Dear Editor – Venice Family Clinic Decries “Chilling Effect” of Public Charge Rule

Dear Editor,

The [federal] administration’s public charge rule [has] significantly expanded the criteria for determining whether applicants for permanent residency, or green cards, may be denied based on past or potential use of government benefit programs.

The Urban Institute surveyed more than 500 California adult immigrants about their use of noncash government programs, such as Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and housing programs.

The study found one in six adult California immigrants reported that they or a family member did not participate in a government benefit program in 2019 because they were afraid they would lose out on future green card status as a result of the federal government’s expanded public charge rule.

This survey clearly demonstrates the chilling effect the expanded public charge rule has on low-income immigrants, who are in this country legally, getting the food, housing, health care and other services they need to stay healthy. These critical services are even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially for our immigrant community, who are among the most at risk. They are more likely to live in low-income communities, where people are dying at a far higher rate than those who live in higher-income communities, and they’re more likely to be employees working in ‘essential’ jobs that put them at greater risk of exposure to the virus.

At Venice Family Clinic, we have heard from several patients, including a pregnant mother, who chose to give up their Medi-Cal coverage because of their fears that having it might jeopardize their legal immigration or that a member of their family, who may be undocumented, could lose out on future green card eligibility.

Now more than ever, we need to eliminate this obstacle to community health. We call on the federal government to roll back the public charge rule to eliminate these fears and protect those most at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and suffering severe health consequences, including death.

 Karen Lauterbach

Director of Community Programs and Advocacy

Venice Family Clinic

Editor’s Note – The VFC is a community partner with the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center

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