public charge rule published

A marcher carries a sign during the Immigrants Make America Great March to protest actions being taken by the Trump administration on Feb.18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. A proposed rule entered into the Federal Register Oct. 10 would deny green cards to immigrants who have availed of federal benefits. Immigration advocates say the move demonizes the poor and deeply affects Indian Americans and the overall South Asian community. (David McNew/Getty Images photo)

The proposed ‘public charge’ rule demonizes lower-income immigrants by denying them green cards, said immigration advocates Oct. 10, as the initiative was entered into the Federal Register.

The proposed rule will now undergo a public comment period until Dec. 10. The measure can be viewed and commented upon here. After Dec. 10, the Department of Homeland Security must review all pertinent comments before issuing a final rule. (See earlier story in India-West here.)

A letter signed by 20 Democratic senators has already been entered into the comments. The letter notes that current immigration law already requires people to prove they will not become a financial burden on the system. “By expanding the definition of who is a public charge, the department would force immigrants to choose between putting food on the table and advancing their prospects for a green card,” said the letter.

“This rule attempts to raise the bar so high as to close the door on building the American dream to hardworking immigrant families that have been the foundation of this country,” wrote the senators, including California’s Kamala Harris, the lone Indian American in the Senate.

AAPI Progressive Action and South Asian Americans Leading Together have also created a sample letter which can be accessed here.

SAALT noted that the proposed rule deeply affects Indian Americans and the overall South Asian community. “The public charge rule is a discriminatory policy that targets and punishes South Asian Americans for using government programs,” said the organization, noting that 10 percent of green card recipients in 2016 were from South Asian countries.

Citing data from the Migration Policy Institute, SAALT noted that one out of every nine non-citizen Indian families — 11 percent — receives some form of federal aid, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The proposed rule also targets families receiving federal subsidies for housing, known as the Section 8 program.

Data from the same report indicated that nearly 61 percent of non-citizen Bangladeshi American families and 48 percent of non-citizen Pakistani families receive public benefits.

Overall, almost half a million South Asian Americans live in poverty. A study by the Pew Center revealed that 16 percent of Pakistani Americans, 24 percent of Nepali Americans and Bangladeshi Americans, and more than one-third of Bhutanese Americans had the highest poverty rates among South Asian American groups. Bangladeshi and Nepali American families have the lowest median household incomes among all Asian American groups.

“This rule punishes people for using the public benefits they are entitled to and is set up to prevent as many immigrants as possible from becoming legal permanent residents. It’s the latest in a series of attacks on all immigrant communities and their children,” noted SAALT.

Lakshmi Sridaran, director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT, told India-West the data challenges the “model minority” myth — the theory that certain minority groups or communities of color are able to achieve economic success versus others because of their abundance or lack of individual “merit.”

She noted that the myth has “classically been leveraged to pit Asian Americans versus Black and Latino communities to disprove that systemic racism exists when attempting to access resources because Asian Americans have been economically successful.”

Even though the rule has not yet been finalized, many immigrants are already un-enrolling themselves from public benefits for fear of losing their immigration status, Sridaran told India-West. She noted that the administration is unlikely to revoke green cards which have already been issued.

Several immigrant organizations also denounced the proposal for targeting poor immigrants.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice noted that the rule “sets up an elitist and ageist system by providing detailed guidance on a series of factors used for public charge determinations which favor healthier, wealthier, and highly educated adults while penalizing children, older adults, people with lower incomes, people who are living with chronic health conditions or disabilities, and people who are not fluent in English.”

“We are appalled at the Trump administration’s blatant attack on immigrant communities. The proposed regulations are inhumanely penalizing immigrant families for using life-saving health, nutrition, and housing services and essentially guaranteeing legal status to the highest bidder,” stated the organization.

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