Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits Could Be Subject to Deportation Under New Department Of Justice Proposal

May 20, 2019

In September 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed changes to “public charge”, which is defined as a person who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for benefits. Those who are identified as a public charge can be denied U.S entry or lawful permanent residency. Currently, the only government benefits that are included in the policy are cash assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and comparable state or local programs, and Government-funded long-term institutional care. However, the proposal seeks to expand the definition to include those utilizing critical benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and housing vouchers.

On May 3rd, 2019, Reuters reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) drafted separate, but equally damaging, changes that would make it easier for the current administration to deport U.S. lawful permanent residents who use these critical public benefits.While the details of the DOJ’s proposed changes are still unclear, it is quite evident they have the potential to  threaten the health, safety, and livelihoods of marginalized immigrant and refugee communities.

The Arab-American Family Support Center condemns this latest attack on the most vulnerable among us. Although deportation is extremely rare for public charge cases, we understand that this is a discriminatory attempt to instill fear, panic, and confusion in our communities. We have seen first-hand the chilling effects such proposed policy changes can have on families – as they feel compelled to choose between using essential benefits and avoiding public scrutiny or deportation. This is a cruel choice that we do not want any of our communities – in New York or across the country – to have to ever make.

AAFSC will continue to stand by immigrant and refugee communities. We are committed to advocating on behalf of the marginalized communities we serve and educating families about their rights. We are keeping a careful watch  on updates to this new potential proposal, which must be formally published, and we are committed to keeping our community members informed about changes, next steps, and action plans as they become known.

In partnership with Protect Immigrant Families, AAFSC will be hosting workshops and outreach to ensure accurate information is being shared with our community members.

Click here to read the exclusive Reuters report.