FPI Finds Widespread Negative Effects of the Attempt to Rewrite Immigration Policy


For Immediate Release:  Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Media Contact: communications@fiscalpolicy.org, 518-786-3156


“Public Charge” Chill Continues Regardless of Injunction

FPI Finds Widespread Negative Effects of the Attempt to Rewrite Immigration Policy

Read the report: www.fiscalpolicy.org/publiccharge2019


(Albany, NY) The Trump administration continues to drastically remake US immigration policy through a radical reinterpretation of the “public charge” rule.  In the Fiscal Policy Institute’s report released today – “Only Wealthy Immigrants Need Apply: The Chilling Effects of Public Charge” – FPI shares an updated analysis of the fiscal and economic impacts of this rule on New York State, and nationwide.  Joining FPI today in showing the harm public charge has had in their states, organizations including the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Texas, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Louisiana Budget Project, Minnesota Budget Project, and New Mexico Voices for Children are also sharing information.

Initially scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019 before it was temporarily stopped by a federal court ruling, the new interpretation of the “public charge” rule would be essentially a test of income and use of services such as Medicaid or SNAP. This change would affect people seeking to extend or change their temporary immigration status (such as student or employment visas) in the United States and people whose green card applications are processed in the United States.

“The Trump administration is using “public charge” as a below-the-radar attempt to rewrite our country’s immigration policy by introducing wealth as a yardstick for acceptability in the United States,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute and co-author of the report. “This is a betrayal of the notion that America is a place you can come with a little and make a great life for yourself and opportunities for your children.”

The Trump Administration takes such a drastic view of what constitutes a public benefit that if it were applied to the U.S.-born population—Americans who are not immigrants—roughly half might not be deemed acceptable to stay in the United States, the report notes.

In addition to restricting who may be deemed acceptable as a resident of the United States, the new rule will have a chilling effect that will affect anyone who has used a public benefit named in this new rule and who has at least one non-citizen in the family. Based on these criteria, the report estimates that the chilling effect will extend to 24 million people in the United States, including 9 million children under 18 years old, the large majority of them U.S. citizens. In New York State, the chilling effect would affect 2.1 million people including 680,000 children. Of these, it is estimated that roughly 25 percent will go so far as to avoid enrolling in programs for which they qualify.

“We are seeing a continued effort to dehumanize and negatively categorize people who seek to enter the United States and public charge is the next step in this campaign,” said Cyierra Roldan, Policy Analyst for the Fiscal Policy Institute and co-author of the report.  “The question is – if we believe that people who use safety net services are less worthy, what does that say about how we feel about all Americans who apply for such services including health care or nutritional support? Should anyone who uses services to feed, shelter, and provide medical care for their family fear losing their children?”

The reality of safety-net services is that not only do individuals and families benefit, but our local communities and states also do as well.

First, getting nutritional and health care benefits means healthy community members who can support and sustain their neighborhoods, community, and state. Second, when federal funds for safety-net services come into communities, it means more money for local grocery stores, doctors’ offices, and other local businesses, which in turn also means more jobs in the community and higher tax revenues.

Nationally, a chilling effect causing a 25 percent drop in enrollment means $12.5 billion less in federal funds across the country. In New York State this means a $1.8 billion dollar loss in federal benefits, with a $3.6 billion decline in the state economy (state GDP), and $158 million in lost state tax revenue. This impact is already being partially felt today, based on fear and confusion around this proposed change, and the effect will be fully felt if the courts allow the rule to be implemented.

The new public charge rule is one of a series of recent administrative actions restricting immigration based on income. Other proposed changes include requiring immigrants applying for family-based visas to prove they would have health insurance or could pay out of pocket for health expenses, and substantially increasing the fee to apply for citizenship.

The fallout from public charge affects us all. This disturbing attempt to reformulate our immigration policy disregards the reality of immigration and the contributions that immigrants make to our state and country.

FPI’s report on NYS and the nation is available at www.fiscalpolicy.org/publiccharge2019 and the methodology is available at www.fiscalpolicy.org/publicchargemethodology

The Fiscal Policy Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better the economic and social conditions of all.