Public Charge Rule: Trump Administration Plans to Deny Legal Status to Immigrants Who Use Public Assistance

On Saturday, September 22, the Trump administration proposed refusing green cards to immigrants who have used public benefits for their children. Pregnant undocumented women and families with children have had access to public benefits to providing basic nutritional needs to their American children. Now, this support might no longer be available.

In California, public assistance or public benefits includes CalWORKs , CalFresh, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and TANF (temporary assistance for needy families), as well as other public supports such as Medicaid and housing support.

In 2014, California supported 1.3 million people with WIC. In order to be eligible for WIC, families need to be less than 185% below the poverty level. The program began in 1974 with the intention of helping families by providing:

  • Longer and healthier pregnancies
  • Reduced infant mortality
  • Better prenatal care
  • Healthier children because of better medical care and immunizations
  • Better childhood nutrition
  • Better academic performance

Without this safety net in place, children could be in danger of not meeting their basic needs. While this plan is not yet in effect, this is scaring many undocumented families. Already, Politico has reported that both documented and undocumented immigrants have asked to be dropped from WIC. Agencies in at least 18 states have reported that enrollment has gone down 20%. Without WIC, babies born in the United States are at risk of low birthweight and other problems.

Having babies at risk of health problems and special needs could cost the United States a lot of money in the future. In particular, it’s important to consider how this will affect our school age children. There is proven evidence linking health and academic achievement. Academic achievement includes: academic performance (class grades, standardized tests, and graduation rates); education behavior (attendance, dropout rates, and behavioral problems at schools); and students’ cognitive skills and attitudes (concentration, memory, and mood). Without proper nutrition, these children’s school experience might be greatly affected.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said, “Those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves.” She added that will “promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

Jess Morales Rocketto, political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the chair of the We Belong Together campaign said, “I do truly think the goal is to make it impossible for immigrants to come here. We’ve seen this thought all of their threats, from getting rid of the diversity lottery to trying to end family migration. With the public charge [new law], it’s clear they’re trying to make it impossible for immigrants to stay here. The administration is willing to literally starve them out, and then make it impossible for them to come back or have their families migrate here.”

This change in U.S. immigration law is racist and troubling because it targets our most vulnerable families. It’s additionally troubling because of how it could impact American born children who have immigrant parents. This change in immigration will first affect people in the United States who are legal immigrants who are hoping to get a green card. It would also affect undocumented immigrants that are trying to seek residency in the future. This will certainly affect our schools and our children’s futures.

For a list of public assistance programs in Los Angeles County, click here.

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