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.