Im­mi­gra­tion rule risks ci­ti­zen kids’ in­sur­ance

Hartford Courant - - World & Nation - By Dianne So­lis The Dal­las Morn­ing News

DAL­LAS — A pro­posed rule change af­fect­ing im­mi­grants seek­ing green cards could put med­i­cal in­sur­ance cov­er­age at risk for mil­lions of U.S. ci­ti­zen chil­dren with nonci­t­i­zen par­ents, a D.C.-based think tank says in a new study.

The gov­ern­ment has pro­posed re­defin­ing who might be de­clared a “pub­lic charge” — a fed­eral des­ig­na­tion for peo­ple it be­lieves are overly de­pen­dent on fed­er­ally funded so­cial ser­vices. Un­der the pro­posed changes, im­mi­grants who are “likely at any time” to be­come a pub­lic charge could be in­el­i­gi­ble to get visas and green cards that give them le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

U.S. ci­ti­zen chil­dren of nonci­t­i­zens are el­i­gi­ble for Med­i­caid cov­er­age. Na­tion­ally, 6.8 mil­lion ci­ti­zen chil­dren with nonci­t­i­zen par­ents are es­ti­mated to be en­rolled in Med­i­caid or the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, the Ur­ban In­sti­tute said in the study re­leased Tues­day. In Texas, nearly a third of en­rollees are U.S. ci­ti­zen chil­dren with at least one nonci­t­i­zen par­ent, the D.C. think tank said.

The Ur­ban In­sti­tute es­ti­mates that about 93 per­cent of ci­ti­zen chil­dren with nonci­t­i­zen par­ents who were el­i­gi­ble for gov­ern­ment in­sur­ance par­tic­i­pated in fed­eral in­sur­ance in 2016. The in­sti­tute, im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­neys and im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates say many of these chil­dren are at risk be­cause their par­ents may pull their chil­dren out of the pro­grams rather than risk their chances at green cards or U.S. cit­i­zen­ship.

“Fear over im­mi­gra­tionre­lated reper­cus­sions could lead nonci­t­i­zen par­ents to drop Med­i­caid or CHIP cov­er­age for their chil­dren,” the re­port says.

CHIP isn’t in­cluded in the pro­posed rule changes pub­lished Oc­to­ber 10 in the Fed­eral Reg­is­ter. But the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity said it is be­ing con­sid­ered as part of the fi­nal rule.

“Find­ing that such a large share of Med­i­caid or CHIP­cov­ered chil­dren are in fam­i­lies with at least one nonci­t­i­zen par­ent sug­gests that if the ef­fect of this rule re­duces Med­i­caid or CHIP cov­er­age on these fam­i­lies, the im­pact could be quite large both na­tion­ally and in states like Texas,” said Jen­nifer Ha­ley, one of the au­thors of the Ur­ban In­sti­tute’s study.

More than 115,000 peo­ple have en­tered of­fi­cial com­ments on the pro­posed rule, with many in op­po­si­tion to the change. Af­ter Dec. 10, the pro­posed rule change moves to a re­view stage be­fore any changes are fi­nal­ized.

Josephine Lopez Paul, the lead or­ga­nizer for Dal­las Area In­ter­faith, said her group con­tin­ues to push for peo­ple to com­ment.

“We have al­ready heard sto­ries of par­ents un­en­rolling their kids from CHIP,” Lopez Paul said.

The Dal­las Morn­ing News re­ported in Oc­to­ber that im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing some par­ents of U.S. ci­ti­zen chil­dren, have stopped en­rolling their chil­dren in fed­eral health and food as­sis­tance pro­grams be­cause they’re afraid fu­ture rule changes will af­fect their chances of get­ting green cards. One woman even de­layed re­port­ing an al­leged rape be­cause she feared de­por­ta­tion. In all cases, the nonci­t­i­zens lacked le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

The Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which wants more re­stric­tions on im­mi­gra­tion, has em­pha­sized that the pro­posed change to the pub­lic charge rule “does not ap­ply to el­i­gi­ble chil­dren here legally.” The group said an up­date on 1999 def­i­ni­tions was over­due.

But the fi­nal rule, still weeks, if not months, away from be­ing pub­lished, could af­fect more im­mi­grant par­ents of ci­ti­zen chil­dren who make de­ci­sions on be­half of those chil­dren.

And that may cre­ate a path for likely le­gal chal­lenges to the rule.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment must also re­spond when there is a sub­stan­tial vol­ume of neg­a­tive com­men­tary to a pro­posed rule, said Tom Saenz, the pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel of the Mex­i­can Amer­i­can Le­gal De­fense and Ed­u­ca­tional Fund, or MALDEF.

The orig­i­nal pub­lic charge “statute had no in­tent to limit, in rights or prac­tice, the rights of U.S cit­i­zens,” Saenz said. “And that may be the rea­son that ul­ti­mately these reg­u­la­tions can­not stand.”

Congress could also re­ject the reg­u­la­tions, Saenz added, not­ing there was prece­dent to do that.

DHS es­ti­mates the new pub­lic charge rules would ap­ply to about 380,000 im­mi­grants each year.


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