Below is PUMP’s letter as submitted to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in response to the proposed “inadmissibility on public charge grounds” rule change.
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Dear U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
On behalf of PUMP, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit in Pittsburgh, we submit this letter in opposition to the proposed “inadmissibility on public charge grounds” rule change. Founded in 1996, PUMP’s mission is to make our region the most dynamic and diverse place by engaging, educating, and mobilizing all young people to create change in our community. Each year, we serve nearly 30,000 individuals, primarily under the age of 40, through our advocacy, civic, and social programming.
In 2017, our constituents helped design our advocacy and public policy agenda which reflects our vision for regional equity and includes a focus on efforts that support a vibrant, diverse, and connected region. Specifically, we support:
- Diverse, inclusive, affordable neighborhoods and communities.
- Spaces and opportunities for all residents to engage in dialogue and action to address diversity, inclusion, social justice and racism.
- Protection and support for immigrants, refugees, formerly incarcerated individuals, and other vulnerable populations.
- Affordable, high quality, comprehensive healthcare options for all.
- Access to affordable, healthy food in every neighborhood.
Though we can appreciate the goal of not overburdening American taxpayers, we strongly oppose the “inadmissibility on public charge grounds” rule changes that were proposed on October 10, 2018. The proposed changes will harm immigrants, the American-born children of immigrants, and all who call the United States home. We stand in unity with leaders and organizations from Pittsburgh and across the country in opposition to the proposed changes.
Under these strict proposed changes, hard-working families who contribute to American society in important ways (including paying taxes to support key safety net programs for all Americans) will not feel safe and welcomed in this country – a right of all people. The proposal applies a negative grade to households with income below 125% of the poverty level and, subsequently, the rule only considers a positive impact on the evaluation for income over 250% of the poverty level – a threshold that over half of all Pennsylvanian families do not meet. As written, the rule unjustly and unreasonably impacts low-income immigrant families who seek to contribute to our economy.
Denying people the right to proceed in the American immigration system because of their income level, past utilization of or eligibility for safety net programs, or specific health status is unjust and discriminatory and does not further a welcoming and prosperous society for all. It is also un-American and emphatically not the nation we envision. Our country can be – and must be – better than that.
We also strongly oppose the additional inclusion of eligibility for key safety net programs such as federal housing assistance programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicaid. Multiple sources including the Kaiser Family Foundation have reported that researchers have seen a drop this year in the number of immigrant families enrolled in SNAP and other lifeline supports for which they are eligible, likely as a result of the proposed changes. There is no doubt that this will gravely impact the health and safety of hard-working families both in the short and long term and will further contribute to a culture of fear that has sadly taken root among those who are often the most vulnerable.
The ultimate cost to our economy of this proposal far outweighs any potential savings. New American Economy reported that approximately 86 percent of all adults active in the labor force who would be affected by the public charge rule in Pennsylvania are employed. Here in our state, the “total annual income of workers who would be affected by the public charge rule is $1.1 billion. Should they leave the United States, Pennsylvania’s economy would suffer negative indirect economic effects of $800 million. The total cost to the Pennsylvania economy could therefore amount to $1.9 billion.”
Indeed, many people in our region who would be affected by this proposal are our society’s greatest asset: hard-working families. Public benefit programs are investments that empower these families to contribute to our country’s economic growth, cultural diversity, and vibrant communities.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security should not be spending time and money denying immigration to low-income people. Doing so is the antithesis of DHS’s mission to secure the nation from the many threats we face, because hard-working immigrants who want to build a better America are not a threat – they are what makes us strong.
We ask that you review the strict proposed changes to the public charge rule and do not proceed with implementing them as they negatively and unjustly impact people who are the very fabric of American society and economic activity.