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Standing with Our Communities in Opposition to “Public Charge”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed an updated “Public Charge” rule that would effectively impose an income test on immigrants and their families applying for green cards.

This rule essentially bars people from getting a green card if they are poor by penalizing them for using public benefits, like food stamps, health care, food for an infant child, or rent support.

In short, our immigrant and refugee communities make our City a stronger, more vibrant place, I asked our Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) to prepare an analysis of how the proposed rule could impact Seattle families.

The results are clear: This more stringent public charge determination poses a danger to our communities and to our City. The new barrier imposed by the Trump administration would force people and families to choose between reuniting with their loved ones and accessing crucial services like health care, housing assistance, and other public benefits. The administration should immediately withdraw it.

This updated rule would hurt Seattle in three key ways.

First, the more stringent rule would have a direct, negative impact on tens of thousands of Seattle residents. University of Washington experts estimate that proposed changes to public charge guidelines will directly affect 51,186 immigrants living in Seattle. The proposed changes will also indirectly reach another 33,185 City residents who live in households with someone who is directly impacted, including 10,143 U.S.-born children. The total affected immigrant population would be 84,371, or 64 percent of Seattle’s immigrant population.

Second, this new rule would erode access to health care for those 85,000 residents and hurt our economy. Public Health – Seattle & King County has determined that 10,500 children in Seattle, regardless of their status, could be negatively affected by the proposed public charge definition because their parents may be forced to choose between enrollment in important basic needs programs or reuniting with an immigrant family member. Implementing a rule, with the awareness that it may negatively impact the health of so many children, is unconscionable. Strong economies and talented workforces start with healthy individuals and healthy communities. That means providing access to health care benefits, including Medicaid.

Third, this rule would cut off the potential for millions in tax revenue. Immigrant households account for $27.5 billion in spending power for Washington State, and immigrants living in the Seattle Metropolitan Area pay $8 billion in taxes annually.

Like so many things the current administration implements, the rule appears to attempt to solve a problem that does not actually exist. Time and again, we have seen this administration continue their cruel, divisive, and unlawful attacks on our immigrant and refugee neighbors. The proposed changes to the public charge determination is just one more example.

For all these reasons, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should immediately withdraw its current proposal and dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that strengthen—rather than undermine—the ability of immigrants to support themselves and their families in the future.

DHS is accepting public comments regarding the “Public Charge” rule through December 10. You can learn how to submit a public comment here. So far, OIRA has worked with communities to generate 856 public comments in response to the administration’s proposed “Public Charge” rule. You can learn more about the details of the proposed rule change at OIRA’s website here.

As with prior generations, today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s American citizens who should have the chance to contribute to the economic, cultural, and civic life of Seattle – and our nation.