The elder population is growing exponentially, and becoming increasingly diverse. Today, one in five older adults is Latino or non-White, and there are at least 1.75 million lesbian, gay, and bisexual people 65 and older.By 2030, the number of adults of color is projected to be almost one in three, and the population of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals is expected to double. Older immigrants and diverse elders are more vulnerable, isolated and face greater barriers to accessing services than the general older adult population. As such, immigration reform presents a key opportunity to strengthen our programs and policies to better support older immigrants.
The DEC stands in support of the following principles, in support of inclusive immigration reform:
Immigration reform must keep families united, not divided. Aging communities like all communities rely on family members and partners to support them. Families extend beyond the traditional family structure, including grandparents raising grandchildren and same sex partners. Immigration reform impacts all aspects of family and it is critical that any immigration reform reinforces the American values of keeping families together.
Ensuring access to benefits. 2010 data revealed that total personal income of older immigrants was lower than that of US born older adults. In addition, older immigrants are more reliant on Supplemental Security income than native born older adults. However, there are currently a number of restrictions on access to public benefit programs for immigrants, lawful permanent residents, and undocumented immigrants. The Diverse Elders Coalition calls for removal of these barriers to needed supports and recommends the following policies to ease access to benefits:
- delinking citizenship as a criteria of eligibility for SSI for refugees and asylees,
- removing the 5-year ban on access to means-tested public programs including Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and Supplemental Security Income for lawful permanent residents.
- and ensuring access to public benefits programs for undocumented immigrants who are on the path to citizenship.
Supporting immigrant integration and culturally and linguistically appropriate services. 2010 data showed that over half of older immigrants were Limited English Proficient. The Diverse Elders Coalition stresses the importance of supporting immigration integration programs for all immigrants, but especially older adults and elderly immigrants. In addition, we support culturally and linguistically appropriate services within the aging services network to be able to support immigrant and Limited English Proficient elders in enjoying a full quality of life.
Support for Direct Care Workforce and caregivers. In 2007, more than one in five older immigrants reported having a physical or mental health condition that lasted more than six months and made it difficult or impossible for them to go outside of their home alone. The direct care workforce, as well as informal family caregivers, provides crucial long-term supports services to older adults. About 20-23% of the current direct care workforce is foreign-born. We support immigration reform to allow more employment visas to domestic care workers – similar to other high-need sectors – and inclusive pathways to citizenship for undocumented care workers. In addition, we urge decision-makers to strengthen supports for caregivers, such as providing a dependent care credit that individuals who spend a certain amount of their working years caring for elderly family members can use to count towards their Social Security earnings.
The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) advocates for policies and programs that improve aging in our communities as racially and ethnically diverse people; American Indians and Alaska Natives; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people.
Founded in 2010, and comprising five national organizations representing millions of diverse older people, the DEC focuses on strengthening policies and programs to enhance the health and well-being of diverse elders, educating and connecting our older people and their loved ones to key policy debates on aging, and increasing public support for issues that affect our communities.