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In Wake of Obama’s Executive Action, Advocates Warn About Scams


By New America Media

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday his plan to take executive action on immigration. His plan would revise enforcement priorities to focus on recent arrivals and those who had committed serious crimes. It would expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and create a new deferred action program for parents of U.S.-citizen or legal-permanent-resident children who have lived in the country for more than five years. It would also revise the legal immigration system, with a special focus on science, technology and entrepreneurs.

There is no new application available yet, however, and advocates are warning immigrants to stay tuned to trusted media sources and community groups to get accurate information.

Any time immigration reform is in the news, advocates warn, immigrant families are vulnerable to scam artists and unscrupulous individuals who promise to help them in exchange for a fee.

Earlier this year, NAM reported that the San Francisco District Attorney’s office had seen a spike in immigration fraud cases in 2013, prompting it to launch a multilingual campaign to educate immigrant families about how to avoid scams.

NAM found that some people were seeking immigration advice from unqualified individuals, and that translation issues were contributing to the confusion.

For example, in most Latin American countries the term “notario” means lawyer. But in the United States, a notary just means someone who is licensed by the state to witness and sign documents.

“Notaries can’t represent a person in court, they can’t assist them in a formal legal process; they can only fill out forms. But anyone can fill out a form,” said Diana Otero, coordinator of the immigration program at Catholic Charities of San Mateo. She says immigrants need to get help from attorneys or qualified people that know how to deal with the immigration process.

Vanessa Sandoval, program director with Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) in San Jose, offered this advice to undocumented immigrants who go to notaries to complete immigration work. She spoke with Maria Antonieta Mejia.

Why aren’t notaries a good alternative to immigration attorneys?

They do not have a degree to practice law and they do not have the legal right to offer those services. What they are doing is taking money from people offering services they are not qualified to perform. The result, in many cases, is deportation.

How do you determine whether someone is qualified to help with immigration work?

In the United States, practicing attorneys – those licensed by the American Bar Association or the State Bar Association – and non-profit organizations certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals have the right to offer legal services. No one else.

What recourse is there for victims of immigration fraud?

The first thing to do is report the person to the proper authorities. There are dedicated attorneys at the DA’s office focused on investigating fraud cases. You can also report that notary directly to Immigration or file a civil suit.

Where should immigrants look first for help?

Start with non-profit organizations. In San Jose, there are more than seven organizations certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals that offer this type of service. If an organization does not have the capacity to help, it can offer recommendations for private attorneys.

For more information about SIREN, please visit siren-bayarea.org.

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Malloy to Cut State Budget


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — In an effort to close a projected $100 million deficit, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to cut the state’s budget this week.

Budget Director Benjamin Barnes in a briefing held on Monday at the state Capitol said Malloy’s administration can make that cut without legislature approval.

The proposed cut is less than one percent of the general fund. Bigger cuts would have to be approved by the legislature.

“We are trying to find things that are realistic,” Barnes said. “We will try to do it in a way that minimizes the harm to the beneficiaries—the folks who use state programs.”

Barnes said that no final decisions have been made, adding “I don’t know a number yet” on the total amount of cuts.

Legislative analysts say the state faces more than a billion in 2015, a $1.32 billion deficit in 2016, and a $1.4 billion deficit in 2017.

Malloy is scheduled to deliver the next two-year budget to the legislature on Feb. 4.

Photo Credit: Ann-Marie Adams

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Record Number of Latinos to Serve in House


News Report By Griselda Nevarez, VOXXI

A record-setting 29 Latinos will take seats in the U.S. House of Representatives following the results of this year’s midterm elections, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).

When the 114th Congress convenes in January, five new Latinos will serve in the House and two Latinos — Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) and Pete Gallego (D-Texas) — will not return after losing their re-election bids.

The 29 Latino House members will join the three current Latino U.S. Senators — Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — who were not up for re-election this year. That’ll bring the total number of Latinos serving in both chambers of Congress to a record of 32.

Among the new Latino House members is Ruben Gallego, a former state legislator and Iraq War veteran. He will fill the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) in Arizona’s 7th congressional district.

Two of the new Latino House members are Democrats from California. They are Pete Aguilar, who will represent California’s 31st congressional district, and Norma Torres, who will represent California’s 35th congressional district.

Carlos Curbelo, a Republican of Cuban descent, is also among the new Latino House members. He defeated Garcia in a highly competitive race for Florida’s 26th congressional district.

And in West Virginia, Alex Mooney made history by becoming the first Latino elected to Congress in the state’s history. He will represent West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund, said in a statement that Latinos will now form “the largest congressional class of Latinos in history.” He also said that in addition to the gains made in Congress, Latino candidates also secured “groundbreaking victories” in other races across the country.

For example, George P. Bush became the first Latino elected to serve as the Texas land commissioner and Nellie Gorbea became the first Latina elected to statewide office in the New England region by winning the secretary of state race in Rhode Island.

According to NALEO, Bush and Gorbea are among the 12 Latinos who will serve in statewide executive office following Tuesday’s midterm elections, an increase of two. David Garcia, who ran for superintendent of public instruction in Arizona, could be another Latino elected to statewide office, but that race is still too close to call.

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Supreme Court Agrees to Review ObamaCare — Again


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In a carefully, crafted  effort to re-tool ObamaCare, the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday agreed to tackle a case related to the Affordable Care Act signed into law in March 2010.

At the heart of this case, King v. Burwell, is whether health insurance for middle-class and low-income residents should be subsidized by the federal government. Subsidies such as tax credits were included in the reform law. King v. Burwell, like the similar Halbig v. Burwell case, has a long history in thecourt system. On July 22, two U.S. courts delivered opposite rulings on the subsidies.

Without these subsidies, most small business owners or unemployed people wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance.

Halbig, one of several pending ObamaCare lawsuits, is expected to be heard again  by a full circuit court panel on Dec. 17. The King case would likely be heard next spring.

Proponents of the ACA said this is a move, though touted as an unlikely one to have direct impact on Connecticut, more than 80,000 Obamacare enrollees should watch closely. Connecticut is one of 14 states that administers its own health insurance exchange through Access Health CT.

This would be the third time the Supreme Court take up cases related to Obamacare delving slight blows to the law. In 2012, five justices upheld the requirement that most Americans must buy health insurance or pay a tax–a victory for President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats. This ruling, joined by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was the most significant federalism decision since the New Deal in the 1930s.  Howev3er, the court limited  expansion of Medicaid, which provides health care to poor and disabled people.

In June 2014, the court ruled that the family-owned businesses should not be forced to provide insurance that covers contraceptive services because it violates the business owner’s religious beliefs.

This latest move does not bode well for the Obama administration. That’s because the legislative branch is run by the Republicans, who have tried to repeal the law 55 times.

However, Republicans will face an uphill battle in achieving this goal through the judicial branch. One conservative spokesperson said that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should try a conciliatory approach.

“Republicans should use reconciliation to fully repeal Obamacare,” said Ken Cuccinelli, who heads the Senate Conservative Fund.

The law had originally required states to run their own healthcare exchanges. Most states in the South rejected that idea, forcing residents to move to other states that offer Obamacare.

According to a report by the nonprofit health policy organization, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. up to 7.3 million people are expected to be on this insurance.

 

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White Connecticut Frat Goes Unpunished after Harassing Black Sorority


By Breanna Edwards, The Root.com

UCONN-STORRS — Members of University of Connecticut black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha are speaking out against how they’re being treated by the historically white Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, especially after the frat went unpunished after alleged racist and sexist attacks, the school’s Daily Campus reports.

“We were called whores, and after establishing that I was a university professional I was verbally accosted, and intimidation tactics were used,” AKA Graduate Advisor Brittney Yancy said, speaking at a town hall meeting hosted by the African American Cultural Center On Monday. “They called me a fat black bitch, not just a fat bitch but a fat black bitch.”

“I have to deal with the fact that the student who has verbally accosted me received no punishment,” Yancy added of the late September incident.

According to the Daily Campus, the fraternity was subject to sanctions including loss of rock-painting privileges after allegedly painting a spirit rock with racially charged words while verbally harassing soror members, however individuals were not punished.

“Privilege will ruin our reputation,” the sorority graduate advisor added. “And if it goes unchecked, this is how it impacts our community. It will determine who matters, who is protected, who gets access and who is worthy of justice on this campus.”

According to the report, Yancy only learned at the town hall meeting that they could file individual complaints against members of the fraternity, as well as a complaint against PIKE as a whole.

“I think what is nauseating is the lack of transparency. It would have been great to know that someone needs to follow up on an individual complaint so we can take the appropriate actions,” she added.

The Daily Campus noted the absence of any of the historically white sororities as well as any member of PIKE at the meeting.

Read more at the Daily Campus.

Photo Credit: Facebook

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Gateway to Feature Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar


NEW HAVEN — Gateway Community College recently announced its newly created Yale@Gateway speaker series featuring noted professionals.

The next lecture in the series will feature Law professor, and legal and constitutional expert, Akhil Reed Amar, who will speak on The Constitution Today:  Under siege or still holding up just fine?  The talk, followed by a question and answer session, will be Dec. 8 at 7:00p.m. in the college’s community room. PBS Correspondent and Yale Professor Paul Solman will moderated

Named among the top 20 contemporary US legal thinkers by a Legal Affairs poll, Amar is the author of several books including The Constitution and Criminal Procedure: First Principles, The Bill of Rights: Creation and ReconstructionAmerica’s Constitution: A Biography, and in 2012, America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By.

The Supreme Court cited Amar’s work in over 20 cases, including the landmark 1998 decision in Clinton v. City of New York, which ruled the presidential line-item veto unconstitutional. Amar is the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University where he teaches in the Law School and Yale College. His course on constitutional law is one of the most popular undergraduate offerings at Yale College.

Amar was a consultant to the television show The West Wing, on which the character Josh Lyman refers to him in an episode in Season Five, and he has made several appearances on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.

The Yale@Gateway series is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact GCC Business Professor Lorraine Li at LLi@gatewayct.edu or call (203) 285- 2285.

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Tax Commissioner Warns of IRS Scams


HARTFORD — Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin B. Sullivan is warning taxpayers to beware of two scams.

The first involves calls or emails from scammers posing as IRS employees threatening arrest unless a taxpayer sends an immediate payment that is claimed to be due.

“The best advice is just hang up and report the call to the IRS or local police because it is a crime,”  Sullivan said.

 

The second involves solicitations that take advantage of taxpayers by charging overpriced services for real estate conveyance tax refunds.

A member of the DRS External Editorial Review Board advised that clients were reporting calls offering to help get real estate conveyance tax refunds for properties located in enterprise zones and potentially exempt from the state portion of the tax.  Those making the solicitations search town land records for sales of properties in enterprise zones and then contact the seller or buyer.

 

State officials also said that tax payers should know  that the refund process is very simple and there is no reason to be overcharged for doing simple straightforward taxes.

“It may not be illegal, but charging an outrageous contingent fee is certainly unconscionable, he said.

The DRS is supposed to  provide free assistance if needed, officials said.

 

For more information about state taxes, visit the DRS website at www.ct.gov/DRS.

 

 

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Republican Tom Foley Concedes Loss to Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy


Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2014 at 12:36 p.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley conceded to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Wednesday, ending a similar drama that unfolded in their 2010 bid for governor.

In his bid for re-election, Malloy garnered more than 540,000 votes,  3 percentage points over Republican Tom Foley’s  512,000 votes.  This was in sharp contrast to his nail-biting gubernatorial bid in 2010, when he beat Foley by 6,400 votes.

In 2010, Foley waited a week before he conceded. At a press conference on Wednesday, the Greenwich businessman gave his concession speech about 16 hours after the polls closed on Tuesday.

“We came very close,” Foley said in an e-mail to supporters. “We did not win, but we were on the field and fought a good game.”

Foley said he faced a tougher challenge in a heavily tilted Democratic state. Republicans make up 20 percent of the state’s electorate, down from 25 percent from the last state-wide election in 2006.

Late Tuesday, Malloy strutted to the podium  and claimed victory for a second term.

“We will have a full legislative agenda ready to go by Jan. 7,” the governor said at a state capitol press conference. “I don’t sit around a whole lot and I have things I want to get done and I know that this state needs to get done.”
Quinnipiac University polls released in the past few weeks showed Malloy and Foley deadlocked, prompting both candidates to bring in high-profile surrogates such as President Obama and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. But Malloy lead in Tuesday election was “not nearly as close.”

The election did not go off without glitches, however. In Hartford, voters turned out early Tuesday morning and found that voter lists were not ready. They opted to go to work or back home.

The snafu prompted President Barack Obama to call a radio talk show and urged Hartford voters not to be discouraged.

“If people were planning to vote before going to work, and they weren’t able to do it, that’s frustrating,” Obama said on the talk show. “I want to encourage everyone who is listening not to be deterred by what was obviously an inconvenience.”

Malloy’s campaign staff asked a Hartford Superior Judge to extend voting in the city until 9 p.m. Judge Carl Schuma extended voting time until 8:30 p.m.

According to reports, at least nine city polling places turned voters away, including United Methodist Church and Batchelder Elementary  School were affected. That’s why the City Council on Wednesday said they will investigate the matter.

Also on Tuesday, incumbent Democrat Denise Nappier snatched victory in a close race for state treasurer against Republican challenger Tim Herbst. At press time, she won by about 9,000 votes. She will serve her fifth four-year term.

“Yesterday’s election was a hard-fought battle,” Nappier said. “I am deeply grateful to the people of our state for their support.”

In a press conference outside the Republican headquarters in Trumbull, Herbst conceded and congratulated Nappier on her victory.

Secretary of State Denise Merrill won re-election to serve another four years. Her challenger Republican Peter Lumaj surged forward on Tuesday with his bid, running nearly even at press time on Tuesday. By then, Merrill pulled ahead by $35,000 votes.

Lumaj conceded Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve worked incredibly hard on this campaign over the past 20 months but unfortunately the numbers for a win just didn’t add up,” Lumaj said. “We made this a right race than anyone ever expected.”

Lumaj faced an uphill battle with little name recognition. Merrill was former majority leader in the stte House of Representatives and benefited from incumbency.

Also on the ballot was a referendum question on whether long-established voting procedures should be changed. Voters in a 53-47 tally rejected an amendment that would have allowed lawmakers to approve changes to early voting and absentee ballots. It would have allowed voters to do an absentee vote via email.

Some opponents said the amendment would have disrupted how democracy works by taking away power from the people and giving it to the legislature.”

Advocates had a different view. They said the reform would have made it easier for minority and working-class people, who work outside the 9 to 5 schedule, to vote. As a result, most urban residents supported the measure. And most suburban residents opposed it.

About 880,000 voters cast ballots on the amendment. In Bridgeport, 53 percent of voters approved the referendum. In Hartford, 63 percent of voters approved; and 68 percent of New Haven voters affirmed it.

State House Districts

District 1

Matthew Ritter (I), Democrat, 3,304—92 percent

Kenneth Lerman, GOP, 301-8 percent

District 3

Sweets Wilson, GOP-217 – 9 percent

Minnie Gonzalez (I), Democrats, 1,984—86 percent

Victor Luna, PC 116-5 percent

District 4

Angel Arce (I) unopposed

District 5

Brandon McGee (I) Democrat, unopposed.

District 6

Michael Lupo, GOP 437-18 percent

Edwin Vargas (I) Working Families &Democrats 1,983 -82 percent

District 7

Donna Thompson—Daniel, PC, 107-3 percent

Douglas McCory (I) Democrat 3,322-97 percent

 

State Senate Districts

District 1

Barbara Ruhe, GOP and Independent, 4,098 /27 percent

John Fonfara (I), Working Family and Democrat

10,681 – 70 percent

Alyssa Peterson, PC, 136 – 1 percent

Barbara Barry, GM, 315-2 percent

District 2

Eric Coleman (I) Dem & Working Family: 19,599 – 81 percent

Theresa Tillett, GOP: 4,479 – 19 percent

 Photo Credit: FoleyCT

 

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Connecticut Tackles its Long-term Debt


HARTFORD –Connecticut is now on its way to tackling its long-term debt.

That’s according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who on Friday cited a newly released report that claims the state’s long-term debt for teachers’ pensions was cut by $325 million over the last two years.

The report by Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement Board shows that the  Teacher’s Retirement Pension System has made “notable improvements” since 2012, most notably the the funded ratio, which is the amount of assets available to cover liabilities, reached 59 percent this year. This is  an increase of 3.8 percent from 2012.

The report also shows that the value of assets increased $1.6 million over the 2013 fiscal year and that the pension’s unfunded liability decreased by $325 million

“This level of growth is due to Governor Malloy’s ongoing commitment to fully fund our pension commitments as well as the solid investments made by Treasurer Denise Nappier,” OPM Secretary Benjamin Barnes said.  “There is more work to be done, but this report shows that promises are being kept and Connecticut is heading in the right direction.”

This year’s valuation also complies with new GAAP rules intended to allow better comparisons between pension funds in different jurisdictions by requiring more uniform actuarial assumptions.

Under this “GASB 67” valuation, the Teachers’ Retirement System is funded at 60 percent.

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Q&A: Will Congress Save Health Insurance Program for Low-Income Kids?


Ed. Note: Unless Congress acts, federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which matches state dollars to provide health coverage for children under 19 in low-income families, will end next year. Ed Walz is vice president of First Focus, a DC-based advocacy organization for children and families that focuses on federal policymaking. He spoke with NAM Reporter Anna Challet about the future of CHIP and the likelihood of Congress stepping in to preserve the program.

Who does CHIP provide health coverage for?

CHIP provides coverage for 8 million children or so throughout the course of the year who would otherwise be uninsured because their parents work and make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford the high cost of private insurance … Before CHIP, the uninsured rate among kids was about 15 percent. Today it’s about 7 percent. It’s essentially cut the uninsured rate among children in half.

With the Affordable Care Act now fully implemented, why is CHIP still necessary?

Kids who are covered by CHIP today would not all be able to get coverage through the ACA if CHIP were to go away … If it did go away, some of the kids would move into Medicaid, but it’s a relatively small number, in part because not every state has expanded Medicaid, but also because CHIP covers kids well in excess of the Medicaid expansion level. The ACA now requires that Medicaid expand to 138 percent of the federal poverty level in states that choose that option, but … CHIP covers kids much higher up the income scale. For example, in my home state of Wisconsin, it’s 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

If CHIP were to go away, the ACA wouldn’t pick [some] kids up because of what’s called the family glitch, or the children’s glitch. That has to do with a problem in the way the IRS implemented the tax subsidies for the exchanges [the state health insurance marketplaces created by the ACA]. Essentially it means that as many as 2 million kids who would otherwise qualify for exchange coverage won’t get the subsidies they need to make it affordable, so they won’t get insurance. Even in a post-ACA world, there’s not a coverage solution for all the kids who are currently in CHIP.

The other problem is that if kids do get exchange coverage, research shows that it won’t be as valuable or as good as the coverage they currently get through CHIP … At a national level, CHIP provides more than 80 percent of the child-specific care that kids need, while average exchange plans provide a little over half of that child-specific care. And at the same time, CHIP plans average less than $100 in out-of-pocket annual costs, whereas the average exchange plan would cost nearly $1000, so ten times the cost for less care.

What is the threat to CHIP right now?

Essentially there are two requirements for a government program to function. One, Congress has to authorize it, and give the agencies permission to run it. [Also] they have to fund it. There’s no requirement that they do those two things on the same schedule. So one of the weird things about where we are right now in the public policy around CHIP is that the federal government has the authority under law to run CHIP through 2019, but funding for CHIP runs out at the end of federal fiscal year 2015, which is the fiscal year we just started. So a year from now, in October 2015, funding for CHIP will end. That’s the real threat. The threat is that even though there might be authorization, there won’t be money, and that is the effective end of CHIP.

The challenge right now is when Congress will extend that funding. And it’s important that Congress act this year, because even though federal funding won’t technically end for another 11 months, the reality is that because CHIP is a federal-state partnership, the budget decisions that happen in the state capitals all over the country matter just as much as the budget debates in Washington. And those state budget debates are happening right now … So it’s important that Congress send a message this year that states can continue to count on federal CHIP funding.

At this point, does it look like Congress will do that?

CHIP is incredibly popular, and it has a strong track record of bipartisanship. So we’re hopeful and have reason to believe, based on our conversations with folks on Capitol Hill, that policymakers understand that CHIP still plays an important role … There’s momentum to get CHIP funding extended in the lame duck session this fall, so after the elections.

What will happen if they don’t?

The honest answer and the scary answer is that we don’t really know what will happen. It’ll vary from state to state, but what we can say is that when we’ve seen a similar problem in the past, the outcome has not been good for children.

California is unfortunately the poster child there. Back in 2009, when the CHIP agency in California ran into a state funding problem, they responded by establishing a waiting list. That meant that kids who were newly eligible for what was then called the Healthy Families program were not enrolled, and kids who were covered by Healthy Families but lost coverage for administrative reasons or for whatever reason then were not able to re-enroll … Even a year after the waiting list was lifted, the agency had only been able to return enrollment levels to 50,000 kids lower than when they put the waiting list in place … If you imagined similar reactions at the national level, it would literally put the health of millions of children at risk.

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