This month, there has been a new policy proposed from the White House, laying out potential revisions to the existing Public Charge law to impact existing and new lawful permanent residents of the United States.

The longstanding Public Charge rule has existed for more than 100 years, and was intended to demonstrate that non–U.S. citizens who are seeking to enter the U.S. or to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status are not likely in the future to be primarily dependent on government assistance. To date, cash assistance and long-term institutional care have been the services considered to negatively impact an individual’s immigration status.

The proposed change targets millions of legal U.S. residents who have dreams of citizenship, many of whom have been living and working legally – and paying taxes – in the United States for many years, as well as their children, who are U.S. citizens.

The people who will be affected by the proposed change are receiving benefits they are legally entitled to, critical benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and LIHEAP (utility assistance). Far from demonstrating “primary dependency,” these services are in extremely common use by working families who need a little (often temporary) help with a specific need.

Yet the new rule would make accessing these benefits grounds for denying continued legal residency, or the seeking of citizenship. In the short term, the rule will mean that individuals who need a little help to rise up will forego that help to avoid damaging their long-term prospects in the U.S. That means that children will go without health coverage and immunizations. Adults working multiple jobs will go hungry. Family apartments will remain unheated in the winter, because people are afraid to apply for LIHEAP.

In the long term, our entire community will suffer when children fall ill and hard-working adults suffer from malnutrition and deprivation because they are too afraid to access the benefits to which they are legally entitled. This short-sighted and vindictive law must be shouted down by our citizens who have compassion for their neighbors and a stake in this country’s long-term success.

I strongly encourage Americans who find this policy unacceptable to submit a comment to the INS during the public comment period, which ends December 10. Visit https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=USCIS-2010-0012-0001 and hit the “Comment Now”

LeeAnn Riloff is director of development at LaComunidad Hispana in Kennett Square.

 

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