A lot has been said and written about that Department of Homeland Security rule change that would make it harder for legal immigrants to get green cards if they have received certain kinds of “public assistance.”
The proposal, announced on the evening of Sept. 21, marks a new push by the administration to stemming immigration—not just “illegal” but also legal.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claims this rule is to prevent immigrants from becoming legal residents who might become a “public charge,” meaning someone who is primarily dependent on government assistance.
The new rule could require proof of private health insurance to cover certain medical conditions, and a person’s credit history and credit scores.
That means right now, people who had received public benefits before the rule takes effect would not be penalized for doing so. The DHS estimates that 2.5 percent of eligible immigrants would drop out of public benefits programs because of this change, which would tally approximately $1.5 billion worth of federal money per year. But others expect a much larger impact.
Although many are now criticizing the move and speaking out even as immigrants receiving such benefits are already moving to distance themselves from any government assistance, the fact is the rule is not yet set in stone. And there’s some light at the end of the dark tunnel.
The government must publish the rule in the Federal Register. From that date of publication, a 60-day countdown will begin, during which time anyone can weigh in with comments.
This period is the time all immigrants concerned about their futures and the futures of their family, friends and neighbors in this country must act!
Flood the Office of Management and Budget with public comments. Make them understand people will die because of this rule.
Especially because the DHS is planning to penalize poor immigrants whose children are using the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, to ensure they obtain some type of health care, or if they are struggling financially and must use food stamps, Section 8 rental assistance and federal housing vouchers or Medicare Part D program to get by.
The expansion would go as far as to penalize people for using visa fee waivers, which are prominently advertised on U.S. government sites for people seeking information on the immigration process.
For the DHS to list these programs as “public charge” programs that can disqualify an immigrant who has committed no crimes from getting a green card is heartless, cruel and racist.
Public charge, of course, is an old idea that lawmakers in the 1990s expanded to consider explicitly whether people had received cash-based welfare. But including programs such as Medicaid, CHIP, visa fee waivers, housing assistance and food stamps is a significant change.
“The proposed ‘public charge’ rule is a shameful attempt to punish working-class immigrants for accessing the health care, housing and nutrition programs they need to support their families and survive in our country,” said Alison Hirsh of the service union 32BJ SEIU, which has 163,000 members.
For now, many can take comfort in the fact that the final rule likely wouldn’t take effect until 2019, so it is imperative that we all speak up and speak out now.
And most of all, ensure we all vote blue come Nov. 6, 2018.
The writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc., which owns the brands NewsAmericasNow,CaribPRWire and InvestCaribbeanNow.