The United States is a beacon that offers a chance at success and new beginnings. Woven into the diverse folklore of the “American Dream” are countless idioms about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, and giving people a hand up not a hand out. We teach our children that with hard work and the right support networks, the impossible is most definitely possible.
Unfortunately, that beacon has been dimmed and is at risk of being dimmed even further if the Trump administration’s proposed “public charge” rule is implemented.
Our immigration laws have long-included provisions to exclude those who are “likely to become a public charge.” But for decades, those provisions have been appropriately and fairly interpreted, through a “totality of the circumstances” analysis, to give immigrants who may just be starting out on the road to economic prosperity the benefit of the doubt. The only public benefits that have historically been considered in assessing whether a person is likely to become a public charge are cash assistance, such as SSI and TANF, and long-term government-funded institutional care. And in most cases, a properly completed “affidavit of support,” verifying that a family member or friend will provide adequate financial support to the immigrant if necessary, is usually sufficient to satisfy the totality of the circumstances test, particularly since the affidavit of support is a legally enforceable contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government.
If finalized as written, the Trump administration’s proposed public charge rule would drastically alter this process by significantly expanding the types of benefits the government would consider in the public charge assessment to include programs that help people meet their basic needs, such as most Medicaid benefits, SNAP (food stamps), Medicare Part D, and Section 8 Housing. In addition, the rule creates a complex web of positive and negative factors and considerations that will virtually ensure a lack of consistency and predictability in future adjudications, and will undoubtedly create even more backlogs and red tape in an agency that is already plagued with processing inefficiencies. In assessing the utility of this proposed rule, we must ask ourselves: if the close family member of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is stopped from getting a green card as a result of this rule, or if a person foregoes life sustaining aid out of fear they will be eventually denied a green card and deported, how does this help us as a society? Rather than building tight-knit communities on a foundation of strong and healthy family units, this proposed rule will tear families apart or force them to choose between food, shelter, or critical medication, and eventual deportation.
The good news is that you can do something about it, today. Here’s how:
- Follow this link to submit a personalized comment on the public charge rule. Use the template comment on AILA.org as a starting point, but please personalize it before you submit. Unique comments, with your personal perspective as an attorney who represents immigrant families are far more impactful than a form letter.
- Share your own family’s immigration story on social media with the hashtag #MyImmigrantHistory. How and why did your ancestors come the United States? What sacrifices did they make? How did they contribute to our country? Don’t forget to tag @AILANational if you share on Twitter, so we can retweet you!
- Encourage your friends and family to participate in the #MyImmigrantHistory campaign. You might find you have something in common with one another, like ties to a particular country or career.
- Submit your story describing your immigrant roots to AILA (please keep to 250 words or less). You can visit the #MyImmigrantHistory story page for examples.
A solution in search of a problem, the proposed public charge rule is sowing fear into the hearts and minds of people coast to coast. Because of it, immigrants are already refusing critical benefits – benefits which our laws allow them to use if they are critically needed – out of fear that receipt of such benefits will come back to haunt them. For their sakes, and for the health and well-being of our society as a whole, we must resist this rule and all of its implications.