Trump's Hateful Public Charge Proposal Will Be Deadly for Immigrants Living With HIV and Other Chronic Health Conditions

In its latest attack on the most vulnerable Americans, the Trump administration announced a proposal that, if implemented, would intimidate and seek to punish immigrants for accessing -- or even being perceived as potentially needing -- nutrition, housing, and medical care programs for which they are already eligible.

Register for our Wed. 10/3 webinar to learn more about what the new "public charge" rule would mean for the HIV community.

The proposed change concerns the "public charge" rule -- an immigration legal term from the days of the Immigration Act of 1882 (the same year Chinese immigrants were banned) designating an individual as likely to need public benefits at some point, which may affect eligibility for permanent residency. Age, health, income, and use of both cash benefits like SNAP and non-cash benefits like Medicaid would be determining factors in who is allowed to enter the U.S. or be granted permanent resident status ("green card"). Health conditions requiring "extensive treatment" would be a "heavily weighted negative factor" in determining residency eligibility. Read more about the proposed changes here.

Throughout history, people have moved to make better lives for themselves and their children. The proposed rule change reduces our neighbors, who want the same things for their families that we all want -- health, safety, dignity, economic security -- to a calculation of what is in their pockets when they arrive and the cost of any pre-existing health conditions they may have. Their invaluable contributions to their communities, families, and our nation are ignored and discarded.

This dehumanization, stemming from and fueling toxic, racist narratives about who deserves to live in this country, will exacerbate racial, health, and economic disparities.

"This is a cruel proposal," said Arneta Rogers, Positive Women's Network - USA (PWN-USA) Policy Director. "Nobody should feel afraid of being deported for trying to make sure their children have food and health care. Nobody in need of food, housing, health care, or education should be afraid of asking for those benefits."

While the majority of immigrants are not even eligible for the public benefits in question, the consequence -- and the intention -- behind the rule change are to intimidate eligible U.S. residents from accessing benefits, including health care and food for their children, out of fear that it may threaten their own or other family members' immigration status.

This "chilling effect" could have devastating consequences for immigrant families affected by HIV who already face substantial challenges accessing health care in our unequal economy. It will harm public health by increasing the number of uninsured people and hurting the ability of families to work and take care of their health. We believe that all people living with HIV deserve the right to live in a place that is safe and welcoming, regardless of their immigration status -- and that includes the right to access critical services that support health, economic security and self-determination of their families.

Once again, this administration is stoking fear and division to distract hardworking Americans from how Trump and his allies are gutting our schools, health care system, and social security to give trillions to corporates and the ultra-rich.

This is not the first time the rich and powerful have scapegoated and dehumanized vulnerable people and people of color for political and economic gain by the rich and powerful. But we have seen how much stronger we are when we work together across racial differences to fight injustice, as when we fought back against the administration's cruel family separation policy.

We must have each other's backs and say that when people fall on hard times, we won't let them fall through the cracks.

Once the rule is published, there will be a short, 60-day public comment period where the public can weigh in on the proposed rule change. We must unite and speak out against this unjust assault on the dignity of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

PWN-USA will be co-hosting a webinar on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT, along with partners from African Services Committee, National Immigration Law Center, and National Health Law Program. To learn more about the possible impacts of the rule change on immigrants living with HIV, please join us.Register here.

[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by PWN-USA on Sept. 28, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]