Facts about Immigration: Separating the wheat from chaff (Luke 3:17)
Undocumented immigrants and Social Security Numbers
James B. Lockhart, III, the Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) stated, "[i]nitially, the only purpose of the SSN (Social Security Number) was to assure that SSA kept accurate records of earnings under Social Security so that we could pay benefits based on those earnings." The SSN was never intended to serve as a form of personal identification. However, the public and private sector continue to use the SSN as a de facto national identifier.
Any person over the age of 12 must apply in person for an original social security card and must provide proof of his immigration status, work eligibility, age, and identity.
Those immigrants who do not have permission to work can obtain a SSN only if federal law or state or local law requires the applicant to provide a SSN to get a particular benefit. In order to do so, they must obtain a letter from the government organization’s letterhead which:
1. Specifically names the applicant;
2. Cites the law which requires a Social Security Card;
3. Indicates that the applicant meets the requirements, except having the number;
4. Contains the agency’s name and telephone number.
The SSA will not issue a SSN solely for the purpose of issuing a driver’s license.
Legal noncitizens can receive SSN as well. In 2003, the SSA issued approximately 1.2 million SSNs to legal noncitizens. Approximately 400,000 were for Lawful Permanent Residents who were authorized to work in the United States. Additionally, 771,000 legal noncitizens that were authorized to work only temporarily were issued special SS cards which bore the legend, "Valid for Work Only With INS Authorization." The remaining 19,000 were for noncitizens who were not authorized to work. Their SS cards have the inscription "Not Valid for Employment" written on them. Read the full report and testimony. (pdf)
About 10 percent of the wage reporting files submitted to the SSA contain invalid SSN and name combinations. Some of these errors are corrected internally but for the tax year ending 2001, the SSA reports 9.6 million W-2s with SSN problems. These mismatched files may have invalid SSNs or improper SSN and name combinations. The SSA states that these files represented $56.1 billion in earnings and $7 billion in social security payroll taxes. See more here.
These withheld wages remain in the SSA’s "suspense file" and will not be paid or credited to individuals. Additionally, any benefits applications based on SSNs issued on or after January 1, 2004 to individuals not authorized to work in the United States will not be eligible to receive certain SSA benefits. See Social Security Protection Act of 2004.
Riverboat of Healing
The rolling waters of many rivers in Southeast Asia, happily deliver the Riverboat of Healing, a 2-story barge the length of a football field, too many villagers along its shores…children and adults alike in great need of medical care. The villages along these rivers are small farming communities, almost completely dependent on that river for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, sanitation, fishing, and irrigating their rice paddies and other fields. Since many of the villages have no road access, the river is often their primary source of transportation. It is also where industrial plants dump their waste.
Most of these families live on less than $1 a day. If a family member gets sick, they must literally decide between seeking medical attention for that individual or feeding the rest of the family for the week. With raw sewage and chemicals in the water, this river is their number one source of illness and disease, yet the level of poverty is so great, most can’t afford the fuel to boil the water before drinking it.
The river is also, however, their number one source of hope. This floating hospital brings antibiotics for infections of all kinds, treating illnesses from malaria, dengue fever, elephantiasis, tuberculosis, and leprosy. Loving care is offered in Christ’s name to many who seek it along the way.
Texas Baptists have a part in this healing process through giving to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger of the BGCT. Families are literally brought back from the brink of death and given a chance for a healthier life because of these gifts.
Although the legislature does not meet until January 2009, important work continues this summer. In the following update are summaries of Environment, Insurance, Health and Long Term Care, Adult Basic Education and Human Trafficking.
81st Legislative Session Around the Corner
Election Day: November 4, 2008
Prefiling of legislation begins: November 10, 2008
First day of Session: January 13, 2009
What is Cap-and-Trade?
There is a growing consensus among scientists (pdf) around the world recognizing the damaging impact that greenhouse-gas emissions are having on our environment. The evidence for climate change is nearly overwhelming. There is little disagreement in the scientific community that human activities are at least in part to blame. Even though some may dispute the science behind climate change, it is clear that if current trends continue the consequences could be catastrophic.
Fortunately, a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions generated by the burning of carbon-based fossil fuels may reverse the damaging effects of climate change. A reduction may not be easy and will likely require government action and global cooperation. The United States is moving towards enacting measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The most likely measure to reduce emission in the United States is the passage of “Cap-and-trade” legislation. This proposal would set an overall cap on carbon emissions throughout the country and then issue permits, or pollution credits, granting a company the right to generate a certain amount of emissions. The permits would be sold and the total permits issued would only allow for emissions at the level of the cap. If the holder of a permit reduces their emissions to below their permitted level they may then sell their excess permits on an open market. This system not only provides for a lower amount of total emissions but creates an economic incentive for conservation, innovation and increased energy efficiency.
A similar cap-and-trade market helped to dramatically reduce the amount of acid rain in the United States in the early nineties. Europe instituted a cap-and-trade system to combat carbon emissions in 2005. Senators John McCain and Barak Obama both support a nationwide cap-and-trade system.
On Thursday, September 24, 10 Northeastern states launched the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and created a regional cap-and-trade system. This smaller scale effort to reduce emissions may serve as a model for the entire nation and give lawmakers the opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of the RGGI. To read more about this new program click http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/7821134.
Cap-and-trade systems are effective because they make carbon-based fuels and greenhouse gas generation more expensive. These higher costs will likely be passed on to the average consumer. This is a big concern especially with the current state of the economy. Policy makers are working on plans to reduce the economic impact on families. The staff of the CLC Austin office recently heard a presentation offering one possible solution by Bob Greenstein from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Read more on this proposal. (pdf)
There are actions on the state level that can help prepare Texas for a cap-and-trade program. In the upcoming legislative session the CLC will support legislation designed to enhance energy efficiency, support the renewable energy industry and measure the amount of greenhouse gases currently being emitted in our state. More resources from the CLC on Creation Care.
Review of Texas Department of Insurance Creates Opportunity for Reform
A top to bottom review of the Texas Department of Insurance occurring now and a bill to be filled during the legislative session has given advocates the opportunity to seek meaningful reform of the agency. A large group has called on TDI to enact real rate oversight, to strengthen the Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC) which is designed to act as an independent advocate for policy holders, to strengthen its mission to include a focus on consumer protection and to ask TDI to promote health insurance coverage in Texas. Insurance regulation is an issue that is sure to get plenty of attention during the next legislative session especially in the wake of such devastating storms along the Texas coast.
HEALTH AND LONG TERM CARE
Increase in Medicaid Reimbursement Rates Needed to Provide Care to Elderly Texans
Nationwide, the fractures of the healthcare system are affecting the need for affordable, long-term care. In Texas, our aging population is growing, but more than 53 Texas nursing homes have closed in the last 24 months; about 40% of the closures are in rural areas. This is a crisis. Much of the problem is caused by a low rate of reimbursement to nursing homes that provide care to residents who are on Medicaid. The daily rate of reimbursement is on $107 per patient but it costs $120 on average to care for a resident each day. The state of Texas is carrying a growing burden for Medicaid funding with health care costs consuming more and more of the state budget, a Medicaid shortfall of $1.2 billion is expected by December 2008. Texas ranks 49th in daily Medicaid funding and seventy percent of nursing home residents are Medicaid eligible. New service models and funding formulas are needed to protect medical services and prevent more nursing homes from closing due to lack of adequate minimal funding.
It may also become a blueprint for an eventual U.S.-wide initiative to limit emissions, since both presidential candidates — senators Barack Obama and John McCain — favor "cap-and-trade" markets which U.S. lawmakers invented to successfully cut down acid rain and which have been used in Europe to tackle greenhouse gases since 2005.
The Health and Human Services Commission will be publishing a report written jointly by the Office of the Attorney General by the end of September on Human Trafficking in Texas and the issues this criminal activity presents. Over 27 million people around the world are trapped in modern day slavery and it is estimated that over 15,000 are trafficked into Texas each year and forced to work are domestic, labor and sex slaves. We anticipate this joint report will give Texas officials and advocates a clearer picture of the issues facing Texas and what action we can take to abolish slavery in Texas.
The Texas Education Agency announced its Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) recently and it is good news. The agency responsible for coordinating and distributing funds for Adult Education programs across the state requested $50 million dollars for the next biennium for these programs. This request represents a significant increase over the previous LAR’s of around $10 million. The CLC has met with Commissioner Scott on this issue and plans to continue to push this issue during the legislative session.
Every morning, the doors of schools all around Texas open, the hallways are filled with children, adolescents and teachers and students are confronted with choices about using alcohol and drugs. Research has shown us that if a kid can feel like they are not alone and that their peer group is saying “no” to drugs and alcohol then they have a 90% probability of being able to say “no” to drugs and alcohol. As Baptist churches in Texas, we have a tremendous opportunity coming up on October 19 so show the children and adolescents in our community that they are not alone. If fact, the church can make a powerful statement on Recovery Sunday to encourage both children, adolescents and teachers in their quest to take a stand against substance abuse.
All of us can do something and I encourage your church to begin by at least having a prayer time to encourage and affirm the need for prevention and education in your community. At the same time, I encourage you to consider making a powerful statement by preaching a message on recovery, having a testimony in the service, have a special rally for parents and youth etc. There are many ways to make a statement on October 19. The Substance Abuse Ministry has some resources available on the CLC webpage to help you in this endeavor.
Is there Religious Freedom without Human Freedom?
Protection for religions is not religious liberty…
Religious Liberty is a gift from God (pdf). It is not the result of any act of toleration or concession on the part of the state… or of another religion.
In 1986, at the initiative of the US, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights appointed an independent expert, or Special Rapporteur, to investigate and report on violations of the internationally-protected right to freedom of religion or belief around the world. The Special Rapporteur has recognized that international human rights law and the freedom of religion:
(This right) protects individuals, not religions or belief systems; and the individual right to freedom of religion or belief does not include the right to have one’s religion or belief be free from criticism.
Freedom of religion and belief is the right of an individual to his/her own belief:
(This right) protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The term Belief and religion are to be broadly construed. The right is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religion.
There are, however, serious challenges to the individual concept of freedom of religion and belief within the United Nations and across the world.
There is an attempt to change the definition of freedom of religion to one that protects religions (rather than individuals) from alleged defamation. The shift to protect religions would violate key principles that promote individual freedom of religion and belief. Within the United Nations the Islamic Council has pushed for a “religions defamations protection” concept – citing instances of unacceptable ridicule of Islam from press, editorial cartoons and others.
As an individual human right, freedom of religion and belief protects adherents of any religion or belief, including newly established religions and minority religions that can be subject to hostility by the predominant or majority religion in any country. Under a legal rule against defamation of religions, these adherents would not be protected and, in fact, could be subject to sanctioned persecution or legal repression.
In 2007 it appeared that some countries might seek to abolish the mandate for freedom of religion and belief or change its focus from individual belief to the purported right of religion itself to be protected from alleged defamation. Protecting religions from defamation is often justified in the name of promoting religious tolerance, but in fact, it promotes intolerance and human rights violations.
There is a place for civil discourse about all religions and belief. However, the principle of civil discourse and the goal of anti-defamation is no substitute for liberty of conscience and the right of each individual to freedom of religion and belief.
The measure of freedom is not the comfort of the majority, but the security of the minority. The Baptist voice for individual religious liberty has been a great legacy. It may also be a great call from God to voice our commitment to this freedom for all in the 21st century world.
Cheryl Tannery, who raised three sons as a single mom, is one of thousands of people in the Lubbock area who have struggled with poverty and hunger. Mission Lubbock addresses their needs with the provision of food, clothing, and household necessities.
“Baptists need to understand that there are people going to bed at night without food,” said Judy Cooper, director of Mission Lubbock and multi-housing coordinator for the Lubbock Area Baptist Association. “There are children who are leaving school on Friday and not having another meal until Monday when they get back to school.”
When Cooper started Mission Lubbock two years ago, her focus was to provide clothing and other household items. Soon she discovered the prevalence of a more basic need: food. “We realized that so many of the people we were trying to minister to had nothing,” Cooper said.
Cheryl Tannery came to Mission Lubbock looking for food. Meeting Tannery’s immediate needs provided Cooper and other volunteers the opportunity to love, encourage, and pray for her. Tannery, who cleans homes for a living, said the volunteers and ministry of Mission Lubbock made such an impact on her life that she now volunteers her time the two days a week the ministry is open. “They are like my second family,” Tannery said. “They are about helping people and doing God’s work.”
During the past year, Mission Lubbock distributed 556 food boxes and assisted more than 1,000 families. “I feel certain that we will surpass that this year with still being open just two days a week,” Cooper said. “We would like to extend our hours, but we have got to find some funding.”
Nearly 60 percent of children in the Lubbock Independent School District are considered impoverished and are on the free or reduced lunch program. Cooper reports, “Lubbock does have quite a bit of poverty , . . the working poor. They have jobs. They just don’t get paid enough to make ends meet.”
Giving the cost of one meal once a month makes an enormous difference in the lives of hungry people.
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Through the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger (TBOWH), Texas Baptists have supported specific ministries to help hungry people. Since 1996, in fact, we have contributed over $10,000,000 to buy and distribute food, to help people grow their own food, to drill water wells, to provide job training, to start microenterprises, and to sustain a host of other Baptist ministries in dozens of countries on every continent. Through the Offering, the hungry have been fed, the poor have escaped poverty, and the good news of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed across the globe.
Beginning right now, Texas Baptists have the opportunity to enlarge our ministries in behalf of people who struggle with hunger and poverty. Inspired by the goal of Texas HOPE 2010 to “bring hope to every heart,” we can continue our support for the ongoing work of the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger while adding support for several Texas-focused initiatives: (1) Urban and Rural Poverty Initiative; (2) Border Ministries; (3) Disaster Relief; (4) Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Jobs Corps.
Our specific goal is to raise and dedicate $2,000,000 to reach out to people in need with tangible help and Christ’s love beginning in the fall of 2009 and culminating at year’s end in 2010. These funds will be distributed as follows:
2009 TBOWH worldwide ministries- $700,000
2010 TBOWH worldwide ministries- $700,000
Texas Urban and Rural Poverty Initiative- $250,000
Border Ministries- $150,000
Disaster Relief- $100,000
Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Jobs Corps- $100,000
Meeting these goals will require that we raise approximately $600,000 more by the end of 2010 than the Offering has traditionally generated. This goal sounds daunting until we put it in perspective. If only one out of twenty Texas Baptists gave $10 per month to the Offering, together we would give over $12,000,000 each year.
The individual goal we are suggesting for church members this year is to give the cost of one meal each month to the Offering. For many people that works out to about $10 a month. Looking at it that way, the thought of raising $1,000,000 each year doesn’t seem quite so lofty.
We have the knowledge, the opportunity, and resources to make critical, life-saving and life-affirming differences in a world of hunger and poverty. God insists that we be faithful followers of Jesus and good stewards of our opportunities.