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NSC Statement on "Public Charge" Inadmissibility Final Rule

Immigration News 

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new policy that denies legal immigrants in the United States the opportunity to become permanent residents for accessing legally entitled vital assistance programs, including food stamps, most forms of Medicaid and housing assistance.

If implemented, the altered rule will threaten the health and wellbeing of thousands of lawfully admitted immigrants, including in the Greater Philadelphia region. Despite immigrants making up a small percentage of people using public benefits, vulnerable immigrant families will be forced to choose between accessing basic life-saving benefits and jeopardizing their pathway to citizenship.

Although economic self-sufficiency has always been a criterion for granting permanent residence, this altered public charge policy will make an applicant’s financial status the central factor in the approval process. The decision to determine likely to become a public charge will be based on the applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status and education. All individuals wishing to adjust their immigration status or apply for admissions will be subjected to the government having broader discretionary powers to deny applications and have them deported.

The Federal Register’s “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” final rule will go into effect on October 15th and will dissuade individuals from applying for the programs, even if their children are U.S. citizens. By not enrolling in Medicaid, people who have or develop health conditions will more than likely use emergency room care; thereby, increasing healthcare costs and resulting in poor health outcomes. Furthermore, over 19 million or one in four (25%) children live in a family with an immigrant parent nationwide, and nearly nine in ten (86%) of these children are citizens. Immigrant parents who lose SNAP benefits affects their children’s nutritional status and performance in school. Although refugees and other special populations are exempt, this rule may deter them as well from accessing the public benefits they are entitled to by law.

The United States is a country built by immigrants—rich and poor, from all countries around the world—who share the belief in freedom and the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.

In response to the publication of the public charge final rule, Margaret O’Sullivan, NSC’s Executive Director, stated, “As friends, neighbors, coworkers, and supporters of immigrants and refugees, we urge the administration to reconsider its policies that restrict immigration and restore our commitment to being a welcoming nation. These are hardworking people and families, many of whom have been here for decades and have brought great talent, drive, and vibrancy to our communities, our cities, and our country.”

The Nationalities Service Center stands firm in our resolve to keep families together and create a safe and welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees who come to our doors.