Press Release – Advocates Urge Litigation Congressional Action to Protect Families

Washington, DC – August 12, 2019. The Trump Administration’s recent “public charge” final ruling threatens the health of approximately 10 million documented immigrants, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This new rule weaponizes health and human services programs against immigrants and their families, including U.S.-born children. 

A “public charge” is currently defined as a person who is or is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support. When a non–U.S. citizen applies for a visa to enter the U.S. or for lawful permanent resident status ( “green card” status), a U.S. government official will look at the person’s life circumstances to see if the person is likely to depend on government programs in the future.

The final regulation puts admissions to the U.S. or applications for a “green card” at risk if an immigrant or a member of an immigrant’s family uses Medicare, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps”) or “Section 8” rent vouchers. Citizenship applications are not subject to the “public charge” regulation, and refugees, asylees, and several other categories of non-citizens.

When initially proposed last fall, Trump’s regulation drew more than 266,000 public comments, overwhelmingly in opposition. AMHP also lobbied against the plan on National Muslim Advocacy Day, warning Senators’ offices of its consequences for the health of all residents in the U.S., including Muslim families. Pediatricians, hospitals, health insurers, public health officials, and other major health organizations have also spoken out against the regulation.

“The Trump Administration’s public charge ruling will lead to a public health crisis by causing a spike in uninsured rates in the immigrant communities. This community is already living in an environment of fear and this ruling will instigate further chaos and confusion particularly around healthcare coverage and access. The additional impact on access to food and housing will also significantly influence the public health of this community. The downstream effects of this regulation will subsequently cross racial lines and have devastating effects on the nation’s public health while concurrently overburdening healthcare facilities and providers. The DHS itself, in the preamble of the proposed rule, acknowledged that the initial proposal could cause ‘decreased disposable income and increase the poverty of certain families and children, including that of U.S. citizen children’,” said Dr. Sana Syed, AMHP Director of Health Policy & Advocacy.

Manatt, LLP estimates localize a national analysis pegging the proposed regulation’s impact at 26 million people nationwide. That includes one-fourth of all children in the U.S. — the vast majority born here — who live in immigrant families. Experts expect unmet health care needs to rise, compounded by hunger, child poverty, inadequate or unsafe housing, and other drivers of poor health outcomes. Since the immigrants targeted by the Trump proposal are overwhelmingly immigrants of color, experts expect racial health disparities to widen. 

This regulation is not the only attack. The Administration has already proposed additional regulations targeting immigrant families’ health, incomes, food, and homes. The DHS regulation is one of several recent and planned attacks on immigrant families of color. Trump’s United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has drafted a companion regulation that would expand deportations based on immigrant families’ use of public programs. Advocates expect that the DOJ regulation will have an even greater “chilling effect,” because of the family separation consequences of deportation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also proposed regulations denying housing assistance to mixed-status families that include an undocumented person — a move that could reportedly make 55,000 U.S.-born children homeless. The Commerce Department also attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, prompting ultimately successful litigation arguing that the policy would disenfranchise voters of color. Like these policies, the public charge regulation finalized today is expected to have a disproportionate impact on children and families of color.

Advocates for immigrant families and state attorneys general are already preparing litigation. Congress can also block the regulation’s implementation.

“We all must rise up against Trump’s xenophobic public charge regulation. It is incumbent upon all state Attorney Generals to join forces to protect the health and well being of all immigrant families. We are also appealing to our AMHP member base, to please contact your U.S. senators to stand up for our community’s health and put an end to these divisive policies.” said Dr. Syed.

If you would like more information about this topic, please email Lujain Al-Khawi, AMHP Health Policy & Advocacy Intern at advocacy@amhp.us.

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