Point of View: Another Administration Attack on Low-Income Immigrants

This week, the Trump Administration will publish its final “public charge” rule, part of a sweeping and ongoing government-wide assault on immigrants. The administration designed this latest policy to do the greatest harm to low-income immigrants and their children by severely restricting their ability to access critical and life-saving benefits including food, health and housing assistance.

Public charge is a term used in federal immigration law to refer to a person who may depend on the government as their main source of support. When a non-citizen applies for a visa to enter the U.S. or for lawful permanent residence, the government official considers the person’s life circumstances to see if the person may need services now or in the future. If the official determines that the individual is likely to become a public charge, the person’s application may be denied.

The Trump administration has now changed this long-standing policy by dramatically expanding the definition of public charge to include additional programs including Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and Public Housing programs, as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and parts of Medicare. In other words, for the first time ever, an applicant for a visa or green card would be denied if they need support for safe and affordable housing, food assistance or health care.

The final public charge rule puts low-income immigrants in a cruel and impossible bind of having to choose between accessing the support they need to live safe and healthy lives or protecting their immigration status. Children, including U.S. citizen children, will be among those most harmed. As low-income immigrant families lose access to needed housing assistance, they will face increased risk of eviction and homelessness, with tremendous personal and societal costs from the poorer health, lowered educational attainment and lessened lifetime earnings that will result.

By targeting immigrants of color, the Trump administration’s new policy will widen racial disparities in housing stability. Immigrants already face significant barriers to securing affordable homes, from racism and discrimination to language or education barriers. The public charge rule will exacerbate these challenges and put affordable homes further out of reach.

This change to decades of immigration policy is unconscionable, cruel, and unacceptable.  NLIHC will work closely with our immigration, health, food security, and housing members and partners, as well as leaders in Congress, to stop this policy from being implemented before it can do the profound harm that it threatens to low-income immigrants and their communities.

And we will continue opposing all the administration’s efforts to harm low-income immigrants and others. We will build off our Keep Families Together campaign to prevent HUD’s continued effort to evict mixed-status immigrant families from its subsidized housing programs. We will prepare to strongly oppose a similar effort by USDA to evict mixed-status immigrant families from its rental assistance programs, a proposal that is expected this month. And we will oppose the administration’s next radical public charge proposal, expected this fall, that could allow for low-immigrants who have used certain housing and other benefits over the last five years to be deported.

The cruelty of this administration seems to know no bounds - but neither does our resolve to defeat these harmful proposals. Stay vigilant, stay involved, and stay tuned for our calls to action. Together we will defeat these abhorrent proposals, just as we already have for so many other cruel proposals from this administration.