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What the new Public Charge Rule could mean for Floridians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, August 12, 2019
Contact: Melissa Taveras, melissa@floridaimmigrant.org, 786.956.0352
Thomas Kennedy, thomas@floridaimmigrant.org, 786.346.0819

** Interviews available in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole **

New Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” Rule Threatens Health and Well-being of all Floridians

Advocates Urge Litigation, Congressional Action, to Protect Families

Miami, FL — The Trump Administration has finalized a “public charge” rule that threatens the health of over 1,000,000 low-wealth Floridians, weaponizing health and human services programs against lawfully present immigrants and their families. The rule would harm over a hundred thousand U.S.-born children in Florida, as fear and confusion about this technical and complex rule may discourage many immigrant families from enrolling or keeping their children in public assistance programs that are vital for low-income families. 

“This regulation forces millions of families across the country to choose between the things they need and the people they love. It’s created a chilling effect across our immigrant communities because many people are confused over who is targeted by the rule and who is not,” said Dr. Matt Childers, Director of Research and Policy at FHJP.

Isabel Vinent, Interim Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, added that, “The ‘public charge’ proposal is another radical departure from past interpretations and policy impacting immigrants seeking to access a green card. This will dramatically impact the lives of immigrants, especially low-income people of color. These are hard-working families seeking to live to their fullest potential while vastly contributing to the U.S. culture and economy. The message behind this policy is clear: priority will be given to wealthy, white immigrants. That is not who we are as a nation.”

FHJP estimates that up to 107,000 U.S.-born children, in families where one or both parents are noncitizens, will lose their health insurance and up to 82,000 will lose access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits due to the rule’s chilling effect. South Florida will disproportionately feel the impact from this, as half of affected families live in Greater Miami. The Urban Institute shows that across the U.S., one out of seven immigrant families has already begun avoiding non-cash government assistance programs.

When the rule was proposed last fall, the public charge proposal drew more than 266,000 public comments, overwhelmingly in opposition. Organizations across Florida, including the Florida Health Justice Project (FHJP), Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and WeCount, opposed the plan, as did pediatricians, hospitals, health insurers, public health officials, local elected officials, and other health leaders.

“In this political environment, many immigrant families who are eligible for public benefits, regardless of this rule, are afraid to stay in or enroll in public assistance programs because they think that their legal status will change or worse, that they will be deported. It threatens our state’s public health and our economy and its consequences will disproportionately impact the Miami area,” Childers said. 

The final regulation puts admissions to the U.S. or applications for a “green card” at risk for an immigrant or a member of an immigrant’s family if their wealth falls below 125% of the federal poverty level ($32,188 a year for a family of four) or if they use Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps”) or “Section 8” rent vouchers. Citizenship applications are not subject to the “public charge” regulation, and refugees, asylees, and other immigration statuses are also exempt. Conservative estimates peg the regulation’s impact at 26 million people nationwide. That includes the one-fourth of all children in the U.S. — the vast majority born here — who live in immigrant families. Experts expect unmet health care needs to rise, as well as hunger, child poverty, inadequate or unsafe housing, and other drivers of poor health outcomes. And because immigrants targeted by the Trump proposal are overwhelmingly immigrants of color, experts expect racial health disparities to widen.

FHJP,  FLIC and WeCount urge litigation and immediate congressional action that will protect families and children by stopping the implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge rule. Otherwise, the rule announced on August 12, 2019, will go into effect on October 15, 2019. 

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