By Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director
The eagerness of the Trump-Pence to demonstrate hostility toward immigrants – documented and non-citizens alike – seems bottomless. In a week in which the nation was riveted by shocking images of US immigration officials tear gassing v asylum-seekers on the Mexican side of the border, Equality California strongly pushed back on a proposed “public charge” rule change by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
At issue is how US immigration authorities assess the application of people who seek entry or permanent resident status (so-called ‘green cards’). Under current law, the US may deny admission to individuals who are likely to become dependent on long-term government support such as Social Security Income or some forms of public cash assistance, thereby becoming a “public charge” of American taxpayers.
The proposed DHS rule would dramatically expand this wealth test by authorizing US immigration officials to determine whether applicants are “likely at any time” to receive a broad range of supplementary government assistance that help individuals and families meet basic needs such as food, housing healthcare assistance.
In our public comments to DHS Equality California strongly opposed this radical change in longstanding immigration policy on four grounds:
The rule change would cede far too much discretionary power to US immigration officials to determine who is likely at some undetermined point in the future to be a public charge. Such power would essentially be an invitation to discriminate on the basis of age, family size and status, education, health, disability and employment.
Immigrant households — including ones with American-born children who have at least one noncitizen parent — will very likely prompt needy people from accepting public benefits to which they are entitled, for fear their ability to remain in the US, have family members to join them, or even to travel abroad would be jeopardized.
Adoption of the public charge rule would hit California, the most populous state in the country, which already has the nation’s highest child poverty rate. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation broke the likely impact on Medicaid/CHIP benefits, free/reduced price school lunches, SNAP benefits, and WIC HERE.
LGBTQ immigrants tend to come from countries in which they experience discrimination and often violence, which have cascading impacts on their overall health and wellbeing, education, employment prospects and financial stability, and even more so if they are also living with chronic health issues and disabilities, including HIV or AIDS, or experience other adverse factors. Being deterred from using benefits to address their healthcare needs will ultimately lead to worse health outcomes for LGBTQ individuals, their families and their communities. Indeed, the National Association of Community Health Center found that a growing number of LGBTQ community centers have already observed LGBTQ immigrants not showing up for health care appointments and not accessing vital services that support health and well-being, such as HIV treatment and care.
FAQ re: Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule
Top 5 Things to Know About Public Charge
Top 5 Things to Know About Public Charge (Spanish version)
Access to Health Care, Food, and Other Public Programs for Immigrant Families under the Trump Administration
Trump’s ‘Public Charge’ Rule Would Radically Change Legal Immigration