Public Charge Rule Revision: Harmful to Vulnerable Families

Sep 13, 2019

MASSCAP Calls for Its Reversal

Is it possible to succeed as a legal immigrant if you are faced with a regulation designed to cause you to fail?

Can you imagine being forced to choose between feeding and caring for your family, or continuing to pursue citizenship and a better future for your family?

The Trump Administration’s change to the Public Charge rule will do just that. The “public charge” rule could deny immigrants who are here in the US legally a green card or visa, simply for accessing benefits and services for which they are eligible. Having a low income (less than 250% of FPL) and/or accessing core public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, social security, TANF, and Section 8 Housing Vouchers could imperil a family, causing a parent to be deemed “inadmissible” and denied permanent status.

This newly issued rule is opposed by human service groups, business groups, health care organizations, among many others.  Most of the 266,000 comments the federal government received in response were in opposition. The rule as written would force millions of hard-working immigrants across the country and hundreds of thousands in Massachusetts to avoid accessing services critical to the health and well-being of their families- or risk family separation.

Efforts by individuals who are lawfully present in this country to remain here would result in their forgoing health coverage, nutrition assistance, and housing help.  Accessing those services as means of seeking economic stability and ultimately mobility could result in a “public charge” designation.

This rule ignores our country’s vibrant history.  It ignores the fact that this country was built on and continues to prosper from the productivity of immigrants. Legal residents work hard at tough jobs.  They take care of our elderly relatives and friends, they harvest the crops we eat, start and run successful small new businesses. They are our neighbors and our friends and are part of caring local communities.  They pay taxes and help drive the economy as consumers as well.

Community Action Agencies provide services to hundreds of thousands of individuals and families each year, many of whom are legal residents who, like all of our clients, need help to make ends meet, to heat their homes, to get job training, to access good quality affordable early education and care, to save and plan for a hopeful future.  Research conducted by MassBudget indicates that the rule change could cause as many as a half a million Massachusetts residents – including 160,000 children – to withdraw from needed benefits for fear of having an impact on a family member’s immigration status.

We know that everyone we serve is facing challenges. We also know they have many strengths.  We seek to support and build on those strengths – to help people living with low incomes to realize their modest but powerful goal of become economically stable and mobile.

There is opposition to this measure.  Lawsuits are being prepared and federal legislation will be offered. We hope that the rule is reversed as it is anathema to what America is all about.

The fact is that virtually all of us living in the United States have come from somewhere else.  We or our relatives one, two, and three generations ago entered this country through a system that balanced the need for immigration rules and the benefit we all derive from immigration.  The rule throws that system out of balance.  It is short sighted, tilts us unsettlingly toward intolerance, and in the end, will prove unproductive and destabilizing to the economy.

We look forward to working with policymakers and allied organizations in Massachusetts to ensure we protect the residents of the Commonwealth and continue to be a welcoming place, where everyone can have the tools they need to succeed.

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