New Trump Regulation Puts New Jersey’s Health at Risk

TRENTON, NJ (August 12, 2019) – The Trump Administration has announced a change to the “public charge” rule, which will make it much more difficult for legal immigrants who use public assistance programs to obtain a green card and thus full citizenship. 

Family income and potential use of health, nutrition, or housing programs will now become a central consideration in whether or not to offer people an opportunity to make their lives in the United States. The change was pre-published earlier today and will go into effect on October 15, 2019. 

According to a November 2018 report by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), the rule change will prioritize well-off immigrants while penalizing those struggling to make ends meet, threatening the health of 700,000 New Jerseyans who may have to choose between having their basic needs met or having their family separated.

“This is Trump playing piñata politics,” said Erika Nava, NJPP Policy Analyst. “The rule represents a fundamental shift in US immigration policy and threatens the health of hard-working, legal immigrants and mixed-status families. Given New Jersey’s diverse population and high share of immigrant residents, the state’s congressional delegation should take immediate and bold action to tear down Trump’s paperwork wall and protect the health and well-being of Garden State families. Several states are already preparing litigation, and we encourage New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to join those efforts.”

When proposed last fall, the regulation drew more than 266,000 public comments, overwhelmingly in opposition. New Jersey Policy Perspective opposed the plan, as did pediatricians, hospitals, health insurers, public health officials, and other health leaders.

The final regulation puts admission to the US or applications for a green card at risk if an immigrant adult uses Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Section 8 rent vouchers (HCV). 

Conservative estimates peg the regulation’s impact at 26 million people nationwide, including one-fourth of children in the US — the vast majority born here — who live in immigrant families. Experts expect unmet health care needs to rise, as well as hunger, child poverty, inadequate or unsafe housing, and other drivers of poor health outcomes. And because immigrants targeted by the Trump proposal are overwhelmingly immigrants of color, experts expect racial health disparities to widen.