Michael Dedmon | Policy Manager | The Financial Clinic
Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division
Office of Policy and Srategy
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security
20 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20529-2140
10 December 2018
Re: DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds
Dear Chief Samatha Deshommes,
First, I want to say that I appreciate this opportunity, on behalf of my organization, to comment on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANRP) regarding changes to the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds. My name is Michael Dedmon, and I am the Policy Manager at the Financial Clinic, a New York City-based non-profit organization that fights financial insecurity in low-to-moderate income communities through delivering direct services, capacity building for other nonprofits, and supporting systems level solutions and innovation. The Clinic and our partners are privileged to serve thousands of individuals from over 40 states who are themselves immigrants to the United States, and thousands more who count immigrants among their family, friends, and neighbors.
Many of these people have lived in our country before and been a vital part of our society for years, and with the proposed rule changes would face the prospect of being denied legal permanent residence or green card status as a result of their receiving support through programs like SNAP or Section 8 Housing Assistance. The suggestion that immigrant members of our communities are less deserving of obtaining permanent residence in the United States because they have received these supports is misguided, discriminatory, and cruel. In the strongest terms, I urge the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw the proposed “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule CIS No. 2499-10, DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012.
The Financial Clinic has had the privilege of serving financially insecure low-and-moderate income communities in New York City since 2005. During that time we and our national partners have provided one-on-one financial coaching to over 48,000 individuals, many of them immigrants to this country, assisting them with identifying personal financial goals, creating a budget, accessing banking services or credit, and filing their taxes. Everyday our financial coaches see the challenges our customers face in building fulfilling and financially secure lives; challenges that are often only slightly, if meaningfully, mitigated on the support of public benefit programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing assistance. Our experience serving our customers shows us that these programs give low-income families a necessary foundation on which to build financial capability, and rely on the support of federal and state programs for essential healthcare, nutrition, and shelter. Many of these beneficiaries are children or elderly. The proposed rule would force millions of individuals and families to choose between building the foundation for a better life, more financial security, and future success and gaining permanent legal residence. We should all see the cruelty in forcing our friends and neighbors to make this choice just because they are immigrants.
The nature of this false choice also makes it impossible to ignore its racial dimension. Because this rule targets elements of the family-based immigration system, it will certainly have a disproportionate impact on people of color by forcing them to forgo health and nutrition for themselves and their children. Taking into account resilience on such a wide set of public support programs for permanent residency, applications will necessarily reduce the diversity of immigrants entering and remaining in the United States, reshaping our country’s demographics for generations. The language used by the current administration lays bare the radicalized motivation of these proposed rule changes, and should cause all of us to be weary of their intent.
Immigrants do not take from this country, they enrich it. The proposed rule change is part of a larger agenda aimed at radically changing our legal immigration system with the goal of redefining who deserves to be an American and further stigmatizing reliance on any public benefit programs. The proposal sends the message to the world that the United States does not value our immigrant neighbors who work hard to build their lives here, relying on the same system of support that natural born citizens use every day. This message not only demeans members of our communities, but it will also certainly discourage others from immigrating and adding their talents to our society in fear that they may fall on hard times. The Financial Clinic firmly believes that when immigrants are harmed, we are all harmed. We cannot support this harmful rule change.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Michael Dedmon, Policy Manager
The Financial Clinic