Public Charge: An immoral and callous attack on immigrant families

September 7th, 2018 / Author: TIRRC & TJC

Public Charge: An immoral and callous attack on immigrant families

Tennessee advocacy organizations reacted today to a proposed rule change that could radically affect immigrant families across the country. A draft version was released by the Department of Homeland Security over the weekend. The proposal would make it harder for working-class families to remain in the U.S., tilting immigration in favor of wealthy individuals.

The sweeping proposal targets immigrants by expanding a rule that has been in effect for decades. Previously, the “public charge” rule only denied green cards to people who were likely to receive cash assistance or institutionalized long-term care. The new proposal would dramatically broaden the rule to exclude some immigrants who participate in health insurance or nutrition programs for which they are eligible. The proposed rule would use family income to determine who gets a green card.

Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said:,

This is another immoral and callous attack on immigrant families, forcing them to choose between the food, health, and support they need and their loved one. This move hurts working families and would make residency in America available only to the highest bidder.

At a time when immigrants are already experiencing heightened fear and anxiety, this unconscionable policy change will only serve to keep thousands of people from accessing critical services like seeing a doctor, seeking shelter, or feeding their families. The impact and consequences of this rule will be deeply felt in communities across the state. The rule is not final, and we will work with our members, health providers, and children’s advocates to fight against this inhumane proposal and defend our families.

Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said in a statement:

Restricting immigration based on a person’s wealth is not what our country has always been about. Hard working immigrants make an important contribution to our economy and our communities.

The new policy must undergo a 60-day public comment period before it takes effect. But immigration experts warn that rumors surrounding the proposal have already raised high levels of fear and confusion in immigrant communities. (read more in Politico).

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state.

The Tennessee Justice Center is a public interest law firm that advocates for dignity and opportunity for all Tennesseans.