Wednesday, October 10, 2018
The Sacramento Family Unity, Education, and Legal (FUEL) Network is firmly opposed to the current Federal Administration’s proposed expansion of the public charge definition. This expansion threatens the livelihood of immigrant families and worsens disparities in access to health, nutrition, and housing. For over a hundred years, “Public charge” determinations have been used by federal immigration authorities to decide whether to allow entry into the U.S. or accept an immigrant’s application for Lawful Permanent Residence status. The rule also applies to those with immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas and returning permanent residents. On September 22nd, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed to significantly expand the number of public benefits considered in the “public charge” analysis. The proposed rule would expand the definition of public charge to include non-cash benefit programs, if received by the applicant starting 60 days after the rule is finalized, including; Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, and several housing programs. Sadly, this proposed change has already made immigrant families afraid to seek programs they are eligible for and that help them thrive in this country. Another important aspect of the proposed rule change is moving from a list of benefits to a factors test that includes consideration of the applicant’s age, employment history, medical conditions, and education levels. This will disproportionately affect our young families, single-parent families, limited English proficiency and those with low formal education levels.
The proposed new rule attacks the humanity and welfare of immigrant families by forcing them to make an impossible choice between meeting basic needs and keeping their families together in this country. The rule would punish dependents including U.S citizen children who receive certain public benefits, excluding emergency and school-based Medi-Cal for children, by considering them a public charge towards the determination of their parents applying for a green card. According to Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Nationwide, over 19 million or one in four (25%) children live in a family with an immigrant parent, and nearly nine in ten (86%) of these children are citizens” who can be affected. Since the proposed change was made public, local legal service agencies in Sacramento are reporting that many immigrant families have decided not to renew some of their children's benefits fearing that the continuation of receiving public benefits by their children would, in the future, affect any possibility of gaining legal status in the U.S. For example, an undocumented mother recently did not renew CalFresh for her four U.S. born children because she was afraid this would affect her eligibility for any immigration benefit in the future. Fear and confusion regarding which public benefits are considered a public charge determination has led families to prematurely disenroll from benefits prior to the rule being made final, refuse to enroll in public benefits that are not considered a public charge determination, and decline to provide their personal information for FBI clearances fearing the government will use their information to track them. Disenrolling from these programs will lead to poorer health outcomes and financial instability which are detrimental to healthy development of children and families. Children continue to be cruelly targeted by the administration’s zero-tolerance deterrent measures, whether through forced detention or by punishing their parents for enrolling in basic needs programs. There is no justification for penalizing working immigrant families, attacking the wellbeing of children, and forcing immigrant families to live in fear.
The Sacramento FUEL network opposes cruel punishment of parents seeking to sustain their families and encourages community members to voice their opposition to the Trump administration. To comment, Just click here. You can customize a template comment which will be sent directly to regulations.gov, a secure site that protects community members anonymity. We want to encourage people and other organizations to speak up and show their disagreement by taking action now through educating the community and family members by encouraging them to continue participating in Medi-Cal, CHIP, WIC and other housing, energy, transportation programs, and all programs that are not listed as potential determinations. If regulations change, they cannot apply retroactively so families should not to withdraw from benefits because current reception will not have an impact if the rule is approved as it is now. You can join the #ProtectImmigrantFamilies campaign by signing up here: protectimmigrantfamilies.org. Because every situation is different, families should seek a consult with a trusted immigration attorney or OLAP Accredited Representative. For more information, please reference the resources below.
We, the Sacramento FUEL Network, strongly oppose this proposed rule that threatens the health and wellbeing of our community and urge the Trump Administration to withdraw the proposed rule and rather work with the community to shape the policy in a humanly way that takes in consideration the historic values of our nation: respect, humanity, and fairness.
The Sacramento Family Unity, Education, and Legal (FUEL) Network Advocacy Committee
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Aliane Hasan (1st Vice President of the Sacramento Chapter of NAACP)
Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS)
Elvira Daza (DOJ Accredited Representative)
Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution (CAPCR)
Toni Tinker (Administrative Assistant)
Herman Barahona (Community Organizer)
Center for Workers’ Rights (CWR)
Daniela Urban (Workers’ Rights Attorney)
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Mahmoud Zahriya (Policy and Advocacy Coordinator)
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF)
Gladys Puente (FUEL Program Coordinator)
Alex Gonzalez (Board Member)