In the drive to lower immigration numbers, the Trump administration has come up with a new way to deter and push out immigrants who don’t “merit” a place in the United States. The poor, the elderly and the infirm will find themselves unwelcome in our new America, if the changes to the “public charge” policy proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) takes effect.
By Jaya Padmanabhan
In a 447-page document released in September, DHS broadened its calculus to determine which immigrants have the potential to become “public charges,” likely to take advantage of government assistance.
The changes would expand the list of public benefits that would be the basis for rejecting people applying for a visa or green card. Currently, only those getting cash aid from programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Supplemental Social Security Income or long-term institutionalized care are deemed such a risk. Non-cash benefits would be added to the list of “negative factors” — including nutritional assistance programs, housing assistance, non-emergency Medicaid and Medicare part D.
Up to now the policy has made a distinction between those who “receive one or more benefits” and those who “primarily depend” on public assistance.
Earlier this year, San Francisco Human Services Agency identified “public charge” concerns as one of the leading reasons immigrants in The City, despite being eligible for CalFresh (nutritional assistance program), are hesitant to apply for the program. It’s important to emphasize that nothing has changed as of yet and The City’s immigrants eligible for benefits should continue to access the help they need.
DHS must first publish the proposed rule in the public register and the public will have 60 days to comment.
DHS estimates that the change could save $2.27 billion annually, and argues that the changed policy will attract immigrants who are less likely to need assistance.