Pushes back on proposal that threatens public health during a global pandemic that has infected more than 9.1 million Americans and resulted in the deaths of more than 229,000
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of state and local governments in a comment letter condemning the Trump Administration’s new effort to restrict family-based immigration through a proposed regulation that directly threatens state healthcare systems and efforts to combat the coronavirus. The proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would force many U.S. citizens and green card holders to sacrifice the receipt of benefits for which they qualify — including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — to preserve their best opportunity to sponsor a family member for lawful permanent residency. The proposal is part of the Trump Administration's ongoing effort to radically transform public charge law. In the comment letter, the coalition urges the Trump Administration to immediately withdraw the rule and postpone consideration of any similar rules until after the resolution of the ongoing global pandemic and national public health emergency.
“Keeping citizen and immigrant families apart is a cruel but defining characteristic of the Trump Administration,” said Attorney General Becerra. “DHS’s proposal runs counter to America’s core values and the law. It threatens public health in the middle of a pandemic. No family should ever be forced to choose between accessing healthcare and food assistance or bringing the family together in this time of pandemic.”
On October 2, 2020, DHS proposed a new regulation to drastically alter requirements for affidavits of support, which are contracts signed by a sponsor to show that their close family member who is applying for a green card is not likely to become dependent on the government. Among the harsh changes sought, DHS has proposed a joint-sponsor requirement when sponsors or their household members have received a public benefit for which they qualify within the 36-month period prior to the execution of an affidavit of support. The proposed rule would disqualify individuals from serving as a joint sponsor if they have received such a benefit within the same time period. It would preclude sponsors from pooling their income with the income of other relatives who reside with them and are willing to promise support for the intending immigrant if needed, except where the relative is the sponsor’s own spouse. The proposal also needlessly subjects sponsors and their household members to onerous documentation requirements. Ultimately, the new requirements would significantly hinder family unification and — like the public charge rule — penalize modest income and working-class families for accessing public benefits for which they are eligible — all during an economic and public health crisis of historic proportions that has infected more than 9.1 million Americans and resulted in the deaths of more than 229,000 people across the country.
In the comment letter, the attorneys general assert that the proposed rule will:
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the health and well-being of families in California and across the country. As COVID-19 began to sweep through the United States, Attorney General Becerra called on the Trump Administration to halt implementation of the public charge rule to help combat the spread of the disease. Last month, the Attorney General secured a decision striking down the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to kick 700,000 people off of food assistance during the current economic downturn. He also took steps to continue the fight against the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional and illegal “Healthcare Refusal Rule,” which jeopardizes people’s health and safety by allowing anyone remotely involved in a healthcare transaction to deny care based on a wide range of personal beliefs. In July, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit challenging U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attempt to siphon pandemic relief funds away from public schools — a position the federal government officially abandoned in September.
In filing the comment letter, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Cook County State’s Attorney, Corporation Counsel of New York City, and County Counsel of the County of Santa Clara County.
A copy of the comment letter is available here.