As Bay Area food banks, we work every day to fight hunger in our communities, collectively distributing over 172 million pounds of food each year, the equivalent of 143 million meals. We are alarmed by the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to “public charge” regulations, which would increase hunger and poverty by punishing legal immigrants for using programs to nourish those in need and keep families healthy.
The longstanding public charge test is designed to identify immigrants who may depend primarily on the government as their main source of support. Currently, only cash assistance or long-term institutionalization are considered in public charge determinations. Under the proposed changes, the use of essential safety net programs would count against legal immigrants applying for green cards — even if those programs represented only a small percentage of their household resources.
The administration’s choice to expand the number of penalized programs to include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; CalFresh in California), Medicaid, Section 8 Housing Vouchers and Medicare Part D subsidies will have a negative impact in our Bay Area communities and across the country.
For decades the consensus has been that programs such as CalFresh, which provides grocery assistance, should not count against immigrants’ green card applications, because they help families thrive and remain productive. CalFresh helps improve participants’ health, well-being, school success and economic security — benefits felt by the entire community.
This regulation is designed to scare low-income immigrants away from supports that they desperately need and legally qualify for, and it has already been generating unprecedented levels of fear and confusion in our community. The threat of public charge is forcing our neighbors to make impossible choices between keeping their families together and accessing vital programs that safeguard their health and well-being. All of our food banks have heard from parents who want to know whether they should terminate CalFresh benefits for their U.S. citizen children, for fear that it could negatively impact their immigration cases.
This rule would have a disproportionately high impact here in California, where nearly half of all our children live with an immigrant parent. As families avoid public programs like CalFresh, this rule will greatly increase the demand for our services. Food banks already struggle to provide assistance to all who need it.
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Hunger is not a partisan issue – we remain focused on ensuring that everyone in our communities has the food they need to thrive. Our community-based food distributions are a supplement, …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Health