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Posts By Erwin de Leon
Erwin de Leon is a research associate at the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. He has co-authored reports on nonprofit government contracting and grants; community-based immigrant nonprofits; public education organizations; and alternative measures to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban and Public Policy at the New School.Links: http://www.urban.org/erwindeleon
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: October 22nd, 2013
Now that the government shutdown has ended and the debt limit lifted, President Obama has shifted his attention to immigration reform. He argues that it is imperative that the broken immigration system be fixed once and for all. Considering the bruising everyone just went through, it is hard to imagine lawmakers duking it out over another contentious issue.
Imagine that comprehensive immigration legislation does manage to clear Congress and the White House. Will systems be in place to handle the surge of immigrants who will be eligible for legalization? I cannot speak to the capacities of federal and state governments, but I can begin the conversation on the nonprofit infrastructure that helps immigrants integrate.
The U.S. Senate immigration reform bill that passed last June includes a path to citizenship for a vast majority of undocumented immigrants. The Congressional Budget Office estimates about 8 million will be eligible and apply for regularization of their status. The process will be long, arduous, and costly. But before they embark on this path, individuals will need, first and foremost, legal assistance in understanding the process and submitting applications.
Unauthorized immigrants, who are mostly low-income, will have few resources, if any at all, to secure the services of immigration attorneys. Many will turn to immigrant-serving nonprofits providing free legal information and advice. A new Urban Institute brief provides an outline of these organizations.
An analysis of data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics indicates at least 684 nonprofits provide some form of legal aid to immigrants. These providers are dispersed throughout the United States and can be found where immigrant communities have settled.
It appears, however, that there aren’t enough of them. In the 10 states with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants would have more people to serve than other nonprofits. For instance, in Texas, there is one nonprofit providing legal aid to immigrants for every 41,250 undocumented clients. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,916.
In the top 10 states with the largest percentage change in undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants potentially have a larger population to serve compared to other nonprofits. For instance, in Maryland, the ratio of nonprofits that provide legal aid to immigrants to potential undocumented clients in 1 to 27,500. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,182. Alabama is a stark case, where the two nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants could face an estimated 120,000 undocumented individuals.
This very high ratio of undocumented immigrants to potential sources of nonprofit legal aid should be a cause for concern. Adding thousands of new cases to existing caseloads without substantial infusion of resources—funding and staffing and volunteers—is not a realistic scenario.
The infrastructure for assisting undocumented immigrants with legal issues is very thin, compared to the projected needs. A concerted effort to assess capacity and plan for expansion is required. Further analysis will help identify where and how infrastructure and capacity can be built to prepare for comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime funders and other stakeholders can step up and support this research.
Filed under: People |Tags: immigrants, nonprofits, reform, Urban Institute 1 Comment »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: July 1st, 2013
The U.S. Senate's immigration reform bill has been characterized as historic. No doubt passing bipartisan legislation is nowadays, but we really should hold the balloons, confetti, and champagne for actual passage of reform through the obstructionist House. That being said, it’s worth going over what the hefty Senate bill holds, and Politico provides an excellent summary. Here are the highlights:
- Border security and enforcement has to be super-sized before undocumented immigrants can get green cards. Provisions include doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and completing 700 miles of fencing along the border we share with Mexico, as well as requiring all employers to verify workers’ legal status electronically.
- In the meantime, however, some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants can gain legal status or "registered provisional immigrant status" six months after enactment of the bill. The eligible ones are those who arrived prior to Dec. 31, 2011, and never left; do not have felony convictions or multiple misdemeanors; and pay hefty fines and back taxes. Individuals who were brought to the country as children would be able to get green cards sooner.
- More visas would be made available for highly educated and skilled foreign workers. Immigrants with "extraordinary abilities," such as professors, researchers, multinational executives, and athletes, would be exempted from existing green card limits. The Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which randomly awards 55,000 visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S., would be eliminated.
- Guest worker programs would be set up for low-skilled workers in agriculture, construction, long-term care, hospitality, and other industries. Farm workers already here illegally could qualify for green cards if they remain in the industry another five years.
- The family reunification program would be upended. U.S. citizens will no longer be able to sponsor their siblings and adult children.
Should some form of this bill somehow survive the House and make it to the president’s desk, it will be far more conservative and limited than it is now.
This post originally appeared on the author's personal blog, OP-e.
Illustration from Shutterstock.
Filed under: Government, People |Tags: border security, congress, house, immigration, immigration reform, politico, Senate, senate immigration bill, visas 1 Comment »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: June 20th, 2013
Senators, advocates, and other stakeholders in immigration reform have been dueling over border enforcement, federal benefits and entitlements, the pathway to citizenship, and even gay bi-national couples. The sparring will continue through the House of Representatives soon enough. In a post for Forbes, Howard Husock, vice president for policy research at the Manhattan Institute, correctly points out that missing from the debate has been the integration of millions of undocumented immigrants who will be eligible for legalization should reform pass.
Husock highlights a provision in the Senate Gang of Eight’s bill, which he argues is just as important as more controversial sections. He writes, “The proposed Office of New Americans, designed to encourage what used to be called assimilation (or, in the politically correct parlance of the bill, ‘integration’), will try to use a special commission, public foundation, and some federal assistance to help immigrants ‘join the mainstream of civic life’…there should be broad agreement in any bill that passes that we should seek an increase in the number of immigrants who speak English, and in the number who become citizens.”
Husock realizes that “there’s likely to be dispute about just what that means—and how much should be spent toward the goal,” but he believes that “finding effective ways to realize these goals are far from side issues. Helping to bring the latest—and, in sheer numbers, the largest ever—wave of immigrants into the cultural mainstream will be crucial in defusing what may be lingering anti-immigrant sentiment, even if reform legislation passes.” He contends, however, that government might not be the right agent for the job and that integration is best left to philanthropists and nonprofit organizations.
Indeed, an Urban Institute study of immigrant-serving community-based organizations documents why these nonprofits are best suited to help immigrants integrate into our economic, political, and social mainstream. They are embedded in immigrant communities, are founded and run by immigrants, and know the particular needs of their constituents along with the most effective way of reaching and assisting them.
But will foundations and philanthropists step up to the plate and give adequate funding to immigrant-serving nonprofits that will no doubt be inundated by individuals and families seeking legal and other support services? Adriana Kugler and Patrick Oakford, senior fellow and research assistant respectively, at the Center for American Progress, estimate about 85 percent of 10.6 million undocumented individuals will be eligible for legalization. Community-based organizations are already stretched to the limit as it is. The current version of the Senate bill does include a provision authorizing about $50 million in grants to nonprofits that assist eligible immigrants through the process, but this will most likely be stricken out as the debate continues.
Experts from all sides have made projections about how much immigration reform might cost, even though the details are in flux and passage of legislation is not guaranteed. The CBO just released its own estimates. Nonetheless, we need to factor in how much it would cost immigrant-serving nonprofits, and the philanthropic class had better be ready to loosen their purse strings.
This is an updated version of a Nonprofit Quarterly’s Newswire post.
Immigration photo from Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com
Filed under: Government |Tags: GOP, immigration, MetroTrends, Obama, reform, Senate, Urban Institute 1 Comment »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: April 19th, 2013
The Senate’s “Gang of Eight” released details of its immigration reform legislation Tuesday, so we have updated our earlier infographic comparing the White House’s immigration blueprint to the Senate bill.
The president and the senators are, for the most part, in sync. But differences over a few key provisions will have advocates from all corners lobbying for their constituencies and will make for an interesting debate moving forward.
The President prioritizes an immediate path to citizenship, while the Senate focuses first on secure borders and successful enforcement. Under both plans, it will take eligible immigrants the same amount of time—at least 13 years—to become U.S. citizens. The Senate bill cuts the number of family visas, which is of grave concern to immigrant advocates. It also repeals diversity visa programs. The President’s proposal includes LGBT families
The House of Representatives should offer their own bill shortly. It will most likely have the same contours.
Filed under: Government |Tags: GOP, immigration, MetroTrends, Obama, reform, Senate, Urban Institute 3 Comments »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: March 26th, 2013
Photo by Simona Combi, Urban Institute
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two landmark gay rights cases. At issue in Hollingsworth v. Perry is the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 banning same-gender marriage, while in United States v. Windsor, at issue is whether Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law for all citizens.
DOMA’s Section 3 limits marriages to those between a woman and a man. This means that lesbians and gays legally married in states that allow same-sex marriage are denied the 1,138 federal benefits, rights, and privileges enjoyed by couples whose marriages are recognized by the federal government. To date, gay marriage has been recognized in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, the Coquille Tribe (Oregon), the Suquamish Tribe (Washington), and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (Michigan), but lesbian and gay couples legally married in these states and jurisdictions are not treated equally under federal law.
In 2009, the Tax Policy Center and the Williams Institute held a panel discussion called “The Higher Cost of Being Gay: Life, Death, and Taxes.” As Howard Gleckman wrote,
when it comes to federal taxes the question is not whether you are gay or straight, but whether or not you are married. Depending on the relative income of each spouse, married couples either enjoy a marriage bonus or suffer a marriage penalty. Of course, heterosexuals can choose to marry or not and live with the tax consequences. Gays and lesbians have no such option. Even though a handful of states now recognize gay marriage, for federal tax purposes their marital status is irrelevant.
In short, it costs to be born and married gay. And it’s not just the tax code. Gay couples are denied Social Security, inheritance (i.e., estate tax and retirement savings), and health care benefits taken for granted by their straight counterparts. A few years back, the New York Times estimated the lifetime penalty for a gay couple. In the best case scenario, it would be about $30,000. In the worst case, it comes out to well over $200,000.
Filed under: People 1 Comment »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: March 7th, 2013
Two girls at the U.S.-Mexico Border crossing. Photo by Flickr user Bosquet, used under a Creative Commons License (cc-by-sa 2.0)
Here’s what the scaremongers think they know about sequestration and immigration: that hundreds of undocumented criminal aliens will be let loose and hundreds more will swarm through our unsecured borders, steal American jobs, and abuse our welfare system. Setting aside the facts that many being released from detention are guilty of only minor infractions, that net migration from Mexico is practically nonexistent, and that immigrants give more than they take, the vast majority of immigrants in the United States are legal permanent residents or naturalized citizens. These nearly 30 million people will certainly be set back by meat cleaver–like sequestration cuts. And that should be of concern to all of us.
One federal program for which immigrants are eligible is Head Start, which offers competitive grants for comprehensive early childhood services for low-income children and families. Under sequestration, Head Start funds will be cut by as much as $622 million, which translates to over 96,000 fewer children served.
The automatic cuts to education, however, will have ripple effects throughout the economy. Children of immigrants are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. According to an Urban Institute study, they account for nearly the entire growth in the country’s child population during the past two decades. As of 2010, one in four children in the United States lives in an immigrant family.
This considerable demographic shift will have major social, political, and economic implications for the country. In less than a decade, today’s immigrant children will make up a large proportion of new workers, taxpayers, and voters who will bear the responsibility of supporting aging baby boomers. It is crucial, then, to provide quality education for these children.
A functional and successful public education system can help secure economic and social parity for immigrant children and their families by giving students a solid foundation for higher education and subsequent gainful employment. This in turn can promote intergenerational mobility for immigrant groups. Ultimately, better mobility means a more productive economy and much-needed revenue for the government.
Poorly funded public schools can widen existing economic and social gaps between racial and ethnic groups and between haves and have-nots by denying disadvantaged students the educational foundation they need to progress. Educating immigrant children, however, is and will be daunting for public schools due to the schools’ diminished capacities and increased accountability burdens coupled with the linguistic and cultural challenges unique to immigrant students.
English proficiency is a significant barrier. Two in five immigrant children are English language learners, and three in four live in households where no one older than 13 speaks English proficiently. In addition, many immigrants have limited financial resources. Children in immigrant families make up close to a third of the nation’s poor children and a similar proportion of the nation’s low-income children. Five in ten immigrant children live in low-income families, compared with four in ten native-born children.
This tenuous situation will be exacerbated by cuts in discretionary spending for federal education programs. Title I grants to local education agencies—a cornerstone program designed to help all students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, meet high academic standards—are to be slashed by a whopping $1.1 billion. This will leave 1.8 million fewer students served, among whom are hundreds of thousands of immigrant children. English language acquisition state grants, which help English language learners and recent immigrant students learn English and become proficient in academic content standards, are to be cut by over $57 million, resulting in over 350,000 fewer immigrant students assisted.
Coupled with state budget shortfalls (which can only worsen when the federal cuts kick in), sequestration will set immigrant children and their families further back. If so much of our future workforce falls behind now, all of us will face the consequences in the not-too-distant future.
Filed under: Economy, People 2 Comments »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: February 25th, 2013
In a few days, sequestration hits unless Congress and the White House agree on an alternative to $85 billion in automatic spending cuts. Thousands of human service organizations would be affected, along with the communities, families, and individuals that depend heavily on nonprofit programs and services.
An Urban Institute national survey of human service organizations determined that in 2009, over 30,000 nonprofits had about 200,000 contracts and grants from federal, state, and local governments amounting to $100 billion. Government funding accounted for over 65 percent of the total revenue of organizations surveyed. Sixty percent of nonprofits said government contracts and grants were their largest funding source.
Among nonprofits that consider government contracts and grants as their largest source of revenue, 4 in 10 medium to large organizations (those with budgets over $250,000 a year), and 3 in 10 small nonprofits reported the federal government as their largest funder. Four in 10 of all human service organizations also said state governments, which act as conduits for federal monies, were their largest revenue source.
Sequestration would damage human service organizations that contract with the government. A report from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies warns that automatic cuts on nondefense programs “would have destructive impacts on the whole array of federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country—everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security, and safe air travel.”
Head Start, for instance, which provides grants for early childhood services for low-income families, stands to lose close to $622 million, which would result in 96,179 fewer children served. The Community Services Block Grant, which funds 1,100 community action agencies that offer crucial services to low-income families and individuals, is slated to lose over $677 million, which could lead to 1.5 million fewer individuals assisted.
During the Great Recession, human services organizations’ revenue from all sources, including governments, fell. In 2009, nonprofits resorted to various cutbacks including freezing or reducing employee salaries, drawing on reserves, and laying off employees. Some took drastic steps such as cutting back on programs and services and serving fewer people.
Should sequestration be allowed to take effect, human service nonprofits would lose billions of dollars in government funding and might have to make difficult choices, such as laying off much-needed staff, or worse, ending programs and serving far fewer clients. Ultimately, individuals and families who are just starting to recover from the economic downturn would suffer.
Filed under: Economy, Government 4 Comments »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: January 31st, 2013
Correction: An earlier version of this chart incorrectly labeled parts of the two proposals.The chart has been updated to reflect the two proposals accurately.
The president and Senate “gang of eight” introduced their proposals for comprehensive immigration reform this week. Both agree on key principles revolving around enforcement, employment, a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, and solutions for problems plaguing the system. Several differences remain, however, as shown in the table below.
Surprisingly, a key sticking point is no longer the fate of the estimated 11 million plus undocumented immigrants, but that of lesbian and gay binational couples and their families, who number less than 30,000. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not able to sponsor their same-gender foreign-born partners and spouses, unlike their heterosexual counterparts. Conservatives in Congress warn against including an LGBT-inclusive provision in any comprehensive immigration legislation.
While the administration and GOP leadership appear committed to passing a bill this year, there are no guarantees about what form it will take.
Filed under: Government 6 Comments »
Erwin de Leon
| Posted: December 4th, 2012
Better data is the key to understanding the diverse and often ignored population of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) living in the United States, according to the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. Last week, the Council—a coalition of 30 AANHPI organizations—gave a briefing to Urban Institute researchers about policy issues salient to the community. They also suggested research specific to AANHPIs, the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States.
Over 18.5 million AANHPIs live in the United States, representing 6 percent of the total population. They originate from more than 30 countries and speak over 100 languages and, yet, are often treated as one monolithic group. Individuals in this community are often cast as the Asian American “model minority:” highly educated, affluent, hard working, and self-sufficient, a constituency that has no need for government assistance. Moreover, its smaller size compared with the Latino and African American communities renders AANHPIs virtually invisible or ignored in the policymaking process and ultimately, in the allocation of resources.
Council presenters sought to dispel the myth and put the spotlight on economic, employment, housing, healthcare, education, civil rights, and immigration issues for AANHPIs. They argued that there is a general lack of data about Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. When research is conducted, the information gathered is not disaggregated, thereby painting an inaccurate picture of the various ethnic groups that comprise the population. This stymies policy initiatives beneficial to AANHPIs and their families, resulting in little to no access to benefits and resources.
Taken together, for example, only 14 percent of AANHPIs experienced job loss since 2008, meaning they fared better than most Americans. When the data is broken down however, we learn that not all AANHPIs had the same experience. Seventeen percent of Chinese and 20 percent of Hmong experienced job loss since 2008; and close to a quarter of Cambodians lost their jobs.
Researchers interested in communities of color, and Asian Americans in particular, need to find ways to collect representative and adequate data on the various subgroups that comprise the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community. They need to ensure that data is disaggregated when presented, especially to policymakers, in order for the disparate needs of the communities to be addressed.
Additional information on AANHPI policy issues and recommendations can be found in NCAPA’S 2012 Policy Platform.
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