Curbs on mi­grant aid would hit state econ­omy

Fed­eral ‘pub­lic charge’ pro­posal to dis­cour­age ac­cess­ing of ben­e­fits would cost Cal­i­for­nia thou­sands of jobs.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Jo­hana Bhuiyan

Rules that could give im­mi­grants rea­son to avoid en­rolling in health safety net pro­grams would de­liver a blow to Cal­i­for­nia’s econ­omy, cost­ing the state thou­sands of jobs and bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nomic out­put, a new study con­cluded.

Un­der the rules pro­posed by the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment, im­mi­grants could jeop­ar­dize their chances of get­ting green cards if they en­roll them­selves or their chil­dren in Med­i­caid — the half-cen­tury-old gov­ern­ment health in­sur­ance pro­gram for the poor — or nu­tri­tion as­sis­tance pro­grams such as CalFresh or fed­eral hous­ing as­sis­tance.

The rules prob­a­bly would cost the Cal­i­for­nia econ­omy more than 17,000 jobs and $2.8 bil­lion in lost eco­nomic out­put if just 35% of the Cal­i­for­ni­ans in im­mi­grant fam­i­lies cur­rently mak­ing use of these pro­grams de­cide to not en­roll, said the study, which was done by the UCLA Cen­ter for Health Pol­icy Re­search, UC Berke­ley La­bor Cen­ter and a non­profit group, Cal­i­for­nia Food Pol­icy Ad­vo­cates. The study said 6,200 of those lost jobs and $992 mil­lion of that lost out­put would be in the Los An­ge­les area.

Cal­i­for­nia’s health­care and food-re­lated in­dus­tries would be hit hardest by the re­sult­ing job losses, the study said. Of the jobs lost, 47% would be in health­care and 10% would be food-re­lated, said the study, which added that 4% would be in

real es­tate.

“Ev­ery in­dus­try could be af­fected, though to a lesser de­gree than the top three in­dus­tries we listed,” said Lau­rel Lu­cia, an au­thor of the study and di­rec­tor of health­care at the UC Berke­ley La­bor Cen­ter.

The pro­posal is an ex­pan­sion of ex­ist­ing “pub­lic charge poli­cies” that make it harder for im­mi­grants who re­ceive cer­tain forms of pub­lic as­sis­tance — such as in­come as­sis­tance or longterm care at fed­er­ally funded in­sti­tu­tions — to ap­ply to en­ter the U.S. or to be­come a per­ma­nent res­i­dent.

“Un­der the harsher ‘pub­lic charge’ test pro­posed, par­tic­i­pa­tion in pub­lic pro­grams is one of a num­ber of fac­tors that would be con­sid­ered to de­ter­mine whether a per­son is likely to use pub­lic ben­e­fits in the fu­ture,” Lu­cia said. She also said prior en­roll­ment in the ex­panded list of pro­grams would not be con­sid­ered un­less the im­mi­grant is still in one of the pro­grams when the rule change takes ef­fect.

For more than two cen­turies, the United States has placed re­stric­tions on im­mi­grants deemed to be a “pub­lic charge.” But gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials long viewed health pro­grams as im­por­tant tools for pro­tect­ing the well­be­ing of cit­i­zens and nonci­t­i­zens alike.

If the pro­posed changes are im­ple­mented, about 765,000 im­mi­grants in Cal­i­for­nia may choose to dis­en­roll from nu­tri­tion as­sis­tance and health­care pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to the study. It said that level of dis­en­roll­ment could in turn lead to Cal­i­for­nia los­ing $1.46 bil­lion in fed­eral ben­e­fits.

“Im­mi­grants make cru­cial con­tri­bu­tions to Cal­i­for­nia’s work­force, econ­omy and tax base,” Ninez Ponce, di­rec­tor of the UCLA cen­ter and an au­thor of the study, said in a state­ment. “The pro­posed changes to the ‘pub­lic charge’ test would sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the use of much-needed pub­lic pro­grams among those who are el­i­gi­ble, and the eco­nomic rip­ple ef­fect would hurt com­mu­ni­ties statewide.”

The pub­lic can com­ment on the pro­posed rules through Mon­day. The rules are ex­pected to be fi­nal­ized and pub­lished in Fe­bru­ary.

In a state­ment in Septem­ber, health of­fi­cials, physi­cian groups, hospi­tals and pa­tient ad­vo­cates across the coun­try con­demned the pro­posed changes and urged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to with­draw the pro­posal.

“The or­der puts a gov­ern­men­tal bar­rier be­tween health­care providers and pa­tients and stands in stark con­trast to the mis­sion each of our or­ga­ni­za­tions shares: en­sur­ing mean­ing­ful ac­cess to health­care for pa­tients in need,” they said.

When an­nounc­ing the pro­posed rule change in Septem­ber, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen said im­mi­grants must show they can sup­port them­selves fi­nan­cially.

“This pro­posed rule will im­ple­ment a law passed by Congress in­tended to pro­mote im­mi­grant self-suf­fi­ciency and pro­tect fi­nite re­sources by en­sur­ing that they are not likely to be­come bur­dens on Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers,” Nielsen said in a state­ment.

The Cal­i­for­nia Health Care Foun­da­tion and the Cal­i­for­nia En­dow­ment funded the new study.

‘The pro­posed changes to the “pub­lic charge” test would sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the use of much-needed pub­lic pro­grams among those who are el­i­gi­ble.’ — Ninez Ponce, di­rec­tor of the UCLA Cen­ter for Health Pol­icy Re­search

To­mas Ovalle For The Times

A BOY cel­e­brates at a nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony in Fresno. Rules pro­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that could cause im­mi­grants to forgo ben­e­fits could re­sult in $2.8 bil­lion in lost eco­nomic out­put in Cal­i­for­nia.

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