“Public charge” rule threatens health of Washingtonians

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“Public charge” rule threatens health of Washingtonians

The rule has widespread negative impacts

By - August 30, 2019

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration and Department of Homeland Security released a new “public charge” rule, which makes it harder for many of our neighbors to obtain green cards or visas to lawfully remain in or enter the United States. Thirteen states – including Washington – are challenging the rule in court for its unfair treatment of immigrants. Unfortunately, the rule has already had a negative impact on the health of immigrants and their communities: it harms mental health, has a chilling effect on the use of programs that promote health, and discriminates against people with chronic medical conditions.

The rule harms mental health in immigrant communities.

The public charge rule is part of a larger anti-immigrant agenda, which perpetuates a climate of fear in immigrant communities. Those with relatives abroad must now also worry about whether their loved ones will be able to join them in the U.S. This type of toxic, racially-targeted stress can put individuals at increased risk of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

And it’s not just parents or caregivers who suffer. Children under eight are experiencing increasing levels of distress as a result of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). This kind of chronic stress is bad for everyone, and is especially harmful for young children whose development can be impaired by adverse childhood experiences. This means anti-immigrant policies can have a lasting impact on immigrant communities long after an administration is voted out.

The rule has a chilling effect on the use of programs that promote health.

Public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing subsidies, and Medicaid help people put food on the table, access safe and stable housing, receive preventative healthcare, and live healthier lives as a result. The fear of jeopardizing one’s immigration status or the immigration status of a loved one can cause individuals to forgo these needed, health-promoting benefits. One in seven adults in immigrant families reported avoiding public benefit programs in 2018 as a result of the public charge proposal, according to the Urban Institute. Advocates predict more and more people—even those not directly affected by the rule—will forgo benefits if the rule comes into effect.

The rule discriminates against people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions.

The diagnosis of a chronic medical condition or use of Medicaid by adults over 21 years of age could be counted against individuals under the public charge rule. This rule discriminates against immigrants or visa applicants with chronic medical conditions or disabilities that require care and perpetuates a harmful narrative on self-sufficiency. Even worse, it could leave some immigrants too afraid to access life-sustaining treatment.

You can take action against this harmful policy.

The public charge rule is bad for the health of Washingtonians from all walks of life. Raise your voice and ask lawmakers to speak out against the rule and co-sponsor the No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019 (H.R. 3222). The proposed legislation would block the Department of Homeland Security from using federal funds to implement the public charge rule.



About Margaret Babayan, Senior Policy Analyst

Margaret joined the Budget & Policy Center’s research and policy team as a policy analyst after serving as the 2018-19 Betty Jane Narver Policy Fellow.

Read more about Margaret