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Changes to public charge rule could disproportionately affect LGBTQ immigrants 

click to enlarge Protecting Immigrant Families, Center for American Progress and other organizations have launched a social media campaign with images like the one above and the hashtag #publiccharge to draw awareness to the proposed public charge rule changes. - CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS
  • Center for American Progress
  • Protecting Immigrant Families, Center for American Progress and other organizations have launched a social media campaign with images like the one above and the hashtag #publiccharge to draw awareness to the proposed public charge rule changes.

In recent months, the Trump administration’s quiet fight against LGBTQ progress has continued, some actions slipping quietly between headlines and some causing waves. Recently, the administration asked the Supreme Court to ignore typical legal processes and consolidate challenges to Trump’s transgender military service ban. And, systematically since the day after the election, the administration has removed LGBTQ-specific information from its websites, most recently removing guidelines for the treatment of transgender government employees from the Office of Personnel Management website. Then, of course, we must consider recent memos and proposals from government agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services memo that seeks to define transgender people out of existence.

Particularly insidious, an Oct. 10 proposal from the Department of Homeland Security widens attacks on immigrants — including and especially LGBTQ immigrants — by changing the public charge rule, a “longstanding provision in federal law, [stating] immigration officials must deny green cards (‘lawful permanent residence’) to otherwise eligible applicants who are viewed as ‘likely to become a public charge,’” according to nonprofit organization Protecting Immigrant Families. As the rule has stated, this means officials could deny issuing a green card to anyone who they deem likely to someday use Supplemental Social Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or “likely to end up in government-funded long-term institutional care.”

Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst with the National Immigration Law Center, calls the new proposal a “radical re-envisioning” of how case law and past guidance has defined “public charge” for more than a century.

From the Protecting Immigrant Families fact sheet:
[A] person may be considered a public charge [under the proposed rule] if they use any of the following programs:

• Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for certain disability services related to public education)
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
• Low Income Subsidy for prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D.
• Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, and Project-Based Section 8

The proposed rule would make other massive changes, including introducing an unprecedented “wealth test” and assigning a negative weight to factors that have never been considered, such as English proficiency.

Of note, Vimo claims that 1/3 of current U.S. citizens could not pass these rigorous conditions, and the rule, if put into place, would disproportionately affect low-income families, people of color and LGBTQ people, especially those living with HIV, as HIV would be considered a “costly medical condition” under the new rule.

After Roxana Hernández, an HIV-positive transgender woman, was recently allegedly beaten in an ICE detention facility and left without medical care until her death, the risks for LGBTQ immigrants — especially transgender women of color — have risen to the forefront of public conversation. And as the chaos at the border continues to cause controversy, it is the duty of American citizens to continue that conversation on behalf of all immigrants.

Fortunately, there may still be time to speak out about this proposal. Through Dec. 10, the Department of Homeland Security will accept public comment, which may affect the final impact of the rule.

Head to protectimmigrantfamilies.org to make your voice heard.

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