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Talk of Immigration Reform Fuels Spike in Fraud Cases

By Maria Antonieta MejiaNew America Media

Cecilia, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, never anticipated that her life in the United States would turn into a real-world telenovela, the popular Spanish-language dramas.

A few years ago, she married a U.S. citizen who soon started to mistreat her. He later filed for divorce without telling her, but then the couple reconciled and got remarried. Then he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Before he died, he told his wife that he wanted to help her regularize her immigration status.

That is  when Cecilia, who declined to give her real name, decided to seek out legal advice from an acquaintance. The individual charged her $2,500 but never filed her immigration case. Today, she is still undocumented.

Cecilia, who works as a janitor in the Bay Area, is one of a growing number of immigrants taken in by those who promise to regularize their immigration status for a fee – and then do not deliver.

Read the complete story at New America Media. 

 

Obamacare Enrollment Fairs Offer Signup Help as Deadline Looms

By KQED News Staff and Wires, KQED News Fix

With the deadline to sign up for health insurance through Medi-Cal or Covered California approaching rapidly, Bay Area residents are being offered some face-to-face assistance in getting enrolled.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, a health care workers union with 150,000 members, is offering five free health care enrollment fairs in the Bay Area this week, starting with events in San Francisco and Hayward Tuesday.

The fairs offer information and face-to-face help in signing up for free or low-cost health insurance, according to union spokesman Sean Wherley. Those who currently lack insurance are required to either sign up for Medi-Cal, for those who are eligible, or purchase insurance through the state’s health care exchange, Covered California.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

A Starting Place for Former Foster Youth

By Rachel Wong, KALW Crosscurrents

Dejon Lewis was 11 years old when child protective services arrived to take him and his twin sister away from their mother, whom he says is a drug addict. But instead of giving themselves over to the state, the two children made a run for it. Lewis says they stayed with a family friend for a while, but eventually they turned themselves in, and that is when he entered the foster care system. Since then, Lewis has bounced around a lot.

“It’s hard to live when you’re just living with strangers and strangers and strangers, and no relatives. But I know down the road that that wouldn’t last forever, so I had to figure out how to be more independent,” he says.

Now he is 21, and he is  emancipated from foster care, but he is still not settled yet. Only a few months ago, things got especially bad. He lost his apartment and struggled to find a place to sleep.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

Small-Property Owners Feel Slighted in Tight S.F. Housing Market

By Liz Pfeffer, KALW Crosscurrents

San Francisco’s real estate prices, rents and eviction rates are at an all-time high, causing real tension between tenants and landlords. Frequently we hear from renters about the struggles of living in the city, but it is  not often that we hear from the owners of their buildings.

In San Francisco, about one-third of the population consists of property owners. Those who are small-time landlords are struggling to maintain solvency in this explosive housing market.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

 

First Mayoral Forum in Series Focuses on Jobs and Diversity in S.F.

By Isabel Angell, KALW Crosscurrents

African Americans are leaving San Francisco at an alarming rate. They make up just 6 percent of the population, down from more than 13 percent in 1970, and have a higher unemployment rate than whites and other minorities.

Meanwhile, San Francisco has the fastest-growing income gap in the country. In a region with so much wealth and innovation, a significant part of the population is getting left behind.

S.F. Mayor Ed Lee has inaugurated a series of mayoral forums to improve the city’s engagement with the minority and lower-income communities. i

By 8 a.m. at the first forum, about 100 people gathered to attend “The Mayoral Community Stakeholder Forum: Diversity, Innovation, and Jobs of the Future.”

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

Will Prison Arts Programs Be Revived in California?

By Kyung Jin Lee, KALW Crosscurrents

On a breezy summer day at San Quentin State Prison, inmate Paul Stauffer reads his writing to a live audience.

“My shoulders brush the sides of the wall and bunk as I pace the nine feet of my cell, between the sink and door. A scream echoed silently from my tortured soul, as hopeless dreams of a once meaningful life, floated endlessly across my mind …” he reads.

Creative self-expression is a proven force for change in prisons. Inmates in this creative writing class, and classes like it, are less likely to commit crimes when they are released.

California’s Arts-in-Corrections program offered prisoners everything from art classes to music and drama in the 1980s and 1990s. But the state drastically cut the program, then stopped funding it entirely in 2010.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

San Francisco's Mid-Market Street Milestone

By Geoff Link, New America Media/Central City Extra News Report

Three years ago this month, the Twitter tax break was signed into law, and the Tenderloin’s fate was sealed. Central City Extra and New America Media are using that historic moment as a jumping-off point to examine the effects of the central city’s transformation on seniors.

Twitter led the way for uncounted companies, including a slew of app makers and programming schools plus the restaurants and bars plying $14 cocktails and other businesses that follow the money.

Market Street went from blight to boom in two years. After three decades in the doldrums, downtown began a westward march with City Place mall anchoring the block beyond Fifth Street. 

Read the complete story at New America Media.

Editor's note: This is part of a special report by New America Media and Central City Extra, "Old and Poor in Tech City," focusing on the effects of the tech boom on low-income elders in San Francisco’s central city. It is part of New America Media's in-depth coverage of issues affecting seniors, funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies.  See coverage from this Special Report, "Old and Poor in Tech City." 

Google’s Separate-but-Equal Bus Policy Highlights S.F.’s Deepening Class Divide

Does Google feel class guilt?

The Mountain View-based search giant said last week that it would donate millions to a city program that provides bus passes, gratis, to thousands of San Francisco’s working class and low-income kids. The move comes none too soon, as the income gap between regular Muni riders and those who can afford other transportation modes reached a record high.

It was the same week that the Brookings Institute released a national report detailing the growing earnings divide in cities across the nation. It found that the gap between San Francisco’s rich and poor grew faster than in any other American city between 2007 and 2012.

Google has also pledged to fund Bay Area nonprofits working to improve local communities through its Bay Area Impact Challenge. Google plans to bankroll 25 regional nonprofits to do innovative projects and will announce the winning proposals in May. The top finalists will receive grants of up to $500,000, tech support and office space.

“Google is demonstrating with real action and real resources that they are a true partner in addressing our city’s affordability crisis for lower and middle-income families,” Mayor Ed Lee said, as reported on the KQED News Fix blog.

Though undoubtedly a huge benefit to poor families, free Clipper cards for low- and moderate-income young people do not address the heart of San Francisco’s affordability crisis: skyrocketing rent and thousands of lower- and middle-income earners shut out from the high salaries of San Francisco jobs requiring specialized skills. This income disparity represented the second-largest income divide in the country, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Some local organizations are working on the ground to address this issue by carving out spaces for low-income workers in San Francisco’s hot tech sector. The Mission Economic Development Agency is at work to address the San Francisco’s rising income inequality by connecting young people to a 12-week “Mission Techies” training program, and inviting technology giants such as Twitter and Square to discuss how they can hire more locals.

But is it unfair to fear that, even after months of training, these young people will have a difficult time competing for highly coveted positions at the new Twitter tech hub in the rehabbed art deco 1355 Market Street? Is it unfair to fear that Google might struggle to hire San Franciscans without college degrees en masse — free Clipper card or no?

Google may become a “true partner in addressing” the fastest-growing class divide of any American city. But in this case, the chasm between those riding the Google bus daily and those with Google-subsidized bus passes looms inexorably larger every morning as we all take class-segregated rides to work.

San Francisco to Focus on Most Dangerous Intersections for Pedestrians

By Bryan Goebel, KQED News Fix 

San Francisco transportation officials have unveiled a new round of street safety initiatives to curb pedestrian deaths and injuries by targeting the city’s most dangerous intersections for makeovers. While pedestrian advocates praised the measures, they remained concerned that the bulk of the plan lacked funding.

“Any pedestrian death or serious injury is one too many,” said Mayor Ed Lee, who held a City Hall press conference to announce the recommendations of “Walk First,” a data-driven effort in which transportation officials and planners analyzed more than 2,000 vehicle collisions involving pedestrians.

They found that 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and deaths occur on just 6 percent of streets, which are mostly concentrated in the Tenderloin, SoMa and North Beach. On average, they said, more than 100 pedestrians are “severely injured or killed” citywide each year, and 800 pedestrians are injured.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Bottlenose Dolphins Move North Into Bay and Researchers Are Puzzled

By Elizabeth Devitt, Bay Nature

About 60 coastal bottlenose dolphins have been spotted traveling from Southern California to the waters off Bodega Bay, pushing the northern limit of their range and leaving the scientists who study them with a mystery: Long-distance migrations are not unusual for marine mammals, but these dolphins are not making seasonal swims. Instead, said Bill Keener, a marine mammal biologist at Golden Gate Cetacean Research, the dolphins seem to be traveling up and down the coast without any sort of schedule.

Scientists have tracked the long-range swimmers with telephoto lenses by using close-up photos of the unique nicks and notches on the silhouette of each dolphin’s dorsal fin to compile a catalog of dolphin IDs. The questions arose when San Francisco Bay researchers checked their images against photo entries in a catalog kept by scientists farther down the coastand discovered a lot of matching images.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature.