Category Archives: Policy Update

Promoting the Dignity of Labor in NAFTA Negotiations

Promoting Dignity of Labor in NAFTA Negotiations

Mary Cunningham
July 30, 2018

When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1994, the United States, Canada, and Mexico hailed it as a groundbreaking deal that would bring job growth, economic vitality and improved living standards to all three countries. Despite these promises, the trade deal failed to live up to the hype and has resulted in stifled wages in Mexico and the U.S., mass migration from Mexico to the U.S., and no improvement in labor and environmental protections.  After the passage of NAFTA, the U.S. flooded the Mexican market with corn, decreasing the value of Mexican corn by 66% which led directly to farmer displacement and migration.  Wages in Mexico have fallen below pre-NAFTA levels as have worker’s wages in the U.S. Likewise, America’s small farmers have been forced to compete with large industrial agricultural corporations against which they don’t stand a chance. NAFTA was negotiated by and for the big corporations and has failed workers on all sides of the table.

This brings us to the current state of NAFTA today. During his campaign and continuing into his presidency, President Trump dismissed NAFTA, declaring it “the worst trade deal.” He believes NAFTA is to blame for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs and the exportation of jobs to countries with lower production costs, like Mexico. President Trump’s distaste for NAFTA set the stage for NAFTA renegotiations led by U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer. Thus far, there have been 7 rounds of talks, but no conclusive agreement has been reached.  Following the election of the new Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), negotiators from Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. have a window to try to conclude an agreement; however, the negotiations are more likely to continue into 2019.  As the Wall Street Journal reports, several of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s priorities align with President Trump’s, increasing the likelihood of reaching a consensus on negotiations. Although there has been tension between President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following the G-7 meeting, Canada and the U.S. are important trade partners and it is in both of their country’s interest to continue talks.

The main goals of the negotiations include updating trade practices to reflect new advancements in technology and “fixing” parts of the agreement that haven’t worked.  For the administration, this means eliminating certain investor protections that force federal governments to pay fines to transnational companies. It also means improving Mexican labor laws to combat the low wages and unfair labor standards which the administration argues have led to mass migrations and a precipitous decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs.  Part of the U.S. proposal is to have automobile parts manufactured in work zones with a minimum wage of $15. This would spur manufacturing in the U.S. and simultaneously increase wages in Mexico.  Mexican negotiations have expressed openness to these objectives although the business communities in all three countries vigorously object to provisions that protect workers and end investor courts.

Only by paying attention to the plight of the workers impacted by NAFTA can a comprehensive deal be reached. Although negotiations are complicated, a deal that treats all workers with the respect and dignity they deserve is possible. This means guaranteeing stable wages, the right to unionize, and worker protections. NAFTA has not lived up to its expectations, but these negotiations are a promising step forward.

 

Attempts to Sabotage the ACA Continue

Attempts to Sabotage the ACA Continue

Kaitlin Brown
July 27, 2018

This month has been particularly rough for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In two acts of sabotage, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced policy decisions that will undermine access to health care for millions of people. (You can see our coverage of previous ACA sabotage from the Trump administration this year here).

First, the administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent out a notice that funding for the navigator program would be cut to $10 million for the 2018-2019 enrollment period. Navigators work on the ground to help people navigate the online Insurance Marketplace and choose a plan that is right for them. Most navigators work for non-profit companies, and are present in congregations, public libraries, and other spaces to meet the needs of their community. Navigators also provide internet access to low-income and elderly people who might not have access to a computer find affordable health insurance. In 2016, the program was funded at $62 million, and only $36 million last year.

CMS also announced that it would be ending the risk adjustment program for insurance companies on the marketplace after a narrow ruling in New Mexico. The risk adjustment program is one of the main ways people with pre-existing and complex medical conditions can gain access to healthcare. The program uses premium money from healthy people in the individual market to pay for sicker people. It doesn’t cost anything, and is one of the main ways insurance works. Without this, however, costs could skyrocket for people with pre-existing conditions. This comes as rates and markets are being set for 2019, and without the ability to spread around risk between healthy and sick patients, premium rates could increase dramatically.

However, this decision was based on one case in New Mexico, where the judge ruled that the program in the state could not continue. Previous to this, a judge in Massachusetts had found the rule legal. However, CMS decided that the New Mexico ruling applied to all twenty-three states that have their own individual marketplace programs. Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could have done a few things, including starting the appeals process or asking if the court meant for the ruling to apply to markets outside of New Mexico, that they chose not to do.

The reduction in funding for the popular navigator program, combined with the ending of the risk adjustment program, are two more acts of sabotage against the Affordable Care Act. We are seeing time and again that what the administration cannot do through the legislative process, they are doing through the administrative one.

Another Republican Attempt to Attack Healthcare

Another Republican Attempt to Attack Healthcare

Kaitlin Brown
July 2, 2018

Over the past few months, we have seen continued attacks and outright sabotage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from the Trump administration. After last summer’s failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act through a bill sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the administration moved to try and end protections through the rule-making process in the department of Health and Human Services. While the implications of the new rules are serious, and will likely cause millions of people to lose or be priced out of healthcare coverage, there is a new legislative threat looming that is eerily similar to the Graham-Cassidy plan that we saw last summer.

This plan was introduced recently by the conservative Heritage Foundation and former Senator Rick Santorum and later presented to Republican leaders. Most of the plan is the same as what we saw last summer in the Graham-Cassidy proposal. It would undo protections for those with pre-existing conditions, include annual and lifetime limits, and exclude certain essential services in health insurance plans, including maternity and mental health services.1  Additionally, it would undo Medicaid expansion and convert Medicaid funding to a block grant to the states, making it less likely that low income people will be able to access affordable coverage.1

The good news is that this is still just an idea from a conservative think tank. However, as we have seen before, Republicans in the House are serious about taking away healthcare coverage and protections from the most vulnerable.

There is concern that if this horrible idea becomes a bill, it could move quickly this summer due to a process called budget reconciliation. In this process, the budget could include instructions that would allow for Congress to pass a bill with only 51 votes, instead of the normal 60 vote majority. This is what happened last summer when the “repeal and replace” bills nearly passed in the Senate.

As people of faith, we believe that healthcare is a human right. When proposals like this threaten to take away access to healthcare from the most vulnerable among us, we will fight to stop it. We will be monitoring this situation closely to ensure that this proposal does not become a bill. If it does become a bill, we will mobilize and act to prevent it taking healthcare away from millions.

  1. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/reports/2018/06/19/452421/graham-cassidy-2-0/

Two Bills Aimed at Ending Family Separation

Two Bills Aimed at Ending Family Separation

Sana Rizvi
June 11, 2018

As Congress struggles to find consensus on a solution to provide protections for Dreamers, the Administration’s new family separation policy has started a political fire storm creating moral outrage across the country and in Congress. There are two bills that would end the practice of family separation and provide relief to impacted families: The Keep Families Together Act (S. 3036) and the Humane Enforcement Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act of 2018 (S. 2937/H.R.5950). NETWORK strongly supports these bills.

The Keep Families Together Act (S. 3036)

The Keep Families Together Act prohibits the separation of families at the border. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced this bill on June 7, 2018 and it currently has 31 Democratic cosponsors and no Republican cosponsors. The bill was created in consultation with groups who provide services to families at the border including Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Women’s Refugee Commission. It mandates a prohibition on removing a child from a parent or guardian in an attempt to deter migration into the United States. It also provides a mechanism to reunite families who have been separated.

The HELP Separated Children Act of 2018 (S. 2937/H.R.5950)

Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) introduced this bicameral bill on May 23, 2018. Although this act does not end the practice of family separation, it is a necessary step in protecting children until Congress can find a permanent legislative solution to unite detained families and prohibit the separation of families. The HELP Separated Children Act of 2018 would provide relief to families by:

  • Allowing parents to participate in proceedings affecting their children.
  • Allowing parents to make calls to arrange for the care of their children and ensuring that children can call and visit their parents while they are detained.
  • Protecting children from being forced to be translators for law enforcement when speaking to their parents.
  • Ensuring that parents can coordinate their departures with their children.
  • Requiring ICE to consider the best interests of children when making decisions on the detention, release, or transfer of their parents.

The bill currently has 24 Democrats sponsors in the Senate and 16 Democrats sponsors in the House.

With Democrats working to elevate this moral crisis to the public’s attention, all eyes are on Republicans for a legislative response. Protections for children have historically been a nonpartisan issue and thus these two bills should be supported by all Members of Congress.

We must work to secure Republican cosponsors on these bills so that Congress can pass legislation to end family separation. The practice of separation is so morally corrupt, that even immigration hardliner Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) leader of the House’s far right faction called the “Freedom Caucus” has called the policy a “horrible law.”  We call on Republicans to join their Democratic colleagues in ending the policy of family separation.

NETWORK will continue to monitor legislation closely and provide updates on this issue.

CHIP Funding Once Again at Risk

CHIP Funding Once Again at Risk

On Wednesday, June 6 NETWORK and 17 other faith-based organizations sent a letter to Congress to oppose H.R.3, which includes 7 billion dollars in cuts to CHIP as a part of the rescission process.

Download as a PDF.

June 6, 2018

Dear Representative:

We, the undersigned 18 organizations, representing various religious denominations, urge you to vote NO on H.R. 3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act. As currently written, this measure contains a harmful provision that would rescind $7 billion in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”). As people of faith we believe that healthcare is a human right and that care for children is a sacred responsibility. If enacted, this rescission to CHIP would threaten the health and well-being of the 9 million children who utilize the program every year.

We are especially concerned with the $2 billion in cuts to the CHIP contingency fund. This fund has consistently been used in times of economic downturn, natural disaster, and other uncertain times to ensure that children can have access to healthcare. More recently, a similar fund was used when Congress was unable to pass a CHIP funding bill before individual state funding for the program ran out. If this fund was not available during the reauthorization process last year, thousands of children would have lost healthcare while Congress failed to act. Congress should not take away this vital security measure for the health of our children.

Recent Congressional action to pass a 10-year extension of CHIP was a major success for the 115th Congress, but this risky rescission could undercut the program and undermine this success. CHIP, as it is currently funded, is projected to decrease the deficit by $6 billion over 10 years.1 The health of our children is too important to be used as additional means to pay down the deficit. It is especially relevant to protect our children from additional cuts after the passage of the tax bill provided enormous benefits to the wealthy and large corporations while adding over $1.7 trillion to the deficit. Children must not pay for the enrichment of the wealthiest in our nation.

CHIP has enjoyed bipartisan support and success for more than 20 years. It has proven to be an effective investment in the health of our children and should be protected and supported. Our faith traditions teach us to protect the most vulnerable people, especially children. We believe that a rescissions package that threatens to take healthcare away from children does not live up to our moral obligation. We urge you reject and refuse a vote on H.R. 3, until and unless these harmful CHIP cuts are removed.

Sincerely,

American Muslim Health Professionals

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Faith in Public Life

Franciscan Action Network

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

Interfaith Worker Justice

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Poligon Education Fund

Religious Institute

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation

United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

1. Congressional Budget Office. “Cost Estimate of Extending Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for Ten Years”. January 11, 2018.

#WhereAreTheChildren and Family Separation at the U.S. – Mexico Border

#WhereAreTheChildren and Family Separation at the U.S. – Mexico Border

Sana Rizvi 
June 1, 2018

This past weekend, the internet became flooded with tweets asking #WherearetheChildren after a New York Times article reported that the Trump Administration had lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children.

Let’s be clear: this is a very real question. As people of faith, the well-being of children, particularly of migrant children fleeing danger in their home countries to seek refuge in the United States, is paramount.

But — it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Immigration advocates are asking people to look beyond #WherearetheChildren. As Vox reporter Sarah Kliff explains:

“Immigration advocates… aren’t spending a lot of time worried about #WhereAreTheChildren. Instead, they say the real crisis is the Trump administration’s new policy of separating undocumented families apprehended at the US border — a policy that may have gotten conflated with the “missing” children story that went viral this weekend.”

What’s the difference? The “1,500 missing children” refers to unaccompanied minors, who arrived in the United States mostly during the Obama Administration, and through the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services, were placed in the care of family and foster care agencies.

#WherearetheChildren is a movement to find the 1,500 minors who mostly came across the border alone and were placed into the guardianship of foster homes or their own families (even if the family members are undocumented). HHS keeps track of these minors by calling the homes they were placed in and following up with them for their deportation court hearings. Immigration advocates are not asking #Wherearethechildren because these are not 1,500 minors who have been separated from their families. These are 1,500 families that did not pick up the phone when the government called asking for the whereabouts of undocumented children.

Now, the Trump Administration, has a new policy that an administration official referred to as a “zero tolerance policy,” which separates families seeking asylum when they reach the U.S. border.

Vox’s Dara Lind writes:

“The Trump administration’s solution [to logistical challenges related to detaining families as unit], now codified in policy, is to stop treating them as families: to detain the parents as adults and place the children in the custody of Health and Human Services as ‘unaccompanied minors.’”

This insidious policy separates families coming across the border together to seek asylum. Parents are turned over to ICE for criminal prosecution and their children are re-designated  as “unaccompanied minors,” even though they were forcibly separated from their parent/guardian.

As a result, the separated children can be sent anywhere in the U.S. regardless of the status or location of their parents, even if the parent or parents have been deported. In some cases, this makes family reunification nearly impossible. We must also ask #WhereAreTheChildren, for these young people being forcibly separated from their parents by U.S. agents.

There is no doubt that there are threats to unaccompanied minors, and  the Department of Health and Human Services must be very careful about where it is placing minors. #WherearetheChildren needs to be about the 1,500 children, and it must be a call to action to stop separating children from their parents . We need to fight against policies created to separate children from their families and recognize that the safest place for immigrant children is with their families and their communities.

Below are some resources on separated families:

“This is what’s really happening to kids at the border” (The Washington Post)

“The real immigration crisis isn’t “missing” children. It’s family separations” (Vox)

“Family Separation at the Border” (KIND and Women’s Refugee Commission’s two page backgrounder on what happens to separated children.)

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

2020 Census Gets Almost $2 Billion Increase from House Appropriators

Tralonne Shorter
May 30, 2018

On Thursday, May 17, 2018 the House Appropriations Committee approved $4.8 billion in overall funding for the Census Bureau, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill.   The appropriation is a $1.985 billion increase above the FY 2018 enacted level; almost $1 billion above the President’s FY 2019 budget request.  The funds would primarily support 2020 Census activities such as technology improvements, address canvassing, End-to-End tests, and the opening of 248 Census field offices.

Regrettably, the bill contains several unacceptable provisions.  One major upset for advocates was a decision by the Committee to reject an amendment to remove the citizenship question.  NETWORK submitted written testimony and organized faith leader sign on letters in opposition to the citizenship question. We were also disappointed that the Committee included a big increase for illegal immigration enforcement.   In particular, the Committee approved a $126 million increase above FY 2018 for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a division within the Department of Justice that adjudicates immigration removal proceedings.  This increase would annualize 100 new immigration judge teams the Committee approved in the FY 2018 Omnibus and would provide funds for 100 additional immigration judge teams in FY 2019. This total increase of 200 new immigration judge teams over a two-year period would drastically reduce the immigration case backlog while resulting in more families being torn apart.

A floor vote on final passage in the House has not been scheduled, but we anticipate it will occur before the August recess.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider its own FY 2019 CJS spending bill sometime in June.  NETWORK will continue to push for full funding and oppose the addition of a citizenship question.

President Trump’s Plan to Take Back Funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

President Trump’s Plan to Take Back Funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Kaitlin Brown
May 29, 2018

Just as supporters of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) thought they could relax after the popular health insurance program was renewed for ten years with bipartisan support, Congress is again threatening to cut funding. This past winter, months after federal CHIP funding expired, families waited nervously as funds began to run low and states started to send out notices to families, warning them of the possible end of the program. At the eleventh hour, funding for the program was approved, and families across the country let out a collective sigh of relief.

Now, however, there is a new threat to CHIP. Last week, the Trump administration sent a request to Congress to begin a rescissions process. This is something that hasn’t been done since President Clinton, and is a bit complicated. At the President’s request, Congress has 45 days to take back money they previously allocated. They need to pass this by a majority vote, but they also have the option to not take back any of the money.

President Trump’s rescission request asked Congress to take back $7 billion from the CHIP program, along with money from some other social safety net programs, including housing. Some of the money (around $5 billion) is money that had been given to the states but was not spent. In programs like CHIP, more money is given to the states than what is expected to be needed, in case of increased expenses and these extra funds are usually re-appropriated to other health and human services programs if they are not used.

The other $2 billion is money that is set aside in what is called a contingency fund. This is money that can be used in the case of an emergency, like a natural disaster, or Congress failing to fund the program in a timely manner. Last winter, this was the fund that was used to help ensure kids in the program continued to have coverage while Congress stalled on funding the program.

White House officials argue that the money is unlikely to be used, and wouldn’t take healthcare away from kids. However, without the contingency fund last year, millions of children would have lost healthcare coverage. And while some of the money has not been used, it has traditionally been absorbed back into other healthcare programs that need it.

Instead, this funding President Trump requested to have taken away from CHIP will be used to drive down the deficit caused by last fall’s $1.3 trillion tax cut. After giving tax breaks to millionaires, Congress has faced pressure on the huge deficit it created and decided to try and decrease the deficit by taking money from CHIP. While the rescission package isn’t guaranteed to take healthcare away from children, the damage this will do is enough to make families nervous. After last winter’s unfortunate CHIP battle, families deserve peace of mind about their children’s health insurance, not further cuts to undo the damage caused by tax cuts for millionaires.

The First Step Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The First Step Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Joan Neal
May 25, 2018

The House just passed the First Step Act, a bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Despite the claims of the bill’s supporters that it will make the prison system fairer and more effective, this bill will not alleviate the overcrowded, discriminatory nature of our federal prison system.  In fact, while it contains some modest reforms such as prohibiting shackles on pregnant women during child birth; adding some educational, job training and personal development programs; and providing limited opportunities to earn ‘time credits’ toward early release, the bill fails to include provisions to overhaul and fundamentally transform the nation’s justice system.  Research shows that we need both sentencing and prison reform to achieve meaningful change in our criminal justice system.  The First Step Act, focusing only on the back end – more geared towards limiting prison time after someone is incarcerated — is inadequate to achieve that goal.

Backed by the White House (Jared Kushner and President Trump), the bill has the support of various individuals and factions of conservatives, including the Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, most House Republicans (especially members of the House Freedom Caucus), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who previously co-sponsored the bi-partisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and some moderate Democrats.  Even with all of that support, the First Step Act fails to address some of the big problems in the current criminal justice system: racial disparities, chronic prison overcrowding, a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and the exorbitant costs of incarceration, borne by the government, tax payers, prisoners and their families.

Moreover, some of its provisions could actually have the opposite effect of its intent by putting in place policies that are more discriminatory toward inmates of color and women.  For instance, it calls for the development of a “risk assessment system,” to be implemented and overseen by the current Attorney General, who has a history of opposing sentencing reform, supporting punitive rather than rehabilitative policies and practices, and targeting immigrants and immigration related offenses.  This bill may well do more harm than good.

Supporters of the bill argue that we must make a choice:  either we pass prison reform or sentencing reform.  There is no possibility to do both.  It’s false to say there is only one choice.  For several years, a comprehensive, bi-partisan bill – the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act – has been gathering support in both houses.  Clearly, passing comprehensive criminal justice reform is possible.  We do not have to choose one or the other.

Meaningful criminal justice reform requires both front and back end changes.  Congress should, therefore, abandon the First Step Act and take up the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act instead.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

What Are Members of Congress Saying on Public Charge?

NETWORK will be updating this page with the latest statements.

“Such a rule would essentially force families, including those with U.S. citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need to prosper — from crucial programs that provide medical care, food assistance, housing assistance, and early childhood education — and reuniting with those they love. These are not the ideals of our country and we urge the Department to reconsider this ill-advised proposal.”-Letter to Kirstjen M. Nielsen and Mick Mulvaney signed by 85 Members of Congress.

The original letter can be found here.

“What will the Trump Administration do next? Since day one, we have witnessed a series of attacks by the administration targeting immigrant communities around our nation. This latest back-door attempt to leverage public health and efforts to deny legal immigration benefits, seeks to circumvent Congress and ultimately restrict family reunification. This ill-advised proposal will make it difficult for individuals seeking legal entry or permanent residency in the United States to care for their family through the use of social services that they are legally entitled to use. This rule fails to uphold the values of our nation and will force individuals to choose between putting food on the table for their children and being granted legal status.” –Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).

“Let’s be clear— current law already prevents the vast majority of immigrants from accessing Federal means-tested public benefits. That’s not what this proposed rule is about. This is about denying immigration benefits and keeping families apart. It would essentially force families, including citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need—like medical care or Head Start—and reuniting with loved ones.  This rule will not only harm immigrant families, it will undermine decades-long efforts to improve the health and well-being of our communities and our nation.” –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).

“The Trump administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ rule is a dangerous attack on immigrant families. For centuries, immigrants fleeing economic hardship, persecution, and violence have found opportunity in our country to do what is best for their families. This proposal imperils that ability and forces immigrant families to make the tragic decision between basic necessities and their future in our country. I urge the Trump administration to rescind this heartless proposal, cease its baseless attacks on immigrant communities, and stop inserting nativist principles into policies that directly contradict American values.” – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03). 

Original post with statements can be found here.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

Mary Cunningham
April 11, 2018

At the heart of the American experience lays the dazzling idea of the American Dream. We profess the dream proudly, holding it as a symbol of our nation’s deepest values: acceptance, equal opportunity, and prosperity achieved through hard work. Yet, how can we profess this to be true if not everyone is given an equal chance to prosper and if we penalize people for utilizing the very programs that are designed to help them get ahead?

On March 28, 2018 the Washington Post relayed the latest update on the proposed public charge rule, which could change the process for immigrants seeking legal residency. The draft of this change has not been formally published and is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget for approval. This proposed public charge rule demonstrates another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict family-based immigration and cut off access to public benefits that help families meet their basic human needs. Yes, this rule, if it comes to pass, would apply to families who have come to the United States legally in search of a better life. These are the people who have gone through the system and as our Republican friends like to say patiently “waited their turn in line” to obtain green cards. These are the families and individuals who would be penalized if this proposed rule comes to fruition.

So what exactly does public charge entail?  Under the proposed draft, individuals would be required to indicate their reliance – and for the first time any family members’ reliance – on public aid programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and even refundable tax income credits obtained through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). People who depend on these programs, or who have children who rely on them, could potentially be derailed on their path to a green card or even deported. The draft regulation penalizes those applying for lawful permanent resident status if they have big families and if they have limited income. This would be particularly harmful to mixed-status families with U.S. citizen children where parents will have to decide whether their child should use programs like Medicaid or school lunches if such use could lead to deportation of a family member seeking a green card.

So basically, individuals would be forced to choose between catering to their basic human needs or protecting their immigration status. If this rule passes it will have a deleterious effect on families. It would separate families who rely on public aid and increase the risk of falling into poverty for those who do not enroll in public aid programs for fear of being forced to abandon family reunification. An article in the Huffington Post estimates that this proposal puts 670,000 children at risk of falling into poverty. While there is bipartisan consensus that our nation’s children should have access to food, healthcare, and other basic necessities, this rule threatens to upset the balance completely.

The argument in favor of instituting a public charge rule is that those applying for a green card should be “self-sufficient.” However, it is estimated that around the same percentage of native-born Americans use public assistance as foreign-born individuals. Will our brothers and sisters not be able to achieve the American Dream solely because they need health insurance, food or housing for their families? I surely hope not.

We expect more information on the public charge rule soon and will keep you updated with analysis and ways to engage