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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Opposes Public Charge Rule

Oct 4, 2018
Press Release
Letter to DHS Secretary Lays out Harmful Public Health & Welfare Consequences of Proposed Change
WASHINGTON, DC – The leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and CHC Task Force Chairs for Health Care, Education and Immigration sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen opposing the agency’s proposed rule to expand the definition of public charge, which would be harmful to hardworking immigrant families at the expense of children’s health and well-being.
 
The Members wrote: “If put into effect, this new policy would have a number of concerning health consequences for families by forcing millions of individuals to forgo vital resources, such as those that provide pregnant women and children with food and nutrition benefits that lead to healthy development… this administration is seeking to make drastic changes to the public charge test that will force families to go hungry and remain sick in order to protect themselves from the risk of being denied a green card,”
 
“It is unacceptable to hold basic public health services hostage in attempt to cut legal immigration at all costs, and we cannot do so at the expense of children and families,” added the Members.
 
In addition to CHC leadership, the following members of the CHC signed the letter: CHC Health Care and Mental Health Chair Raul Ruiz, CHC Education and Labor Chair Raul Grijalva and CHC Immigration and Border Issues Chair Luis Gutierrez.
 
The official letter can be found here.
 
TEXT OF LETTER
 
October 4, 2018
 
The Honorable Kirstjen M. Nielsen
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
300 7th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20024
 
Dear Secretary Nielsen:
 
As members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we write in strong opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule to expand the definition of public charge, which would impose harmful barriers for those seeking to become a lawful permanent resident or adjust a nonimmigrant visa. If put into effect, this new policy would have a number of concerning health consequences for families by forcing millions of individuals to forgo vital resources, such as those that provide pregnant women and children with food and nutrition benefits that lead to healthy development. Immigrant families have had peace of mind that they can access these vital programs for decades. Now this administration is seeking to make drastic changes to the public charge test that will force families to go hungry and remain sick in order to protect themselves from the risk of being denied a green card. It is clear that this proposed change would be incredibly harmful to hardworking immigrant families at the expense of children’s health and well-being.
 
Under current law, immigrants can be classified as a public charge if they are primarily dependent on the government through receipt of government-funded cash assistance or long-term institutional care. The proposed rule announced on September 22, 2018 would significantly broaden the scope of public charge from reliance on the government for subsistence to include the utilization of government programs that immigrant families are currently encouraged to use. These noncash benefits, which are vital to many families, include the use or potential future use of SNAP, Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidies, non-emergency Medicaid, and housing assistance such as public housing or Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance.
 
Denying green cards to eligible immigrants who have participated in government programs would harm individuals who are in need of short-term assistance programs. A number of studies have shown that malnutrition and lack of health care can cause a host of short- and long-term health issues and other consequences.[1],[2] That is why health experts and family advocacy groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and March of Dimes staunchly oppose the public charge proposal out of concern that millions of families will decline vital resources that will ultimately undermine our nation’s public health and these families’ well-being.
 
Most alarming are the significant repercussions the rule will have on children. The health of a parent is inextricably linked to the health of a child, and discouraging parents from accessing vital services will have an immediate and severe impact on children across the country. If adults lose access to nutrition support under SNAP, the entire family will have less to eat. If rental assistance or health care benefits are no longer options, children will have negative physical and behavioral health outcomes that will affect them in the classroom and beyond.
 
Promoting the health and general welfare of our communities is a cornerstone of who we are as a nation. As a nation of immigrants, we must exhibit care and concern for all those living in our country, not just citizens. Study after study has shown that immigrants pay billions in state, local, and federal taxes, helping to strengthen our economy and our country.[3],[4] To dismiss these contributions and turn our backs on immigrants is not what we stand for as a nation. It is unacceptable to hold basic public health services hostage in attempt to cut legal immigration at all costs, and we cannot do so at the expense of children and families.
 
For these reasons we strongly oppose this proposed rule and ask that you withdraw this proposal and maintain the current definition of public charge in order to protect the health and well-being of children and their families.
 
Sincerely,
 
###
 
 
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.