Earlier this year, a draft of the “public charge” rule was leaked. The final version from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was published in the Federal Register (October 10) and they are allowing a 60-day period for public comment. During this time we have the chance to tell the government how we believe this rule will affect our neighbors and our communities.
The new rule proposes radical changes to the existing policies that already allow limited access to public benefits for immigrants. These policies will be harmful to low-income and working families across the country applying for lawful permanent residence (“green card” status). This policy will also deny admission to the U.S. for those planning to work hard to care for their families and create a better life. Not only does this policy put immigrants at risk for their health and well-being, but it would also make immigrant families afraid to use public benefits that support their most basic needs.
As people of faith, we believe in God’s imperative to welcome the stranger among us and not to oppress the foreigner. This policy does exactly the opposite. It does not welcome immigrants and it does oppress foreigners. As People of God we are called to speak up on behalf of those who would be our neighbors by sojourning among us.
Thus, we must educate ourselves on impending policies that are harmful to the immigrant community. Here are some things to know:
The current definition of “public charge” is, “a person who has become or is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” Under the new rule, the definition of “public charge” will change to “an immigrant who receives one or more benefits.” Changing the current definition significantly from someone becoming primarily dependent on the government to an individual using just one or more public benefits widens the possibility that people will be excluded.
Under the current policy, the only benefits considered for the public charge test are cash assistance like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and similar state/local programs. Also, included in the test is public assistance for long-term care in an institution. With the new rule, the proposal expands the benefits that could be considered in a “public charge” test. These programs will now include:
- Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy (assistance in purchasing medicine)
- Housing Assistance (Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance).
Under the proposed rule, there would be strict standards used when deciding if an immigrant is considered a “public charge.” These standards include age, health, income, education, English proficiency, and more. The proposed rule would weigh negatively on children and seniors (those with lower incomes), individuals with limited English proficiency, poor credit history, or limited education. Also, those who earn less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Level is a factor that will be heavily weighed negatively. The current policy does not use as strict standards as this new rule proposes, only reviewing health, income, age, and other factors.
You can learn about the proposed changes to the current rule here. After you learn more, the next step is to use these days until December 10, 2018, to submit comments. Individuals and organizations can submit comments at this link and share with the government how this rule would harm your friends, family, and community. Click here for a model comment to submit to the federal register. After the 60-day period, DHS must carefully review each comment received. After consideration of the public comments, they will then issue a final public charge rule and the date on which it will take effect.
Now, during this public comment period, is the time for us, as people of faith, to take action. Let us remember God’s words to welcome the stranger and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We should take this opportunity to advocate for our immigrant neighbors and community by responding to this proposed rule. Take the time to submit a comment using the model comment provided above or write a personalized comment expressing your opposition to this policy as a person of faith.
Resources on the Public Charge Rule: