NYC Estimates Impact of ‘Public Charge’ Redefinition

[Editors’ note: Officials in both NYC and Los Angeles said on Oct. 11 that they would fight the proposal by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to greatly expand the definition of “public charge” in determining whether or not to award permanent residence to immigrants. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that move could hurt nearly half a million immigrant New Yorkers as well as their family members, and could end up costing the city at least $420 million, while in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti 

José Martínez writes in an article in El Diario translated by K. Casiano:

Prioska Galicia, a 21-year-old Mexican immigrant, was already worried about the changes to immigration rules imposed by President Donald Trump. However, the announcement of the new “public charge” proposal has greatly alarmed her.

A DACA beneficiary, Galicia arrived in New York in 2004 with her mother, who later had two more children in the United States – a girl, now 10 years old, and a boy, now 12. The two children receive food stamps through the EBT program. The possibility that her mother may be forced to put Galicia’s immigration status in jeopardy is sad, she said, but “my sibling’s food is the priority.”

“It is a difficult situation, but my mother and I both know that the priority are today’s needs so, for now, we will continue taking food stamps because my siblings are still little,” said the management student, who hopes to graduate from a college program that allows her to earn more money to help her family.

“This is very worrying,” admitted Galicia, who also works with elementary school children in The Bronx. “Many of them will also be affected. I see them using EBT all the time and health benefits, but their parents are undocumented,” she said.


From Los Angeles, Araceliu Martínez Ortega writes in an article in La Opinión, also translated by K. Casiano: 

The office of the mayor of Los Angeles has launched a website – www.lamayor.org/StrongFamiliesLA — to allow people concerned about this proposal to share their comments, experiences and stories with the Department of Homeland Security as Washington reviews the regulation.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solís described the adverse impact that the “public charge” rule would have on the city’s communities and economy: More than one million immigrants receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), health coverage through MediCal, food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and benefits to pay rent under the Section 8 housing program.

If 25 percent of all immigrant families in Los Angeles renounced their federal benefits, the annual cost to the local economy would rise to at least $54 million in food stamps from CalFresh and over $8.4 million in assistance through TANF (CalWorks.)

If 8,500 immigrants were refused Section 8 benefits, they would end up homeless.


More details of the New York City analysis of the potential impact follow: 

A preliminary analysis conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Department of Social Services and the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity suggested that in addition, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers might withdraw from or forgo enrolling in critical social safety net programs “based on misinformation and fears of immigration consequences.” The DHS proposal, which was was posted in the Federal Register on Oct. 10 for a 60-day comment period, includes in the definition of public charge for the first time utilization of non-cash benefits such as health insurance, as part of a complex system of weighing numerous factors as “negative” or “positive,” including age, family size, income and assets in determining “admissibility” for gaining a green card, or permanent residence status.

“This proposal is another perversion of our most basic values,” said Mayor de Blasio. “It is un-American to punish families for seeking help, plain and simple. As a parent myself, I could never imagine the gut wrenching decision of choosing between food on the table and the possibility of not being able to get a green card in the future. On behalf of the ultimate city of immigrants, we will fight this tooth and nail.”

For her part, Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said: “We will fight back against any attempt to threaten the well-being of hundreds of thousands of middle and working-class immigrant families, including their U.S. citizen children. Immigrant New Yorkers are the backbone of our economy and the Trump administration’s latest proposal would undercut our progress to make NYC the fairest big city in the country. We wholly oppose this proposal and we’ll continue to share the most up-to-date information on how it could impact our fellow New Yorkers.”

The city estimated that the proposal, if enacted, could result in an annual loss of $235 million in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”), Cash Assistance, and Supplemental Security Income and the state supplement (SSI/SSP), assuming that just 20 percent of the approximately 274,000 noncitizen New Yorkers currently receiving these benefits were to withdraw from participation. And the redefinition of “public charge” could lead to an additional loss of $185 million in related economic activity, if the same group of New Yorkers were to withdraw from receiving these three named benefits, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

Up to 75,000 immigrant New Yorkers would might have to choose between accessing benefits and risking a denial of their application for resident status, while up to 400,000 would “face possible future adverse immigration consequences simply because of their age, health, education and employment history, and income and assets, among other factors.” Further analysis suggests that what’s known as the “chilling effect” of such a proposal could cause severe retrenchment in the utilization of services, especially by U.S. citizens in mixed-status families. In its statement, the mayor’s office said that the overall fiscal impact could ultimately be greater than the preliminary analysis suggests.

Several categories of immigrants – including refugees and asylees – are exempt from a public charge test.

The city is offering information about the proposal at NYC.gov/PublicCharge, with bilingual resources available in English and 10 languages, from Arabic to Urdu.

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