SAALT Denounces the Administration’s “Public Charge” Proposal to Criminalize Immigrants for Using Public Benefits


Washington, D.C., South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) con­demns the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty announce­ment of new pro­posed “pub­lic charge” rules that would deny per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus (“green cards”) to immi­grants who use gov­ern­ment ser­vices such as nutri­tion pro­grams and hous­ing assis­tance. The new rule would also weigh age, health, and employ­a­bil­i­ty as fac­tors to deny green cards. SAALT, along with immi­grant and civ­il rights, pub­lic health, and labor orga­ni­za­tions, are denounc­ing these changes that threat­en fam­i­lies and children’s health. The pro­posed rules would rel­e­gate immi­grants who are not yet cit­i­zens to sec­ond-class sta­tus by con­demn­ing their use of crit­i­cal pub­lic ben­e­fits pro­grams.
If imple­ment­ed, the pub­lic charge reg­u­la­tion would under­mine the safe­ty, health, and secu­ri­ty of immi­grant fam­i­lies. Rumors of the pro­pos­al have already sown fear among immi­grant fam­i­lies, many of whom have fore­gone essen­tial health and nutri­tion ser­vices for which they are eli­gi­ble. The new rule would hit South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties par­tic­u­lar­ly hard, as over 10% of green card recip­i­ents in FY 2016 were from South Asian coun­tries. Accord­ing to a recent Pew Research Cen­ter study, one in four immi­grants in the U.S. from Bangladesh and Nepal and one in three immi­grants from Bhutan already live in pover­ty. This new rule would put all of these indi­vid­u­als at great risk. The term “pub­lic charge” pre­dates fed­er­al immi­gra­tion law entire­ly. In the ear­ly 1800’s states would only free indi­vid­ual slaves on the con­di­tion that they nev­er become a “pub­lic charge.” This frame­work is now being expand­ed to crim­i­nal­ize immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties.
“This pol­i­cy is about who this Admin­is­tra­tion con­sid­ers a desir­able immi­grant. It is designed to instill fear in immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and rel­e­gate non-cit­i­zens and their fam­i­lies to sec­ond-class sta­tus. It will pun­ish immi­grants who right­ful­ly access the pub­lic ben­e­fits to which they are enti­tled, it will pun­ish par­ents for tak­ing care of their chil­dren, and it will force immi­grant fam­i­lies to choose between cit­i­zen­ship and basic needs. Rather than tax­ing the 1%, this Admin­is­tra­tion choos­es to pun­ish immi­grant fam­i­lies over and over again. Today, on the one-year anniver­sary of Mus­lim Ban 3.0, we say no to more racist and anti-immi­grant poli­cies,” said Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT.
Once the rule is offi­cial­ly pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Reg­is­ter, the pub­lic will have 60 days to com­ment on the pro­posed rule before the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty pro­ceeds with final rule­mak­ing. Stay tuned for SAALT’s cam­paign to chan­nel pub­lic com­ments to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment oppos­ing this dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro­pos­al.
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi,