NEW REPORT: Six States Lead in Supporting Immigrant Families – Next100
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NEW REPORT: Six States Lead in Supporting Immigrant Families

Across 15 key policies on education, health care, livelihood, and safety, the majority of states (28) rarely support undocumented or mixed-status families, according to a new report and interactive policy database released today.

For Immediate Release: February 17, 2021
Contact: Jenn Clark, [email protected], 704.975.8718

New 50-state analysis rates how supportive each state is of immigrant families across 15 policies

Companion report elevates the voices of immigrant parents and outlines policy recommendations for more supportive state policies

Release event (2/17 at 3PM ET) will feature remarks from Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX)

New York, NY — Across 15 key policies on education, health care, livelihood, and safety, the majority of states (28) rarely support undocumented or mixed-status families, according to a new report and interactive policy database released today by Next100, a start-up think tank by and for the next generation of policy leaders. A companion report features the perspectives of immigrant parents and outlines recommendations for policies that would improve the ability of each state’s immigrant communities to thrive.

Just six states—California, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Washington, and New Jersey—and D.C. have implemented half or more of the tracked policies, while Louisiana and Georgia are the least supportive states, offering no policy protections to these families. The most commonly implemented supportive policies include providing in-state tuition for higher education (available in 22 states), health coverage for pregnant women (available in 17 states), and access to state driver licenses (available in 17 states). During the COVID-19 pandemic, eight states and D.C. extended emergency support to immigrants who had been excluded under federal legislation, and 28 states and D.C. ensured that pandemic food benefits to replace school meals reached all children in need, including immigrant children.

“The experiences and policies detailed in our project can provide state policymakers with a roadmap to chart a better path forward on supporting their immigrant communities,” said Rosario Quiroz Villarreal, policy entrepreneur on immigration and education at Next100 and the project’s lead researcher. “The long wait for federal action has harmed immigrant families and each state can and must take action now to ensure that their entire population, including all immigrants, can contribute to their fullest potential. While there is a lot of work to be done, some states are charting an encouraging path towards a future that includes all of us.”

The companion report, Our Voices, Our Policies: Recommendations of Immigrant Parents, written in partnership with Haitian Bridge Alliance and ImmSchools, was based on a series of focus groups with 30 immigrant parents, who are either undocumented or have immediately family members who are, and are residents of one of the four states with the largest immigrant communities: California, Florida, New York, and Texas. These parents, originally from Haiti, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador, provided insight on improving access to education, healthcare, livelihood, and safety.

From the anti-Black policies that underlie the disproportionate deportation of Haitian immigrants to the inequities baked into the public education system, the voices of immigrant parents highlighted in the report show the impact of state policy on the everyday lives of immigrant families.

“It is critical to recognize immigrant diversity, especially as we continue to witness the mass deportation of Haitian immigrants under the past and current Administrations. As our country takes overdue steps towards racial justice, we must consider how justice for immigrants can include uprooting anti-Blackness,” said Guerline Jozef, executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance and co-author of the report. “This report shows why we are stronger together. Until Black immigrants are included and centered in policy decisions, we will not realize the American dream that continues to motivate so many immigrants. ”

“While our education system is the only institution where undocumented students are legally protected under federal law, fewer than one percent of school districts have passed and are implementing immigrant-friendly and inclusive practices,” explained Lorena Tule-Romain, chief strategy officer of ImmSchools and partner on the report. “Inaction paired with uninformed and unprepared educators makes schools unsafe for the more than 4 million students who are undocumented or have an undocumented parent. States can do more to provide clear guidance to schools so that we can uphold our promise to support each student’s opportunity to thrive and receive an equitable education.”

The report outlines recommendations for supportive state policies for immigrant families, which include:

In the area of Education, states must do the following:

  • Invest in developing a culturally, linguistically, and racially diverse educator workforce with access to educator preparation and professional development programs that prepare educators to better serve the children of immigrants and immigrant children.
  • Dismantle the barriers to higher education for undocumented youth by providing tuition equity and in-state financial aid to immigrant youth, and ensuring high school educators are prepared to support students in understanding their higher education and financial aid options, regardless of immigration status.
  • Expand access to professional licensure and certification to qualified applicants regardless of immigration status.
  • Prioritize and protect funding to address the unique challenges faced by vulnerable students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including English learners and children of immigrant backgrounds.

In the area of Health Care, states must do the following:

  • Make health care coverage, including both physical and mental health supports, accessible to every adult and child regardless of immigration status.
  • Require that health care providers receive training on how mixed-status and undocumented families can access health benefits and how federal policies, such as the public charge rule, affect access, and launch public information campaigns in immigrant communities to ensure individuals have accurate information about health care access.
  • Mandate that seeking care for any COVID-19 related illness or condition be covered under emergency Medicaid, and ensure the COVID-19 vaccine is available—and free—to all individuals regardless of immigration status.

In the area of Livelihood, states must do the following:

  • Protect all workers, regardless of immigration status, from workplace discrimination and wage theft.
  • Make driver licenses and state identifications available to their residents regardless of their immigration status, and ensure the privacy of license and ID holders is fully protected.
  • Support expanded access to financial and banking services for individuals, regardless of immigration status.
  • Remove requirements that mandate employer use of E-Verify and limit voluntary employer use of the program.
  • Ensure any pandemic relief programs and emergency economic support include all residents, regardless of immigration status, and ensure providers understand eligibility requirements and do not create unnecessary barriers to access.

In the area of Safety, states must do the following:

  • Implement universal legal representation programs to ensure immigrants have access to a lawyer in immigration courts.
  • Prohibit local law enforcement from partnering with federal immigration enforcement entities, and protect immigrants’ privacy by prohibiting law enforcement from questioning individuals about immigration status or sharing data with immigration enforcement.
  • Ensure misdemeanor sentencing laws do not result in disparate punishment for immigrants.
  • Issue a moratorium on ICE transfers during the pandemic, while also requiring local law enforcement to reject ICE detainer requests and instead release people to their homes and families, which would slow the quick spread of the virus in detention facilities.

Beyond this set of current policies, states should establish a policymaking process that includes and prioritizes immigrant families’ needs in future policy decisions. As states have wide-ranging control over the well-being of immigrants across multiple areas of their lives, states should create a cross-cutting policymaking infrastructure that accomplishes the following:

  • Establishes a formal state-level office for immigrant priorities that works across state agencies to ensure immigrants’ needs and priorities, regardless of immigration status, are consistently being considered and supported, while also providing a vehicle for immigrants to report or address instances of discrimination without fear of retaliation.
  • Equips racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse immigrant community members to participate in policymaking through formal government systems, such as advisory boards, to provide feedback, make recommendations, and evaluate state policies and programs that impact immigrant families.
  • Centers racial justice in public safety by investing in community-based public safety solutions that protect Black and Brown communities and doing away with state participation in crimmigration practices that disproportionately impact Black immigrants.
  • Enables language and geographic accessibility for all immigrants by making multilingual resources and an interpretation hotline available to residents and ensuring hard to reach communities and rural areas have access to programs and accurate information.

RELEASE EVENT: FEBRUARY 17 at 3PM ET

Findings from the project, Embracing Our Strengths: How to Support Immigrants in Every U.S. State, will be presented at a virtual event today, February 17, 2021, at 3 PM ET, featuring remarks from Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX). The event will be simultaneously interpreted in Haitian Creole and in Spanish thanks to Respond: Crisis Translation. Register online. A recording will be available after the event.

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Next100 is a startup think tank for and by the next generation of policy leaders, powered by The Century Foundation, a leading progressive think tank. Next100 is working to change the face and future of progressive policy, and to build a more inclusive, equal, and just America.

About the Author

Portrait of Rosario Villarreal, she has straight black hair, tortoise shell glasses, and a wide smile.
Rosario Quiroz Villarreal Education & Early Years

Rosario Quiroz Villarreal is an advocate for immigrants and students. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant, Rosario understood that her parents made sacrifices in moving to a new country in order to secure better opportunities for the future. At Next100, Rosario focuses on protecting the rights and access to education of immigrant students, creating more culturally inclusive classrooms, and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.

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