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Friday, July 20, 2018

A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Obamacare enrollment by Latinos hurt by immigration law concerns

Acosta, patient care coordinator at AltaMed, speaks to a man during a community outreach on Obamacare in Los Angeles

(Reuters) – Concerns among Hispanics that signing up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law may draw the scrutiny of immigration authorities has hurt enrollment, according to advocates of the policy.

Convincing Latinos to enroll could be crucial to the law’s success, and supporters of Obama’s signature domestic policy are aiming their campaign at the 10.2 million Latinos eligible for the new insurance plans or the expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor.

As a group, Latinos are younger than the overall population in the United States and signing them up in large numbers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could help offset the costs of covering older and sicker people.

But the enrollment effort appears to be falling short. In California, home to the largest Latino population in the country, only 13 percent of enrollees on the state’s online marketplace called Covered California identified themselves as Hispanic, despite accounting for about 38 percent of the population, the state said last week.

Ironically, polls have consistently shown Latinos are more supportive of the law, commonly called Obamacare, than the general public. A September survey from the Pew Research Center found 61 percent of Hispanics had a favorable view of the law compared to 29 percent among whites.

The law, passed in 2010, established online insurance exchanges, or marketplaces so that millions of uninsured people could enroll for private healthcare plans.

The Obama administration has not released figures on enrollment by ethnicity, but so far officials are not optimistic about Latino turnout.

“I would not be surprised if those numbers aren’t what we want them to be right now,” said Mayra Alvarez, associate director of minority health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

IMMIGRATION LAW ENFORCEMENT

The sign-up campaign may be stalling in part due to the administration’s vigorous enforcement of immigration laws. The administration deported a record number of people during Obama’s first term, according to Pew Research Center data.

While Obama has backed a bill that offers a pathway to citizenship for many of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, his administration increased deportations to nearly 410,000 people in 2012, almost double the number in 2003.

Obamacare supporters say fear of immigration enforcement is a particular concern in Hispanic families where one spouse is a U.S. citizen or legal resident and married to an undocumented person, or where both parents are undocumented immigrants but their children have citizenship.

“A lot of mixed-status families are afraid that if they enroll, that the government will come and divide up their family through deportation,” said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at the California Endowment, a health foundation.

One couple who last month came to a Los Angeles event by the group Vision y Compromiso demonstrates the types of problems these families face, said program manager Hugo Ramirez. The organization, dedicated to improving the health of the Hispanic community, received funding through Covered California to promote Obamacare.

The undocumented parents, a father who is a construction worker and a mother who works as a house cleaner, feared information they might submit to enroll their three children in Covered California could be used against them by U.S. immigration officials, Ramirez said.

An advocate advised the couple they would not risk running afoul of immigration authorities, but that in enrolling their children and providing details on the family’searnings, they would have to begin paying income taxes despite being undocumented, Ramirez said. The couple seemed inclined to buy coverage for their children, ages 17 and younger, he said.

The administration has sought to defuse immigration concerns, which had been flagged by community leaders before the six-month open enrollment period began on October 1. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in October that personal information submitted by insurance shoppers would not be used for immigration enforcement.

Minnesota’s exchange, MNSure, said it has found that even when mixed-status Latino families were prepared to sign up, some hesitated in submitting information needed to verify the identity of the member seeking insurance online.

“This is on our radar and we are communicating with our navigators about this issue,” said MNSure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough.

HOME INTERNET ACCESS LESS LIKELY

When it comes to enrollment, technology issues have also proven a barrier.

The Spanish-language version of the federal online exchange, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, was not running until December.

The federal website, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, was hobbled by technology problems in October and much of November and fell short of enrollment expectations.

California, one of 14 states with its own website, has boasted that it works far better than the federal portal, but even with the technology working well, other issues may hinder enrollment.

Latino families, because of lower household income and other factors, are less likely to have home internet connections, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, making them more dependent on outside help from enrollment navigators to shop for the new plans.

Ricardo Hernandez, 20, a Los Angeles-area resident, is uninsured and eager to obtain coverage through Covered California, but he lives with his sister in a house that has no internet connection. He has called the exchange’s hotline seven times but has been unable to reach someone.

“It’s rare when I have access to computer,” said Hernandez, a part-time gas station attendant. “I just feel like a bother constantly to have to ask a friend or a neighbor to use their computer.”

The troubles seen in California run even deeper in Florida and Texas, two states with large Hispanic populations. Both states declined to set up their own websites and shoppers need to use the federal government portal.

U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, said her state was “all on board to say we need to make it work, and our numbers are still low in the Latino community and they should be high.” Sanchez described Texas as “thumbing their nose at the president and saying we’re not going to help you, yes outreach may be lacking.”

(Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Eric Beech and Grant McCool)

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