HIV POLICY UPDATE

Public Charge Rule Blocked for the Moment

Last Friday, three federal judges barred implementation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “public charge” rule originally scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday this week (Oct 15). First published by DHS in 2018, the rule is intended to “determine whether an immigrant applying to enter the US, extend their visa, or convert their temporary immigration status is likely to end up depending on public benefits.”

According to the White House, “an alien who receives public benefits above a certain threshold is known as a “public charge.” If the rule is enacted, individuals could be labeled as “public charges” for any one of 20 reasons ranging from use of food stamps, public housing vouchers, SNAP or Medicaid to failure to speak English. DHS first proposed the regulation in September 2018 (see 9/20/2018 column for background). Simply the anticipation of it has had negative health effects on low-income immigrating people as they avoid health care and other services for fear of drawing attention to themselves and their families.

The rule has been challenged in eight federal courts and three of them have blocked it for the moment. George Daniels, a US District Judge in New York, called the rule “repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility,” adding that there was “zero precedent” for efforts to control immigration in this way.

The Public Charge Rule’s impact on people with HIV already includes withdrawal from Medicaid, ADAP and Ryan White services for fear that “their green card application would be rejected” and they would be targeted for other Public Charge issues. As Community Catalyst wrote, it puts “HIV-positive individuals in a heartbreaking position of choosing between receiving life-saving treatment or keeping their family together.”