On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would drastically alter how immigration officials handle applications to change status or extend a stay. Among other elements, this rule punishes immigrants who receive public benefits, forcing mixed-status families to choose between legal status and basic necessities—another heartbreaking example of this Administration’s cruel and callous attitude toward the most vulnerable in our community. I strongly urge DHS to rescind this proposal and stick with the current policy as laid out in the Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 64 Fed. Reg. 28689, first published on March 26, 1999.
Here in Miami-Dade, especially in District 5, we are known for our incredible, tight-knit communities of those who have escaped strife and turmoil. For the Cuban, Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Venezuelan families who found refuge on our shores, returning home would be a nightmare scenario. And yet, instead of helping immigrants overcome adversity, this rule fosters a dramatic chilling effect. Their stories play out all across our community.
It’s the abuelo who depends on Medicare Part D for his prescriptions and will think twice before his next refill. It’s the working parents who each pull double shifts for their daughter covered by CHIP and their teenage son applying for his green card. Simply put, this rule forces families to keep food off the table and stop taking their kids to see a doctor. Amidst the uncertainty it sows, trust in law enforcement will turn to fear as incident reports plummet, making our communities less safe.
These public benefits like SNAP, Medicaid, and housing assistance aren’t going to undeserving “free riders.” They keep folks afloat while they work minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. Research by Feeding America shows that 54% of households who use food pantries have at least one member working, a figure that rises to 71% if there’s a child present. We shouldn’t be targeting those in Miami-Dade who are trying to get ahead, especially immigrants as the demographic with the greatest potential for intergenerational mobility. We should extend a helping hand by raising wages and breaking cycles of poverty, not furthering them by implementing this callous public charge rule.
Our community is stronger when we lift each other up, when we give everyone a fair shot and a fair shake. This rule does the opposite: it leaves people on their own and hanging out to dry. It hurts immigrants who simply want to give their kids a better life. I stand steadfastly against the proposed public charge rule and call on DHS to allay fears by committing to the current policy laid out in the Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.