AMERICAN GATEWAYS COMMENT ON FINAL RULE – INADMISSIBILITY ON PUBLIC CHARGE
Over the weekend the Department of Homeland Security announced the final rule on “public charge,” that could impact thousands of Texas immigrants. The change effectively makes it more difficult for green card applicants who have lawfully used public benefits to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.
“Disheartening at best,” reacted Rebecca Lightsey, executive director of American Gateways, which provides legal aid to low-income asylum-seeking immigrants from its offices in San Antonio, Waco and Austin. We are opposed to the rule because it is both cruel and poorly reasoned. Immigrants and their families, including U.S. born children, will forego needed care as well as the food and shelter required to maintain health. Also, by a merit based new rule, DHS will consider the alien’s age; health; family status; assets, resources, and financial status; and education and skills; and may consider any required affidavit of support.
All our clients live at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, and a significant number live below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. A significant number of our clients are working parents, holding low-paying, service sector jobs that do not offer a living wage or other benefits such as health insurance. At American Gateways we will explain the rule and rights to our clients and the community.
“It is exactly this vulnerability, not some notional aversion to work or desire for government largesse, that leads some of our clients to access minimal public support to which they are entitled – in the form of tax incentives or programs like Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, or WIC. Under U.S. law, they have a right to do so, either because they have been designated as refugees, because they are taxpayers, or because they have U.S. citizen children,” said Rebecca Lightsey, Executive Director. “These programs help keep food on the table, ensure that their children will be able to see a doctor when they are sick, and protect against financial shocks such as unpredicted expenses.” By holding this activity as a negative discretionary factor in green card applications for anyone living below 250% of poverty, the proposed rule effectively targets low-income immigrants for taking care of their families, behavior that would be applauded in any other context. We urge DHS to reconsider this rule and we will be working to make sure that all immigrants know their legal rights.
American Gateways is an Austin-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that has served the Central Texas immigrant community for more than 30 years. Our mission is to champion the dignity and human rights of immigrants, refugees and survivors of persecution, torture, conflict and human trafficking through exceptional immigration legal services, at low or no cost, education, and advocacy. With offices in Austin, San Antonio, and Waco, we serve 20 counties throughout the region.