Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Equity & Diversity

Proposal Could Lead Immigrant Families to Shun Benefits, Advocates Warn

By Christina A. Samuels & Corey Mitchell — October 02, 2018 2 min read

A proposal from the Trump administration that would make it harder for legal immigrants to gain permanent residency in the United States if they use public benefits may end up harming their children—many of whom are U.S. citizens, advocates say.

According to 2016 data from the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 18 million children under 18 in the U.S. had at least one immigrant parent. About 88 percent of those children were born in the United States, making them citizens.

The administration proposes making it more difficult for a person to earn a green card if that person also receives specific public benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, or Section 8 housing assistance. Overall, the changes are intended to ensure a self-supporting immigrant population, said Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary, in a statement.

Head Start Concern

An early draft of the rule leaked to the media this year took a broader view of public benefits that could potentially penalize green-card seekers: That draft would have counted as a public benefit programs such as Head Start, subsidies for premiums under the Affordable Care Act, and programs that help low-income families pay energy costs. In addition, green card applicants, in that earlier proposal, would have been evaluated on programs that both they and their immediate family members use.

The current proposal, on the other hand, has a narrower scope. Fewer public benefits are named as being a potentially negative mark on green card applicants. And, applicants would be judged only on benefits that they use themselves. However, more than 1,100 organizations have still signed on to a statement opposing the proposed changes.

Wendy Cervantes, a senior policy analyst on immigration and immigrant families for the Center for Law and Social Policy, said that once rumors started getting out that the Trump administration was considering making it harder for public-benefit recipients to earn green cards, it started a chilling effect.

“We heard directly from parents as well as providers that parents were opting to play it safe and avoid use of public programs out of fear of possibly compromising their immigration status down the road,” she said. Children still stand to suffer if their parents have no access to public benefits that provide health care or housing, she added.

The federal government has long been able to deny permanent residency to a person deemed to be a “public charge,” or supported by the government. Under current practice, cash benefits, such as welfare, and government-funded long-term care were considered in determining whether a person is a public charge.

The proposed expansion would be aimed at legal immigrants, because undocumented immigrants are already ineligible for most public benefits, aside from public education for their children.

The proposed policy change has not yet been officially published, but once it is, it will be open for a 60-day comment period.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which released the proposed changes, is seeking specific comment on whether it should add one more public program to those it has already listed: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which serves about 9 million children whose families earn too much to receive Medicaid, but who can’t afford insurance for their children on the open market.

CHIP is significantly expensive to the country and is similar to Medicaid, which is listed as one of the potential penalizing programs, says the proposal.

A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 2018 edition of Education Week as Advocates Raise Worry Over Benefits Proposal Involving Immigrants


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion 'We Can’t Wait Until People Feel Comfortable Talking About Race'
White Fragility and Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School are two of many books on race suggested by four educators.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Equity & Diversity Opinion Tackling the 'Taboo' of Talking About Race & Privilege
Four educators share suggestions for books and articles white educators can read to learn more about race and racism.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Equity & Diversity Opinion How to Make Anti-Racism More Than a Performance
Whether white people are ready or not, policies have to change, writes the co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network.
5 min read
Illustration shown.
Nip Rogers for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion How Teachers Can Get America's Story Right
The attack on the U.S. Capitol shows why we need more inclusive schools, writes a teacher advocate.
Scott Goldstein
3 min read
18Goldstein 1126473545