Recently, the administration proposed a significant change in one of the important elements for consideration of permanent status for U.S. immigrants. These changes are related to what is called the “public charge” component of the list of considerations for immigration. In the past, these considerations have focused on circumstances where profoundly disabled or similar candidates were seeking status that would encumber large amounts of resources for long-term care or assistance.
The new proposed regulations are now adding a host of more limited individual and family-related programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), Medicaid, housing assistance and potentially medical assistance for children (CHIP). Participation in these programs along with a calculation of the immigrants’ overall income and assets would be part of the new guidelines for determining whether an individual would be granted resident status.
While there is considerable debate on this overall proposal, the potential impact on many of the field’s students and programs is likely to be detrimental. Although direct participation in adult basic education (regardless of how they are funded) is not considered a “public charge” component, the resulting fear and confusion on what will be considered a public charge will likely reduce participation in programs.
Many immigrant students are taking advantage of a number of these programs, often for limited periods of time, until they obtain full employment with benefits. There is a clear indication that students will stop seeking additional education as well as needed medical, housing or food assistance with these new rules. Past indications are that we will see significant drops in enrollment.
An unintended result of these changes is the potential loss of advancement in obtaining English language skills, which is in fact a positive component for consideration for resident status. Lack of participation in our programs will ultimately have negative consequences on an individual’s resident application.
ProLiteracy will be submitting comments on these changes and suggesting that we retain the existing rules that have worked well to ensure the country is not burdened with unnecessary long-term expense. We believe the implementation of these new rules will, in fact, be counterproductive in the efforts to ensure that new immigrants have the necessary skills and abilities to become full-time productive citizens.
We encourage others to consider speaking out in opposition to these new changes. Additional information and details on submitting comments can be found at the National Skills Coalition website at www.nationalskillscoalition.org, under the blog.