Contact: Arnice Cottom, 202-777-3913
Statement from Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director, American Public Health Association
Washington, D.C., Aug. 15, 2019 – "The American Public Health Association condemns the finalized ‘public charge’ rule put out by the Trump administration, which would punish lawfully present U.S. immigrants for accessing public benefit programs they have a legal right to use.
“This rule penalizes people for seeking services that improve both their health and health in their community. There will be real and serious consequences from this rule and its resulting chilling effect, which will drive people away from accessing the health, nutrition and housing services they need. Millions of people will forgo benefits because they are fearful that using them will endanger their immigration status. If allowed to go into effect, this rule will have drastic effects on the public’s health, eroding decades of progress.
“We can expect higher rates of obesity, malnutrition and poverty; lower rates of prescription adherence and education attainment; and increased health care costs as immigrants turn to emergency departments to treat preventable illness and chronic disease complications.
“In short, this rule is discriminatory and sets the stage for a public health crisis. It will force millions of documented immigrants to make the impossible choice between accessing the benefits they need or keeping their families together. The rule would also undermine the administration’s stated goal of ensuring that immigrants are self-sufficient. There is extensive data that shows access to these safety net benefits provides crucial support that allows low-income families to sustain employment, maintain health and promote overall self-sufficiency.
“As public health professionals, we do not turn our backs on people in need, and we do not intentionally set roadblocks to accessing services and assistance that promote health. At a time when our nation faces a declining life expectancy and growing health disparities, we cannot afford to discourage people from accessing basic health and nutrition services and limit housing options.
“This rule is unconscionable, inequitable and cannot stand.”
APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public's health. Visit us at www.apha.org.