Press Release: Radical Revised Public Charge Regulation Will Punish Lawfully Present Immigrant Families in Mississippi, Increasing Hunger and Poor Health

Radical Revised Public Charge Regulation Will Punish Lawfully Present Immigrant Families 

in Mississippi, Increasing Hunger and Poor Health 

Jackson, Miss. —Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its new “public charge” regulation, which aims to sow fear and reap chaos, cruelty, and increased racial and economic injustices in health, food security, and poverty for immigrant families in Mississippi and throughout the land of the free. DHS’ final rule strikes mere days after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s morally reprehensible raids in Mississippi, which ignited a massive humanitarian crisis.

The finalized regulation, which is scheduled to go into effect October 15, marks a radical and deeply flawed departure from longstanding U.S. immigration policy and professed American values. In a bold act of administrative overreach, it aims to subvert Congress by punishing lawfully present immigrants and their families for accessing public benefits to which they remain entitled under federal law. It directs immigration officials to reject applications from people who wish to remain in or enter the U.S. if they have received—or are likely to receive in the future—most forms of Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), several forms of federal housing assistance, and cash benefits for income maintenance. It is designed to force lawfully present immigrant families who work hard, pay their taxes, and follow the rules to choose between participating in public programs that combat hunger, poor health, and poverty, and staying together.

Last winter, more than 260,000 faith leaders, lawmakers, health care and public health practitioners, Americans from all walks of life, and nonprofits including the Mississippi Center for Justice submitted comments to the Federal Register in overwhelming opposition to the Administration’s proposed public charge rule. 

 The Mississippi Center for Justice estimated that the public charge rule could cause as many as 73,808 noncitizen immigrants and their family members in Mississippi, including 22,722 children, to disenroll or forgo enrollment from vital health care, nutrition, and housing supports that they are eligible for under federal law. Immigrants of color could comprise 80 percent of the total population that will avoid public benefits because of the rule.

Since then, we bore witness to the proposed rule’s immediate and immense chilling effect on public benefit participation in Mississippi. Out of fear of internment, deportation, and family separation, countless lawfully present immigrants working for low wages are avoiding public programs such as Medicaid and SNAP to which they are legally entitled. As a result, many immigrant families, including citizen children, are grappling with severe unmet health care needs, hunger, and poverty. The Department of Homeland Security’s finalization of the public charge rule will feed a fire that is already burning in the Magnolia State.

The Mississippi Center for Justice condemns this latest attack in the Administration’s war on immigrants of color. We will continue to work with partners and allies in Mississippi and across the country to combat this immoral policy using every tool at our disposal.

###

For more information or comment about the finalized public charge rule change, please contact Madeline Morcelle, Staff Attorney at the Mississippi Center for Justice, at mmorcelle@mscenterforjustice.org

 

About the Mississippi Center for Justice

The Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys, community leaders and volunteers, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.

 

The Great Racial Wealth Divide

Division has always been a common theme throughout American society.  The existence of the “haves” and the “have nots” is a reality.   The clearest example of this division is how wealth is unequally divided in this county.  According to Wikipedia, the richest 1% hold about 38% of all privately held wealth in the United States while the bottom 90% held 73% of all debt.  The current and growing racial wealth divide did not happen by mistake.  Historical wealth building policies, by design, specifically prevented households of color from participating in wealth building. 

Drivers of the racial wealth divide include: (1) lower homeownership rates and home values, (2) greater rates of unemployment, (3) income inequality, (4) lower higher education degree attainment, (5) limited ability to weather a financial emergency and (6) increased exposure to wealth-stripping products and services. 

Government policies have worked successfully to exclude households of color from building wealth and promoted the growth of the great racial wealth divide. Some of these policies included, housing discrimination through the practice of “redlining”, which shut out households of color from the opportunity to purchase and invest in the largest driver of wealth in this country: a home.  Below is a timeline of these government policies:

• 1935: The exclusion of farmworkers and domestic workers—who were predominately        people of color—from coverage under the Social Security Act of 1935.

• 1938: The exclusion of a number of tip-based professions predominantly held by Black workers— such as servers, shoe shiners, domestic workers and Pullman porters—from the first minimum wage protections enacted as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. 

 • 1944: Biased distribution of G.I. Bill benefits by officials within the Department of Veterans Affairs, which resulted in an unequal distribution of benefits—such as low-cost home mortgages and tuition assistance—for service members of color.

Information related to the racial wealth divide and efforts to address its growth are abundant. For those interested in more information on this topic, prosperitynow.org and inequality.org are excellent starting points.  

Charles O. Lee is the Consumer Protection Director for the Mississippi Center for Justice. 

*Image credit: Facebook: Race Wealth Divide*