Massive popular rejection of Trump anti-family regulation: Proposal equating worth with wealth draws 210,000+ comments

CONTACT: Center for Law and Social Policy: Tom Salyers (202-607-1074), tsalyers@clasp.org or National Immigration Law Center: Juan Gastelum (213-375-3149) or Hayley Burgess (202-384-1279), media@nilc.org

December 11, 2018, Washington, DC – A Trump Administration regulatory proposal to effectively restrict immigration access based on income drew more than 210,000 comments during a 60-day public comment period that closed Monday. The comments, which came from people from all sectors of society, criticized this 477-page regulation as an affront to family dignity and ultimately unworkable. The National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy led a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the threat and encourage people to submit comments.

“Mayors from across the country, Members of Congress, faith leaders, advocates for women and communities of color, teachers, pediatricians, small business owners, veteran families, and Americans from all walks of life spoke out during the last 60 days,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. “And though there were diverse voices speaking out, the message to the Trump Administration was consistent and clear: this is the wrong policy for children, families, communities and the country as a whole.”

“Last month’s midterms demonstrated a groundswell of support for political candidates who rejected Trump’s hateful attacks on low-income families and immigrant families,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Now those voters have raised their voices again to push back on Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-family agenda and take back their power.”

Widely reported by the press, the proposed “public charge”  regulation, if enacted, would put people at risk of immigration denials if they use Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Section 8 housing, Medicare’s prescription drug assistance program, or other programs. Specifically, the regulation puts applications for admission to the United States and applications for permanent residence (a “green card”) in jeopardy. The proposal would also make it far harder for working immigrants to be approved for residency if they do not have high incomes or wealth, by counting a range of demographic factors against applicants. These include being a child, being older than 61,demonstrating limited English language skills, and having a disability.

The rules governing public charge in the U.S. have not yet changed. But experts warn that the threat of the proposal would worsen hunger, unmet health needs, and other problems by making immigrant families — including families with children — afraid to get the help they need. Comments opposing the regulation validate those concerns.

“I am applying for [a] Green Card. I already dis-enrolled my child from CHIP out of fear since the draft policy floated around early this year. I pray every day nothing bad happens to my child,” wrote one anonymous commenter.

Advocates for economic opportunity and immigrant families charge that the proposal puts wealthy immigrants ahead of families and expands a policy that has historically been used to discriminate against certain racial, ethnic, and social classes. Commenters also underscore those concerns.

“At times throughout my family's history, we've needed help from public programs to get by, just like millions of other families. And with some help from programs like unemployment, food assistance, and tax credits, we kept our jobs, got ahead, and paid that assistance back many times over in taxes and in job creation. I vehemently oppose the White House's new proposal that would deny this generation of immigrant families the same opportunities that my family benefitted from,” wrote Jeff Sheldon.

“This undeniably xenophobic policy, disguised as an economic decision, closed off one of the few escape routes for European Jews facing deportation to concentration camps, and contributed to the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust,” wrote Samuel Chu, National Organizer for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

While the public comment period is closed, the regulation is not final. In some cases, federal agencies decide not to finalize a rule given widespread opposition. If DHS does elect to advance the proposal, it must review comments first and respond to substantive concerns — a process advocates expect to take months or years. Immigration officials will not be allowed to consider an applicant’s use of public programs prior to 60 days after the date that the final regulation is published in the Federal Register. The attorneys general of Massachusetts, California, and other states have already indicated that they are considering litigation if and when the regulation is finalized.

“This radical proposal goes far beyond the agency’s legal authority, and it may well be struck down. We urge the millions of families affected by this proposal to consult a lawyer to determine the best course of action for you and your family,” said Golden.

“Immigrant families have been the target of relentless, multifaceted attacks by this administration,” added Marielena Hincapié. “What we have shown is that our communities — and our allies — are resilient. We will keep fighting, using every legal and policy tool at our disposal, to stop this hateful rule.”

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