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Accurate Tax History Crucial for Hispanics’ Health Care and Immigration Futures

February 26, 2014 by  

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WASHINGTON – For many Hispanics, barriers such as language, fraud and misinformation lead the list of complications they face when it comes to filing their tax return, which is a critical tool for healthcare eligibility and impending immigration reforms. To help address Spanish-speaking taxpayers’ needs for trustworthy and credible help, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) expanded its outreach and educational campaign in partnership with H&R Block, the world’s largest consumer tax services provider.

As part of “Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor” (Prepare Yourself for a Better Future), nearly 200 free tax education workshops will be held in 18 markets nationwide. These workshops emphasize the importance of building an accurate tax history, provide insight on how to protect against fraud and misinformation in the tax preparation process, and outline how to meet some important requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and potential immigration rule changes.

“This campaign has helped tens of thousands of Hispanics with concerns about immigration status, past experiences with fraud and inadequate tax preparation,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF. “With the rapid expansion of the Hispanic population, it is essential to provide accurate information and access to bilingual, professional tax experts to successfully navigate the United States tax system. With a better understanding of the filing process, we can strengthen our families, communities and nation.”

While there have been many barriers for Hispanics, the Affordable Care Act provides a new incentive for tackling those challenges. Many people who do not have health insurance may be able to receive a subsidy to help with the cost based on their household income and family size. Eligibility for assistance can be determined from an individual’s tax return, which can also streamline the insurance plan enrollment process with a health insurance exchange. With the individual mandate requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance, a key component of the Affordable Care Act is the health insurance exchange — a marketplace where consumers can shop for a health insurance plan.

“Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country,” said Arce. “While the first step for everyone is to make sure your taxes are in order, for many Hispanics there is a steep learning curve. Not only are we providing education on the tax process, but also on why health insurance is important and how the system operates as a whole.”

In regards to immigration reform, it is expected that both political parties will support a reconciliation of unpaid taxes as a prerequisite on any path to legal residency or citizenship. While plan details are still being discussed, it would likely require individuals to submit tax documentation for multiple years – an individual will need to provide an accurate tax history as part of the application process.

Since 2010, HAF has held over 700 workshops in more than 600 churches and community spaces nationwide. The 2014 campaign will feature workshops through March and another series in the fall.  A complete list of workshop dates and locations is available at www.pormifuturo.org.

Taxes Key for Latinos on Health Care, Immigration Future

February 21, 2013 by  

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Huffington Post

By: Maite Arce

For Latinos, the 2012 tax return presents significant opportunity. In fact, the potential impact of key legislative changes for the nation’s fastest growing population is unprecedented.

Starting in 2014, many people — not just Latinos — who do not have health insurance may be able to receive a subsidy based on their household income and family size to help with the cost. Eligibility for assistance can be determined from an individual’s 2012 tax return, which can also streamline the insurance plan enrollment process with a health insurance exchange. With the individual mandate requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance in 2014, a key component of Affordable Care Act is the health insurance exchange — a marketplace where consumers can shop for a health insurance plan.

Latinos are by far the least insured demographic in the nation. For 2011, the U.S. Census estimated that 30.1 of Latinos are uninsured, compared to just 11.1 percent of whites. This lack of coverage is compounded by the fact that Latinos are 165 percent more likely to live in areas where environmental concerns can lead to greater health complications, according to the American Lung Society.

As for immigration reform, it is expected that both political parties will support a reconciliation of unpaid taxes as a prerequisite on the path to citizenship or legal residency. While plan details are still being discussed, it will likely require individuals to submit tax documentation for multiple years — an individual will need to provide an accurate tax history as part of the application process.

Unauthorized Latinos have long been chided for not filing taxes. But what is often overlooked is that state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households headed by unauthorized immigrants totaled $11.2 billion, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.

For the majority of Latinos, however, it’s not a question of not wanting to pay taxes (many do!) but rather a lack of understanding, not having an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), concern about immigration status or fear of the process. In fact, many Latinos who we meet have paid into the system for years, but never filed taxes.

In several of the countries from which our Latino immigrants come, the tax system is a wholly different process or not even enforced at all. Others have worked with unskilled tax preparers who miss even the most obvious deductions or those who add fraudulent deductions to inflate returns. Language barriers only exacerbate these issues.

This is why our campaign, “Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor (Prepare for a Better Future),” to educate Latinos on the U.S. tax system has been so successful. This tax season we will hold over 150 free tax seminars in coordination with Latino faith leaders as partners within the community and provide access to bilingual tax experts. Since 2010, we’ve provided tax education and information to over 50,000 Latinos. Our emphasis is on the importance of building an accurate tax history and being a good contributor.

By looking at future economic factors, the importance of this education becomes evident. Latino buying power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion in 2015, according to a recent Nielsen report. The U.S. Census estimated that there are more than 2.3 million Latino business owners contributing more than $350 billion to the nation’s economy.

Furthermore, the Latino population is expected to double to 100 million by 2050, and tax contributions will grow along with it. Affordable health care and immigration acceptance may be incentives for Latinos to file taxes, but the benefit will help our nation’s tax income grow and improve the lives of many.

 

DREAMers Happy About DHS Announcement

June 15, 2012 by  

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Source: Immigrantimpact.com

The Obama administration announced today that it will offer indefinite reprieves from deportation for young immigrants who were brought to the country as minors and meet other specific requirements.

The move, hailed by immigration advocates as a bold response to the broken immigration system, temporarily eliminates the possibility of deportation for youths who would qualify for relief under the DREAM Act, giving Congress the space needed to craft a bipartisan solution that gives permanent residence to qualifying young people.

In a statement from the White House, President Obama said the policy was “the right thing to do,” calling DREAMers “Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every way but one: on paper.”

According to a memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security, immigrants may apply for a two-year renewable grant of “deferred action” if they entered the United States before age 16; are younger than 30; have lived continuously in the United States for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor; and are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. Although not granted lawful immigration status, recipients will be able to obtain work permits under existing regulations.

Today’s memo, issued by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, comes almost exactly one year after the release of a memo from ICE Director John Morton setting forth an extensive list of factors for agents to consider when exercising prosecutorial discretion. The so-called “Morton memo” was initially hailed by immigrant advocates, who believed it would prevent the removal of foreign nationals who would have qualified for relief under the DREAM Act. Calls for bolder executive action grew stronger, however, after an ongoing review of pending removal cases yielded disappointing results and examples continued to surface of immigrants being denied prosecutorial discretion despite compelling circumstances.

Although not defined under federal regulations, deferred action has long been used by U.S. presidents to prevent the removal of immigrants for humanitarian reasons. Contrary to some headlines, immigrants who are granted deferred action—which can be revoked without notice at any time—will not receive “immunity” from removal. In addition, although they will be permitted to apply for work permits, immigrants who receive deferred action will not receive green cards or any other lawful immigration status, will not be permitted to sponsor family members, and may be unable to travel abroad.

According to the memo and a Q&A released by the administration, immigrants who are not currently in removal proceedings will have to submit applications demonstrating their eligibility for deferred action. Meanwhile, immigrants who are currently in removal proceedings will be eligible for deferred action, even if they previously declined an offer of “administrative closure” under the ongoing case review process. Although eligibility determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, administration officials said that immigrants who satisfy the criteria in the memo should presumptively be granted deferred action.

Secretary Napolitano’s memo comes two weeks after nearly 100 law professors sent a letter to President Obama outlining his authority to provide temporary relief from deportation. The announcement also comes on the thirtieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, which held that states cannot exclude undocumented schoolchildren from elementary and secondary schools.

Arizona Sheriff Violates Latinos’ Civil Rights

December 16, 2011 by  

Targeting innocent Latinos for detention and arrest. Stopping Latino drivers without reasonable suspicion. Forcing Spanish-speaking inmates to speak English to make requests. Throwing inmates into solitary confinement for not understanding commands given in English.

Racial profiling.

For these reasons and more, the Justice Department issued a report on Thursday accusing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Arizona office of widespread discrimination against Hispanics.

AP Photo

The Justice Department’s 22-page report comes after a three-year investigation of Arpaio’s office. It describes “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos at MSCO that reaches the highest levels of the agency.”

The civil rights division of the Justice Department interviewed more than 400 inmates, deputies and others as part of the review.

Here are some of the latest details released by the Justice Department and the media:

  • Latino drivers were four to five times more likely to be stopped in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, than non-Latino drivers.
  • Roughly one-fifth of traffic-related incident reports contained information showing that stops may have violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures.
  • In a number of instances, the office acted on immigration-related crime suppression activities. But the complaints that initiated the enforcement described no actual criminal activity. Instead, complaints referred to people with “dark skin” gathering in one area, or people speaking Spanish at a local business.
  • Detention officers punish Latino inmates with limited English proficiency by locking down their cells or imposing solitary confinement when they don’t understand English commands.
  • Detention officers refuse to accept forms completed in Spanish when inmates have limited English proficiency. Forms include requests for daily services and forms allowing inmates to report mistreatment.
  • Detention officers use racial slurs and profanities against Hispanics in Arpaio’s jail.
  • MCSO treats all Latinos as if they are undocumented, even if there is no basis for suspecting that a person is undocumented.
  • Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez told reporters on Thursday that the department is also “reviewing allegations that MSCO may have failed to investigate a large number of sex crimes.” There are reports of 432 cases of sexual assault and child molestation, many involving Latino victims, that may have not been properly investigated.

Arpaio has been called “America’s toughest sheriff” because of his strict law enforcement tactics. He worked for the Justice Department for 28 years as a law enforcement official and is a former agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

At a news conference on Thursday, reporters asked Arpaio whether he cared about the Latino community.

“I do have compassion, but enforcing the law overrides my compassion,” he said.

As a result of the report, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the federal government will no longer allow the sheriff’s deputies to check the immigration status of inmates in their custody.

This is an issue that greatly affects our community. Thanks to the following sources for covering this story, and thank you to the U.S. Justice Department.

Please visit these links to learn more:

U.S. Finds Pervasive Bias Against Latinos by Arizona Sheriff

Ariz. sheriff illegally discriminated against Hispanics, Justice Dept. alleges

Arizona sheriff rebuts federal allegations of discrimination against Latinos

Joe Arpaio, Arizona Sheriff, Violated Civil Rights According to Justice Department Report

Illegal Immigration Backlash Worries, Divides Latinos

October 28, 2010 by  

The national political backlash against illegal immigration has created new divisions among Latinos and heightened their concerns about discrimination against members of their ethnic group–including those who were born in the United States or who immigrated legally.

About four-in-five of the nation’s estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants are of Hispanic origin. A new national survey finds that Latinos are divided over what to do with these immigrants. A small majority says unauthorized immigrants should pay a fine but not be deported, while a small minority says they should be deported and a larger minority says they should not be punished. Hispanics are also divided about the impact of illegal immigration on Hispanics already living in the U.S. Some 29% say the impact has been positive, down from 50% who said the same in 2007.

Today, more than six-in-ten (61%) Latinos say that discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem,” up from 54% who said that in 2007. Asked to state the most important factor leading to discrimination, a plurality of 36% now cites immigration status, up from a minority of 23% who said the same in 2007. Back then, a plurality of respondents–46%–identified language skills as the biggest cause of discrimination against Hispanics.

Despite rising concerns about discrimination against Latinos, the new survey finds no increase over the past year in the share of Latinos who report that they or someone they know have been targets of discrimination. And the survey finds a decrease in the share of Latinos who say they have been stopped by the authorities and asked about their immigration status.

While the survey finds differences among Latinos on several questions related to illegal immigration, it also finds many points of broad agreement.

  • Fully 86% of Latinos support providing a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants if they pass background checks, pay a fine and have jobs.
  • On birthright citizenship, nearly eight-in-ten (78%) say the Constitution should be left as is.
  • When it comes to who should enforce the nation’s immigration laws, more than three-quarters (77%) of Latinos say it should be the exclusive responsibility of federal authorities.
  • The vast majority of Latinos–79%–disapprove of the first-of-its-kind Arizona law enacted this year that gives police broad powers to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons whom they suspect may be in this country illegally.

These and many other findings emerge from a national survey of 1,375 Latino adults conducted by landline and cellular telephone, in English and Spanish, from August 17 through September 19, 2010 by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

The report, “Illegal Immigration Backlash Worries, Divides Latinos,” authored by Mark Hugo Lopez, Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center, Rich Morin, Senior Editor, Pew Research Center, and Paul Taylor, Director, Pew Hispanic Center, is available at the Pew Hispanic Center’s website,www.pewhispanic.org.

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