Department of Homeland Security Public Charge Rule Would Make Children Less Healthy

Child Rights
Children of Immigrants
Early Childhood
Health
Housing & Homelessness
Nutrition
Poverty & Family Economics
Racial Equity

The Department of Homeland Security released their proposed rule to the public charge section of immigration law in early October. This rule would affect individuals who are present in the United States and seeking to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident and those who are seeking admission to the United States.

On page 51270 of the proposed rule, the Department describes what they think will happen due to the “chilling effect”.

“Disenrollment or foregoing enrollment in public benefits program by aliens otherwise eligible for these programs could lead to:

  • Worse health outcomes, including increased prevalence of obesity and malnutrition, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants, or children, and reduced prescription adherence;
  • Increased use of emergency rooms and emergent care as a method of primary health care due to delayed treatment;
  • Increased prevalence of communicable diseases, including among members of the U.S. citizen population who are not vaccinated;
  • Increases in uncompensated care in which a treatment or service is not paid for by an insurer or patient; and
  • Increased rates of poverty and housing instability; and
  • Reduced productivity and educational attainment.

DHS notes that the proposed rule is likely to produce various other unanticipated consequences and indirect costs. For example, community based organizations, including small organizations, may provide charitable assistance, such as food or housing assistance, for individuals who forego enrollment in public benefit programs.”

The items in that list, in terms of children, pregnant women, and families, astound me. How could our own government propose a rule that will lead to “worse health outcomes” and “increased communicable disease”? Increasing the use of emergency rooms, delaying treatment, and uncompensated care will bring higher health costs for everyone. Increasing poverty and the lack of housing will neither promote prosperity in this country, nor support communities. Reducing productivity and educational achievement makes us less capable and competitive at home and globally.

First Focus strongly opposes this proposed rule, and urges individuals and organizations to comment in opposition.