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Proposed Trump Immigration Policy would further punish immigrant families, especially children

May 24, 2018

The US government’s war on immigrants just added a new component. The Trump administration will soon be issuing a new regulation that would:

“jeopardize the status of millions of immigrants who use—or whose children use—health, housing, nutrition, and other key services and supports. It would do this by radically altering the way in which federal officials evaluate whether certain immigrants are—or are likely to become—a “public charge.”  

The concept of “public charge” first appeared in U.S. immigration law in the Immigration Act of 1882, which prohibited any immigrant “unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge” from being admitted to the United States. Since 1903, the Immigration and Nationality Act has included public-charge considerations in two contexts: (1) whether immigrants seeking entry to the United States or seeking legal permanent residency are at risk of becoming a public charge and thus deemed inadmissible and (2) whether immigrants who have been admitted to the United States have become a public charge within five years of entry. The Act does not define “public charge,” but in each context a public-charge analysis has developed through case law and agency guidance.

The Trump administration has been threatening to enact changes to the current “public charge” policy, since 2017. The goal behind this change is twofold: (1) to make it harder for immigrants who might use public services—such as health and nutrition programs—to come to the United States and settle here permanently and (2) to force families to choose between the food, housing, and health care they need and being with the people they love.

The draft of these policy changes can be viewed at this link.  According to analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the proposed policy changes would impact the immigrant community in the following ways: 

  • Individuals who are determined to be a “public charge” can be denied lawful permanent residence or entry into the U.S., and, in very limited cases, deported. Under current policy, individuals may be determined a public charge if they rely on or are likely to rely on public cash assistance or government funded long-term institutional care. Current policy does not allow the federal government to consider the use of non-cash benefits, such as health and nutrition programs, in public charge determinations.
  • Under the draft proposed policy, the federal government could consider previously excluded health, nutrition, and other non-cash programs in public charge determinations. In addition, the changes would newly allow the federal government to take into account use of programs by citizen children and other family members in making a public charge determination.
  • The changes would likely lead to decreased participation in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other programs among legal immigrant families, including their citizen children. The primary group affected by the changes would be individuals seeking a green card through a family-based petition. However, the changes would likely increase fear and confusion among all legal immigrant families, leading to decreased participation in health coverage and other programs for themselves and their children. Decreased participation in these programs would contribute to more uninsured and negatively affect the health and financial stability of families as well as growth and healthy development of their predominantly U.S.-born citizen children.

The Kaiser analysis finds that between 657,000 to 1.5 million citizen children could become uninsured if the proposed changes are implemented.

The National Immigrant Law Center calls these proposed changes another “attack” on immigrants by the Trump administration. Calling it an attack is not hyperbole, since it will increase the already high level of fear in the immigrant community, plus it will cause real harm for immigrant families who will not be able to access these public resources. 

The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) believes that the Trump administration will make these proposed changes in July of 2018. The MIRC and the Michigan League for Public Policy have teamed up to combat this proposed policy.

In addition, there is this video that provides solid information and analysis on the “public charge” policy. The video is just over 30 minutes, but the details are important.

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