The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, has been flooding the news. While the Hobby Lobby debate continues on social media, it is a conversation limited to a particular population – those with health insurance and those who understand the healthcare system. During my time as an intern at United African Organization (UAO), it has become apparent to me that there is a serious blind spot in the current administration of healthcare coverage. The African immigrant community is struggling to receive the health insurance they have applied for.
During my short two months at UAO, I was given the responsibility of following-up with the healthcare clients. Now, I have to be honest. At first, this seemed like a very mundane task of constant phone calling, but as I spoke with the clients I became incredibly engaged. I was shocked by the number of people who applied for Medicaid in January and have yet to receive any notification from the Department of Human Services. I want to strip away the idea that they were passively waiting for a response. Many of the individuals who were comfortable with their English were visiting and calling local offices; all to no avail. What I came across during these short phone calls was a cathartic release of pent-up frustration with a system that seemed to be working against them. The helplines were a maze of menus and button pressing, and none of them offered a French-speaking line. Denial letters were blunt and lead clients through similar dead-end helplines. Some clients have waited months for a promised callback only to be left in the dark.
So, this was my daunting task, to learn what was happening with these 6-month-old applications. Like the clients I was supporting, I began to dial the same help lines. With my native-English fluency I did not feel I was capable of navigating the system. Each local office and larger administrative offices all had their own phone numbers. It took research to even learn what number I should be calling. If I did stumble across the correct line, I had to wait a minimum of 15 minutes to speak with someone. Being just an intern, I was not qualified to learn any of the information I was calling for, which was disheartening. After a couple weeks I reached sympathetic hearts, or maybe people who followed different privacy regulations. And after months of waiting, I was able to tell the clients that something is happening. I still don’t know how long their applications will take or if there are missing information, all I know is the location-South Loop Office, Uptown Office, All Kids Bureau, etc.
Out of the 29 families who applied for Medicaid in January with the help of UAO, only 8 had been enrolled. The other 21 had heard no word from the Department of Human Services (DHS). While the backlog is a huge barrier for DHS, the lack of communication with applicants is disheartening. The silence pushes people away from the healthcare system, putting them at risk. National healthcare is a goal that should be reached for the United States; however, the local administration of the system needs to first be accessible to its clients. In the meantime, organizations like UAO work hard every day to ensure the needs of their clients are being met.
Written by by Tamara Meyerhoff – 2014 Summer Intern
The Immigration Act of 1990 first introduced the concept of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS is granted to immigrants who are physically present in the United States and who are unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflicts (such as civil war); environmental disasters (such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or epidemics); or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Temporary protected status is rarely granted and only in extreme situations. The current situation in Nigeria, for example, does not seem to meet the threshold for Department of Homeland Security to grant TPS. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti, however, resulted in USCIS granting all Haitians in the United States TPS in 2011. Further, the recent situation in South Sudan also lead to TPS designation.
Beneficiaries of temporary protected status may remain in the United States and obtain work and travel authorization; however, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status—i.e. green card—and may be terminated at any time, thus reverting individuals back to their previous immigration status.
In order, to be eligible individuals must:
- Be a national of the designated country;
- File during open registration period;
- And have been continuously physically present (CPP) and have been continuously residing (CR) in the United States since the date specified for the designated country.
You may NOT be eligible for TPS or maintain your existing TPS if you:
- Have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the United States;
- Are found inadmissible as an immigrant under applicable grounds in INA section 212(a), including non-waivable criminal and security-related grounds;
- Are subject to any of the mandatory bars to asylum. These include, but are not limited to, participating in the persecution of another individual or engaging in or inciting terrorist activity;
- Fail to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the United States requirements;
- Fail to meet initial or late initial TPS registration requirements; or
- If granted TPS, you fail to re-register for TPS, as required (typically every 18 months), without good cause.
Individuals from the following TPS countries are eligible for TPS designation as long as they meet these eligibility requirements:
- El Salvador
- South Sudan
The application process is as follows: (1) you must first file your petition; (2) USCIS will contact you upon receipt of your application; (3) you must then go to the Application Support Center; (4) USCIS will determine your work eligibility and adjudicate your application; (5) and finally, your application will either be approved or denied.
“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” said Secretary Johnson. “By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead.”
The first DACA approvals will begin to expire in September 2014. To avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization, individuals must file renewal requests before the expiration of their current period of DACA. USCIS encourages requestors to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires.
DACA is a discretionary determination to defer removal action against an individual. Individuals in DACA will be able to remain in the United States and apply for employment authorization for a period of two years. Individuals who have not requested DACA previously, but meet the criteria established, may also request deferral for the first time. It is important to note that individuals who have not continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, are ineligible for DACA.
Individuals may request DACA renewal if they continue to meet the initial criteria and these additional guidelines:
- Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The renewal process begins by filing the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling $465. As with an initial request, USCIS will conduct a background check when processing DACA renewals.
USCIS will also host both national and local DACA informational sessions. USCIS will provide further information on these sessions during which USCIS officials will provide additional information on the DACA process and be available to answer your questions. For information on local DACA engagements, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.
To learn more about the renewal process or requesting initial consideration of DACA, visit www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Have you ever answered the question “Why are we here?” Featured at the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair is a discussion on current US-Africa policy on trade, security, and human rights – its impact on the continent of Africa, and how we can build an engaged constituency in the African Diaspora to shape US policy and hold the Obama administration accountable.
Refugees and immigrants face many hurdles to accessing healthcare. Many first generation immigrants ad refugees tend to recreate the way of life that existed back in their home countries. For most Africans, that means that seeing the doctor only when we get sick, use of traditional herbs and medications, and praying and hoping for faith healing. Besides these, many mental health issues are rooted in the stress associated with cultural adjustment, lack of legal status, fear of losing status, difficulty finding work-life balance, and dealing with past traumas.
The Healthcare Panel at the 8th Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair features discussions on best practices for maintaining good health, preventive care, and steps that you can take to improve your health. Additional discussions will be around barriers to accessing health services and tools to overcome these obstacles. Free Hepatitis B and other health screenings will be available following the panel discussion.
Other panel discussions at the summit will be on refugee & immigration policy advocacy, community engagement, and US-Africa Policy. Additionally, the summit will include a Community Resource Fair that provides information about employment, immigration, legal services, housing, health screenings and other resources for participants.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Illinois Institute of Technology
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616