Durbin: Public Charge Rule ‘Will Only Sow Fear & Distrust in Immigrant Communities’

Melanie Arter | August 13, 2019 | 2:37pm EDT
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(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Democrats and liberal groups condemned the Trump administration’s new rule, making it harder for immigrants who use public services to get a green card.

“Penalizing immigrants living here legally will do nothing to fix the situation at our border and will only sow fear & distrust in immigrant communities across the US,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) tweeted Monday in response to the news.

“Allowing legal immigrants to make use of the social services and opportunity programs that help Americans get ahead has always been a part of ensuring that immigrants can successfully integrate into our country and benefit our economy in the long run,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement.

“The Trump Administration, by seeking to prevent the entry of legal immigrants whom it deems ‘likely’ to use these resources, is trying to shut down the new ideas, new labor, and new entrepreneurship that immigrants bring.This is the wrong action to take,” he said.



Hoyer called for “fixing our broken immigration system” and called on the administration “to reverse this counterproductive action, whose only effects will be to harm the integration of legal immigrants, burden states and local communities, and deter great future-Americans from joining us in our grand experiment in democracy and prosperity.”

As CNSNews.com previously reported, the administration’s new rule defines the term public charge as “an individual who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.”

“For instance, receipt of two different benefits in one month counts and two months,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said.

Immigration officials will look at whether an immigrant “is likely at any point in the future to become a public charge as we define it in the regulation,” he announced Monday.

“Public benefits are defined as federal, state, and local as well as tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, and a small list of non-cash benefits. Some examples of the public benefits that are part of the rule are: general assistance, SSI, SNAP, most forms of Medicaid, and certain subsidized housing programs,” Cuccinelli said.

The National Immigration Law Center announced Monday that it plans to challenge the public charge regulation in court.

“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: You are not welcome here,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement.

“This latest racially-motivated policy is a painful reminder that behind Donald Trump’s bluster, bureaucrats like Stephen Miller will stop at nothing to attack immigrants and destroy our legal immigration system. It will have a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forego critical life-saving health care and nutrition. The damage will be felt for decades to come,” Hincapié said.

“At the National Immigration Law Center, we have been fighting alongside our partners and communities for months to stop the Trump administration from carrying out this cruel and unlawful transformation of our immigration system. The time has come to take our fight to the courts, and we will do so shortly,” she said.

“As a leading national organization fighting to advance and defend the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants, we will fight with every tool we have available to ensure that everyone in our communities has the freedom to thrive and the necessary resources to do so. We look forward to seeing Trump in court — again — and to seeing justice prevail as we defend immigrant families and our democracy,” Hincapié added.

The group MomsRising said the new rule “will distort our immigration system so that it serves the rich and leaves behind many of those who most urgently need entry to the United States.”

“It will make life immeasurably harder for millions of immigrant families. It is, unfortunately, entirely consistent with the priorities that guide this President who, along with his allies in Congress, has given massive tax breaks to the mega-wealthy and huge corporations while trying to punish those in greatest need,” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising, said in a statement.

“Americans know what President Trump apparently does not, that immigrants are vital to our country’s economy and communities. Our country’s moms have been horrified by the Trump administration’s heartless and damaging treatment of immigrants and asylum-seekers. This rule will continue that shameful treatment and harm millions of children – most children of color – for years to come. It is truly a disgrace,” she added.

“It is simply a lie for the Trump administration to claim that the public charge rule released today is about promoting self-sufficiency among immigrant families. This rule is designed to wage war on immigrants by weaponizing health, housing, nutrition and other essential programs that allow hardworking moms and families to thrive,” Donna Norton, vice president of the group MomsRising said in a statement.

“Forcing families to choose between the services they need and the families they love is short-sighted, cruel, dangerous and simply unacceptable,” she added.

“By putting admission to the United States and green cards at risk if an immigrant’s family uses Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), or Section 8 rent vouchers, this rule will increase child hunger, child poverty, homelessness, poor health outcomes, and racial disparities in our country,” Norton said.

“It could affect 26 million people, including one in four children in the United States. That’s why more than 260,000 people filed comments on this proposed rule, the vast majority of them in opposition to it. Many came from moms, who do not want to see children forced to go without food, health care, safe housing and other essential supports. This rule must not stand,” she added.

As Cucccinelli noted, “the rule does not consider many forms of government assistance that protect children and pregnant women’s health as public benefits.”

“Generally, this includes emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, WIC, CHIP, Medicaid received by people under the age of 21 or pregnant women as well as foster care and adoption subsidies, student and mortgage loans, energy assistance, food pantries, homeless shelters, and Headstart,” he said.

“Denying someone a green card because they need help putting food on the table is inhumane and cruel. #ProtectFamilies,” the group Families Belong Together tweeted Monday.

Families Belong Together “includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families,” according to the group’s website.


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