Sen. Hirono, Dems try to Block ‘Public Charge’ Rule

September 17, 2019, 9:13 AM HST (Updated September 17, 2019, 9:13 AM)
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Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and 26 Senate Democrats introduced the Protect American Values Act—legislation that would prohibit the Trump Administration from using federal funding to implement its so-called “public charge” rule.

Scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 15, 2019, Sen. Hirono’s office described the public charge rule aims to prevent immigrants from coming to or staying in the United States based on factors such as their wealth, family size, age, skills, level of education, or ability to speak English.

Republicans have characterized the rule as a way to ensure immigrants are self-sufficient, by tying immigration status and the validity of green cards to an immigrant’s income and how often they do or don’t utilize public programs.

 “The true effect, and therefore, the true intent behind the Administration’s public charge rule is to create a climate of fear among immigrant families, and it’s working,” Sen Hirono said. “I’ve heard from a number of hardworking, taxpaying immigrants in Hawai‘i, many not even subject to the rule, who are afraid to see their doctor or access essential services. Instead of harming immigrant families seeking a better life, our bill protects them. Our bill keeps families together. And our bill supports the rich diversity that has enabled our country to thrive and excel throughout its history. I’m proud that 26 of my colleagues support this legislation already, and I will continue working towards passing it.”

Ken Cuccinelli, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said fears about the policy discouraging immigrants to enroll in public benefits programs used my millions are overblown, adding that the policy doesn’t put a target on the back of low-income families.

“We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet,” Cuccinelli said in August. “A poor person can prepare to be self-sufficient… so let’s not look at that as the be all end all.”

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But Democratic senators remain steadfast in how they see the law manifesting, and what they say the motivations are behind it.

“From threatening to deport children with cancer, to zeroing out refugee admissions, the Trump administration is undermining a fundamental value of this country: that America welcomes everyone regardless of their country of origin,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D. Mass). “Immigrants helped build this great nation. We must take a stand against these cruel and inhumane policies at every turn. Federal funds should not use to implement a policy that’s sole purpose is to punish vulnerable immigrants and their families.”

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