UC releases statement on Trump administration’s change of ‘public charge’ rule

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UC President Janet Napolitano issued a statement Aug. 12 asserting that the Donald Trump administration sent the international community a “detrimental message” in its decision to expand the definition of “public charge.”

On Aug. 12, the Trump administration announced that it will be implementing a new rule effective Oct. 15 that will make it more difficult for immigrants to be admitted into the country as legal permanent residents if they have used or are likely to use food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers or most forms of Medicaid.

According to Napolitano in the statement, this rule would mean that some UC students and other California residents may avoid seeking preventative health care, housing opportunities, and nutrition education and benefits, “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The decision today penalizes and chills much-needed access to vital benefits for which lawful immigrants or mixed-status families are eligible, and not only leads to harmful, unintended consequences but also raises questions about the true intent behind the federal government’s unnecessary and misguided action,” Napolitano said in the statement.

According to a report on the possible effects of the “public charge” rules by the Fiscal Policy Institute, the decision could create a “chilling effect,” which may be felt by up to 24 million people, including 9 million children under the age of 18.

The report stated that the chilling effect refers to the number of people who would become “frightened and confused about the potential consequences of applying for food, health, and housing supports they are eligible to receive.” The report said that a portion may withdraw from benefit programs entirely.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, addressed this study in the “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” document containing the final “public charge” rule, which it published on the Federal Register website Aug. 14.

According to DHS in the document, the rule will not force individuals who are eligible for public benefits to withdraw from the benefit programs. According to the document, the DHS rule change seeks to ensure that applicants for citizenship “who are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility are self-sufficient.”

“The United States does not want other countries to send their best and brightest here to study and add to the intellectual exchange at our universities, to conduct important research, and to contribute substantially to our economy, among other things,” Napolitano said in the statement.

According to UC Office of the President spokesperson Sarah McBride, the university supports its immigrant students and has advocated against this rule since its proposal in the fall. The university sent a letter to DHS in December 2018 outlining its concerns about the proposed rule.

According to McBride, the university was “extremely disappointed” that the rule was implemented and will continue to monitor developments regarding the rule. McBride said in an email that resources for affected students would be managed “at the campus level.”

“We are committed to providing our students with the assistance they need and believe this final rule undermines our efforts to attract the best and brightest students to study, train and research at the University of California,” McBride said in the email.

Sabrina Dong is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.