Yesterday, the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published for public comment proposed changes to the “public charge” rules
that will effectively overhaul our nation’s immigration system to restrict immigration access based on income. The proposed rules target immigrants legally seeking permanent resident status in the U.S. forcing them to choose between family unity and their ability to access basic needs such as food, shelter and health care.
A public comment period is now open through December 10. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is calling on all community members to submit comments opposing this dangerous proposal. Share this message with everyone you know and encourage others to submit comments. The federal government must read every comment submitted. On the first day of the public comment period, more than 2,500 comments were submitted nationwide. Our government has to hear from thousands more individuals explaining how this proposal goes against our shared values as a nation of immigrants and hurts our communities.
What is “public charge”? “Public charge” is a longstanding immigration rule which allows the government to deny entry or permanent residency if they determine that immigrant is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for financial support. For decades, the only public benefits considered under public charge have been cash assistance and long-term institutional medical care at the government’s expense.
What are the proposed changes? Under the new rule, the list of public benefit programs that can be considered is radically expanded to include the following vital assistance programs: Non-emergency Medicaid (with some exceptions), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, and housing assistance like Section 8 and Public Housing.
The draft also proposes harsh new income thresholds that applicants, even those with sponsors, will have to meet to avoid a public charge assessment. A family of four would need to earn over $62,750 to avoid a public charge assessment. The rule also explicitly states that an applicant’s inability to work because of age, either being too young or too old, or disability, will be a significant negative factor in their public charge assessment.
Federal law provides some protections from this harsh proposal for humanitarian-based immigration applications such as refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, violence, or crimes, and some other categories, who are exempt from the public charge test and can receive benefits without impacting their immigration status. Another safe guard is that benefits, such as food and medical assistance, received by an applicant’s dependents cannot be considered in the applicant’s public charge assessment.
However, this rule is a dangerous departure from our country’s proud identity as a nation of immigrants seeking the American Dream’s promise of opportunity earned through persistence and hard work.
Instead, of welcoming the “tired, poor, huddled masses” of the world, this rule would prohibit all but the wealthiest from accessing our immigration system and the freedom, hope and opportunity it provides. Read more