Trump’s alarming “Public Charge” rule attacks immigrants, threatening access to food and healthcare

The Trump administration greenlights rule despite massive public opposition

ALBUQUERQUE—Widespread, devastating impact looms as the Trump administration sidesteps Congress with “Public Charge” changes. The expanded “Public Charge” rule allows the government to deny permanent residency (green cards) and visa renewals to lawfully present immigrants who participate in basic need programs like Medicaid, housing assistance, and SNAP food assistance. The rule also adds specific requirements into the public charge test, including income, age, health and English proficiency. Advocacy groups condemn the new rule, which goes into effect October 15, 2019.

“Immigrant communities contribute so much to the cultural, civic, and economic fabric of our state and nation,” said Fabiola Landeros, a community organizer with El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “Once again the Trump administration is targeting our communities, persecuting the most vulnerable based on their economic status, and trying to minimize our political power. No family should be forced to choose between feeding their children or having access to medical care or risking family separation. In New Mexico, we value taking care of our families and neighbors. As Nuevo Mexicanos, we need to look for solutions to provide safety net services for our communities and we must fight back against Trump’s racist agenda by continuing to organize and building upon our legacy in New Mexico of supporting immigrant integration.”   

“The expanded public charge rule is an attack on all immigrants, including children and seniors who, like any working American, may need to access supplemental benefits at any point such as subsidized housing or food stamps,” said Kay Bounkeua, Executive Director of the New Mexico Asian Family Center. “The Asian population has a high rate of family sponsorships and limited English proficiency—the expanded testing will result in keeping families apart and undermine the strengths and contributions of a racially diverse community.”

Congress made many lawfully present immigrants eligible for basic needs assistance to promote economic stability. Historically, administrations of both parties have only considered receipt of cash benefits and institutional care as reasons to deny lawfully present immigrants visa renewals or to deny their application for permanent residency. 

“We have a shared responsibility to make sure no one in our community, especially children, go without basic needs,” said Teague Gonzalez, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Immigrants contribute exponentially more to our tax system that supports basic benefit programs than they draw in direct assistance. Trump’s new rule furthers a cruel and racist agenda meant to separate families and spread fear. It will turn the U.S. immigration system into a pay-to-play game that unfairly favors the wealthiest households.”

“We envision a vibrant New Mexico where all people—regardless of immigration status—can achieve their full potential and are treated with dignity and respect,” said Eduardo García, an attorney with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. “This harsh change in policy targeting immigrants goes against our core values. It is a tactic to spread fear among immigrants, discourage immigration, and harm immigrants by preventing them from having access to public resources. Further, this policy change and the ugly rhetoric behind it continue to fuel hatred, xenophobia, and racism against immigrants. Nonetheless, we will fight back and NMILC will provide guidance to people that need it.” 

“We are saddened by the Trump administration’s decision to force our country’s green card applicants to make an impossible choice between legally receiving public benefits and getting their green cards, both of which they need to succeed in our country,” said Tess Wilkes of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project. “The complexity of this rule change will discourage many eligible folks in the immigrant community from even applying for much-needed public benefits for themselves and their children, at a time when many of them already feel under attack.”

The proposed changes to public charge policy are already causing significant harm. Fear and confusion is creating a chilling effect, causing people to disenroll from programs and forgo benefits. The impact is far-reaching in New Mexico—nearly one in 10 New Mexicans is an immigrant, and one in nine have immigrant parents. Over 77,000 U.S. citizen children in New Mexico live with at least one immigrant parent and are in a family that receives basic food assistance. A Manatt Health analysis estimates that, across the country, as many as 26 million people and their families could be dissuaded from using public benefits under the proposed rule change. 

“The American spirit is rooted in the welcoming of the stranger into our communities—it is in the belief that all coming to our communities should be cared for and that everyone has the opportunity to be given the resources necessary to climb out of poverty and contribute to the community,” said James Gannon, CEO of Catholic Charities. “Throughout the history of this nation, the foreign born welcomed into our community have contributed to and strengthened the fabric of our nation, and participated in our national defense and advanced our society. Penalizing through an expansion of public-charge testing of immigrants will only lead to self-injury to the American society and our nation.” 

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 the state’s economy. Immigrant-led households in New Mexico paid $756.9 million in federal taxes and $394.3 million in state and local taxes in 2014.

“The vast majority of children in New Mexico–97%–are U.S.-born citizens. But that shouldn’t matter. Every child living in New Mexico, regardless of where they or their parents were born, deserves the healthcare, food assistance, and other benefits they’re eligible for and need in order to thrive,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “As with the family separations–which are still going on–this is an unconscionable and racist immigration policy that will have very negative, life-long consequences for children.”

“Punishing people for accepting help with food, housing, and medical care that they are eligible for, and have contributed tax dollars to, will have devastating and widespread effects on New Mexico’s communities,” added Gonzalez. “The expanded rule will push people further into poverty, separate families, and lead to overall worse health outcomes and higher rates of food insecurity in our state. We are already hearing from families who are afraid to seek help for their children.” 

For more information please see the following handouts in English and Spanish. People concerned about their benefits or immigration status should speak to an immigration attorney about the best route for families to take.
 

Stop Trump’s attack on immigrant families!

The Trump administration is proposing a new rule that would force immigrant families to decide between living together and separating to avoid eviction from housing. 

In May, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a new rule that would prevent “mixed status” families from living in public housing together or receiving Section 8 housing vouchers. Mixed status families consist of family members who are both eligible and ineligible to receive public housing assistance based on their immigration status.

Under current rules, ineligible family members can live in the same household with their family, but the amount of HUD assistance is based upon the number of eligible family members. None of the public housing assistance pays for an ineligible family member’s share of rent.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule is a blanket attack on all immigrant families who need housing assistance. A person can have lawful immigration status, but still not be eligible for housing assistance. Examples of immigrants with legal status who do not qualify for public housing assistance include immigrants with student or work visas as well as survivors of serious crimes who are granted U-visas.

Please tell the Trump administration to abandon this harsh and unfair rule!

HUD’s own analysis states that over 55,000 children who are U.S. citizens or green card holders could be evicted from their family homes under the proposed policy. 

It would also force tens of thousands of housing providers to collect documents from residents “proving” their citizenship. This requirement will impact over nine million U.S. citizens and 120,000 elderly immigrants. Many of these tenants, especially the elderly and those who have disabilities, face serious obstacles accessing required documentation.

Tell the Trump administration to keep families together in New Mexico and the nation by submitting your public comment by July 9, 2019!

Below is some content to include in your comment. To maximize its impact, make sure your comment has at least one third original text. You can submit your comment here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=HUD-2019-0044

Sample content for your public comment:

  • Families will face the decision of either breaking up in order to receive housing assistance or forgoing assistance and facing homelessness in order to stay to together.
  • Mixed status families will be evicted within 18 months of the implementation of the new rule or sooner.
  • HUD’s statistics show that the proposed rule will evict as many as 25,000 immigrant families including 55,000 children who are eligible for housing assistance.
  • Over 9 million United States citizens and 120,000 elderly immigrants must provide further documentation of eligibility in order to continue receiving housing assistance. Many of these individuals will face serious obstacles accessing the required documentation.
  • The proposed rule will actually cost more to provide housing assistance to fewer people. Millions of families struggle to find affordable housing; however, blaming immigrants will not solve this problem. Since existing law requires that subsides are prorated to only assist eligible immigrants or citizens in a household, the new rule will merely shift housing assistance benefits to other eligible individuals. HUDs own analysis admits that the policy will cost approximately $200 million dollars and will result in reduced quality and quantity of assisted housing.
  • The policy will result in significant administrative costs and burdens. It will require housing providers to verify documentation that was not previously required from millions of residents. Additionally, it will force housing authorities to develop new policies to determine which families can continue to receive housing assistance.