TRUMP RULE PROPOSED: Immigrant Families Must Choose Food v. Legal Status

September 24th, 2018

Advocates + Elected Officials + Affected Individuals Hold Press Conference and Protest Proposed “Public Charge” Rule

NEW YORK, NY – Earlier today, the New York Immigration Coalition and numerous other organizations held a press conference ahead of a rally this evening to oppose a new rule  proposed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that makes immigrant families choose between using public health, food, and housing programs, and obtaining a visa or legal residency in the U.S.

If the rule is approved, legal immigrants will be at serious risk of being unable to renew their visas or become permanent residents if they apply for certain federal assistance programs. The rule affects programs for children, many of whom are U.S. citizens in mixed status families. The proposed rule would penalize many immigrants for using federal assistance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare Part D and subsidized housing support.

"Trump's new rule will force immigrant families to make an impossible choice between legal status and the health and safety of their loved ones. We have 60 days to fight back to stop the administration or infants will go hungry, children will lose their health insurance, and immigrant families will struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Our country has always helped generations of immigrants succeed by supporting them, now is the time to speak out,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

The public can submit comments about the proposed rule change once it has been published on the Federal Register.

“Parents should never have to choose between feeding their child, or providing them with the medical care they need, and their immigration status. These proposed changes could impact everyone from newborns to the elderly, hurting not just our immigrant communities, but their United States Citizen family members as well. This is simply un-American. I urge us all to continue to speak our and make our voices heard-- we cannot allow this administration to move forward with these changes,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“The Trump administration's new proposal would have a devastating impact on immigrant New Yorkers and their working families by forcing them to choose between putting food on the table and long-term stability,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “This rule should not be used to play politics with the lives of those seeking refuge, and it is time for us to confront its racist and classist history. As the White House continues to demonize immigrant families, New York City must do everything it can to fight back against this cruel policy that only undermines our values."

“This is yet another attack on our hard-working, immigrant communities. This proposed new rule by the Trump Administration is nothing but cruel. Now, the federal government wants to force immigrants to choose between feeding their families and putting a roof over their heads or seeking a green card to remain in our nation. This is detestable. Unfortunately, many families have already dropped out of public benefits programs out of fear because of aggressive anti-immigrant federal policies, and more will follow when news about these proposed changes spreads across our communities. As a city of immigrants, I assure you that the City Council will do all that is humanly possible to fight against these unjust measures,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“Since day one, we have witnessed a series of attacks by the Trump administration targeting immigrant communities around our nation,” said Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “This is the latest back-door attempt to restrict immigration by leveraging immigrants and their families’ well-being against their ability to attain a green card or visa. This ill-intentioned proposal will make it difficult for individuals seeking legal entry or permanent residency in the United States to care for their family through the use of social services that they are legally entitled to use. By attempting to keep immigrants from accessing programs vital to supporting their families, this proposed rule fails to uphold the values of our nation and will force individuals to choose between putting food on the table for their children and being granted legal status.”

“The proposed “public charge” rule is a shameful attempt to punish working class immigrants for accessing the health care, housing and nutrition programs they need to support their families and survive in our country,” said Alison Hirsh, vice president of 32BJ SEIU a union with 163,000 members on the East Coast including thousands of immigrants. “With poverty wages, unaffordable health care options and rampant food insecurity across the country, a reliance on public assistance is not a fair indication of how much a person contributes to their communities. This is a blatant attack on working families and people of color that we must denounce before it can become law. This is not who we are as a country.”

“I have been practicing medicine in public health systems for more than 30 years. I’ve never met a doctor - Democrat or  Republican — who cared about the immigration status of their patient. We’ve taken an oath to care for the sick and can’t imagine the devastating impact this mean-spirited proposal could have if our patients end up having to choose between getting proper medical treatment or pursue their legal status,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals. “I hope this radical attempt to undermine the health and well-being of middle and working class immigrant communities can be prevented. In the meantime, it’s incredibly important to note that this proposal is by no means final, and access to services like our public health facilities has not changed. NYC Health + Hospitals is open to all without exception, and we urge our immigrant  community to continue to seek care without fear.”

“This proposal is another attack by the Trump Administration against family-based immigration, particularly against immigrants of color,” said Hasan Shafiqullah, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “If adopted, the rule will create a nationwide health crisis impacting millions, and deter families from seeking vital medical care when they need it the most. It also would affect access by lawfully present non-citizens to basic food, housing, and other forms or support for meeting critical needs. This proposal is radical and dangerous, and wholly against our values and principles as a nation founded by immigrants.”

“This rule is a disgraceful attack on our society’s most vulnerable and goes against New York’s values. Immigrant families should never have to choose between their safety and being able to put provide food and basic health care to their children,” said Christine Quinn, President & CEO of Win, the largest provider of shelter to women and families in New York City. “Thank you to the New York Immigration Coalition for leading the charge to make New York City a safe haven for all immigrants.”

“This cruel and callous proposed revision to what constitutes 'a public charge' is devastating to immigrants seeking to reunite their families, violates longstanding protections for people living with HIV/AIDS under disability discrimination law, essentially operates as a backdoor reinstatement of the HIV Immigration Ban, and threatens the public health,” said African Services Committee’s Director of Advocacy, Amanda Lugg.

"The proposed public charge rule is one of the widest-reaching attacks on our communities to come out of the Federal Administration,” said Amy Torres, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Chinese-American Planning Council, “it enshrines family separation by forcing families to choose between their immigration status and reunification and meeting their basic needs for safety, nutrition, and stability. Immigrants should not face additional barriers toward building economic security and stability, and their immigration status or that of their families should not be held hostage when they do."

“Since day one, the Trump administration has made their anti-immigrant agenda very clear. It is unacceptable and immoral to force people to choose between their health and a green card,” said Lisa David, President and CEO of Public Health Solutions. “The proposed rule has already led to significant drop-offs among our immigrant clients who rely on food and nutrition benefits to help feed their families. We will do everything in our power to fight back against this discriminatory rule and ensure our clients are still able to access critical public benefits.”

“Less than one in six US residents who use public benefit programs like Medicaid, SNAP and section 8 housing are immigrants. As a pediatrician, these programs are absolutely essential for ensuring that the children I serve can stay healthy. Immigrant parents, like all parents, have a right to basic needs- health insurance, healthy food and affordable housing. These proposed changes to the public charge rule not only cause worry and stress, but put the lives of immigrant families and the positive contribution they make everyday, in severe jeopardy,” said Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell; Program Director, GLOhBAL (Global Learning. Optimizing health. Building Alliances Locally), Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York; Adjunct Assistant Professor, MPH Program, Hofstra University School of Health Professions.

Natalia Aristizabal, Co-Director of Organizing at Make the Road New York said: “We condemn this proposal by the Trump Administration to target low-income immigrant families to further his xenophobic agenda. This proposal attacks and seeks to punish eligible immigrants from adjusting their status for accessing basic necessities. All families, regardless of immigration status, deserve access to health and nutrition and that is why we will remain committed to continue to keep on fighting back to protect and defend each other.”


DHS’s rule would replace existing guidelines that define a “public charge.” Currently, someone designated as a “public charge” is primarily dependent on a limited set of public benefits. This rule expands the definition of “public charge” to include an array of programs upon which working families depend.

Before being enacted, the proposed rule is subject to a 60-day public comment period. Public comments can be submitted by anyone once they are published on the Federal Register.

If enacted, immigration officials must consider the “totality of circumstances” to determine if a visa applicant is likely to depend on government assistance in the future. Circumstances include:

  • income
  • resources
  • age
  • family situation
  • health

Under federal law, certain immigrant populations are exempt from public charge consideration, including:

  • refugees
  • asylum seekers
  • survivors of trafficking
  • victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders)
  • VAWA self-petitioners
  • special immigrant juveniles
  • certain parolees.

Legal permanent residents are not subject to public charge scrutiny when they apply for citizenship. Undocumented immigrants and many other immigrant groups are already barred from using federal benefit programs.