The Department of Homeland Security is continuing to develop a radical change to the public charge rule that would threaten the ability of legal immigrants who access public benefits to change their immigration status and even remain in the US. Historically,this rule has often been abused to exclude people with disabilities and other health conditions, single mothers and their children, refugees, and other groups considered by the US government at the time to be “undesirable” immigrants based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. The proposed rule change would dramatically expand the scope of this public charge rule to cover use of “any government assistance in the form of cash, checks or other forms of money transfers, or instruments and non-cash government assistance in the form of aid, services, or other relief, that is means-tested or intended to help the individual meet basic living requirements.” That includes the Children’s Health Insurance Program; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; housing assistance; the Earned Income Tax Credit; Supplemental Security Income; Medicaid; Medicare; and subsidized healthcare purchased on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, among other forms of government assistance. The Washington Post reports that rumors about changes to public charge are already discouraging immigrants from accessing WIC, CHIP, and other benefits to which they are legally entitled: “Advocates say another effect of such a policy would be that legal immigrants may also refuse social services like health care because they think it will negatively impact their hope of bringing their kids, or other relatives, across the border to join them. The draft policy suggests an immigration caseworker could deny a visa based on the use of public benefits by anyone in the immigrant sponsor's household.” This rule change is so radical that if the test were applied to the US population as a whole more than 100 million Americans -- one-third of the population – would ‘fail,’ according to an assessment by the Center for American Progress, which notes that “under the rewritten test, people would generally fail if they had income and resources of less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or had a medical condition and no unsubsidized source of health insurance.”
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court this week challenging the Trump administration’s changes to credible-fear asylum standards that immigration lawyers say have led to many migrants who would have qualified to pursue asylum in the past to be swiftly rejected and deported. In the New York Times, Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project said, “I haven’t met a single person in the last few weeks who passed their credible-fear interview… We have never seen such a high volume of denials.” On Thursday, a federal judge threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of court after learning that the administration was in the process of deporting a mother and daughter while their asylum case was being heard in court.
The Violence Against Women Act, which provides grants for law enforcement training, victim services and prevention efforts, is set to expire at the end of September unless lawmakers move to reauthorize it. “In late July, House Democrats introduced a measure to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. Then House lawmakers went on recess. When they return on Sept. 4, they will have only a few weeks before the law expires. VAWA has “ushered in a seismic transformation on how society perceives violence against women,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “Nonetheless, much work remains to address unmet needs and to enhance access to protections and services for all victims.” … Among its provisions, the 2018 bill would provide law enforcement with more tools to remove firearms from domestic abusers who are not legally allowed to own them. Gun violence prevention groups say this is a critical area of focus, as firearms are the most commonly used weapons in domestic violence homicides. In the U.S., a woman is killed by an intimate partner with a gun every 16 hours…. The bill would also offer improved protections for domestic violence victims living in public housing. Victims would be shielded from eviction, for instance, if their abuser breaks the law, and victims would be able to transfer apartments to seek safety without penalty.”
This week marked Equal Pay Day for Black women, the average date into the new year that a Black woman must work to earn the same as a man earned the previous year. The National Women’s Law Center broke down women’s wages and true “equal pay” days by race/ethnicity. For every dollar made by the average man, white women earn an average of 79 cents per dollar (making white women’s Equal Pay Day April 17), Black women earn 63 cents (Equal Pay Day for Black women would be August 7), Native women earn 57 cents per dollar (Equal Pay Day September 7), and Latina women earn 54 cents (Equal Pay Day for Latina women would be November 1). Asian-American women on average earn more than their peers (87 cents per dollar, Equal Pay Day February 22), but this masks wide disparities across Asian ethnic groups.
Vox reports on the Trump administration’s failure to aid Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria – aid that could have prevented a significant number of the staggering 1,427 deaths that occurred in the aftermath of the disaster.
In this piece in the New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi writes about California’s strong pushback against the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken fuel efficiency standards for cars, and its attempt to strip California of its ability to set its own clean air rules. If implemented as designed, by 2035 Trump’s climate policy proposal could increase US greenhouse gas emissions by an amount that exceeds what Austria or Bangladesh produce in a year. California is aggressively rebutting the administration’s proposal: “As a first step, California plans to change its rules to declare that the federal government’s current, stricter auto-emission targets are the only ones that comply with state law — and not any future targets that are less strict… California’s move would also unequivocally establish a separate emissions regime for the state and the 12 others that follow its standards, a coalition that covers more than 130 million residents and more than a third of the domestic auto market.”