Public Charge Amicus Brief

The Arc Applauds Federal Injunctions Against Public Charge Rule

Washington, D.C. – The Arc applauds a slew of decisions from Federal Courts in New York, Washington State, and California that grant preliminary injunctions against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) implementation of its discriminatory public charge rule. The injunctions block the rule that would have a dire impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that had been scheduled to take effect on Tuesday, October 15th. Two of the three decisions explicitly acknowledge the strength of the disability discrimination claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, noting that “there is a significant possibility that disabled applicants who currently reside in the Plaintiff States, or legal permanent residents who return to the U.S. after a 180-day period outside of the U.S., would be deemed inadmissible primarily on the basis of their disability.”

“These injunctions were necessary to recognize the rights of people with disabilities and their families. The courts recognize that the DHS regulations may violate federal and constitutional law and will cause irreversible harm to immigrant families in need of public benefits and services.

“The public charge rule blocked today would discourage immigrant families from utilizing critical public services out of fear of harming their immigration status. It discriminates against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and others who use vital programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing assistance, and other important benefits. The policy would have allowed the federal government to deny admission into the U.S. based on disability and unfairly restructure immigration in a way that is detrimental to people based on their disability,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

In September, The Arc and seventeen national disability advocacy groups filed amicus briefs in support of three cases to block the Trump Administration from implementing the public charge rule. One of the decisions explicitly references our work, noting that “amici provide a compelling analysis of how the factors introduced by the Public Charge Rule disproportionately penalize disabled applicants…” We continue our efforts to ensure that non-citizens with any type of disability have a fair opportunity to enter and live legally in the U.S.

A woman in a scooter and a dog play on a grassy field in front of houses.

The Arc and Partners File Amicus Brief Challenging Discriminatory Actions of Dallas Housing Authority

This week, The Arc and other national and local disability and civil rights advocacy groups—represented by the law firm WilmerHale—filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Community for Permanent Supported Housing et al v. Housing Authority of the City of Dallas. The brief provides background on the affordable housing crisis facing people with disabilities and explains that the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) “integration mandate” cannot be fully realized without affordable, independent housing opportunities in the community. The brief was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, The Arc of Texas, Disability Rights Advocates, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the National Disability Rights Network.

The case, filed in federal district court in the Northern District of Texas in 2018, challenges the Housing Authority of the City of Dallas’s (DHA) refusal to use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Project-Based Voucher (PBV) rent subsidy program to provide otherwise scarce affordable, independent housing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in the community. DHA was poised to offer such PBVs—each of which would permit a single-family house to be rented at subsidized rates to several people with I/DD who can live independently with appropriate supports—but then canceled its offering and has refused to offer any substitute, without any good reason. The lawsuit alleges that DHA’s actions violate the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Fair Housing Act, and state law. The district court dismissed the case in April 2019 and Plaintiffs appealed to the Fifth Circuit. Plaintiffs are represented by Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, a Washington, D.C. based civil rights law firm, and Disability Rights Texas, a statewide protection and advocacy organization. The amicus brief supports Plaintiffs’ request to reverse the district court’s dismissal order and let the case move forward.

As the brief explains, in 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” under the ADA and, as such, the ADA requires public entities to administer programs “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.” But this integration mandate cannot be fully realized without affordable housing opportunities in the community that enable people with I/DD to live outside their family homes. For many adults with I/DD currently living with family, opportunities that allow them to live in the community separate from their families are often preferable because these opportunities provide greater independence and autonomy. Additionally, living in the community separate from their families can be critical for adults with I/DD to avoid homelessness or institutionalization when a supporting family member inevitably ages and reaches a point where she or he can no longer provide shelter or support. Of the more than 100,000 people with I/DD living in North Texas, around 75% live with at least one family member into adulthood because of a shortage of affordable housing that would enable them to access community-based support services in homes apart from their families.

“Defendant DHA has publicly acknowledged that two-thirds of adults with I/DD in North Texas ‘may be at risk of institutionalization or homelessness’ due to a severe affordable housing crisis. These numbers are unacceptably high and represent a crisis that must be urgently addressed,” said Shira Wakschlag, Director of Legal Advocacy & Associate General Counsel for The Arc. “DHA’s actions violate numerous federal and state civil rights laws and harm Plaintiffs by unduly restricting opportunities for community-based housing that offer more independence and autonomy and puts individuals with I/DD in North Texas at risk of homelessness and institutionalization. Plaintiffs should have the opportunity to prove their allegations on an issue as critical as community-based, affordable housing opportunities for people with disabilities.”

“We are proud to represent a number of disability and civil rights advocacy organizations as amici on this important issue,” said Christa Laser, an attorney with the global law firm WilmerHale. “We hope that this amicus brief helps to advance the rights of people with disabilities by ensuring meaningful access to affordable housing opportunities in the community.”

man in hospital bed comforted by friend as doctor looks on

The Arc Rejects Proclamation Barring Immigrants Without Approved Health Insurance

The Arc is distressed by the Trump Administration’s repeated attacks on immigrants and people with disabilities who are seeking admission to the U.S. We have major concerns about the latest threat, President Trump’s harmful Proclamation, issued October 4, mandating that immigrants applying for visas to the U.S. prove that they will have approved health insurance 30 days after they are in the country or show that they have the ability to pay medical expenses.

The Proclamation means that people who are not “covered by approved health insurance” can’t come in to the country legally, based on the burden they supposedly place on taxpayers, and the strain on publicly funded programs. Medicaid and publicly funded programs are essential for many people with disabilities, and private insurance may not include the services people with significant disabilities typically need. Medicaid is the only insurer that covers many home and community-based services, including personal care services, specialized therapies, and treatment. These are services that support people with disabilities to live, work, and participate in their communities. This new standard from the White House is the latest note in a larger chorus of policies that would exclude immigrants based on their disabilities.

The new policy also does not include coverage under subsidized plans offered in the individual Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance market as “approved” insurance. Under the ACA, many people with disabilities now have access to quality, appropriate, comprehensive, affordable, portable, and non-discriminatory coverage and benefits through the exchanges. At the same time, the Proclamation does count “catastrophic” coverage and short-term limited duration policies as approved coverage, neither of which provides the services that a person with significant disabilities may need. 

“Once again, we are called to stand up for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) as contributing, valued, and respected members of their communities. The President’s recent Proclamation is unreasonable for people with I/DD and their families who are seeking to immigrate to the U.S. Immigration and naturalization policies and rules must recognize the humanity of all persons who wish to enter the U.S. and provide for humane and fair opportunities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “In addition to creating more barriers for people with I/DD and their families, the Proclamation is yet another shameful action by the Administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Together, we must continue our work to protect the significant achievements of the ACA and its important provisions for people with disabilities and their families, and remain vigilant and active in protecting the human and civil rights of all people with I/DD.”

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The Arc Demands Charges Against Officer in Costco Shooting

The Arc is outraged by the decision not to file criminal charges against the Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed Kenneth French, a man reported to have had intellectual disability, at a California Costco store in June. Kenneth was nonverbal and also lived with mental health issues, according to his family.

Kenneth was unarmed when he pushed or hit Officer Salvador Sanchez, who was holding his child. Sanchez used excessive force and recklessly ended the young man’s life, despite reported warnings and pleas by Kenneth’s family explaining that he had intellectual disability. Sanchez fired 10 shots, also critically wounding Kenneth’s parents.

“Officer Sanchez should face criminal charges. Based on the evidence made public, we are outraged by the grand jury’s recommendation. We are infuriated that Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin also declined to file charges. Both decisions raise serious concerns for the disability community and all communities disproportionately impacted by unwarranted police violence, a problem that has plagued our country far too long.

“The criminal justice system has failed the French family. At a minimum, charges should be filed and a full trial held. Let a judge or jury decide whether a crime has been committed after all the evidence is presented.

“Kenneth French and other people with disabilities have the right to be in the community, shopping with their family or doing any other ordinary activity, without a police officer shooting and killing them. Kenneth’s death is a senseless tragedy that magnifies the troubling divide between law enforcement and all people they are sworn to protect and serve,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc makes it a priority to build strong, respectful relationships between the disability community, the criminal justice system, and law enforcement personnel across the country. Our National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) trains attorneys, judges, law enforcement officers, and victim advocates nationwide through Pathways to Justice. We educate them on issues facing the disability community and how to safely and effectively interact with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are at least two times more likely to become victims of violent crimes.

“There is an urgent need for officer training, intentional relationship-building with people with disabilities and agencies that serve them, and the use of de-escalation techniques. The Arc will continue to follow the case closely, as LAPD investigates and Kenneth’s family pursues legal action,” said Berns.

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The Arc Condemns Change Targeting Sick Children and Adults

Washington, D.C. – The Arc is deeply concerned over a cruel federal policy shift that hurts families and immigrants with serious illnesses, certain disabilities, and other chronic health conditions. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has eliminated a protection that allowed some immigrants with serious medical needs and their family members who care for them to stay in the country while receiving life-saving treatment. This change hurts people with multiple diagnoses or serious health needs, including individuals with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, and other developmental disabilities, as well as cancer, HIV, and other diseases.

In addition, we are troubled USCIS ended the exemption, officially known as deferred action, without advance public notice or due process. The change creates turmoil, fear and potentially devastating consequences for people who are facing serious medical illness and their families. Some health care providers have also expressed strong opposition to the change.

 “The lives of sick children and adults with developmental disabilities are in danger. Some families will forego necessary medical treatment to stay in the U.S. or face deportation to countries where they cannot receive the care they need – a death sentence,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “We urge USCIS to reverse course immediately.”

In a letter to USCIS, The Arc and more than 150 advocacy organizations and legal groups called on the agency to reverse this inhumane and unfair shift in policy.

The Arc urges Congress to hold USCIS accountable. We will pay close attention to the upcoming  House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties hearing on the issue, scheduled for Wednesday, September 11. All people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are entitled to human and civil rights.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Public Charge Amicus Brief

Disability Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Opposing the Administration’s Public Charge Rule as Illegal Disability Discrimination

The Arc and seventeen other national disability advocacy groups represented by the global law firm Latham & Watkins filed an amicus brief in support of litigation to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its new “public  charge” rule. Twenty-one states, led by California, Washington, and New York, have filed cases against the Trump Administration to block the new rule. The advocacy groups – representing tens of thousands of people with disabilities and their families across the country – claim that the new public charge rule will prevent people with disabilities from entering this country or becoming legal residents in violation of federal disability law. 

“The new public charge rule is based on an insidious and outdated notion that people with disabilities do not have a valued place in American society,” said Alison Barkoff, Director of Advocacy for the Center for Public Representation. “Almost 30 years ago, Congress removed the per se exclusion of immigrants with disabilities, recognizing the discrimination and prejudice these policies embodied. In the following years, Congress has repeatedly legislated its commitment to include and integrate people with disabilities in all aspects of life. This new rule flies in the face of that progress and federal law.”

“The new rule punishes immigrants who use Medicaid, even though Medicaid is the only way to access critical disability services,” said Claudia Center, Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “Congress has explicitly recognized the importance of Medicaid in enabling people with disabilities to be productive, contributing members of society. Studies show that access to Medicaid increases employment for people with disabilities. That is the opposite of a public charge.”

“This new policy is devastating to many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. It discourages immigrant families from utilizing critical public services out of fear of harming their immigration status. The rule will increase poverty, hurt public health, and worsen housing instability. It’s the latest callous tactic in restricting access to necessary services and supports. The Arc continues our work to ensure that non-citizens with any type of disability have a fair opportunity to enter and reside legally in the U.S., without unnecessary or discriminatory restrictions based on their disability,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

“We are proud to represent the disability community in this important litigation,” said Sarah Ray, a partner with the global law firm Latham & Watkins. “Our public interest organization partners across the disability and immigration sectors report that this new rule is causing serious fear and confusion among immigrants – especially those with disabilities and those whose family members have disabilities. This rule violates federal law and must be stopped before it goes into effect on October 15th.”

For more information about the public charge rule and its impact on people with disabilities, see www.medicaid.publicrep.org/feature/public-charge/ or www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org.

Media contacts:

Kristen McKiernan, The Arc

202-534-3712, mckiernan@thearc.org

Lauren Weiner, American Civil Liberties Union

212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

Alison Barkoff, Center for Public Representation

202-854-1270, abarkoff@cpr-us.org

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc logo

The Arc Reacts to SNL’s Pete Davidson Using the R-Word

Washington, D.C. – The Arc is disappointed that Saturday Night Live Actor and Comedian Pete Davidson used the r-word during a comedy show at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Monday, August 26. He became upset at an audience member recording the performance on their cell phone. During an expletive-filled rant, Davidson used the slur against students in attendance.

“Pete Davidson’s use of the r-word is unacceptable. The word is dehumanizing and offensive to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and advocates,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “The Arc and our allies across the disability community have worked hard to put an end to the r-word and bring awareness to the painful history of exclusion behind the word. It has no place in our society, and it is shameful to hear it still used by anyone. We are asking Davidson for an apology.”

The Arc has been involved in diligent efforts to eliminate the word. We advocated heavily for the 2010 passage of Rosa’s Law, which removed the offensive term from federal health, education, and labor statutes. The Arc’s state and local chapters have successfully advocated for similar changes in states across the country as well, including removing the r-word from the names of the state government agencies that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc Urges HHS to Address Caregiver Crisis

Washington, D.C. – In a series of critical meetings this week, The Arc will take important steps in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address the caregiver crisis facing millions of families. Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA, and James Cheely, President of The Arc of Barren County, Kentucky serve on the newly-formed RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council. The Council meets for the first time on Wednesday, August 28 and Thursday, August 29 in Washington, D.C. to develop recommendations to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

Murray, who is co-chair of the Council, and Cheely bring a deep personal and professional understanding of the caregiver crisis for families and people with intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD). Murray is the mother of two adult children with Down syndrome and was a caregiver to both of her aging parents. Cheely has a son with I/DD. He is also a former president of The Arc of Kentucky.

“The RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council has been charged with a huge task.  I am honored and excited to be a part of it,” said Cheely. “I am looking forward to representing families of The Arc in these discussions.”

Murray and Cheely are available to speak about the growing national caregiving crisis and efforts to alleviate it.

“I am honored to be selected to be a member of the new Family Caregiving Advisory Council and to create awareness of the vital role that family caregivers play in the United States. At one time or another, many, if not most Americans, become a caregiver for an elderly parent, child with a disability, or spouse with a disability or illness,” said Murray. “We need to increase and strengthen the resources and supports for family caregivers. One possible solution to help ease the crisis is a federal paid leave policy.”

Less than half of caregivers reported having paid leave in The Arc’s Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) 2017 Survey. The survey reflects the true extent of the crisis and the need for change.

The Council was established by the RAISE Family Caregivers Act enacted last year to help HHS address the caregiver crisis for family members and persons with I/DD, seniors, veterans, and others. Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Michael Bennet of Colorado were original sponsors of the legislation. Florida Rep. Kathy Castor and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik originally sponsored the House version of the bill.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc logo

The Arc Visits Walmart Corporate Headquarters to Deliver Disability Inclusion Training

Washington, DC – On July 30, The Arc’s staff traveled to Walmart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas to deliver a disability inclusion training to members of its leadership and staff. Nearly 300 participants, both in-person and virtual, took part in the session which provided an introduction to the history of the disability rights movement in the United States and examined some of the core issues affecting today’s disability community.

The training is the first of two that The Arc’s national employment initiative, The Arc@Work, will be conducting over the coming months. The next step will be to develop an eLearning training module that will span multiple topics related to disability, inclusion and employment. This training module will be made available to the staff at corporate headquarters as well as all of Walmart’s US-based associates.

“The Arc is a leading voice in the disability community, advocating for and implementing change for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan. The Arc is honored to be bringing nearly 70 years of knowledge and expertise in the disability rights field to Walmart and its employees. Our trainings will allow Walmart to learn more about the disability community and further their understanding of how fostering employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is the right thing to do, and good for business,” said Jonathan Lucus, Senior Director, Workforce Strategy, The Arc.

The Arc@Work supports corporate clients in meeting their diversity and inclusion goals, from recruiting qualified job candidates with disabilities, to conducting staff and management disability awareness trainings, to creating disability-inclusive workspaces.

Employment rates for people with disabilities – especially people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – are critically low compared to people without disabilities. The US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2015) estimates that people with any disability or a cognitive disability are employed at much lower rates (34.3% and 24.8% respectively) than those without disabilities (73.6%)1. Additionally, the National Core Indicators Survey of 2015-2016 reported that 19% of people with I/DD in the workforce reported having a paid job in the community2.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc Rejects President Trump’s Comments on Bringing Back Institutions

Washington, DC – The Arc, the nation’s largest civil rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), which was founded by parents and family members who rejected institutions and fought for decades to close them, released the following statement on President Trump’s comments about creating new institutions for people with mental health needs.

“The Arc and our constituents are all too familiar with calls to reopen the institutions of the past, where people with all different disabilities were imprisoned against their wills and subject to horrific torture and abuse. For nearly 70 years, The Arc has focused on advocating for deinstitutionalization to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and other disabilities, can live meaningful, independent lives in the communities of their choice among their families and peers, with accompanying supports and services.

“We have spent decades building the community services we need and we still have so far to go to ensure that people with all disabilities, but especially those with dual diagnoses of I/DD and mental illness, have access to the critical services they require to support community living.

“People with I/DD and mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of it. The misguided idea that mental illness causes violence is inaccurate, harmful, and discriminatory to the disability community.

“Re-institutionalization would bring people with disabilities back into the dark ages of isolation and segregation. Nearly 30 years after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its ‘integration mandate’, we have come so far. Yet 37 states still have institutions, and these comments impede our progress. Clearly, we have more work to do, and encourage people to join our efforts to build a world where people with disabilities do not face this harmful stereotyping,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.