Immigrants are at the core of our communities. They are our friends, family members, neighbors, and partners. They are us. All immigrants make valuable contributions to our communities every day but much of the rhetoric coming from the Trump administration criminalizes immigrant communities and fails to respect their contributions.
“Public Charge” is a term used by U.S. immigration officials to refer to a person who is considered dependent on the government for cash “welfare” or long-term institutional care. Under the current rules, immigration officials can consider programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in determining whether an immigrant is eligible for lawful permanent status or a visa to enter the U.S. However, if DHS’ proposed rule passes, programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and even certain housing benefits would be added to the list.
On October 10th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released new proposed regulations to the “public charge” immigration policy. The proposed changes would make—and have already made—immigrant families afraid to seek programs that support their basic needs. If enacted, the new regulations could prevent immigrants from using the programs their tax dollars help support and would prevent them from accessing healthy food and securing affordable housing. Immigrant families with children, elderly people, or people living with disabilities would be the ones most impact by this harmful proposed rule as these are groups that most likely need support from public benefit programs to live and thrive in their communities.
Our time to act is now! Before the proposed rule to public charge can be finalized, the administration is required by law to review and respond to every unique public comment they receive about the proposed regulation. The public comment period closes on Monday, December 10th and we encourage everyone who values the diversity of our communities to submit a public comment through the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition’s online portal.
Credit reports and scores are inappropriate measures to determine the likelihood that an immigrant will become a public charge. The inclusion of credit reports and scores in this proposed rule’s public charge determination is ill-advised and inappropriate.
Credit reports suffer from unacceptable rates of inaccuracy, especially for determining immigration status. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which conducted the definitive study on credit reporting errors, found that: about 21% of consumers had verified errors in their credit reports; 13% had errors that affected their credit scores; and 5% had serious errors that would cause them to be denied or pay more for credit. These error levels are far too high for credit reports and scores to be used for determining the fate of someone’s immigration status. Denying 21% or even 5% of immigrants a visa or green card because of erroneous information is unconscionable. The proposed public charge rule also fails to acknowledge the fact that the US credit scoring system perpetuates racism. Black communities and other communities of color have been disproportionately targeted for high-cost, predatory loans and risky financial products. As a result of predatory and discriminatory practices, such as redlining, Black and Latinx immigrant communities are more likely to have damaged credit.
DHS’ proposed changes to public charge rule are already creating fear and confusion in many immigrant communities, including the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and there are concerns about the chilling effect this could have on low-income immigrant’s use of needed public benefits. Nearly 1.5 million AAPI non-citizens who use certain public benefits would be impacted by this proposed rule. Latinos continue to make up the largest percentage of immigrants in California (51%), and based on CRC original research we have heard first-hand that immigrant families are going underground – denying themselves access to financial and economic resources to which they are entitled. Further, according to a recent report by the Migration Policy Institute, the proposed change in the interpretation of Public Charge could negatively affect nearly 2.3 million immigrants with incomes at or below 250% of the federal poverty line.
Despite what the federal government says, the proposed rule doesn’t promote self-sufficiency. Every child needs nutritious food and regular medical check-ups so they can attend school healthy and ready to learn. We should do all we can to maximize their opportunity to thrive. But instead this proposed rule would impact millions of children, including many who are U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent. In fact, those who will suffer the most are the thousands of children whose health and opportunity relies on public support.
The time to act is now! Immigrants and their families should not have to worry about choosing food or shelter over the opportunity to adjust their legal status, yet this is the cruel choice that the proposed rule to public charge forces them to make. Entire households will be harmed, as there is no way to target individual immigrants without hurting children, families, and communities.
The public comment period closes on Monday, December 10th and we encourage you all to submit a public comment through the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition’s online portal.
Here to Stay is a committee on a mission to ensure that immigrant families in California have access to financial resources and economic opportunity by advocating for more equitable policies and corporate practices.