Carl Luna: Governing Amidst the Chaos

The Lake San Marcos Democratic Club was pleased to host Dr. Carl Luna, professor of political science at San Diego Mesa College, at the September monthly meeting. He spoke on an engaging and most relevant topic: “Democracy in America: Governing Amidst The Chaos”. Dr. Luna described a grim picture of the current state of affairs in our very divided democracy, yet a framework of hope for the future was also realistically discussed.

“The Ugly”

Dr. Luna began by exclaiming, “Governing is becoming increasingly problematic. We are leaving a mess for our youth.” He first described “the ugly”. Democracy has been experiencing a decline around the world. Since the tragedy of 9/11 democracy has been under increasing challenges and is regressing. Global leadership is slipping away from the U.S. and is being handed to Germany, China and Russia.

As seen in the ‘Economist’s Intelligence Report”, the “2016 Map Of Freedom” has the U.S. falling for the first time from a full Democracy to a flawed Democracy. The U.S. now ranks 21 out of 200, falling in between Japan and Italy. Since 2001, 72 countries have seen the decline of democracy. And this trend is not just a result of the current political environment but has been going on for years and is attributed to “an erosion of confidence in government and public institutions over many years.” As a result, the idea that “Amateurs are better than professionals” in politics has taken hold and given us the election of Trump in the U.S., Brexit in the UK, and Macron in France, who has not been well received.

“The Bad”

Which leads us to “the bad” – total gridlock in governing. Partisanship and deadlock is at an all time high in Congress and many citizens don’t trust Congress. A major contributing factor to this has been the practice of gerrymandering. Overall, Congress represents 350 million people but they were elected based on the voting of only a few thousand in their districts. A map of political affiliations clearly shows that Democrats need to move to small towns because the cities are overwhelmingly Democratic while rural America is very Republican.

Political scientists say the country has not been this divided since the Civil War. The 60’s were worse, but we now have diversions such as video games and Netfilx that keep the youth occupied and distracted from the activism and protests seen in the 60’s. Obama said, “Reagan was the last President to leave really big footprints.” Trump exploited the trust gap, divisions and anger and appealed to people who were angry and frustrated. And they have plenty to be angry about. Mortality is up among white Americans aged 45-54 with no college degree due to suicide, liver disease, alcohol and drugs. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no more” said Trump during the campaign.  According to Luna, Hillary’s “Basket of Deplorables” statement was “the stupidest comment in the 2016 election” since many people feel left behind on both the right and left.

 

What are the consequences? Confidence in institutions has eroded. Trust in government in 1958 was measured at 70% while now it’s under 20%. The powerful benefit most if no one has your back as an average person. Congress is now less supported than communism in the U.S.!  The military is trusted the most and this is a dangerous trend as this is how military coup d’etats happen. People are angry and desperate enough now to create dysfunction.

Economic inequality is another huge issue for people and also contributes greatly to breeding distrust. Bernie Sanders preached it but Hillary, not so much. Even Trump said, “not everyone is getting pieces of the pie.” According to Luna, we must shift the models of production. Owners of companies such as Amazon and Google do great, but it requires government to step in over the free market. Like the “Gilded Age”, the wealthy control too much. They bet wildly and can crash the entire system. 1980’s Neoliberalism was a monomaniacal “ism” to create wealth. Free trade is good, but we need retraining for those losing jobs for all workers, both Democratic and Republican. Deregulated markets got us economic collapse and the Occupy Wall St. Movement. (Dr. Luna recommends the book “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It” by Richard V. Reeves). Our generation has rigged the system to keep it for ourselves, the top 20%, not just the top 1%.

“The Good”

Now for the good!  2020 alone will not do it. The best we can hope for is a 50/50 split in 2018. Democrats have lost so many of the states with “Political Trifectas” where the Legislatures and Governor’s office are controlled by one political party. There are now 25 states with Republican trifectas, and only 6 with Democratic trifectas (https://ballotpedia.org/State_government_trifectas). It may take until 2030 to solve this dilemma. According to Luna, the current Democratic Party doesn’t have focus or leadership. There are too many candidates, over a dozen, being floated for 2020. It is a fractured party just as the Republican Party had too many candidates in 2016. We need systemic change!

To succeed in 2020 Democrats will need much more effective messaging. “What was Hillary’s message?” Luna asked.  “I’m With Her.”  It wasn’t about her!  On Hillary’s website, “learn about Hill and Tim” was featured rather than any policy they stood for! Karl Rove said you campaign on three things. Pick three. Better roads, better education, better jobs? Any three, just pick three. For Example: “Democrats are the party who brought you the end of the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam, and a man on the moon”.  You can’t sell it unless people are buying it and people want a call to action. They want HOPE, and that’s why Obama was successful. Hillary won the majority of white college educated women by only 2%. Trump won Americans because of socio-economic issues more than racist or evangelical.

“Change is in your hands, but people want to know that they are personally going to benefit economically” Luna explained. That is the challenge for the Democrats for 2020 and beyond.

The Affordable Care Act, Insurance Companies and “Single Payer”

Written by Peggi Chute

Dr. Jeoffry Gordon, self-described as a Family Doctor, was our honored guest speaker at the Lake San Marcos Democratic Club meeting held in August. An incredibly engaging speaker, his power-point presentation was informative, thoughtful, and a call to action to change the status quo of our healthcare system. (Click the link below to see his full presentation).

He began his talk referencing George Orwell, author of the novel, 1984, whom Gordon believes was right – just 33 years off. It is today that we now face the challenges that were described in this book where wrong is right, and up is actually down.

“The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is to do nothing,” is a slight variation on a quote generally attributed to Edmond Burke. It’s where we find ourselves today – at a crossroads. Will we sit back passively or will we join the fight to create a more equitable and fair healthcare system for all citizens?

The Democratic Party has declared healthcare as a right. Many in the Republican Party, however, continue to believe it is not the State’s responsibility to provide healthcare to its citizens. As a consequence of the Republicans controlling the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the majority of the U.S. individual states, this Republican philosophy has had a negative affect on health. Life expectancy in the USA is going down with ½ million people dying earlier than in other industrialized countries. In rural American, the number is even higher. The maternal mortality rate – American women having babies – has risen from 10% to 22% in recent years.

Income inequality has affected the poor the most with a poor person dying earlier than those in the high income brackets, in large part due to the fact that the wealthy can spend a greater portion of their money on health. The top 1% of the income bracket spend 25% of their income on health. The top 50% of the U.S. middle class spend 3% of their earnings on their health.

In 2007, there were 800,000 bankruptcies. After the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare was passed, that number declined by half, because 60% of all bankruptcies are due to illness. The ACA with its Medicaid expansion is the band-aid that is holding America together. No longer a program simply for the poor, the Medicaid expansion also covers those with pre-existing conditions, seniors in care facilities, children with disabilities, and veterans and their families. So the question is, stated Gordon, “If you’re pro-life, why are you against universal health care?”

The ACA transformed access to medical care for millions of people. In addition to covering pre-existing conditions, it allows young adults to remain on their parents’ plan until the age of 26. It created a competitive market enabling the poor to purchase insurance when previously they could not afford it. ACA eliminated differential insurance premiums for the sexes, and expanded benefits for substance abuse help, and eliminated the Medicare prescription gap, once known as the “donut hole.” And finally, it subsidized insurance premiums, copays, and deductibles for 80+% of those signing up on the exchanges that were determined to live below the poverty line. The Act also calls for investing $10 billion in community health centers. By taxing the wealthy more and subsidizing health insurance and medical care for the poor and struggling middle class, the ACA clearly reduces economic inequality ever since the inequality gap began rising four decades ago. So far, we can continue to describe the ACA in the present tense. It all depends on how vigilant citizens are to hold Congress accountable to maintain these health care advances.

With the attempts to pass a supposed “healthcare bill” in President Trump’s first 100 days, what the Republican Party was in fact trying to pass after hoping to repeal ACA altogether, was not a health care program but a tax abatement. Even though the Republicans voted for 7 years to repeal the ACA only to have Obama veto their efforts, they came up empty handed when they took power. They presented a poorly conceived health care plan under the leadership of Senator Mitch McConnell that was created behind closed doors with no discussion or input from the healthcare industry. All of the various bills they scratched together had virtually no support. Hospitals, insurance companies, doctors, nurses, patient advocates and disease groups judged every proposal negatively, along with the neutral Congressional Budget Office.

Each plan the Republicans tried to pass were limited, weak plans that would have hurt millions who again would not be able to afford insurance. Instead, their plans were thinly disguised bait and switch attempts to give a huge tax windfall to those making over $200,000 a year, or $250,000 for couples, with most of the burden falling on families in the upper 5 % of income earners.

Red states that accepted ACA, which included the Medicaid expansion, received 38 billion in assistance to make the Affordable Care Act prosper in their states. The states who fell behind in helping their citizens were the ones who refused to accept the Medicaid expansion. Such refusal caused insurance companies to exit the insurance exchanges in those states, knowing they wouldn’t get paid. That usually left but one company that could then raise its rates indiscriminately since they had no competition. Yet, the people who saw their premiums sky rocket, blamed the ACA instead of their state government.

If the Republicans had been successful in repealing the ACA, California would have suffered greatly. With such a large population, California has the most at stake to make sure heath care works. It’s important to inform people that a Single Payer System is not socialized medicine; it’s a financial system. Individuals and employees pay taxes to the government instead of paying monthly premiums to private insurance companies. The government provides the coverage. The government, therefore, becomes the “single payer” of health care bills but delivery of health care services remains the same.

California, therefore, has been working to create their own Single Payer system. A bill was introduced that took a stab at changing the California system. S.B 562 was a bill that would have cost the state $400 billion a year. With such a staggering price tag, Governor Brown was opposed to it as being fiscally too expensive.

S.B. 562 proposed that a 2.3% sales tax increase and a 2.3% gross sales business tax could cover the cost for the system. Since any tax increases always seem to be unpopular with voters, it is easy to see how opposition to such a plan could fail. The bill, therefore, was shelved for the time being to give proponents of a Single Payer system more time to solve the barriers to the idea and more time to mobilize the citizens.
Once people understand that it would save them money in the long run by eliminating the middle men – the insurance companies – it’s possible to sell the idea. Part of the challenge will be to retrain people who currently work for the insurance industry so they are not squeezed out of the job market.

Other countries have solved these problems and are now offering health care systems that serve their populations. Many actually are into preventative medicine, which also saves money. It makes sense that a sick citizenry should not be profitable. A healthy citizenry creates a more profitable economy. We need to keep encouraging our representatives in Sacramento to solve this health care issue so CA can add Health Care to its list of issues where California leads the way and is yet another reason why California is the sixth largest economy in the world.

DR Gordon AUG 2017 National Health Policy

Club Hosts Congressional District 50 Candidate Forum

by Peggi Chute

The July 8th Lake San Marcos Democratic Club meeting was one of the most meaningful and exciting events to have come along. While all our meetings try to be informative, this one exceeded expectations as all six of the candidates running to defeat Rep. Duncan Hunter of the 50th district in 2018 were present. The packed room was eager to learn what each candidate believed and what they hoped to accomplish. All are very strong candidates and are passionate about how they see the current administration and the dire need to reverse course and return our government to the people. High on everyone’s list – both for the candidates and the audience — was Climate Change, Healthcare for all (5 of the 6 support Single Payer Health Insurance while the sixth felt changes could be made to ACA to make it workable), Russian Hacking Threat, Healing the Rift in the Party, and giving citizens hope again.

Questions from the audience that they wrote on index cards were picked up and taken to a table where Mary Borevitz and Kathy Steel sat sorting them. They found the most common threads people brought up, collated and combined the questions, and passed them on to Avi Karnik, our vice president, who asked the candidates for their responses.

Each candidate had two minutes to introduce themselves and make an opening statement. If they finished within their time limit, Avi told them they would earn a piece of candy. They would be given 1 minute to answer a question, and that, too, would be rewarded with candy. The candidates displayed their sense of humor by bragging if they had earned a jelly bean when they finished on time. It was all in good fun and added levity to the serious subjects being discussed.

Avi began by asking the one question that been given to the candidates in advance:

QUESTION: “We are still a District of 45% registered Republicans, with the remaining being either Democrat or Decline to State. How will you win?”

Josh Butner answered first. “The Democratic Party now believes our District 50 is in play. They will help with guidance and $$ to create a strong campaign. We especially need to target young Democrats who need to feel involved.”

Ammar Campa-Najjar followed: “I’m part Palestinian and part Hispanic but it’s not about me. I listen to these constituents and empathize with their concerns. We need to turn out the young and minorities, 35% are Latino, and I know how to organize.”

Gloria Chadwick continued: “I am a psychiatric nurse and Congress needs me! We must turn out the vote. If everyone registers 2 people, we’ll win.”

Next, Glenn Jensen stated, “There’s a lot of fear and confusion. If we can frame our message around National Security with ways for people to feel secure and safe, we will attract the independents.”

Patrick Malloy offered, “There are over 269,000 people in our district that are on subsidized healthcare. We must fight to allow them to keep their coverage and explain what they will lose if they don’t vote Democratic.” He also has a plan to create jobs.

And lastly, Pete Beauregard concluded, “The Democratic Party has lost sight of our values and freedom. There are too many corporate and neocon Democrats leading the party. We need to return to the people and our values. Country over Party!”

FURTHER STATEMENTS MADE BY CANDIDATES DURING THE COURSE OF THE DISCUSSION:

Pete (Pierre) Beauregard – He was a Bernie supporter, and like Bernie, wants to appeal to those in the middle who have lost hope. As a Vietnam vet, he witnessed the war machine up close and saw its carnage. He worked for big Pharma and discovered how corrupt it is and thus believes in Medicare for all. The most urgent issue is Climate Change. He was the first in San Diego County to build a totally passive house, and uses permaculture methods at his ranch. He walks the walk to save the planet. As a Progressive, he can’t be bought off. Pierre feels corporate Democrats have corrupted our values and that we need to return to them. Russian hacking is real but must get beyond party B.S. and focus on peace, climate change, and healthcare. Keep our eye on the ball, not distractions.

Josh Butner – A former Navy Seal who served 23 years, he worked his way up to become a leader, dealing with national security, education, and military business. With the $$$ awarded to the oil industry to keep them profitable, that money could be used to create passive energy. The U.S. needs to remain in the Paris Agreement to continue their world leadership. He wanted Russian hacking investigated from the beginning. When certain jobs become obsolete, people need to be given educational retraining to remain in the job market. One such program: “Steam:” Science, Technology, Energy, Art, Math. He believes critical thinking needs to be taught, and currently serves on Jamul Dulzura School Board in a Republican District.

Ammar Campa-Najjar — He served as a field organizer in Obama’s campaign. He worked in the Executive Office, reading, reviewing and passing on letters from citizens who wrote to Obama. He knows how the levels of government work. His whole life has been service, a life long duty. He was asked to make donor calls for his campaign but refused for he believes all his time needs to be spent listening and being with citizens in every neighborhood. He believes Climate Change is the critical issue and that the next generation gets it. He would cut in half R & D tax credits to pharmaceuticals and lower Medicare eligibility age to 50 while working toward Single Payer. Let’s build the workforce instead of a wall. “Don’t need a Hunter, we need a gatherer.” We can create a campaign of unity.

Gloria Chadwick — Confronted Hunter at his one and only Town Meeting. Having volunteered in the Gore campaign, she has first hand knowledge of our institutional history to avoid pitfalls. She’s been elected to the Board of the Grossmont Healthcare District as its President five times in a Red District. She played a leading role in creating the District’s first Co-Generation energy plant which cut the hospitals’ energy usage and saves taxpayers $180,000 a month. As a psych nurse she knows how to listen. “I’m always up for a challenge and believe in health care for all.” We must also have faith in our Intelligence community. She believes people fall in love with their preferred candidate but believes whoever wins the primary, we all must get behind that person and elect them.

Glenn Jensen — Is running because Hunter is corrupt. He has lived his entire life in the District and was once a Republican. As a degreed economist, he believes a worker’s healthcare must follow them from job to job, as in having “job lock,” and is fiscally responsible. He experienced pre-existing conditions and believes totally in a Single Payer system. “Our form of government is under assault. Cyber terrorism is our most clear and present danger. We already have the tools and need to invest more in technology.” This is a revolution that can start right here in our 50th District. All can be part of this revolution and all who join are united by the same values. He cannot be bought. He would get $$ out of politics starting with not allowing any corporate sponsors.

Patrick Malloy — He came within 13.5 points of Hunter when he ran in the last election. Feels the middle class needs a champion so he would vote in favor of Single Payer Health Care to include Dental and Vision care, and would preserve Social Security; he opposes any privatization. Hacking is real, thus we need cyber security. Without it, he feels it would make voters apathetic. One simple remedy for one security risk would be to bury our telephone lines and eliminate telephone polls. He voted for Bernie in the Primary and Hillary in the General. “We need to end the blame game for Hillary not winning and find solutions to issues that will resonate with voters.” Suggests creating a 401K to be used for down payments on homes so the American dream can be a reality.

The Club Vice President, Avi Karnik, did a tremendous job facilitating the discussion and controlled the pace of the exchange so every candidate had the opportunity to speak. It was not a debate. In fact, the entire six candidates were almost in complete agreement on issues. In addition to being knowledgeable, the audience heard some of the candidates’ policy ideas to solve issues. Since their stands are quite similar, voting in the Primary will need to come down to who we think has the best possibility of winning, along with their likability quotient.

After the two hour meeting when almost all of the 120 people in attendance remained to the end, the candidates gave their closing statements. The meeting ended with a standing ovation for the candidates and the candidates applauding their audience’s respectful engagement. We all left uplifted by the caliber of the candidates and optimistic that our government will improve, beginning with our local District 50.

Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted Ammar Campa-Najjar as saying he was part Pakistani and part Hispanic, in fact he said he is “part Palestinian and part Hispanic”.

Jessica Hayes, “Planting the Seeds of Progress”

It’s been a fast paced year in the political realm, and it’s not just the national scene that has seen its share of changes and challenges. The Lake San Marcos Democratic Club was pleased to host Jessica Hayes, Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, at the June monthly meeting. Jessica is new to this role as of January, 2017, replacing Francine Busby who previously held that position. Prior to her current role, Jessica was the Vice-Chair of the South Area (the county is split into four regions, East, South, Central and North).

Jessica opened her talk with the adage that Democratic candidates in the county were elected with crossover Republican votes. “It’s about the message”, Jessica explained, “and we got your hope right here!” Democrats “kicked butt” in San Diego in the 2016 election. 77% of our candidates were elected and all but two of the propositions Democrats supported won with the crossover vote. The GO Teams made a big difference. Turnout was 84% where GO team contacts were made, vs. 67% where they were not. “This will be even more important in 2018” Jessica said.

While Jessica reviewed the new tools that have been put in place for both GO Team members as well as candidates, it became apparent that there is a renewed interest in Democrats running for all levels of elected positions. There are currently over 140 active candidates and more than 100 showed up for the March training program, when normally only a dozen or so have attended in past years.

So what’s next for the party in San Diego? The Central Committee is new this year after the January election, and their focus is to gear up for 2018. It is essential that the party unite and explain to voters that the down ballot candidates are “the Trump farm team”. Candidates at the local city level often then feed into the County Board of Supervisors so the goal is to pick off the Republican candidates and reach out to Independents as well. A “listening tour’’ is planned so independents can be heard and convinced to vote Democratic in 2018. “We need to combat fake news,” Jessica explained, “people need to trust someone so that’s why outreach is so important, especially this cycle”.

Jessica feels that the current administration’s excesses may indeed create a backlash for 2018. She sees both Issa and Hunter as vulnerable as does the Democratic party in Washington. And the new California voter registration laws are significant. These new laws will automatically register voters as well as change how provisional ballots are handled. All ballots will now be counted regardless of where they were dropped off. New voter registrations are putting the Democrats way ahead with new registrations running at 42% registering Democratic, 18% registering Republican and 34% registering No Party. 64% are permanent mail voters vs. 22% in 2014.

Turnout for 2018 will be critical. Focus will be on important demographics such as millennials, disaffected Democrats, and a concentrated effort to re-engage the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. “We are the ones who will protect health care and the environment and protect children’s education – We’re here!” Jessica proclaimed. Now we have to get that message out along with asking “What have you gotten from the Republicans holding the line?”

“We have access to seats we never had before as long as we stay focused, keep our heads down and do the work,” Jessica said in closing.

Jessica Hayes Presentation Jun 2017

Doug Applegate Comes out to Meet the Club

Doug Applegate, retired Marine Colonel and candidate for Congressional District 49 opposing Darrell Issa, stopped by the June monthly meeting to give us a “re-introduction” to his candidacy. He opened right up front with acknowledging “unless we get the veteran vote out we can’t win. Vets are the largest demographic in the 49th district after the male/female gender split.” Doug went on to explain how well he knows the military community. As a lawyer for 40 years including time as a Judge Advocate while in the military and after, a civilian trial lawyer, he has tried many court martials and other cases involving military members.

Doug grew up in a blue collar labor family and community in Dayton, Ohio. He indicated that his background makes him well able to communicate with and garner union endorsements. He gave a brief summary of what he sees as key issues. “The first thing we need is single payer health care,” he said. He went on to explain, “we don’t really have a health care system. We are delivering lower life expectancies at a high cost.” This is largely due to the fact that insurance companies make large profits, we don’t negotiate drug prices and we don’t effectively address Medicare fraud.

Regarding the economy he explained, “AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics will wipe out half the jobs in 20 years but we’re still educating our kids to the old economy”. He indicated he would like to see advanced education much earlier.

He was asked “Where do you see hope?” in the current situation. He explained that our checks and balances are working but we need to take back the House in 2018 and it starts with California. He sees hope in the intelligence agencies too. “They won’t let existential harm come to the country” he insisted. And the press has been playing and will continue to play a vital role in ensuring transparency and accountability too.

Immigrant Rights – Do You Know Where to Turn for Help?

As we hear more stories about ICE raids in San Diego that are breaking families apart, it was very informative to learn about the efforts of two important immigrant rights groups in San Diego County. At this month’s club meeting we were pleased to hear from Tazheen Nizam of the North County Immigration Task Force, and Katherine Paculba, Esq., Pro Bono Program Director with the Casa Cornelia Law Center.

First, Tazheen began with an introduction of the North County Immigration Task Force, a group of advocates, organizations, leaders and community members who work together to empower and voice the needs of the immigrant community, to advance immigrant rights in North County, San Diego. There are approximately 45 active members and all are volunteers. The group meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of every month. Their activities include a “Know Your Rights” campaign, voter registration work, lobbying in Sacramento, and Spanish citizen classes year round to mention just a few.

“This election was a can of worms”, Tazheen stated. The Muslim ban has resulted in refugees sent back to absolutely nothing in their own countries. There has been a 38% increase in border patrols roaming the Rt. 78/I5-15 corridors and kids are afraid to go to school for fear of returning home to find their parents have been deported, resulting in a drastic decrease in school attendance. “Fear is crippling the community” she explained, resulting now in a significant drop in reported crimes such as domestic violence. “Local collaboration with the police is a myth” she went on. ICE has often been called and people deported before they are even given due process or they are grabbed while out on bail.

Some of the key goals over the next few months include lobbying for passage of SB54, the California Values Act, which dissuades law enforcement from collaborating with ICE and SB29 which pushes for improving conditions in immigrant detention facilities. They will work hard to meet with legislators over the August recess. There has been a 37.6% increase in the number of detainees held in private detention facilities and this must be stopped.

After setting the context for what has been going on, Katherine gave an overview of the programs she manages at the Casa Cornelia Law Center, a non-profit organization that has been in North County for 25 years. They provide quality pro bono legal help to indigent victims of human and civil rights violations.

Katherine gave a great overview of the various means by which an immigrant can pursue entry into the United States. Those are Asylum, U-Visa, VAWA, T-Visa and SIJS. Asylum is for those who come to the border, and express a credible fear of returning to their own country as determined via a “credible fear interview”. There are no public defenders or help of any kind and the asylum seeker is on their own to make their asylum case.

Refugees and asylum seekers are similar. Both are people who are unwilling or unable to return to their homes for fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group (e.g. the LGBTQ community). Asylum is country specific and can only be pursued within one year of arrival at the border. If their case is not accepted then they are subject to “expedited removal”.

The U-Visa is for victims of a serious crime who are already here in the U.S. They must be a victim of qualifying criminal activity, have suffered substantial physical and/or mental abuse, have been helpful to law enforcement, and the crime must have occurred in the United States and the victim must be admissible to the U.S. This type of visa is a path to a green card/permanent residency status.

VAWA is Violence Against Women Act and is similar to the U-Visa described above. To qualify for this type of entry, the victim needs to have a relationship with an abusive US Citizen or an abusive green card holder, needs to show proof of the relationship (marriage certificate or birth certificate) and must be a “good faith marriage” – not just for immigration status. The victim must live or have lived with the abuser, must have suffered physical abuse or extreme cruelty and must be a person of good moral character.

The T-Visa is for victims of human trafficking and again, has significant requirements. They must have been a victim of sex trafficking or labor trafficking and are in the U.S. because of the trafficking; the victim must be willing to report the trafficking to law enforcement and is willing to cooperate with law enforcement and finally they have to show they would suffer hardship if forced to return to their home country.

Lastly there is SIJS or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for abused, abandoned, and/or neglected children. Requirements for SIJS status are that the child is present in the USA, is unmarried and is usually under 18 years of age and was abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents. Lastly they must show that it is not in child’s best interest to return to his or her country of origin. This program was used heavily a few years back when many unaccompanied minors showed up at the border but it has slowed down now.

The most unsettling fact Katherine shared with us is that the Department of Justice is now using an archaic law in an effort to block this kind of legal advocacy work. She described several examples in Chicago and Seattle where the lawyer who is taking up the case on behalf of the immigrant must pledge they will remain the victim’s lawyer until the end of the case. This can sometimes make it impractical or difficult for organizations like Casa Cornelia since they work only off donations and have a limited staff.

Those in attendance greatly appreciated the education as many of us are not subject to such fears. As Tazheen said, “We need educated allies like you” – the North County Immigration Task Force is planning a trip to detention facilities and travel across the border to see first hand how deportees live. You can follow them on their Facebook page at this link.