November 19, 2018
Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division
Office of Policy and Strategy
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security
20 Massachusetts Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20529-2140 Re: DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012
Dear Ms. Deshommes:
This letter provides the comments of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) on the proposed rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” that was published in the Federal Register on October 10, 2018.
For over 100 years LSSNCA has aided the most vulnerable in the Nation’s capital. In 1945 a wave of Jewish and Latvian immigrants fled their homes as a direct result of WWII. LSS/NCA organized groups of all faiths to resettle these displaced persons by providing for their immediate care. Since then, our agency has continued to mobilize our community to provide aid and hope to those seeking safety and liberty in our country. In 2017, working with local and governmental partners, LSSNCA was instrumental in welcoming nearly 1,600 refugees fleeing violence and persecution. In addition, we found loving homes for 31 unaccompanied refugee minors escaping violence and desperation in their native countries.
As stated in the introduction, “[t]he primary purpose of the proposed rule is to help insure that aliens who apply for admission to the United States, seek extension of stay or change of status or apply for adjustment of status are self- sufficient, i.e. do not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their family, sponsor and private organizations.” For the following reasons, we must respectfully oppose the draft rule and urge that it not be promulgated.
The proposed rule significantly expands the definition of what benefits constitute a “public charge.” Instead of the current practice that generally limits public charge benefits to persons who would likely depend on public cash assistance or long-term care at the government’s expense, the proposed rule includes TANF, SSI, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare Part D, post- secondary education assistance and Section 8 housing assistance. The proposed rule sets up a Hobson’s choice for immigrants, which could force them to choose between seeking needed benefits for themselves or their families on a short term basis versus the opportunity to attain or maintain legal immigration status and become contributing members of our community.
The proposed rule favors the affluent members in our communities, and appears to be yet another way of hurting immigrants. All families deserve a stable environment and an opportunity to “life, liberty, and happiness.” Access to federal benefit programs assists immigrants to successfully integrate into their new communities while accessing the short-term aid they require to reach permanent stable self-sufficiency.
Denying access to public benefit programs in exchange for legal immigrant status could result in poor nutrition, an increase in disease and possibly an increase in homelessness among immigrants. Children may be the most at risk. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation as many as 20 million children could be affected. This proposed rule strictly limits the success and wellbeing of the most vulnerable community members who would otherwise become active and engaged members of our nation.
We strongly urge that this proposed rule not be promulgated.
Thank you for your favorable consideration of our views.
Christine P. Connell
Chief Executive Officer