BCNC Releases Statement on Proposal to Deny Green Cards to Those Who Use Public Benefits

By Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC)

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Over the weekend, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an upcoming proposed policy that would allow the government to deny green cards to immigrants who use public benefits, such as housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – commonly called “food stamps” – and many more.

State Rep. Donald Wong (left) presents a citation to Giles Li, executive director of BCNC.

As a family-centered organization, providing neighborhood-based social services for close to fifty years, BCNC strongly believes that when immigrants and their families can participate fully in our society, then our whole society benefits. BCNC recognizes that stable housing, health care, and food are immeasurably important to the safety and security of all families, especially young children. Many working-class families rely on government assistance during their most difficult periods, to overcome their greatest challenges and progress to lead healthy and stable lives.

The proposed “public charge” policy reflects a belief from the White House that immigrants who enroll in public assistance programs take a lot from the country, while contributing little. But we at BCNC understand first-hand how government programs such as food stamps, subsidized children’s health insurance, and affordable housing, can greatly reduce day-to-day stress for disadvantaged immigrants, providing stability and peace of mind as they work to better the lives of their families. Further, it is an outright rejection of the American Dream to tell newcomers they are only welcome if they already have wealth, a formal education, and a high-paying job.

The majority of the families BCNC serves are low-income and benefit from some form of government assistance. Most BCNC constituents are not yet eligible to apply for citizenship but work hard to avoid unexpected challenges to receiving a green card in the future. If this proposed public charge policy is enacted, these hard-working families could be denied even the opportunity to become naturalized citizens; denial of immigration status should not be a punishment for accepting government assistance to strive for a better life for themselves and their children.

Policy targeting families unsure of where their next meal will come from, trying to use medical care, or seeking shelter is especially cruel. All families deserve to be sure that there will be a next meal available to them. All families deserve the opportunity to see a doctor not only when they feel sick, but also for preventative care. All families – and especially young children – deserve to have a roof over their heads, a place to sleep, and a place to be surrounded and nurtured by the people they love.

At BCNC, we support many families with children who are citizens and parents who are not. This policy, which aims to discourage immigration, would have the unintended consequence of harming children who were born in this country. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 39 percent of more than 400,000 citizen children in this situation in Massachusetts would be in danger of losing their health insurance.

If the policy is enacted, it is likely that many immigrants who receive public assistance will withdraw from all benefits programs in fear of endangering potential citizenship. Also, many new immigrants will decline to apply for any public benefits for the same reason, even when fully eligible. This will have a very deep negative impact on the well-being of our communities.

Reasonable people can argue politics, but it is unconscionable to force innocent children to bear the brunt of ill-advised policy decisions.

BCNC will continue to support our constituents who could be significantly impacted by the public charge policy. BCNC will continue to stand by and support the most vulnerable families in our communities regardless of what DHS policies are changed.

About Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC)

BCNC is the largest nonprofit social service provider for Asian families in the Greater Boston area, supporting over 3,000 children, youth, and adults each year at four locations in Boston and Quincy. The mission of BCNC is to ensure that the children, youth, and families we serve have the resources and supports they need to achieve greater economic success and social well-being. BCNC provides families access to resources and services, opportunities to learn and acquire skills, and a community of mutual support and encouragement. In May 2017, BCNC opened the Pao Arts Center, Chinatown’s first community-based arts center and Boston’s newly dedicated Asian American and Asian immigrant cultural space.