National Report Finds Widespread Negative Effects of the Attempt to Rewrite Immigration Policy
RALEIGH (November 25, 2019) – The Trump administration continues to drastically remake U.S. immigration policy through a radical reinterpretation of the “public charge” rule. In Only Wealthy Immigrants Need Apply: The Chilling Effects of Public Charge, the Fiscal Policy Institute – a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization – updates their analysis of the fiscal and economic impacts of this rule on the nation, including the unique impact it would have in North Carolina.
“The report’s new estimates highlight what we already are hearing around our state – that the proposed changes to the public charge rule, while not in effect, are preventing people from using the benefits for which they are eligible, even individuals who would not be subject to either the current or proposed public charge rule,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, Senior Attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center. “That families are foregoing food assistance, essential health insurance benefits, and more, due to the fear that it would negatively impact their immigration status or that of their loved ones, speaks volumes about the degree of hostility the administration has created for immigrants.”
Initially scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019, before it blocked in the courts, the new “public charge” regulations would be essentially a test of income and use of services such as Medicaid or SNAP. The rule would also negatively affect the elderly and those with health conditions. This change would affect people seeking to extend or change their temporary immigration status (such as student or employment visas) in the U.S. and people whose green card applications are processed in the U.S.
“The Trump administration is using ‘public charge’ as a below-the-radar attempt to rewrite our country’s immigration policy by introducing wealth as a yardstick for acceptability in the United States,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute and co-author of the report. “This is a betrayal of the notion that America is a place you can come with a little and make a great life for yourself and opportunities for your children.”
The Trump Administration takes such a drastic view of what constitutes a public benefit that if it were applied to the U.S.-born population—Americans who are not immigrants—roughly half might not be deemed acceptable to stay in the country, the report notes.
In addition to restricting who may be deemed acceptable as a U.S. resident, the new rule will have a chilling effect that could affect anyone who has used a public benefit named in the new rule and who has at least one non-citizen in the family. Based on these criteria, the report estimates that the chilling effect could extend to 24 million people in the U.S., including 9 million children under 18 years old, the majority of whom are citizens. In North Carolina, the chilling effect could impact 530,000 people, including 250,000 children. Of these, it is estimated that roughly 25 percent will go so far as to avoid enrolling in programs for which they qualify.
“We are seeing a continued effort to dehumanize and negatively categorize people who seek to enter the U.S. and public charge is the next step in this campaign,” said Cyierra Roldan, Policy Analyst for the Fiscal Policy Institute and co-author of the report. “The question is – if we believe that people who use safety net services are less worthy, what does that say about how we feel about all Americans who apply for such services including health care or nutritional support? Should anyone who uses services to feed, shelter, and provide medical care for their family fear losing their children?”
The reality of safety-net services is that not only do individuals and families benefit, but local communities and states also do as well. First, getting nutritional and health care benefits means healthy community members who can support and sustain their neighborhoods, community, and state. Second, when federal funds for safety-net services come into communities, it means more money for local grocery stores, doctors’ offices, and other local businesses, which in turn means more jobs in the community and higher tax revenues.
Nationally, a chilling effect causing a 25 percent drop in enrollment means $12.5 billion less in federal funds across the country. In North Carolina this would mean a $214 million dollar loss in federal benefits, with a corresponding $409 million decline in the state economy (state GDP), and $21 million in lost state tax revenue. This impact is already being partially felt today, based on fear and confusion around this proposed change, and the effect will be fully felt if the courts allow the rule to be implemented.
The new public charge rule is one of a series of recent administrative actions restricting immigration based on income. Other proposed changes include requiring immigrants applying for family-based visas to prove they would have health insurance or could pay out of pocket for health expenses, and substantially increasing the fee to apply for citizenship.
“The fallout from the proposed public charge rule affects us all,” said Kate Woomer-Deters. “This disturbing attempt to reformulate our immigration policy disregards the reality of immigration and the contributions that immigrants make to our state and country.”