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HIAS' Public Comment on Proposed Changes to Green Card Eligibility

On Oct. 10, the Trump administration published proposed new rules that would punish immigrants who legally access health, housing, or nutrition programs. Many of these immigrants would no longer be eligible for green cards, even if they are the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen. The government said the new rule could affect about 382,000 people a year.

The proposal is not final and is now in a 60-day review and public comment process. The following is HIAS’ public comment:

 

HIAS Public Comment Opposing “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” (DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012) to Expand Definition of “Public Charge”

HIAS, the global Jewish refugee protection agency, was founded in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing Russia and Eastern Europe. One hundred and thirty-seven years later, we have helped to welcome 4.5 million Jews and thousands of refugees of all faiths from around the world to the United States.

HIAS opposes any efforts to alter the definition of the “public charge” rules. These changes would force immigrants to make impossible choices between getting vital assistance for their families and jeopardizing their immigration statuses. These changes would also keep families separated by not allowing relatives to emigrate to the United States if it is thought that they might become public charges under the proposed new rules.

The expanded criteria that could be used include the use of programs that do not provide income support. They include non-emergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, and Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance-all programs that allow participants’ basic needs to be met so that they can actually work and establish a strong economic foothold in this country.

In addition, the proposed changes to the current public charge rules would negatively factor considerations including if applicants are children or seniors; currently speak limited English; have a poor credit history; limited education; and/or have a large family. The very premise upon which this country is based, the notion that anyone, of any means, with any education level, can build a new, successful life in this nation flies in the face of these suggested changes.

Nearly all of the refugees and immigrants that HIAS has welcomed started out poor, and worked countless hours at low wage, often dangerous jobs, to ensure that their children had a chance at a strong future in the United States, proving time and again that their histories prior to arrival in the United States are not necessarily precursors for how they and their families will fare in this country.

Most members of the American Jewish community can think of times in our own family histories when people have fallen on hard times, and it is no different for immigrants today. Keeping immigrants from becoming permanent residents-the only path to citizenship-just because they get help feeding their children or paying for medicine is needlessly cruel and reflects the worst of what we can be, rather than the best of what we have been as a nation built upon the strength of immigrant families.