Oregon Legislature

United Way helps fill financial needs for Latino school health program

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories about United Way-funded agencies and the people they serve. United Way of Lane County is in the midst of its annual fall fundraising campaign.

University of Oregon freshman Karla Mercado, 18, leaned back in a couch at North Eugene High School.

“Financially, it has always been a struggle,” she said. “Because of this program, I had one less worry growing up.”

Mercado is speaking about the Soy Sano/I Am Healthy program, a service at the health centers at North Eugene and Churchill high schools. The Eugene School District program has provided everything from medical checkups and immunizations to dental and vision help, mostly free of charge to Mercado, who grew up in Eugene and attended North Eugene .

Motivated in part by her experience at the clinic, Mercado now is taking classes at the University of Oregon to pursue a career in education. And she’s paying for her education in part by working at St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, the nonprofit human services organization.

Soy Sano targets a special population in Lane County: Latino youth who lack U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status — and therefore cannot get government-funded health insurance. It also serves other young people who do not have or do not qualify for public health insurance.

Mercado knows what it’s like to lack health insurance. She previously was an illegal immigrant; her status is now legal under a federal temporary permit program, and she is officially allowed to work.

The Soy Sano/I Am Healthy program began in 2010, paid for by a two-year pilot grant from the Oregon Legislature. With the backing of several local groups, the agency managed to keep its doors open even after the original grant funding ended in 2012.

Help is on the way

The funding is part of a broader, ongoing push by lawmakers to provide more help to illegal immigrants, especially youth who were brought into the United States illegally by their also-illegal parents.

In 2013, the Legislature approved a bill allowing some young illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates — as opposed to the much-higher out-of-state rates — at Oregon’s public universities.

In 2014, lawmakers approved giving Oregon drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants, although voters statewide overwhelmingly overturned that change in November 2014. In this year’s legislative session, lawmakers opened some state-funded college scholarships to illegal immigrants.

In its first year of operation, Soy Sano/I Am Healthy helped provide comprehensive health services to 1,250 low-income children in Lane County who were born outside the United States, are in the country illegally and do not qualify for public health insurance, according to Eugene School-Based Health Center data.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy estimates there are 17,600 illegal immigrant children statewide.

Soy Sano has found that during the past couple of years, because of the expansion of the publicly funded Oregon Health Plan under the federal Affordable Care Act, fewer legal residents need the program’s help. But many hundreds of illegal immigrant children continue to lack insurance.

The program served 710 young clients in the 12 months ending in June.

Covering the children

The Affordable Care Act has not had much effect on health services for illegal immigrants because, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, federally funded insurance programs such as the Oregon Health Plan do not cover illegal immigrants, except in medical emergencies.

That leaves the families of illegal immigrants with the option of buying private health insurance, which is not subsidized and often expensive. Oregon is unlike Washington state, New York and Illinois, all of which provide government-­funded health insurance to illegal immigrant children within their states.

With the help of United Way of Lane County, other funding sources and community-donated resources, Soy Sano has reached its fifth year of operation, surviving even in a financially unstable climate.

“For many of these students, it’s very difficult,” said Beto Montes, the program’s bicultural outreach worker. “You come in from another country not knowing the language, the culture or the school system.”

Montes, 34 and bilingual, initially came into the United States from Mexico legally in 1990, when he was 9. He began attending the Eugene School District in fourth grade, and he received citizenship six years later because of his residency.

Montes attended the UO. He is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at Northwest Christian University in Eugene.

Montes said his priority is providing a bridge between Latino parents and children and the school district. Two students Montes work with, 18-year-olds Luis and Romero, are prime examples.

The Register-Guard is withholding their last names to protect their privacy. They lack legal immigration status. Both came to the United States with their parents from Mexico as illegal immigrants.

“I haven’t been able to find any other health sources,” said Luis in Spanish, his words translated into English by Montes. Luis, who has younger siblings in Eugene schools, said Soy Sano has been a big help in his transition to living Eugene.

Romero agreed, noting he’s been able to use the program for basic health checkups.

Under the radar

UO student Mercado said she’s been inspired by the program.

“Even if I go somewhere else, I want to be a health activist,” she said.

Mercado originally was an illegal immigrant. But she received a renewable 2-year work visa through the federal Deferred Action Through Childhood Arrivals program, which is open to illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States before turning 16, who are 30 or younger and have lived within the country for the past five years, and who are attending school or serving in the military.

The health-care challenges facing illegal-immigrant children often go unnoticed in the broader community, said Maxine Proskurowski, the school district’s health service program manager.

“The community doesn’t see a need because these kids don’t show up at (health care providers),” said Proskurowski, noting that many illegal immigrant families don’t go to local health providers because they lack the money or insurance to cover the care.

When the Soy Sano program initially started, it received $40,920 from the Legislature in each of its first two years. That helped pay for nurse time; two part-time bilingual, bicultural outreach workers; and a portion of the coordinator’s salary.

The program was coordinated through the Community Health Centers of Lane County, the Eugene School District’s School-Based Health Centers, and Glenwood-based Planned Parenthood of Southwest Oregon.

Opening the doors

After grant funds ran out, United Way, the Eugene Education Fund, the Springfield-based PacificSource Foundation and several community outreach services stepped in to make up the difference.

Oregon Health Authority, the state’s health care department, also increased funding to the health centers. And the state office of Mental Health and Addictions awarded a grant to Lane County Behavioral Health to help cover the districts’ uninsured students.

Since 2013, United Way has provided $12,500 a year to the Eugene School District’s school-based health centers, and it promised an additional $10,000 directly to the Soy Sano program through January 2017.

“United Way has really opened the doors for us to get outside funding,” Proskurowski said. The strict application requirements and competitive process that United Way uses to choose grant recipients often encourages other grant and donor services to then financially support or donate resources to Soy Sano.

United Way “have been champions for us,” she said.

Adding dental care

Soy Sano’s clients now receive dental services through the Assistance League’s Children Dental Center at Churchill High as well as the Lane Community College Dental Hygiene Program.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Sharon Hagen, a dental hygiene instructor for LCC. The college receives $7,000 yearly from United Way to help cover dental checkups, mainly for illegal immigrants, and the college donates the rest of its dental services time.

Hagen said in the last school year, the program recorded 87 dental cleanings for Eugene School District students with Latino surnames. “The children in greatest need are the Hispanic children,” Hagen said.

Funding always has been touch and go.

In 2012, the Eugene district’s health centers fell behind in eligibility for state funding due in part to a lack of compliance with several new state health care mandates for record-keeping and reporting. The centers ultimately lost both state funding and funding from the school district, which had covered 80 percent of the centers’ operating costs.

Two of the centers closed, but local money has provided enough to keep the two remaining centers open. Proskurowski said the continuance of special programs such as Soy Sano hinges on school-based centers remaining open.

“The reality is, if we don’t get funding by June, the days are numbered for these (centers),” Proskurowski said.
 

Lawsuit aims to reinstate driver cards law dumped by voters

PORTLAND — An Oregon nonprofit filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to reinstate a state law that would have allowed people to get driver's cards if they can't prove they are in the U.S. legally.

The law was approved by the Legislature in 2013 then overturned by voters the following year in a referendum.

In its lawsuit, the Oregon Law Center says it's illegal for Oregon to enforce Measure 88 ...

The group says the measure took driving privileges away from immigrants who lack legal status ...

The lawsuit also says the measure was driven by animosity and the desire to punish or to avoid rewarding a politically unpopular minority...

As a result, it is discriminatory and violates the U.S Constitution, the suit says.

The lawsuit does not question the general validity of Oregon's citizen initiative process.

Defendants targeted in the lawsuit include Gov. Kate Brown, the director the state Department of Transportation, several Transportation Commission members, and the administrator of the Oregon DMV.

State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum's spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said the Oregon Department of Justice will represent the defendants. Edmunson declined to comment on the pending litigation.

About 120,000 immigrants in Oregon lack legal status, according to the Pew Research Center...

The complaint was filed in the name of five anonymous immigrants who would have qualified for the driver's cards...

The suit seeks to be certified as a class action that includes all residents who have lived in the state for more than one year and are denied driving privileges solely because they are unable to prove legal presence.

The state estimated that, were it not for the passage of Measure 88, it would have issued about 84,000 driver's cards in the first year...

... in 2008, to make licenses compliant with the federal REAL ID Act, legislators enacted a law that required Oregonians to show proof of legal presence in the U.S. to obtain a license.

The state reversed course in 2013, joining seven other states in granting driving privileges to immigrants lacking legal status....

Oregon voters, by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent cancelled that law before it went into effect.

Proponents of Measure 88 — mostly represented by the group Oregonians for Immigration Reform — said granting the driver cards would lead to more immigrants without legal status moving to Oregon, taking Oregonians' jobs and pushing up crime rates.

Andrea Miller, director of the Oregon immigrant-rights group Causa which pushed for the driver card law, said Measure 88's invalidation of the law has led to a crisis in the Latino community...
 


 

Oregon driver cards: Immigrants sue to reverse Measure 88 defeat

SALEM — A group of Mexican immigrants is suing to reverse a decision by Oregon voters on a 2014 ballot measure that prevents undocumented immigrants from getting Oregon driver cards.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, the plaintiffs said the outcome of Measure 88 is unconstitutional because it "arbitrarily" denies driving privileges "to Plaintiffs and others based on their membership in a disfavored minority group."

The plaintiffs also say the referendum was "motivated in substantial part by animus toward persons from Mexico and Central America,"...

The lawsuit comes nearly a year after Oregon voters resoundingly defeated Measure 88,...

"It was an overwhelming rejection of giving drivers' licenses to illegal aliens," said Jim Ludwick, communications director for Oregonians for Immigration Reform. "but somehow that doesn't apply to people who are here illegally and think the law doesn't apply to them." 

The measure was a reaction to Senate Bill 833, which passed in the 2013 legislative session with support from Democrats and a few moderate and rural Republicans. Then-Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the bill at a May Day rally on the Capitol steps before a raucous crowd of 2,000 people.

But the law never took effect as opponents quickly organized a campaign to refer it to the ballot.

Since 2008, Oregon has required applicants for a driver's license or permit to provide proof of citizenship...

"It's reached a crisis point for families because they don't have a solution,"...

The five Mexican immigrants, identified only by their initials in court documents, are joined by two Latino nonprofits, Familias En Acción and Los Niños Cuentan, as plaintiffs in the case....

Kristina Edmunson, a spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said the state is reviewing the case but declined to comment further.

— Ian K. Kullgren


 

OFIR's Pizza and Politics event packs the house

Three special guest speakers and yummy pizza drew a packed house for OFIR's Pizza and Politics meeting Saturday, October 10th.

Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bill Currier, Representative Mike Nearman (an OFIR Board member) and Representative Greg Baretto spoke on a number of immigration related topics.  Visit the OFIR photo gallery.

 

It's time for PIZZA and POLITICS - OFIR meeting, Saturday, Oct. 10 at 2:00pm

Alert date: 
2015-09-29
Alert body: 

Please join us Saturday, October 10 at 2:00pm at the Best Western Mill Creek Inn in Salem, OR and get caught up with what's happening locally and across the country in immigration politics all while enjoying some delicious pizza.

Donald Trump, like him or not, has blown the lid off the immigration conversation and in so doing has forced candidates to address the immigration issue head on....finally!

Because of Trump's campaign trail comments and his surge in the polls because of those comments, OFIR and immigration organizations and activists across the country are in a phenomenal position to make real headway in stemming the flow of illegal aliens into our country.

At the meeting, special guest Oregon Republican Chairman Bill Currier will be there to explain how the ORP plans to actively face down the immigration issues we struggle with here in Oregon.

Representative Mike Nearman and Representative Greg Baretto will be joining us to explain what's happening in the Oregon Legislature.

OFIR has been busy working to advance 2 initiatives. We will be talking about our progress on both of them and how you can help.

OFIR and our fantastic members and friends must be ready with renewed energy and resources to take advantage of the opportunities before us and to tackle the important challenges we will be facing in this coming election year.

Please consider bringing along a contribution to OFIR and take advantage of our $15,000 matching grant?


 

Dems defy Oregon voters on funding illegal immigrants

by Richard F. LaMountain

What will it take for the Legislature’s Democratic majority to heed Oregonians’ will?

Last year, via Ballot Measure 88, Oregon voters rejected the illegal-immigrant driver cards the Legislature approved in 2013.  The magnitude of that rejection — the margin was almost two-to-one — made clear: the vote transcended the issue of driver cards to constitute a broad mandate against state-government benefits for illegal immigrants.

In the 2015 session, however, the Democratic majority legislated as though Measure 88’s outcome had been the opposite — passing laws, indeed, that give many illegal immigrants a better shot at taxpayer-funded educational aid than most American citizens.

Senate Bill 932, which Gov. Kate Brown signed Aug. 12, credentials certain illegal immigrants — those who entered the United States as minors and graduated from Oregon high schools — to compete against U.S. citizens for need-based Oregon Opportunity Grants to the state’s colleges.  And to aid them in doing so, House Bill 2407, which Brown signed in early July, gives them race-based preferences over American students seeking the same.

How?  HB 2407’s text authorizes the state Office of Student Access and Completion to “prioritize awarding Oregon Opportunity Grants to qualified students . . . whose circumstances would enhance the promotion of equity guidelines published by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.”  Those guidelines, wrote Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, in Eugene’s Register-Guard newspaper, are based upon an “equity lens” whose purpose is to maximize “funding for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.”

And foremost among those “underrepresented” groups?  Illegal-immigrant youths, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic — a fact which will, thanks to HB 2407, give them preference for Oregon Opportunity Grants over white and, in many cases, Asian-American applicants.

What possessed the Legislature’s Democratic majority to pass laws that so blatantly contradict Oregonians’ clear mandate against benefits for illegal immigrants?

Answer: A radical, dogmatic belief that illegal immigrants should enjoy the rights and privileges of American citizens — a belief outlined in a June letter to Salem’s Statesman Journal newspaper signed by all 35 House Democrats.  “Keeping our state a great place to live — a place where all working families have a chance to get ahead and where everyone is treated equally — will require us to reject the poisonous idea that some families matter more than others,” the letter proclaimed.  “All Oregonians deserve to be treated with respect and humanity, regardless of their . . . citizenship status.”

And for the Legislature’s majority party, evidently, such “respect and humanity” require favoring illegal-immigrant students over American youths for taxpayer-funded educational grants.

What the Democrats miss: Whatever the circumstances of their arrival here, illegal immigrants are not, as the House majority caucus asserts, “Oregonians.”  They are, rather, foreign nationals here in violation of U.S. immigration law — law that was instituted by the American people via the representatives they elected to Congress.  And when Oregon’s Democratic Legislature grants benefits to those illegal immigrants, it undermines the interests of the Americans to whom it owes its foremost responsibility — the Americans, indeed, who via Ballot Measure 88 signaled their overwhelming opposition to such benefits.

In 2016, voters should elect a new majority party to the state Legislature — one which will respect both the electoral mandates and the interests of Oregon’s U.S. citizens.

Richard F. LaMountain is a former vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform and served as a chief petitioner of Ballot Measure 88, the 2014 referendum via which Oregon voters rejected illegal-immigrant driver cards.

A $15,000 matching grant spurs donor contributions - don't miss your opportunity to double your contribution!

Alert date: 
2015-10-13
Alert body: 

Contributions are rolling in - don't miss your opportunity to DOUBLE your contribution - up to $15,000 total!

A matching grant will help OFIR fight to STOP illegal immigration here in Oregon and across the country.

Our generous donor will match your contributions to OFIR of any size up to $15,000 total!  Imagine that - if you contribute $20 it magically becomes $40 or contribute $100 and it magically becomes a $200 contribution! 

OFIR fought very hard to defeat Ballot Measure 88 and our resources are running low.  Your contribution now will help OFIR stay in the game during the critical, upcoming election cycle.

Please consider a generous contribution today and double your money.  This wonderful opportunity just doesn't happen every day!

OFIR appreciates each and every one of our members.  We understand that some of you may not be able to contribute financially.  There are lots of things you can do to help http://www.oregonir.org/how-you-can-help-ofir

But, we hope that those of you that can, will dig deep and give generously.  We need your help now - and your contribution to OFIR will be doubled - up to $15,000.  It's a WIN - WIN!

You can also go online http://www.oregonir.org/donate-ofir to contribute or mail your contribution to:

OFIR

PO Box 7354

Salem, OR 97303

Thank you!

Don't miss out on this GREAT OPPORTUNITY to double your contribution to OFIR!

Last weekend for the 150th Oregon State Fair!

Alert date: 
2015-08-29
Alert body: 

Don't miss out on the fun!  Plan to attend the Oregon State Fair  running through Labor Day.

Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) is hosting a booth at the State Fair again this year.  We encourage you to drop by and say hello, we are located in the Jackman Long building.  Learn more about what's happening here in Oregon and across the country and meet a State Rep. and Senator or a talk show host or any of our other wonderful volunteers!  Visit our photo gallery!

If you have not yet joined OFIR, we encourage you to do so.  It has been decades since the immigration issue has attracted such attention.
 

Changes to tuition act prove doubters right

A significant bipartisan majority of the 2013 Legislative Assembly voted to enact House Bill 2787, which became known as the “Tuition Equity Act.” It established in-state tuition eligibility for students who demonstrate the intent to become United States citizens and who met certain previous attendance requirements in schools both in Oregon and other U.S. states and territories.

The Legislative Fiscal Office’s report on the bill estimated that only 38 undocumented alien students would access the opportunity to pay in-state tuition to attend an Oregon university during the 2013-15 budget period, and that 80 students would participate during the 2015-17 biennium. The Act didn’t affect Oregon community colleges, because they do not have residency requirements.

Tuition Equity Act supporters argued it would cause minimal cost to Oregon taxpayers. They further implied they would neither ask for future eligibility expansion for in-state tuition nor request financial aid eligibility for undocumented alien students. I voted against HB 2787 — not least because I didn’t believe their words.

University and community college students who are neither United States citizens nor eligible non-citizens are ineligible for federal grant-in-aid programs. Undocumented aliens are prohibited from even filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. However, Oregon’s own taxpayer-funded grant-in-aid program for college students, the Oregon Opportunity Grant, is not constrained by federal law.

The Legislature’s Democratic majority enacted Senate Bill 932 this year, on party-line votes. It significantly enlarged the number of undocumented aliens who are eligible for in-state tuition. Further, the bill created new eligibility for Oregon undocumented alien university and community college students to receive Oregon-funded grant-in-aid and student loans.

I believe this bill will serve as a beacon for undocumented alien students to come to Oregon for what amounts to a free college education at the expense of Oregon taxpayers.

The Legislative Fiscal Office’s report on SB 932 estimates that as many as 1,000 undocumented alien students may receive Opportunity Grants the first year, and that as many as 4,000 may be participating within four years. At only $1,000 per term, the cost could reach $12 million per year. The fiscal report doesn’t appear to contemplate my predicted in-migration of students.

Not only does SB 932 make undocumented alien students eligible for Oregon taxpayer-paid tuition and expenses, it likely gives them preference over documented resident citizens. According to the bill’s fiscal report, grants and loans for unauthorized immigrants “may be skewed towards an expected family contribution rate of zero or close to zero, which would give this population a higher priority for grant awards.”

The Democratic majority further amended the existing program by enacting House Bill 2407. It ensures that the state will make grants to students with the highest financial need and, where possible, prioritize funding for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. That priority will be based upon an “equity lens” established through Oregon Education Investment Board rulemaking. The “equity lens” appears to be focused on contributing financial aid to low-income undocumented alien students.

Democrats further amended the statute to include “foundations of community colleges” that distribute money to community colleges in the program.

Another bill, House Bill 3063, was created specifically to increase the number of under-served, low-income and first-generation college-bound students who enroll in community college and make progress toward a degree or certificate. This, too, appears to be focused on impoverished, first-generation and perhaps undocumented immigrants. It appropriates $3 million in general fund dollars to that program.

Many legislators who voted for the Tuition Equity Act in 2013 rightly feel betrayed. Assurances that their votes would not open the floodgates for undocumented alien students to attend Oregon colleges and universities with taxpayer-funded Opportunity Grants were insincere. Egregiously, some legislators contend they’re unable to remember making those assurances. So much for an open and transparent legislative process.

Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, represents District 28 in the Oregon Senate.

Lawmakers clear grants for undocumented students

SALEM — Oregon lawmakers have cleared the way for state grants for Oregon university students who were brought to the United States as children but lack immigration papers.

Gov. Kate Brown will receive Senate Bill 932 after the Senate voted 17-12 on Friday for the final version. The House approved it, 34-25, on the previous day.

With the exception of one Democrat in the Senate, the votes were along party lines ...

The House vote followed a verbal dust-up between a supporter and opponents of the bill.

According to state estimates, a maximum of 1,000 such students would be eligible for Oregon Opportunity Grants — and that 350 of them were likely to obtain them.

Rep. Joe Gallegos, D-Hillsboro, said about 75 students are enrolled at state universities under the terms of 2013 legislation allowing them to qualify for in-state tuition rates if they meet specified requirements....

The two-year budget for Oregon Opportunity Grants will be increased by 24 percent, to $141 million. According to estimates, 84,000 students will receive average grants of $1,650.

But a couple of the five Republicans who voted for the 2013 in-state tuition law said they believed it would not extend to eligibility for state financial assistance.

“We are going to do now what we said was not going to happen,” said Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn.

The bill received no Republican votes, and Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose was the only Democrat in opposition...

The House debate was interrupted when Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, criticized the opposition voiced by some of his colleagues as he spoke in favor of the bill. His remarks triggered a response by Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, who had just spoken against the bill.

A House rule says: “In speaking, the member must confine discussion to the question under debate, avoid personalities and not impugn the motives of another member's vote or argument.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, spoke after a timeout lasting several minutes, during which members of both parties attempted to calm things.

“I want to point out that it is really important not to impugn or infer someone’s motives here on this floor,” Kotek said. “I want to say that the member from East Multnomah County was inappropriate in what he was saying.”

Gorsek then rose and said: “I understand that I did something extremely inappropriate“ and I am extremely embarrassed by that.”
 

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