• August 3rd, 2021
  • Tuesday, 05:04:48 AM

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Public Charge: Another Attack on the Health and Lives of Immigrant Families  


Dusti Gurule  

 

The constant threats on immigrants by this administration are not accidental.  It is not a coincidence that there is a new proposal or policy each time we turn around that takes away opportunities or threatens our health or safety. It is calculated and it is meant to make us live in fear.  The sad fact is that it is working.

In recent months, we have seen a presidential memorandum on sponsor responsibility and fee waivers were eliminated for people applying for benefits or support programs. A new rule was pushed to deny immigrants access to low-income housing and there was an expansion of expedited deportations, which can result in deporting people before they’ve had the chance to see a judge.  This is all while we see stories each day of families torn apart at the border, kids in cages and even dying from a lack of appropriate care while detained.

Many of these changes are pushed through agency rules or executive orders with complicated language.  This makes it hard for people to understand or sometimes even be aware of these alterations. This is what some advocates have called the “invisible wall”  – a crisis brewing on this side of the border unleashing terror and threatening to further destabilize communities.

All of these policies and proposals function to intimidate and endanger people who have migrated to this country, but the Public Charge stands out. This rule targets immigrants who are trying hard to thrive in this country and are working towards a solid future. Specifically, it creates a wealth test for people seeking residency or continued resident status and other legal barriers that discriminate against non-English speakers, children, the elderly, and people with serious illnesses.

All of these policies and proposals function to intimidate and endanger people who have migrated to this country, but the Public Charge stands out. This rule targets immigrants who are trying hard to thrive in this country and are working towards a solid future. Specifically, it creates a wealth test for people seeking residency or continued resident status and other legal barriers that discriminate against non-English speakers, children, the elderly, and people with serious illnesses.

The rule also scares families away from accessing critical government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP (supplemental nutrition), or “Section 8” housing vouchers. These are programs the help promote health and well-being and make our communities stronger. Public Charge also threatens admission to the U.S. and applications for lawful presence for those already here if immigrants–or a member of an immigrant’s family–have used certain public benefits or might need to do so in the future.

Implementation of this rule will undoubtedly deter immigrant families that qualify for critical public programs from seeking them. It already has. The “chilling effect” effectively froze enrollment and prompted many individuals and families to disenroll from necessary programs, creating additional barriers to accessing necessary care and the health of our communities.

It is estimated that approximately 75,000 Coloradans are expected to feel the impact of the Public Charge ruling. Many immigrants are already barred from utilizing public support programs that make life easier and there are specific barriers and waiting periods for health insurance.

Thousands of people spoke out during a comment period about the Public Charge rule. It is currently set to take effect on October 15, 2019. That implementation date may be delayed due to litigation. The important thing to know is that advocates continue to fight this dangerous proposal and until implementation, none of the changes will take effect.

For many people in our community, public charge can feel like a ticking time bomb. All we can do is hope that the suits will be successful and that we can continue to successfully push back not only on this harmful policy, but also the deportation dragnet and draconian border policies that are tearing families apart.

Immigrants living and working in Colorado contribute greatly to community life just like everybody else. They deserve better. We must come together to challenge any threat to the care our families need to stay healthy and frankly to stay with us. People can learn more about the status of Public Charge, the impacts of the proposed changes and how to get involved by visiting the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign website.

 

Dusti Gurule is the Executive Director for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) in Denver, Colorado.

 

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