El Centro remains committed to pursuing policy changes supporting the organization’s direct service work to meet the needs of clients. While the agency may not have the capacity to take the lead on these policy issues, El Centro’s Board of Directors recognizes that, on some issues, the organization’s engagement could play an important supporting role. In approaching advocacy, El Centro will leverage its strongest assets:
- grassroots base of clients and allies
- issue expertise
- reputation and relationships.
In some cases, this work will be defensive, as El Centro works with allies to prevent negative policy developments. In other cases, El Centro and its partners will be more proactive and begin to lay the groundwork for advancing policy agendas that, over time, can substantially strengthen the programmatic work the agency does with individuals and families.
El Centro, Inc.’s Board of Directors approves a legislative agenda each year, to direct the legislative activity of the organization’s staff and volunteers. This direct policy activity is complemented by the agency’s nonpartisan voter registration, community education, advocacy training, and leadership development.
El Centro’s 2015 Legislative Advocacy Agenda
Tier 1 Issues—El Centro will mobilize supporters, provide leadership to coalitions, and communicate directly with policymakers
Protecting Kansas’ Instate Tuition Policy
Every year since its passage in 2004, the state policy that provides a way for qualified immigrant students to attend post-secondary education at instate tuition rates has been under fire. For a decade, El Centro has played a constructive role in this debate, advising advocates and legislative allies, producing informational materials, involving immigrant students in testimony, and engaging in direct lobbying. El Centro believes that this policy is still a sound investment in the state’s future. These immigrant students make significant contributions to their colleges and to our state, facilitated today by the federal government’s extension of deferred action to many of these same talented young people.
Protecting Administrative Relief for Immigrant Families (DAPA & DACA)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) are programs that allow some of our families to remain together and live without fear of being separated. As the nation waits for comprehensive immigration reform, we support executive action for administrative relief. We will lead through educational workshops and clinics that support our community through this application process.
(Wyandotte and/or Johnson) Local governments across the United States have begun issuing ID cards for community members to prove their legal name and permanent address to access the city and other services. We encourage municipalities to take similar measures in our service area. Municipal ID’s do not provide legal status or work authorization. Research suggests non-citizens with ID cards are more willing to cooperate with law enforcement, report crimes, and serve as witnesses. ID’s allow members of the community to access daily life services such as getting mail from the post office, opening bank accounts, entering the local court, or picking up their child from school.
Tier 2 Issues—El Centro will collaborate with other advocates who are taking the lead on these issues, lending our voices in communication with targeted policymakers
Support for Federal Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR)
El Centro will continue to work to build support for CIR among the Kansas congressional delegation, generate grassroots activity, and shape the local conversation around the need for reform. We believe that sound immigration policy would be a considerable help not only to immigrants in our community, but to our overall economy and society, as well, and we call on the Congress to take up reform immediately.
Protecting the Children’s Initiative Fund
Programs essential to the well-being of Kansas children, including Smart Start, Early Childhood Block Grant, and Child Care Assistance, rely on the dedicated funding within the CIF. These monies are even more important now, in the context of State General Fund cuts and ongoing federal fiscal challenges. Again in 2015, these funds, set aside from the proceeds of the tobacco settlement, will be at risk. El Centro’s unique experiences in providing bilingual, bicultural early childhood education to a diverse community can lend a critical voice to this effort.
Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility
El Centro provides health navigation services to assist individuals in accessing needed health care. This work is often frustrating, as El Centro staff encounter considerable gaps in the health care system that complicate health promotion and disease management efforts. We believe that expanding eligibility for Medicaid/KanCare, would reduce the extent of unmet need in the health care system and, therefore, improve the health status of low-income and otherwise disadvantaged Kansans. We recognize, still, an ongoing need for safety net health care providers, knitted together to provide access to medical homes for all, and believe that Medicaid expansion would complement their critical role.
Protecting Essential Public Infrastructure
El Centro, as an organization, as well as the individuals and families served by the agency’s programs and services, depend on a strong revenue foundation to provide for the needs and invest in the capacity of the state’s most vulnerable populations and communities. The dramatic and, we believe, ill-conceived, tax cuts in 2012 decimated the state’s tax foundation. As Kansas braces for continued budget cuts born of this revenue erosion, El Centro affirms its belief that tax policy should be fair, transparent, and adequate to meet the state’s core obligations in education, economic development, health, and social services. The organization calls for the institution of tax policies that are fair for low-income Kansas taxpayers and provide the funds that policymakers can use to serve the public.