Inauguration Week: What We’re Watching
As the presidential inauguration approaches, I want to highlight my concerns about possible policy changes that will affect our clients and community. Though political beliefs vary among community members, these potential impacts are undeniable, and it is our responsibility to stand up for the clients we serve. We are also called to stand for our foundational values: welcoming the stranger, honoring our elders, caring for the vulnerable. Here’s what we’re watching:
- Syrian Refugees: it is possible that all new Syrian refugees will be prevented from entering the country due to a proposed new “extreme vetting” process that will create insurmountable barriers for new arrivals. (Note: all incoming refugees are currently subject to a long, multi-step process that knowledgable people already characterize as “extreme vetting.”) This will affect people in the resettlement pipeline as well as some of our clients already here, facing the prospect of never being able to reunite with family members left behind.
- Afghan Refugees: the “extreme vetting” process may apply to all new Muslim refugee arrivals, even those who, like most of our Afghan clients, risked their lives working for the U.S. military as translators. They may face an absolute cut-off, a moratorium, or the institution of obstacles that no one could possibly overcome.
- DREAMers: our Immigration Legal Services program has been proud to help young people apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA prevents the deportation of undocumented young people who arrived in the country as children, commonly called “DREAMers,” and allows them to legally obtain work permits. Because the DACA program was created by Executive Order, the incoming president could end it early in his term without Congressional action, and he has indicated that he will do so. If so, current clients who have not yet finished their applications, as well as any potential future clients, will be cut off from DACA protections and vulnerable to deportation.
- Undocumented Immigrants: many of our clients, particularly those served through our preschool programs in Oakland, are facing the threat of aggressive new deportation policies. The risk of deportation also applies to current DREAMers if the DACA program is ended: all of these young people have given their personal information to the government and could therefore be easily identified for deportation.
- Vulnerable Children: repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), especially without a replacement, would cut off services for many of the families with young children to whom we provide mental health services. These services are funded through the Medi-Cal expansion created by Obamacare. Medi-Cal is currently the only way that these low-income families are able to access the kinds of intensive therapy and case management services that address the trauma experienced by children exposed to violence, helping these kids get a fair and healthy start in life.
- Seniors: there is much speculation about significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits. While this will impact all seniors, it will hit low-income seniors particularly hard. These seniors are already struggling with the Bay Area’s high cost of living and will suffer deeply with decreased Social Security payments and insufficient medical care.
As the new administration begins, we will see what actually unfolds, and we will keep you updated about how our community will be impacted. We will be steadfast in advocating for the well-being of the clients we serve. We invite you to join us in standing with all those who seek support and refuge in our East Bay community.