By Ashley Spalding
A radical and punishing rule change proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration would harm immigrant families in Kentucky and across the country. By keeping families from meeting their basic needs, jeopardizing immigration status and taking resources out of communities, the proposal is an affront to our commonwealth.
The “public charge” rule change would count legal participation in programs that help Kentucky families with food, health care and housing against individuals who are moving through legal channels to advance their immigration status. As a result, it would force Kentuckians to make decisions that no parent ever should: Do I apply for Medicaid or SNAP and risk being unable to stay in this country with my children, or do I risk not being able to see a doctor and put food on the table?
Participation in programs isn’t the only thing that counts against immigrant families under the proposed rule. The changes would also put legal status at risk for immigrants who simply have low incomes or who have pre-existing medical conditions. These cruel standards, if applied to all of us, would result in 33 percent of U.S.-born Kentuckians being deemed unacceptable for residency.
Some of Kentucky’s children themselves will be subject to the rule change. Many others live in families with a parent or other relative who would either be subject to a public charge determination, or who would change their behavior out of mistaken fear that getting food assistance, for instance, would harm their immigration status. This latter impact — a well-documented phenomenon called the “chilling effect” — means that the damage from the rule change would extend beyond those directly subject to it.
As with all efforts to take away food, health care and other kinds of assistance from Kentuckians, the harm extends past individual households. A midrange estimate of the chilling effect suggests that Kentucky families will lose $58 million in federal funds, with a ripple effect of $112 million less economic activity in the commonwealth and the loss of 765 jobs. Community organizations, schools and houses of worship work hard to support thriving families and neighborhoods, but we can’t make up through altruism what harmful policy choices take away.
We believe that what matters is how each resident contributes to their community, not how much money we have or whether we are ill. But the proposed rule change puts a price tag on U.S. residency, favoring wealth over the desire to make a better life for oneself and one’s family and community. We encourage everyone who reads this letter to join us in stopping this attack on Kentucky families by going to www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org and submitting comments against the rule change by Dec. 10, the last day to weigh in.
Ashley Spalding is senior policy analyst for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Advocacy Action Network
ACLU of Kentucky
Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
American Heart Association
Community Farm Alliance
Family Health Centers
Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky
Jefferson County Teachers Association
Kentucky Association of Food Banks
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Kentucky Council of Churches
Kentucky Equal Justice Center
Kentucky Psychological Association
Kentucky State AFL-CIO
Kentucky Refugee Ministries
Kentucky Voices for Health
Louisville Urban League
Mental Health America of Kentucky
National Association of Social Workers – Kentucky Chapter
Russell Immigration Law Firm
The Women’s Network