Assemblyman David I. Weprin Comment on Proposed Change to Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

My name is David I. Weprin, New York State Assemblymember for the New York’s 24th Assembly District located in the Borough of Queens in New York City. I proudly represent one of the most diverse Assembly districts in New York State, with one of the largest concentrations of foreign born residents in New York City. As such, I am gravely concerned about the impact that the proposed rule change related to the public charge ground of inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(4) will have on constituents in my district as well as on immigrant communities nationwide.

By proposing to use certain public services such as food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and public-housing programs as tools to exclude law abiding immigrants from obtaining visas the administration; the United States Department of Homeland Security is proposing a rule change that will undoubtedly harm the City of New York, State of New York and similar communities around the nation. The basic assistance programs being considered as grounds to determine inadmissibility are not handouts but helping hand-ups that allow countless individuals to thrive in our nation. Thirty-eight percent of New York City’s residents are immigrants, about 3.1 million people, and over half of the city’s children have a foreign-born parent. In Queens, 68,000 children come from these mixed-status families.

New York City’s public hospital system, which includes NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens and is located in my Assembly district, estimates that nearly 350,000 people will be impacted by the proposed changes. Out of fear, many people will drop their existing coverage and forego basic preventative care. Over 1 million medical visits will be skipped leading to an increase in preventable conditions such as premature births and maternal deaths. All of this will cost the hospital system at least $362 million.

In fact, we are already witnessing a chilling effect due to this proposal. Local immigration groups are already noticing that immigrants are hesitant to receive public benefits that they are entitled to under the law. If only 20% of immigrants withdraw from public benefits, New York City’s poverty rate among immigrants will increase 3.8% and its child poverty rate will rise by 9.1% costing New York City at least $420 million in economic activity. Immigrants contribute to our economy and tax base. According to the non-profit American Immigration Council, the average immigrant contributes about $120,000 more in taxes than is consumed through public benefits. In New York City, immigrants make up 45% of the workforce and last year contributed almost $195 billion to the city’s Gross Domestic Product.

The proposed changes to the public charge will cause nothing short of a humanitarian crisis among our nation's immigrant populations and reduce the economic competitiveness of cities across the nation. Once again, I strongly oppose this proposed rule change related to the public charge ground of inadmissibility and urge you to rescind this proposed change.