Proposed Changes to Public Charge Policies Are a Threat to Immigrant and Latino Families

December 3, 2018

Proposed Changes to Public Charge Policies Are a Threat to Immigrant and Latino Families

A message from Ruby Lee, President and CEO of Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES)


We raise our voice against the administration’s proposed expansion of the public charge rule, which represents the most radical change to our nation’s immigration policy in decades. If this rule were to go into effect, upwards of 24 million people – including 9 million children – could be negatively impacted. The proposed policies would expand what counts against visa and green-card applicants – to include health, nutrition and housing benefits – and impose new income tests on working-class families. This rule raises many concerns. Perhaps most seriously, it is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of immigrants and communities of color that will inevitably result in a sicker, hungrier and poorer nation.

This proposed overhaul takes aim at our family-based legal immigration system. Without a doubt, the changes are an attempt to force eligible individuals to choose between critical health and nutrition programs they might intermittently rely on and obtaining legal permanent resident status. The administration’s proposed changes would deem immigrants potentially unacceptable if they have received, or are considered likely to receive, even a modest amount of support from any number of non-cash supports including: Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing supports (including Section 8 vouchers) and subsidies for Medicare Part D to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

The proposed regulation is divisive. It vilifies immigrant communities – primarily those of color – and reinforces false, negative stereotypes about who uses public benefits while unequivocally favoring wealthy immigrants. If this regulation moves forward, only those with means will be deemed worthy of entry to the United States, while working class immigrants, young adults, the disabled, sick and elderly and non-English dominant speakers would be categorically left out. The changes would, for the first time in our nation’s history, make a specific income threshold a central issue in immigration decisions. Having an income of under $15,000 for a single person or $31,000 for a family of four would be weighed negatively and could lead to a denial.

Chilling Effects

This proposed regulation has already sparked fear and panic among low-income immigrant communities. The uncertainty whether using public benefits would negatively affect an individual’s visa or green-card eligibility is prompting many to withdraw from social safety net programs for which they are eligible and pay taxes. Unfortunately, U.S. citizen children living in mixed-status households will disproportionately pay the price.

The proposed rule threatens our collective prosperity and makes it more difficult for U.S. citizens to reunite with family members abroad if those family members have low incomes. The loss of health coverage and access to healthy, nutritious foods will undoubtedly lead to increased hunger and negative health outcomes. Without housing assistance (also on the proposed rule expansive list), more families could be left homeless.

Our Children Will Bear the Burden, as Will the Country

A growing body of research shows that immigrants – many of them Latinos – help the U.S. economy through their labor, purchasing power, innovation and the billions of dollars they pay in federal taxes. But it is their children, second-generation Americans, who will contribute most to our country—but only if we invest in their health, education and overall wellbeing.

By 2050, an estimated one in three children in the U.S. will be Latino, and so will one in three members of the American workforce. In Minnesota, 45% of all Latinos are under the age of 20.  Given these projections, logic and economic self-preservation should spur us to treat these children—our children (and their hard-working parents)—better, since their fate and that of the nation are intertwined. By depriving a new generation of workers and taxpayers of adequate education, food, health care and shelter and deliberately stunting their prospects, we are ultimately hurting ourselves. 

Ruby Lee, CLUES President and CEO

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The government is required to read, count, review and consider all public feedback before issuing a final rule. We invite you to submit a comment on the proposed Public Charge rule changes at before Dec. 10, 2018.

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CLUES is Minnesota’s largest Latino-led organization. Founded in 1981, the organization’s mission is to advance the capacity of Latino individuals and families to be healthy, prosperous and engaged in their communities. CLUES leverages access to opportunity for Latinos and immigrants and stands for dismantling persistent and pervasive racial, economic, wellness and educational barriers that impede pathways to equality.

Posted in CLUES Blog by Austin Wiebe