Local Happenings July 2015

Independence Day Celebration

The City of Richmond will sponsor its annual 3rd of July Celebration from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 3 at Marina Bay Park.

The (mostly) free event will include fireworks, food, live blues music and a pay-to-play youth area. The 20-minute fireworks display will start at 9:15 pm.

For more information, call 510-620- 6793.


New Park Opening

The grand opening of Santa Fe Union Park, formerly known as the South 2nd Street Play Lot, is scheduled for noon on Saturday, July 18.

The celebration will include food, refreshments and remarks from local community leaders and members. The park, located on South Second Street between Florida Avenue and Main Avenue, has undergone a total renovation with new children’s play areas and basketball and soccer courts.

To RSVP for the grand opening event, visit 4richmond.org of call the at 510-260-0290.


Reggae in Richmond

Reggae music will be center stage during a three-day festival coming to Richmond this month.

The Bay Area Reggae Festival is scheduled for July 17-19 at the Craneway Pavilion (1414 Harbour Way). Artists scheduled to appear include Bugle, Gyptian, Lady Saw, Romain Virgo, and Marcia Griffiths, among others. Ticket prices range from $75-$195, and will increase if purchased after July 9.

For a full list of performers or to purchase tickets, visit bayareareggaefest.net


New City of Richmond Mobile App

A City of Richmond app is now available for IOS devices and Android mobile phones. The app was designed to provide Richmond’s community members with one-stop access to city services and information. An informational video providing an overview of the app is accessible online from the city’s website.

The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and at Google Play.

Richmond officials would like feedback from the community on the new app, send in comments to webservices@ci.richmond.ca.us

Family Justice Center Opens at New Location


News Report, Keisa Reynolds | Photo,  Ann Bassette

After breaking ground in 2013, the West Contra Costa Family Justice Center held its grand opening this month at 256 24th Street. In the first year at its new location, the center is expected to help an estimated 2,000 survivors of domestic violence, family violence, elder abuse and human trafficking.

The center moved from its temporary location at Richmond Police Department’s substation at Hilltop Mall, where it had operated since 2011.

Mayor Tom Butt, who spoke at the opening reception, said the center was the first community construction project to impact the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence. Other speakers included Police Chief Chris Magnus, Andrea Bailey from Chevron Richmond, and Jodi Ravel and Karen Kruger from Kaiser Permanente. Fourteen-year-old spoken word artist Sukari Wright from RYSE opened the ceremony with an inspirational poem.

County Supervisor John Gioia told the audience that the center “demonstrates what could happen when community and government do well working together.”

In 2001, Contra Costa County became the first Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence County in California. As a part of the initiative, two centers have opened here in West County and Central County (Concord) with a third in East County underway.

Survivors of violence often have to speak with multiple agencies in order to get assistance. The center aims to eliminate this by offering dozens of on-site and off-site providers. Its partnerships give clients access to local organizations including Monument Crisis Center, Children and Family Services, Bay Area Community Resource, Bay Area Legal Aid, Community Violence Solutions, County Mental Health, Familias Unidas, Native American Health Center, and many more.

“We see that at about 50 percent of our clients identify as Hispanic or Latino. Our next biggest demographic is African American: About 30 percent of our clients identify as African American. We also see a significant number of Asian Americans,” said Elizabeth Wilmerding, director of Project Connect at West Contra Costa Family Justice Center.

Between its staff and partners, the center is able to offer services in 10 languages including Spanish, Korean, Lao, and Thai. The center also offers services for victims of many other demographics including children and youth, elders, veterans, and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals and families.

Clients work with navigators who help them create goals and connect them with services for long-term solutions. Clients can receive assistance from myriad services such as civil legal services, health care, mental health, housing, job training, tutoring, and prosecution.

Menbere Aklilu, owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante in the Marina, shared a personal story of her experience as a survivor of domestic violence. “Today, I fully love Richmond more, especially when I see this type of thing coming together,” she said.

Aklilu encouraged the community to invest in the center and, leading by example, she said she donated $15,000. “I am doing this for my mother, for me, my sister, brother, for all domestic violence survivors,” she said.

Chevron Richmond followed suit and donated $80,000 to the center.

Family Justice Center Alliance (FJCA) President Casey Gwinn praised the center for “creating a beacon of hope that will impact survivors for generations to come.”

“This is where you break the cycle,” he said, noting that many incarcerated people come from homes where child abuse and other forms of violence are present. “We end up locking people up instead of saving them.”

FJCA donated $65,000 at the beginning of stages of the project. Gwinn acknowledged project director Jennifer Anderson, who had recommended opening a family justice center in Richmond six years ago, and Gloria Sandoval, director of STAND! For Families Free of Violence, one of the center’s on-site partners.

“There isn’t a person listening to my voice who can’t involved in the family justice center going forward. Everybody here can do something to invest in this. This is how we can change the world.” Gwinn urged. “Twenty years from now it will matter that you were standing in this parking lot. It will matter Zero Tolerance was created. It will matter John Gioia said we’re going to make this countywide. It will matter that we invested ourselves here in changing the endings for survivors and their children.”

Residents can get involved with the work of the center by donating, volunteering, or participating in workshops offered by the Family Justice Institute.

Grand Opening of the West Contra Costa Family Justice Center from Alive & Free/ Street Soldiers on Vimeo.

Richmond Celebrates First Pride Family Day


By Malcolm Marshall | Photos by Darryl Pelletier

Richmond celebrated its first-ever Pride in the Park Family Day June 6 at Marina Bay Park.

More than 200 people of all ages came out to the family picnic designed to give the local Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) community an opportunity to come together and meet each other. Rainbow flags flew around the park as attendees enjoyed food, a DJ, live music and performances including a drag performance.

“It brought tears to my eyes to see that day had finally come to Richmond,” said longtime Richmond resident Duane Chapman, co-founder of Richmond Rainbow Pride, a new group founded to represent Richmond’s gay community at the San Francisco Pride Parade. Richmond Rainbow Pride organized the family day with support from Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, Terrance Cheung, chief of staff for Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, the Rainbow Community Center and others.

When he was at the SF Pride celebration a few years ago, Chapman said, he discussed the idea of bringing the event to Richmond with former assistant City Manager Leslie Knight. But he ultimately decided that it wasn’t the right time.

Then, when he saw the gay pride flag flying at Richmond City Hall for the last two years, he knew it was the right time. After being introduced to Cesar Zepeda, who shared the same vision, the two formed Richmond Rainbow Pride and decided to hold the first-ever LGBTQ pride event in Richmond.

In 2013, amid some backlash, the City of Richmond began flying the flag at City Hall in June to celebrate LGBTQ pride month. The push to fly the flag came from Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who is Richmond’s first openly gay councilmember.

Since then, Beckles says she has seen a change in Richmond.

“Years ago, vicious attacks on the LGBTQ community were common and allowed to go unchallenged. No longer,” Beckles wrote in an email.

“By standing strong and proud in public, the LGBTQ community in Richmond is now respected. There are still problems, but the leadership and support that is emerging in the LGBTQ community and organized this wonderful picnic are a big part of the solution.”

Attendees at Marina Bay Park wore name tags, shared food, danced and celebrated Richmond’s LGBTQ community. Zapar said the picnic was a chance for the community to celebrate diversity but also its many similarities.

“People from all over came out to partake in the celebration; gay and straight, old and young, white, Latino, black, Asian; the whole LGBTQI rainbow,” said Zepeda. “Pride in the Park showed the community that we are here and, most importantly, that nobody is alone.”


Q&A: Mayor Tom Butt and the Search for Richmond’s Bright Future

Interview • Vernon Whitmore and Malcolm Marshall

Editor’s Note: Richmond Mayor Tom Butt spoke to Chamber of Commerce Chair Vernon Whitmore and Richmond Pulse Publisher Malcolm Marshall about rebranding the city, working with the Richmond Progressive Alliance and creating a culture of expectation for young people in Richmond.

Vernon Whitmore: I was at a meeting with [California state] Senator Loni Hancock (D-9), and she asked me, “You know, Tom [Butt] is an entrepreneur, always running the show. How does he like being a mayor, working with the city staff and with elected officials?” Different ballgame? Fun?

Mayor Tom Butt: Well, I mean it’s not like I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve been doing it for 20 years along with continuing to work in my business, which I’m also doing. But it’s getting a little dicey.

I have a great staff here and they’re doing a great job and they really do most of the work for me. I’ve served on regional boards and commissions for several years, far more than anybody else on the Richmond City Council, and through that I get to know a lot of elected officials from other cities.

The short answer is that it’s kind of like what I’ve been doing, but I’ve got more help, I’ve got more resources, I’ve got more clout — so it’s just better.

VW: How is your relationship with the Richmond Progressive Alliance now that you’re mayor?

TB: Well, you know, I really appreciate the support I’ve gotten from the council members who are part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. Over the years, without their support I would not have been able to do a lot of the initiatives that I’ve been able to do. I also vote with them on public policy issues almost all the time. There are a very few areas where we have diverged, and one of them right now is rent control and just cause [for eviction].

But from my standpoint, there’s no major schism going on here. No animosity or anything like that. But they believe strongly in what they believe in, and I think the city needs to go a different direction and I’m going to advocate for that, but at the end of the day I would like to think that I get along with them fine.

VW: That’s a good segue into this whole housing issue and the debate around just cause for eviction. How do you see this whole thing playing out?

TB: I’m sorry to say I think it’s going to play out where we’re going to have rent control and just cause. I just think that’s what’s going to happen eventually. But I’m going to take it on for as long as I can. From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have just cause unless you have rent control… Just cause is kind of the camel’s nose under the tent, and then when that’s done you do rent control and then you’ve got the whole nine yards. I just think it’s the wrong thing for Richmond right now. There are a lot of existing laws that protect renters from being abused by landlords. If anything, I would like to make sure that people have access to the legal resources they need to make sure that they are able to enjoy the rights they have as renters. And maybe there’s some way we can help with that.

But I think the thing that scares me the most is that there’s been no market-rate housing built in Richmond for well over a decade, and I think we need to build up our housing stock, we need to build up Richmond — and just cause and rent control turns those people off. They’re just going to go somewhere else.

VW: Next, let’s talk a little bit about this campaign that you’ve launched, to rebrand Richmond and improve the city’s image.

TB: When I interviewed over at [TV station] KRON-4 the other day, the interview started out something like, “Well of course everybody thinks of Richmond as being all crime and blight, but you’re out to change that, right?” Which is like, I rest my case!

I think that if we’re going to see Richmond come into its own, we’ve got to use every tool in the tool box, and one of them is dealing with our image and the perception people have of us, and trying to get that to a place where it’s the best it can be. And nobody’s going to do it for us. For me it’s like a business decision. If you’re in business, you’ve got to go out and market your business. I mean, unless you’re lucky enough to be some business that you’re the only person in the world that can do that and you’ve just got to fight people off, you’ve got to go market your business.

I’ve been marketing my business now for 40 years, and I do it every day. And I think if you’re a city, you’ve got to do the same thing.

Malcolm Marshall: What would you like Richmond to symbolize to the rest of the country? At one time it was known as the murder capital of the United States. What’s the image now, and what should it be?

TB: You know what? If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be collecting $100,000 to go through the process. We need to go through this process, we need to find out what the facts are, we need to find out what people’s image is of Richmond and what people’s perceptions [are] all over the Bay Area. And we need to break it down by different groups of people — bankers and developers and media and all the people. So that’s the first part of it.

The second part is deciding how we want people to think of us. And it’s not my decision. I think it’s a decision that ultimately has to be made by the City Council, and it’s a decision that a lot of people in Richmond want to have some input into.

MM: In the coming years, where do you expect to see more opportunity for young people living in Richmond, and what kind of future would a 16- to 21 year-old have if they stay in Richmond?

TB: I think any young person’s future is largely determined by the extent to which they embrace and avail themselves of educational opportunities. And that’s why I was so excited about doing this Richmond Promise program. I mean, you’ve heard this before, but it’s not so much about providing a scholarship so somebody can go to college. It’s about creating a culture of expectation, where college or some kind of higher education is something that kids just expect. They don’t look at it, “Will I be able to go to college, should I go to college, am I smart enough to go to college.” It ought to be something where when kids start kindergarten or first grade, they’re told, “You’re smart enough to do anything you want to do, and one way or another you’ll be provided with the means to get there.”

Khalid’s Corner: Where to Put Your Energy

Wisdom from Community Leader, Khalid Elahi

What you spend your time doing is what you get good at. We are consistent every day and this is why we are where we are in life, good or bad, positive or negative. It takes the same effort to get an “F” as it does to get an “A.” Since we are being consistent with our energy anyway, we might as well put our energy into our best shot at life.

I use to be on the block by 7 am consistently and I wouldn’t leave until 2 or 3 pm. I wasn’t out there playing or joking. It was what I did for my living. I was on time every day, I didn’t take breaks, I had marketing skills and I was a people person and these are all the tools that college graduates and successful businessmen possess, but still I had to look over my shoulder because, after all, I was breaking the law.

One day I was headed out to the block and something popped in my mind and said, “Fool, you might as well go get a real job because you are doing what it takes to be successful legally anyway.”

Since you are being consistent anyway, you might as well put your energy to your best shot at life to see something new and something greater.

Mumia Case Highlights Lack of Health Care in Prison

Commentary, Asani Shakur

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s recent trip to the hospital should make us take a second look at the way we provide health care to those who need it most.

Abu-Jamal, who has spent over 30 years incarcerated, made news on March 30, 2015, when he was rushed from Mahanoy State Prison in Pennsylvania to a nearby hospital. He arrived at the hospital in a diabetic shock with his blood sugar level at staggering 779. Medical officials said that if his levels reached 800, Abu-Jamal would have gone into a diabetic coma. His sodium level was also reportedly at 168.

Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 for the murder of a police officer, has become a worldwide figure. Many of his supporters have followed his case closely and believe the former Black Panther and radio journalist is innocent.

As soon as the news of his health broke, his supporters and family spread the word through social media, press conferences, and street protests, urging people to call the hospital and prison to demand that Abu-Jamal receive adequate health care. On April 1, Abu-Jamal was transferred back to prison, but his family says he is still in need of a diabetes specialist, dermatologist and nutritionist.

But with an estimated 80,000 prisoners with diabetes in the United States, how many more inmates – who don’t have the international recognition of Mumia Abu-Jamal — are not receiving sufficient health care?

As a former prisoner myself, I witnessed the medical neglect inside prison. Guys had to suffer for hours and over the weekend because medical officials were unwilling or unable to see to all of the inmates’ requests, from allergies to high blood pressure and more severe health problems.

Much of the neglect that I saw was the result of the medical team being understaffed. Inmates would not be seen for small (but painful) health problems from a bad toothache to a broken hand or shoulder. In this case, guys would make a support sling out of a shirt and sock.

It would take weeks to be seen. The waiting list seemed to be as long as the list for Section 8 housing.

When the prison medical staff yelled, “Pill line,” guys would race to the line and hope they could get their pills before the medical staff closed their shop. (The pills would be taken in front of the staff who made sure you swallowed them.)

On weekends we were on our own. Unless someone fainted or drew blood, you wouldn’t be seen because there was no medical staff on the weekends. As if people don’t get sick from 5:00 pm on Friday to Monday morning. Many guards could care less if you were sick. Some would just say, “Don’t come to prison.”

A 2009 study by the American Journal of Public Health found that access to health care in federal, state, and local jails is poor.

This raises the question: With all the debate about Obamacare, did either party ever really include inmates when they talked about equity of health care for all Americans?

Health care should be available to Mumia Abu-Jamal and every other American, regardless of their wealth or status or whether or not they are behind bars.

Walking the Line: Reporting on Protests and Police Response

Video, Ann Bassette

EDITOR”S NOTE:The Bay Area Black Journalists Association hosted “Walking the Line: Reporting on Protests and Police Response,” on April 4 at the UC Berkeley Journalism School.

The conversation featured professional journalists, citizen journalists and law enforcement officials weighing in on the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the Bay Area and the media coverage surrounding the protests.

The Most Ignorant Among Us? Sometimes It’s College Students

Commentary, Sean Shavers

Last month, a video surfaced online of University of Oklahoma fraternity members singing a racist song that joked about lynching black people. In the video, white members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity rode on a bus while chanting, “There will never be a n—– SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n—– SAE.”

When I first saw frat brothers laughing and joking about lynching African Americans, I actually wasn’t offended. My first thought? They must be ignorant of American history.

Africans Americans were part of the founding of America. Our blood, sweat and toil helped build this nation. So when they sing, “There will never be a n—– at SAE,” it’s just ignorance, trickled down through generations. It’s just a remix of the same racism that has always existed in this country.

It’s a shame to realize that it actually exists, but I’m glad it’s exposed, and now other groups can see our struggle. I’d rather see it than have it hide in the shadows.

Social media might deter people from openly expressing racism, but it won’t change the mentality of the individual. It may just make it more secretive, with people finding more creative ways to express their racial hatred anonymously. It won’t dismantle the actual idea.

As a child, I heard the expression that to kill something, it must be killed at the source. That’s the same for an idea or opinion: we have to kill racial prejudice at the source, and that begins with the way that someone learns racism. No child is born racist; it takes someone to instill those views. So, to change that, we must influence children to look at humanity, not race — to look beyond race and gender.

In my opinion, the hate that racists have towards blacks today has a lot to do with President Barack Obama. They hated to see a black man in an office that no other group but white men have held. They were afraid of such an achievement, and maybe didn’t think it was even possible. By saying, “There will never be a n—– in SAE,” these college students were really saying: “Y’all might have let a n—– in the White House, but one will never join our fraternity.”

Just seeing how comfortable these students seemed singing this song shows the culture of leniency within that fraternity, along with the lack of authority and supervision within the national organization. After the video went viral on social media, SAE’s national headquarters closed its chapter at the school and University President David Boren expelled two of the students. I’m glad they took action, since black students on campus may have felt unsafe after seeing this video, and if the video hadn’t gone viral, something like this might have been swept under the rug. It would be interesting to see if an internal investigation of the school would show similar cases in the past.

College is about groups, and a fraternity can sometimes become just a big gang with school colors and a mascot. If you aren’t there to learn and remain cordial with other students, then what’s your purpose there? Because this is more than just a case of college kids gone wild. It seems to be more of an institutional issue of the fraternity.

Since the news of the fraternity scandal broke, two of the frat’s leaders have apologized for their role in the racist chants. They seem to realize that this kind of behavior is disrespectful and ignites violence. I think it took guts to admit to being wrong and accepting the consequences for it.

The Bible says a fool is counted wise when he holdeth his peace but a foolish man uttereth all his lips. This means if you’re quiet, then no one knows how foolish you are, unless you open your mouth. You can think whatever you want, but when you express it, you will become subject to scrutiny and backlash.

That’s something the fraternity members are now learning the hard way. I’ve read that some of them have been threatened online and are now afraid to go out in public.

Hopefully it will be a lesson learned, to leave negative stereotypes and racial prejudices in your head. But how do you dismantle the idea and stop racism at the source?

I think the first step is to have open conversations about it.

Just not at Starbucks.

Egg Hunt Offers Fun for Kids and Families

Photo Essay, Richmond Pulse Editors

On a sunny Saturday morning last month, hundreds of people came out to the Spring Egg Hunt and Recreation Day at Civic Center Plaza for some springtime fun.

Sponsored by the city’s Recreation Department, the free event on March 28 was well attended by grownups and kids alike.

The day started with a roughly half mile parade led by the Easter Bunny from the Richmond Recreation Complex to Civic Center Plaza. Once at the plaza, parents walked around information tables describing the many exciting programs that Richmond Recreation Department has to offer, like upcoming summer programs for youth.

“We especially want parents to know about our two summer camp programs,” said Kris Lofthus, the department’s project manager, before describing the offerings. “‘Achieve,’ which has a learning component to it and the other program is called ‘Activate,’ which is a recreation and sports based program.” Both programs begin June 8.

The children had two chances to take part in the age-old tradition of hunting colored eggs scattered throughout the plaza lawn. But, the hunt didn’t last for long, as children rushed around scooping up eggs. Then kids had another the chance to meet and take their picture with Easter Bunny.

Also taking part in the festivities were community organizations representing a number of services, including YES Nature to Neighborhoods, which takes kids and their families on educational trips in the outdoors; Rising Sun Energy Center, a non-profit organization that develops eco-friendly workforces and retrofit services; and Lifelong Medical, a health center that provide high-quality health and social services to underserved people of all ages.

“It was great to be able to display what we have for the community,” Lofthus said. “The highlight was watching the kids running around getting eggs and having a great time.”


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Uncle Sam Wants DACA Recipients to Avoid Tax Scams

DACA recipient Ana Alcantara, 22, was misinformed by her tax preparer and ended up paying an unnecessary penalty.

DACA recipient Ana Alcantara, 22, was misinformed by her tax preparer and ended up paying an unnecessary penalty.

A new scam targeting immigrants has gotten the attention of Uncle Sam.

Health advocates are concerned that tax preparers have been misinforming, and some even outright scamming, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries by making them pay a penalty for not having health insurance. On Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a statement clarifying that there is no such penalty for undocumented immigrants or for DACA recipients. DACA is a program announced by President Obama in 2012 that gives temporary protection against deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children.

“Advocates have been asking [the Obama administration] for a month to provide [tax preparers] some clarity,” said Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the Washington, D.C. office of the National Immigration Law Center. Up until now, he said, “there was not something official we [had that we] could point to from IRS that makes this clear. Now we do.”

The IRS website now reflects the clarity that advocates have been pressuring it to spell out:Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or nationals and are not lawfully present in the United States are exempt from the individual shared responsibility provision. For this purpose, an immigrant with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status is considered not lawfully present and therefore is eligible for this exemption. An individual may qualify for this exemption even if he or she has a social security number (SSN).

The confusion arises from a policy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires nearly all Americans to have some form of health insurance, or face a penalty. That coverage could come from job-based insurance; an individual health plan bought through government-run health care exchanges or elsewhere; Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California), a government-funded health insurance program for low-income people; or Medicare, a health insurance program for those who are over 65 or have a disability.

For 2014, the first year the policy went into effect, the penalty for failing to get such coverage was $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of taxable household income, whichever was greater. The penalty will increase in subsequent years.

But the requirement to have health insurance does not extend to undocumented immigrants or DACA beneficiaries. That’s because they are not lawful residents. DACA is only a benefit eligibility category, not an immigration status.

It is a distinction that neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor the Internal Revenue Service made clear on their websites until now, Padilla said.

“That lack of clarity trickled down to tax preparers,” he said.

Brenda Ordaz, a representative of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and a health navigator for the state’s health insurance marketplace, has seen the confusion first hand. A DACA recipient herself, Ordaz says other DACA recipients have been coming to her, asking why their tax preparers were making them pay penalties for not having health insurance.

She said one tax preparer asked a DACA client to pay her the penalty directly and in cash, rather than asking the IRS to deduct it from his refund.

“I’m sure some preparers are doing this to undocumented people as well,” Ordaz said.

Los Angeles resident and DACA beneficiary Ana Alcantara, 22, says her tax preparer told her she had to pay the penalty when he discovered she didn’t have health insurance. She reluctantly agreed to have the $95 deducted from her nearly $850 tax refund.

Alcantara didn’t know she was exempt from the requirement. She also didn’t know that she could have enrolled in California’s state-funded Medi-Cal program as soon as she received DACA in 2013. Even though DACA recipients are banned from accessing any federal programs, they qualify for state-funded Medi-Cal – something that many aren’t aware of.

Meanwhile, tax preparers themselves say they don’t always know if their client is a DACA recipient. One tax preparer acknowledged that she had filed tax returns for a number of clients that included the penalty because they had failed to tell her that they were DACA beneficiaries.

“It’s hard to know because a lot of clients don’t open up,” explained Azucena Lopez, co-owner of Gonzales Tax Services in Madera, Calif. She said she had assumed they were lawful residents when they told her they had a work permit and social security number.

Since she became aware that her clients were DACA recipients — and were exempt from the penalty — Lopez says she has been filing amended tax returns. Alcantara’s tax preparer also has agreed to file an amendment so Alcantara can get her $95 back.

Read more about health care and DACA on the National Immigration Law Center’s website,