PIVOT Decries New Public Charge Policy Deliberately Jeopardizes the Health and Wellness of Immigrant Families

August 15, 2019

On Wednesday August 14, 2019, DHS released its finalized regulation Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, unconscionably expanding its interpretation of public charge to include vital non-cash public support benefits such as health and nutritional benefits or housing support. 

This final rule, set to take effect within 60 days, will undoubtedly target and punish legal immigrants and their family, specifically those who are in need of such vital public services by exposing them to wrongful denial of admission into the United States and legal permanent status. These benefits would include most forms of Medicaid, Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and certain other forms of subsidized housing.  

PIVOT Policy Chair Thu Quach, PhD responded, “In the last year, even before the rule had become official, we saw the impacts on immigrant communities, as patients decline services and families refused critical food and housing assistance. As a former recipient of public benefits, I am appalled at this inhumane and cruel policy.. Mothers, children, and families cannot advance their lives, their educations, and their livelihoods if they are too scared to access basic services. The rule will have the broadest impact, affecting 26 million, and we will see these impacts take its toll across generations. “

In addition to stoking fear and stripping vital services from legal immigrants, the final rule will aggressively expand the authority of the immigration officer in making determinations of who can enter the United States. The final rule will allow the denial of admissibility where it is the “opinion of the officer” that the applicant poses a “greater likelihood” of becoming a public charge. This expansion of authority will allow factors such as wealth, age, health, family status, and education to weigh more heavily in determining who can come in to the United States, and those who cannot. 

Approximately 24% of the 1.3 million Vietnamese Americans in the United States are not yet U.S. citizens. This rule will disproportionately impact the Asian Americans, including the Vietnamese American community, especially given the new discriminatory weight of inadmissibility factors, such as English proficiency, allowed to be considered in the public charge determination. 

PIVOT Chair Tung Nguyen, MD stated, “We will continue to fight the series of public charge policies issued by the Administration to completely strip immigrant families of their safety net. This is a deliberate long term effort to undermine the health and economic status of ALL immigrants in America. We will not stand for this. This is blatantly un-American and this is exactly what will motivate Vietnamese Americans in 2020 to flood the voting booths. We will fight this in court & vote these heartless bigots out.”

Together with the One Nation coalition, PIVOT unequivocally condemns this public charge rule and stands united with millions of Americans who know we are one nation built on the strength of immigrants.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash