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The FAMILY Act is a Push in the Right Direction

| February 13, 2019 |

This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) reintroduced The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. Almost every worker in the United States will need to take time off of work at some point to care for a new child, ailing family member, or themselves. However, only a marginal amount of the US workforce is able to take such family or medical leave while still receiving pay from their employer.

While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), adopted over 25 years ago, provides critical job protection for millions of workers in the U.S., only about 60 percent of the nation’s workforce is eligible for protection, and there are many more employees who cannot afford to take leave that is unpaid. Currently, only 15% of American workers have access to paid leave, and those who do not must choose between losing valuable income or providing loved ones, and themselves, the care they need.

The United States is the only OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) country that does not provide paid maternity leave nationwide. More than half of the nations in the OECD provide paternity leave to fathers, and paid leave is given to both parents in 23 OECD countries.

The FAMILY Act would make workers in all companies, regardless of size, eligible for up to 12 weeks of partial income for family and medical leave, including pregnancy, childbirth recovery, serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner, birth or adoption of a child and/or military caregiving and leave. Workers could earn 66% of their monthly wages, up to a capped amount. If passed, this legislation would explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating or firing employees who have applied for or taken paid family and medical leave.

The act would also establish the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave, a new office within the Social Security Administration designed to administer these benefits. The costs for providing this leave would be covered by small employee and employer payroll contributions of two cents per $10 in wages, which comes to around $1.50 a week for the average worker. This is a small price to pay for something that will likely benefit every worker at some point in their life.

Access to paid family leave promotes healthy child development and promotes family economic security. It gives parents a chance to adequately care for their newborns or children with special health care needs. For example, men are more involved with their child’s direct care when they are able to take off two or more weeks after the birth of their child and women are available to breastfeed their newborn. The presence of fathers, domestic partners, and other significant others would lessen the workload required of new mothers while simultaneously combating unhealthy stereotypes regarding familial roles and allowing mothers to return to the workforce faster.

The Center for American Progress estimates that working families lose around $20.6 billion in wages annually due to a lack of paid family and medical leave. The FAMILY Act would provide working parents with the economic security needed to provide for and raise healthy, happy children.

Paid family and medical leave also promotes family financial independence. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, new mothers who take paid leave are over 50% more likely to receive a future pay increase. Mothers who do not take paid leave, on the other hand, are 39% more likely to need public assistance to care for their family than those who take paid maternity leave.

There is growing momentum towards establishing universal paid family and medical leave. States such as California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York have all successfully implemented paid leave programs for their workers.

As an organization committed to securing the economic security of America’s families and children, First Focus Campaign for Children applauds and supports the reintroduction of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act.


White House Proposal to End Government Shutdown Targets Children Seeking Asylum

| January 23, 2019 |

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to call up legislation that advances a proposal from President Trump to reopen the federal government in addition to authorizing billions of dollars for a border wall and instituting a policy that would significantly restrict asylum for children from Central America.

At first glance, the administration’s plan appears to restore an Obama-era program when the U.S. government recognized that children were fleeing their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to escape gang violence, gang recruitment, and horrific violent crimes against women and young girls.

This program for Central American minors (CAM) created a legal pathway to protect children from smugglers and traffickers that preyed on their vulnerability during the dangerous trek to the United States. But the Trump administration rescinded this program in 2017.

Unfortunately, the 3-year program in the proposed spending bill differs drastically from the original CAM program. Instead it serves as a deterrent for asylum seekers rather than an additional form of support for vulnerable children. The proposal would effectively ban asylum for minors who apply at the U.S. border and for those who do not meet the new eligibility requirement of having a “qualified parent or guardian” already living in the United States.

“A national of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras who is younger than 18 years of age and is outside of the U.S. as of the date of the enactment of the Central American Minors Protection Act of 2019 shall be ineligible for asylum unless—‘‘(I) the alien submits an application for asylum outside of the U.S. at a Designated Application Processing Center in Central America…”

In addition to the new requirements for eligibility, the logistics of the program include limiting application approvals to 15,000 per year, imposing a fee to cover the cost of the application, and shifting the burden of applying for asylum onto traumatized children. According to Gregory Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the program isn’t slated to be operational for nearly a year (240 days) after the bill’s enactment, but these minors are immediately excluded from asylum at the border.

Alarmingly, this proposal also guts protections for unaccompanied children in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) to allow for the deportation of minors to both contiguous and non-contiguous countries without judicial review. This means that children presenting themselves at the border to seek refuge would be denied the ability to have their case heard by an immigration judge and expeditiously sent back into the dangerous situations from which they were fleeing.

Trump has used the plight of Central American children to advance his anti-immigrant agenda. On multiple occasions, he expressed a desire to keep immigrant and refugee children safe through closing “legal loopholes.” Ultimately, the administration’s recent proposal to end the very government shutdown that it began reveals a harsh reality—that the best interests of children is not the driving force behind its agenda.


The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 Would Benefit Millions of Children

| January 18, 2019 |

 

This week, Senators Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray, as well as Representatives Bobby Scott, Mark Pocan, Stephanie Murphy, and several others reintroduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the national minimum wage annually, until it reaches $15 per hour in 5 years. The number of cosponsors for this bill has grown exponentially over the past two years, now reaching 31 in the Senate, and 181 in the House.

The current nationwide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, or, as Sen. Sanders refers to it, the “starvation wage,” has not been increased since 2009.

If passed, the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would increase the minimum wage to $8.55 per hour this year, and then rise every year until reaching $15 by the year 2024. The bill would also eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped employees (currently $2.13), as well as the ability of certified employers to pay disabled workers subminimum wage.

The prospect of doubling the minimum wage by 2024 presents an opportunity to not only improve the lives of American workers, but also their children. According to a fact sheet put out this week by the Economic Policy Institute, 41 million workers would benefit from this raise in pay, 28% of whom have children to support.

This means that over 11 million children would directly feel the positive effects of a new minimum wage.

According to a 2015 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, parents working full-time at the federal minimum wage and supporting two children earn $4,700 below the poverty level. Increasing the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would reduce child poverty by 4% and lift 400,000 children out of poverty.

States such as Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Maine, and others have approved raising their minimum wages in recent years. For example, Maine voters approved a referendum to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2016. This wage has gradually increased each year since and is currently $11 an hour as of January 1, 2019.

The benefits of this are already tangible to Maine’s workforce and their children. According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, 44,300 children (17%) lived in households which earned less than the poverty level in 2016. That number dropped 4% to 33,000 children (13%) in 2017 after just one year of increasing the minimum wage.

According to researchers at Indiana University, raising minimum wage by a mere $1 would contribute to a 9.6% decline in reports of neglect of children between the ages 0-12. Parents who live in a constant state of financial instability and struggle to provide enough resources for their children often suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression, making it more difficult to respond to their children’s emotional needs. Increased income therefore improves financial stability, improves the physical and mental health of children and families and in turn, child maltreatment rates.

First Focus Campaign for Children is proud to support the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which would empower millions of American workers with children to provide critical resources such as nutritious food, health care, adequate shelter, warm clothing, and educational materials to support their children’s healthy development.

For more analysis, on the effects of increasing the minimum wage and how it would affect children and families, see our previous post on this issue.


New Year, New Opportunity to Reduce Child Poverty

| January 4, 2019 |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally published on Medium.

When you think about the common elements of New Year’s resolution, they often include steps to save money, improve health and treat others better.

Making a resolution to end child poverty in the United States checks all these boxes. Ending child poverty would save our economy trillions of dollars each year, result in healthier children, and is the right thing to do for millions of our nation’s children and families.

This year provides a critical opportunity for progress. In the next few months, the National Academy of Sciences will be releasing a landmark consensus study focused on child poverty, which will include an analysis of current research around the impact of child poverty on child well-being, the economic costs to our society, and an examination of current domestic and international efforts to reduce child poverty.

By also including a set of nonpartisan, evidence-based recommendations to cut the child poverty rate in half within a decade, the report will lend credibility to the idea that child poverty is a solvable problem as well as provide a tool in raising awareness.

First Focus leads the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), a partnership of over 20 national organizations dedicated to cutting child poverty in half within a decade. For the past two years, CPAG has worked to elevate the issue of child poverty in the U.S. though information sharing, policy education, and direct advocacy. In April 2018 we released Our Kids, Our Future, a compendium of over 20 policy solutions that can significantly reduce child poverty and support a better quality of life for all children.

We know from the United Kingdom that child poverty is a solvable problem when there is the political will to address it. This winter, CPAG will launch a national campaign, End Child Poverty U.S., to build political will and urge federal lawmakers to establish a national target to cut child poverty in half with a decade and eliminate it within 20 years.

The future of our nation depends up on the well-being and success of our children. We encourage lawmakers to make a resolution in 2019 to prioritize reducing child poverty.

To receive updates on the End Child Poverty US campaign and get involved, please sign up for our CPAG listserv and follow us on Twitter at @CPAG_USA.

Additional resources:

First Focus Campaign for Children Proactive Kids Agenda for the 116th Congress

A Snapshot of Children Living in Poverty: 2017

Comments for National Academy of Sciences Information Gathering Session on Child Poverty

 


Recommendation to Rescind Anti-Bias Guidance for School Discipline Will Harm Students and Reduce School Safety

| December 20, 2018 |

On Tuesday, the Federal School Safety Commission formed in the wake of the tragic school shootings in Parkland, Florida, issued its report with recommendations on policies to improve school safety. Unfortunately, the report recommends the rescission of “Rethinking Discipline,” the policy guidance that the Department of Education and Department of Justice issued in 2014 to address one of the main drivers of the school-to-prison pipeline: glaring disparities in school discipline of black and disabled children and youth that pushes them out of school and into the criminal justice system. Rescinding the Rethinking Discipline guidance will not make schools safer. Instead, it will only serve to increase high school drop-out rates, push greater numbers of students into our criminal justice system, contribute to hostile school climates, and cost our nation billions in criminal justice and other expenditures.

The school-to-prison pipeline is the product of draconian school disciplinary policies that require suspensions, expulsions, school-based arrests, and referrals to law enforcement for relatively minor, non-violent infractions, such as tardiness and insubordination. Although students of color do not misbehave more than white students, a recent GAO report shows that these zero-tolerance policies are disproportionately enforced against students of color and disabled students. From suspensions and expulsions to in-school arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system, black students are overwhelmingly subject to disparate disciplinary actions.

For instance, in 2014, black students comprised 15.5 percent of all public-school students, yet represented 39 percent of students suspended from school in 2014. To put this disparity in context, though white students outnumbered black students by 17 million in K-12 public schools in 2014, nearly 176,000 more black students were suspended from school than their white peers. Meanwhile, black girls are suspended more than 5 times as often as white girls and at higher rates than any other racial group. Unfortunately, these disparities begin as early as preschool. Black children are just 18 percent of public preschoolers, yet nearly one-half of preschool children with more than one suspension are African American.

Similarly, students with disabilities, who comprise 12 percent of all public school students, accounted for nearly 25 percent of students who were suspended, referred to law enforcement or arrested for a school-related offense. The discrepancy is even worse for black students with disabilities, with more than 1 in 4 black boys with disabilities, and one in five black girls with disabilities suspended every year.

Inequalities in school discipline create lasting harm. Students who are expelled or suspended from school are nearly 3 times more likely to drop out of school and have contact with the juvenile justice system the following year. There is a direct correlation between high school drop-outs and our high rates of incarceration. Nationally, 68 percent of all males in prison do not have a high school diploma.

In addition to the devastating impacts on students of color and disabled students, exclusionary disciplinary measures bear a steep national price tag. Students who drop out of school earn less money, and thus pay less in taxes. They are less likely to have health insurance, leading to worse health outcomes and greater health care expenditures. They are more likely be arrested and incarcerated, which costs taxpayers in prison costs. And they are more likely to rely on public assistance. According to the UCLA Civil Rights Project, the suspension of 67,000 10th grade students over one year cost our nation in excess of $35 billion annually.

The Federal School Safety Commission’s misguided recommendation to rescind the guidance ignores what the facts clearly tell us. The school-to-prison pipeline reduces educational opportunities and perpetuates racial disparities, fuels youth entering our juvenile justice system, and contributes to hostile school environments. The recommendation also stands in stark contrast to Congress’s bipartisan passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, which requires states to track data on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system and develop concrete plans to address those disparities, which include addressing the root causes of youth entering the criminal justice system.

We urge the Federal School Safety Commission and Secretary DeVos to reject the Commission’s recommendations and instead work with school districts to expand upon the 201guidance to eliminate the school to prison pipeline.

 

 


Without Congressional Action for DACA and TPS, Hundreds of Thousands of U.S. Citizen Children will Experience Family Separation

| December 18, 2018 |

Because Congress has neglected to act, the future for more than 800,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program still remains uncertain. In 2016, the Trump administration eliminated the DACA program which provided protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. DACA recipients are young people who have proven their dedication to this nation and have shown incredible resilience in their ability to pursue their dreams of becoming productive citizens of the United States. In addition, they have continued to further their education, strengthen their job skills, and volunteer to protect their communities all without the certainty of what their future may hold.

DACA recipients and their families, including 200,000 U.S. citizen children, are facing a great deal of uncertainty and fear each day that passes without a clear path forward. Congress has a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the children who were brought to this country at no fault of their own and have grown up only knowing the United States as their home.

Three Courts have challenged the administration’s decision to end the DACA Program. In November the Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to bypass three Federal Courts of Appeals in New York, Washington, D.C., and California. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is attempting to expedite this case to the Supreme Court, where their ultimate goal is to end the DACA program. Learn more about the ongoing litigation here from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Similarly, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigrant status granted by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to individuals from designated foreign countries due to crisis situations such as ongoing civil war, natural disasters or national epidemics. The program was created by Congress in 1990 as a form of humanitarian relief.

The Trump administration has ended TPS for 6 out of 10 designated countries since 2017: Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal, and Honduras. There are approximately 325,000 TPS beneficiaries currently living in the United States. Because the conditions that warranted this TPS designation have continued to persist in countries such as El Salvador, which has the highest number of TPS recipients, many beneficiaries have resided legally in the United States for more than two decades. They have established lives, have U.S. born children, have mortgages, participate in the workforce, and contribute to the national economy. According to one report more than one third of TPS recipients are homeowners and will contribute $164 billion dollars to the United States GDP over the next decade. View our TPS Fact Sheet here.

Collectively, TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti alone have over 273,200 US-born children. Without a protected immigration status, these families will be forced to make desperate decisions. Jose Urias, TPS recipient and spokesperson for the National TPS Alliance recently stated at a congressional briefing, “We are the next wave of family separations.”

Parents must contemplate returning to a region with their children at a time when there is a mass exodus of children and young people fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty. Other families may choose to stay in the U.S. and risk working without legal authorization. This means that after decades of providing for their families they will be forced to look over their shoulders and fear separation from their loved ones on a daily basis. Congress must recognize that terminating these protections will be devastating for hundreds of thousands of families and children.

In October US District Judge Edward Chen granted a preliminary injunction stopping the government from terminating TPS for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua.

The lawsuit filed in California on behalf of the US citizen children of TPS holders says that the government’s cancellation of protected status for long-term residents from Haiti and El Salvador “violates the constitutional rights of school-age United States citizen children of TPS holders, by presenting them with an impossible choice: they must either leave their country or live without their parents.”

Learn more about ongoing TPS litigation here from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC).

Congressional Action Needed:

On DACA:

The Dream Act introduced by Sens. Durbin (D-IL) and Graham (R-SC) provides conditional legal status and a path to citizenship for certain long-term residents who entered the U.S. as children (known as Dreamers). Rep. Roybal-Allard has introduced the Dream Act in the House

View our DREAM Act Fact sheet here.

On TPS

In the Senate, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD.), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) sponsored the SECURE Act to protect TPS recipients. “Our bill would provide a path to citizenship for those who have been living, working and raising U.S. citizen children in the United States for two decades. These individuals have established deep roots in their communities. It would be cruel and inhumane to separate these families.”

In the House Rep. Nydia Velazquez introduced H.R. 4253 the American Promise Act that would allow recipients of TPS to adjust to lawful permanent resident status. Similarly, Rep. Yvette Clark introduced H.R. 4384, the ASPIRE TPS Act.

 


The Proposed Public Charge Rule is an Attack on Family-Based Immigration

| November 28, 2018 |

Family unity is often a key motivation for immigration. Mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who seek to sponsor their immediate family members may do so via a policy commonly known as family unification or family-based immigration.

While the origins of family-based immigration were flawed, it has been the backbone of immigration reform since 1965 and ultimately remains a reflection of our nation’s value of the importance of family unity.

Unfortunately, immigration hardliners refer to this policy as “chain migration” in an attempt to dehumanize immigrants and imply an effort to circumvent immigration procedures. The Trump administration has been among those to call for an end to family-based immigration.

In 2017, the administration supported legislation that would have ended some of the family-based categories that are in place and made deep cuts to family-based immigration. Additionally, the administration has had no misgivings about their assault on migrant families in their attempts to deter both legal and illegal immigration. Separating children from their parents at the border, ending prosecutorial discretion for parents of minor children, ending protections for families fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries, and arresting family sponsors of unaccompanied children are just a few of the horrific ways in which the administration has targeted families.

Similarly, the proposed public charge rule released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on October 10 will have a devastating effect on families, and would be a direct attempt by the administration to cut family-based immigration. This proposed rule aims to drastically redefine what it means to be deemed a public charge and ultimately denied entrance to the U.S. or lawful permanent residency by punishing working class families for use of public assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and Home Energy Assistance Programs.

Those primarily affected by this proposed rule would be those applying through family-based visa petitions as the rule applies to two categories of immigrants:

  1. Those seeking admission to the United States.

  2. Those lawfully present in the U.S. seeking a change of status to obtain a green card or lawful permanent residency (LPR).

According to DHS, in 2016 approximately 68% of the total persons who obtained LPR status were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or had a family-based sponsor. The proposed rule would make it more difficult for families to stay together or reunify, as families will be forced to meet the new requirements for a wide range of demands including relatively high income, education, language skills, and good health.

According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), “Many citizens, both U.S. and foreign born, would encounter new barriers to uniting with their family members.” The current application of the public charge test affects approximately 3 percent of family-based visas and applicants. DHS estimates that the new rule would drastically expand this test to affect approximately 382,000 family-based immigrants within the United States per year. MPI reports that in addition more than 550,00 persons living abroad would be subject to the rule as well. Implementing this rule will negatively impact the ability of low-income families to meet their basic needs and will unnecessarily result in family separations.

The open comment period for this proposed rule will end on December 10, 2018. First Focus strongly opposes this proposed rule and urges both individuals and organizations to submit comments fight this rule.

See our #ProtectChildren and #ProtectFamilies Resource center for child-focused model comments, more information, and other actions you can take to stand against this proposed public charge rule.

 

 


Universal Children’s Day: An Opportunity for Common Ground

| November 20, 2018 |


All parents share one thing in common. Whatever our differences – across race, religion, socio-economic status, political beliefs, and more – every parent wants the best for their children. We disagree on a lot these days, but I haven’t heard a single parent wish that their children will do worse than they did.

Now consider this ambitious vision proclaimed almost thirty years ago: Every child in the world “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding” and be raised “in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.” This ideal reflects what all of us would want for our children, for all children. After all, no parent hopes their children will suffer misery, war, and inequality.

This grand vision was announced in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Adopted in 1989, the CRC was the first comprehensive human rights treaty on children. It established a holistic framework for ensuring the rights and well-being of all children. The CRC covers both civil and political rights (such as freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment) and economic, social, and cultural rights (such as the right to education). It also includes rights unique to children (such as the right to know and be cared for by one’s parents).

Given the universal appeal of its goals, it won’t be surprising to hear that it’s the most widely-accepted human rights treaty in history. Every country in the world has ratified the CRC, except the United States.

In the United States, the CRC has become a victim of much broader political and ideological battles, a phenomenon that too often tragically happens to children themselves. Highly charged rhetoric masks the reality of the CRC and children’s rights more broadly—that is, the fulfillment of children’s rights is consistent with what the vast majority of parents want for their kids. They want their children to have access to health care and education, to be free to observe their faith without government interference, to live without discrimination, and to grow up without suffering violence or exploitation.

Despite the major role the U.S. government played in drafting the CRC and the numerous similarities between U.S. law and the treaty, the U.S. government isn’t likely to ratify the CRC anytime soon.

But given the shared values in what parents dream of and what the CRC mandates for children, the idea of children’s rights remains relevant in the United States. We don’t have to wait passively for government to act; we can take action, guided by children’s rights values.

So, for Universal Children’s Day (November 20) or any day thereafter, here are three steps each of us can take to forge common ground and improve the lives of children:

  1. Read the CRC. Whether it is the CRC’s declaration that the family is “the fundamental group of society,” the 19 provisions of the CRC that recognize the vital role of parents and the family in the lives of children, the treaty’s support for education, its prohibition on torturing children, or something else, find an element of the CRC that resonates with your values as a parent, family member, American, or human being.
  2. Find and support (financially or as a volunteer) an organization in your community that advances an aspect of the CRC that you support.
  3. Vote for kids. And not just on election day. Make your voice heard often, by urging your representatives to support initiatives that help secure the rights and wellbeing of children.

If we all can do that, then this Universal Children’s Day can be a turning point, a day when we found common ground on which to build a world where every child can develop to their full potential.

Jonathan Todres is a professor of law at Georgia State University.


The Proposed Public Charge Rule Will Make Children Hungrier

| November 16, 2018 |

When children don’t have enough to eat, it makes it harder for them to learn, grow, and thrive. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently published a proposed rule on the Federal Register that will make it harder for immigrant families with children to put food on the table.

The proposed rule would allow government officials to now consider the use of an applicant’s broad range of services such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance when determining eligibility for green cards and/or lawful admission to the U.S. This drastic expansion will cruelly force parents to choose between meeting their family’s basic needs or keeping their families together.

DHS claims it will not include a child’s use of SNAP in the public charge rule. But the agency also admits that, due to fear and misinformation, some parents will likely disenroll their children, even if they are eligible (3.9 million U.S. citizen children with immigrant parents accessed SNAP in 2015.)

New, worrisome data shows that immigrant families who have been in the United States for fewer than five years and who are legally eligible for SNAP have reduced their participation in the program by nearly 10 percent in the first half of 2018. The chilling effect of the public charge rule could be at least one factor driving these numbers.

Furthermore, SNAP is a pooled household resource—if even one member loses access to the program, there will be less food available for everyone, including children. Unsurprisingly, DHS says that an “indirect” cost of the rule will be increased rates of obesity and malnutrition, especially in pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children.

This proposed rule is not only morally unconscionable, it is economically foolish. SNAP significantly reduces child poverty and stimulates the economy (every $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9 of economic activity). It also fights food insecurity in children—creating cost savings in the form of better child health, educational attainment, and long-term productivity. This is especially important for the children of immigrants, who face a higher risk of food insecurity than their peers in the same income bracket.

DHS has proposed this rule knowing full and well that it will mean more children in America are don’t know where their next meal is coming from. No family should have to go hungry in order to stay together.

First Focus strongly opposes this rule and its harmful repercussions on children and the country as a whole. We urge individuals and organizations to comment in opposition by the deadline of December 10th, 2018.

 


Department of Homeland Security Public Charge Rule Would Increase Child Poverty in the United States

| October 23, 2018 |

The strength of our economic future is dependent on the well-being of our nation’s children. Yet child poverty remains high in the United States, with 12.8 million (17.5 percent) of children living below the poverty line in 2017. Children continue to disproportionately experience poverty in the U.S. and are 62 percent more likely to experience poverty than adults.

Due to unique structural and cultural barriers to economic security, children in immigrant families are more likely to be living in low-income households than children in U.S.-born families. These barriers include already narrow eligibility rules that prevent immigrant families from accessing critical assistance programs.

The proposed public charge rule released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on October 10th would only serve to further increase poverty among children in immigrant households, many of whom are U.S. citizens. The proposed rule would allow government officials to now consider the use of an applicant’s broad range of services such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance when determining eligibility for green cards and/or lawful admission to the U.S. The proposed rule would also continue the existing consideration of cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

The majority of children of immigrants live in a household where both parents are working and employed in essential, but lower-paying jobs that don’t provide access to employer-sponsored health insurance or a pension plan—diminishing these parents’ ability to invest in their children. Combined with skyrocketing rents and the high cost of everyday goods means, this means that immigrant parents still struggle to make ends meet and must turn to key assistance programs to supplement resources for their families.

The proposed rule would further limit access to healthcare, nutrition assistance, housing support and cash assistance for immigrant households. The result will be a future generation of children with weakened physical, mental health, nutritional, and educational outcomes.

This is not only cruel, but economically foolish. Child poverty already costs the U.S. over $1 trillion a year, representing 5.4 percent of our GDP. Stunningly, the Department of Homeland Security fails to account for the cost of increasing child poverty in its proposed rule’s cost benefit analysis. Indeed, though the agency acknowledges that the rule will result in “increased rates of poverty” among other harm, it treats this as a “non-monetized cost.” This assertion is misleading and vastly underestimates the economic damage this rule will impose on the nation.

We know what works to reduce child poverty. Programs such as SNAP and TANF lift millions of children out of poverty each year. When these resources are provided at an early age, they create a long-term positive impact on the child’s life and long-term economic contributions.

Everyone– regardless of socioeconomic status– benefits from strategies that reduce child poverty.

First Focus strongly opposes this rule and its harmful repercussions on children and the country as a whole. We urge individuals and organizations to comment in opposition by the deadline of December 10th, 2018.