August 14, 2019
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) strongly opposes the administration’s new rule that denies legal immigrants in the United States the opportunity to become permanent residents if they are considered likely to receive government benefits. Under the new rule, immigrants here legally on temporary visas wishing to apply for permanent residence (“green card”) will be subject to more stringent eligibility requirements for permanent residence status and the government will have broader discretionary powers to deny their application and have them deported.
Although economic self-sufficiency has always been a criterion for granting permanent residence, this new policy will make an applicant’s financial status the central factor in the approval process. The decision to determine likely to become a public charge will be based on the applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status and education.
This final rule will significantly impact our economy and the health and well-being of immigrant families who are legally entitled to access government benefits.
The cost of restricting legal permanent residency to the U.S. economy is staggering. Legal immigrants working in key industries such as construction, mining, hospitality, trade and transportation earn an annual total income of $96.4 billion. They pay billions of dollars in taxes each year. According to the bipartisan New Economy Research Fund, if these legal immigrants are denied access to permanent residence status and are forced to leave the country, the indirect economic effects of this loss would total $68 billion dollars. The total cost to the U.S. economy could amount to a startling $164.4 billion.
Although immigrants make up a small percentage of people using public benefits, the threat of being denied a green card will most certainly dissuade them from applying for Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Legal immigrants have the right to access these programs and, more than likely, their children are U.S. citizens.
In times of economic distress, immigrant families will be forced to decide between a green card and food or critical healthcare. By not enrolling in Medicaid, people who have or develop health conditions will more than likely use emergency room care; thereby, increasing healthcare costs and resulting in poor health outcomes. Immigrant parents who lose SNAP benefits affects their children’s nutritional status and performance in school. Although refugees and other special populations are exempt, this rule may deter them as well from accessing the public benefits they are entitled to by law.,
America is a country built by immigrants—rich and poor, from the countries of Western Europe to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East—who share a belief in the values and principles that have made this country great. The debate over immigration is not new. Each successive wave of immigrants has undergone a trial by fire where America seemingly turns its back to newcomers.
“As Americans, we always manage to right ourselves by remembering our long and magnificent history of immigration. We remember the generations of immigrants who had the courage and resilience to leave their homes, their families and their communities to become Americans. This is who we are as a nation. Our greatness is in our people,” says USCRI President and CEO Eskinder Negash.
We urge the administration to reconsider its policies that restrict immigration and restore our commitment to keeping our doors open to those seeking to make a better life for themselves and their families. America’s future depends on maintaining the time-tested values and principles that have elevated us to become a model of democratic pluralism, a force of economic power and unrivaled global leadership.
USCRI has been addressing the needs and advocating on behalf of refugees and immigrants for over 100 years.