As you know, I mentor a high school student through the Asian Pacific Development Center and the last week has been important for organizations like APDC who serve immigrant and refugee communities.
Today is specifically important because it is the last day to submit comments on the changes to public change to the Department of Homeland Security. Below is APDC’s official statement opposing the proposed changes to the public charge rule as they explain deeper why this is important.
“With enough opposition, we can stop this. We can make sure that ALL of our communities have access to the resources and support they need.”
APDC’s Official Statement
The Asian Pacific Development Center (“APDC”) is a designated mental health services provider and advocate for the well-being of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, immigrant, and refugee populations in Colorado.
APDC strongly opposes the proposed rule’s redefinition of “public charge”. Health service providers across the country have already witnessed significant disenrollment from their programs by immigrants whom these changes purportedly would not impact. Some of these providers have reported that immigrants have disenrolled out of fear that they will be punished for using public benefits, even if they are lawful permanent residents or exempted from this rule.
APDC is certain that disenrollment numbers will swell should this rule become final. DHS concedes that the rule’s chilling effect on the ability and willingness of immigrant communities to seek critical medical services could lead to worse health outcomes, such as disenrollment of immigrants otherwise eligible for services, increased use of emergency medical services, increased prevalence of communicable diseases, and increases in uncompensated care which will ultimately be cost-shifted to taxpayers through increasing costs in medical services.
The majority of the communities that APDC serves currently receive some kind of public benefit, including but not limited to Medicaid, Housing Assistance, Cold Weather Energy Assistance, and Food Stamps. While some of these communities are exempted from many of the proposed changes, many other communities are not. The potential inclusion of CHIP in the redefinition is unconscionable and has detrimental, multi-generational impacts on population health.
The proposed calculus for determining whether an individual is a “public charge” is highly complex and greatly expands the discretion of DHS officers. Because of this expanded discretion, entities are less able to accurately predict which discretionary factors are important to each DHS officer. In fact, the proposed rule states that other negative and positive factors not enumerated in the rule may also be weighed heavily in individual determinations. This undermines any educational efforts by entities to educate and minimize the disenrollment of individuals otherwise eligible for services.
The proposed calculus places heavy emphasis on existing wealth, English ability, and educational attainment. This expansion of discretion carries the dangerous potential for racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, and wealth-based discrimination under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars. It is highly problematic that DHS officers, in determining whether an applicant is a public charge, are sanctioned to heavily weight the officer’s perception of an applicant’s English ability against them. The proposed changes clearly favor applicants who come from English-speaking countries and expose DHS to equal protection challenges.
A large disenrollment of qualified individuals who are not public charges will lead to greater burden on US taxpayers. Numerous studies have already shown that preventative care saves exponentially more tax dollars over costs associated with emergency medical care. Furthermore, a population-wide decrease in the use of medical services will lead to the increased prevalence of communicable diseases. Not only does the increased prevalence of communicable diseases have a significant negative impact on the US economy, but already vulnerable immigrant families will be hardest hit as the compounding effect of decreased healthcare access results in increased sick days, decreased earnings, housing instability, and decreased social mobility.
Treatment for mental health is equally important. Stress related to work, family, or illness takes its toll on the human body and has physiological effects. Numerous credible studies have indicated that stress leads to an increased average of work days missed, increased accidents on the job, and decreased productivity. Neglecting mental health services has a substantial negative impact on the US economy and the health and well-being of the nation. The climate of fear that the proposed rule has created exacerbates the condition of immigrants seeking mental health treatment.
It is difficult for the average US Citizen to comprehend how a complex statutory scheme impacts them, let alone an immigrant who is less familiar with how government works. These familiarization costs, acknowledged by USCIS, will create substantial inefficiencies for government agencies, health care providers, non-profits, and immigrants as these entities are required to re-evaluate and educate their stakeholders on the impact of this rule. The familiarization costs and climate of fear created by the proposed rule will make it extraordinarily difficult for APDC to staunch the flow of dis-enrollments and to continue APDC’s mission of providing critical services to already vulnerable communities.