Japanese American Citizens League Condemns Proposed Changes to DHS Public Charge Definition
Today the Department of Homeland Security published its proposal to alter the “public charge” classification for immigrants to the US, opening a 60-day public comment period. Public charge is the classification of some immigrants who use benefits such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income. The proposal will dramatically alter the definition to include programs such as Medicaid/Medicare, the Housing Choice Voucher program, and food assistance. The proposed changes also expand screening criteria for immigrants seeking entry to the country using characteristics such as age, health, family status, financial status, education, and skills including English proficiency.
The administration likely proposed these changes for potential cost savings that will result from reduced utilization of services. However, the decision by immigrants to not seek benefits fundamental to survival can have deeper impacts over time. Delaying health care access due to fears it may impact citizenship opportunities could result in devastating health problems, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations such as children or the elderly. Limiting access to health care such as vaccines could have negative impacts, putting populations at higher risk for communicable disease. Discouraging access to healthcare, housing, and food benefits for a family is inhumane and yet another low blow for this country to impose upon our immigrant communities.
These proposals continue a legacy of anti-immigrant policies in contrast to the lofty ideals of our nation. Though not as explicit as the racist discrimination that prevented Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century from becoming citizens or owning land, these changes will limit immigration and naturalization to a select few individuals who are able to pay their way into this country.
Legal immigration should be unequivocally encouraged and celebrated. These policy changes along with other actions by the administration, such as cuts to family immigration visas, demonstrate a disregard for even the most fundamental principles on which our country was founded. We depend upon a broad spectrum of immigration to enrich the portrait of who we are as a nation and cannot limit ourselves to welcome only those with significant financial means.
Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted through Dec. 10 and can be submitted through this link: bit.ly/submitcomment
The Japanese American Citizens League is a national organization whose ongoing mission is to secure and maintain the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and bigotry. The leaders and members of the JACL also work to promote cultural, educational and social values and preserve the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American community. –David Inoue, Executive Director, dinoue@jacl.org, 202-223-1240; Sarah Baker, VP Public Affairs, sbaker@jacl.org

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