Falling Through the Safety Net
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Women’s City Club
Dramatic changes are forecast by the new Trump administration, including the cutting of budgets of programs upon which low income households have come to rely. Budgets may also be cut for civil rights enforcement. Our April League Day will explore some of the anticipated ramifications for households that rely on safety-net programs and civil rights protections. Our speakers will include:
Clarissa Woo Hermosillo is the ACLU’s Southern California director of policy advocacy. She has previously worked on campaigns or bills supporting quality and affordable healthcare, compassionate end-of-life choices, criminal-justice reform. Hermosillo will address important safety-net/public-benefit and health programs.
Sharon Kinlaw is the Executive Director, Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley. She will address fair housing and civil rights concerns.
Carmen Iguina is a staff attorney in the ACLU’s Southern California office. She specializes in immigrants’ rights and police practices. Iguina will address the legality of the Trump Administration’s threat to defund cities and states that declare themselves as sanctuaries for immigrants and refuse to use local resources to enforce federal immigration laws.
The speakers will also propose actions that can be taken to assist at-risk programs and households.
At the April 6 League Day, three knowledgeable women informed us of the impacts on the human landscape caused by recent executive orders and legislative actions.
Clarissa Woo Hermosillo, the ACLU’s Southern California director of policy advocacy, reminded us that 20 percent of Californians live in poverty, and California has the largest population of poor people in the nation, and that these will be the people most harmed by efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She said that the philosophy behind the legislation to repeal ACA is that healthcare is not a basic human right, vital to the well-being and prosperous future of a modern nation. Rather, healthcare is the responsibility of the individual, who has the freedom to purchase insurance or not. This was the system before the ACA, and it wasn’t working very well then.
On the day the ACA is repealed, 24 million Americans will be uninsured, five million of them in California. Medicaid payments to states would be slashed and distributed in block grants to states. The disabled and poor people who depend on Medicaid would lose dental and vision care, the medications available to them would be limited, and the number of clinics and treatment providers would be decreased. The move to repeal and replace the ACA was defeated once, but another bill was placed before the House of Representatives in early April, and we can expect such attempts to continue. She urged us to contact our representatives and senators, even if they represent our own point of view, because they will listen.
Hermosillo also said that defunding Planned Parenthood would affect 850,000 women in California who depend on it for family planning, contraceptives, and gynecological care. She stated that costs will continue to rise for everyone, as states scramble to provide care to people turning to emergency rooms for primary care and delaying treatment until their conditions turn severe. She says to expect legislation to delete the provision of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. She predicts that costs will soar for everyone. Some in the state are moving to create a single-payer health system, which would leave existing healthcare providers in place. However, providers would be reimbursed by a single system, much like Medicare. If you are interested, you should look up Senate Bill 562-CA, which was introduced on February 17.
She suggested that we look at this website to find out more about how to advocate on healthcare issues: www.aclusocal\protect-our-healthcare.
Sharon Kinlow, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, is discouraged, and she gave us discouraging words. She expects the housing crisis to worsen because of the rising costs of housing and the fact that wages do not keep up with these costs. Federal funding cuts will eliminate the ability of local communities to provide affordable housing. The working poor and seniors continue to be evicted and fall into homelessness.
Landlords need guidelines on what justifies refusing to rent to people. Currently, people with thirty-year-old convictions for a traffic violation can be denied access to rentals. Landlords are not required to rent to people holding Section 8 vouchers (subsidized rent), and rents now often exceed the amount that Section 8 allows. Applicants often wait for years to get Section 8 vouchers but then can’t find anywhere to rent. Because of increased fear of detention by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, undocumented renters are afraid to report vermin or to ask for repairs on their rentals.
The issue that she has worked on for years is the lack of accessible housing for disabled people. Five percent of federal housing projects are supposed to provide wheelchair accessible units and 2 percent are supposed to meet the needs of blind and sensory-impaired people, but developers regularly ignore this requirement with impunity, and the same developers win bids for construction of housing units all over Southern California.
When Kinlow was unable to find housing for one disabled woman, her organization sued the county. Over $50 million of taxpayers’ money was spent to defend the county. Kinlow urges us to advocate for negotiated solutions that do not consume money in lawsuits—solutions that result in compliance with laws protecting the disabled. As a result of her lawsuit, the county was ordered to construct four thousand handicapped-accessible units, but she fears that the county will use Measure H funds (approved in last month’s election) to provide money to retrofit existing housing units and to pay legal costs, so no new housing would be built with those funds. Affordable housing needs to be a priority for anyone concerned about quality of life for all people.
The final speaker was Carmen Iguina, who specializes in immigrants’ rights at the ACLU. The League asked Carmen to focus on the possible consequences for cities that declare themselves “Sanctuary Cities.”
There is no legal definition of what constitutes a Sanctuary City. The federal government may create a definition that would enable it to label a city as a Sanctuary if it actively hinders or prevents the enforcement of immigration laws, prevents the collection of immigration status from public records, or facilitates the shelter of illegal immigrants. Being identified as a Sanctuary City could lead to denial of federal funds.
One of the main issues is the need to keep local law enforcement agencies from pursuing federal immigration laws and to refuse to allow the federal government to deputize local police to authorize and require them to enforce immigration laws. There are several reasons why local law enforcement would not want to cooperate with the federal government:
- Local taxpayers are paying police to enforce local regulations, and the money and manpower are lacking to expand their role.
- Undocumented residents are much less likely to report crimes if they fear the police will detain them because of their status. Already there has been a huge drop in the reporting of rapes.
- Racial profiling can result from police using “reasonable cause” to suspect and detain anyone who “looks foreign.” Many US citizens could be wrongfully detained.
- If the police work with federal law enforcement, their computerized records would be open to look for evidence of undocumented residents.
- People could fear using any government agency.
People arrested for crimes could be detained longer than the law allows so ICE can come pick them up.
It is unclear whether the Executive Order(s) related to undocumented people will stand up to court challenges or will actually carry through on threats to strip sanctuary entities of federal funding. For one thing, the legislative branch is in charge of passing laws and budgeting funding, not the president, and it would be hard to imagine senators voting to keep money from their own states. For another, the orders clearly violate the tenth amendment, which has only ever been used to stop the federal government from compelling states to enforce federal statutes. They also violate the principle of due process.
Detained immigrants are in a terrible bind. They may be deported even though they may be in real danger of being killed when they return to their countries of origin. They may be torn from their families and unable to return to the United States ever again. As noncitizens, they have no constitutional right to legal advice or representation.
Iguina encouraged us to consider supporting measures similar to “The California Values Act,” SB54-CA, introduced last December by state senate leader Kevin de Leon. The proposed law specifically prevents local and state law enforcement from being enlisted to enforce federal immigration laws. A better solution would be comprehensive immigration law reform at the federal level, but neither major party has had the will or the way to address this, even though it would prevent the disrespect for the law and the government and the cost and human damage that the current situation creates.