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Lost in translation: Information for Medi-Cal’s beneficiaries

In this op-ed, Western Center health policy advocate Jen Flory and California Pan-Ethnic Health Network’s Kiran Savage-Sangwan explain the need for AB 318, a law awaiting signature by Governor Newsom. If signed into law, the bill will require native language speakers to workshop and approve Medi-Cal managed care plan documents for non-English speaking consumers. Right now, many of the translations patients receive have terrible translations – including large portions that are not translated at all. This bill would address that by ensuring translations, which are required by state law, actually make sense to the people who need them.

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No more waiting

More than two years after an independent audit raised alarm bells about special-ed classes, youth advocacy groups don’t see change coming without legal action.

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The California city where students with disabilities are ‘segregated’

In the Sacramento city school district, nearly half of students with disabilities are separated from peers. A lawsuit claims the district is violating federal law.

…Antionette Dozier, an attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, one of four legal organizations representing the students, said it is a familiar issue but one that is starkest in the state’s capital.

“This is a statewide problem. However, Sacramento is probably the most egregious in terms of racial segregation and the treatment of black students,” Dozier said.

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The federal government can help with California’s homelessness crisis, but not Trump’s way

By Anya Lawler, Western Center Housing Policy Advocate 

Lately, President Trump has developed a keen interest in California’s homelessness crisis. On his fundraising trip through the state, the president expressed concern for the impact the crisis has on wealthy foreign real estate investors, and on “our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings.”

Notably absent from his concern is the one group that feels the impact of the crisis most—people who struggle to survive every day without a roof over their head. President Trump seems uninterested in humane, compassionate solutions, or ensuring that the federal government is fulfilling its responsibility by providing the resources needed to make sure everyone has safe, stable, affordable housing.

Instead, there are hints that the President is pursuing policies that would further criminalize homelessness and treat human beings struggling with poverty as objects to be warehoused out of view. This continues the Trump administration’s cruel pattern of using a humanitarian crisis as an excuse to remove people’s constitutional freedoms, and then blaming those hit hardest by the crisis for being there in the first place.

None of us should be surprised. The administration has introduced one heartless policy after another that, if implemented, would undoubtedly increase homelessness in California and beyond. A few examples:

  • The proposed DHS Public Charge Rule, which will hamper economic mobility and increase poverty by scaring immigrant families away from using crucial programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which help children and families exit poverty and prevent subsequent harm.
  • The proposed new HUD Mixed Status Rule, which will force families to make an impossible choice between removing family members from their household or losing needed housing assistance.
  • The proposed weakening of the HUD Disparate Impact Rule, which will limit housing opportunity by making it easier to discriminate against members of protected classes. If implemented, the rule will have a direct impact on the homelessness crisis by facilitating discrimination against people experiencing homelessness.
  • The proposed changes to the HUD Equal Access Rule, which flies in the face of proven solutions, and creates unnecessary barriers for accessing shelter, directly contributing to an increase in the rate of unsheltered homelessness.
  • The proposed rule changes to SNAP Time Limit Regulations and SNAP Categorical Eligibility Rules, requiring people to make the impossible choice between food and money for housing.

Rather than pursuing misguided and ineffective efforts that dehumanize people and undermine their ability to succeed, Trump could make far more of an impact by removing these deeply problematic rules from consideration, and instead focusing on proven solutions to prevent and reduce homelessness.

While the causes of California’s homelessness crisis are complex and deeply rooted in racial and economic inequality, one crucial part of the solution is housing people can afford. Homelessness will not end in California without a drastic increase in the supply of housing affordable to households with low incomes. The vast majority of funding for that kind of housing is controlled by the federal government.

Stable affordable housing—both with and without supportive services—ensures that vulnerable families and individuals don’t become homeless, assists the legions who have already lost housing, and allows chronically homeless individuals to receive the services they need to stay off the street. California’s dramatic housing shortage is catastrophic for lower-income people; it will take sustained and substantial funding to turn it around.

There is little chance the state can remedy the affordable housing shortage without a significant increase in federal resources. But rather than address the chronic underfunding of federal housing programs that are critical to serving people with the lowest incomes, the Trump administration is pursuing cuts. Rather than increasing the number of Housing Choice Vouchers available in California so eligible households aren’t stuck on years-long waiting lists, the administration remains focused on cutting HUD’s budget and applying problematic Fair Market Rent calculations that add to the challenge of voucher utilization. Rather than ensuring families are stably housed so that they can focus on improving their economic well-being, he remains focused on tearing families apart and punishing them for using the public assistance intended to prevent the many harms caused by poverty.

More policing is not a solution to homelessness. It is not a crime to be poor. It is not a crime to lack adequate shelter. What is criminal is a country as wealthy as ours, where there are resources to humanely address homelessness and knowledge of how to do so effectively, with a president who is more interested in using the homelessness crisis for political gain. We encourage and invite the president to change course and join us in the pursuit of real solutions.

Lawsuit alleges discrimination against disabled, black students at Sacramento City Unified

A coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against the Sacramento City Unified School District, alleging that the district discriminates against students with disabilities, especially black students.

Equal Justice Society, Disability Rights California, National Center for Youth Law and Western Center on Law and Poverty filed the suit in the Sacramento-based U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board advocacy group and three students in the district.

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PRESS RELEASE: Western Center and co-counsel sue SCUSD over segregation, mistreatment of students with disabilities, particularly Black students



Sacramento City Unified School District sued over the segregation and mistreatment of students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities

Suit follows years of documented disability and race discrimination by the District


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar, and others on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board and three students in the District. The suit alleges flagrant district-wide discrimination against students with disabilities, especially Black students.


The District has organized its programs in a way that segregates and denies students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities, a meaningful opportunity to be educated side-by-side with their peers in an inclusive environment. Further, the suit alleges the District imposes excessive and exclusionary discipline on students with disabilities for behavior caused by their disabilities. The District disciplines Black students with disabilities more frequently and more harshly instead of providing the services and support they need to thrive.


“SCUSD routinely violates the rights of students with disabilities, particularly Black children with disabilities, by denying them the services and supports they are entitled to,” said Darryl White, Chairperson of the Black Parallel School Board. “Instead, the District tends to unfairly segregate and punish these children.”


In 2017, the Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of 75 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, released a damning report on the state of special education in the District that validated these long-standing deficiencies. The report was described as a wake-up call by the District, Superintendent, and several School Board members, who vowed to ensure equal opportunities for all children in the District. Sadly, the District did nothing in the year following the report.


In 2018, nonprofit advocacy groups met with Superintendent Aguilar to express their dismay over the District’s continuing failures and demand immediate action. During this meeting, the District promised meaningful reforms and asked for more time to come into compliance. Today, more than two years have passed since the report was published, and the District still has not taken meaningful steps to fix its broken systems and serve students appropriately. 


“The District’s failure to act on well-known systemic deficiencies shows a blatant disregard for the education and futures of its students with disabilities,” said attorney Carly Munson with Disability Rights California. “Our clients are paying the price. In 2018, only 61.9 percent of the District’s seniors with disabilities graduated from high school.  And, of those students, only 4.1 percent were prepared for college or a career according to the District’s own public reports. That’s unconscionable.”


The lawsuit challenges the myriad ways in which the District unlawfully segregates students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities. The District not only places students with disabilities in rooms or schools separated from their peers without disabilities—it also segregates these students through excessive and exclusionary discipline for behavior caused by their disabilities and fails to provide the services, accommodations, and modifications required by law that would allow these students the opportunity to thrive in the general education setting.


SCUSD’s practice of segregating students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities, into restrictive settings outside their neighborhood schools is an irresponsible and expensive choice for a district in an already precarious financial situation.


“Providing an equal education for students with disabilities, including Black students with disabilities, is not only required by law, it is fiscally responsible,” said attorney Antionette Dozier of the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “According to the Council of Great City Schools Report, the District’s practice of segregating students with disabilities outside their neighborhood schools cost the District over $10 million in transportation expenses for the 2015-16 school year.”


SCUSD also promotes a hostile education environment throughout the entire District for students with disabilities, especially Black students with disabilities. The District’s actions and failures create lasting harm, including emotional trauma and feelings of stigmatization and isolation. “The District’s mistreatment of students perpetuates biases and stereotypes rooted in slavery and Jim Crow that create a false narrative of Black students as violent, in order to justify segregation, restraint and exclusion,” said attorney Mona Tawatao of the Equal Justice Society. 

Tragically for the affected students, this systemic mistreatment has earned the District the shameful distinction as the District with “the most egregious suspension district for Black males in the State of California,” according to a 2018 report issued by the California Community College Equity Assessment Lab.

“Our lawsuit asks that the District take several actions,” said attorney Michael Harris of the National Center for Youth Law. “These include reforming its policies, procedures, and practices to fully comply with the law so that they no longer segregate or discriminate against students with disabilities, including Black students with disabilities; implementing a plan to correct violations and create a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for these students; identifying and holding accountable those staff responsible for violations of the laws; and identifying all students with disabilities and ensuring they receive the services and programs they are entitled to under the law.”


Fourth-grader Konrad has been diagnosed with Autism, dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Beginning in kindergarten, SCUSD refused to properly assess him or address his disability-related needs. Instead, SCUSD defaulted to exclusionary and discriminatory tactics – first shortening his school days, then suspending him repeatedly for his disability-related behaviors, and finally suggesting that he dis-enroll from school entirely. During the 2018-19 school year alone, Konrad – one of only a few Black students at his school – was formally suspended for 17 days – the equivalent of almost a month of school.

Fifth-grader Stephen has been diagnosed with Autism and Anxiety Disorder. Despite a lifetime in SCUSD, Stephen has never received the mental health services he needs to be successful in school, nor has he had a teacher credentialed to work with students with Autism. Stephen – also one of only a few Black students at his school – has been called racial slurs without consequence and sent home from school on at least 80 occasions for manifestations of his disabilities. Rather than provide lawful and necessary services, SCUSD has repeatedly excluded and punished Stephen.


Eleventh-grader Kurtis also has a history of trauma and known mental health conditions. He aspires to attend college, attend prom, or participate in a Regional Occupational Program. Sadly, Kurtis has been relegated to a nonpublic school that does not provide the same classes or social rites of passage as traditional public high schools. Kurtis fought to attend a public school for ninth grade but was subjected to hostile and discriminatory conditions. He was targeted by peers with homophobic and racial slurs; staff posted a sign outside his classroom proclaiming the students were “Emotionally Disturbed.” Eventually, Kurtis, who is also Black, was unilaterally removed from his high school for behavior that SCUSD explicitly acknowledged was disability-related and sent back to a nonpublic school for students with disabilities. Kurtis is frustrated, bored, and will not be ready to enroll in college or get a job when he graduates next school year.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: If you are a parent of a child with a disability within the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and are experiencing similar concerns mentioned in this lawsuit, please contact the Disability Rights California confidential intake line at 1-800-776-5746, available 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.



For Equal Justice Society:

Mona Tawatao, Legal Director

415-288-8703 direct

[email protected]


For Disability Rights California:

Melody Pomraning, Communications Director


[email protected]


For National Center for Youth Law:

Patty Guinto, Director of Communications

626-512-4974 mobile

[email protected]


For Western Center on Law & Poverty:

Courtney McKinney, Director of Communications


[email protected]


Advocacy groups file suit to block Trump’s new ‘public charge’ immigration rule

Several advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Friday to block the Trump administration’s recently finalized “public charge” rule, which would make it harder for legal immigrants to stay in the country.

The National Immigration Law Center, Western Center on Law and Poverty, National Health Law Program and Asian Americans Advancing Justice filed the complaint in a California federal court.

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PRESS RELEASE – Western Center & Partners File Lawsuit to Stop Trump Administration “Public Charge” Rule


Trump “Public Charge” Regulation Unlawful, Lawsuit Claims

Nonprofits aim to block policy targeting millions of families of color


SAN FRANCISCO — Nonprofits serving immigrant communities and advocates for racial equity, health, children, farmworkers, and working families today filed suit to block implementation of the Trump administration’s “public charge” regulation, which threatens millions of immigrant families — disproportionally families of color. La Clínica de la Raza et al. v. Trump et al., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asks the court to declare the regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unlawful and unconstitutional. DHS finalized the regulation on August 14, 2019.

“The public charge regulation is an attack on the culturally diverse families we serve, threatening their health and their very lives,” said Jane Garcia, chief executive officer of La Clínica de La Raza. “We will stand with our patients and their families and fight this.”

In addition to La Clínica de la Raza, the suit was brought by African Communities Together, the California Primary Care Association, the Central American Resource Center, the Council on American Islamic Relations – California, Farmworker Justice, the Korean Resource Center, the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, and Maternal and Child Health Access. The plaintiffs are represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, the National Health Law Program and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The complaint argues that the regulation was motivated by racial bias against nonwhite immigrants and asks the court to strike it down as a violation of Equal Protection under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As indicators of a motivating racial animus, the complaint cites the administration’s acknowledgement that the policy will have a disparate impact on families of color, President Donald Trump’s own racist statements, and his administration’s other racially-biased policies.

“Donald Trump pushed to execute innocent Black men wrongly accused of murder. He called the white supremacists in Charlottesville ‘very fine people.’ He slurred Black immigrants from Haiti and Nigeria. And he froze or cancelled protected status for immigrants from majority-Black countries. Donald Trump’s words and his actions have consistently targeted Black families,” said Amaha Kassa, founder and executive director of African Communities Together. “When Ken Cuccinelli, the man who signed this regulation, goes on the radio and says ‘not everyone has the right to be an American,’ Black families know exactly who he’s talking about.”

“This rule change is a direct attack on communities of color and their families, and furthers this administration’s desire to make this country work primarily for the wealthy and white. Our immigration system cannot be based on the racial animosities of this administration, or whether or not people are wealthy,” said Antionette Dozier, senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

“This expansion of the rule is part and parcel of the administration’s crusade to instill fear in immigrant communities of color,” said Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA). “By including criteria such as English language proficiency as a negative factor for obtaining permanent residency, the administration is telling immigrants that they are not welcome here. This is unacceptable. Xenophobia has no place in our country, let alone our laws.”

Plaintiffs also assert that the regulation violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is contrary to law and arbitrary and capricious. The complaint also argues that the regulation is invalid because the official who approved its publication, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, was appointed in violation of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

More than 260,000 public comments were submitted on the draft regulation last fall, the vast majority in opposition. The regulation targets programs that serve whole families — Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Section 8 housing assistance — meaning its impact will extend well beyond immigrants directly affected. As a result, experts warn, the regulation will result in increases in hunger, unmet health and housing needs, and poverty. Because affected immigrants are overwhelmingly immigrants of color, the rule is also expected to widen racial disparities. Independent analysts estimate that the regulation threatens millions of people. A significant portion of those threatened by the regulation were born in the U.S., and nearly a third of those are children.

“This rule is a scare tactic designed to create fear and confusion in immigrant communities. The devastating effects will reach even further than the text of the rule itself, as immigrants and their families forgo vital food, housing, and health care services,” said Jane Perkins, legal director at the National Health Law Program.

La Clínica de la Raza and other plaintiffs are health care providers and other nonprofit organizations that seek to protect access to health care, nutrition, housing, and other government benefits for immigrants of color, regardless of their immigration status or financial means. The complaint asserts that the public charge regulation threatens their missions and the communities they serve.

“If the changes made to public charge are implemented, this will cause irrevocable damage to our communities. Deterring anyone from seeking public services that help them survive and support their families is inhumane,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and CEO of the California Primary Care Association. “We have an obligation to our patients and our communities to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of immigration status, which is why we are suing to stop the implementation of this rule.”

“The Trump administration has deliberately designed this policy to target families of color, which is part of its overall blueprint to change the face of what we look like as a nation and who is considered worthy of being an American. It threatens immigrants of color with exclusion and Americans of color with deprivation or family separation. And it aims to deny working-class immigrants of color the ability to thrive in the land of opportunity,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We will not stand for it. We’re fighting back against this racist policy, and we’re going to win the fight to protect immigrant families.”

A recording the conference call regarding this filing is available at


National Immigration Law Center: Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279, [email protected]

Western Center on Law & Poverty: Courtney McKinney, 214-395-2755, [email protected]

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles: Alison Vu, [email protected]


Western Center statement on Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

The Trump administration has announced a new rule on the issue of Public Charge; it is a blatant attempt to bar immigrants of color who are not wealthy from accessing pathways to lawful permanent residence, like obtaining a visa or green card.

Since our country’s inception, people from all over the world have come to the U.S. in search of better opportunity – including the Trump family. Historically, Public Charge has been weaponized against various immigrant groups to feed one of the most harmful American habits, which is to stoke an “us vs. them” mentality, rather than to harness our diversity to build stronger communities, and a stronger country.

The rhetoric and actions of this administration are wreaking havoc, posing physical and psychological threats to communities across the country. The publication of this rule further asserts the racist ideology that says this country should be accessible only to white, wealthy people.

To be clear: this is an attack on communities of color, and we will not stand for it.

As we laid out in our December comments opposing the rule, this move is not only harmful in the short run, it will also have detrimental long-term effects for individuals and entire communities, and will drive people “into the shadows, dramatically decrease public health and well-being, and destabilize families.” Additionally, “Western Center has never supported the concept of public charge due to its history in racial discrimination and because it exacerbates racial disparities, its devaluation of human dignity particularly of those who are aged or disabled, and its blatant bias against low-income people.”

By implementing this new, radical version of the Public Charge rule, the Trump administration is continuing its destructive path to harm not only immigrant families, but also the communities they are an integral part of. In a state like California, where immigrants make up over a quarter of the population, this rule all but ensures a weaker future, which is why we will move forward in court to stop its implementation.

At this point, it is beyond frustrating that we have to keep playing defense to such harmful, illegal actions by the Trump administration when we as a nation face so many existential challenges that require collective, focused action. The administration’s fixation on racist, classist, and divisive policies takes all of our attention away from what should be the united goal of building a healthier country for everyone who lives here. Since this administration is uninterested in real leadership that could actually “Make America Great,” we are proud to work with community leaders, state leaders, and in the courts to defend our vision for what this country can and should be.

NOTE: The final rule is not yet in effect. It will become effective this October, unless litigation succeeds in halting it. For more information, you can: