For Immediate Release
June 30, 2012
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
FACT SHEET: The Affordable Care Act: Secure Health Coverage for the Middle Class
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses. This law was also specifically designed to give States the resources and flexibility they need to tailor their approach to their unique needs. With the uncertainty about the Court’s decision behind us, it’s now time to focus on implementing this law in a smart and non-bureaucratic way that works for the middle class.
Benefits and Protections for the Middle Class: The Affordable Care Act includes numerous provisions to keep health care costs low, promote prevention, and hold insurance companies accountable. If you’re one of the 250 million Americans who already have health care – whether through private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid – the Affordable Care Act is already making your coverage more secure.
If you are one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from. If you need care, you will finally have the same opportunity to get quality, affordable coverage as everyone else.
Coverage for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions: A major impact of the Court's decision is that 129 million people with pre-existing conditions will have the security of affordable health coverage. Starting in 2014, insurance companies can no longer charge you more, carve out benefits, or deny you coverage altogether because you have cancer or diabetes or simply because you are a woman. To make these protections affordable, people with and without pre-existing conditions should be insured, since everyone at some time needs health care.
Tax Credits for Middle Class Families and Small Businesses: Millions of Americans will soon be eligible for tax credits to ensure that their health insurance is affordable. Under today’s ruling, having health insurance is and will continue to be a choice. If you can’t afford insurance or you’re a small business that wants to provide affordable insurance to your employees, you’ll get tax credits that make coverage affordable. But starting in 2014, if you can afford insurance and you choose not to purchase it, the taxpayers will no longer subsidize your care for free. The Court’s ruling today allows Congress to hold the projected 1% of Americans who will be able to afford health insurance but will choose not to buy it responsible for that choice. Many small businesses are already receiving tax credits so they can afford to offer quality health care to their employees. To date, 360,000 businesses that employ 2 million workers have already benefitted from the small business tax cuts in the law. And once the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, about 18 million individuals and families will get tax credits for health insurance coverage averaging about $4,000 apiece.
Support for State Implementation of Affordable Insurance Exchanges: With the uncertainty of the Court decision behind us, we will step up our work with States to implement Affordable Insurance Exchanges. Exchanges are new marketplaces, starting in 2014, that will allow individuals and small businesses to compare and choose private health plans. Each State will take the lead in designing its own menu of options. Already, 34 States including the District of Columbia have received 100 percent Federally funded grants to build Exchanges. The use of Exchange grants includes support for activities related to running Exchanges in their start-up year.
States can also implement their own brand of reform through Innovation Waivers starting in 2017. If States can come up with even better ways of covering people at the same quality and low cost, this law allows them to do so. The Administration supports bipartisan legislation to allow States to start such Waivers in 2014.
Moving Forward, Not Back: No political party has a monopoly on good ideas, and the President will work with anyone to provide basic security for middle class families and end the worst insurance company abuses. But rather than refight old partisan battles by starting over on health care and repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Congress needs to work together to focus on the economy and creating jobs. Right now, Congress should act on the President’s concrete plans to create an economy built to last by reducing the deficit in a balanced way and investing in education, clean energy, infrastructure, and innovation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHOENIX – A Brazilian woman wanted in her native country as a suspect in a child trafficking investigation was deported and turned over to Brazilian federal police Wednesday by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Phoenix.
Vania Maria Plasse, 47, of Governador Valaderes, Brazil, was repatriated to Brazil aboard a commercial aircraft under escort by ERO agents. Plasse, who was previously held in immigration detention in Arizona, was turned over to Brazilian authorities at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo Wednesday morning. She is charged in a criminal arrest warrant issued in April 2011 by a Brazilian federal judge related to a child trafficking investigation.
"Plasse's return to Brazil to face criminal charges is the result of close international cooperation between ICE personnel in Arizona, our ICE attaché staff in Brazil and Brazilian law enforcement," said Katrina S. Kane, field office director of ERO Phoenix. "ICE is committed to working closely with our law enforcement partners here and abroad to ensure these individuals are identified and brought to justice."
Plasse was first encountered by U.S. authorities January 12, 2011, when she was arrested by agents with the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector after entering the U.S. illegally near Nogales. Plasse was subsequently issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge and transferred to ICE custody, where she was placed in immigration detention at the Eloy Detention Center while undergoing removal proceedings.
In April 2011, the ICE attaché office at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia notified ICE officials in Arizona that Brazilian authorities had just issued an arrest warrant for Plasse related to a child trafficking investigation. Assistant Chief Counsel Ryan Goldstein from ICE's Office of the Chief Counsel Phoenix handled the ensuing immigration court litigation and in May 2012, an immigration judge with the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review ordered Plasse deported.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed about 455 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE's Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.
For Immediate Release
June 25, 2012
Washington D.C. - In a blow to the state anti-immigration movement, the Supreme Court ruled today that the authority to enforce immigration laws rests squarely with the federal government, limiting the role that states may play in crafting state-level answers to immigration enforcement. By a 5-3 margin, the Court struck down three of the four provisions of SB 1070 that were challenged by the Obama administration as pre-empted under federal law. While the Court agreed that Arizona’s attempt to limit immigration by creating new laws and new penalties to punish undocumented immigrants was pre-empted, it found that a provision requiring local police to investigate the legal status of suspected undocumented immigrants was not pre-empted on its face. The court read this provision very narrowly, however, leaving open the door to future lawsuits based on racial profiling and other legal violations.
“Today’s decision makes clear that the federal government—and only the federal government—has the power and authority to set the nation’s immigration policies,” said Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “Despite its strongly worded rejection of Arizona's effort to set its own immigration policies, the Court adopted a wait-and-see approach to the controversial racial profiling section of the law. There is already ample evidence of discrimination and abuse in Arizona, and many communities in the state will bear the brunt of the Court's unwillingness to face that reality. It's time for Congress to heed the dire warnings contained in this opinion and recommit to fixing our broken immigration system.”
For additional information see:
American Immigration Council Reveals Government’s
Interference with Noncitizens’ Access to Legal Counsel
Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center released a report and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on the pressing issue of noncitizens’ access to counsel. Reports from across the country indicate that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) immigration agencies—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—often interfere with noncitizens’ access to counsel in benefits interviews, interrogations, and other types of administrative proceedings outside of immigration court. Depending on the context, immigration officers completely bar attorney participation, impose unwarranted restrictions on access to legal counsel, or strongly discourage noncitizens from seeking legal representation at their own expense.
A joint report by the Legal Action Center and Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Behind Closed Doors: An Overview of DHS Restrictions on Access to Counsel, describes restrictions on access to legal representation before DHS, provides a legal landscape, and offers recommendations designed to combat these harmful practices. It also addresses recent changes to USCIS’s guidance that are intended to expand access to legal representation.
Also today, in collaboration with Dorsey & Whitney LLP, the Legal Action Center filed a lawsuit against ICE and DHS to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens’ access to counsel before ICE. This is the third of three FOIA lawsuits filed by the LAC seeking records from DHS’s immigration agencies regarding their policies on access to counsel in DHS proceedings.
To date, ICE has failed to turn over any documents. Initially, ICE informed the LAC that it had conducted a search for records, but was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records.” ICE has since conceded that its search was inadequate and renewed its search for documents, but no documents have been forthcoming.
The LAC has long advocated for the right to counsel in immigration settings, including meaningful access to legal representation in immigration court and DHS proceedings.
To view the report and the complaint against DHS, see:
To learn more about LAC's efforts around Access to Counsel, click here.
May 30, 2012 - Labor shortages have been a significant challenge to U.S. agriculture for as long as I can remember. On my rice farm in Texas growing up, it seemed we were always running short of farmhands when it came time to harvest.
But now, unlike the simpler days of my youth when we could just hire teenagers and retirees, farmers and ranchers are facing new challenges with labor issues. From border security concerns and state versus federal authority questions to I-9 audits and government-caused labor delays under the H2-A program, finding a reliable agriculture workforce is becoming more and more difficult.
From the Border to the Court
Farmers and ranchers in states like Mississippi and Arizona are currently caught in the crosshairs of an immigration battle that’s been waged over state versus federal control. Arizona took their case for state authority (based on legislation S1070) all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in May and is expecting a decision later this month. In the meantime, other states are waiting in the wings to determine the impact the court’s decision will have on them.
For Arizona farmers, S1070 is only a band aid that has been applied over the festering, underlying problem of border security and of reforming the visa program to enable farmers to get the temporary and seasonal workers needed for their farms. Farmers and ranchers who live along the Mexican line deserve a secure border and a major component of that is having a visa program that allows a legal flow of workers back and forth across the border so border security officials can concentrate their resources on the illegal activities.
The American Farm Bureau Federation supports federal jurisdiction, as well as increased presence and cooperation of all branches of law enforcement on both sides of our borders, to eliminate border issue challenges facing many of our members, like theft, drug and human trafficking, as well as illegal crossing. We must secure our borders by the most technologically advanced means possible and in a way that has minimal impact on farmers and ranchers.
Stepping Off the Fence
With proposed implementation of mandatory E-verify (a system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.) in our near future, an agricultural guest worker program that addresses farmers’ unique needs has become a necessity. AFBF will only support a mandatory E-verify program if there is a workable solution for agriculture. Absent that solution, if E-Verify is implemented, agriculture faces losing millions of dollars in productivity due to labor shortages.
In hopes of finding a workable solution that meets the needs of our members, Farm Bureau created a work group charged with looking at labor challenges more closely and how best to use our policy to resolve them. Made up of Farm Bureau leaders and staff from across the nation, the work group is looking at all parts of the equation, including options that provide a secure workforce, allows portability, addresses the needs of all commodities and limits bureaucratic red tape.
Everyone is affected by the ensuing immigration battle playing out in our nation. Unfortunately, no one feels its impact more than farmers and ranchers living and working on our borders, as well as those who are continually faced with labor shortages on their farms. Band aids will not work. Congress must get to the root of the problem by providing a guest worker program that works for the entire agricultural sector.
Bob Stallman, President
American Farm Bureau federation
Many real immigration attorneys tell stories of clients who came to them after having wasted thousands of dollars paying a "notario" for a green card that never materialized, or for a student visa that falsely promised a legal way to stay in the U.S.
In Mexico, "notarios" are attorneys who give up private practice, but still help clients navigate the legal system. However, more and more "notarios" in the U.S., who have no legal authority here, have become successful immigration scammers.
For the past year, the federal government has made a big push to crack down on these types of businesses by prosecuting scammers and forcing them to pay damages of up to $7,000 a victim. Rigoberto Reyes, a chief investigator with the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs, says "notarios" here typically advertise in ethnic media outlets.
“These guys are spending a lot more money than even your immigration attorneys," says Reyes. "They don’t have to cover the expenses that a regular attorney has to in order to stay in business. But you see this in the Armenian community, the Korean community, the Filipino community, the Cambodian community.”
One of Reyes’ most successful cases involved interviewing more than 150 victims of fraud by an Armenian scammer who targeted clients from Israel, Lithuania and Singapore. She is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.
But getting immigrants to report these scammers is difficult in the first place. As a result, some real immigration attorneys are making a greater effort to serve as middlemen between victims and prosecutors.
Some nonprofits have joined the fight, creating task forces and handing out materials warning about scams — including the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
“That stuff needs to be distributed throughout the community in places like nonprofits," says Nora Privitera, director of the Center's Provider Fraud Project. "But also in places like grocery stores and health clinics, and wherever immigrants are likely to be."
Not surprisingly, the immigration scam business is constantly changing and adapting to the needs of desperate immigrants. Experts say many of these shops now simply exist online, charging exorbitant fees and recruiting clients in their home countries.
"[Immigrants] are vulnerable victims," Privitera says. "They tend to be likely to trust somebody who speaks their language fluently and is one of their countrymen, so it’s just too easy for them to get victimized.”
WASHINGTON - In an aggressive effort to boost deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun to increase by nearly 25 percent the number of agents tasked with finding and deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, pulling 150 officers from desks and backroom jobs to add extra fugitive search teams around the country.
The plan was launched when the number of deportations slumped after several years of growth, partly due to the drop in illegal immigration along the Southwest border. But critics, including some inside ICE, denounced the effort as politically inspired to help President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
The move, which began without public notice May 14, calls for increasing the number of fugitive operations teams to 129 from 104. Each team has been given a goal of arresting 50 suspects per month, according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau, although ICE officials insisted Friday that no quotas were set for the teams.
An early draft of the plan says ICE is "experiencing a shortfall in criminal removals for the fiscal year," and called for using 300 Border Patrol agents, dressed in ICE uniforms, to close the gap. The plan was scaled back to 150 ICE officers after objections were raised by union organizers for the Border Patrol.
The fugitive teams were instructed for the first time this month to focus chiefly on finding and deporting illegal immigrants convicted of a felony or more than two misdemeanors, multiple immigration violations, or having used fraudulent documents, and not on broader categories of illegal immigrants.
ICE officials are also reviewing pending deportation proceedings to look for those who do not fall into those categories and pose no security risks. So far, about 10 percent of the cases reviewed have been placed under an administrative hold.
The stepped-up effort may prove politically sensitive in an election year with both parties scrambling for voters in states where immigration issues are important, including Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
Obama, who has drawn strong support from Latino voters, is under pressure from Latino activists to find more humane ways to enforce federal immigration laws and protect families with deep roots in America. Focusing on criminal immigrants tends to avoid that issue.
Republican leaders, including likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, have demanded greater efforts to identify and deport anyone who is in the U.S. illegally, including those who have lived and worked here for years, not just those found guilty of committing crimes.
ICE Director John Morton defended the program Friday as "the best way to use our limited resources" against those who pose the greatest threat to public safety.
"We changed agency policy to focus fugitive operations more on criminal offenders," Morton said in a telephone interview. "This is part of a permanent restructuring of agency resources to meet the highest priority of removing serious offenders. ... We think that is the right call because at the end of the day public safety is our goal."
In a memo last year, Morton wrote that ICE prosecutors could use their discretion as to whether or not to seek deportation of people with strong family ties in the U.S., including college students and members of the military.
After Morton gave the memo to a congressional committee, Republicans criticized the Obama administration for trying to use back channels to enact the DREAM Act. In 2010, Congress narrowly defeated the measure, which would have created a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.
Some ICE agents condemned the latest plan as politically inspired, rather than a more efficient use of resources.
With a new fingerprint sharing program to determine the immigration status of suspects set to start today, May 15, federal immigration authorities are taking steps that would mitigate concerns.
The Secure Communities program, which Massachusetts officials preparing to start today, May 15, will have local law enforcement officers run fingerprints of suspects through federal databases to determine whether a suspect is in the country illegally.
ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the agency's policy is confirm the program's start only after it is actually launched.
As it prepares to roll out the program, ICE has taken the following steps to improve its implementation, according to a federal immigration official.
At a meeting at Mass Bay Community College in March 2011, Megan Christopher, an attorney at MetroWest Legal Services, spoke about how if enacted the new federal program could break the trust between the community and the police.
“When we make so that the victim have a greater difficulty in reaching out for help, we create a small, tight, isolated community of people who are easily victimized,” said Christopher. “Slum lords, bad employers, abusers of all kind, can practically find by a zip code people who cannot stand up for themselves.”
It is already active in Boston. New Hampshire, Rhode Island and overall 2,792 jurisdictions in 48 states are using it, according to a federal immigration official. Nationwide activation will be complete by the end of 2013.
More than 135,000 people have been deported as a result of the program and 49,000 of those were convicted of serious crimes, according to a federal immigration official.
But at that March 2011 meeting, Sarang Sekhavat, policy director for the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, who spoke on behalf of 900,000 immigrants across the country, said "This program is not doing what was supposed to be doing. Of those arrested and deported by a pilot program, which started in Boston in 2008, 53 percent were non-criminal immigrants, only about 25 percent were what the government calls criminals."
The federally-mandated program is an added step on the federal level as far as what happens to fingerprints after someone commits a crime. Before Tuesday, local law enforcement was required to forward all finger prints to the FBI. Starting today in Massachusetts and New York, the FBI will send those fingerprints to the Department of Homeland Security, where they will be screen.
In a passionate plea for immigration reform, an unplugged Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday criticized the Obama administration and said politicians don't take the issue seriously.
The mayor made the comments at a panel discussion that also featured Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas and at which a report on why the U.S. is failing to attract and retain talent was unveiled.
The report—by the Partnership for New York City, a local group of big businesses; and the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national coalition of mayors and business people co-founded by Mr. Bloomberg and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch—noted that ((foreign countries are shaping immigration policies to boost their economies)), while a broken U.S. immigration system turns away the workers it needs for economic growth.
"What's happened in government is they're worried so much about getting re-elected, it's become so partisan, that they just don't even consider immigration as a real issue," Mr. Bloomberg said at the event, which was sponsored by the New York Forum, a group that promotes economic growth. "All they do is look to see what the politics of it are, and they never get around to discussing what the economics of it are or what the impact is on the educational system or business formation."
Mr. Bloomberg, a former Republican who dropped his party affiliation in 2006, laid the blame for the nation's failed immigration policies on both sides of the aisle.
"The demagoguery against it has no basis," he said. "There are no heroes here. You show me anybody who has stood up."
He criticized the Obama administration for failing to lead on the issue.
Gov. Susana Martinez, who has insisted she isn't interested in becoming presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, criticized his stance on illegal immigration during a recent Newsweek interview.
Political blogs picked up on the article Monday, in which she took aim at the "self-deportation" idea promoted by Romney:
" 'Self-deport?' What does that mean?" Martinez snaps. "I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during his campaign. But now there's an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why."
Among her suggestions: Republicans should remind Latinos that Obama pledged to pass comprehensive immigration reform by the end of his initial year in office, but "didn't even have the courage to try."
The article said Martinez envisions a multi-level approach including "increased border security; deportation for criminals; a guest-worker program for people who want 'to go freely back and forth across the border to work'; a DREAM Act-style pathway to citizenship, through the military or college, for children brought here illegally by their parents; and a visa (coupled with a 'penalty' or a 'tagback') that allows the rest of the illegal population to remain in the U.S. while they follow standard naturalization procedures."
Source: (c) 2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)