News, Trump Administration

Public comments still being accepted on Trump proposal that would leave 55,000 citizens without a home

On May 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published a proposed rule affecting “mixed-status families” in public housing.

“Mixed-status families” are those with members eligible for public assistance and ineligible based on their immigration status. The current rule states that these families are permitted to live in public housing, but the ineligible family members would have to “pay their own way,” out-of-pocket, and would not receive personal federal assistance.

Crucially, not every immigrant who is ineligible for public housing is necessarily undocumented. Immigrants can have legal status and still be ineligible for public housing.

As we reported earlier, the new HUD rule states that every member of a family would have to be eligible in order to live in public housing.

According to data from HUD, an estimated 25,000 families would be forced to make the choice between breaking up their family and becoming homeless. It is estimated that 55,000 U.S. citizen children around the country would lose their subsidized housing as a result of this rule.

The rule would also require residents under 62 years of age to have their immigration status verified through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements or SAVE Program. Families with members judged to be ineligible through this program would be evicted from their housing within 18 months.

The proposed rule is not yet in effect. It is open for public comment until tomorrow, July 9. HUD is accepting comments here.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Democracy NC students lobby legislature for change: ‘We care about the right to vote’

College students working as part of the students’ Democracy Summer internship program with voting rights group Democracy North Carolina launched a “For The People” Campaign on Wednesday to call for pro-democracy reforms. (Photo by Aditi Kharod)

 

On Wednesday morning, a group of summer interns with Democracy NC gathered in front of the legislative building to roll out their “For the People” campaign.

The students encouraged North Carolina citizens to contact their lawmakers in support of a variety of pro-democracy reforms, including flexible early voting, nonpartisan redistricting, and increasing access to voting.

The group specifically called for the repeal of Senate Bill 325, passed in June of 2018, which limits early voting site hours.

“We know that if Early Voting flexibility and access isn’t restored now, alongside the removal of the new strict photo ID requirement to vote, it could mean a ‘recipe for disaster’ for North Carolina voters like me in 2020,” said Gaby Romero, a student at Appalachian State University in Boone. “For voters in rural western North Carolina — from all parties — these attacks shut them out of the most important form of participation in a democracy.”

The college students shared stories from their campuses about how gerrymandering and limits to voting access have hurt young voters, and laid out a multi-part agenda with the goal of lobbying lawmakers to use current proposals to prevent confusion and chaos for voters ahead of next year’s elections.

“We’re here to say that we care about our rights. That we care about the right to vote,” said Tyler Walker, an activist who works with Democracy NC in Winston-Salem. “Any barrier to voting is a threat to your personal freedoms. Any barrier to voting is a threat to you directly. It is a threat to your civil rights. It is a threat to your human rights. It is a threat to your ability to exercise your right to vote, to exercise the freedoms you believe in. It is a threat. And I’m here to tell the legislature today that we will not be threatened.”

Commentary, immigration, News

Senate committees vote to move ICE bill forward despite serious concerns from lawmakers, residents

The Senate Rules committee voted Thursday to move House Bill 370 forward.

The controversial bill would require sheriffs to comply with detainer requests made by the federal Department of Homeland Security, as well as notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if any person arrested for any criminal charge is not a citizen.

The bill targets 7 newly-elected Democratic sheriffs

Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe) has touted the bill as necessary for “national security and public safety” and as a common sense measure that the majority of sheriffs are already implementing, but Sheriff Garry McFadden of Mecklenburg County pushed back against that idea at a press conference Wednesday held by Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) before the committee meeting.

“HB 370 is not about community safety,” said McFadden. “It’s about stopping sheriffs.” Read more

Commentary, News

Election security in state officials’ hands in light of statements by Trump, Tillis

"Vote" pin

Creative Commons License

The North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) met Thursday to, among other things, consider certification of new voting systems. Before the board’s discussion, a few members of the public presented prepared statements. The first came from Lynn Bernstein, a North Carolina voter, who spoke about the extreme risk to election security posed by electronic voting machines, especially those created by Election Systems and Software.

Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the nation’s top voting machine maker and one of the companies whose machines the NC SBE plans to certify, admitted in a letter to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) in April of 2018 that it had installed the remote-access software pcAnywhere on a number of election systems that it had sold. This admission was in direct contrast to a previous statement ES&S made in February of that year, in which the company stated that none of its voting systems had ever been sold with any remote-access software on them.

“Remote-access software and modems on election equipment is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner,” said Bernstein, quoting a statement Sen. Wyden made to Motherboard. Bernstein argued that a company that had repeatedly lied about the nature of its machines and had only revealed the truth after being caught in its lies could not be trusted to help keep North Carolina’s elections safe.

“This begs the question: why is this board trusting ES&S’ word that these machines are secure and accurate?” asked Bernstein.

Bob Cordle, the chair of the SBE, pushed back against Bernstein’s arguments.

“In my experience… we had more problems with hand ballots than we did with any other ballots,” said Cordle. “There was more lying, cheating, and stealing going on… and also questions about… there were lots of questions about whether the oval was filled in, whether both ovals were filled in, so there are problems with hand ballots, too.”

“The research showed that 0.007% of ballots have stray marks,” said Bernstein. “That’s very, very few.” Read more

Governor Roy Cooper, News, public health

At Opioid Summit, experts call for Medicaid expansion

A new “Opioid Action Plan 2.0” unveiled Wednesday by North Carolina officials aims to combat the lingering narcotic crisis with new, youth-targeted programs, tougher laws and greater access to the drug naloxone, used to treat or reverse opioid overdoses.

“I’m going to work with all of you to make sure that we reduce opioid deaths in North Carolina and that we meet this problem head on,” said Governor Roy Cooper at the opening of the 2019 Opioid Misuse and Overdose Prevention Summit, a conference supported by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The updated plan uses “feedback from partners and stakeholders,” according to a press release by the Governor’s Office.

The original N.C. Opioid Action Plan, released in 2017, identified the steps that the DHHS aimed to take in order to reduce the number of deaths from the opioid epidemic.

Officials introduced the new plan during the second and final day of the Opioid Summit.

At the opening of the summit Tuesday, Cooper highlighted the progress made since the plan was launched. According to Cooper, since 2017, the number of prescriptions for opioids has decreased by 24 percent and the number of emergency department visits for opioid overdoses decreased by nearly 10 percent from 2017 to 2018.

But the most important step, according to the DHHS? Medicaid expansion.

“We need to close the coverage gap if we are to make serious headway against this epidemic, as they have done in other states,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC DHHS.

Numerous studies have shown that expanding Medicaid and closing the coverage gap has led to a decline in opioid overdoses by increasing substance use disorder treatment. According to the Opioid Action Plan 2.0, an estimated 89 percent of people who are in need of substance use disorder treatment do not receive it.

“The progress we’ve made shows what we can achieve when we partner across agencies and organizations and with those on the ground in communities,” said Cohen in a press release. “But there is much more to do. Moving forward we need to work even harder to focus on prevention, reduce harm and connect people to care.”