Arkansas State Senate
Arkansas State Senate
Congress: Let all children of U.S. military service members unite with their families!
I’m Jenifer Bass, a U.S. Navy veteran, who served for 10 years, one-third in the Asia-Pacific region. It was due to my travel between ports in countries like Japan and Thailand that I first encountered amerasian children, and descendants, of U.S. service members and civilian contractors previously stationed overseas. Filipino Amerasians are abandoned and neglected biracial children of Filipino mothers and American fathers (mostly members of the US armed forces). In the Philippines alone, more than 52,000-plus children were born and left behind after the U.S. Navy withdrew the last of its military personnel in 1992. Right now, the U.S. government won’t legally recognize them as U.S. citizens, despite having been born to an American parent. The Philippine Embassy won't help them either. As a former US colony between 1898 and 1946, the Philippines was home to millions of US soldiers and their dependents, even after its independence. Until 1992, the country hosted two of the largest US military facilities outside the US – Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, which played major roles during the Vietnam and first Gulf wars. In 1982 US Public Law 97-359, or the Amerasian Act of 1982, allowed children from Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand to move to the US and eventually become American citizens, but those who were from the Philippines were excluded from the law, an exclusion which was upheld by the US Senate on the basis that many Filipino Amerasians were “conceived from illicit affairs and prostitution”, and were born during peacetime. Today, there are estimated to be more than 250,000-plus children. Many amerasians are caught in a no-man’s land of discrimination and poverty -- most left behind by U.S. service members who are unaware that they’ve fathered children overseas. My friend John Haines is one of these sailors. In 2011, John discovered he was the father of a half-Filipino daughter, Jannette. He attempted to unite with her through the American Homecoming Act -- but was frustrated to learn that the Act did not apply to Filipino children of U.S. service members. Today, all John wants is to be united with his daughter and grandchildren. He, like so many other veterans are living with a “hole in their hearts” as they search for ways to unite with their children. There is hope. The Uniting Families Act of 2018, HR 1520, creates a specialized visa allowing military veterans and eligible civilian contractors to sponsor their children and grandchildren for U.S. citizenship. Currently, blood relationship must be proven by DNA test and the total number of visas granted will be capped at 5,000 each year. The issue takes on more urgency as so many of our veterans from our wars in Southeast Asia are getting older and dying each day -- without the chance to connect, or in some cases, reconnect with their own children. John’s daughter Jannette has already undertaken the DNA testing process, conclusively proving her relationship to her American father. All she’s waiting for is the opportunity to permanently unite with her father. There is a PBS documentary, "Left by the Ship" (2010), documenting a day in the life and the personal struggles as a Filipino amerasian on the never ending search for identity and their struggles to connect to their American military families. Please sign this petition to tell Congress that these families cannot wait another day. Pass the Uniting Families Act of 2017, HR 1520, now!
Arkansas votes to decrease therapy for special needs children. Let me tell you why not.
So, Arkansas is voting to reduce the amount of therapies for children with special needs? This is absolutely outrageous and disheartening for a so many reasons.When Aidan was first diagnosed with Mosaic Down syndrome at six month of age I was not a nurse - I was a very worried parent who did lots of research attempting to find out what to do to give my child the best chance possible in life. During this research I became upset knowing that he had missed the first part of his life for the opportunity to receive physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Early intervention through these therapies is key in helping kids with special needs in their development.First of all, as parents of a special needs child I feel we have done everything thus far we can to help Aidan reach his maximum potential. Since the age of 18 months we have sent Aidan to an amazing school in Little Rock called Access, that provides him with the help and therapy he needs to assist in development. While you would think that a child diagnosed with Down syndrome would have plenty of opportunity for therapy funding, this is not true. Primary insurance does not pay for therapy services, which means that in addition to a primary insurance we must pay out of pocket for a type of Arkansas Medicaid insurance called TEFRA that does cover therapy services. The combination of both the private special needs school and TEFRA insurance is not an insignificant cost, in fact, I feel terrible for those individuals that have kids with special needs who do not have the luxury to afford a wonderful school like Access. To qualify for therapy services each child must be evaluated biannually to determine (per Medicaid standards) wether or not they "qualify" for these services. Just last year Aidan did not qualify for any physical therapy, even though he continuously scores extremely low on these evaluations. The "qualifications" remain so high, that even if a child is considered on a less than "profoundly delayed" level, therapy services may be reduced or denied. To give you an idea of how instrumental therapy has been for Aidan - I can tell a drastic difference just talking to Aidan in his goals, objectives, and therapy styles from the speech therapist he had a few months ago verses the one he currently has. I could also tell a significant difference in when Aidan received one hour of physical therapy a week verses none.If a child must be profoundly delayed to receive therapy services, how much more can you raise the bar to disqualify children for these necessary services?I cannot imagine why, of all things, Arkansas would choose to cut funding for this incredibly important service, especially when most individuals who are trying to give their children the best chance possible and already have unimaginable struggles ahead of them.
Remove the penalty that prevents people with disabilities from marrying!
When we think of marriage equality, we think about the ongoing fight LGBT couples face, but another minority group must deal with the stark reality that they are better off living in long-term committed relationships, without marriage. Like LGBT couples, these couples are denied the right to over 1,100 rights afforded to married couples. They have been denied access into their loved ones hospital rooms, faced family disputes over wills and have been denied spousal benefits from their partners workplace or the government in the event of their partners death. These are people with disabilities. Many people rely on the government for medical and financial assistance. Without medical insurance they would have no way to live independently. They would be forced into nursing homes (some already are), which would cost the government significantly more than getting Medicare and/or Medicaid does. At the same time, this assistance comes with a price. The government expects married couples to share income and that affects any assistance the couple receives. For many, their spouse makes too much (even if they make meager SSDI payments). This cuts into the healthcare services these couples receive. For some, their able-bodied partners make too much to allow them to qualify for medical assistance, if married, but not enough to pay out of pocket for costly medical equipment, medicine, or any other needs the disabled partner has. Add in the fact that even when a person with a disability can work, the opportunity for quality medical insurance is hard to find, due to their pre-existing condition and you will understand why many couples with disabilities are forced to live in domestic partnerships. Also, if two people with disabilities marry and they are on SSI or SSDI, their payments are CUT significantly, making it hard for them to maintain independence and afford their own food, shelter, clothing or other necessities. The time to stand up is now!! Let your Senators and Representatives know you want to remove the income caps placed on individuals with disabilities, so they can keep the government assistance and still be able to get married. Every loving couple deserves the right to marry. No one should have to choose between their wheelchair and their love, their therapy and their love, their medication and their love, their ability to eat or have a roof over their head and their love!! Those are not choices!! Help make it possible for those with disabilities to share their love without being penalized!Join our fight for marriage equality for people with disabilities:https://www.facebook.com/MarriageEqualityForPeopleWithDisabilities
Minimum and mandatory sentences for animal cruelty
Decent and caring citizens of the United States (and beyond) are exponentially tired of seeing animals killed or abused, and then the abuser receiving little to no jail time. Animal abusers are five times more likely to hurt humans, and they are being left in society to do more damage. Almost always you find them also abusing a child or some other innocent person. Keeping them off the streets should be a priority. The sentences given to animal abusers are weak and ineffective as deterrents, and certainly not carrying out fair and proper justice. We demand mandatory jail and longer sentences. When an animal crime is committed, the entire community, state, and nation is in uproar- then, later find the person served very little time. Police and courts can only punish to the fullest extent of the law if their are laws that back them and back citizen outrage. We are fully tired of this weak and repetitive process. From dragging sharks behind a boat in Florida, leaving dogs outside to freeze in the cold etc. to each case state to state- we want action. We also want proactive warnings given to all potential abusers. Let it be known that the United States does not tolerate animal abuse! As an example, a person who drops a puppy off a building is NOT mentally stable and should not be allowed to roam free. Therefore, sentences should be 10 to 30 years mandarory in jail or mental facility for these crimes. No exceptions.