NIJC attorneys have been getting permission from the children to move to change venue for the children&rsquo;s cases. On one day earlier this month, they filed 200 motions for change of venue on behalf of kids that once, but no longer, were sheltered in Chicago.</p><p>The U.S. is dealing with record numbers of unaccompanied children coming across the Southwest border. In the ten months leading up to August, nearly <a href="http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/SWB%20Family%20and%20UAC%20Apps%20through%20July.pdf">63,000</a> were caught. More than three-quarters come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Koop said nearly 60 percent of the children that the NIJC screens in Chicago shelters are eligible for asylum, or some other form of protection against removal.</p><p>&ldquo;Our concern is that there is a compromise of due process when they&rsquo;re required to press forward with a case before they&rsquo;re able to fully prepare it, before they&rsquo;re able to have any opportunity to recover from whatever trauma or negative experience gave rise to the need for them to flee,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Attorneys who work with unaccompanied minors say trauma, and deep emotional distress, is common among child migrants. Alex, a 17-year old Salvadorian who fled his home two years ago to avoid recruitment to a gang, is one example. Because he fears reprisals against his family, WBEZ is not using his full name.</p><p>&ldquo;I had been jumped on three occasions and I didn&rsquo;t feel safe. I wanted to move... from my home to another place, but I didn&rsquo;t know where to go,&rdquo; said Alex. &ldquo;My country is small and the gangs are everywhere. My dad had also become afraid that they might kill me, or something. He said maybe the best way for me to get away from them would be to come to the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Alex&rsquo;s father arranged for him to take buses and cars with strangers from El Salvador, through Guatemala, into Mexico, and ultimately across the U.S. border. He made the journey with dozens of others. But after days walking and sleeping in the desert, they were caught by border patrol.</p><p>Alex was taken to a children&rsquo;s shelter in Houston, where lawyers tried to start working on his case. But he fell into a deep depression.</p><p>&ldquo;When I had those problems, I didn&rsquo;t want to talk to anyone,&rdquo; Alex said. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to leave my room. I just stayed in bed.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawyers couldn&rsquo;t help Alex in that condition, so they transferred him to a mental health treatment center for nine months. Ultimately, Alex recovered and won asylum. He&rsquo;s 17 now, and lives with family in Chicago.</p><p>Without that time to recover, Alex said he wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to help his lawyer understand why returning home would be dangerous. Under the new docket system, he likely would have been sent back. That&rsquo;s what lawyers fear will happen now to other children.</p><p>The Department of Justice&rsquo;s Executive Office for Immigration Review confirmed that it&rsquo;s prioritizing children&rsquo;s removal cases, but denied that it compromises due process. In an email to WBEZ, a spokeperson wrote &ldquo;...the immigration judge ensures that the individual understands the alleged immigration law violations. The judge also provides information on available free or low-cost legal representation resources in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>But lawyers who help migrant children say that&rsquo;s not enough. It often takes several months for children to schedule a legal screening and to secure an attorney who&rsquo;s willing to take the case for free. Experts who work with the children say they hope immigration judges across the country will grant children continuances in their cases, to allow them extra time to find counsel. But even that may not be enough.</p><p>&ldquo;The rubber&rsquo;s really going to meet the road when the children show up after these several weeks of their continuance, and what the judge does if the child does not have an attorney,&rdquo; said Megan McKenna of Kids in Need of Defense, a New York-based nonprofit that helps migrant children find pro bono attorneys across the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re going to be seeing is 70-90 percent of these children will not be represented in their deportation proceedings,&rdquo; McKenna added, &ldquo;and that can mean children being sent back to situations of harm, and this is the harm they fled.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Vocalo&rsquo;s <a href="https://twitter.com/NorthsideLou">Luis Antonio Perez</a> contributed translation for this story.<br />Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 Child migrant expert: The kids will keep coming http://www.wbez.org/news/child-migrant-expert-kids-will-keep-coming-110612 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/unaccompanied minors.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Federal officials recently announced they would close three temporary detention shelters in Oklahoma, Texas and California, in part because the flow of children across the southern U.S. border has slowed. The news comes weeks into a heated debate over what to do about large numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America.</p><p>But one Chicago expert, recently returned from studying migrant children in Guatemala, believes the slowdown won&rsquo;t last.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a culture of migration where, in many ways, it is a rite of passage that you do start to think about your household, you think about your family, you think about your future at age 13, 14, 15,&rdquo; said Lauren Heidbrink, an anthropologist and Assistant Professor at National Louis University in Chicago.</p><p>Heidbrink has authored a book on the topic, titled <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Migrant-Youth-Transnational-Families-State/dp/0812246047"><em>Migrant Youth, Transnational Families and the State: Care and Contested Interests</em></a>, and recently returned from a field study in the Departments of San Marcos and Quezaltenango in western Guatemala.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a different cultural context. There are different expectations of young people in Guatemala than we have of a 14-year old in the U.S,&rdquo; said Heidbrink.</p><p>While there, Heidbrink said she witnessed a widespread campaign to dissuade children from making the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Texas border. The U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection has launched a <a href="http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/USCBP#.U-Kos_ldWSo">multimedia campaign</a> &mdash; which included commissioning a <a href="http://www.dvidshub.net/audio/37278/radio-psa-la-bestia-norte-full-version#.U-Kon_ldWSr">radio tune</a> modeled in the tradition of popular gangster ballads known as <em>narcorridos</em> &mdash; to emphasize the dangers of the journey to children and their families.</p><p>But in the indigenous, subsistence-farm communities where Heidbrink works, the messages are not taking root.</p><p>&ldquo;They know the risks,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But the risks of remaining outweigh the risks of migration.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said many children believe subsistence farming won&rsquo;t be enough to support their families &mdash; and that way of life has been further threatened by toxic mining activity nearby. In other parts of Guatemala and Central America, kids may face different hardships. But in most cases, Heidbrink says they decide to leave for the same reason: they see little future where they are.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t want to migrate,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a last resort for many people.&rdquo;</p><p>But Heidbrink said once children make the decision to leave, they&rsquo;re thrown into a vicious cycle. Those that are deported don&rsquo;t bring home the message that they shouldn&rsquo;t make the journey. On the contrary, Heidbrink said it becomes more necessary than ever for the children to try to reach the U.S. again.</p><p>&ldquo;Youth and families are being returned to the very situations that they fled, and nothing has changed,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;And in fact, layered on top of that, for many youth, is the added debt it takes to migrate.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said many families pay smugglers between $7,500 and $10,000 to get their children to the U.S. safely, with whopping monthly interest rates as high as 15 percent. Even with a college education, Heidbrink said most Guatemalans can&rsquo;t earn that kind of money. So many kids feel their only way to pay the debt is to <em>re-</em>migrate.</p><p>Heidbrink believes the U.S.&rsquo;s renewed focus on deporting migrant children faster will only make the problem worse. That&rsquo;s because the stigma of returning to their home without having successfully made it in the U.S. means they feel pressured to try again.</p><p>Additionally, Heidbrink said boys typically face ridicule for wearing different clothes, more hair gel, or listening to different music, upon being deported back to their communities. For girls, there&rsquo;s an assumption that they had to sleep their way to the U.S. &mdash; or that they were raped.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s one family that I&rsquo;m working with who let their community members know their daughter had migrated to Guatemala City to work as a domestic laborer in someone&rsquo;s home, when in fact, she had migrated to the U.S.,&rdquo; said Heidbrink. &ldquo;And when she was apprehended and removed, they met her in Guatemala City&hellip; brought her traditional clothing and told her what story to tell the community so that she could avoid that type of stigmatization in her community.&rdquo;</p><p>She said the children see the U.S. as one of their only ways out of poverty, and emphasizing the dangers of the trip isn&rsquo;t enough to deter them. Instead, she said they might give the decision more pause if they realized how difficult life in the U.S. could be when they get here.</p><p>Daniel Restrepo can attest to that.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember my couple first days, I was so happy because I was made it in the United States,&rdquo; he said. Restrepo was 17 when he made the journey from Colombia three years ago.</p><p>Unlike the children that Heidbrink studies in Guatemala, Restrepo had an easy journey to the U.S.: he came on a plane with a tourist visa.</p><p>But Restrepo said he overstayed that visa because he felt Colombia was too violent and corrupt. He never thought life in the U.S. would also be hard.</p><p>Restrepo said he jumped at the opportunity to be a dishwasher in a restaurant, because his weekly paycheck of $300 was more than he&rsquo;d make in one month in Colombia.</p><p>&ldquo;But I came again to the real world that $300 is nothing,&rdquo; he continued, &ldquo;And I started to owe money, and that&rsquo;s when started the nightmare in the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Restrepo works two jobs now, as a cook and a valet parking attendant, at downtown Chicago restaurants. He&rsquo;s barely making it. Last week the gas was shut off at his Logan Square studio because he owes $600 in unpaid bills. Restrepo said there are still no opportunities back home, but he&rsquo;s not making much headway here, either.</p><p>Heidbrink said it&rsquo;s been left to other parties &mdash; like non-profits in Guatemala &mdash; to share stories of struggle like Restrepo&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t talk about those experiences, don&rsquo;t talk about the challenges and poverty that exists in the U.S.,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;So there is this idealized image of what it is to be living in America and working in America.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said, rather than emphasizing the dangers of the journey, the more effective way to convince Central American children to stop migrating to the U.S. may be to tell them what happens once they get here.</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> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/child-migrant-expert-kids-will-keep-coming-110612 Feds set to divert refugee funds to deal with unaccompanied minors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Refugee cuts 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Refugee assistance agencies in Illinois are steeling themselves for dramatic cuts in federal funding, which threaten to gut core services aimed at helping newcomers adjust and integrate to life in the U.S. The money instead is slated to go toward dealing with a crisis of unaccompanied minors streaming over the southern border, overwhelming temporary shelters that the U.S. is scrambling to expand.</p><p>&ldquo;This is really an impossible situation that we&rsquo;re being put in, in which we have to rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, and have to choose between two vulnerable groups of people,&rdquo; said Erol Kekic, chair of the Refugee Council USA and Director of Immigration and Refugee services at Church World Service.</p><p>&ldquo;This is happening against the backdrop of this incredible upheaval that is plaguing our world at this point in time with (the) refugee crisis getting way out of hand in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, etc,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;and (the) U.S. has to do its part to assist in this process.&rdquo;</p><p>In Illinois, resettlement agencies and refugee support organizations stand to lose a total of $2.7 million in funds from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agency is responsible for services rendered to refugees from their point of arrival in the U.S., to up to five years after. Refugees, unlike unaccompanied minors, are legally present in the U.S., and have already undergone rigorous background checks by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration authorities before they are admitted to the U.S. by the State Department.</p><p>Statewide, the cuts represent $1.3 million in core programming for refugees, and an additional $1.4 million in discretionary grants which fund services for K-12 children, seniors, preventative health care, and intensive case management for refugees with particularly acute need of assistance. Currently, Illinois provides these services to about 3,500 refugees, according to Deborah Covington, Vice President of Planning and Allocation for Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. That organization is Illinois&rsquo;s prime contractor for distributing and overseeing the bulk of ORR refugee funds.</p><p>Covington said programs funded by the discretionary grants will be completely eliminated. The state&rsquo;s seven refugee resettlement agencies, and two additional resettlement support organizations, will have discretion as to how to accommodate the cuts in core programming.</p><p>&ldquo;When budgetary crises happen, and we have a humanitarian crisis that&rsquo;s going on on the border, it&rsquo;s inappropriate to pit one deserving group against another,&rdquo; said Covington. &ldquo;The pie needs to be expanded, not simply rearranging the pie that&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would pretty much be gutting our services,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, which resettles the largest number of refugees in the City of Chicago. &ldquo;We have nine programs. Of the nine programs, four would totally shut down, and two programs would be drastically reduced.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said unless Congress passes an emergency supplemental funding bill that replenishes the cuts, she will likely have to eliminate core services as soon as October 1. Slated for the chopping block would be programs for youth, seniors, intensive case management, medical case management, and English language training. In addition, she will drastically reduce regular case management services with bilingual staff and employment services. Kano anticipates she will have to cut 10 of her 33 full-time employees, and 7 of her 11 part-time employees.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, what that translates into in terms of service provision is that you have to have intensive services to help single mothers, to help individuals who perhaps don&rsquo;t have significant literacy skills, to help individuals who have been warehoused in refugee camps for several years, to be able to adjust to life in Chicago and become self-sufficient,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Kano and others said cuts would also come at a time that refugees need them more than ever. In accord with a <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/02/presidential-memorandum-refugee-admissions-fiscal-year-2014">Presidential Determination</a>, which announces the number of refugees that the U.S. may accept in a given fiscal year, and from which area of the world, the U.S. has increasingly been taking refugees from countries such as the Congo, Iraq, Bhutan, and starting next year, Syria.</p><p>&ldquo;These are definitely individuals who have been through war and trauma,&rdquo; said Kano, &ldquo;and without the important programs that we are here to provide for them, they would really have (a) hard time to integrate into society here and become self-sufficient.&rdquo;</p><p>Refugee advocates are hopeful that federal lawmakers will reach an agreement on a supplemental funding bill to replenish the cuts by September 30. While a proposal by President Barack Obama to provide $3.7 billion toward handling the unaccompanied minors crisis would have made the refugee services whole, neither the House nor Senate have shown an appetite for such a large allocation. In particular, funding contemplated by House GOP leaders doesn&rsquo;t appear to come close to restoring the cuts for refugee services.</p><p>&ldquo;The House leadership is interested in passing legislation that provides much less funding and is much more focused on border enforcement and limiting the President&rsquo;s authority than they are in really solving the humanitarian crisis,&rdquo; said Fred Tsao, Senior Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still hoping that some kind of resolution will take place,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;but obviously the clock is running.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 Global Activism: 'ConTextos' aiding children in Central America through literacy education http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-debra_gittler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-419f-6c53-a54b-a65dded641a7">While Central American children flood into the U.S. to escape crime &amp; poverty, Chicagoan Debra Gittler works to create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity &amp; advocacy, that she hopes will help these children thrive and keep them in their home countries. Debra moved to Central America to start <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. The group says &ldquo;[We do] more than just develop the mechanical skills of sounding out words. We encourage kids to think deeply, to be curious, and to question their environment.&rdquo; For <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Gittler tells us how her work is spreading across Central America.</span></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-4188-13cc-6742-dee95fbd88c5"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159145115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p>When we asked Debra to tell us about the importance of her work, she wrote:</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I want to emphasize the relevance of our work in Central America, especially given the refugee kids at the border. To emphasize that the reality is, these kids have access to schools, but no education; ConTextos changes that. We are growing throughout the region and looking for greater support in our hometown here in Chicago. Those kids at the border... those are the same kids that we serve.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Before ConTextos, Manuel had no books and his entire experience was copy and dictation. He went to school four hours a day. Now, his school is open to him all day long, he has access to books and other materials, and he has real conversations in his classroom. We read a book called &quot;Where are the Giants&quot; about hidden magic in the world. Manuel says to me (I&#39;m translating): &quot;You know--and this isn&#39;t in the news, but it&#39;s true-- I&#39;ve heard that there are fairies in Mexico...&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I asked his teacher about Manuel. She said that before, she used to scold him for his imagination. Now she encourages it. Her students are encouraged to think and imagine and explore. Classroom attendance is up.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">And this school is in the midst of gang territory. MS 18 is scribbled on the walls of the school. Manuel&#39;s photo is below.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">It&#39;s important to realize that even though we are a literacy organization-- and the only org in the region with the goal and implementation in multiple countries; whereas Africa and Asia have multiple orgs addressing the lack of resources and training across countries, Central Am/ Latin Am have NONE-- we go far beyond just teaching reading.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At one of our schools--an area of extreme poverty where most live as subsistence farmers-- the school ran out of space for their school garden. &quot;Why can&#39;t we plant on the roof?&quot; asked one of the 5th graders. At first, the teacher balked that it was a ridiculous idea. Now they are growing basil and mint on their roof. The teacher explained: &quot;by changing how we teach-- asking questions, encouraging the kids to question-- we&#39;ve seen changes in how they approach life.&quot; These kids live in areas with plenty of problems. With ConTextos&#39; intervention, they&#39;re encouraged to think about those problems.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">That school was one of our first schools. There&#39;s now 13 schools in their network. Kids read at a &quot;1st world&quot; level. The Ministry uses the schools as models for teacher development.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy