What is Giving in L.A.?

Giving in LA Giving in L.A. is a go-to source, an aggregator for strategies and points of view about trends and issues in giving, challenges for philanthropists and philanthropic organizations, tools and techniques for individuals or families, insights and opinions from experts, and more – all centered on Los Angeles County.

July 2, 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Saying “Yes, and” to Fair Housing

Couple-moving-boxes-downstairsBy Ann Sewill

For low-income individuals and families seeking housing, the process has only become more difficult. Funding cuts and rising rents have reduced the availability of affordable housing. And, when it comes to finding apartments in a new neighborhood, the answer is often a resounding “No.”

Last week, U.S. Supreme Court issued landmark decisions on health care and marriage equality. But another ruling, this one related to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, also has the potential to impact the lives of residents across the United States. The 5-4 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Community Project, Inc upheld the principle that housing policies and practices could be deemed discriminatory if their impact was discriminatory, even if there was not a conscious attempt to discriminate.

This decision expands the ability of advocates to use the Act to discourage exclusionary practices that prevent people from living in neighborhoods of their own choosing. The California Community Foundation joins our colleagues in celebrating this important civil rights victory, reinforcing the role of the Fair Housing Act as a strong tool in the ongoing fight against discrimination.

This victory will also spark renewed discussion in Los Angeles on issues of ensuring housing affordability, dealing with rapidly changing neighborhoods due to gentrification and displacement and safeguarding housing opportunities for low-income residents in the face of federal budget cuts.

Everyone supports fair housing and choice for low-income renters. Everyone is painfully aware of L.A.’s housing crisis and the impossibility of real choice amidst rising rents. The median rent in Los Angeles last year for newly available apartments was more than $2,000 per month, requiring an annual income of $80,000 to make that affordable. But Los Angeles is investing $40 billion in expanding our transit system, and our regional planning agency says we need to concentrate new housing and job development around those transit stops to reduce car trips and climate change. Young households are moving into neighborhoods like Highland Park, Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles, displacing long-time renters of color.

So, what is the role of race, as well as income, in gentrification and displacement? When public sector funding for housing is deeply cut, we need to agree on solutions that provide choice for households of color, as the Fair Housing Act intended. We need to say “yes, and…” to expanding housing opportunities by providing new housing in every community and protecting islands of affordability in gentrifying communities with long-time low-income residents who wish to remain.

Ann Sewill is vice president of housing and economic opportunity at the California Community Foundation.

 

June 30, 2015 ~ 1 Comment

Time to End Unlawful and Discriminatory Citizenship Practices

Neda Behmanesh receives her citizenship after four years of delay.

Neda Behmanesh received her citizenship in December 2014, after four years of delays.

By Katie Traverso

Neda Behmanesh lived peacefully in Los Angeles for 21 years before applying for U.S. citizenship in 2010. She married a U.S. citizen, had a U.S. citizen child and for all intents and purposes was an American. Even though she satisfied all the criteria for naturalization, immigration officials denied her application under a covert program that has barred thousands of Arab, Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian (AMEMSA) U.S. residents from upgrading their immigration status or becoming U.S. citizens, ostensibly for “national security” reasons.

Each year, immigration officials with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) secretly subject applicants like Neda to a policy known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP). The program violates immigration law, and is unconstitutional because it was adopted without any congressional approval and violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.

While the program is designed to ensure that immigration benefits are denied to individuals who pose a threat to national security, it relies on deeply flawed criteria to identify national security concerns.

Individuals from AMEMSA countries are disproportionally affected because the flawed program directs immigration agents to rely on inherently discriminatory criteria to identify someone as a national security risk. Travel or prior residence in an area of “known terrorist activity” can flag someone as a security risk. This means that trips to the Middle East to visit relatives or merely being born in certain countries can prevent someone from becoming a citizen. Questioning by USCIS about lawful Islamic religious activities is not uncommon. And USCIS routinely denies citizenship to individuals for failure to disclose “associations” with mosques or donations to Muslim charities.

CARRP also applies to everyone on the notoriously error-ridden Terrorist Watch List. And it flags anyone whose name appears in an FBI file relating to certain types of national security investigations.

As a result, individuals like Neda who have called the United States home for years, lack any criminal history and pose no security threat whatsoever are subjected to CARRP. Worse, USCIS has worked to keep the program a secret, preventing applicants and their lawyers from learning the reason for the delay or denial of the application and addressing any alleged national security concerns.

To Neda, becoming a citizen symbolized the belonging and loyalty she feels towards the United States. It also meant peace of mind in knowing that she belonged to the same country as her U.S.-born son, who recently graduated from UCLA. And it gave her the opportunity to participate in American democracy and give back to a country that she feels has given her and her son so much.

Neda was able to overcome the discriminatory barrier imposed by CARRP only after the ACLU of Southern California intervened and filed suit on her behalf. Shortly after filing suit, USCIS changed course and granted her application. Four years after first applying for citizenship, Neda became a citizen in December 2014.

Thousands more like Neda deserve to be recognized as the American citizens they already feel they are. It is time to change USCIS’ discriminatory practices and end its unlawful CARRP program.

 

Katie Traverso is a law fellow at the ACLU of Southern California.

June 25, 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Upholding Accessible and Affordable Health Care

Orhtopaedic-Institute-for-CHildren-Dr2By Rose Veniegas

This morning, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that will ensure that millions of Americans continue to have access to affordable healthcare. The ruling in King v. Burwell upholds the federal Affordable Care Act subsidies that allow low-income residents in states that have not set up health insurance exchanges to obtain insurance for themselves and their families.

California led the nation in implementing the Affordable Care Act and providing insurance as many of its residents as possible. Our state’s exchange, called Covered California, has enrolled close to three million people in public and private insurance since its launch in 2012. Although the ruling does not have a direct impact on Covered California, it secures the promise of coverage for many uninsured and low-income Americans who might not otherwise be able to afford health insurance in 37 states.

In 2013 the California Community Foundation supported early efforts to increase outreach and education to communities that might be hesitant to seek coverage and also made $400,000 in grants in LA County to increase awareness about the Affordable Care Act among those who were uninsured. Since then the foundation has made grants to community clinics, hospitals and community-based organizations working in coordination to enhance the quality of health services used by those who gained access to health coverage.

CCF will continue to invest in communities where health access, quality and affordability remain challenging. Today, we celebrate with the millions of people who benefit from subsidized health care throughout the United States.

Rose Veniegas is the program officer for health care at the California Community Foundation.