Families sue CYFD over illegal denial of child care assistance

SANTA FE—Access to quality and affordable child care is critical for working families and parents who are in school. Unfortunately, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department has been illegally and arbitrarily denying eligible families much needed child care assistance. Several parents and OLÉ, represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, sued the agency late yesterday in First Judicial District Court for violating New Mexico’s state laws and constitution.

“We should all be able to go to work knowing we’re leaving our children in good hands,” said Annette Torres, one of the plaintiffs in the Torres v Jacobson lawsuit. “I really cannot tell you how devastated I was when CYFD denied me child care assistance. It’s just been a tremendous struggle to make ends meet. Without child care, I wouldn’t be able to work.”

Families represented in the lawsuit include a parent who will not be able to return to her managerial job because she cannot afford full time child care. Instead, she will take another job with a different employer for less hours and lower wages. Other parents in the lawsuit are preschool teachers and a medical assistant who cannot afford the ever changing and unpredictable co-pays, some as high as $400 a month, that CYFD assigns to them.

The Torres v Jacobson lawsuit claims that CYFD illegally established a policy of denying child care assistance to families with incomes over 150 percent of the federal poverty levela yearly income of $31,170 for a family of threewithout publishing a regulation or going through the required public comment and hearing process. CYFD’s own regulations state that the eligibility for child care assistance is considerably higher, set at 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Families still experience financial hardship even with incomes above 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

CYFD also illegally turns away families looking for child care assistance without informing them of their right to challenge a denial of benefits.

“We know that the earliest years in children’s lives are the most important in their development and lay the foundation for all that is to come,” said Monica Ault, attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “All working families need access to affordable childcare and preschool that they can trust. Families denied child care assistance have had to turn down work opportunities, drop out of school, or are forced to seek alternative care that is often low-quality and not developmentally appropriate for their children.”  

When CYFD does provide child care assistance, it illegally forces families to shell out unaffordable co-pays without explanation of how it determined the amounts. CYFD’s methods for calculating copayment amounts are arbitrary and have not been established through a public and transparent rulemaking process as required by law. The agency will not explain how it determines copayments beyond saying that the computer system does it.

The federal government has established seven percent of income as a benchmark of affordability for child care assistance. However, CYFD sets co-payments considerably higher for a large share of families. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit shoulder child care costs of over 10 percent of family income.

“Our family has had to make many sacrifices so that my wife and I can go to work knowing that our children are getting safe, quality care,” said John Cambra whose wife is a plaintiff. “It’s been incredibly difficult to make things work. Our co-pays were so high that we’ve had to go without transportation and ask our families to help us with things like diapers and wipes for our children.”

“One often insurmountable barrier to financial security for many families is the high cost of child care, and this is especially true for low-wage workers,” added Traeshaun Buffin a community organizer at OLÉ. “The astronomical costs prevent tens of thousands of New Mexican families with children from accessing meaningful work and educational opportunities. CYFD should stop denying eligible families the child care assistance they need. CYFD needs to adopt standards with public input to make the program affordable and predictable.”

The complaint can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/torres-v-jacobson-first-amended-complaint-with-exhibits/

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The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

OLÉ is a non-profit, who uses grassroots organizing within the local community of working families in New Mexico. Our members and staff work together to strengthen our communities through social advocacy and economic reform, using issue-based campaigns and electoral engagement to ensure that working families are playing a critical role in shaping New Mexico’s future with a united voice.

Press conference tomorrow on lawsuit challenging CYFD’s illegal denials of child care assistance

ALBUQUERQUE—Access to quality and affordable child care is critical for working families and parents who are in school. Unfortunately, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department has illegally denied much needed child care assistance to eligible families. Working parents and OLÉ, represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, will hold a press conference this Wednesday announcing a lawsuit against CYFD for violating New Mexico’s statutory and constitutional law.

CYFD illegally denies child care assistance to families with incomes over 150 percent of the federal poverty level—a yearly income of $31,170 for a family of three. CYFD’s own regulations state that the cut off for child care assistance eligibility is over 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

CYFD also fails to inform families of their right to challenge denials. When CYFD does provide child care assistance, it illegally forces families to shell out unaffordable co-pays without explanation of how it determined the arbitrary amounts.

The lawsuit will be filed Tuesday evening.

WHAT:
Press conference announcing a lawsuit against CYFD for illegally denying eligible families child care assistance.

WHO:   

  • Working parents and their families illegally denied child care assistance who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit
  • Representatives from OLÉ
  • Attorneys from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

WHEN: 
Wednesday, September 26 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE:
Children Youth & Families Department, 3401 Pan American Fwy NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107

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The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

OLÉ is a non-profit, who uses grassroots organizing within the local community of working families in New Mexico. Our members and staff work together to strengthen our communities through social advocacy and economic reform, using issue-based campaigns and electoral engagement to ensure that working families are playing a critical role in shaping New Mexico’s future with a united voice.

The Trump administration’s “public charge” rule will increase hunger and poverty in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE—In a reckless new attack on immigrant families, the Trump administration has proposed a federal rule that would allow the government to deny green cards and visa renewals to immigrants who have participated in programs that help with basic needs like medical care, food, and housing.

The rule change primarily impacts lawfully present immigrants applying for green cards and immigrants seeking entry to the U.S. through family-based petitions. It will significantly disrupt access to food, healthcare, and shelter for millions of immigrant families nationwide and hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans.

“No family should have to choose between meeting basic needs and being with their loved ones,” said Sovereign Hager, legal director at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

Trump’s new rule drastically expands the list of programs that jeopardize immigration status to include nearly all available basic need programs like Medicaid and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The “public charge” rule currently only considers receipt of cash benefits and institutional care as a public charge reason to deny immigrants admission to U.S. or to deny their application for legal residency. The new rule will not be retroactive, so the current use of food and medical benefits do not fall under the proposed rule.

19.8 million children in the U.S. live with at least one immigrant parent. When eligible family members cannot access food assistance because they fear immigration consequences, the entire family has reduced access to food. Nearly five million citizen children and at least 30,000 U.S. citizen children in New Mexico may face a reduction in food benefits.

“The latest scheme unfairly changes the rules for families who’ve waited for years to be reunited,” said Sireesha Manne, executive director at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “It creates a pay-to-play immigration system where green cards go to the highest bidders in wealthier households.”

The Trump administration’s policy agenda is already causing immigrants to forgo crucial assistance for themselves and their citizen children for fear of being targeted for deportation. By penalizing families for accepting help with food and medical care for which they are eligible, the policy will increase inequality and make us a sicker, hungrier, poorer nation.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty denounces this cruel and reckless public charge proposal. In the weeks and months to come, the organization will work tirelessly to mobilize with state and national partners to oppose the proposed rule.

“The best way to strengthen our country is to ensure that all families who live in it can meet their basic needs. All families have a human right to food, medical care, and shelter to thrive and contribute to their communities and our country,” said Hager. “These cruel attacks on immigrant families must stop for our nation to end inequality and increase opportunity.”

Find out more about the public charge rule here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Factsheet-Know-the-facts-about-public-charge-2018-09-23.pdf

A copy of the proposed new rule can be found here: https://www.dhs.gov/publication/proposed-rule-inadmissibility-public-charge-grounds#

City of Anthony stands behind ‘Medicaid Buy-in’ 

Board of Trustees moved by local support and statewide momentum 

ANTHONY– The City of Anthony’s Board of Trustees, after hearing testimony from NM Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Anthony, passed a resolution on Monday in favor of continuing the state’s efforts to shape a healthcare solution that would open up Medicaid for any New Mexican to buy into — regardless of their current Medicaid eligibility.

“All New Mexican families should have health insurance that allows them economic security and good health,” said Vanessa Urbina, Anthony resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “Unfortunately, many New Mexican families, including over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents, do not have health insurance. Medicaid has worked for my family and many others. We should build on Medicaid by opening it up for everyone.”

Medicaid is a trusted program that provides quality, affordable healthcare to over 100,000 people in Doña Ana County. A well-designed Medicaid Buy-in plan would allow Anthony residents — like those that don’t qualify for Medicaid because of income or citizenship status—to buy into healthcare coverage offered through Medicaid.

Having more New Mexicans covered would reduce uncompensated care costs that are shifted to doctors and hospitals and reduce medical debt among families trying to build financial security.

“For some years, my husband and I could not walk without pain in our hips and waist, but thanks to Medicaid, we received the treatment we needed,” said Ramona Urbina, another a long-time Anthony resident and Strong Families healthcare leader. “Today my husband can work and so can I. We can still pay our bills. Everyone should have the right of good healthcare that they can afford.”

New Mexican leaders like the Urbina family are part of the NM Together for Healthcare campaign, a movement of diverse families and organizations from across the state working to build support for a Medicaid Buy-in plan.

The campaign has been successful in building support among policy makers across the state, and similar resolutions have passed with unanimous support in the City of Sunland Park and Bernalillo and McKinley Counties. The New Mexico House and Senate also passed a Medicaid Buy-in memorial to study a buy-in option with bipartisan support during the 2018 legislative session.

“Medicaid has helped my family improve their quality of life. My father had been running his own business for 20 plus years, and I was able to finish my University Bachelor degree in Public Health because we’ve been able to manage our health, focus on our goals, and go to the hospital without going into debt,” said Vanessa Urbina. “But many families are not eligible for Medicaid due to immigration status, or they just don’t know they are eligible. We are fighting to make sure that every New Mexican family has the chance to be healthy and create opportunities for themselves.”

The City of Anthony’s Board of Trustees will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Educators, advocates, and tribal leaders propose plan to transform New Mexico’s education system

ALBUQUERQUE—Over a hundred people from across the state, including educators, advocates, tribal leaders, and families, met on Friday to discuss the reforms necessary to provide New Mexican students with the educational opportunities they need to learn and thrive. The coalition agreed upon a comprehensive platform that greatly expands access to culturally and linguistically relevant curricula, enhances teacher supports, and promotes proven, research-based programs such as universal pre-K and K-5 Plus, extends the school year, lowers class size, and increases funding for the At-Risk Index.

“It’s going to take all of us to transform public education in New Mexico,” said Emma Jones, lead organizer at the Learning Alliance. “Parents, students, educators, and community leaders have been working together on solutions to fix our public schools, and we now have a blueprint for real change. This movement will not stop until every student in New Mexico has access to the quality education all our children need and deserve.”

If adopted by the state, the plan would satisfy the requirements of the recent state court ruling on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico brought by families and school districts represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and families represented by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).

“The ruling has provided an incredible opportunity to transform our public schools for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come,” said Lauren Winkler, attorney at the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty. “We look forward to working with the state to bring it into compliance with the court’s order. We all want a better education for our children. We hope that we can come to an agreement soon.”

In June, the First Judicial Court declared that New Mexico’s public education system is not sufficient under the state constitution. The court found New Mexico’s education system particularly failed low-income, students of color, Native American, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. The court ordered the state to make sweeping changes to its schools to provide students with the programs and services they need to be college and career ready.

The comprehensive education plan includes significant increases to per pupil funding and teacher pay, time on task in the classroom, access to early childhood education, and culturally and linguistically relevant curriculum.

“We should be leveraging New Mexico’s tremendous assets and diversity,” said Carmen Lopez, executive director of College Horizons. “Our children have such great potential. It’s time to empower them with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.”

Friday’s meeting was the third and largest meeting held by education experts and community leaders since the court decision to discuss how to transform the state’s public education system. The coalition will continue to work together to push for quality education for all New Mexico’s children.

“Education is the single most important investment we can make in New Mexico’s future, not only for positive educational outcomes but for our economy and quality of life for all New Mexicans,” said Veronica Garcia, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, which is a plaintiff in the Yazzie lawsuit. “We have an opportunity to make the  transformative changes to our education system that we all know will help our children learn and thrive. Now politics as usual must end. There can be no more excuses. We must give all children the education they deserve.”

A copy of the platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/yazzie-proposed-remedy-platform-2018-09-17/

A summary of the court’s opinion can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/graphic-yazzie-martinez-decision/

More information on the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/our-work/education/

Bernalillo County champions ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

County Commissioners moved by local and statewide support for innovative solution

BERNALILLO COUNTY–The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners, after hearing from NM Together for Healthcare leaders from Bernalillo County, passed a resolution today that supports the state’s commitment to exploring an innovative proposal to allow New Mexicans to purchase health insurance coverage through Medicaid — including to those who do not currently qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford to use their current insurance.

“The Medicaid Buy-in plan is important because insurance is very expensive, and all New Mexicans need healthcare coverage,” said Reyna Tovar, a Partnership for Community Action healthcare advocate and Bernalillo County resident. “When my husband was unemployed, we did not have health insurance. When he found a new job, he had to wait six months until he qualified for health insurance through his employer. We did not have coverage during this time because we made too much for Medicaid and Obamacare was too expensive to use.”

Since July, policymakers and community members have been working together to develop this affordable healthcare solution through statewide roundtables and the passing of similar resolutions through local governments like the City of Sunland Park, Doña Ana, and McKinley County. During the 2018 legislative session, Medicaid Buy-in memorials passed with bipartisan support in the New Mexico House and Senate.

Medicaid already covers over 850,000 New Mexicans, including over 228,065 Bernalillo County residents. The plan would expand Medicaid for all New Mexican’s to buy into, providing low-cost coverage for the over 54,000 Bernalillo County residents who are still uninsured. It would also provide affordable health insurance to individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid due to income, immigration status, and for those who have healthcare coverage but cannot afford to use it.

“A Buy-in program would build upon Medicaid’s strong foundation to ensure that families do not have to choose between death and financial ruin,” said Lan Sena, a resident of Bernalillo County and a Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “My grandfather, an immigrant, could not get Medicaid when he had cancer and died because he could not afford treatment. I have cancer too, and even though I have insurance, I still cannot afford my treatments.”

“I have to choose whether to pay for healthcare insurance or gas for my car,” said Tovar. “Many people don’t qualify for Medicaid or earn slightly too much for Medicaid and cannot afford to pay for healthcare on their own.”

Bernalillo County will share the resolution with state legislators and include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Regulations on small loans law do not adequately protect borrowers

ALBUQUERQUE— The Financial Institutions Division issued regulations today implementing a state law that caps interest rates on storefront loans. The FID made almost no changes to the minimal regulations it proposed earlier this year, even though New Mexicans overwhelmingly asked the state to improve enforcement by collecting data on the industry, closing loan renewal loopholes, and requiring lenders to disclose the true costs of loans to borrowers and to make those disclosures in the language a borrower understands.

“All New Mexicans deserve access to fair and transparent loans under reasonable terms, but unfortunately, these regulations completely fail to fulfill the legislature’s  primary intent to protect borrowers,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “In fact, they are so lacking in teeth that New Mexico families have no guarantees that the terms of their loans will be clearly explained to them. Worse still, the regulations are completely bare of mandatory data reporting requirements, which will make it impossible to verify that storefront lenders are actually following the law.”

Before passage of HB 347 in the 2017 legislative session, many small loans were unregulated and borrowers were frequently charged interest rates of 300 percent APR or more. Reforms to the Small Loan Act went into effect January 1, 2018, capping interest rates at 175 percent APR and eliminating traditional short-term payday and title loans.  All storefront and online loans made in 2018 must have a minimum loan term of 120 days, and require a minimum of four payments.

However, the FID did not issue regulations to reflect the new standards until today, a full eight months after the law went into effect. The regulations the division did issue do not require lenders to provide borrowers with meaningful information about the costs of their loans and the consumer protections required by the new law. The regulations also fail to address the need to make disclosures and financial information available in a language that the borrower understands.

“It’s unfortunate that New Mexico FID did not take the opportunity to include language assistance as part of the new regulations, knowing that a majority of border town small loans are from Navajo consumers. It is important that we continue to advocate for legal contracts to be explained in the Navajo language or any other language in which consumers are able to fully comprehend the contracts they are signing,” said Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

The new regulations also fail to close loopholes in loan renewals, which may extend old loan terms, leaving borrowers vulnerable to interest rates and fees that are now illegal under the law. In addition, the regulations do not require lenders to provide data on small loans, making it impossible to tell if storefront lenders are adhering to the law and how the law is impacting New Mexicans. The FID failed to explain why it elected to ignore the dozens of comments submitted by New Mexicans asking the division to enact meaningful consumer protections.

Without meaningful regulations and reporting requirements, the FID and legislators cannot verify that the consumer protections intended by the new law are reaching New Mexico families. This means that the small loan industry, which makes hundreds of millions of dollars from New Mexico families, will continue to operate without transparency.

“We’re pleased that the FID has, at long last, finalized and posted regulations to implement the 2017 law. However, these regulations do very little to address our concerns and lack the substantive consumer protections we have been advocating for,” said Michael Barrio, director of advocacy at Prosperity Works. “An appropriate regulatory framework that adequately addresses areas that allow lenders to continue to circumvent limitations and protections that have been put in place by the 2018 small loan reforms is absolutely necessary if we hope to honestly protect hard working New Mexicans from predatory lending practices.”

The finalized FID regulations can be found here: http://164.64.110.134/nmac/nmregister/adoptedxxix16

A factsheet on regulations the FID should enact to enforce the small loans act can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/fact-sheet-fid-must-enact-regulations-to-enforce-the-small-loans-act-2018-07/

City of Sunland Park backs ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

City Council moved by local support and statewide momentum

SUNLAND PARK, NEW MEXICO– The City Council of Sunland Park, after hearing testimony from New Mexico Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Sunland Park, passed a resolution on Tuesday in favor of continuing the state’s efforts to shape a healthcare solution that would open up Medicaid for any New Mexican to buy into — regardless of their current Medicaid eligibility.

“I am very excited about a Medicaid Buy-in option” said Olga Hernandez, a long-time Sunland Park resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “We need to be looking for ways to provide access to quality healthcare for everyone, like the over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents that don’t have health insurance. Medicaid already serves over 100,000 people in Doña Ana. We should be building on this very good program.”

Since the bipartisan passing of the Medicaid Buy-in memorials in the New Mexico House and Senate during the 2018 legislative session, community members and policymakers have become more interested in this innovative plan.

The McKinley County Commission, with widespread community support, unanimously passed a similar resolution in support of the Medicaid Buy-in this past June.

Allowing Sunland Park residents to buy into Medicaid would provide families without health insurance and undocumented individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid access to an affordable health insurance option. Having more New Mexicans covered would reduce uncompensated care costs that are shifted to taxpayers, doctors, and hospitals, and reduce medical debt among families trying to build financial security.

“My husband was always working and my kids did not have access to medical insurance,” said Olga. “My husband and my three sons came to the city of Sunland Park looking for family wellness. When my husband got very sick with heart problems, he had to stop working and we had no money. We were able to find a solution through Medicaid, but a lot of families like me can’t get it for whatever reason. This has to change.”

The Sunland Park City Council will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

New Mexicans prevail in driver’s license lawsuit

SANTA FE, NM – On Tuesday, civil rights groups and homeless advocates announced a settlement agreement reached in a lawsuit against the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department and the Motor Vehicles Division that requires the state to properly implement its two-tiered driver’s license law and take much-needed steps to ensure New Mexicans can more easily access to an alternative to the federal REAL ID as state legislators intended.

“Everyday New Mexicans came out on top today,” said David Coss, former mayor of Santa Fe and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in January. “I look forward to finally obtaining my state license knowing that other people won’t have to go through the difficult and frustrating process I did. I believe that government should create opportunities for residents to get ahead, not barriers that get in their way. This settlement ensures fewer barriers and restored access to these essential documents.”

The lawsuit Coss v. Monforte challenged the MVD’s regulations governing the issuance of non-REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards, including the illegal practices of requiring proof of an “identification number” and not providing adequate due process to applicants who were denied a credential. The roll out of those regulations caused many applicants across the state to be wrongly denied a license or ID, and in countless cases, it triggered multiple visits to MVD and other government agencies for additional documentation not required by law.

On Friday afternoon, Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Judge David K. Thomson signed the settlement agreement between MVD, organizational plaintiffs and individual plaintiffs delineating what the MVD must do to have the case dismissed with prejudice.

Under the settlement agreement, the MVD will:

  • No longer require proof of an identification number, such as a social security number, to apply for a Driving Authorization Card (DAC) or non-federally compliant identification card.
  • Implement new regulations that will only require proof of New Mexico residency, identity and age for a non-REAL ID credential.
  • Expand the list of acceptable documents to show proof of New Mexico residency, identity and age.
  • Inform applicants who are denied a DAC or non-federally compliant identification card on the basis of a fingerprint background check of the reason for the denial, evidence the applicant can provide MVD to resolve the denial and information on how to appeal a denial and the timeframe for doing so.
  • Provide additional training to MVD clerks and public information regarding the new rules and policies.

In 2016, New Mexico lawmakers created a two-tiered driver’s license system that gives New Mexicans the choice to opt in or out of the federal REAL ID Act. While the state law requires MVD to provide a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card to New Mexicans who can meet the federal government’s burdensome requirements, the MVD is also required to issue a non-REAL ID license or ID card to eligible applicants who do not meet the federal requirements or simply do not want a REAL ID.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit included senior citizens, immigrants, and homeless New Mexicans who need a license or ID to go to work or school, obtain housing, medical care or other necessities.

Individual plaintiffs who were denied licenses and ID cards are joined by organizational plaintiffs New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and Somos Un Pueblo Unido in the lawsuit. David Urias of Freedman, Boyd, Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward, P.A. is the lead counsel on the legal team that includes attorneys from Somos, ACLU-NM, and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

The defendants in the lawsuit are the NMTRD, acting Cabinet Secretary John Monforte, the MVD, and Acting Director Alicia Ortiz.

The following are additional statements from plaintiff organizations and the legal team:

“A broad coalition of community groups, public safety advocates and legislators has worked together over a 15-year span to ensure that all New Mexicans have the ability to apply for a license or ID, critical tools in navigating every day life,” said Marcela Díaz, Executive Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The onerous and misguided federal REAL ID Act threatened our common sense licensing policies, but the Legislature pushed back and gave us a real alternative that meets the needs of New Mexicans. We are satisfied that through this agreement, citizens and non-citizens alike will have access to accurate information about the non-REAL ID license, as well as a more efficient process to obtain it.”

“This agreement is an important victory for New Mexicans experiencing homelessness,” said Hank Hughes, Executive Director of New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. “Obtaining an identification card is often the first step for someone who has lost everything, as they put their life back together. This agreement removes the unnecessary barriers that were in place with the old regulations.”

“We’re relieved the MVD has agreed to stop asking New Mexicans to provide unnecessary documentation in order to get a non-REAL ID license or ID,” said Sovereign Hager, legal director at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “MVD’s decision to comply with our state law benefits all New Mexicans, but especially families who do not have a stable place to live or consistent employment. An ID or driver’s license is a basic necessity to do just about anything. Without one, you can’t drive, fill a prescription, cash a check, find housing, or get job to support your family. We hope MVD will continue to work on common sense improvements that will streamline access to IDs and licenses for all New Mexicans.”

“We applaud the professionalism of MVD officials in hammering out this agreement with our organizations,” said Gabriela Ibañez Guzmán, staff attorney with Somos Un Pueblo Unido and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “The settlement represents a sensible solution that will benefit hardworking New Mexicans and ensure that people are not left without a driver’s license or ID.”

“The federal REAL ID was a bad law that imposed unnecessary identification requirements on New Mexico residents,” said ACLU of New Mexico executive director Peter Simonson. “In its wisdom, the Legislature passed a law to ensure compliance while also guaranteeing our most vulnerable residents have opportunity to continue access to a driver’s license or state ID and today’s settlement agreement allows that purpose to be fulfilled. That said, we believe there is more work to do to ensure New Mexico residents aren’t left out due to fingerprinting requirements and other obstacles.”

The City of Sunland Park to consider supporting innovative ‘Medicaid buy-in’ option

Resolution to be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting

SUNLAND PARK, NEW MEXICO–On Tuesday, Doña Ana healthcare leaders in the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign will present a resolution to the Sunland Park City Council that supports the state’s exploration of an innovative plan allowing New Mexicans the opportunity to buy-in to the proven, trusted Medicaid healthcare system. The City Council is expected to pass the resolution.

The affordable healthcare option would allow New Mexicans to buy into the Medicaid program for healthcare coverage – even if they are not currently eligible for Medicaid – providing a more affordable, high quality healthcare coverage option.
With more than 25,000 Doña Ana County residents currently without health insurance, a Medicaid buy-in plan would make quality healthcare coverage more accessible for many local residents. Sunland Park residents have reached out to the city councilors and urged them to support the resolution.

WHAT:
The City of Sunland Park will vote on an important resolution supporting the state’s work to explore a Medicaid buy-In plan.

WHEN:
6 p.m., Tuesday, August 21, 2018

WHERE:
Sunland Park City Hall, City Council Chambers, 1000 McNutt Rd, Sunland Park, NM 88063

WHO:
Sunland Park City Council

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.