Immigrants to be Affected by Changes to Public Charge Policies

By Ana Gomez Salcido

On September 22, 2018, the Trump Administration announced a proposed rule that would make changes to so-called “public charge” policies. Under longstanding policy, the federal government can deny an individual entry into the U.S. or adjustment to legal permanent resident (LPR) status (i.e., a green card) if he or she is determined likely to become a public charge.

If the new ruling takes place, thousands of immigrants will be affected, and millions of immigrant families in the U.S. will be affected.

Under the proposed rule, officials would newly consider use of certain previously excluded programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, and several housing programs, in public charge determinations.

The changes would likely lead to broad decreases in participation in Medicaid and other programs among legal immigrant families and their primarily U.S.-born children beyond those directly affected by the changes. Nationwide, over 19 million or 25 percent of children live in a family with an immigrant parent, and 86 percent of these children are United States citizens.

Decreased participation in these programs would contribute to more uninsured individuals and negatively affect the health and financial stability of families and the growth and healthy development of their children.

The rule is not yet final, pending a 60-day public comment period. And a group of experts in immigration law, health, public benefits and nutrition about what this rule does-and-doesn’t mean for different groups of immigrants, gathered in a telebriefing to talk about the new proposed major changes to the nation’s public charge policy.

The national telebriefing was hosted by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center last week, with speakers from Health Care for All-MA, the African Services Committee, and CLASP.

“There is a way to fight back, and we have too, because ultimately this proposed rule represents yet another attack by the Administration to immigrants and their families as well as the working class, and the very fabric of who we are as a nation,” said Wendy Cervantes, senior policy analyst at CLASP. “Millions of families will be impacted if this ruling is finalized. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security in the rule itself points out that it will lead to increased poverty and worst health outcomes for certain families including U.S. citizen children. Children’s health is linked to that of their parents and parents who are sick and hungry will have children with poor outcomes now and in the future”.

It is important to now that many immigrants will not be affected if the proposed ruling takes place. Immigrants who are uncertain if they are affected are encouraged to talk to a licensed attorney about their status.

“This proposal is installing fear in our community,” said Erin Quinn, staff attorney at Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “We expect many changes to the proposed ruling but even if it’s announced as it is, it will not affect all immigrant families. The proposed ruling can be applied to someone applying to a green card or someone just entering the country. Permanent residents to be naturalized will not be affected.”

Also, the ruling has not take place yet, and the group of experts ask the community to not drop any essential health services because of this proposal that can take months, years or maybe not even make it into law.

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