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Meng Introduces Legislation to Remove Public Charge as Reason for Deportation

Feb 14, 2020
Press Release
Legislation is endorsed by over 50 immigrant advocacy organizations
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, announced today that she introduced the No Public Charge Deportation Act (H.R. 5814), which would remove public charge as grounds for the deportation of immigrants in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). For over 100 years, public charge has been part of U.S. immigration law as a ground of deportation.
 
Since the Trump administration published the new public charge rule in 2018, there are reports that this has led to chilling impacts on immigrant families participating in safety net programs for fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. One in seven adults in immigrant families reported that they or a family member did not participate in a noncash benefit program (assistance with health care, housing, food, etc.) in 2018, out of fear of risking future green card status. This has also created a ripple effect. Even individuals who already have legal status, including permanent residents, are forgoing these benefits out of fear of risking the status of a relative. The Trump administration is weaponizing the public charge rule, which is essentially a “wealth test” to hurt families, and limit them from accessing critical safety net programs.
 
“President Trump’s draconian immigration policies have caused vast harm to immigrants and their families,” said Congresswoman Meng. “From the Muslim travel ban to separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border to the public charge rule, this administration will do anything to block hard-working immigrants from achieving the American Dream. These policies are discriminatory, and the administration’s new public charge rule would force many families to choose between putting food on the table or keeping their legal status. The public charge rule is a wealth test that singles out the neediest families. It is a betrayal of our shared American values. These are the reasons why I introduced the No Public Charge Deportation Act which would simply remove public charge as a reason for deportation. This necessary action is a step forward to change the perception that just because you are poor or need safety net programs to feed and house your family, it doesn’t make you less worthy of legally remaining in this great country.”
 
“The Trump administration’s only goal is to remake our immigration system into one that caters only to the white and the wealthy," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "Congresswoman Meng’s legislation would protect low-income immigrants from being separated from their families simply for accessing basic programs to ensure their health and well-being; programs that have supported generations of New Yorkers. The New York Immigration Coalition is proud to support this bill, which will keep our families together and allow all New Yorkers to thrive.”
 
"Adhikaar stands strongly in opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling on Public Charge,” said Pabitra Khati Benjamin, Executive Director of Adhikaar. “It's a politically motivated decision that has no basis in law and is another tactic to scare immigrant communities from participating in our society, and in civically engaging. We will not back down as this ruling will deter people most in need of receiving the services they and their families need to survive. Adhikaar stands in support of Representative Meng's No Public Charge Deportation Act and challenging the Trump administration's backward actions. The least we can do at this time is to protect our communities in Queens from the threat of deportation, including the use of public benefits to identify people for deportation."
 
"One Nation is proud to support the No Public Charge Deportation Act,” said the One Nation Commission. “Public charge and deportation are cruel and un-American policies that ignore the truth that immigrants make America stronger. Hard working families should not be forced to choose between keeping their families together or keeping them alive with health care, food supports, and a safe place to live.”
 
“Immigrants from African countries have seen some of the most dramatic increases in deportations since the President took office,” said Diana Konate, Policy Director of African Communities Together. “We applaud Rep. Meng for introducing the No Public Charge Deportation Act and depriving the administration of the ability to turn a rarely used ground of deportability into a tool against families who legally use critical benefits.”
 
"With a green light from the Supreme Court, the Trump administration has advanced administratively what it couldn’t do through legislation—a frontal attack on the foundation of our legal immigration system,” said Carlos Guevara, Associate Director for Immigration Policy at UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza). “The rule would reshape the immigrant demographics to become both richer and whiter—unsurprising from an administration that brought us a Muslim ban and calls African and Central American states ‘---hole countries.’ And, it now puts the health of millions of American children at risk by discouraging their participation in safety net programs that they are legally entitled to receive. This bill makes clear in the clearest terms possible that Congress won’t be circumvented on this matter."
 
In November 2018 Meng sent a letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to demand that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withdraw its proposed public charge rule. She also submitted public comments opposing it. 
 
On August 14, 2019, DHS published its final public charge rule that permits immigration officials to deny entry or legal status to individuals who may need government assistance. This new rule also expands what is defined under public charge to include noncash benefits like Medicaid, SNAP, and some housing or rental assistance. The previous public charge definition only included those who may need public cash assistance and long-term government care.
 
Meng’s legislation is endorsed by numerous immigrant advocacy organizations including the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA); New York Immigration Coalition; Make the Road NY; Hispanic Federation; African Communities Together; Adhikaar; One Nation Commission; UnidosUS; Church World Service (CWS); Detention Watch Network; Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC); Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance; National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF); NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Families Belong Together (FBT); DRUM-Desis Rising Up and Moving; OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence; Chinese American Progressive Action; Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice; Arkansas United; CASA; Causa Oregon; Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; Comunidades Unidas; El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos; Florida Immigrant Coalition; Global Cleveland; Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama; Junta for Progressive Action; Latin American Coalition; Maine People's Alliance; Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition; Michigan United; National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); Nebraska Appleseed; OneAmerica; Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition; Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada; Promise Arizona; Somos Un Pueblo Unido; Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition; The Resurrection Project; Texas Organizing Project; Voces de la Frontera; Unite Oregon; Greater Portland Welcome Center; Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network; National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights; and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO).
 
Meng’s bill is also incorporated in the New Deal for New Americans Act (H.R. 4928), a measure that she introduced in October.