NCLEJ Condemns Finalized Public Charge Rule from Trump’s DHS

NCLEJ condemns the racist and abusive policy that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) published in final form earlier today. The new DHS “public charge” rules are only part of the Trump Administration’s sweeping and continued attack on immigrant families. The current Administration is weaponizing basic needs to send immigrant families one message: “If you’re not white and you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome here.”

Proposed last fall, the new regulations expand the meaning of “public charge” and change the way immigration officials administer the “public charge” test to determine whether to admit or grant legal permanent resident status to non-citizens. Currently, the test is narrowly based on the receipt of cash assistance or long-term institutionalized care services from the government. But with the new regulations, if an immigrant or a member of an immigrant’s family uses public entitlements like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as “Food Stamps”) or “Section 8” rent vouchers, they will be putting at risk their own or a family member’s potential admission to the U.S. and/or “green card” applications.

For years, federal law has recognized the value and importance of allowing eligible immigrants to access these entitlements which enable them to remain employed, support their families, and contribute to society. These limited public entitlements also preserve health, housing, and nutrition in the event that a non-citizen head of household loses a job through unemployment, illness, or other unforeseen difficulties. The new rule expressly abandons these carefully considered and successful policies in favor of an explicit anti-immigrant bias. If the rule takes effect, 26 million individuals will be forced to choose between basic human needs and the people they love.

Last fall, we submitted comments in opposition to the proposed rule highlighting its harmful effects on immigrants who are lawfully employed in the country and the discriminatory impact it will have on immigrants with disabilities or chronic health conditions and immigrant families supporting children with special health needs.

Before the rule was even finalized, it created a culture of fear among immigrant communities and forced families to forgo food, housing, and medical treatment. Even individuals exempt from the “public charge” test have reported their families avoiding churches, hospitals, clinics, and public libraries, and keeping their children from school. Now that the rule is finalized, its chilling effects will only increase unmet health care needs, hunger, and inadequate or unsafe housing, as well as exacerbate racial disparities in health and poverty nationwide.

The new policy will harm the healthcare and safety net systems that help ALL of us. If the new rules take effect, it will impact immigrant families, mixed-status families, and even non-immigrant families who depend on the safety net for income support. NCLEJ stands with other advocates and organizations opposing Administration’s anti-immigration policies and will continue our fight to ensure that all families have access to healthy food, necessary medical care, safe and affordable shelter, and other basics they need to survive and thrive.