New ‘Public Charge Rule’ Will Harm Families and Communities While Obstructing Legal Immigration
October 8, 2018 — Heartland Alliance denounces the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to expand the definition of ‘public charge’ that would deny thousands of otherwise eligible immigrants a chance to build a life in the United States. Immigration officials use the ‘public charge’ test to determine whether an immigrant is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence but this test has historically been narrow in scope. The Administration’s move to expand this definition is nothing more than a vicious, thinly veiled move to limit legal immigration, punish those living in poverty, and stoke fear and confusion in immigrant communities.
“All individuals, whether immigrants or native born, should have access to benefits they are otherwise eligible for to feed their families, stay healthy, and provide safe shelter. It is cruel and inhumane to revoke an immigrant’s opportunity for permanent residency on account of their legal use of public benefits – and an injustice to penalize families on the tenuous grounds of likely future use of these benefits. This rule will essentially outlaw immigration by people with lower incomes and build an invisible wall around our country that will keep out and reject many aspiring immigrants of color,” said Evelyn Diaz, President of Heartland Alliance. “Many U.S. families access public benefits during times of crisis and go on to achieve economic success later in their lives. And immigrants are no different. This is yet another blatant attempt by this Administration to reduce legal immigration, the bedrock of this country, and we will oppose it at every turn.”
The notice of proposed rulemaking outlining the new rule instructs immigration officials to consider past use—or likely future use—of Medicaid, Medicare part D low-income support, SNAP, housing assistance, government-funded long-term care, or cash assistance to their determination if someone is a ‘public charge.’ Being deemed a ‘public charge’ could lead to the denial of a visa application, including a nonimmigrant visa or a green card to become a legal permanent resident.
Heartland Alliance has served immigrants coming to Chicago looking for a better life for 130 years. Immigration makes our nation stronger—it always has—and these unending attacks on immigrant families must stop now.
Visit our resource page to learn more and take action to #ProtectFamilies.
Keeping Children Safe – Our Statement
Heartland Alliance does not agree with separating children from their parents at the border. It is our moral obligation to keep children safe while they are in our care. Children and families who arrive at our borders are seeking safety. They are fleeing violence and unrest in their home countries. Heartland Alliance stands with them. And we ask you to stand with us. As a 130 year-old human rights organization, Heartland Alliance provides safety and services to those who are most vulnerable including refugees, asylees, immigrants, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable populations.
36 Illinois Groups Support New Payday Loan Protections
3/27/2018— Joint Statement from Woodstock Institute, Heartland Alliance, Shriver Center, Illinois PIRG
Thirty-six Illinois organizations declared their support for national payday lending protections released last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A letter signed by the groups to all Illinois Members of Congress condemns the March 22 introduction of Senate Joint Resolution 56 by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Graham’s legislation is the companion to House Joint Resolution 122, sponsored by 36 U.S. House members. Both H.J. Res. 122 and S.J. Res. 56 would repeal the Consumer Bureau’s historic rule on payday and title lending. The rule was created to protect borrowers from falling prey to the payday debt trap, a cycle of continuous re-borrowing by consumers who are unable to pay off the loan.
The payday lending debt trap is a harsh reality for many Illinois payday loan borrowers, the majority of whom make less than $30,000 per year. Research shows four of every five loans are re-borrowed within the month; and as a result, Illinoisans pay over half a billion dollars per year in fees.
“The Consumer Bureau’s payday loan rule takes a crucial step forward by requiring lenders to make loans only to borrowers who can afford to repay. Today, Illinois organizations are sending a strong message to Congress that we support strong payday loan protections, and that we want fair, affordable loans – not payday and title loans with triple-digit interest rates that trap Illinoisans in a cycle of debt,” said Jody Blaylock, Senior Policy Associate with Heartland Alliance.
“Access to fair, affordable credit is particularly important for low-income and working consumers, who often need it to weather emergencies or make investments that lead to opportunities at upward mobility,” said Kevin Herrera, Legal Impact Network Staff Attorney at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “But far too many payday lenders in Illinois and throughout the country prey on consumers in their most desperate times, snaring them in vicious cycles of 300-plus percent interest debt traps that ultimately drive them deeper into financial trouble.”
“Payday loans specifically target lower-income families who are least able to afford to repay the loans. We urge Congress to protect these vulnerable consumers by issuing strong support for the Consumer Bureau’s rule,” said Abe Scarr, Executive Director at Illinois PIRG.
“Any attempt to repeal the Consumer Bureau’s payday protections is an assault against the country’s most vulnerable people,” said Woodstock Institute President Dory Rand. “These protections require lenders to determine that borrowers can actually repay the loan in full and on time. We stand with the 35 other Illinois organizations who will fight to stop the payday lending debt trap.”
Act Now to Support Health Centers!
12/14/2017— Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are front-line sources of health care for millions of people who struggle to afford care or live in neighborhoods with limited medical resources. In Illinois, they serve about 1.3 million Illinoisans and employ over 7,500 people across the state. If Congress doesn’t act now, these community health centers will lose most of their funding, leaving many Illinoisans without quality health care.
As our leaders in Washington were consumed with other high-profile battles, they allowed the Health Center Fund that supports these health centers to quietly expire on September 30, 2017. There is bi-partisan support for the Health Center Fund, but Congress has thus far let extending funding fall through the cracks. Time is running out.
We need you to call your members of Congress NOW at 202-224-3121 and demand that they extend the Health Center Fund in the year-end funding bill they are currently negotiating.
The consequences will be dire if Congress does not extend FQHC funding:
• Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans will not get needed care
• Nine million fewer patients will get care nationwide
• 2,800 sites will close
• 50,000 people will lose their jobs
Congress will be trying to pass a funding bill to keep the government running by December 22. This is the last chance to extend FQHC funding before clinics are forced to cut services and staff at the start of the 2018 grant year. It is not enough for our Congressional leaders to say they support funding, they need to act now.
Call all three of your members of Congress TODAY at 202-224-3121 and make sure we protect the health care our communities depend on!
Tell Your Senators to VOTE NO to a Tax Plan that Hurts Low and Middle Income Americans!
Earlier this month the House passed their version of a tax overhaul bill which, if enacted, would benefit corporations and those who make the most at the expense of programs and services that benefit low and middle-income people. Yesterday, the Senate cleared a procedural hurdle that will bring this bill to a vote as early as later this week.
Fair tax and revenue structures are critical for supporting investments in programs that address poverty and inequity and promote opportunity. These are moral decisions with human consequences. This tax plan, however, all but guarantees that vital programs and services—like Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and education—will be cut. Each day Heartland Alliance sees the extraordinary importance of these programs in the lives of people experiencing poverty and inequity.
We need to speak out NOW and urge our Senators to oppose this ill-conceived tax plan. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and demand that your Senators oppose this bill and any bill that balloons the deficit, attacks the Affordable Care Act, and makes low and middle-income individuals pay for tax cuts for wealthy corporations and those that have the
These tax bills take us backwards in the fight to address poverty and inequity. Together, they would:
• Increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion or more, foreshadowing deep cuts to anti-poverty programs – perhaps even as early as next year.
• Increase the uninsured by 13 million, increasing average premiums by over $1,000, and create more instability in the health insurance market by repealing the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
• Permanently increase taxes for middle-class and other households in the years to come in order to pay for tax breaks for wealthy corporations and others who have the most.
This plan does not pave a path of safety, stability and opportunity for America.Stripping resources from low and middle income Americans to benefit the wealthiest among us will drive inequity and increase hardship. We must stand against this tax plan.
Please, call your Senators TODAY at 202-224-3121 and urge them to oppose the tax plan and demand that they fight to protect the programs and services that keep our communities strong!
Illinois Passes Student Loan Bill of Rights
11/8/2017— Last night, with a vote of 98-16, the Illinois House voted to override the Governor’s veto of SB1351, the Student Loan Bill of Rights! The law, which goes into effect at the end of 2018, protects thousands of Illinois students seeking an education.
“We applaud the Illinois General Assembly for overriding the Governor’s veto and supporting Illinois students and their families. By passing the Student Loan Bill of Rights, Illinois has taken meaningful action to address the growing student loan crisis, rein in the abuses of student loan servicers, and help borrowers successfully repay their loans and build financial security,” says Jody Blaylock, Senior Policy Associate at Heartland Alliance. “Students of color are disproportionately affected by the student loan crisis, making this law an important step towards greater racial equity in Illinois.”
We are grateful to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Senator Biss, and Representative Guzzardi for their leadership on the bill and their commitment to strong consumer protections for student loan borrowers.
The protections under the new law are aimed at stopping the abuses of the student loan servicing industry that make it more difficult for borrowers to repay their loans. The Student Loan Bill of Rights ensures that students receive accurate billing statements, timely notification about payment plan deadlines, information about all of the repayment options available to them, and more. The bill also provides oversight and licensing of loan servicers in Illinois and establishes a Student Loan Ombudsman as a resource for borrowers.
We cannot thank you enough for your support! Because of dedicated legislators, our amazing advocacy partners, and YOU, Illinois students are better positioned to succeed.
This Tax Plan Does Not Pave a Path of Safety, Stability and Opportunity
11/3/2017 — Yesterday, Congressional House Republicans unveiled a sweeping $1.51 trillion bill that rewrites the tax code, The Tax Cut and Jobs Act. By all measures, the bill benefits the wealthiest individuals in our nation at the expense of critical programs and services that benefit low and middle-income people. Each day we see the extraordinary importance of these programs in the lives of the people Heartland Alliance, and our partners, serve.
Fair tax and revenue structures are critical for supporting investments in programs that address poverty and inequity and promote opportunity.These are moral decisions with human consequences. Yet, this tax plan signals that this administration does not value supporting the needs of low to middle-income people by all but guaranteeing that vital programs and services — like Medicaid and education will be cut — while prioritizing tax cuts the wealthiest in the country.
This plan does not pave a path of safety, stability and opportunity for America. We will continue to uphold the needs and rights of middle and low-income people and fight against plans like this that erode vital programs.
Learn more and take action.
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Heartland Alliance Celebrates Senate Defeat of ACA Repeal
Heartland Alliance believes that everyone deserves quality, affordable health care. After relentless attempts to strip millions of Americans of health coverage, we celebrate the announcement that the U.S. Senate will not call the Graham-Cassidy Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill for a vote. We urge Senators now to turn to bipartisan solutions to strengthen our health care system and provide equitable and affordable health care for all.
The pressure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been fierce, but our advocacy and commitment to protecting the health and well-being of our neighbors has once again proven stronger than those who wish to roll back the ACA. We want to thank all who called, wrote letters, attended rallies, and protested against the dismantling of our healthcare system. Concerned residents in Illinois and across the country should rejoice and know that millions of Americans have health coverage today thanks to their efforts.
While we have survived yet another challenge, the struggle to realize a health care system that works for everyone is not nearly over. The insurance markets are unstable thanks to repeated efforts at repeal and other actions by the administration such as the refusal to commit to paying federal subsidies to insurers, slashing the ACA’s outreach and marketing budgets, and curtailing this year’s open enrollment period. These counterproductive actions only serve to harm families, drive up premiums and continue to stoke calls for drastic change.
Instead, members of Congress should continue bipartisan negotiations aimed at resolving the instability caused in recent months. Bipartisan groups of Governors, Senators, and members of the House of Representatives have all issued proposals that would provide certainty to insurance markets and reduce premiums for families. We implore our elected officials to return to these proposals and reject further repeal efforts.
So today, we urge you both to take a moment to celebrate yet remain vigilant. Your efforts have taken our country a step towards ending poverty and providing health care to all. And as we celebrate, know that our next fight is waiting for us. We will continue until we fulfill our nation’s promise to provide everyone – regardless of their background or situation – the health care they need for themselves and their families to thrive.
We Stand with Dreamers and will Defend DACA
9/8/2017 —The Trump Administration announced its plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Though this announcement was expected, we are nonetheless outraged and continue to stand unified and in strong support of our affected colleagues, participants, and community members. Please see below for more on this issue from Heartland Alliance’s President, Evelyn Diaz.
“Heartland Alliance believes society is better for everyone when all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. We stand with the 800,000 young adults who may lose their protections due to President Trump’s decision. Because of DACA, individuals were able to remain in their homes, support their families, complete their education, launch careers, and live without fear that they may suddenly be exiled. Allowing these young people to work, get a higher education, and contribute to their communities has benefitted society.
Even more painful than the economic loss, stripping away these protections dismantles the social bonds and connections that have made our entire society stronger. Young people who were once unafraid of deportation must now think twice before contacting authorities, engaging with government services, or trusting law enforcement.
Heartland Alliance serves DACA recipients every single day. We partner with them as they pursue their educational, work, housing, and other life goals. We know who these young people are and just how integral they are to our community — and we will not give up on them. We will continue to fight for immigrant families and refugees– and we will work with legislative officials and our advocate partners to find a permanent solution and create a roadmap to citizenship.
For more information about the loss of DACA protections and the services provided by Heartland Alliance and NIJC, please click here. Additionally, please support efforts to encourage Congress to defend DACA and all immigrant communities by passing legislation that protects recipients and respects the rights of all undocumented immigrants.”