By Samantha Iniguez
The Department of Homeland Security proposed an unfair new rule related to public charge that scared many immigrants into unenrolling in benefit programs.
Public Charge is a term used by U.S immigration officers when talking about a person who is considered primarily dependent on the government for subsidence by either public cash assistance or long-term care at government expense.
The new proposal expands the list of publicly-funded programs immigration-officers may consider when deciding if an applicant is likely to become a public charge.
Helpful programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP also known as Food stamps), Section 8 housing assistance, and the Low-income Subsidy for the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit can now be used as evidence.
The Childrens Partnership said, “If changes to public charge lead to disenrollment rates between 15% and 35% among children in immigrant families in California, an estimated 269,000 to 628,000 children would lose coverage from Medicaid, CHIP, or other means-tested public health insurance despite remaining eligible.”
Until the new rule is put to practice it is important that the right information about the current rule is shared with immigrants so those who need the benefits do not disenroll under false pretenses.
The proposed changes would make it more difficult for immigrants who move to the U.S for better opportunities.
If the government changes the rule so that more benefit programs are used against immigrants as public charges it would be placing a filter in the immigration process that allows only the more financially stable people to come through.
Public Charge affects people applying for permanent residence through a relative or for a visa to enter the United States.
Immigrants who aren’t affected include: refugees, asylees, survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes, Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners, Temporary Protected Status and Special Immigrant Juveniles.
The public charge test also does not apply to green card renewal. However, green card holders who leave the U.S for more than six months might have a problem coming back into the U.S.
Under current policy there are three circumstances in which an immigrant can be deported on Public Charge that applies only to immigrants that became a Public Charge during their first five years after admission to the U.S.
The use of cash assistance or long-term care needs to have created a legal obligation to repay the cost of the benefit.
The immigrant or sponsor must have received a notice to repay the debt within the five-year period and the immigrant or sponsor needs to have refused to repay the debt after the government took legal action and won.
Congresswoman Judy Chu said the new proposal would make it a lot harder for middle-class people to immigrate legally to the United States.
She made her statement at the AltaMed’s Fact vs. Fiction event on Thursday at the Recital S2 Hall.
She said when the government denies immigrant green cards and visas based on predictions that they are likely to need Medicaid coverage or other benefits in the future, it is sending a classist message
The Washington Post said the public charge rule has long been a tool to screen out “undesirable” immigrants from eventually becoming citizens.
The new proposed rule fails to consider that most immigrants are coming to the U.S because they are looking for a better chance at life.
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