March 11, 2020

42 Lawmakers Demand End to Public Charge Policy

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressmen Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) joined Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35) in sending a letter to Vice President Pence, the designated lead for the federal government’s coronavirus response, urging the Administration to reconsider its “public charge” rule in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

The “public charge” rule allows immigration officers to assess whether immigrants seeking lawful permanent residency are a “public charge” based on whether they have used government benefits, like government health insurance. The rule deters immigrants who are experiencing symptoms from seeking medical testing or treatment.

The lawmakers released the following statements:

“The public charge rule is as morally bankrupt as it is blatantly dangerous to public health, and I’m glad so many of my colleagues are joining me in that call today,” Rep. Norma J. Torres said. “It’s bad enough that this rule targets and torments some of the most vulnerable members of our society – the fact that it does so in a way that further spreads the coronavirus and threatens the well-being of every single person in the United States goes to show how little thought the Trump Administration puts into its policies. They need to rescind this mess before it inflicts lasting damage.”

“The public charge rule is an attack on legal immigrants and ultimately, an attack on tax-paying families, small businesses, states and local communities, and American citizens,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas said. “A strong legal immigration system is critical for the prosperity of all Americans.  During this public health crisis, we need to make sure that everyone has access to medical testing and treatment – that includes immigrants. This is about public safety and preventing the spread of the virus.”

“It’s unconscionable the Trump administration is implementing the public charge rule at a time when individuals need vital medical assistance most,” Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján said. “No one should have to choose between their safety and their immigration status, ever. Health care and sound medical advice are essential to protecting ourselves, our families, and our communities against this disease, and yet we are already seeing a chilling effect on immigrant communities accessing these vital services under public charge. The coronavirus does not discriminate based on immigration status and neither should the president. We must immediately delay and eliminate the public charge rule to ensure people do not put health, safety, and futures at risk because of the president’s fear tactics.”

“The public charge rule is a cruel policy that forces immigrant families to choose between keeping their families healthy and keeping their families together,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard said. “The rule has already had a chilling effect on these families and their need to obtain critical healthcare during the current coronavirus crisis.  Choosing to enforce the public charge rule as the coronavirus spreads throughout our communities is outrageous, irresponsible, and utterly contemptuous of our nation’s public health and safety.”

“The last thing we want right now is to discourage people from getting care when they need it,” Rep. Linda Sánchez said. “The Trump Administration’s public charge rule stokes fear in immigrant communities at a time when we need everyone to be vigilant and healthy. I strongly urge the Administration to suspend its anti-immigrant agenda and put public safety first. Our health and wellness depend on it.”

“Trump’s public charge rule is deterring vulnerable immigrant communities from accessing care in the middle of a public health crisis,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva said. “The Trump Administration should suspend this rule in its entirety and encourage all sick individuals—regardless of their immigration status—to come forward and receive health services to keep themselves and our communities safe.”

“From its inception, the public charge rule has endangered the welfare of immigrants and their families, as well as the communities in which they live,” Rep. Jerry McNerney said. “As we continue to navigate the coronavirus crisis, we should be looking for ways to expand access to healthcare, not implementing policies that threaten public health by deterring those in need from seeking medical attention.”

“In the face of the coronavirus epidemic, immigrants and their families should not question whether to seek health care or be tested for COVID-19 because of this administration’s draconian public charge rule,” Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said. “This new rule has caused fear in communities across the nation. This is just the latest example of how this unnecessary and reckless public charge rule is putting our communities at risk and why it should be repealed.”

“Normally, I would call the public charge rule callous but in light of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak the policy is also dangerous and shortsighted,” Rep. Suzan DelBene said. “Discouraging people from seeking needed care or getting tested only puts more Americans at risk. The administration should put public health before politics.” 

“We cannot allow Pence and this Administration to deter people from seeking medical care because of fear of deportation, which could severely compromise public health during these precarious times,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said. “This Administration’s public charge rule is racist, xenophobic, and it furthers Donald J. Trump’s attacks on immigrant children and families of color.  This rule is forcing millions of families to make an impossible choice between basic needs and the people they love, driving up uninsurance, hunger, and illnesses like the coronavirus.”

“We already have three documented cases of COVID-19 in my district, and we need to ensure all our players are on the field to combat this public health crisis” Rep. Alan Lowenthal said. “Viral infections do not discriminate by race, income, or immigration status, but the callous, un-American public charge rule discourages immigrants and their families from going to a doctor if they are sick. The rule undermines our ability to protect public health, and the Trump Administration must stop its implementation to ensure a robust response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“During this critical moment in the coronavirus outbreak, we must remove every possible barrier for people seeking medical care,” Rep. Andy Levin said. “The public charge rule stands in the way of our country’s effort to contain this virus, and thus must end - along with any system that promotes fear of treatment.”

“Everyone should have access to testing and treatment for coronavirus, but the Trump Administration’s public charge rule is deterring individuals from getting the care they need out of fear for their future in this country,” Rep. Adam Smith said. “This misguided rule not only takes away fundamental basic needs such as food, housing, or health care, it now risks spreading coronavirus more widely across our communities and threating our public health. I urge the administration to consider the health of the people across the country and suspend the implementation of the rule.”

“If the administration is serious about effectively managing the coronavirus pandemic, they should ensure there are no barriers for people seeking testing and treatment,” Rep. Bill Foster said. “The misguided ‘public charge’ rule, which is already causing people to forgo health care, will deter individuals who may be infected with coronavirus from seeking proper treatment and exacerbate the public health danger to our communities.”   

“The Trump Administration’s must immediately suspend its wealth test and end its concerted campaign to hurt immigrants,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal said. “Stopping immigrants from seeing the doctor is harmful and downright dangerous during a public health emergency. Coronavirus does not discriminate based on race, gender, or creed—and putting up barriers to care for some is a public health risk for all.”

“The Trump administration’s ‘public charge’ rule represents a cruel and coordinated effort to target and exploit the most vulnerable amongst our immigrant communities,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez said. “But as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, their dangerous effort to intimidate immigrants has the potential to exacerbate this public health crisis by dissuading people from seeking critical medical care. As President Trump’s point person for the federal government’s coronavirus response, Vice President Pence has an opportunity before him to help restore public trust in the White House’s handling of the coronavirus threat by rescinding the ‘public charge’ rule and putting public safety and national security before politics. It is both the moral and responsible thing to do.”

“It doesn’t matter how you came to this country; no one should be afraid to seek medical treatment when they need it,” Rep. Ted Deutch said. “That is especially true as we work to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The administration’s draconian attempt to scare immigrants into hiding and away from America will not only hurt immigrant communities but all Americans who are at risk from this public health crisis.”

“No one should avoid going to the doctor because they fear that being considered a ‘public charge’ would affect their immigration proceedings,” Rep. Mark Takano said. “In my community, mixed status families should be prioritizing their health and well-being — that should be their main concern during a time like this. By doing so they protect themselves, their neighbors, and our community. The Trump Administration must rescind this cruel and dangerous rule, especially during a public health emergency.”

 “It is wrong for the Administration to use a public health crisis to push its anti-immigration agenda,” Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán said. “The public charge rule is un-American and a modern-day wealth test for immigrants.  It makes it harder to attain citizenship and it keep families separated.  It is cruel.”

“This rule is just a continuation of this president’s attacks on black and brown immigrants. Latino immigrants make up 70 percent of those affected, and the rule will largely affect Black and Asian immigrants as well,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat said. “President Trump is trying to cut back on legal immigration by forcing families to choose between vital services and their immigration status and his public charge rule will have a massive chilling effect, as many who are worried about if this affects them will stop using vital services. We will continue our efforts to fight to stop the Trump administration’s dangerous and reckless public charge rule to ensure individuals and communities have access to services they need.”

“The Trump administration needs to put our public health ahead of its anti-immigrant agenda and reverse its public charge rule immediately,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro said. “The federal government should never be in the business of intimidating immigrants—especially amidst this public health emergency. People’s lives are on the line.”

“We are concerned that the new public charge rule might lead people to stay away from the care they need, and we are not alone,” Rep. Lois Frankel said. “At a recent hearing of the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control agreed this rule could have public health implications.”

“With the coronavirus outbreak already impacting children and families across the country, testing and treatment is critical to preventing the further spread of this disease in our communities.  However, the Administration’s recently implemented public charge rule acts as a deterrent for immigrants to seek out the medical care they need during this uncertain time,” Rep. Marcia L. Fudge said.  “The potential effects of this rule during a public health emergency demonstrate exactly why this rule never should have been finalized.  I am proud to join with my House colleagues in sending this letter to the Administration urging them to reconsider this harmful, cruel, and backwards policy.” 

To avoid the risk of spreading germs, the “public charge” letter was not physically circulated to all 43 Congressional offices. Instead, each Member of Congress signed a copy of the letter, all of which are available here.

The letter is signed by Representatives Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Bill Foster (IL-11), Mark Takano (CA-41), Grace Meng (NY-06), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Darren Soto (FL-09), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Andy Levin (MI-09), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), John Garamendi (CA-03), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Adam Smith (NJ-04), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MI-05), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Suzan K. DelBene (WA-01), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Ben Ray Luján (NM-04), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Louis Frankel (FL-21).