The 2018 election season officially wrapped on Tuesday yet democracy proceeds with critical policy issues still begging for attention. Voting offers exciting and integral opportunities to the rulemaking process but not the sole mechanism of public participation. Federal regulations go through several stages of development and the public’s opportunity to comment is during the proposed rule stage. Providing feedback through public comments proves effective, as it can influence the scope and/or severity of final outcome, and is principal to our democratic values.
On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the proposed rule on public charge, significantly expanding the list of programs for consideration when applicants request permission to enter the US to become lawful permanent residents. The rule exists to determine whether a person can support themselves and dependents or if they’re likely to become a public charge, defined as dependent on the government for financial and material support. Under a policy in effect since 1999, only two benefits are currently considered for public charge, cash assistance for income maintenance and institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. DHS’ newly proposed rule marks significant expansion of the public charge rule, from primarily dependent on government for subsistence to even modest use of public benefits that help low-income families meet basic needs like food, healthcare and housing, while giving preference to applicants with annual incomes above $62,000.
The proposal places wealthy immigrants ahead of families, frightens immigrants away from programs their tax dollars help support, jeopardizing their health, well-being and economic security. Because one in four American children have at least one immigrant parent, this could impact millions. It would make the U.S. a sicker, poorer and hungrier nation. This loss of access would roll back progress in addressing hunger and poverty in our country. The weight on nonprofits, including faith-based groups and emergency food providers, will become unmanageable. Food insecurity will increase, exacerbating existing disease, compromising health and adversely affecting developmental and academic outcomes for children.
America’s framework is fortified by immigrant tradition, weaving new industries into the superstructure, creating economic growth, innovative development and expanding the depth of our culture. Foreign-born workers provide a vital part of our labor force and boast higher employment rates than the U.S.-born population. Immigrants start businesses, create jobs for American workers and are more likely to create their own jobs. Immigrants develop cutting-edge technologies and companies, lead in engineering and sciences, generate innovative contributions accounting for more than 75% of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) is dedicated to year-round assistance and advocacy for our neighbors in need. We join over 1,500 national, state and local advocates condemning the public charge rule change. We call on the public to fight with us as we continue to serve those in need, stand with low-income families, work to end hunger and welcome those seeking refuge, regardless of economic status.
Jennifer Postlethwaite, Communications Coordinator
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services