Archive for July, 2017

The Dilemma of the Undocumented Domestic Violence Survivor – posted 7/23/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/30/2017

July 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Since Donald Trump became president, one focus of his administration has been a crackdown on undocumented immigrants. As has been widely reported, the crackdown goes much farther than deporting violent criminals, gang members and drug dealers.

Any undocumented immigrant, regardless of circumstance, can get deported.

This shotgun approach has provoked widespread fear of deportation in immigrant communities in the United States. In that community, no group has been more adversely affected than domestic violence survivors.

Like other undocumented people, domestic violence survivors are afraid to come forward and draw any attention to themselves. They legitimately fear they will be deported if they show up on any radar screen so they decide to live with the abuse. Considering the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this year, the fear is understandable.

In February, there was a domestic violence case in El Paso, Texas, that drew national attention. A woman known by the initials IEG sought a protective order alleging she was a victim of domestic violence. IEG had filed three police reports in the preceding year alleging that she had been punched, kicked and chased with a knife. The Family Court granted IEG a protective order based on the domestic violence.

On the way out of the courtroom, six federal immigration agents arrested IEG for her immigration violations. The El Paso County Attorney, Jo Anne Bernal, whose office represents domestic abuse victims when they seek court orders against their abusers, said:

“We suspect it’s the (alleged) abuser who tipped off ICE about the woman.”

Bernal said that IEG’s offense appeared to be re-entering the country illegally after being deported.

Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, who oversees the court that issued IEG’s protective order, stated that ICE agents should avoid effectively assisting domestic abusers by acting on their tips against their partners. It creates a collaboration relationship between the government and the abuser.

Because the story was widely reported, it had a seismic impact in immigrant communities across the country. It drove victims further into hiding. Now many victims are even afraid to call 911.

IEG’s case is not isolated. In Denver earlier this year, four domestic violence victims did not go forward on their cases because the victims refused to cooperate with law enforcement. A video had surfaced showing ICE agents poised to make arrests at a Denver courthouse. The victims were afraid of drawing the attention of ICE and then subjecting themselves to deportation.

Cases like IEG’s can fan the flames of fear so that victims and potential witnesses are more reticent to talk to the police or cooperate in criminal cases. Even under the best circumstances, domestic violence victims are often afraid to seek restraining orders because the perpetrators of their abuse threaten retaliation. Add the fear of deportation into the mix and you have a recipe for continuation of domestic violence.

It is quite common for abusers to use a victim’s undocumented status to control her. The abuser typically threatens to tell ICE and turn the undocumented partner in if she tries to escape the relationship.

The abuse can take many forms besides threatening to report her to the authorities to get her deported. The abuser will tell the victim no one can help her and that as an undocumented person, she is a nobody in America. He will isolate her from friends and family. He will not allow her to learn English. He will threaten to report her if she works under the table. He will destroy her important papers. He will call her a prostitute and a mail order bride. Belittling and emotional abuse are universal abuser tactics designed to wear down and immobilize the victim.

It is no wonder many women feel trapped. Lack of financial resources and language barriers play a role. The fear of having children taken away in the context of deportation also acts as a major disincentive from escape.

Unfortunately, there is more than anecdotal evidence that the Trump crackdown is moving domestic violence victims further into the shadows. In May, a coalition of national organizations focused on domestic violence and sexual assault surveyed 700 advocates and attorneys from 46 states and the District of Columbia about the issues confronting immigrant survivors seeking services.

78% of respondents said that survivors expressed concerns about contacting police due to fears it would open them up to deportation. 75% said that survivors had expressed concern about going to court for a matter related to their abuser. 43% of respondents said that the survivors they have worked with have dropped criminal or civil cases related to their abuse because they are fearful of potentially opening themselves up to deportation.

In light of the immigration crackdown, there is likely confusion about what protections remain in place for domestic violence victims. Under the Violence Against Women Act, immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking can qualify for special protection. They can possibly get immigration protection through a U visa, which is reserved for victims of abuse. To obtain a U visa, a law enforcement official must certify that the U visa applicant has been helpful to an investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. I would be surprised if the immigration crackdown has not had a chilling effect on the number of victims willing to seek a U visa.

One disturbing thing that happened in May: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new Victim Information and Notification Exchange – an online database created to track when criminals are released from or into ICE custody – publicly listed the names and detainment location of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking who have applied to stay legally in the United States on special protective visas. The Department of Homeland Security is legally prohibited from releasing identifying information about immigrants seeking these visas.

It took a couple months for this error to be corrected so that protected names were removed from the database. While the error was almost certainly inadvertent, it could not have reassured victims.

While I know there are many who may not care what happens to undocumented domestic violence victims, I believe that view is short-sighted. Federal law has long recognized our communities are more secure if crime victims can come forward. Survivors of domestic violence should not face dire consequences for contacting law enforcement.

It is dangerous to create a strata of subterranean crime victims who are without any legal protection.

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The Destruction of Medicaid – posted 7/9/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/16/2017

July 9, 2017 1 comment

Since the Republican Senate health care bill was released, there has been much discussion about its worst aspects. Is it the cutting 22 million people off health insurance? Is it doing away with pre-existing condition protections? Or is it the attack on essential benefits so health plans would no longer include key content like mental health or substance abuse treatment? I think it is none of these.

The worst aspect is what the Republican bill does to the Medicaid program.

Medicaid currently provides care to 74 million people, including the most vulnerable among us. The Republican Senate bill strips the entitlement from Medicaid. That alone would be devastating to low-income people, women, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

What does that mean to strip the entitlement? It means that there will be no guarantee of Medicaid services for the needy and vulnerable in New Hampshire and across America.

At present, Medicaid benefits cannot be taken away without due process of law. Individual Medicaid recipients have statutory and regulatory rights and a property interest under the Constitution.

As a result, Medicaid recipients also have strong notice and appeal rights. These protections have been built up over the last half century. There is an extensive body of case law delineating these rights. Medicaid recipients can appeal any unfair or improper denial of service through an administrative process, including fair hearings. If needed, Medicaid applicants and recipients, pursuant to their rights, can appeal to federal and state court as well.

The Republican health care plan in either the House or Senate version does away with these rights and demolishes a 52 year body of law. Instead of an open-ended assurance for states, Medicaid would become a discretionary program. Whether the Republican plan is based on block grants or per capita caps, both of which would cap the federal funding for Medicaid, access would depend on money not running out.

These changes would be a huge deal to all individuals on Medicaid as well as those applying for the program. You would go from being a claimant with a well-defined set of rights to being a beggar and a pawn in rich peoples’ political games. Since these changes are buried in the complexity, claimants will not know until it is too late that their rights have been eviscerated.

This is an example of the deconstruction of the administrative state Steve Bannon has talked about. It is also Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand dream come true.

In contrast to current Medicaid which was designed to be a countercyclical program able to respond to downturns in the economy and state-level emergencies, the Republican plan would set a base year spending level. Then an index would be used to set yearly growth rates. These capped spending levels would cover a falling share of actual costs over time. If and when money ran out, and it would, the consequence would be cuts. States would have to decide whether to terminate eligibility categories (such as pregnant women, children, seniors or people with disabilities) or eliminate coverage for vital services (like prescription drugs, mental health, inpatient medical services or cancer treatment).

Block grants and per capital caps set a fixed allotment for each state. They leave states at high risk for enrollment increases and for numerous other cost drivers such as medical innovations, new health conditions, disease outbreaks, and the health impacts of any natural disaster.

Credible experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimate the Republican Senate bill would cut Medicaid by $772 billion and reduce enrollment by 15 million people over 10 years. You have to ask: what happens to those people?

The Republican Senate bill also would end the Medicaid expansion which has allowed 31 states and the District of Columbia to provide coverage to 11 million low income adults. Because of the Medicaid expansion, we are at an all-time low in the number of uninsured people in the United States.

The Medicaid expansion has been a tremendous bargain for the states that have adopted it. While some complain that states pay any share of the cost, the Medicaid expansion limits state matching dollars to only 10% of the total cost. The federal government picks up 90% of the cost. By any fair evaluation, that is a great deal for the states. Typically in Medicaid, the federal government match is 57%.

Overall, Medicaid is now the largest source of health insurance coverage for individuals with substance abuse disorders, including opioid addiction. Since mid-2014, 23,000 people in New Hampshire have received substance abuse services from Medicaid. Given the magnitude of the substance abuse epidemic, it makes zero sense to end such an effective source of treatment.

I do not believe the far-reaching consequences of the Republican Senate bill have been sufficiently grasped. The bill goes much farther than repealing Obamacare by cutting and restructuring the Medicaid program as a whole. It undermines what has been an essential component of the safety net.

To comprehend the harm, more needs to be said about the value of the current Medicaid program. It is not well-understood.

New Yorker writer Atul Gawande had this to say about Medicaid:

“It is immensely popular and works well. It provides coverage for sixty per cent of disabled children, and maternity coverage for half of pregnant women. Two-thirds of nursing-home residents end up relying on Medicaid coverage after their savings are spent. Among adult Medicaid recipients, sixty per cent work, and eighty per cent are part of working families.”

Medicaid is really the only insurance affordable for low-income people. It has been a successful joint federal/state partnership. Still, states have much flexibility in how they design their Medicaid program. There are both mandatory and optional services. States already decide what optional services they desire.

Medicaid services have to be sufficient in amount, duration, and scope to reasonably achieve the rehabilitation and treatment purposes of the statute. Also, services have to be state-wide so that care is geographically available.

Medicaid has been designed to serve underserved and vulnerable populations. Much thought over many years has gone into the evolution and improvement of Medicaid which has a lengthy history of popular and bipartisan support. President Ronald Reagan, a hero to conservatives, increased Medicaid coverage for lower-income and vulnerable Americans three different times. It is hardly conservative to take a meat cleaver to this intricate structure.

The Republican Senate bill uses the savings from Medicaid and from cutting marketplace subsidies to pay for $563 billion in tax cuts primarily for the wealthy, insurers, and drug companies. It is no surprise the Senate has had no public hearings and did the bill-writing entirely behind closed doors.

The history of block grants is that their structure enables deeper cuts over time. I see no reason why that would not be true with Medicaid.

We are at a truly fateful time for health care in the United States. President Trump campaigned on a specific promise not to cut Medicaid. The Republican Senate bill must be defeated.

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Do Not Leave Confederate Monuments Undisturbed – posted 7/5/2017

July 5, 2017 Leave a comment

I am no fan of Confederate monuments. I have followed the national debate about what should happen to these monuments. Count me as one of those pleased when New Orleans recently decided to take down four Confederate monuments, including three large statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P.G.T. Beauregard. New Orleans once had been America’s largest slave market so statue removal was a small act of poetic justice.

Considering all the arguments of both sides, I do not believe that Confederate monuments should remain undisturbed. While it is up to each locality how to address their monument, if the statue is not taken down, there at least needs to be a new plaque or marker putting the Confederate statue in the context of slavery and white supremacy. Considering the awful history of racism, that should be minimally required.

Also, nothing prevents any state, city, or town from putting up monuments to recognize the Black freedom struggle. In 2014, Charleston, South Carolina installed a new statue of Denmark Vesey, the leader of a failed slave rebellion in 1822. Erecting new anti-racist monuments is an effective way to balance the historical narrative. Taking down statues is not the only way to go.

Call me a damn Yankee but I cannot see honoring a sickness. I suppose you could also call the Confederacy a monstrous crime against humanity. People like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were architects of a system based on slavery.

To me, Confederate monuments are the equivalent of South Africa maintaining monuments to honor apartheid after that miserable social system was mercifully dismantled and dispatched. You do not see any monuments there to the good old days of Hendrik Verwoerd, B. J. Vorster, P.W. Botha, and F.W. deKlerk.

I have heard the arguments about how the Confederate monuments are about Southern heritage, states’ rights, and regional pride. Some have said taking down these monuments denies history. I am not buying.

I think we need some perspective on the scope of the issue. According to USA Today, there are at least 700 Confederate monuments nationally in 31 states. Many of the monuments are prominently located in public parks, courthouse squares and in state capitals.

The monuments are not located in the deep South alone. USA Today says many are in border states that fought with the Union. The number of these monuments has actually been increasing. USA Today says 35 have been added since 2000.

It needs to be asked: how can the number of these monuments be increasing?

The answer is that there are still people ideologically fighting the Civil War. There are varieties of Southern apologists including right wing neo-Confederates who are not reconciled to the Civil War verdict on the Confederacy. They are aggressively trying to influence public debate and turn back the clock.

Part of the problem is that even at this late date, people do not understand the horror show that was the Confederacy nor do they grasp our racial history since the Civil War. While it is admittedly overambitious to tackle such a wide swath of history, I will take a stab at an overview.

The Southern states that seceded from the Union did so to preserve, maintain, and expand the cause of white supremacy. It is ironic that so many neo-Confederates now claim the South seceded over states’ rights.

When the Southern states left the Union, they did it because they were in favor of slavery and against states’ rights. Many of the Southern states were upset that northern states had passed laws that conflicted with the federal government’s efforts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. That federal law required that all escaped slaves be returned to their masters, even if they lived in the north. Abolitionists openly defied the law and some northern states passed “personal liberty” laws that barred local officials from cooperating in the capture and return of fugitive slaves. Some other states no longer let slave owners transit across their territory with slaves.

The South could not abide the actions of states that ran contrary to their slave trade business. Both the Underground Railroad and the expanding abolitionist movement also made that business more difficult.

It is quite revealing to read the seceding state declarations at the time they split from the Union. I think the Texas Declaration is quite representative. In its “Declaration of the Causes Which Impel the State of Texas to Secede From the Federal Union”, Texas said:

“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the Confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”

Defenders of Confederate monuments seem lost in a fantasy of an idealized South where happy slaves willingly submitted while Confederate soldiers fought bravely and selflessly for their Lost Cause way of life. The defenders leave out so much. Behind the fantasy and undergirding it was Jim Crow, the Klan, and lynching. The harm of slavery and its aftermath is almost unfathomable. The lost lives, the murders, the squashed aspirations, the relentless racism and discrimination, the denial of a political voice, the unequal educational access, the lack of access to health care, the enforced servitude, the humiliation and subordination: the list is long.

I expect that some Southern apologists will see the argument I am making as some kind of leftist political correctness. I find that laughable. Where leftists or progressives go overboard and deny free speech on some college campuses, they should get criticized. However, this is a very different matter. Understanding our history of slavery and white supremacy is a matter of intellectual integrity and honesty. It has nothing to do with being p.c.

The deeper problem in America remains our minimizing the crimes and history of white supremacy. That is a continuing legacy affecting the whole country, not just the South, and there has been insufficient accountability for that. We still do not want to look at it.

Honestly, there was never a time to justify Confederate monuments. It is way past time to move on from that.

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