County Chair, Portland Mayor call on feds to withdraw proposed immigration rule change

December 11, 2018

A change to federal immigration policy would “force immigrants hoping to stay in the country permanently to choose between receiving vital health, nutrition or shelter assistance and their future documentation status,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler argued in a joint comment on proposed changes to Inadmissibility rules based on Public Charge grounds.

Chair Deborah Kafoury talks to the Subedi family during a welcoming rally in Portland

The Trump Administration in September published the proposed changes to a Public Charge, which determines whether someone seeking a visa or legal permanent residency may become a financial burden to the government.

The United States has long considered Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and institutionalization for long-term care at government expense when applying the Public Charge test. The change would dramatically expand the types of assistance that could jeopardize an individual’s application to include Medicaid, the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and federal housing assistance.

Multnomah County and the City of Portland joined more than 200,000 other local governments, agencies, nonprofits and individuals in submitting comments to the Department of Homeland Security, which must address each unique argument before making any proposed changes final. If the final rule is published, it would take 60 days before it goes into effect.

If the proposed becomes final, benefits used before that time are not expected to be considered. And many types of immigrants, including refugees, asylees and victims of certain crimes are not subject to the rule. Yet immigrant residents are already shrinking from vital health and social services.

“Adults are removing themselves from services,” Kafoury and Wheeler wrote. “Applications are left incomplete for fear that program files are not confidential. These actions have repercussions: data show that the very services being rejected improve community wide health, economic, and school outcomes.

“They are investments in our shared future, not handouts.”

Resource on Public Charge

Know the facts about public charge (Español): a fact sheet by Oregon Immigration Resource (updated Sept. 22, 2018)

Information about changes to proposed rule: a fact sheet by the Center for Law and Social Policy (updated Sept. 22, 2018)

Oregon Immigration Resource: A network of nonprofits and legal firms that provide information and workshops to families and agencies, with materials in English and Spanish.

Protecting Immigrant Families: A partnership between the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Immigration Law Center. Sign up for news alerts, download factsheets in English and Spanish.

Legal Resources

AILA Oregon: The Oregon Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association is a network of licensed attorneys with an understanding of the complexities of immigration law.

SOAR immigration legal services: Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees offers low-cost immigration representation and education to low-income families.

ICS: Immigration Counseling Services is a nonprofit law firm offering lower-cost immigration legal services and education.

Catholic Charities: This nonprofit's Immigration Legal Services office offers low-cost immigration representation to low-income immigrant and refugee families, and coordinates workshops across the state.

Immigrant Law Group: This Portland law firm hosts a resource page and volunteers at workshops.