MEDIA RELEASE: White House’s “public charge” rule penalizes immigrants working low-wage jobs, could have chilling effect on family enrollment in public supports

New report looks at proposed rule’s chilling effect on enrollment on areas such as SNAP, health care

RALEIGH (October 10, 2018) – Today, the White House has published its “public charge” draft rule, which includes mandates that penalize immigrants working low-wage jobs as well as have a chilling effect that would reduce a family’s enrollment in key supports, according to a new report from the NC Justice Center.

The proposal does not include several of the elements included in a draft released earlier this year that stated if U.S.-born children or other family members use public benefits for which they qualify, the government would use it against an immigrant in determining whether they could obtain lawful immigration status. However, the proposed rule’s chilling effect will likely reduce the number of families enrolling in essential nutrition assistance, health care, and housing supports for which they are eligible in order to avoid a public charge determination, the report said. In North Carolina, the chilling effect could reach 530,000 people who live in a family with non-citizen members and receive one of the income supports identified.

“While not all would be subject to a public charge determination, it is likely that some portion will be concerned about participation in these programs and would disenroll,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center and co-author of the report. “These harmful realities will have significant negative effects on the health and well-being of immigrants, and create another barrier for future generations of children to reach their full potential.”

Statewide, an estimated 250,000 children could be impacted by the chilling effect, the report said. Eighty-four percent are U.S. citizens but in a family with at least one non-citizen and in receipt of at least one of the identified public programs. While the rule does not count benefit use by U.S. citizen children against their parents in the public charge determination, families may withdraw their U.S. citizen children from benefits programs out of fear or confusion about the rule.

Regardless of whether they use any public benefits, immigrants can still be penalized under the latest proposed rule simply for having an income under 125 percent of the federal poverty line. The rule makes it clear that there will be broader, additional scrutiny of an immigrant’s economic situation, considering their credit history and scores, or lack thereof.

Not only do such changes put money over family and the wealthy ahead of working individuals, they also fail to recognize the skills of workers with low incomes across the spectrum. Caregivers and parents who stay at home with their children will not be recognized for their critical work – under the rule’s parameters, those performing that critical unpaid labor will be considered to show a lack of “self-sufficiency,” which could prevent them from receiving a green card.

Even if an immigrant or their family members have never accessed a single benefit, they can still have their application for a green card rejected based simply on the fact that they live in or close to poverty. Under the proposed rule even if an immigrant has a sponsor – an “affidavit of support,” which is considered as one factor in the totality of circumstances test – they could still be rejected.

“Taken together, these changes are an extension of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant, anti-working family policies that seek to tear families apart,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, Senior Attorney with the NC Justice Center’s Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “It’s clear this administration is continuing its efforts to punish these communities and dismantle the family-based immigration system as a whole with a rule that disproportionately affects people of color, people with disabilities, and low-wage earners.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Woomer-Deters, Senior Attorney with the NC Justice Center’s Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, kate@ncjustice.org, 919.861-2072; Alexandra Sirota, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Julia Hawes, Director of Communications, julia@ncjustice.org, 919.863.2406.