Colorado Lawmakers Object to DHS Proposal to Expand “Public Charge” Definition

Proposed rule could result in serious health, housing, and economic implications for Colorado

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) today led Colorado U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis, and Representatives-elect Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to object to the proposed rule expanding the definition of “public charge” under U.S. immigration law. The proposed rule would make permanent residence unavailable to individuals who rely on housing, health care, and food assistance, have a serious health condition, or earn a low income, among other factors.

“The proposed rule would lead to worse health outcomes, increased housing instability, and reduced productivity and educational achievement throughout our communities,” the lawmakers wrote. This would have negative, lasting effects in Colorado on both immigrant and non-immigrants alike…With such far-reaching implications for children and families across Colorado and our nation, we strongly oppose this proposed rule and urge DHS to withdraw the proposal.”

According to the letter, under current federal immigration law, the government may deny lawful permanent resident status to individuals determined likely to become primarily dependent on government-funded cash assistance or long-term care. DHS proposes to make permanent residence unavailable to individuals determined likely to use an expanded list of benefits, including non-cash assistance programs like Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), federal housing assistance, and Medicare Part D subsidies. DHS asks for comment on adding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the list of public benefits. DHS also proposes several “negative factors” potentially penalizing applicants for being under 18 or over 65, having a serious health condition, being unemployed at the time of application, or earning a low income.

The lawmakers outlined how the proposed rule could affect Colorado. According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, the proposed rule could have a chilling effect on more than 323,000 Coloradans, including 143,000 children, who rely on public assistance programs targeted by the rule. The Colorado Health Institute estimates 75,000 Coloradans, nearly two-thirds of whom are children, could lose health insurance due to disenrollment. According to one estimate, Colorado could lose $417 million in economic activity and more than 2,800 jobs. Finally, the rule could “force immigrants to forgo critical food, housing, and health assistance for their families out of fear it might jeopardize their immigration status.”

Nearly two dozen Colorado organizations oppose the rule, including the Center for Health Progress, Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Hunger Free Colorado.

A copy of the letter is available HERE.