By Sophia Stephens
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Over the past several months, the Trump administration has made clear on its intent to make sweeping changes to what is commonly known as “public charge” regulations. The proposed changes could deter immigrant families from accessing public benefits like Medicaid and food stamps.
The public charge regulations center around the likelihood that an applicant for a visa or green card will be on public assistance, which is defined as receiving over half of your income from financial forms of assistance, including Supplemental Security income, long-term help through Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, current policy allows officials to consider only two types of public benefits in a public charge determination: cash assistance for income maintenance and institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.
“Though it is still a proposed rule, this is yet another attack from the Trump administration on much more than just the immigrant population,” said Sarah Domondon of Children’s Alliance. “This is an attack on low-income children, seniors, people with disabilities, and people of color.”
What is currently being proposed by the Trump administration is an expansion to the regulations, and to the determination of an immigrant becoming or being a public charge. Programs that would be under consideration under the revised law would include the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, Section 8 housing vouchers, low-income components of the Child Tax Credit, Women, Infants, and Children nutrition assistance programs, and Affordable Care Act subsidies.
Multiple reports detailed that along with the programs that are now being included in the public charge determination process, specific benefits would also be made exempt from consideration, including “earned” benefits from work, loans, military service, and disaster/emergency assistance. Also excluded are government student loans, in-state tuition, and specific emergency services, such as emergency Medicaid.
As it stands, current policy allows immigrants and immigrant candidates to seek healthcare and nutrition assistance without being considered a public charge. However, these alterations to the public charge regulations would not only affect the ability of immigrants and immigrant candidates to seek assistance, but would also apply to the current benefits experienced by legal immigrants and their U.S. citizen spouses and children.
“We are already seeing the harmful effects of the leak of this proposed rule and want to make sure that individuals are well informed of who it does, and doesn’t, apply to,” said Domondon.
The New York Times reported in March that immigrants who are hoping for permanent residence are already dropping out of public nutrition programs even before prominent elements of the policy changes are enacted, fearful that participating could threaten their citizenship eligibility or put them at risk for deportation.
The rule is still under review at the Office of Management and Budget, and has not yet been published. However, Washington lawmakers — including Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Jenny Durkan — have been taking action to combat the administration.
“Our state is home to 455,000 U.S. citizen children with at least one immigrant parent,” read a statement on the Northwest Health Law Advocates website.
A Center on Poverty and Social Policy report found that the proposed changes to the public charge rule would have a disproportionate effect on citizen children of immigrant parents — putting 500,000 more U.S. citizen children at risk of poverty by foregoing non-cash food assistance benefits.
Community-based organizations are sharing key facts with clients about the proposed rule to mitigate fears. For more information, go to https://goo.gl/Kz4b75.
Sophia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.