Arizona Justice For Our Neighbors | Ella Rawls, Esq.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced a proposed rule changing the current framework which immigration officials must use when determining whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge.” As background information, “public charge” is a grounds of inadmissibility: If an immigration officer determines “an individual is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance (Supplemental Security Income – SSI/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-TANF/similar state and local programs), or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense,” the officer can deny the relief or benefit which the immigrant is seeking. Under current rules, the sponsor of the immigrant must file an I-864 Affidavit of Support whereby they promise to support the immigrant and reimburse the government if the immigrant becomes a “public charge.”

The proposed change:

  1. expands the definition of who is a public charge;
  2. sets out both negative and positive factors which must be considered in determining if someone is a public charge;
  3. expands the types of benefits that can be considered in deciding whether someone is likely to become a public charge;
  4. expands the categories of aliens to whom the public charge analysis must be applied.

The outcome will be:

  1. immigrant families (including U.S. citizen children of Lawful Permanent Residents or other immigrants) will not seek public assistance for which they are eligible;
  2. many more immigration cases will be denied due to the more strict criteria. 

The proposed rule would expand the benefits used to: Non-emergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)Low Income Subsidy for prescriptions under Medicare Part DPublic Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, and Project-Based Section 8.

The new programs are ones which directly support families and US citizen children. Our Social Principles discuss assistance to our brethren who are poor in: The Economic Community, subsection Poverty, saying;

In spite of general affluence in the industrialized nations, the majority of persons in the world live in poverty. In order to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and other necessities, ways must be found to share more equitably the resources of the world.” http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/economic-community (emphasis added).

Our Social Principles continue on to state that.

“As a church, we are called to support the poor and challenge the rich. To begin to alleviate poverty, we support such policies as: adequate income maintenance, quality education, decent housing, job training, meaningful employment opportunities,adequate medical and hospital care, humanization and radical revisions of welfare programs. . . . and efforts to protect creation’s integrity.”http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/economic-community (emphasis added). 

The Social Principles make it clear that we, as the church, must uphold the provision of such basic needs as food, shelter, and health care to those who live in poverty the world over. Let us make it clear to our government that deterring those who are asking for assistance because of their economic status should not be permitted. By expanding these criteria to the likelihood of a public charge determination, we are essentially allowing a wealth test to be performed on those who want to obtain status of permanent resident in the United States. More than anything, this proposed rule will increase the fear that mixed-status families (those families made up of US Citizens and Immigrants) already have in seeking out benefits for which they are eligible and could improve their lives substantially. Let us be courageous in standing up for our neighbors and say no to this proposed rule. https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=USCIS-2010-0012-0001

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