In Blog: Factually Speaking

When the “public charge” rule change was announced earlier this week, we jumped into action. The rule change will substantially restrict access to green cards and various types of visas for immigrants who are not already relatively well-off financially. This dangerous rule fundamentally changes our nation’s approach to immigration, making family income and potential use of healthcare, nutrition or housing programs a central consideration in whether to offer people an opportunity to make their lives in this country.

Protecting Immigrant Families Michigan—a collaborative campaign of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), the African Bureau of Immigration and Social Affairs (ABISA), the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation and the League—held a press conference to speak out against the rule change and address Michigan immigrants and families. Advocates shared not only key information, but powerful thoughts on the rule’s negative impact:

Tania Morris Diaz, Attorney, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

  • “The new rule is set to take effect on October 15, 2019 and will create extensive changes to an immigration policy called public charge. Public charge is one of many requirements to apply for a green card or visa. It requires an immigrant to show he or she will not likely become dependent on government assistance.”
  • “The new rule is also likely to scare millions of immigrants and their family members, including millions of U.S. citizen children, away from accessing public benefits programs, as the rule expands the types of public benefits that could be counted against someone when seeking immigration status.”
  • “Fear and misinformation are the most dangerous weapons in this rule for immigrant families. Along with chilling benefits access, we have already seen misguided reports that this new rule could affect immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. In fact, this rule does not apply to the naturalization/citizenship process. Public charge namely affects people applying for a green card through family members, and most visa applicants trying to enter the U.S. It does not affect refugees, asylees and most immigrants seeking humanitarian-based status. It also does not affect undocumented immigrants who do not have a pathway to apply for a green card.”

Renell Weathers speaks at public charge press conference

Madiha Tariq, MPH, Deputy Director of the Community Health & Research Center, ACCESS

  • “I think the most important thing to note is that this rule makes people choose between their health and their family. Although there are many exceptions to the rule … there’s obviously a lot of miscommunication and fear and no understanding of who the rule applies to. It’s not about who actually qualifies [for the public charge rule] … it’s about people who are being impacted by it because they don’t know. This chilling effect has been seen here at ACCESS in our clinic downstairs. We’ve had patients come in that are asking to be taken off things like WIC and Medicaid or even though they’re not going to be impacted [but] they feel like they are.”
  • “The final rule adds exceptions for Medicaid coverage received by anyone under 21 and by pregnant women (including 60 days postpartum), and it removes Medicare Part D discounts for seniors from the list of programs to be considered. It also continues to exclude benefits received by U.S. citizen children of immigrants. However, it still includes Medicaid coverage, housing assistance and nutrition programs. Most importantly, because the public charge test focuses on applicants’ income, if they don’t earn enough, whether they receive benefits may be effectively irrelevant.”
  • “At ACCESS, we strongly believe that healthcare is a human right and should be accessible to all. The public charge rule deprives immigrant communities of this right. In community clinics such as ours, we continue to see individuals needing emergency care because they cannot afford to seek preventative care. Given the fact that clients who seek preventative care live healthier lives, this rule will have a significant impact on our public health systems.”

Seydi Sarr, Founder, ABISA

  • “This public charge rule change is designed to further disenfranchise already vulnerable immigrant communities, crystallizing fear and making people feel they must choose between the people they love and the things they need.”
  • “The confusion in our communities is great … We just came out from raids where communities are now thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ … And now those same families who are worried about their children … are being faced with a rule that says that their children are going to have to maybe skip another meal. Their children are going to have to go to school unhealthy. Because if your father or your mother is the only one right now who needs a green card, they’re going to depend on the other spouse to sponsor them. Now that family is faced with the choice of saying, ‘Am I going to get healthcare? Am I going to get food? Or am I going to make sure that my spouse can become a green card holder?’”
  • “This is totally outrageous in that idea that we tell communities, ‘Do the right thing. Get in line.’ Having a shot to get a green card is getting in line.”

Renell Weathers, Community Engagement Director, Michigan League for Public Policy

  • “The best way to strengthen our country is to ensure that the families who live in it have the basics they need to thrive. One fourth of children in the U.S. today have at least one immigrant parent, so our future depends on the success of immigrant families. And all families need food, medical care, shelter and other basics to thrive and contribute to their communities and our country. If we reject this dangerous rule and embrace policies that help immigrants and their families succeed, we all win.”
  • “It is estimated that the rule will impact at least 114,000 children in Michigan, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens, preventing them from getting the resources they need.”
  • “The human impact is terrifying, but there’s an economic loss, too. Michigan could expect up to a $214 million reduction in federal funds that support families, and on top of that the negative ripple effects through the economy could be as high as $409 million as hospitals and doctors’ offices see reduced revenues and as folks buy less in supermarkets and other stores.”
  • “It’s important for immigrant families to know that benefits that you get for your children are different than benefits you get for yourself. When applying for a green card in the U.S., only benefits that you get for yourself might be considered under public charge. Any benefits you receive for your children will not affect your ability to apply for a green card.”

Immigrant families with questions about public charge should call MIRC at 734-239-6863 for free and confidential information.


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