29 June 2018 | Economic Security

‘Public charge’ proposal would hurt Kansas families

Kansas Action for Children
June 29, 2018

Kansans who are committed to making our state the best place to live, work, and raise a family understand the importance of public policies that shape outcomes for every Kansas child. Unfortunately, the Trump administration may release a new immigration rule later this summer that would undermine our work.

The Trump administration’s “public charge” proposal, which was leaked earlier this year, would allow immigration officials to consider whether a family accesses critical health and nutrition support programs when deciding whether they can obtain lawful immigration status. The draft rule is a major departure from existing policies, which allow eligible immigrants and their U.S. citizen children to access programs including Medicaid, WIC nutrition assistance for babies and mothers, SNAP (food assistance), subsidized health insurance plans on the Healthcare.gov marketplace, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

As citizens of the United States, these children are legally eligible for and deserving of programs designed to improve their lives. But the proposed rule would apply not only to immigrant parents, but to these very children — allowing assistance meant to strengthen families to instead be used as evidence against them in immigration decisions.

Simply put: this proposal would hurt Kansas kids. The proposed rule would make it harder for Kansas families and children to go to the doctor or keep food on the table. More than 7 percent of Kansas residents are immigrants, and another 7.4 percent of native born U.S. citizen Kansans have at least one immigrant parent. This rule would force Kansas parents to make an impossible choice: sacrifice your ability to meet your child’s basic needs or jeopardize your chance to keep your family together.

There’s excellent research that shows that when kids use these types of antipoverty programs, they’re more likely to succeed and be healthy in the long run. This proposal puts those children’s futures at risk. Columbia University recently estimated [3] that as families forego basic assistance programs to avoid negative consequences for their immigration status, 670,000 more children (including 560,000 who are U.S. citizens) will live in families earning less than the federal poverty threshold per year (about $20,000 for a family of three). In Kansas, 41,000 children who are enrolled in KanCare have at least one immigrant parent, many of whom would be affected by this rule.

The proposal is a radical departure from current law. While immigrants have long had to prove that they are not “public charges” (meaning that they will not be dependent on the government for support), the federal government has long said that important health and nutrition benefits certain immigrants and their citizen children are legally entitled to would not be considered in public charge determinations, writing that the “reluctance to access benefits has an adverse impact not just on the potential recipients, but on public health and the general welfare.”

While the proposed changes primarily affect immigrants applying for a green card through a family based petition, there is a great deal of fear and confusion in the immigrant community about accessing these critical programs. The resulting confusion is likely to:

  1. Leave more Kansas children, including U.S. citizen children, worse off by blocking their families from applying for critical anti-poverty programs such as Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, health insurance subsidies, and the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  2. Endanger public health by making more families uninsured and less able to access the care they need; and
  3. Force families, including citizen children, to choose between receiving the help they need and reuniting with those they love or keeping families together.

The draft rule has not been published yet in the Federal Register, but when it is, anyone from the public will have the opportunity to comment on the rule and tell the federal government how this rule will affect you, your family, or your community.

In the meantime – no policy change has been made (or even formally announced). Many immigration experts recommend families keep accessing these critical benefits until further notice.

If you are willing to make a public comment, sign up today to let us know.

When you sign up, we will:

  1. Contact you when the rule is published,
  2. Provide you with instructions and a link about how to make a public comment, and
  3. Provide you with a model comment that you can send in as written, or that you can edit to make specific to your situation.
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