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Scrap the public charge rule

October 9, 2019 05:50 pm

Government officials continue to try to punish immigrants with the blessing of the Trump administration.

The latest attempt is both cruel and just plain stupid.

The new “public charge” rule would deny legal immigrants permanent residency if they apply for food stamps, Medicaid or government-subsidized housing. Millions of legal immigrants will avoid seeking health care for their children and other services to avoid scrutiny.

It’s already happening in this region.

Francis Sengabo, operations director of Albany’s Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, recently started hearing this question: “Will leaving my kid in child care hurt my visa application?”

Said Sengabo: “People were afraid to go to work and put their kids in child care because of the new public charge rule.”

The Migration Policy Institute says most noncitizens who are in families that get benefits are working, reports the Washington Post News Service. And if they work full time, their median pay is about one-fifth less than what their native-born counterparts earned last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Panic has been spreading in immigrant communities nationwide since talks about tightening public charge standards, thus obstructing more immigrants’ pathways to permanent legal status or citizenship, began a year ago. Ahead of the Oct. 15 implementation of the Final Rule, there has been a drastic drop in public benefits enrollment among immigrants. Attorneys general are filing lawsuits across the country to put an injunction on the rule while advocates are scrambling to dispel misunderstandings about the policy change to avoid what could become a public health crisis within immigrant communities.

If government officials cut off immigrants’ path to a green card for the sin of being underpaid or in need of child care or requiring health care, the public charge rule sends the disastrous message that they are a burden on society and should not get the opportunity to succeed.

The real message is that immigrants are not a burden and they contribute to the nation’s economy. That alone makes immigration good for the country.