OAKLAND, California—A federal proposal to dramatically expand grounds for denying immigrants green cards and citizenship in the United States has drawn opposition from the International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law (IANGEL).
The legal advocacy group observes, in a formal comment submitted to the Department of Homeland Security on December 10, that the proposed changes to “public charge” standards would disproportionately impact women and children—and bring substantial harm to U.S. citizens, immigrants, and society as a whole. The comment focuses on the highly gendered negative impacts of this rule.
The term “public charge” is used by U.S. immigration officials to refer to a person they predict may one day subsist primarily on government aid, such as cash benefits. A person predicted to become a “public charge” can be denied entry, permanent resident status, or citizenship.
Although most immigrants already are banned from using public benefits, the pending regulation, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” would raise their legal risks in at least two substantial ways. First, the proposal goes far beyond current rules to target entire families, including those with U.S. citizen children. Second, it goes beyond cash assistance programs to penalize households if any member (including a U.S. citizen) uses even temporary supplemental benefits for health care and nutrition, which are used most often by women and children.
By design, the majority of public benefits accessed by women and children are temporary, such as programs for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, infants, and children. Shruti Rana, a professor of international law and an IANGEL board member, noted that the new rule, if enacted, “could force women to choose between keeping their families healthy and keeping their families together.” It would also undermine public health efforts to improve access to medical care and health outcomes for the U.S. population as a whole, she said.
According to Kamardip Singh, the Executive Director of IANGEL, the rule change would further stigmatize women. “We believe this rule is part of the ongoing attempt by the administration to reframe the responsibility of government towards women by characterizing women—particularly immigrants and women of color—as burdens on society, rather than full members deserving of equal protection by their government.”
The formal comment was jointly submitted with the Global Fund for Women (GFW).