CWDA Opposes Trump Administration’s Proposed Changes to “Public Charge”

Press release Amanda Kirchner

SACRAMENTO – CWDA opposes the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the rules that govern the consideration of whether certain legal immigrants are to be considered a “public charge,” released by the Department of Homeland Security on September 22, 2018. This unnecessary and cruel proposal changes long-standing federal policy governing the entry and livelihoods of our nation’s immigrant population.

This proposal would for the first time include the monetary value of benefits received via the Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, the program formerly known as Food Stamps; called CalFresh in California) in determining whether an immigrant applying for entry to the country or applying for a change in citizenship status (i.e., a “green card”) is or may become a “public charge.”

The proposal seeks to punish families that have followed complex immigration laws to be here legally but are struggling to make ends meet in California, where the cost of living continues to be high and wages relatively stagnant. Research demonstrates that most of these individuals have jobs and that our immigrant population on balance contributes more to the economy than they receive in public assistance.

In recent months, even the rumor of such changes has had a chilling effect throughout our immigrant communities, pushing too many out of the social safety net and out of services they and their families need and are eligible to receive. The fallout from individuals and families in our immigrant communities turning down needed, available assistance is potentially disastrous for California’s communities and its people – from the youngest to the oldest. California’s safety net programs help keep children, families and seniors from falling into abject poverty and homelessness.

“If those already living on the edges of poverty no longer feel safe receiving vital assistance through the social safety net, California will undoubtedly see increased poverty rates,” said Cathy Senderling-McDonald, Deputy Executive Director. “Our state’s child poverty rate is already the highest in the nation, and federal policies like this will only hurt our most vulnerable populations even more. Poverty is crushing for children, life-threatening for seniors and costly for all Californians.”

It is important to remember that state and federal laws that govern welfare program eligibility based on income levels and household circumstances have not changed, despite the release of this proposed rule change. Additionally, the proposed rule does not go into effect immediately; if and when it is published in the Federal Register, a 60-day public comment period will commence. After that comment period ends, the Administration would be required to consider the comments it receives prior to issuing a final rule.

“We know that the release of this proposal will increase uncertainty and anxiety about receiving health care coverage, nutrition, and cash assistance programs for our immigrant communities,” Senderling-McDonald said. “As county human services agencies administering these programs in California, our goal continues to be helping all of our clients access the support they are eligible to receive today and need now. County human service agencies continue to process applications, renewals, and provide benefits to those clients who are eligible to receive them.”

CWDA is a statewide non-profit association representing the human service agency directors of all 58 counties in California. The Association’s mission is to promote a human services system that encourages self-sufficiency of families and communities, and protects vulnerable children and adults from abuse and neglect.