Tag Archives: impact

Public Charge Can Affect Your Benefits

Punishing Low-Income Immigrants With The Recent Changes To Public Charge

Our federal immigration laws have long been controversial. However, within the past few years, there have been numerous contentious changes to immigration law as part of the federal administration’s clampdown on immigration. One insidious change, in particular, has been to the public charge rule.

Public charge is an immigration rule that federal authorities use to decide whether certain immigrants will be a financial burden on the government. Because of public charge, some immigrants worry that their immigration status can be negatively impacted by getting certain public benefits from the government. 

Along with the recent rule change, there has also been an unfortunate amount of misinformation and fear in the community about public charge. There has been a chilling effect with immigrant families, including those not actually subject to the public charge rule, with many choosing to disenroll or to not enroll for public benefits to avoid jeopardizing their immigration status. 

Our communities need to fight misinformation with knowledge, and fear with power. To do that, we must all remember that public charge does not apply to all immigrants and it does not apply to all public benefits. 

What Exactly Is Public Charge?

The public charge rule applies when a non-citizen seeks to enter the U.S. or to adjust to lawful permanent resident status (ie. apply for a green card). It does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to many types of immigrants. Legal permanent residents with green cards already should not be impacted by public charge unless they travel outside of the United States for six months or longer and then return.

In addition, public charge does not apply to asylees, refugees, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applicants, people who have or are applying for U-visas as victims of crime, T-visas for human trafficking survivors, special immigrant juveniles (SIJS) and other immigrants with certain types of humanitarian immigration statuses.

The public charge test looks at a totality of the circumstances and weighs many factors to decide if an immigrant will be a public charge. This includes looking at someone’s age, health, family size, education, skills, and whether the immigrant has an affidavit of support. The receipt of certain types of public benefits by the applicant directly is only one factor in this test.

Traditionally, public benefits that count towards public charge include those that provide cash assistance, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), CalWORKs, General Assistance, and long-term institutional care at government expense.

However, under recent changes to public charge, the federal government has expanded the list of public benefits impacted for green card applications filed on or after February 24, 2020. The new rule looks at whether or not an immigrant receives one or more certain public benefits “for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months).” The rule is not retroactive, so applications filed before February 24, 2020 will be considered under the old rule that claimed only cash assistance and long-term institutional care at government expense.

In addition to cash aid and long-term institutional care at government expense, the new post-February 24, 2020 public charge rule now will also include federally funded Medi-Cal (with exceptions for state-funded Medi-Cal, emergency services, children under 21, pregnant women, new mothers and COVID-19 related care), federally-funded CalFresh, federal public housing, Section 8 vouchers and project-based Section 8. Although these public benefits programs have been added to the new public charge rule, most immigrants who face a public charge test don’t get the benefits that could be potentially problematic for public charge. Public charge also only considers whether or not the immigrant applying for a green card directly receives one of the impacted public benefits, not other family or household members.

Conversely, this also means that other public benefits and assistance programs will not have a public charge impact. This includes exceptions to Medi-Cal like emergency Medi-Cal, pregnancy Medi-Cal, state-funded Medi-Cal (like for undocumented youth 21-26), Medi-Cal for children up to age 21. This also includes other programs like California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC),  Social Security retirement, Medicare, unemployment insurance benefits (UIB), school meal programs, earned income and child tax credits, crime victim compensation, energy assistance programs, disaster relief programs and non-cash assistance state/local programs. For COVID-19 specifically, testing, treatment, and preventative care (including a potential future vaccine) will not count towards public charge.

It’s Okay To Ask Questions and Seek Help

Public charge does not apply to all immigrants or to all public benefits. Immigrants should continue to seek the public benefits and care they need to keep themselves and their families safe during this difficult time. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still causing havoc, receiving proper health care, including through Medi-Cal, is more important now than ever. However, everyone’s situation is different and you should speak to an attorney qualified in both immigration and public benefits law if you are concerned about a potential public charge impact for you or your family.

Together, we can fight the fear and misinformation around public charge, empower our communities, and counter the chilling effect impacting so many low-income and immigrant families.

Nghi Huynh is a staff attorney with the Asian Law Alliance, a nonprofit community law office that has served the low-income and AAPI community of Santa Clara County for over 42 years. 

Five-Year Impact Report Aims to Connect Santa Clara to Nature

WHAT: Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (the Authority) has produced, Investing in Nature, a Five-Year Impact Report to the Community highlighting the investments and accomplishments funded by Measure Q.  In the November 2014 voters overwhelmingly approved Measure Q, a parcel-tax generating approximately $7.9 million per year, allocating funds to protect Santa Clara Valley’s open spaces and lands. In 5 years the Authority has doubled the number of acres protected as open space in the Authority’s jurisdiction to almost 30,000 acres – including a once-in-a-generation acquisition of almost 1,000 acres long-threatened open space in the North Coyote Valley.

The report release will be followed by a Virtual Conversation that will take a deep dive into how the accomplishments achieved through the public’s support of Measure Q have been effective to safeguard and enhance the benefits of nature. The effects of climate change are being felt in communities across the region through droughts, fires, and floods, and these investments in farmland, habitat for wildlife plants and animals, and in urban communities help reduce these impacts, especially for our most vulnerable community members.

WHO: The discussion will be moderated by Andrea Mackenzie, General Manager featuring panelists:

  • The Honorable Sergio Jimenez, City of San Jose – District 2 Councilmember
  • Kathy Sutherland, Chairperson, Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
  • The Honorable Dorsey Moore, Board Member – District 4, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority

WHY:   Green spaces and parks have been linked to a multitude of positive outcomes including better health, less stress, and stronger communities. Measure Q has been an invaluable source of funding to protect natural areas and provide access to local trails, preserving open space for current and future generations, so that Santa Clara Valley residents can experience nature in their backyard.

As local and regional governments invest in man-made infrastructures such as roads, bridges, highways, schools, and fire stations, it is equally important to invest in our natural environment. Measure Q resources are more than simply preserving land from development. The ecological, economic, and health benefits offered from open spaces are abundant. It’s about quality of life, reducing the severity of drought, floods, and wildfires and creating opportunities to capture and reuse water, carbon sequestration, heat reduction, tourism, wildlife habitat protection, and for recreational use.

Human health and wellbeing depend on the health of our planet and that is why the Authority is not slowing down – we can’t let up on our mission. Now more than ever the public has registered its support and need for connection with nature and being in open space and we want to make sure we are there for you in the future.

WHEN:

Report Release: Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Virtual Conversation: Wednesday, May 27, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:

To View the Impact Report: Investing In Nature

Register for the Virtual Conversation: Connecting Santa Clara Valley Communities to Nature
Once you register you will receive a link to the webinar.

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority conserves the natural environment, supports agriculture, and connects people to nature, by protecting open spaces, natural areas, and working farms and ranches for future generations. The Authority envisions the Santa Clara Valley and its surrounding hillsides as a beautiful place where a vibrant network of interconnected open spaces, trails, wildlife habitats, and thriving agricultural lands enrich the region’s cities and make it an exceptional and healthy place to live, work, learn, and play.

Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

by Mani Subramani

There are many unknowns with respect to Covid-19.  We don’t know when we will have a vaccine.  We don’t know when we will have an effective cure or when we will have widespread testing.  Yet we know several important facts. Covid-19 is NOT like the flu.  It spreads much faster and is much more deadly.  The death rate in the US is approaching 5.7% of the people who tested positive compared to the Flu which is around 0.1%.  

Based on what we know, the only way to protect lives is to avoid or significantly minimize transmission. As of today, this goal has been achieved by excellent planning, anticipation, consistent communication, and early adoption of the Shelter In Place order in California.  We have been able to maintain adequate spare ICU capacity over the past few months.  This has resulted in a much lower death rate in California in comparison to New York. Countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan have implemented an effective strategy based on testing, quarantine, and tracing. 

There is widespread support for the measures adopted by the state. However, it is completely unsustainable. Coronavirus is expected to be around for a very long time. Maintaining current levels of economic disruption can be devastating to the economy and cause a collapse of small businesses, communities, and maybe even cause social unrest.  

It is estimated that 50-60% of all small businesses are on the verge of failure, Heather Knight writes. Small businesses are just not able to receive any help from the small business protection program. She estimates that San Francisco alone could lose unto 1.6 B in tax revenues in the next two years due to small business failures.  Less than 10% of small businesses were helped by the first round of funding and the second round of $350B offers little hope for small business owners. This should come as no surprise given the ineptness of this administration. 

Governor Newsom and the local officials deserve all the credit for monitoring and getting the disease under control this past two months.  They have begun a slow process for reopening which began May 18. But the time has come to go to the next stage and provide guidelines, rules and recommend appropriate PPE to ALL businesses, so they can open. Yes ALL businesses including hair salons, restaurants, ballparks, and movie theaters to open.  

California, let’s lead the way and open with all deliberate haste.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

by Rameysh Ramdas

The most fundamental duty and obligation of a government is to safeguard its citizens and ensure their safety. President Trump and some Republican Governors are ignoring the advice of experts and urging the end of the shelter in place, reopening public places. This is a grave mistake. 

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the second and third waves reportedly killed upwards of 20 million people – all because the Government decided to open up the economy after just a month of shutdown. 

While the economic impacts of the shutdown are devastating, the economy cannot and should not be prematurely opened due to economic concerns. Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and others such as Professor Leonard Fleck of Michigan State University, has cautioned that we risk an even larger wave of infections if we rush to normalcy too soon. President Trump and lawmakers across the country should listen to these wise words of caution. 

Gavin Newsom permitted a Phase 2 reopening starting May 18, 2020 in California, with varying levels of restrictions on specific counties. Santa Clara, one of the last counties to join the order, was burdened by slower economic growth if they resumed stricter shelter in place orders. Clearly, health professionals are still apprehensive about the new rules. 

Let us wait until there is a complete elimination of new infections or the widespread availability of a vaccine before we resume our normal lives. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


This article was also published as Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

by Rameysh Ramdas

The most fundamental duty and obligation of a government is to safeguard its citizens and ensure their safety. President Trump and some Republican Governors are ignoring the advice of experts and urging the end of the shelter in place, reopening public places. This is a grave mistake. 

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the second and third waves reportedly killed upwards of 20 million people – all because the Government decided to open up the economy after just a month of shutdown. 

While the economic impacts of the shutdown are devastating, the economy cannot and should not be prematurely opened due to economic concerns. Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and others such as Professor Leonard Fleck of Michigan State University, has cautioned that we risk an even larger wave of infections if we rush to normalcy too soon. President Trump and lawmakers across the country should listen to these wise words of caution. 

Gavin Newsom permitted a Phase 2 reopening starting May 18, 2020 in California, with varying levels of restrictions on specific counties. Santa Clara, one of the last counties to join the order, was burdened by slower economic growth if they resumed stricter shelter in place orders. Clearly, health professionals are still apprehensive about the new rules. 

Let us wait until there is a complete elimination of new infections or the widespread availability of a vaccine before we resume our normal lives. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

by Mani Subramani

There are many unknowns with respect to Covid-19.  We don’t know when we will have a vaccine.  We don’t know when we will have an effective cure or when we will have widespread testing.  Yet we know several important facts. Covid-19 is NOT like the flu.  It spreads much faster and is much more deadly.  The death rate in the US is approaching 5.7% of the people who tested positive compared to the Flu which is around 0.1%.  

Based on what we know today, the only way to protect lives is to avoid or significantly minimize transmission. As of today this goal has been achieved by excellent planning, anticipation, consistent communication, and early adoption of the Shelter In Place order in California.  We have been able to maintain adequate spare ICU capacity over the past few months.  This has resulted in a much lower death rate in California in comparison to New York. Countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan have implemented an effective strategy based on testing, quarantine, and tracing. 

There is widespread support for the measures adopted by the state. However, it is completely unsustainable. This virus is expected to be around for a very long time. Maintaining current levels of economic disruption can be devastating to the economy and cause a collapse of small businesses, communities, and maybe even cause social unrest.  

It is estimated that 50-60% of all small businesses are on the verge of failure, Heather Knight writes. Small businesses are just not able to receive any help from the small business protection program. She estimates that San Francisco alone could lose unto 1.6 B in tax revenues in the next two years due to small business failures.  Less than 10% of small businesses were helped by the first round of funding and the second round of $350B offers little hope for small business owners. This should come as no surprise given the ineptness of this administration. 

Governor Newsom and the local officials deserve all the credit for monitoring and getting the disease under control this past two months.  They have begun a slow process for reopening which began May 18. But the time has come to go to the next stage and provide guidelines, rules and recommend appropriate PPE to ALL businesses, so they can open. Yes ALL businesses including hair salons, restaurants, ballparks, and movie theaters to open.  

California, let’s lead the way and open with all deliberate haste.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


This article was also published under Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

Saratoga Resident Recognized with Daily Point of Light Award

Nishka Ayyar was named Daily Point of Light Award Number 6213 by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Nishka Ayyar received this recognition for her ongoing commitment to working with elderly seniors and promoting inter-generational connections between youth and seniors in her community.

Music Buddies is a student run volunteer initiative founded by Nishka Ayyar of Saratoga, CA. Inspired by the relationship she shared with her own grandparents and their positive influence in her life, Nishka started Music Buddies to bring companionship and joy in the lives of elderly people who live alone or in senior communities, separated from their families. Her organization enlists student performers from middle and high schools across the Bay Area and puts together fun weekend entertainment programs for the senior citizens. The program typically runs for about an hour and includes music, dance, stand- up comedy etc.

“I am delighted to receive this award and honor. I feel very fortunate to live in a community where volunteerism and service are highly valued and many parents and kids participate enthusiastically. The Music Buddies experience reinforces my belief that by bringing our oldest and youngest citizens together, we can mitigate many social isolation issues of both the seniors and the youth alike, and build healthy and happy communities everywhere.”

Daily Point of Light Awards are given five days a week in the United States and the United Kingdom to honor individuals and groups creating meaningful change to meet community needs; efforts which often lead to long-term solutions and impact social problems in their local communities. President George H. W. Bush was the first president in American history to institute a daily presidential recognition program from the White House, conferring 1,020 Daily Point of Light Awards on citizens and organizations making a big difference in other people’s lives and solving community problems. Points of Light continues the recognition and honorees receive a signed certificate from President Bush. The 5000th award was presented at a special ceremony at the White House with President Barack Obama and President George H. W. Bush co-presenting. The nonpartisan award was adopted by former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron in 2014, and the tradition has continued with his successor Theresa May. More than 6,500 Daily Point of Light Award recipients have been recognized in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“The Daily Point of Light Award recognizes exceptional individuals who are using their time, talent, voice and treasure to improve the lives of others,” said Jaqueline Innocent, Vice President, Recognition Programs of Points of Light. “These points of light, like Nishka Ayyar, make an impact on individuals while also helping build resilient communities.”

“We have a lot of requests from senior centers all over the San Francisco Bay Area and we are constantly looking for student performers to join us. We invite student performers from all over the Bay Area who are interested in participating, to join and help us celebrate our senior citizens and bring joy in their lives through these interactions and performances. Interested performers can join by submitting the student performers form on the website.”

To learn more about Nishka Ayyar’s work, visit www.musicbuddies.org or write to contact@musicbuddies.org.

About Points of Light

Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Through affiliates in 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages four million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year. We bring the power of people where it’s needed most. For more information, visit www.pointsoflight.org

A Jewel in a Sparkling Connection

I was a teenager when I first read V.S. Naipaul’s A House For Mr. Biswas. That was 17 years ago. It was an assigned book in my Toronto high school English class. Ours was a program of rare multicultural outlook, thanks to my teacher, Anne Carrier. You see, back in 1984 it was unheard of to be exposed to Asian or Caribbean literature in a North American high school, an oversight which still seems trivial to white or non-immigrant Americans and Canadians today. But make no mistake, then as now, there is inherent value in an enriched global reading list. Written in 1961, Biswas was an unanticipated treasure of validation, a fresh alien gem atop the well-thumbed Faulkners, Salingers, and Twains.

My family had immigrated from Guyana 15 years earlier during a time when Asian Indian culture was mysterious enough to the mainstream. Indo-Caribbean language, history, and behavior were yet years away from entering the awareness of the general public, and would prove a near impossibility to explain or to describe to friends and teachers. As any immigrant child will attest, there are few things more isolating than cultural loneliness. It serves as an impenetrable barrier that separates one from friends and colleagues, and compels both a heightened closeness and subtle resentment towards family members, ironically the only people who truly share the condition.

So the discovery of Indo-Caribbean literature at such an impressionable age was doubly important. I recall well the awe, nervousness, and excitement elicited from Biswas’s opening pages. It was set in Trinidad, mere miles from my birthplace of Guyana! Its major characters were Indians descended from indentured servants, the same as me and mine! The book’s cadence of angst and subdued anger—an alternation that ripples through all post-colonial societies, yet is missing from most American literature—kept beat with the displacement in my own heart. And, most interesting, the rhythm and tonality of the characters’ speech was the singsong Caribbean patois with which I had grown up. You see, that way of talking was a source of shame to many early immigrants; Jamaican cool was yet to reach North America and give public resonance to the Caribbean modality. To have discovered its usage within the pages of a book validated by no less than the Toronto Board of Education was to truly realize personal cultural arrival.

A drawing of 'A House for Mr. Biswas'
A drawing of ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’

The book itself tells a simple story. It begins with the emergence into this world of Mohun Biswas, “six-fingered and born in the wrong way,” foreshadowing the bad luck he would have and cause. A poor journalist turned civil servant, Biswas lives a brief humorous life punctuated by battles with his in-laws and a strained relationship with his writer son, the essence of his angst symbolized by his quest for a house of his own. Naipaul’s genius is in elevating the seemingly mundane and comedic to themes of timeless importance, injecting his writing with subtle imagery and allegory. His hated in-laws the Tulsis, for example, live in a home called “Hanuman House.” That Hanuman is the Hindu monkey god is Naipaul’s sly intimation of the house’s more zoological or chaotic nature.

The allegory of Biswas is an inspiring one. Mohun Biswas is compelled toward a rebellious nature through various cultural traditions for which he has little patience. Biswas is at the bottom rung of society because of his work, family history, and poorness. He is further at the bottom of the pecking order in his extended family, kept there by the weighty demands of his culture. But a modern hero infected with frequent emotional outbursts, his aspirations are never quelled. After enduring a beating by an in-law, Biswas declares, “I am going to get a job on my own. And I am going to get my own house too. I am finished with this.” The goal of any descendant of indentured servants has yet to be better or more simply stated.

In many ways, Biswas is the Indian-Caribbean archetype, a man from an ancient cultural tradition of castes and unnavigable religions whose sudden proximity to the world of Western modernity fills him with hope for more. His behavior is sometimes reprehensible, but his predicament is one with which so many of us, particularly Indians caught up in a new world, can relate. His quest for a house of his own mirrors well the quest of colonized peoples for a nation and an identity of their own. To appreciate the plight of Biswas is to understand the history of his nation and that of the entire Indian-Caribbean milieu: a people uniquely positioned between the rich traditions of the East and the commercial demands and promises of the West, yet tragically benefiting from neither.

East Indian Coolies in Trinidad
East Indian Coolies in Trinidad

V.S. Naipaul, knighted in 1990, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, taking his place among literary immortals like Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Rabindranath Tagore. They say he was honored “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories.” Certainly, A House for Mr. Biswas is but one jewel in the sparkling collection of the life’s work that earned him the award, as it slyly tells of Indian-Caribbean emotional history within the modern dynamic of cultural collisions.

It is generally agreed that the story of Biswas is largely autobiographical, with Biswas’s writer son being Naipaul’s literary avatar. Hence Biswas is likely the tome for which this great writer will be most fondly remembered throughout the ages. For those unfamiliar with his books, Biswas is an excellent beginning point. It was certainly mine, and started me on a marvellous path of literary adventure and self-discovery.

Raywat Deonandan is the author of Sweet Like Saltwater (TSAR Books, 1999). www.deonandan.com.