Public charge rule threatens family-based immigration

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Department of Homeland Security’s final rule on public charge, which is expected to be formally published Aug. 14, is a direct assault on the American immigration system and threatens one of its core principles: family unity. The new rules are scheduled to take effect 60 days after formal publication.

“The overwhelming opposition to the proposal has fallen on deaf ears,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “This administration has now chosen to advance its dangerous rule despite clear evidence that it already has—and will continue—to harm families and communities.” CLINIC was among more than 260,000 organizations and individuals who submitted public comments about the proposed rule and its likely effects.

“In anticipation of the rule, families have already started to forgo assistance they are legally allowed to use for basic needs such as health care, food and housing support out of great fear and anxiety,” Gallagher said. “This strategy to suppress family immigration has significant public health and safety implications as families worry about meeting new financial hurdles.”

She noted that the regulation requires applicants to demonstrate they will be able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle—essentially that they have already attained the American dream before they even obtain full immigrant status in the United States.

“For more than 50 years, our immigration laws have prioritized maintaining family unity for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with their spouses, children and parents,” Gallagher said. “This sharp departure from our past practices and core values is yet another attack on immigrant families—one with serious societal consequences—and in direct opposition to the principles of Catholic social teaching.”

Charles Wheeler, CLINIC’s director of Training and Legal Support, equates the new requirements to an affluence test. “Most of the clients that our programs represent will likely fail this test. This regulation is essentially a back-door way of implementing the administration’s proposed merit-based immigration system, reducing family immigration, and circumventing Congress, which has already rejected those proposals,” he said.