The proposed “public charge” overhaul, issued by the Trump administration on October 10, would radically change immigration policy to favor the wealthy and privileged and turn away those with limited means but big dreams for the future. If enacted, it would put millions of working-class immigrant families already here at greater risk of hunger, poverty, homelessness, and other hardships—and destabilize communities across the country.
The existing public charge regulation requires immigrants seeking to obtain green cards to show that they are not likely to become primarily dependent on government programs. But the proposed rule would create a test that counts as a negative the use of even one program, including health, housing, nutrition, and other supports that working families utilize to weather hard times. If this test were applied to Americans, up to one out of every three would fail. The new rule would also make it difficult for U.S. citizens to reunite with family members abroad, if those family members have low incomes.
Fear of immigration consequences has already led many immigrants to dis-enroll themselves and their children from programs for which they qualify. If this rule were enacted, millions more would follow, whether or not the change actually applies to them. The proposed rule would erode the resilience of working families; strain schools, hospitals, nonprofits, and other community institutions; and threaten our collective prosperity.
This proposal is the latest attack in the administration’s expansive strategy to reduce all forms of immigration to the United States and to create insecure situations for immigrants who already reside here in the hopes that they will leave. Through other measures, the administration has already restricted the entry of Muslims, Central Americans, Haitians, and Africans—and the ability of other immigrants of color to remain here.
In limiting family reunification to those with financial means, the proposed rule takes direct aim at our family-based immigration system and seeks to reduce immigration from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This seemingly small technical change is actually radical in scope, hearkening back to the troubling days of race-based immigration bans, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the national origins quota system. In closing the door again and again on immigrants of color, these restrictions seek to change who we are—and what we look like—as a nation.
Many funders have broken new ground in taking a public stand against policies that inflict harm on families and communities, most recently the forcible separation of children from their parents at the border, the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, and the termination of the DACA program. This is another critical moment for philanthropy.
With philanthropic efforts to reduce poverty, improve health and well-being, and support family self-sufficiency at risk due to the public charge overhaul, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) invites all funders to take action against this proposal:
How we treat immigrants, refugees, and others seeking refuge and opportunity reflects who we are as a people. The public charge rule is an affront to our values and aspirations. It violates fairness, equal treatment, and the sanctity of family. We urge philanthropy to join us in taking swift action to oppose it.