MD General Assembly Convened January 11, 2023
UULMMD Legislative Priorities, 2023 MD General Assembly:
Probation Before Judgment, HB193; Access to Care, SB365; Medicaid Study Bill, HB363
The proposed bill, which was introduced in the 2022 session as well, will remove immigration status as a barrier to health care insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Currently, 275,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom, despite working, paying taxes, contributing to Social Security and Medicare, are ineligible for ACA.
This bill will allow people to purchase health coverage from the MD Health Benefit Exchange regardless of their immigration status. This bill was introduced last year. but did not get voted out of committee.
ACA currently excludes undocumented folks from accessing state exchanges, so this bill allows the state to use a "1332 waiver” to bypass that Federal requirement and create a targeted state subsidy program for undocumented residents.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Non-citizens are significantly more likely than citizens to be uninsured. In 2019, among the non-elderly population, 25% of lawfully present immigrants and more than four in ten (46%) undocumented immigrants were uninsured compared to less than one in ten (9%) citizens. Among citizen children, those with at least one non-citizen parent are more likely to be uninsured compared to those with citizen parents (9% vs. 5%)
DIED IN COMMITTEE
This bill requires the MD Health Benefit Exchange and the MD Department of Health to submit a report comparing options for offering affordable coverage to Maryland residents who are ineligible for Medicaid or Qualified Health Plans due to immigration status.
The report must compare costs to the state, impact on uninsured, potential benefit designs, and implementation considerations.
Last year, the General Assembly enacted the Healthy Babies Equity Act extending care to cover prenatal and postpartum periods that dramatically increases survival rates and prevents long-term complications for the mother and baby. Now, we need to expand Medicaid coverage to all income-eligible families, not just mothers and their babies.
Sponsored by Delegate Cullison
The federal Immigration and Nationality Act lists multiple categories of deportable aliens which include lawfully admitted permanent residents (I-151, green card holders). Among the categories is conviction of a crime -- felony or certain misdemeanors – and subsequent sentence to confinement. 8 U.S.C.A. section 1251.
Sometimes, as the Maryland legislature has recognized, it is in the best interests of the community to provide an outcome in a criminal matter that will not result in a conviction and has established “probation before judgment” (PBJ) where a judge will strike a conviction and impose probation instead. The statute works well for U.S. citizens. However, under federal immigration law, the current MD PBJ statute is still considered a conviction for non-U.S. citizens because during the PBJ plea agreement process, they have admitted guilt and a finding of guilt is sufficient to trigger severe consequences of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The results can be not only severe but inhumane. A Maryland resident for whom PBJ is imposed, but who happens to be a lawfully admitted permanent resident or an undocumented immigrant, can face detention and deportation. Families can be separated – fathers, mothers, breadwinners, taken from their children – for minor offenses. We have the opportunity with HB193 to correct this injustice.
As retired U.S. Immigration Judge John F. Gossart Jr. commented in the Baltimore Sun, “Virginia and New York have similar statutes, which function so that their non-citizen residents do not suffer additional consequences from probation. To allow this inequity to exist from one jurisdiction to another, when the intent of PBJ statutes is the same or similar, is in my opinion unjust. Which side of the Potomac River the case is heard on should not determine whether a PBJ triggers federal consequences.”
Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to promote and affirm justice, equity and compassion in human relations and surely, supporting the passage and enactment of HB193, Probation Before Judgment will redress the inequity that exists in Maryland’s Probation Before Judgment statute.
May Be Introduced Again in 2023
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone the right to counsel – in criminal proceedings. Unfortunately, despite its severe consequences, deportation proceedings are civil and people in detention facing deportation do not have a right to government-funded counsel, leaving most immigrants to represent themselves in immigration courts, in a system where even legal scholars admit, the statutes are as complicated as the Tax Code. CASA estimates that in Maryland, more than 500 adults are held in immigration detention, forced to defend themselves. (77% of immigrants do not have counsel during immigration proceedings. – Vera Institute of Justice.) Such a process violates the right of due process, harms immigrant communities and damages local economies.
The proposed bill will:
Establish an Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Program administered by the Maryland Legal Services Corporation to provide access to legal representation to certain detained individuals in certain immigration proceedings
Provide education and outreach to certain individuals, families, and communities affected by immigration proceedings and detention
Establish the Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Special Fund as a special, non-lapsing fund
Prince George’s County and Baltimore City have already instituted universal representation programs. A state-wide program would ensure consistency. Moreover, forty jurisdictions nationally provide representation.
Studies show that individuals who represent themselves in immigration proceedings will succeed in preventing deportation and separation from family only 3% of the time, while those who are presented by counsel will succeed in more than 30% of the cases. (Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.)
Only 37 percent of all immigrants and 14 percent of detained immigrants go to court with lawyers on their side, according to a 2016 American Immigration Council (AIC) study. (National Immigrant Justice Center)
Forty jurisdictions nationally provide legal representation to undocumented immigrants. In Maryland, Baltimore City and PG County have representation programs. A state-wide program will ensure consistency in application.
In Baltimore City, 41% of detainees who were represented in immigration courts and hearings were released from custody -- either on bond or won their cases.