Trump's Public Charge Rule May Prevent Immigrants From Becoming Legal Permanent Residents

September 21, 2018
Dr. Tung Nguyen, PIVOT president 

When I was young, I worked in my parents’ Vietnamese grocery store in San Jose, California. Most of the Vietnamese shoppers paid with Food Stamps. As a doctor, most of my Vietnamese American patients are covered by Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) covers their children. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese Americans have benefited from these federal government programs, which allowed us to live and raise our children to be successful and to contribute to America. That is why PIVOT is very concerned about a proposed federal regulation called “Public Charge,” which will be used to prevent anyone who uses any of these programs from getting legal permanent resident status, or “green card.”

Currently, legal immigrants can be denied a green card if they used federal cash assistance or long-term care. The Trump Administration wants to include food support programs for pregnant women and new mothers, and health care support like Medicaid or tax credits to help buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. With the high housing costs, many Vietnamese Americans also need government assistance to pay the rent. Any legal immigrant could be deported if they or their family member, including children who are U.S. citizens, have ever used almost any federally-funded program. Family members will not be allowed to come to the U.S. for re-unification if they do not have enough money to avoid using these programs.

Vietnamese Americans who play by the rules, pay taxes, and contribute to society now risk deportation and having their families torn apart if they do not have enough savings to survive unanticipated emergencies, such as an accident or long illness. Public charge will force them to choose between health care and food for their children and a chance to stay in and contribute to this country.

A temporary need does not mean permanent dependence. Less than 3% of the U.S. population stays under poverty line for more than three years. Non-citizens use welfare programs at much lower levels than the native-born, and immigrants work at a rate higher than their proportion of the population. Government support for immigrants is a short-term investment that has a great return for our country.

The proposed regulation will hit the 10.4 million children who are U.S. citizens with at least one non-citizen parent, including the 5.8 million who are covered by Medicaid or CHIP.  We do not have a good estimate of how many Vietnamese Americans will be affected by this regulation, but we do know that 24% of the 1.3 million Vietnamese Americans who are immigrants are not citizens. Although public charge does not prevent people who already have green cards from becoming citizens, this proposed regulation is just one in a series of anti-immigrant policies from the Trump Administration, including “denaturalization,” or revoking citizenship.

Vietnamese Americans do not have to be convinced that immigrants strengthen, not hurt, America. Our community benefited and continues to benefit from these federal programs, and in return, we have helped to build America.  PIVOT has helped to mobilize Americans and other Asian Americans against the public charge regulation. All Vietnamese Americans can fight by asking our Congressional representatives to block the public charge proposal.

Be sure to register to vote and vote for candidates who will fight Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Vietnamese American policies. You can register to vote in English or Vietnamese by going to APIAVote. For more information, and to stay up to date about other actions that you can take, please check out One Nation AAPI, a website sponsored by PIVOT.