January 2, 2019

Implementation would force immigrant families to make difficult choices.

PublicCharge_fa.jpgOur Union has joined hundreds of immigrant and civil rights organizations to turn back a cruel attempt by the Trump administration to punish immigrants with legal status for using basic public services.

In early October, after months of threats, the Trump administration finally issued proposals to the Public Charge rule, which U.S. immigration law uses to determine whether to grant permanent residency or a visa to immigrant residents. Current law already restricts which public services immigrants can access. The administration’s proposal greatly expands that list to bar immigrants who receive non-emergency Medicaid, food stamps, the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy or Section 8 and other housing programs. It also includes a new list of personal factors such as age, medical condition, income or being in a large family.

If implemented, the rule will force millions of immigrant families to choose between their families’ well-being or a green card that would permit them to remain in the country. Because of the required regulatory process, the law cannot take effect before February 2019.

After the proposal was announced, 1199 joined hundreds of organizations in collecting and encouraging official comments to the federal government opposing the proposed changes.

“The proposal is so inhumane,” says Betty Jones, a patient financial advisor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. “It says we don’t care whether immigrants live or die. How can this not have an effect on the elderly, parents’ and their children’s health?”

The effects, critics say, will reverberate far beyond the individuals who seek documentation. An estimated 47 percent of non-citizens live in families where at least one person has used the benefits in question.

And, as usual, the rule will disproportionately target immigrants of color. A report by the Migration Policy Institute finds that 10.3 million Latino and 3.8 million Asian-American and Pacific Islander immigrants are in families in which a member received at least one of the public benefits included in the proposed rule.

Entire towns and communities with large immigrant populations will also suffer. Federal funding to states, counties and cities will be slashed when programs shrink because residents fear accessing health care and other services.

“Health care should play no part in determining someone’s status,” says Rosemary DeJesus, an LPN at the newly organized Hudson River Health Care on Long Island. DeJesus stresses that she was a leading supporter of joining 1199 because of its strength and reputation for fighting for social justice.

“Illness doesn’t discriminate, so why should we?” DeJesus asks. “These new proposals will weaken rather than strengthen us. Why should immigrants continue to pay taxes if they can’t access services? The president loves chaos. That’s what he’s trying to create.”

The proposed rule also requires immigrant families to meet a certain income threshold—about $63,000 for a family of four. That would create an immigration system rigged for the wealthy, putting green cards up for sale to the highest bidder.

The proposal provides some exceptions. Refugees and asylees are not subject to “public charge” determinations, and public charge is also not a consideration when green card holders apply to become U.S. citizens.

1199 and immigrant rights groups say the proposal is but another example of the administration’s ongoing effort to vilify immigrants so as to divide our nation. NYP’s Betty Jones agrees. “His mission has been to turn us, including my African American brothers and sisters, against Hispanics,” she declares. By dividing us, Trump is trying to turn back the clock on all of us.”

Now that the comments have been submitted, advocates will remind their elected representatives to do all they can to reject all heartless and inhuman regulations.

1199 Magazine: November / December 2018