UPDATE: Over 200,000 comments were received while the public comment period was open. No changes can be made until the regulating body (Department of Homeland Security) responds to every comment. Then they can publish a final rule, which could incorporate changes based on comments received—or they could decide not to publish a rule. After the rule is published there is a waiting period before it takes effect.
Today—in fact—any day—is a good day to tell the world that you welcome immigrants to the United States. The Washtenaw Health Plan and Washtenaw County Health Department have submitted comments opposing the changes in "public charge" regulations. Comments could be submitted until December 10th, 2018.
What Is The Issue?
The Trump administration has published a proposed rule that would force many immigrants and their families to choose between accessing essential public services and keeping their families together.
There are many reasons why immigrants may be denied permanent residence (aka a “green card”) or not be allowed to enter the United States. Public charge is one of those reasons. Under current laws, the government considers someone a public charge if they are found likely to become primarily dependent on government programs.
Currently, “public charge” is considered very narrowly—an immigrant can only be found to be a public charge if they use cash assistance (like TANF or SSI), or institutionalized long-term care (like living in a nursing home) through Medicaid.
The government is considering changes that would dramatically expand who is considered a public charge. making it much harder to get a green card or visa. These changes include:
Expanding the benefits that could classify you as being a “public charge” and
Assessing your income differently—meaning that your income would only be viewed positively if you made at least 250% of the poverty level (nearly $63,000 for a family of 4).
Adding assessments of age, health, education and skills. Children and seniors could be assessed negatively.
In addition to what the public charge proposed rule actually says (and at this point it is only a proposal), it can also have a “chilling effect,” and make people afraid to access any services, even ones that are not included in the rule. If the “public charge” rule is finalized in its proposed form, this would mark a significant and harmful departure from long standing immigration policy. The proposal would make -- and has already made -- immigrant families afraid to seek programs that support their basic needs. These programs help them stay strong and productive, and raise children who thrive. With about one in four children having at least one immigrant parent, this issue touches millions and is critical now and for our nation’s future. And that’s why taking action is so important!
According to the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, at this point, “If you are applying for a green card within the U.S., the rules have not changed, and there is no reason for you or anyone in your family to stop receiving non-cash benefits (like Medicaid and food stamps) that they are eligible for.”
What Can I Do To Make A Difference?
When the federal government proposes a rule, they have to request comments. We have until December 10, 2018 to submit comments. Your voice matters!
The best way to comment is to go online to the federal public charge comment portal at regulations.gov. Click on “comment now” and either enter your comment in the text box (must be fewer than 5000 characters) or upload your comments as a PDF.
Any comments are good, but it’s best if:
You write comments in your own words.
You share research, experiences, and/or the stories of people you know (friends, relatives, community members). You can even include web links or upload supporting materials (research, or your resume, if you are a content expert).
Look to the Michigan League for Public Policy for some great information about the positive economic impact of immigrants in our communities; use that information in your comments. Talk about why we value immigrants in Michigan!
Talk about the role that access to benefits has played in your life, or the lives of people you know.
More details about comments can be found here.
In fact, there’s even a toolkit with specific comment suggestions. However, don’t worry too much about it, short comments are ok too!
What Else Can I Do?
Use email, phone calls, and social media to get your friends and family to submit comments. (Hint: Share this post!)
You Are In Good Company
If you comment, you are in good company. Not only did the Washtenaw Health Plan submit a comment, but:
Many thanks to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners for passing a resolution opposing the public charge rules changes (and submitting a comment!).
Many thanks to the United Way of Washtenaw County for opposing the rules changes.
And special, special thanks to our partners at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center for their knowledge, support, and advocacy. Read more about their campaign to Protect Immigrant Families here!