Thursday, January 24, 2019

Immigrants Participating in Health and Nutrition Programs Become Latest Target of Trump Administration Deportation Efforts

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Over the weekend, the Trump administration released a proposed rule to dramatically expand how individuals’ use of critical health programs and services to meet basic living requirements like food and shelter may be evaluated to determine eligibility for green cards or admission to the United States. As stated in the proposed rule, a person may be denied admission to the US, lawful permanent resident (LPR) status or a visa extension on “public charge” grounds if they use certain health, nutrition, and housing programs.

These drastic proposed changes to how public charge is evaluated in the immigration system will have sweeping implications for how immigrant families access health care in the United States, potentially discouraging millions of eligible individuals from receiving medical attention, while exacerbating child poverty, hunger and homelessness. The publication of the proposed changes to public charge opens a 60-day comment period in which advocates and the public can respond.

Said Erin Quinn, Senior Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

“Rather than allowing eligible families to access the support they need to stay healthy and thrive, the Trump administration is targeting the most vulnerable with this proposed rule. It would force immigrants to make the choice between receiving care to cover the basic needs for themselves and their families or endangering their immigration status. This is not a choice that any individual should have to make and it is one that betrays our country’s storied commitment to compassion and opportunity.

“This unacceptable proposal is the latest effort in this administration’s ongoing effort to dismantle a system that serves as a safety net for those trying to make a life in the United States. We all benefit from healthy communities and we should be protecting this already-underserved population, not threatening their ability to live legally in this country if they access the few assurances of health and safety available to them.

“This is the latest move in the Trump agenda to target people of color—but the narrow, outdated vision Trump promotes of who belongs no longer holds true as a majority of Americans support humane immigration policies. Furthermore, this proposed rule change undermines our communities and families--cornerstones of American life.”

Importantly, this proposed rule is not yet law. The ILRC joins other advocacy groups in submitting comments to the proposed rule change during the 60-day comment period. We will continue to work with immigrants and their families to ensure they do not forego critical benefits and services for which they are eligible. This rule change does not affect lawful permanent residents who are seeking naturalization. Unless and until this rule is enacted, immigrants can continue to use programs for which they qualify without any new immigration-related consequence.

HRC Responds to HHS Discriminating Against Jewish, LGBTQ, and Other Families

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) organization, responded to a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to grant a waiver from federal non-discrimination requirements to South Carolina’s Foster Care Program, which has contracted with a child welfare provider who seeks permission to refuse to serve prospective parents who do not share their religious beliefs, but who wants to continue to receive federal funding to provide those services. South Carolina requested the waiver to allow federal funds to go to a child welfare agency that refused to place children with Jewish families. By granting that waiver, HHS is opening the door to federally-funded discrimination justified by religious belief against any number of prospective parents, including single parents, LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples, parents who may previously have been divorced, interfaith couples, or people of deep faith that happens to be of another religion.

“Every decision that is made by a provider of child welfare services must be grounded in doing what is the best interest of the child, period. Providing care for these kids is critically important, and too many kids languish in the foster care system because there aren’t enough foster and adoptive parents for each child. Allowing a federal contractor the ability to refuse to work with qualified prospective parents - limiting the pool of prospective parents even further - is directly counter to the best interests of the children waiting for families,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director & Senior Counsel. “The federal government has a compelling interest in ensuring federal contractors are providing quality care, and in ensuring that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for taxpayer-funded discrimination. This waiver is unconscionable, in no small part because it prioritizes federal contractors over kids in need of families.”

Federal law prohibits discrimination in federally-funded programs against foster parents on religious grounds, but ten states permit discrimination by state-licensed foster care organizations against LGBTQ people,same-sex coupless and others if doing so conflicts with the organization’s religious beliefs.

HRC recently released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care. The report debunks the myth that having more providers is the key to higher rates of placement in homes; the bottleneck is not the number of providers, but the number of prospective parents. Where providers have ceased to provide services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws, placement rates did not decrease.significantly as a result.

Further, research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. Granting this waiver will only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.

Schiff and Cummings Statement on Intimidation of Michael Cohen

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement in response to a request received by Michael Cohen to postpone his upcoming testimony before Congress:

“We have received Mr. Cohen’s notice postponing his voluntary appearance in an open hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Reform. We certainly understand the completely legitimate concerns for the safety and security of Mr. Cohen and his family members in light of the attacks last week by President Trump and again this past weekend by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

“As we stated previously with our colleague, Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are textbook mob tactics that we condemn in the strongest terms. Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress. The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.

“We understand that Mr. Cohen’s wife and other family members fear for their safety after these attacks, and we have repeatedly offered our assistance to work with law enforcement to enhance security measures for Mr. Cohen and his family.

“Nevertheless, when our Committees began discussions with Mr. Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option. We will not let the President’s tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. This will not stop us from getting to the truth. We expect Mr. Cohen to appear before both Committees, and we remain engaged with his counsel about his upcoming appearances.”

Democratic Leaders Condemn Trump Administration Move to Allow Discrimination in Foster Care

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) released the following statement regarding the Trump administration’s decision to allow foster care placement agencies to discriminate using federal funds:

“Through today’s decision, the Trump administration is endorsing discrimination by giving taxpayer money to foster care entities that discriminate against foster parents based on religious beliefs. Even worse, this waiver allows the foster care system to engage in discrimination that ignores the best interests of our most vulnerable children and exacerbates the shortage of qualified foster parents.

“We must reject all attempts to discriminate based on race, religion, or any other protected class. But for a taxpayer-funded organization to deny children a loving home based on religious beliefs is a particularly egregious violation of a fundamental American principle.”

Healthcare Leadership Council Endorses Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Health Insurance Tax Delay for Two Years

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- A multi-sector alliance of healthcare leaders has endorsed bipartisan Senate legislation that would prevent the health insurance tax, currently suspended until the end of 2019, from being implemented for two additional years.

The Healthcare Leadership Council, comprised of chief executives from the nation’s leading healthcare companies, said it will support the “Health Insurance Tax Relief Act,” introduced by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The tax, applied to health insurers on the premiums they collect, would result in higher health coverage costs, for tens of millions of consumers and employers. According to the Oliver Wyman consulting firm, if the tax goes into effect, annual premiums will rise by more than $450 for families in either the large or small group markets. Individuals in the non-group market would pay nearly $200 more per year.

“This is an unnecessary, counterproductive tax that would make health insurance less affordable for millions of American families,” said HLC president Mary R. Grealy. “There is much work to be done in this Congress to bring greater stability to the health insurance marketplace and contain healthcare costs through value-focused reforms, but lawmakers must start by preventing the harm that will occur if this tax becomes effective at the end of the year.”

Ms. Grealy said must act expeditiously on this legislation because health insurers will soon be determining their rates for 2020 and will have to factor in the expected costs from this tax if it is not eliminated or suspended.

“We’re very pleased that this effort has such strong bipartisan leadership,” said Ms. Grealy. “The sponsors of this legislation deserve praise for reaching across the aisle to seek health coverage affordability for patients and consumers.”

Big News For California’s Gun Owners: U.S. Supreme Court Set To Hear The First Major 2nd Amendment Case In Ten Years.

Springfield, VA - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- the United States Supreme Court granted a Writ of Certiorari in NYSRP v. NY City, a case in which Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) have submitted an amicus brief.

This case challenges New York City’s near-prohibition on possessing or transporting handguns, and this is the first major Second Amendment challenge to be reviewed by the Supreme Court in almost a decade.

GOA’s executive director, Erich Pratt, stated, “Gun owners across the country — especially those ‘behind enemy lines’ living in anti-gun states — are rejoicing that the Supreme Court is taking up a Second Amendment case. For far too long, judges have ignored the Second Amendment, along with the Heller and McDonald decisions, instead employing a ‘balancing’ test that effectively leaves gun owners in anti-gun states with a second-class right to keep and bear arms.”

In fact, GOA’s brief specifically challenges the “balancing” approach taken by judges in the lower courts.

GOA’s brief states, “Heller and McDonald leave little doubt that courts are to assess gun bans and regulations based on text, history, and tradition, not by a balancing test … [where judges] usurp the role of the Framers of the Second Amendment.”

“GOA’s hard-hitting brief before the Supreme Court cuts to the heart of this problem by arguing that judges have to follow the Constitution — and the text of the Second Amendment — rather than imposing their own preconceived views upon the text,” Pratt concluded.

GOA’s brief can be viewed here.