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2004 September - October

Access to Identification Documents for Immigrants

Restrictions Undermine Public Policy Goals

By Tyler Moran & Rebecca Smith

Various identification documents are nearly essential to conducting daily life in the United States, and immigrants who lack such documents face huge challenges. Social security numbers, individual tax identification numbers, foreign consular identification cards, and driver's licenses are all available to some immigrants and can help them negotiate bureaucracies, become employed, find housing, obtain health care, report crimes, and more.

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Tax Assistance for Immigrants

By Iris E. Coloma-Gaines

Immigrants may lack familiarity with their rights and responsibilities under the U.S. tax system and frequently fall victim to untrained or unscrupulous tax preparers. Failure to file income tax returns can affect a person's immigration plans, and improper filing can cause large debts to the Internal Revenue Service. Training and funding are available for advocates to help low-income immigrants prepare tax returns and represent them when tax problems arise.

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Immigrants' Access to Financial Services

By Michael A. Frias

Most foreign-born Hispanics who send money home to Latin America regularly do not have a bank account, and immigration status and lack of documentation are the principal reasons for not having one. Banks have to consider alternative forms of identification if they intend to reach "unbanked" immigrants.

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Illinois's New SSI Replacement Program for Refugees and Asylees

An Advocacy Success Story

By Daniel Lesser

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act were particularly harsh for legal immigrants. In 2003 refugees and asylees who had been unable to complete the naturalization process and become U.S. citizens began to lose their Supplemental Security Income benefits. Illinois advocates crafted a state-funded state program to replace the federal benefit this group lost.

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Immigrants' Eligibility for Federal Benefits

By Marcia Henry

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 imposed some of the most severe eligibility restrictions on benefits on lawfully present immigrants who had been receiving Supplemental Security Income and food stamps. In the late 1990s Congress restored coverage to some of the immigrants who had been receiving these benefits when the 1996 welfare law was passed. Two tables offer a user-friendly overview of immigrants' eligibility for federal public benefits.

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Indigenous Farmworker Project

Legal Protection for California's Isolated Farmworkers

By Jack Daniel, Alegria de la Cruz, Mike Meuter & Jeff Ponting

The most marginalized workers in rural California, indigenous farmworkers suffer countless wage and labor safety violations. The Indigenous Farmworker Project helps California Rural Legal Assistance meet the linguistic, cultural, and legal challenges posed by advocating on behalf of this emerging farmworker community.

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Medicaid Coverage of Emergency Medical Conditions

By Jane Perkins

Medical facilities that provide emergency services to noncitizens are reimbursed through the emergency Medicaid program, and the federal Medicaid Act defines the term "emergency medical condition." Despite years of regulatory and judicial interpretation of this definition, coverage questions persist in the areas of residency requirements, requests for verification of eligibility, coverage of pregnancy-related services, duration of emergency medical conditions, and relief for disproportionate providers.

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Immigration Policy and Low-Wage Workers:The Farmworker Case

Immigration Policy and Low-Wage Workers:The Farmworker Case

By Bruce Goldstein

The pending Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act arose from a nine-year struggle among farmworkers, agricultural employers, and their allies in Congress over immigration policy. The debate and the compromises, over issues such as "legalization" of undocumented workers, "guest worker" immigration policy, and reform of the H-2A program, may hold lessons for low-wage worker advocates generally.

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Serving Farmworkers

By Susan Reed & Ilene J. Jacobs

Cultural and geographic isolation, along with transience, limits farmworker access to legal assistance. Farmworkers, often immigrants, have legal needs ranging from employment, health and safety, housing, public benefits, and immigrant matters to language access. Migrant legal aid programs apply the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and other federal and state laws to assist farmworkers.

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An Honest Day's Work

Day Labor Advocacy in the United States

By Rebecca Smith

Day laborers, who generally are hired for the duration of a particular job in the landscaping, construction, manufacturing, or service sectors, are commonly subjected to egregious workplace exploitation. Employers often assign them dangerous tasks, delay payment of their wages, underpay them, and deduct questionable expenses from their pay. Activists conduct participatory research projects and surveys of day laborers; propose and draft local, state, and federal legislation; litigate cases of abuse; and develop nonprofit day labor centers.

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Barriers in Immigrant Laborers' Access to Workplace Rights

By Anita Sinha

Although immigrant workers in theory have the same employment rights as other workers, immigrants face barriers in enforcing their rights in the workplace. Three of these barriers are "no-match" letters from the Social Security Administration to employers, employment verification systems that are established under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and that give employers access to government databases in order to verify work authorization, and worksite raids by immigration and other authorities. Low-wage immigrant workers are especially vulnerable, but well-informed advocates can help them enforce employment rights.

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Protecting the Labor and Employment Rights of Immigrant Workers

By Rebecca Smith, Cynthia Mark & Anita Sinha

Labor protection laws are especially important for immigrants who are concentrated in the low-wage market, often in the most dangerous jobs. Immigrants face particular obstacles in enforcing their rights under laws such as the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, and undocumented workers are even more vulnerable than others to intimidation and retaliation by employers. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board exacerbated barriers to employemnt rights for immigrants, but much opportunity remains for advocates to ensure that immigrant workers receive the full scope of the protection rights to which they are entitled.

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Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

A Life Jacket for Immigrant Youth

By Darryl L. Hamm

Under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, enacted in 1990, certain undocumented youths may obtain lawful immigrant status. Although thousands of youths have benefited from the law over the past fourteen years, the immigration agency's implementation of the law is inconsistent and at times creates difficulties for applicants.

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Detained Immigrant Children

The Legacy of Jenny Flores

By Katina Ancar

A child's journey from El Salvador to the United States led to a lawsuit revealing unconstitutional detention policies by the immigration agency and improving the rights of detained immigrant children. However, advocacy is needed to ensure that the Flores v. Meese settlement terms are incorporated into the Unaccompanied Alien Child Act of 2004 and that detained immigrant children's rights are not trampled upon by the new Department of Homeland Security.

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Special Citizenship Issues

By Rebecca Bernhardt

Preventing a client's deportation may call for proving that the client is already a U.S. citizen. Advocates should understand the rules of citizenship by acquisition and derivation. Those advising immigrants should note the potential problem of conflicting birth certificates, certain risks in seeking naturalization, and the use of habeas petitions to stall deportation until citizenship is proved.

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Family-Based Immigration

By Charles Wheeler

Family-sponsored immigration allows close relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to immigrate to the United States. Family members may immigrate either as "immediate relatives" of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system (limited by annual quotas). Under the family preference system, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must file a petition for an alien relative and may undergo a marriage review.

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Overview of Immigration and the Law

By Sally Kinoshita

Immigration rights are in a state of change as a result of the newly created Department of Homeland Security. The legal impact of the federal agency reorganization remains uncertain. Who is an admissible alien? Who is removable? What legal protection provisions remain under the Immigration and Naturalization Act?

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Enforcing Language Access Rights

Trends and Strategies

By Jane Perkins, Mary R. Mannix, Jack Daniel & Wanda Boonsurmsuwongse Hasadsri

For thirty years, federal civil rights policies have required federal agencies and federally funded entities to ensure that national-origin minorities with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to government services and activities. The mandate arises from Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's rollback of Title VI enforcement in Alexander v. Sandoval, Executive Order 13166 and Department of Justice guidelines continue to recognize language access requirements. Strategies to ensure language access include complaints to the Office for Civil Rights, negotiation with state and local agencies, and state and local legislation.

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Serving Clients with Limited English Proficiency

Resources and Responses

By Patricia Hanrahan

A year ago the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) convened, from both LSC-funded and other legal aid programs, a group of poverty lawyers, all of whom had worked with immigrant clients, to discuss how programs might improve their services to clients with limited English proficiency. The group developed protocols and recommendations incorporated into a draft program letter posted on the Legal Resource Initiative page of LSC's

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Immigration Trends

A Quick Look at the Numbers

By Urban Institute

After a proportional decline from the beginning of the twentieth century until about the 1970s, immigrants now constitute a growing percentage of the U.S. population and are disproportionately poor and legally vulnerable. Immigrants are dispersed widely throughout the United States, and immigrant families commonly include members whose status varies from citizen to undocumented. Citizen children of undocumented parents are often eligible for benefits, including free legal assistance, even when their parents are not.

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