By JACL National
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Homeland Security published its proposal on Oct. 10 to alter the public charge classification for immigrants to the United States opening up the 60-day public comment period.
Public charge is the classification of some immigrants who utilize public benefits such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income.
The proposed rules will dramatically alter definition of Public Charge to include utilization programs such as Medicaid/Medicare, the Housing Choice Voucher program and food assistance programs.
The proposed changes also expand screening criteria for immigrants seeking entry to the country using characteristics such as age, health, family status, financial status, education and skills including English proficiency.
The administration has likely proposed these changes for the potential cost savings that will result from reduced utilization of services. However, the decision by immigrants to not seek benefits fundamental to survival can have deeper impacts over time.
Delaying health care access due to fears it may impact citizenship opportunities could result in devastating health problems for the individual and his/her family, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations such as children or the elderly.
Limiting access to basic health care such as vaccines could have negative impacts beyond the individual, putting populations at higher risk for communicable disease. Discouraging access to health care, housing and food benefits for a family is inhumane and yet another low blow for this country to impose upon our immigrant communities.
These policy proposals continue a legacy of anti-immigrant policies that have long existed in contrast to the lofty ideals of our nation. Although not as explicit as the racist discrimination that prevented Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century from naturalizing as citizens or owning land, these policy changes will serve to limit immigration and naturalization to a select few individuals who are able to pay their way into this country.
Legal immigration should be unequivocally encouraged and celebrated. These policy changes along with other actions by the administration, such as cuts to family immigration visas, demonstrate a disregard for even the most fundamental principles on which our country was founded.
We depend upon a broad spectrum of immigration to enrich the portrait of who we are as a nation and cannot limit ourselves to welcome only those with significant financial means.
Now that the regulation has been posted, comments will be accepted through Dec. 10 and can be submitted through this link: bit.ly/submitcomment.