August 15, 2019



by Katie Condon Grace, MWLS Staff Attorney, Medical-Legal Partnership

The Trump administration took one of its most aggressive steps Monday against vulnerable immigrants by finalizing a new public charge rule that vastly expands the list of public benefits federal immigration officials may take into consideration when determining whether an individual should be allowed to enter the country or obtain legal permanent residence. Under this new rule, a person could be denied entry to the U.S. or denied a green card because they use MassHealth, food stamps, federal housing vouchers, or other life-sustaining benefits.

This new rule, which is set to go into effect on October 15, 2019, also heavily targets immigrants with disabilities, immigrant children and seniors, immigrants without higher education or the ability to speak English, immigrants with chronic medical conditions, and low-income immigrants. This rule cruelly punishes the exact clients MetroWest Legal Services serves every day - marginalized, low-income, and vulnerable individuals seeking justice, health, and safety for themselves and their families. Under this new rule a person’s age, health, education, income, and disability, may all be used against them by immigration officials as grounds to deny their application for admission to the U.S. or their application for a green card.

Because it is widely recognized that social determinants of health (housing, access to insurance, food insecurity, etc.) play a pivotal role in one’s ability to access appropriate, quality medical care, the fact that those who are disadvantaged will be penalized for utilizing Medicaid, food and housing assistance and other services aimed at addressing social determinants is inhumane. The new public charge rule will lead to significantly poorer health outcomes for millions of low-income immigrant families, particularly children in minority communities. A report issued in June by the Boston Foundation found these new changes could impact up to 510,000 Massachusetts residents, including 160,000 children.