The Autistic Self Advocacy Network strongly condemns the Administration’s proposed “Public Charge” regulation, which discriminates against disabled and low-income immigrants and makes pathways to American citizenship contingent upon wealth and the absence of disability.
“Public charge” clauses have existed in US immigration law since 1882 and are a clear echo of the racist and ableist policies of the eugenics era. Immigrants deemed likely to become a “public charge” are unable to enter the United States or, if already present, apply for green cards in order to remain as permanent residents. Right now, only immigrants who are receiving cash assistance (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or who are institutionalized are considered likely to become a “public charge.” Rather than reversing this legacy of discrimination, the Trump Administration has doubled down and proposed making these regulations exponentially worse.
Under the proposed regulations, receiving or even being likely to receive almost any form of public benefit — such as Medicaid, Section 8 housing assistance, Medicare Part D, and SNAP — could make someone “likely to become a public charge.” These provisions would effectively exclude all low-income immigrants and many immigrants with disabilities, who are disproportionately more likely to be low-income or utilize social services. The proposed regulations also consider counting Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits, a cold-hearted move that would harm many low-income immigrant families. Community organizations are already reporting that these proposed regulations are discouraging immigrant families from applying for benefits they or their family members, including US-citizen children, are legally entitled to receive, negatively impacting their health, wellbeing, and quality of life.
The proposed regulations also explicitly discriminate against people with disabilities. The proposed rule singles out people with medical conditions that require “extensive medical treatment or institutionalization” and/or impact the person’s ability to work — in other words, people with disabilities — and says this can be counted against them during a public charge determination. This provision is unambiguously ableist and discounts the many contributions made by Americans with disabilities. Disabled immigrants who need health care they can’t pay for on their own will be caught in a catch-22: either they can use public benefits such as Medicaid, and be penalized for using public benefits as well as for having a medical condition; or they can forgo necessary medical care and still be penalized for having a medical condition.
Disability or a need for supports and services should never impact someone’s immigration status. Immigrants, including low-income and disabled immigrants, are a vital part of our society. ASAN calls for the immediate dismissal of this immoral and indefensible proposed regulation. For more information on ASAN’s positions with respect to the proposed rule, contact Samantha Crane, our Director of Legal and Public Policy, firstname.lastname@example.org.