The Diverse Elders Coalition supports inclusive immigration reform

The elder population is growing exponentially, and becoming increasingly diverse. Today, one in five older adults is Latino or non-white. By 2030, the number of adults of color is projected to be almost one in three, and the population of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals is expected to double. Older immigrants are more vulnerable, more 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. Separating families at the U.S. borders and mass deportations of immigrants — many of whom have been in the United States for years — leaves older immigrants without caregivers and creates fear, confusion and poor health among immigrant communities.

ENSURING ACCESS TO BENEFITS.

In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule that would hurt millions of older adults in immigrant families. If enacted, seniors and their families would be forced to make impossible choices between obtaining a permanent legal status in the U.S. and meeting their basic needs, caring for their children and aging parents, and keeping their families together.

Proposed changes to the “public charge” rule put immigration status at risk if an immigrant accesses or seeks access to programs that support health, nutrition, and economic stability. While this proposal has not yet been made permanent, healthcare providers and advocates are already reporting fewer immigrants accessing fewer services for fear of being denied a green card or U.S. citizenship.

The Diverse Elders Coalition submitted a comment in opposition to this cruel proposal and are awaiting the results of the public comment period, which concluded on October 10, 2018. For more information, visit www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org or read this Public Charge fact sheet from Justice in Aging.

SUPPORTING IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION AND CULTURALLY AND LINGUISTICALLY APPROPRIATE SERVICES.

As immigrants and their descendants integrate into American society, many aspects of their lives improve. Their education outcomes increase, they move to higher paying jobs, and they earn more money. Immigrant men have higher employment rates than U.S.-born men, and their wages rise the longer they are in the United States.

Limited English proficiency is a vulnerability unique to immigrant commmunities, and older immigrants have higher rates of limited English proficiency than younger generations; in some of our communities, rates of limited English proficiency among adults age 50+ is as high as 90%. Many immigrant elders also live in linguistically isolated households, where no one speaks proficient English. 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.