Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday issued a strong rebuke against the Trump administration’s final adoption of a “public charge” rule that could disqualify immigrants who use or seek certain public benefits from obtaining or renewing a green card or visa.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented escalation of animus against our nation’s immigrant families,” Inslee said in a news release. “This rule may score the president political points with the most extreme voices in his party, but it could be devastating to millions of hard-working immigrants, including those who already have visas, or who are U.S.-born.
“Our nation’s economy – and Donald Trump’s own businesses – rely on the labor of immigrant workers. Our communities are strengthened and enriched by the diversity of experiences and cultures of our immigrant families. And our collective ability to thrive is horrifically diminished by this latest xenophobic effort to sow confusion and fear throughout our immigrant communities.
“This action flies in the face of everything our nation stands for. Instead of aiding those seeking opportunity and working to provide their children a better life, this sends people into the shadows and deeper into poverty. We will continue pursuing every possible option for fighting this rule.”
Inslee sent a letter blasting the rule when it was first proposed in April 2018. The governor, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan commented jointly on the proposed rule last year and also requested a meeting with the administration in July 2019, which the administration declined. Each of these efforts noted the far-reaching implications the rule would have on the economic security and health of hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians:
• 14 percent of Washington’s total population are immigrants, with 25 percent of the population living in a household with at least one immigrant.
• Washington state is home to 455,000 children who are U.S. citizens and have at least one immigrant parent.
• More than 140,000 people in Washington state could lose health insurance. This will force Washingtonians into emergency rooms for routine medical care and drive up uncompensated care costs. Women could lose routine reproductive services. Expecting parents could lose prenatal care.
• Washingtonians could forego $55.3 million annually in state food and cash benefits and nearly $200 million annually in medical care.
• Approximately 2,000 families could lose rental assistance.
• The rule could reduce total economic output in Washington by up to $97.5 million annually and cut workers’ wages by up to $36.7 million annually.
The rule is scheduled to become effective after 60 days after the rule publishes in the Federal Register this week. Immigration applications and petitions already pending with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before the effective date will not be subject to the rule.
Purpose of rule adoption
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced the move Monday morning, according to a National Public Radio report. He said the purpose is to clarify existing law, which is designed to ensure that immigrants do not become dependent on the government.
“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reenforcing the ideal of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful in America,” he said, according to the news article.
The rule is set to take effect in 60 days but is expected to draw legal challenges from immigrant-rights groups and others, NPR reported.