Emerge California Annual Event

by Carla Hansen

Emerge California is a non-profit organization that identifies and trains Democratic women to run for office, get elected and seek higher office. Noteworthy program alumnae include Rebecca Saltzmen, BART Board Representative District 3, London Breed, SF Board of Supervisors District 5 and Beatriz Leyva Culter, Berkeley School Board.

Each year Emerge honors a Woman of the Year. The 2013 honoree is United States Senator Barbara Boxer (who is also the keynote speaker at the event).

ECDC member Carla Hansen (Emerge Class of 2013) invites all Club members to attend the Annual Event and enjoy a great speaker, great sustenance and a beautiful venue on May 2nd. Here are the details:

• When: Thursday, May 2nd
• Where: San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco 94102. Accessible by BART- SF Civic Center Station
• What time: 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

To purchase tickets: www.emergeca.org/events/annual-event-2013

For more information please contact Carla at (510) 375-4265 or carlaahansen13@gmail.com

Immigration Reform

by Carla Hansen

Immigration reform is slowly stumbling its way through two bipartisan groups in the House and Senate. President Obama expects actual legislation sometime in April. This progress and aggressive time line creates hope for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States, as well as a huge line of persons waiting to get visas or full citizenship.

President Obama and a bipartisan group of Senators known as “the Gang of Eight” have offered “pillars” of immigration reform or an over arching policyframework that a future bill will include. The House of Representatives bipartisan group is also working on legislation, but it hasn’t released anything specific yet.

The Gang of Eight, which includes Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York, John McCain of Arizona, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Marco Rubio of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, provided a fairly detailed framework for what a Senate immigration reform bill might look like. In preparation for the April 23rd Club meeting here’s an overview of that framework:

The four basic pillars include:
I. Creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here that is contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays

  • Increasing Border Patrol’s personnel, improving surveillance equipment, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and other infrastructure
  • Strengthening prohibitions against racial profiling and other inappropriate uses of force
  • Creating an entry-exit system that tracks all persons entering the US on temporary visas through sea and airports.
  • Developing a committee of southwest border state representatives to ensure security measures are implemented
  • Requiring all persons who came or remain in the US to register with the government, pass background checks, and settle any debts to society in order to earn probationary legal status
  • Requiring individuals who have earned a probationary legal to go to the “back of the line” of prospective immigrants, pass additional background checks, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate history of work in US in order to apply for a lawful permanent residency. Then, the individual will “eventually” get a green card
  •  Ensuring those who are present without lawful status will only receive a green card after all those in line have received one—This does not apply to immigrants who entered the US as minors or those who have been working for the agricultural industry.

II. Improving our legal Immigration System and attracting the world’s best and brightest

  • The broken immigration system discourages the “best and brightest” and “well-meaning” immigrants from coming to the US and created a backlog of visas thus incentivizing illegal immigration
  • Any reform must reduce backlogs, and provide family and employment visas
  • Any reform must reward immigrants who have earned PhD’s or Master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math from an American University.

III. Strong employment verification

  • Because immigrants almost always come to the US for jobs, an employment verification system must hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and make it harder for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment
  • Provide a fast and reliable method for US employers to verify applicant’s status and prevent identity theft through non forgeable electronic means prior to offering employment

IV. Admitting new workers and protecting workers rights

  • Provide business the ability to hire lower-skilled workers in a timely manner when Americans are unavailable or unwilling to fill those jobs
  • Employers must demonstrate that they were unsuccessful in recruiting Americans to fill an open position and that an immigrant will not displace an American worker
  • Create a workable program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry when American’s are not available to fill open positions
  • Allow more immigrants to come to the US when the economy is creating jobs and less when it is not creating jobs
  • Ensure labor protection for workers
  • Permit workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years to earn green cards

In contrast, the House of Representatives offer three distinct paths to citizenship. According to a recent New York Times article published April 2nd, a House bill will “most likely” feature the following:

  • Young immigrants or “dreamers” and low-skilled agricultural workers would qualify to be expedited through the process of becoming “legal”
  • Immigrants who have a family or an employment relationship here in the US would be allowed to apply for a legal permanent residency instead of being forced
    to return home for three to 10 years before being eligible to apply. The House bill would “relax or waive” the current process if immigrants pay back taxes or learn
  • Other immigrants must pay fines and back taxes, learn English and apply for a “provisional legal status.” Then after 10 years, they will be eligible to apply for a
    green card. After having a green card for five years, they can apply for citizenship

The two potential bills have many similarities that will hopefully create a less volatile bill blending process.

According to the article, the sticking point could be whether or not immigrants can receive State or Federal benefits during their “provisional status.”

On the employment side, an agreement was just reached by labor union representatives and business owners on how much a business should pay a “guest workers” or low-skilled undocumented immigrants (mostly working in the hotel, restaurant and construction industries) brought in during labor shortages. Guest workers will be paid the higher of the prevailing industry wage determined by the Labor Department or actual employer wage. Crane operator and electrician positions
were excluded from the guest worker visa program.

At this point, keeping track of all the current happenings around this topic may be more difficult that actually coming to a consensus on a new policy. Stay tuned. There’s never a dull moment in immigration reform.

California Needs a New Health Care System

by Al Miller

A report of the Health Care Committee, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club (www.wellstoneclub.org) provided information for this two part series of articles. Part two will appear in a future issue.

California legislators decided not to re-introduce a follow on bill to SB 810 this year while they focus on introducing the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the reforms in the ACA are improvements to the pre-ACA system, they do not result in a sustainable health care system for all Americans.

The 2010 federal health care reform will help many people pay for health insurance and rein in some of the worse abuses of health insurance companies. But it leaves wasteful, profit-driven insurance corporations in charge of our health care. California needs a universal, single-payer health care system like the California Universal Health Care Act (SB 810)!

Here are some reasons why:
We need a health care system that includes everybody.
SB 810 includes everyone in the state, regardless of age, health, employment, economic, or immigration status.

The ACA requires everyone to buy health insurance starting in 2014. But it excludes undocumented immigrants and exempts people who can’t afford insurance or who pay a fine. An estimated 8% of the population still won’t have insurance—going without needed care, and relying on expensive emergency rooms.

We need a plan that covers all of our medically necessary care.
SB 810 provides the same comprehensive coverage to everyone, rich or poor, old or young—all medically necessary care including doctor and hospital costs, prescription drugs, dental, vision, and mental health care, medical equipment, physical therapy, acupuncture, and more.

The ACA lists benefits that insurance companies have to cover. But it doesn’t include adult dental and vision care or―alternative treatments like acupuncture. And insurance companies’ priority is profits, so they have a stake in denying claims. You will still have to fight with them over claims they deny.

We need a system that controls costs for individuals and families.
SB 810 charges an affordable premium to employees and employers, on a sliding scale based on earnings. It eliminates co-pays and deductibles, as well as the insurance companies’ wasteful bureaucracy, staff to deny your claims, sky-high CEO salaries, and profits.

The ACA does not control increases in insurance premiums (which doubled in the last 10 years). Your out-of-pocket costs (deductibles and co-pays) will go up as health care costs go up, despite some controls. As premiums rise, many employers will charge employees more for insurance.

We need a system that lets us choose our doctors.
SB 810 creates one fund for the whole state, so the fund will pay the fee of any doctor or licensed health care provider in the state. That means you can choose any doctor who’s available.

Under the ACA, you have to buy insurance from a private company, so you can only go to the doctors it covers. If you change jobs or lose your job, you may end up with different insurance and have to change doctors.

Go to these sites for information about how you can help bring comprehensive, affordable health care to all Californians: