Riverside, IL – The Healthy Communities Foundation released the following statement from President Maria Pesqueira on the public charge rule change published today by the Department of Homeland Security.
“The Department of Homeland Security has published the change to the public charge rule in the Federal Register. This rule change threatens the health and well-being of the immigrant families the Healthy Communities Foundation and our grantee partners serve. Individuals and their families will be placed in an inconceivable position to choose between accessing necessary public health benefits and preserving their immigration status in this country.
Our 27 zip-code service area is comprised of more than 900,000 residents, 25% of which are immigrants. We recognize the already deep health disparities and barriers that our immigrant communities face and their impact on health outcomes and life expectancy. While much fear and anxiety currently exist among this population, the public charge rule change only exacerbates their uncertainty and creates confusion that negatively impacts their well-being. The health implications of this rule change spread across various aspects of an individual’s life; it only deepens the susceptibility towards issues of poverty, food insecurity, housing instability, educational disparities, and child developmental delays.
In some of the villages and communities within our service area, there are individuals that are a part of mixed-status families and are particularly vulnerable to this rule change. The fear of being identified as a public charge will dissuade individuals from enrolling in health coverage that can keep their families healthy, despite their US-born children and youth being fully eligible for these resources. In terms of mental health, both immigrant and US-born children have been and will continue to be exposed to their parents’ anxiety. The toxic stress created by how children process the world around them can have a compound effect and lead to long-term mental and physical health outcomes. Furthermore, the most vulnerable among our immigrant communities– expectant mothers, young children, the disabled, senior citizens and those who have existing medical conditions –are at risk of facing adverse health situations if they choose to not seek out the public assistance they typically rely on.
The consequences of this rule are brutal and run counter to the value of humanity. Our immigrant communities are not burdens. They are human beings who strive to make a better tomorrow for themselves and their families. Living one’s best life in this country should not be contingent on whether you were born in the United States. It should not be based on your income level. It should not be dependent on the language you speak. Living a healthy and full life is a right—a human right.
Now, more than ever, the Healthy Communities Foundation stands strong in our commitment to serve the immigrant communities that reside within our service region. We will strengthen our efforts and collaborations with our local and national partner organizations to continue working towards the common vision of healthy and vibrant communities for all. We urge our grantee partner organizations, peer organizations, community members and elected officials to join us in materializing this vision because, together, we can propel the advocacy and change that all our communities deserve.”