President Trump. Photo: EFE
President Trump. Photo: EFE

Philly, PA oppose Trump’s “public charge” rule changes


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Officials in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania filed their opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed changes to “public charge” immigration rules, as the 60-day period for comments came to an end on Monday.

The Department of Homeland Security’s proposed policy changes would disqualify immigrants seeking a green card or other immigration benefits should they be recipients - even minimally or for a short period of time - of public services like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or housing assistance, among others.

As it stands now, the government only deems individuals a “public charge” if they are “primarily dependant” on public assistance.

The policy changes “could force lawful immigrants to make a difficult and inhumane choice: protect their immigration status, or risk it by accessing healthcare programs or other programs for which they are legally eligible,” according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“Once again, President Trump is attempting to implement a policy which will have devastating consequences for immigrants and put the health of immigrant children at risk,” Shapiro said in a press release.

“This proposed rule change would effectively weaponize public assistance programs and harm the very people those programs were designed to help – most of whom are seeking a hand up to a better life, not a hand-out for the long term,” he added. “It’s time for this Administration to stop dividing Americans by attacking those who are most vulnerable.”

Shapiro was one of 24 Attorneys General and Attorneys General-elect from around the country who signed on to the above comments expressing opposition, which were co-written by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also submitted an objection to the proposed policy changes he called “draconian.”

“It instills fear in the lives of immigrant families who are contributing members of our community and unfairly penalizes them for accessing basic needs,” he said in a press release. “It will harm Philadelphia’s economy and endanger the well-being of our city at large.”

The significant expansion of the "public charge" test contemplated by the Trump administration would increase the percentage of non-citizens who could be deemed a public charge from 3 percent to 47 percent, according to an analysis by the Washington D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute.

The report notes the “chilling effect” the policy changes would have on immigrants, predicting that “millions of immigrants” would be discouraged from enrolling in “health, nutrition and social services.”

The city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Director Miriam Enriquez and its Health and Human Services Policy Director, Julia Hinckley, submitted a joint objection, in which they “urge the federal government to drop this counterproductive, overly-broad, overly-complicated proposal which will not protect the federal budget and will harm individuals and the economy.”

Enriquez and Hinckley estimate that 26,000 Philadelphians may unenroll from Medicaid, and another 14,000 from SNAP should the Trump policy go into effect.

With the public comment period now over, DHS must respond to every issue presented in the over 210,000 comments received by the department before moving to finalize, or not, the proposed changes.

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