Proposed Public Charge rule would increase hunger and poverty in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico organizations are fighting the Trump administration’s reckless new attack on our families: a greatly expanded “Public Charge” rule that essentially turns the U.S. immigration system into a pay-to-play game that unfairly favors the wealthy. If the proposed rule were to go into effect, it would allow the government to deny green cards and visa renewals to lawfully present immigrants who participate in programs that help with basic needs like medical care, food, and housing.

In New Mexico, immigrants make up a large part of our communities. Nearly one in 10 New Mexicans is an immigrant, and one in nine have immigrant parents. New Mexico stands to lose as many as 2,700 jobs and nearly $400 million in economic activity because eligible New Mexicans will forego federal benefits that flow directly into our local economy.

“Trump Charge is yet one more example of this administration’s agenda to target and persecute our communities,” said Fabiola Bawden, community organizer from El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “We are proud of the economic, cultural, and social contributions that immigrant communities make in New Mexico and across the nation. We are ONE New Mexico and must continue to resist Trump’s attempts to push our families into further poverty, strip away legal protections that keep our families together, and rob us of the opportunity to fully integrate into the civic and economic life of the state and country we call home.”

Trump’s new rule dramatically expands the list of programs that jeopardize immigration status to include nearly all available basic need programs like Medicaid, housing assistance, and SNAP food assistance. Currently, the Public Charge rule only considers receipt of cash benefits and institutional care as a reason to deny lawfully present immigrants visa renewals or to deny their application for legal residency.

“No one should ever have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their family together,” said Sovereign Hager, legal director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “At least 77,000 U.S. children in New Mexico live with at least one immigrant parent and are in a family that receives basic assistance. Kids who get assistance with basic needs are healthier, do better in school, and earn more in the future. If this rule goes into effect, we will all face the consequences for generations to come.”

The rule is in a public comment period until December 10, 2018. The Department of Homeland Security must consider all comments before it publishes a final rule in order for there to be a change to immigration law or policy.

“The Trump administration continues to target immigrant communities,” said Eduardo García of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. “This is an effort to create confusion and fear among immigrants and discourage immigration and the use of benefits for immigrant families who qualify. We encourage all New Mexicans to submit comments against the proposed rule and stand up against this drastic change in policy.”

The new rule will not be retroactive, so the current use of food and medical benefits do not fall under the proposed rule. The groups recommend that people concerned about their immigration status continue participating in benefits programs and speak to an immigration attorney. If the rule is approved, it will not go into effect immediately after it is published. Families will have time to make decisions about benefits then.

“Through our daily work, we witness the devastating impact that poverty and the associated toxic stress have on individuals’ and families’ psychological and emotional well-being. The Trump administration is attacking a significant portion of the hardworking families in our communities,” said William Wagner, PhD, LCSW, Director of Centro Savila. “We cannot sit by while the Trump administration increases hunger, poverty, and sickness in our nation while handing out deep tax cuts to the rich. This endangers our families, communities, our state, and our country.”

“Thousands of New Mexico children – most of whom are U.S. citizens – will likely lose access to services because their parents will terminate their health insurance, food assistance, and more as a result of these proposed changes to the public charge definition,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a child advocacy organization. “It’s unconscionable that the Trump administration would take actions that will harm children across the nation.”

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Centro Savila improves the mental health of our community by ensuring access to linguistically and culturally relevant, quality mental health and prevention services, education and healthcare professional development.

EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos is a grassroots, immigrants’ rights and workers’ justice organization based in Central New Mexico that works with Latino immigrant communities and allies to defend, strengthen, and advance the rights of Albuquerque’s communities.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

New Mexico Immigration Law Center advances justice and equity by empowering low-income immigrant communities through collaborative legal services, advocacy, and education.

New Mexico Voices for Children champions  public policies that improve the well-being of New Mexico’s children, families, and communities in the areas of health, education, and economics through credible research and effective advocacy.