civil rights

LEJ has represented citizens from the three Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau) and New Resident immigrants residing in the United States for less than five years in proceeding with a civil rights challenge to the State of Hawai`i's decision to single out immigrants and drop from medical coverage.

LEJ staff with MHAC COFA coalition

In late 2009, DHS dropped all residents present in Hawai`i under the Compact of Free Association from all state medical benefits programs. DHS sent out letters notifying residents that the services would be terminated. While many compact residents speak limited or no English, the notices were printed only in English and with a phone number that leads to a voicemail system that is only in English. The letter did not adequately explain the actions taken by DHS or the options available to Compact residents. At the same time, DHS cut the Hawai`i Immigrant Health Initiative, a state program providing critical medical coverage for legal immigrants present in the United States for under five years. DHS. In May 2010, DHS implemented Basic Health Hawai`i, a new separate medical program for both groups that provides very limited medical coverage and enrolls only 7,000 individuals. For years, Hawai`i DHS has provided access to critical medical services to these groups. Hawai`i receives almost $12 million annually from the Federal Government in COFA impact funds to offset any state expenditures related to serving COFA residents. Now, COFA residents and immigrants are left with limited medical coverage that does not provide for their basic health needs, or are unable to enroll in any program because of capped enrollment.

LEJ has challenged these cuts on both Due Process and Civil Rights Equal Protection grounds. For more information about this civil rights litigation, please see our litigation pages.

infographic COFA migrants truths on taxes and benefits

in the news

HANO News, LEJ Counters Myths about Micronesians Living in the US, July 23, 2013