Proposed immigration rule would extinguish Statue of Liberty’s torch

December 3, 2018

By Alejandro Queral and Reyna Lopez*

In beating back Measure 105 this past November, Oregonians reaffirmed their belief in the American Dream. By decisively rejecting this anti-immigrant measure, Oregonians laid claim to our nation’s legacy of welcoming immigrants seeking to build a better life for themselves and their children.

But the threat is not over. The Trump administration is proposing a new rule that would make life much harder for many immigrants lawfully in the country, as well for many seeking permission to enter.

It has been longstanding law that immigration officials can deny entry to the U.S. to anyone deemed likely to become a “public charge,” someone primarily dependent on the government for financial support. For immigrants already in the U.S., being deemed a public charge can block their path to citizenship and their ability to remain in the country.

The Trump administration is proposing a drastic expansion of the definition of public charge. It would change the definition to apply to anyone likely to require even minimal government assistance. While the proposed rule would not apply to all immigrants — refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of domestic violence would not be subject to the public charge — they would go so far as to apply to children and the elderly.

One effect of the rule would be to severely restrict low and moderate-income families from immigrating to the U.S. Instead of welcoming — in the words of the Statue of Liberty — the tired and poor yearning to breathe free, the Trump administration would create an exclusive invitation extended only to well-heeled immigrants.

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Even though the proposed rule is only in draft form and has yet to take effect, it is already wreaking havoc. Some states have seen a more than 20 percent drop in enrollment in some key programs such as Medicaid and Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides access to healthy foods for children and their mother.

In Oregon, community organizations like PCUN are being flooded with inquiries from its members regarding the risk of continuing to use services or enrolling in much-needed programs. The proposed rule is also discouraging participation in public life. Though the proposed rule would not legally impact accesses to civic institutions — schools, hospitals, and the justice system, for example — many immigrants are forgoing such services out of an abundance of caution.

The proposed rule could have such a deep chilling effect that even children of immigrants who are U.S. citizens may be discouraged from seeking help. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in Oregon alone, more than 130,000 children who are U.S. citizens and live with a non-citizen parent may be affected in this way, even if no one in the household is enrolled in a social support program.

There is still a window of opportunity to push back on the proposed rule . The public has until December 10 to comment on it. By telling the Administration that the proposed rule is misguided, you’ll be reaffirming the values of our nation, which still run deep in Oregon.

Alejandro Queral is Executive Director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. Reyna Lopez is Executive Director of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN).