A Statement by Brenda V. Castillo, President & CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition
Today Federal Communications Commissioners (FCC), Nathan Simington and Brenden Carr, used their positions as leaders of a federal agency to dehumanize and disrespect the immigrant community. At NHMC, we believe that no human is illegal and that every person deserves dignity and respect. As such, we condemn the Commissioners’ comments and statements today and call for higher standards of morality, empathy, and humanity from those who sit on the FCC.
The Commissioners’ statements carried a clear anti-immigrant connotation, insinuating that undocumented or differently documented people are to blame for alleged waste, fraud, and abuse in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB). Contrary to the Commissioners’ politically charged commentary, the technical rule of the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)–an extension of the EBB program–allowing alternate forms of identification (in addition to Social Security Numbers) is an equitable practice.
The use of SSNs or other forms of government documents in the EBB, ACP, and Lifeline programs is to verify identity, not eligibility. The Commissioners’ suggestion to exclusively use SSNs for this purpose is extremely limiting and would cause unnecessary problems for millions of consumers who qualify for these benefits. The ability to provide alternate forms of identity documentation serves many purposes, including allowing those who are differently documented (i.e. they may use an ITIN or Driver’s License), those who have low digital literacy, or those who do not want to provide their Social Security Number in an online application to still participate in the ACP by verifying their identity with another government document. This is a clerical adjustment that is common even in industry offerings to ensure the program is as user-friendly and accessible as possible.
In order for the ACP to fulfill its purpose, the program must be within reach for all consumers. Access to the internet at home ensures our children can safely continue their education, families can utilize telehealth and telemedicine, and historically and intentionally marginalized communities can participate in the digital economy–all during a global pandemic. The EBB program was a successful initiative, providing monthly discounts to the internet bills of millions of people–and it operated under the same exact rules. The ACP is designed to continue that legacy, and connect millions more–regardless of their preferred type of identity documentation.
NHMC does not take it lightly that both Commissioner Carr and Commissioner Simington used the immigrant community as a scapegoat for their political comments today, advocating to make it harder for all consumers to access the ACP. The Commissioners’ comments were xenophobic in both tone and purpose, and overall unacceptable. All consumers who can be verified as eligible through the existing rules should have the opportunity to access the critical ACP subsidy.
There are over 11 million undocumented and differently documented individuals living among us as loved ones, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and community members. 5 million of those people continue to risk their lives for us each and every day as frontline workers. The Commissioners’ comments dehumanize the immigrant community as if they must prove their dignity in value to our lives instead of as a basic reality of the human condition.
It is clear that the stain of the Trump Administration remains in full potency at the FCC. There is a clear divide between right and wrong here: we either believe that all consumers deserve to be connected to the internet as a tenet of universal service–a longstanding principle and charge of the FCC–or we don’t.
NHMC believes that xenophobia and hatred have no place in our democracy, particularly at an agency that touches so much of our daily lives such as the FCC does.
Yours in the Movement,
Brenda Victoria Castillo
President & CEO
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a woman-led 501(c)(3) non-profit civil and human rights organization that was founded to eliminate hate, discrimination, and racism toward the Latino communities.