Proposed Changes Will Hurt Families, Communities
This week, the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will release proposed regulations that will drastically change the “public charge” rules that apply to immigrants legally seeking permanent resident status in the U.S.
If the proposed rule is finalized, this change would be a dangerous departure from policies established to support families. For more than 100 years, the U.S. government has recognized that social supports like health care and nutrition help families thrive and remain productive, and the government has long clarified that immigrant families can seek health and nutrition benefits for eligible families without fear of harming their immigration case.
If this rule is finalized, families will no longer have that assurance.
For several months, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has been working with families who are afraid to use public assistance programs they are eligible to receive due to fears that using those benefits will harm their ability to adjust immigration status or even get them deported. This rule will only create more confusion for these families already living in fear and make them more vulnerable to exploitation.
We are certain that many more families will decline critical access to nutrition, healthcare and housing they are eligible to receive if these new proposed changes go into effect. If finalized, this harsh rule will place unnecessary strain on community resources as more families struggle to remain stable.
What we know:
The proposed rule expands the types of benefits considered to include those supporting basic needs like health, food, income and housing including:
Medicaid (except for “emergency Medicaid” and certain disability services related to education)
- Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps)
- Benefits provided for institutionalization for long-term care
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
- Public Housing.
Public benefits not included:
- Emergency medical assistance
- Disaster relief
- National school lunch or school breakfast programs
- Foster care and adoption
- Head Start
- Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP or SCHIP)
- Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit
- Subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Housing assistance, or
- Energy benefits.
- Unlike leaked versions of the draft rule, the proposed rule DOES NOT consider U.S. citizen children or other dependent household members using public benefits. This means their continued use will NOT affect a parent or family member’s application for immigration status.
Some immigrant groups are not subject to “public charge” at all:
Public charge is NOT a consideration when lawful permanent residents (green card holders) apply to become U.S. citizens.
Certain immigrants, such as refugees, asylees, survivors of domestic violence and other protected groups are not subject to “public charge” and would not be affected by this proposed rule.
The proposed rule also makes it clear that it will not apply to deportability at all, meaning that immigrants who already have a form of lawful resident status cannot be deported for use of any public benefit. The proposed rule does say that the Department of Justice may release its own criteria for deportation, but it has not done so at this time.
This rule will still harm low-income and working families across North Carolina. The latest public charge draft rule still seeks to undermine a family-based immigration system, using executive rules to penalize immigrant families who earn low incomes.
Regardless of whether they use any public benefits under the proposed rule, working immigrants can still be penalized just for having an income under 125 percent of the federal poverty line. The rule makes it clear that there will be broader, additional scrutiny of an immigrant’s economic situation, considering their credit history or lack thereof.
And having a financial sponsor is no longer guaranteed to ensure that an immigrant’s application for status will be approved. Immigrants who work hard every day in all facets of our state’s workforce, including agriculture, construction, caregiving, and hospitality, will be penalized just because they do not earn a living wage.
We still need your comments to oppose this damaging rule.
When the proposed rule is published, a 60-day public comment period will begin. You can prevent this change from happening by submitting comments opposing this rule and asking your networks to do the same. You can let policy makers know that these changes will negatively impact the health and well-being of local children, their families and our communities.
Join our campaign to protect immigrant families. Building a strong community means helping families thrive. This rule only ensures a poorer, sicker, hungrier community. Family safety and unity should not have to come at the expense of stability.
Consumer scams are common during and after natural disasters, like hurricanes.
As N.C. residents prepare for the threat of Hurricane Florence, we at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy urge consumers to also be wary of potential scams as they ride out the storm.
Here are some tips from consumer attorney Ed Byron:
- Price gouging is illegal during a state of emergency in North Carolina.
Charging unreasonably excessive prices for goods and services used to protect life and property in a state of emergency is prohibited in North Carolina. If you suspect a business is price gouging its customers, contact our office or the North Carolina Attorney General’s office right away.
- Do your homework on home work and charities!
Do some research before hiring a contractor to repair storm damage or donating to a charity offering to aid disaster victims. Be sure your money is going to a reputable business or organization.
- Don’t ignore the red flags
Avoid anyone using pushy, high pressure tactics to get your business or donation. If you are solicited at your home and pressured into entering into a contract for roof repair or tree removal for example, you may have the right to cancel for up to three days after you sign the contract.and finally,
- We are here to help!
If you think you may have been the victim of a scam or have questions, please contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Contact us by phone at 704-376-1600.
Join Us Sept. 5 for the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Project Kickoff
When: Wednesday, September 5, 2018
- 3 p.m. Program kickoff
- 3:15 p.m. Speaking program
- 4 – 5 p.m. CLE Trainings in housing, expunctions of criminal convictions, and health insurance enrollment through the Affordable Care Act
(Note: Housing CLE will run until 5:30 p.m.)
- 5 – 6:30 p.m. Networking reception
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, 201 East Trade Street, Charlotte NC 28202
Bank of America
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated
Compass Group, North America
K&L Gates LLP
Legal Aid of North Carolina – Charlotte
Moore & Van Allen
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP
Polypore International – Asahi Kasei Corporation
Wells Fargo, N.A.
Janessa, 21, had been taking classes at Central Piedmont Community College in hopes of earning a degree that will put her on a better path in life when she walked into the campus Single Stop office last fall.
A few years ago, she found herself hanging out with the wrong friends and making bad decisions that resulted in misdemeanor charges for larceny and drug possession. The charges were ultimately dismissed, but they remained on her record. She had no idea that these mistakes would follow her into her adult life. It wasn’t until she started applying for jobs that she realized she had a criminal record.
She remembers interviewing for a local retail position and sailing through the three interviews necessary for the job.
“I was doing great, but then it came down to them asking if I had any problems with them running a background check,” Janessa says. “I knew what they would find, so I told them about the charges.”
She didn’t get the job. Every time she filled out a job application, the necessary background check was her barrier – to employment, to a stable income, to opportunity.
A friend told her about the legal assistance Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy offers to students through the Single Stop program. She met with an attorney not knowing if she could even get assistance,. She was surprised to learn she was eligible to have the charges removed from her record by applying for an expunction.
With the help of her attorney, she applied and waited six months for a decision from the state.
In April, a few weeks before graduation, she got the answer that would ultimately open the door to opportunity.
Her application had been approved, and she no longer had charges listed on her criminal record.
“Now I can do anything,” she says. “The whole world is open to me.”
After years of trying to put her mistakes in the past, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helped Janessa find a fresh start as she heads out into the world with her degree in hand and a determination to succeed.
As community partners, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Safe Alliance work together every day to ensure the safety and rights of immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence.
Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials entered the Mecklenburg County Courthouse to arrest a woman and her 16-year-old son, leaving her 2-year-old child behind in the court’s day care center as they took her into ICE custody and placed her in removal proceedings. This woman and her son are survivors of domestic violence perpetrated by a U.S. citizen.
Our organizations are deeply concerned that the continued presence of ICE at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse will negatively impact the willingness to report the crime of domestic violence and threaten overall public safety in our community.
Many immigrant domestic violence survivors we assist have been abused, threatened, manipulated and controlled by an abusive partner as they have settled in the United States. Abusers often attempt to manipulate immigration officials and the courts, using these systems as a tool to further control and psychologically abuse their victim.
The survivors we work with often share stories of perpetrators who threaten to have them jailed or deported if they seek help. It’s also common for perpetrators to fabricate criminal accusations against victims to maintain power and control over them and their children.
We are working with law enforcement and our courts to ensure abusers are not allowed to exercise these tactics and that immigrant victims of crime are able to pursue justice safely in Mecklenburg County.
Similar ICE arrests have increased in courts across the country over the last 18 months even though state supreme court justices have asked the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to end this practice, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s description of an individual’s right to petition for redress of grievances in court as “among the most precious of the liberties safeguarded by the Bill of Rights …”
Allowing ICE in our courts deliberately threatens this right and our public safety. The court cannot function if victims, witnesses, and criminal defendants risk deportation simply by coming to court.
Our courts can only serve our community effectively when individuals feel safe coming forward to seek help. The threat of ICE in the court has a chilling effect on immigrants, and its confirmed presence will certainly deter willingness to report crime, silencing survivors of abuse, disrupting the pursuit of justice in our courts and endangering public safety.
Imagine if a loved one couldn’t report the crime of domestic violence or sexual assault because doing so would rip your family apart. No one should be forced to choose between these terrible options.
That is why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Safe Alliance believe safety must be our community’s top priority, and we will work together with our partners, advocating against ICE presence in our court.
In April, the administration changed these procedures to not only collect fingerprints from potential sponsors, but also fingerprints of any other adults in their households with no guarantee that the information won’t be used for immigration enforcement.These enhanced requirements have created a chilling effect, forcing families and sponsors to ensure the release, safety and well-being of these detained children at the risk of exposing their own immigration status to the federal government. As potential sponsors choose not to accept this responsibility out of fear, children remain in overcrowded shelters. The average duration of stay has risen from 34 days in December 2016 to 57 days. Under this policy, the wait will only grow longer.
Access to Legal Representation
need legal representation. NO ONE, not even a small child, has the right to legal representation in immigration court.
As a community and nation of immigrants, WE CAN DO BETTER.
How to Help
Give today. Change tomorrow.
Become a champion for those in need.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is requesting public feedback about its consumer complaint process and how it handles consumer complaints by Monday, June 4.
To date, the CFPB has received over 1.5 million consumer complaints. The complaint database is invaluable to consumers; their advocates; and, our clients. It is often the most efficient and effective way for consumers to resolve problems with large financial institutions.
The complaint process with the CFPB has allowed our consumer attorneys to more effectively advocate for consumers in foreclosures by requiring servicers to respond to complaints about mortgage servicing, loss mitigation, excessive fees and other issues within 15 days after they are contacted by the CFPB. Many times, that will be enough to resolve an issue and save a consumer’s home.
The complaint process also allows advocacy groups to track recurrent problems with various companies and financial institutions. The complaint process gives consumers a recourse when they are treated unfairly or they are victims of predatory practices or illegal fees. Since 2008, the CFPB has returned $11.8 billion in relief to consumers, largely as a result of its complaint process that provides the starting point for any enforcement work.
Comments to the CFPB made be made by clicking their link here:https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-issues-request-information-consumer-complaint-inquiry/
The future of the 287g program is on the ballot in the primary for Mecklenburg County Sheriff as residents go to the polls today. For 12 years, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department has chosen to participate in the 287g program, a voluntary formal agreement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist in implementing federal immigration enforcement at the local level by targeting, arresting and holding residents living in our community without a legal immigration status.
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes these policies have caused great harm to our community by undermining public safety, depriving individuals due process, wasting county resources, and exposing tax payers to possible legal settlements. After 12 years and more than 15,000 deportations in Mecklenburg County because of 287g, it’s time to terminate the program and find solutions that promote community safety while protecting immigrant families.
Ernesto (name changed to protect the client’s identity.), 19, is one of thousands who have been negatively impacted by the 287g program. He came to the United States three years ago from Honduras.
The waves of gang violence sweeping the country has broken his family and his community. As a young teenager, he witnessed the gangs target and murder his father’s side of the family. When his father was ultimately kidnapped and killed, he faced hard choices: join the gang or die.
Instead, he fled; leaving behind his surviving family and the life he knew in hopes of finding safety elsewhere, hopefully in the United States.
Along the way, he met up with others trying to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. They stuck together assuming strength in numbers would offer more protection from the danger they would encounter throughout the month-long journey, using any means of transport available to them.
“When we were crossing in a boat, the boat sank, and two girls died,” he recalls.
Gangs they encountered along the way were just as dangerous as those he fled. A mother and daughter in their group were robbed and raped.
He arrived at the border in Brownsville, Texas, where he was detained after presenting himself to border officials.
“There was no sense of me running,” Ernesto says. “I would have been in more trouble.”
‘Try Not to Go Back’
Because he was a minor when he arrived in the U.S., Ernesto was able to go live with his step-grandfather in North Carolina while waiting for his immigration case to move through the backlogged immigration court system.
He came to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for assistance with his case in the Charlotte Immigration Court. Immigration attorney Maureen Abell advised him to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a legal immigration status that protects children who are victims of abuse and violence in their home countries. With this status, Ernesto would be able to apply for and receive a green card, enabling him to remain in the U.S. and build a safe and stable life.
As he waited for his application to be processed, he tried to adapt. It was hard. He didn’t speak English or understand aspects of his new community, but it was still better than the consuming violence in Honduras.
“It’s not easy,” he says. “You try the best you can to not go back.”
He tried going to school, but only went for a year. There wasn’t much assistance or patience for a teenager who didn’t speak English and had a limited education.
He applied for a work permit and soon found work in construction, working on major projects around the Charlotte region.
His case was moving forward, and he had a strong case for receiving a green card that would offer him the path to U.S. citizenship.
That all changed last fall when Ernesto was riding in a car that was involved in a hit and run. He and the others in the vehicle were arrested after they fled the accident.
“They ran, and I ran too,” he says. “That’s how I got in trouble.”
He couldn’t afford to pay the $2,500 bond and remained in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
By the next day, he had a hold from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the 287g program, a voluntary agreement Mecklenburg County has with the federal government to arrest immigrants without legal status and house them in its jail before transferring them to ICE custody.
Because he had already been working with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Ernesto knew he had an application for legal status pending and he sought advice from his attorney. Abell advised him to stay in jail and seek additional legal assistance from a criminal lawyer.
“I knew ICE would come and get me if I got out,” he says.
Abell says Ernesto was lucky because he had access to legal assistance that helped him understand his options.
“He didn’t even know he needed a [criminal] lawyer,” she says. “I was able to make sure he knew who to call, and he got really good help.”
He remained in jail until an eyewitness account proved he was not the driver and cleared him of his charges. By that point, Ernesto had spent three months in jail, waiting.
He learned that his charges would be dismissed and that he would be released next day. Instead, ICE agents came to the jail and picked him up.
“They got me, and they wanted me to sign my voluntary departure,” Ernesto says. “I didn’t want to sign.”
A voluntary departure would have sent him back to Honduras and certain death. When he refused, ICE transferred him to Steward Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where the conditions were “very bad” and the guards taunted him.
“I didn’t feel safe,” he says. “The guards made fun of us because we were here ‘illegally.’”
He spent eight days in the same clothes. When he asked guards for something else to wear, they laughed at him and said, “just go buy some.”
When Abell found out Ernesto had been detained, she traveled to Stewart to advocate for his release, which only came after three months at a bail price three times higher than what he would have paid in Mecklenburg County.
Abell shakes her head at how quickly situation escalated after Ernesto’s arrest under the 287g program: “[The police] didn’t ask about his legal status beyond, ‘Were you born here?’ He had documentation on him at the time explaining that he had a green card pending. They should have known he had a case pending. They put a voluntary deportation order in front of him instead.”
Ernesto’s story is one of thousands behind the 287g program that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department has participated in since 2006. More than 15,000 people in Mecklenburg County have been deported since the program’s inception. While the Sheriff’s Department highlights deportations involving people convicted of violent crimes, the majority have involved people charged with minor offenses, all while eroding trust in law enforcement from the immigrant community.
“Supporters of 287(g) would have us believe that the program only effects dangerous or violent criminals, but if we look at the all the cases referred to ICE, we know it’s broader than that,” Abell says.
Instead Abell says the program only works to accelerate deportations of people like Ernesto, not to improve overall public safety in Mecklenburg County.
For this reason, only 60 counties across the U.S. participate in the program. It’s also why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy supports ending the program.
“ICE was notified when he was arrested and charged, despite the fact that he had an immigration case pending,” Abell says. “When his charges were ultimately dropped, he was still held so that ICE could get him, despite his legal situation.”
“No Life. No Future”
Even though the past six months have been a nightmare, Ernesto realizes how lucky he is in so many ways. He’s lucky to be alive, to have escaped gang violence, to have family in the U.S. that cares for him and to have advocates, like Abell, fighting for his continued safety.
He also knows he wouldn’t have gotten far trying to fight his legal battle alone.
“Without an attorney, I would still be [in Stewart],” he says.
And if he had remained in the detention facility without an attorney, there would have been little he could do to avoid deportation, even with a pending green card application.
At the thought of returning to Honduras, Ernesto stares at the floor and takes a deep breath: “There’s no life, no future. My brother was murdered on Saturday. They burned down the house. I don’t know where the family is. The same would happen to me.”
Ernesto is one of hundreds of people in need of legal help assisted each year by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Immigrant Justice Program. Without Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, there are few resources and options available for free and low-cost legal help in the immigrant community.
As the largest non-profit legal service provider practicing before the Charlotte Immigration Court, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.
On April 24, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled that the termination of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was unlawful and gave the Trump administration 90 days to explain their reasoning for ending the program. If the administration fails to provide a sufficient response, the court will require USCIS to accept new DACA applications.
Pursuant to another court ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently accepting only DACA renewals.
Who does this impact?
Everyone with DACA. but especially young immigrants, who, based on their age, became eligible for DACA after the Trump administration decided to end the program. This also includes people who have always qualified but chose not to apply and anyone whose DACA has been expired for more than a year but wants to reapply.
Who qualifies for DACA?
- Anyone under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012;
- who came to the U.S. while under the age of 16; continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to the present, entered the U.S. without inspection or fell out of lawful visa status before June 15, 2012;
- were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces;
- have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind;
- and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Things potential new applicants can do right now since they can’t yet apply:
- Collect your documents including school and medical records, proof of physical presence, criminal record, immigration history, and anything else that demonstrates you qualify for DACA.
- Start saving money for the filing fee. The $495 fee cannot be waived. There have been many charitable funds to help DACA recipients pay this fee, but you are not guaranteed assistance.
- Get a legal consult with a qualified immigration attorney. Don’t fall prey to scams, notario fraud, or simply making an uninformed decision. You should know your immigration options and legal rights before filing any immigration application
- Contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Immigrant Justice Program for advice on the issue of first time DACA applications and renewals at 704-971-4790
***Be wary of any individual or organization requesting large sums of money to prepare a first time DACA application at this time. We will not know for at least 90 days whether the government will accept new applications.***
Things individuals and organizations assisting DACA recipients can do:
- Share this DACA Update Fact Sheet with others to spread the word about what is happening.
- Refer anyone with questions to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 704-971-4790.