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‘Public Charge’ Proposed Rule Devastating to Immigrants & Families

Threatens to Imperil Public Health Initiatives

New York, New York  10/10/2018 — African Services Committee condemns in the strongest possible terms the administration’s proposed revision to the “public charge” rule, and stands in solidarity with immigrant families and their allies across the country against any expansion of the “public charge” provisions. 

When applying for permanent residency or “green card,” U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) must determine whether an immigrant is likely to become a public charge. The administration is proposing to dramatically expand the types of public benefits which USCIS may consider in its determination regarding whether someone is likely to become a public charge and therefore ineligible for permanent residency.

“This cruel and callous proposed revision to what constitutes ‘a public charge’ is devastating to immigrants seeking to reunite their families and directly threatens public health initiatives,” said African Services Committee’s Director of Advocacy, Amanda Lugg. 

In a heartless move, otherwise eligible applicants could be denied U.S. permanent residency if they access or have accessed any subsidies from a range of government programs and benefits, including: Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for certain disability services related to education), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Low Income Subsidy for prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D; and Housing assistance such as Section 8 housing vouchers.

“The new rule may actually incentivize immigrants to terminate their lawfully accessed healthcare in order to remain eligible to become permanent residents. Here at African Services Committee, we have clients consulting their case managers as to whether they should stop taking their HIV medication and others who have refused lawfully-entitled housing assistance in the belief that this will ensure their eligibility to reunite their families,“ said Lugg. 

Such scenarios call to attention the catastrophic public health implications that this rule threatens to create, undoing hard won progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and here in New York State. Unfairly, and against the public interest, many individuals living with chronic health conditions will be asked to choose between their own health and welfare, and their legal right to family reunification,” said Lugg.

“These are proposed changes to the USCIS rule  and there will be an opportunity for public comment before any rule is finalized. We want to underscore the importance of speaking with a licensed immigration attorney before individuals consider any changes to their own public benefit programs,” said ASC’s Supervising Attorney, Corina Bogaciu.  “Also, certain protected immigrant groups, such as asylees, are not subject to ‘public charge’ determinations when they apply for permanent residency and would not be affected by this proposed rule."


Media Contact: Eirik Omlie

Communications Director

African Services Committee

212.222.3382 x 2130

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