Milken Institute School of Public Health Researchers Urge Withdrawal of Public Charge Rule

“We strongly urge the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw the proposed rule,” say a group of 26 public health, medicine, nursing and public policy scholars and practitioners from the George Washington University (GW) in an official comment submitted to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen. The proposed rule would cause many legal immigrants to be designated as “public charges,” which federal authorities could use to prohibit them from becoming permanent residents, to adjust their immigration status or even to keep them from re-entering the United States. The joint effort from faculty in four different GW schools demonstrates the broad, multidisciplinary concerns about the proposed policy.

“We are deeply concerned about the rule’s potential harmful effects on immigrants and their families, on broader communities including citizens, on health care and social service facilities, on the U.S. economy, and on our system of justice and civil rights,” the comments explain. The researchers also express concern about the lack of evidence for the proposed policies, which, they say, suggests that the policies are arbitrary in nature. The comments also indicate that the proposed regulations are contrary to existing laws and policies. 

This cross-cutting rule would endanger both immigration status as well as people’s ability to get health, food and even housing assistance, such as through the Medicaid, Medicare Part D and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  It is aimed at low-income lawful immigrants, who are among the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

“It is contrary to our sense of justice and civil rights that the proposed regulation would sanction lawfully admitted immigrants for lawfully using public benefits,” the GW scholars say. They explain why they believe that, if adopted, the rule would have serious damaging effects on public health and health care systems in the U.S., as well as on the nation’s economy.

To maximize their effectiveness, the comments not only point out reasons why the overall proposal should be withdrawn, but offers specific comments and recommendations on 15 elements of the proposed rule.  It is not yet known when or whether the administration will finalize this proposal.