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Just Thoughts is the blog of the Empire Justice Center, New York’s statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. Here staff and guest authors will share stories, announcements and perspectives on timely issues related to our work.    



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Doing Time in Dilley

Issue Area: Immigrant Rights

This blog tells the true story of families seeking asylum in the United States- families that have gone through horrors not meant to be experienced, especially by children.  Please be aware that some of the content may be considered graphic by some readers.


In December 2016, I spent a week serving as a pro bono attorney at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC), a family detention center for women and children located in Dilley, Texas.  Volunteers are organized through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, a collective created by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  These organizations joined together in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s expanding practice of detaining families seeking asylum at the United States and Mexican border.

     
  The water tower stands sentinal over Dilley.  



What exactly is a “family detention center?”  Well, it’s basically a cleaned-up term used to hide what these places really are: prisons.  The United States government is currently incarcerating women and children fleeing violence in their home countries (mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) and who are asking for asylum at our borders.  Yes, children – some as young as just a few months old.

I met with a number of these women and children during my time at the STFRC.  One young girl’s story has stayed with me, months after I met with her.  My colleague was interviewing her mother, and I sat down to keep her pre-teen daughter company.  As we sat coloring with crayons, she turned to me and asked if I wanted to know why she came to America.  I told her I didn’t know why but if she wanted to tell me, she could.  She proceeded to tell me about how her uncle had been raping her for years and that when she told her mother about it, everything got worse.  Her mother called the police, who didn’t do anything, and her family turned on her for dragging others into their private affairs.  Her own family threatened her with violence, and her mother made the decision that in order for them to be safe, they had to flee the country.  This child does not belong in a prison while she and her mother rightfully seek asylum under US laws.  She needs to be counseled and offered medical services, not incarcerated.

After telling her story, the young girl turned to me and asked if I could play her some songs on my laptop.  She was really worried and nervous about their hearing the next day with the asylum officer and what questions they might ask her.  I tried to ease her mind and said she could answer any questions the way that she had just explained it to me. 

     
  Prathiba in Dilley, TX  



After that, we sat and watched Disney music videos to take her mind off things until her mother was done preparing.  Before she got up to leave, she turned to me and asked if the Empire State Building was as tall as she had seen in pictures.  She said she was hoping to see for herself.  She is a kid, one who has been through a lot, but a kid nonetheless. 

Why are children being imprisoned?  Mostly because the companies who run these private prisons are earning millions of dollars a year in revenue for each of the 2,400 beds they fill at the STFRC.

In even more appalling news, in May 2017, Texas lawmakers voted to advance a bill that would license family detention centers as child care providers.  This is despite a 2016 court ruling where a judge held that the STFRC did not meet the minimum requirements to care for childrenThe GEO Group, the  private prison company that runs the other Texas family detention center, Karnes, lobbied Texas lawmakers to introduce the bill, a bill that would earn them exponentially more revenue and allow them to remain open and hold children in these facilities for even longer.

Beyond the disturbing reality where a family jail would be licensed by the state as a childcare provider – this is a dangerous precedent.  From someone who has been to the STRFC, seen and spoken to the children and women being held there – there is no way that they should be allowed to pretend they are childcare providers.  Almost all of the children there have severe diarrhea, congestion and hacking coughs.  Their coughs were so forceful it sounded like they would vomit at any moment.  When mothers tried to seek medical attention, they were told to give their children honey or a throat lozenge.  When I was there, the medical staff did not even speak Spanish, so most mothers did not know what medicines were being given to their children.  Children who were running around playing would come back from the infirmary and just pass out asleep from the pills given to them.  One day, a child in the “daycare” room was found by a CARA volunteer passed out and nonresponsive, with no STFRC staff member in the room with the children.  And if that weren’t enough, volunteers were all warned to not drink the tap water in Dilley because it has been contaminated by nearby fracking.  Yet, the STFRC staff filled water dispensers directly from the tap for the women and children being detained.

Family Detention Centers are inhumane, not a solution.  With the Trump administration planning to expand detention, these human rights abuses need to be brought to light and these centers need to be closed.

The experience of volunteering in Dilley has reaffirmed my dedication to fighting for immigrant rights, and I already have plans to return.  If you are interested in volunteering or learning more, please visit AILA’s website.

     
  Prathiba joined a long line of advocates volunteering in Dilley, and hopes to go back this year.  


Tags: daca | immigrant rights | Dilley





Giving Tuesday is November 29!


     

Looking for ways to take ACTION?
 
On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, come together with other people, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world for one common purpose: to support organizations that DO GOOD.
 
The day has many names—internationally known as #GivingTuesday, we also have the stateside  'New York Gives' , and #ROCtheDay in Rochester.
 
Often lumped together with Black Friday during the holiday season, #GivingTuesday encourages people to invest in their community by donating to organizations that defend the values that they believe in. There's no rules for participation, just go to the website for the nonprofit(s) that you'd like to support and make a donation.
 
It's a chance for everyone to take part in supporting the values and ideals that you care about most. For us here at Empire Justice, it's laws and policies that make sense, community empowerment, and fairness for all in the justice system.
 
And that's what you get when you invest in Empire Justice - together with your help, we make the law work for all New Yorkers on a systemic level through policy advocacy, class actions, on-the-ground advocacy for individuals, and capacity building through training and support to other organizations around New York State.
 
So whatever way you choose to participate, #GivingTuesday, #ROCtheDay, or through New York Gives, choose fairness for all and help us make the law work for all New Yorkers.



Tags: civil rights | Giving Tuesday | Rochester | Albany | social justice | legal services | legal aid





TANF at 20: A Look Back at the Impact on Immigrants


Since 1973, some incarnation of Empire Justice Center has been fighting for low income and disenfranchised New Yorkers' rights.  We've seen many changes and weathered many storms, including the so-called "welfare reform" of 1996.  The advent of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 brought us the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, for better or for worse.  Twenty years later, New York families are still living in poverty.  We present to you our perspectives on TANF at 20.


Barbara Weiner, Attorney Emeritus and Celebration of Leadership Honoree, talks about the impact of TANF on immigrants.


In the summer of 1996 Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA), the law that would “change welfare as we know it.”  “Personal responsibility” was the catch word of the day, coming before “work opportunity” even in the title, suggesting that accepting the first would inevitably lead to the second.   History since then has not borne that out.  When the economy falters, regardless of their desire to work, low income people are the first to feel the sting.


At the time PRWORA passed, I was an attorney working with the Greater Upstate Law Project (GULP), predecessor of Empire Justice Center, focusing primarily on housing issues.  PRWORA changed all that.  I turned back to an earlier area of my practice, public benefits law, but this time with a focus on how PRWORA impacted immigrants in particular.


Elderly and disabled immigrants were hit hardest by PRWORA.  With the exception of refugees and other humanitarian based immigrants, the door to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the federal program providing income assistance to low income elderly and disabled people, was slammed shut to immigrants unless and until they became US citizens.  Even elderly and disabled refugees were only eligible to receive SSI for a limited time frame.  Access to the other federally funded program, food stamps, was also severely restricted.  TANF and Medicaid, two programs that both the state and federal government contribute to, barred most immigrants from receiving benefits for the first five years after achieving a qualifying immigration status.  After the five year bar expires, states are free to allow qualified immigrants access to one or both programs or to continue the bar.


The benefits eligibility structure enacted through PRWORA was extremely complex, requiring at least a rudimentary understanding of immigration law and an understanding of the meaning of an infinite variety of immigration documents.  This was expertise the state benefits agencies charged with administering the federal and state welfare programs were ill equipped to provide.  Thus the first impact of the new law was that agency workers often simply turned away immigrants with documents the workers didn’t understand, simply because they weren’t “US citizens” or didn’t have a Social Security card.  


Legal services programs, long barred from representing immigrants in immigration matters, but responsible for representing low income clients in their struggle to obtain the benefits that they were entitled to, were also not equipped at first to deal with the complications of immigrant access to benefits resulting from PRWORA’s provisions.  As a statewide back-up center, GULP entered into the breach and we began the long road of familiarizing ourselves with the various circumstances immigrants found themselves in, and how they connected to the complicated immigrant eligibility rules of federal and state benefits programs. 


I was particularly drawn to this new area, perhaps because I had myself come to the US as an immigrant long ago, and so wanted to dive in.  I was given complete freedom by my office to go off in this direction, something rarely encountered these days.  Other legal services programs doing public benefits work, particularly in New York City where immigrants comprise a huge portion of the population, began a similar journey. 


Thus began our first task… to gain a familiarity with immigration law sufficient to make sense of the immigrant eligibility rules established in PRWORA, and then bring an understanding of those rules to others in our legal service community.  I did at least some of my learning by doing – taking on immigration cases, particularly the cases of victims of domestic violence who, if married to an abusive US citizen or lawful permanent resident, had a special path to permanent residence which they could pursue on their own, without the cooperation of their abusive spouse.  Once on the way to applying for status on their own, they had access to at least some state public benefits programs.


In the years since PRWORA, we in the legal services community have litigated and advocated with the New York State agencies responsible for administering public benefits programs, all with a view to ensuring the correct application of immigrant eligibility rules and to be as expansive in their application as the law permits.  No doubt our greatest victory was with Aliessa v. Novello, the 2001 Court of Appeals decision that made it forever clear that New York State, unlike the federal government, is not free to discriminate among and between lawful immigrants in providing access to state funded public benefits.  That principle was recently applied to immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by the Supreme Court of Erie County in a case called Karamalla v. Devine.  People with TPS had long been excluded from access to federal benefits, but we argued in Karamalla that the Court of Appeals had made it very clear that New York State did not have similar authority to exclude them from access to the state’s Safety Net program.  The Court emphatically agreed.  Although initially OTDA filed an appeal of the Court’s decision, which would have stayed its implementation, we have now received notice that OTDA has withdrawn their appeal.  From here on in, needy individuals with TPS are eligible for state funded welfare benefits.


For me personally, these twenty years have brought many challenges, have been sometimes frustrating, but have always been rewarding.  Still, more remains to be done to mitigate the damages to needy immigrants brought about by PRWORA.



Tags: TANF | #TANFat20 | immigration | welfare | afdc | prwora





Empire Justice attorney provides pro bono assistance out of Texas detention facility

Issue Area: Immigrant Rights

Dilley, TX



Empire Justice staff attorney Amanda Doroshow will be working out of an immigration detention center in Dilley, TX this week, as a volunteer attorney with the CARA Project. She is joined by 20 other advocates and attorneys from across the country helping to get families—mostly women and children—released from detention. Most of the families are seeking asylum and fleeing extreme violence.

Just this August, a U.S. District Judge issued an order limiting the length of detention of families and issuing guidelines about the living conditions of detention centers.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are not fully meeting with these standards and continue this inhumane practice of detaining women and children for extended periods of time.

Representation is important to these crucial cases. Nearly half of all minors represented by lawyers in immigration court in the past decade eventually won permission to remain. But nine out of 10 without legal representation were sent back to their home countries. And there continues to be a dire need for legal representation in the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC), the detention center where Amanda will be volunteering her time representing women and children in the motions for bond and immigration proceedings.

As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, Amanda says she has always been very passionate about this work. Her mother came from Cuba at the age of 13 by herself.

“This country is built on immigrants. I think it is very brave to leave everything you know and come to a country you don’t know, many times leaving everything behind,” Amanda said.

“Many of the families detained are in desperate situations facing persecution. Their only option is to make a very dangerous journey to the United States. I feel like these people should be treated with dignity and respect after enduring such trauma. They should have a fair opportunity to fight their case and should be met with support and compassion.”

CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project is a collective created by Catholic Legal Immigration Network, American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and American Immigration Lawyers Association. These organizations joined together in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s expanding practice of detaining families.

Follow updates from Amanda's pro bono experience on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tags: immigration





Finding a Summer Meal Program


We all know that nutrition is one of the building blocks of healthy and growing minds and bodies.  Around New York, millions of kids depend on school lunch programs, and now finding summer meal programs for kids is easier than ever.

Hunger Solutions New York has developed this easy to use tool to help families find programs close to home.  Click the summer meals button below to find the program nearest to you!

     



Tags: summer meal programs | childhood hunger | feeding programs





Long Island Immigrant Children's Project: Much Accomplished, More to Do!

Issue Area: Immigrant Rights

Advocates from Empire Justice Center’s Long Island office recently met with a wide range of local advocacy and social services organizations under the leadership of the Long Island Health and Welfare Council and the Hagedorn Foundation.  The meeting was arranged to brainstorm strategies for responding to the needs of the thousands of unaccompanied minor children from Central America arriving on Long Island.  This loose affiliation very shortly became the Long Island Immigrant Children’s Project.  At the initial meeting, we created three work groups to focus on provision of legal representation, mental health services and support, and education advocacy with school districts to ensure registration and enrollment.  Shortly after thereafter, the Hagedorn Foundation formed a Long Islander Funders Collaborative with the Long Island Community Foundation, Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund, Rauch Foundation, and the Sisters of St. Joseph to develop funding for the Project.

In early May, Project advocates reconvened to report on the activities of their workgroups and plot a path forward in preparation for a second wave of unaccompanied children while still grappling with the needs of the first wave.  The Project has made a remarkable amount of accomplishments so far, but there are still many challenges that need to be faced.  Here’s what the workgroups have been able to accomplish so far:

Funding

Anne Erickson, President & CEO of Empire Justice Center, participated in the initial conversations discussing possible sources of funding for Long Island.  The LI Funders Collaborative, including Empire Justice and consisting of foundations that have long supported legal services and social justice agencies, amassed an initial $125,000. The Collaborative gave grants to Catholic Charities, CARECEN, Safe Passage, and Touro Law Center to increase capacity to provide legal services to recently arrived children.  These dollars were leveraged by $50,000 from the New York State Office for New Americans.  An additional $400,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock permitted Hofstra and Touro Law Centers, CARECEN, and Catholic Charities to hire additional attorneys and paralegals for intake and representation.


Legal Services Workgroup

As a result of this new infusion of funding, LI organizations will be able to represent most of the children in deportation proceedings in US Immigration Court, and some of those children or family members are also being represented at Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) guardianship hearing s in Family Court.  Empire Justice Center has one full-time immigration attorney, Jackeline Saavedra, and receives additional help with client representation from the Touro Law Center Immigration Clinic attorney.  CARECEN and Catholic Charities are each doing 15 intakes a week, and Make the Road has started taking cases as well. 

The LI organizations are greatly aided by programs in New York City that staff the initial intakes at U.S. Immigration Court in Manhattan.  There are also attorneys who will take referrals on asylum cases for kids not eligible for SIJS.  This collaborative work permits all of the organizations to increase their caseload.

Even with these great strides, organizations are still not able to meet current needs, and are exploring how to somehow link or refer clients to pro bono or private pay immigration attorneys. 

Education Workgroup

The Education workgroup, including Empire Justice attorney Linda Hassberg, has focused on school districts that illegally prevent children from enrolling and/or fail to offer them appropriate placement and opportunity to pursue degree programs.  At least in part due to the group’s advocacy efforts, both the New York State Education Department (SED) and the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s (AG) got involved and have been instrumental in enforcing enrollment mandates and proper programing.  They’ve provided new regulation, community meetings, investigations, and settlement agreements between the AG and several school districts. 

The very fact that state officials have reached out to us to collaborate is very encouraging and much has been accomplished.

There are still big gaps in our ability to reach, inform, and provide assistance and support to families experiencing problems with school enrollment and programming.  We haven’t been successful in getting SED to mandate that enrollment, residency, and program information be provided in languages other than English, even though it’s required by Title VI.  Some LI school districts are doing a good job and the AG can be an ally in encouraging others to interact more meaningfully with LEP communities, but this remains a big challenge.

Mental Health Services Workgroup

This workgroup, including Empire Justice Social Worker Paralegal Cheryl Keshner, reported an expansion of services.  This includes some capacity to address the issues of Spanish-speaking children, but the majority of recently arrived kids are not getting the support they need.  Many have suffered trauma and their parents and other caregivers are struggling just to integrate them into their households and support them financially.  Although the group cited a lack of overall capacity, there was also discussion about families’ reluctance to access mental health services because of the stigma, and families’ lack of time and energy.  Many parents/guardians are working 2-3 jobs, have transportation problems, and need to care for their whole family.

We talked about overlap between education and mental health.  Although it wouldn’t address the entire problem, making use of referrals for special education for students with emotional disabilities, and connecting to funded programs in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that provide school and community based youth services would help.  For education and mental health outreach, involving faith-based programs and leadership, as well as ESL teachers and other school personnel who work with these families.


Project advocates are energized by these meetings, and feel that they accomplished a great deal in the months since the first forum.  Clearly, there remain many large issues that will require dedicated resources, creative collaboration, and hard work to tackle.  There are predictions that a second wave of unaccompanied Central American children will come to Long Island this summer.  We’re now concentrating on solidifying the progress that's been made, reaching out to more families and children in need, and continuing to convene the workgroups to strategize about new methods of addressing problems. We here at Empire Justice Center look forward to working with this dynamic group!



Tags: unacompanied minors | immigrant kids | legal services | mental health services | education services





Bringing Together Language Access Advocates on Long Island


For many years, I have worked as a legal advocate and social worker with immigrant communities on Long Island.  During this time, I have witnessed the many difficulties which my clients have experienced in negotiating the system, obtaining benefits from government agencies, gaining police protection, accessing healthcare and understanding information about their child’s educational needs.  These difficulties are often compounded when there are language barriers or cultural misunderstandings.  When government funded programs, such as the police and social services, do not provide proper interpretation or translation, the results can be disastrous, leading to homelessness, a lack of protection for victims of domestic violence or other crimes, inadequate healthcare and even the removal of the children from the household.
 
Many other advocates on Long Island have shared these concerns.  Even though Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recipients of federal funds from practicing national origin discrimination, we were aware that this was happening on Long Island on a daily basis.  For this reason, in October 2010, several advocates from a diverse group of programs and agencies came together to form the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition (LILAC).

LILAC has been active in addressing the disparities faced by limited English proficient (LEP) community members on Long Island  by documenting these problems, reaching out to program administrators and policy makers, letting them know the challenges our community members are experiencing, reminding them of their legal obligations and providing them with technical support.  We have seen positive results, including the assigning of more bilingual workers, increased staff training, improved signage and translations of vital documents.  We are also very encouraged by the passage of New York State Executive Order No. 26, which mandates state agencies with frequent public contact to provide comprehensive interpretation and translation services, and by the enforcement efforts of New York State’s Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice.  In alliance with other organizations, LILAC has been instrumental in gaining the passage of executive orders in Suffolk and Nassau counties which mandate county agencies to provide interpretation when needed, as well as translation of vital documents into six languages.  Yet we know that there is still so much work to be done and that we need to continue strategizing and learning to move forward!
 
On Friday, November 15th at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, LILAC will hold its second annual conference, “Navigating a Roadmap for Language Access: Celebrating Our Successes, Addressing Our Challenges.”  The purpose of this conference is to continue raising awareness and seeking solutions to the need for language access and cultural competence in our communities. 

The conference will begin with an overview of language access presented by Michael Mule, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice (and former employee of Empire Justice Center).  Workshops will feature a number of renowned speakers including Jose Perez of Latino Justice/PRLDEF, who will address language access and law enforcement issues, the Office of the NY State Attorney General discussing voting rights and Dr. Jack Levine of Nassau University Medical Center presenting findings of a study on the disparities in services for Hispanic families with children with autism.  Hot topics such as Language Access and Disaster Recovery, and Language Access and the Affordable Care Act will also be covered, in addition to numerous other topics. 

The afternoon will conclude with a panel of Suffolk County representatives discussing their plans to improve language access services on a local level.  We hope that participants will leave this conference with a better understanding of the issues and acquire the tools and resources necessary to improve their agency’s services, to assist their community members or to defend their own right to language access. 

To register online, go to www.longislandlanguageadvocates.org.  Early registration ends November 8th, so please register now for a reduced rate.  We look forward to seeing you there!



Tags: language access | limited English proficient | LILAC | New York State Attorney General





A Peek at a New Resource for Domestic Violence Victims who are Limited English Proficient


A Peek at a New Resource for Domestic Violence Victims who are Limited English Proficient

 

Imagine for a moment that you are the victim of domestic violence and are enduring the ongoing physical and emotional violence of your abusive intimate partner.  Now, imagine that during a particularly dangerous attack, you call 911 so that the police will come and help you and your children.  The police arrive, but you are unable to communicate with them because you are a non-citizen and English is not your primary language.  Your abuser, on the other hand, speaks English well and, instead of talking to you, the police only interview your abuser because they don’t call for  an interpreter.   As a result, you have no way of explaining what actually happened from your perspective.  Later, a domestic violence advocate advises you to seek an order of protection in family court.  You are not really sure what an order of protection is or how to get one.  Your experience with the police has alarmed you and you are not sure how to even begin taking the steps you need to take to get help without language assistance. 

 

This nightmarish scenario is the reality for many domestic violence victims in New York State who are Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning English is not their primary language and they have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English.  An estimated 2.4 million residents of New York are LEP.

 

Unfortunately, many LEP victims of domestic violence are unaware that both state and federal law require the courts, the police, and other service providers to offer language assistance at no charge when LEP individuals seek help.  In addition to language barriers, victims may be hesitant to access the civil or criminal justice system because they fear losing custody of their children or immigration consequences, such as deportation and removal from the United States.  Lack of familiarity with the legal system, as well as economic, cultural and religious barriers may also conspire to erect additional barriers for victims in their attempts to stop the abuse they suffer.

 

We are pleased to report that Empire Justice Center has produced a pamphlet designed to address this problem by clearly outlining the language access rights of limited English proficient victims in Family Court and how to access other services.  The pamphlet will be translated into the top 3 most common languages requested in New York’s courts. In an effort to reflect actual experiences with courts and police, as well as the real life fears and barriers to seeking help for this project,  Empire Justice Center surveyed various domestic violence and legal services providers across the state and used the information to inform the text.

 

The new resource, “Seeking Protection from Domestic Violence in New York’s Family Court: Information for Immigrant Victims with Limited English Proficiency is now available in English.  It is easily downloadable and will shortly be available in Spanish, Russian, Simplified Chinese— in addition to English.  For organizations that would like to order copies of this pamphlet in bulk, they will also be able to do so through our website.  Stay tuned!  In the next few days we will reveal the translated brochures!!!



Tags: Domestic Violence | Limited English Profiiciency





What’s New in Medicaid: Breaking it Down for You


Are you feeling overwhelmed trying to comprehend all the changes that are happening to New York’s Medicaid program?  We can help!

Trilby de Jung, our Senior Health Law Attorney, and her Health Team colleagues here at Empire Justice have been hard at work analyzing and monitoring the upcoming changes to Medicaid and public health insurance coverage in New York State as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and how these changes will affect low income consumers.  We are also busy keeping abreast of MRT (Medicaid Redesign Team) implementation.

We wanted to alert you to two new resources we’ve developed for health care advocates, policymakers, community based organizations and government partners working with Medicaid-eligible households:

  1. A comprehensive report on immigrants and the Health Insurance Exchange.  New York’s Exchange Portal:  A Gateway to Coverage for Immigrants is a report written by Trilby de Jung and Barbara Weiner.  The report includes an Immigrant Eligibility Crosswalk, which is a new tool to help navigate the complex intersections of immigration status and eligibility for Exchange related subsidies, Medicaid programs and emergency health care coverage options.
  2. A new cycle of free “lunch and learn” health access webinars.  The first webinar, held June 24th, was Immigrant Access to Health Care; the topic for our July 8th webinar was Medicaid Eligibility in 2014.  Both webinars were filled to capacity!  If you missed them, the sessions were recorded and will soon be posted on our website. 
  • Upcoming lunch and learn topics will include Changes to Medicaid Home Care Options and Medicaid Eligibility in 2014 for the Elderly and Disabled.  Stay tuned for announcements about dates and registration information!


Another great place to get timely and helpful information about Medicaid is by visiting www.nyhealthaccess.org, our collaborative website with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and the Legal Aid Society.  Be sure to check Empire Justice’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.



Tags: immigrants | health care | Medicaid | Affordable Care Act | health insurance exchange





Simplifying the Complexities Surrounding Immigrant Access to Health Care


Last week we released a two part report about immigrant access to health care in New York.  The first part describes the evolution of the patchwork of laws passed by Congress that impact immigrant access to health care, including the federal Affordable Care Act, and how this complicates determining immigrant access to existing and emerging health care coverage options in New York State.

At the end of this section we discuss New York’s proposed online Health Insurance Exchange application, and how New York could fine tune it.  Our biggest recommendation is to fully incorporate the Department of Health’s ground breaking process for pre-certifying undocumented immigrants for Emergency Medicaid through the online Exchange application.  Why?  We believe pre-certification will encourage immigrant families to apply for health care coverage through the Exchange, and it will help the hospitals that serve as safety nets for the uninsured maximize their revenues.

The second part of our report is a detailed “Immigrant Eligibility Crosswalk” and a glossary of status related terms.  This crosswalk, which lists New York’s health insurance programs along the top and noncitizen statuses along the left hand side, allows users to easily locate the particular health insurance programs for which a noncitizen in a specific status will be eligible.  This new tool will help policymakers, health care staff and advocates navigate the complex intersections of immigration status and health care coverage eligibility that we described in part one of the report.

Empire Justice will be scheduling a webinar to familiarize people with the report and to get the word out about the crosswalk and the Health Department’s approach to pre-certifying immigrants for Emergency Medicaid.

In the meantime, please take a look at our report and the crosswalk and let us know what you think.



Tags: immigrants | health care | Medicaid | Affordable Care Act | health insurance | access to health care | health insurance exchange