Once again, Trump is waging a war against immigrants. This time, it’s not just tear gas and more troops at the border. He has proposed changes to immigration laws that disqualify immigrants from receiving visas if they are deemed likely to receive public benefits such as Medicaid and EBT. Given that many immigrants rely on these benefits to start a new life within the United States, Trump is pushing to make sure they have no choice but to suffer like they did in the countries that have fled. Here are a few things you should know about the public charge rule change he wants to implement and how it will affect Black immigrants:

1.) The Department of Homeland Security wants to redefine who gets to stay and who gets deported based on whether they will be an expense for the government.

Under Congressional law, immigration officials are currently allowed to deny citizenship or temporary visas to individuals that they determine will be a “public charge”. Since “public charge” wasn’t properly defined when the law was implemented, Department of Homeland Security established in 1999 their own definition known as the guiding principle which defined “public charge” as any person who, through gauging the factors of the person’s age, financial status, education, skills, and much more, will have to rely on governmental benefits and assistance for monetary support. DHS used factors such as a person’s age, financial status, education skills, and much more to determine whether or not they were a “public charge” or quite literally be a payment charge for the government in supporting their livelihood. 

Trump’s proposal requests a reconsideration of the definition of a “public charge” to include “someone who has been using governmental benefits and/or is likely in the future to use any governmental benefits” in addition to the current guideline of “someone who is primarily dependent on the government’s money”. 

2.) Trump’s new definition of “public charge” will increase the amount of immigrants denied citizenship.

Currently, most immigration officials do not deny visas under the public charge rule due to the fact that they require most immigrants to have a legal document from a financial sponsor, such as a citizens or permanent residents that are family members, spouses, or employers, within in the United States prior to the issuing of a temporary visa. Immigrants are also prohibited from receiving welfare, meaning they have no choice but to rely on other forms of governmental assistance.

With the new proposed changes, even if they qualify, Black immigrants will lose or be prohibited from accessing a number of governmental benefits such as EBT, housing assistance, Medicaid and institutionalized care. The expansion of the definition of “public charge” may also add more factors to disqualify immigrants from receiving temporary visas based on their likelihood of becoming a public charge such as no prior employment, applying for an application fee waiver from DHS, and having children. In order to demonstrate that none of their factors will determine likelihood of governmental assistance, a person needs to earn a household income that puts them about 250 percent above the federal poverty guidelines, something most immigrants can’t accomplish immediately. The new rule change will require the operation of DHS which handles immigrants that already have visas and request extensions. But it may also involve the State Department, which handles immigrants that want a visa to come to the United States, and the Department of Justice, which handles the deportation of permanent residents specifically under public charge grounds. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that due to the income requirement, over half of all family-based green card applicants will be denied if the new proposed changes go to law. This means that parents of US citizens might be separated from their families. Almost half of all married green card applicants will be also denied under the proposed changes.

3.) Immigrants are dropping out of government assistance programs, forcing them to put their health in jeopardy.

According to some organizations that support immigrants, many of them are fearful of the proposed changes and have stopped seeking government assistance to lower the chances of deportation. Some health workers have heard reports from immigrant communities that they no longer come in for medical services because they don’t want to take the risk. There is also a lack of understanding about some of the information within the proposal such as the different specifications of monetized benefits versus non-monetized benefits and the vagueness of how important certain factors in the proposed criteria are compared to others. Given that getting a green card may take many years, immigrants are left without any public support for basic necessities. Immigrants are forced to decide between their health or their citizenship as Trump’s proposal continues to force self sufficiency.

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