The Department of Homeland Security finalized changes to the public charge rule that will make it much more difficult for immigrants from low-income backgrounds to gain permanent residency status in the US. In the past, the public charge rule considered whether applicants would be dependent on cash assistance or long-term care. The rule change considers use of a broader range of social service programs—programs that documented immigrants are entitled to access, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing assistance, and Medicaid—and will also consider income and financial status (under 125% of the federal poverty level will count as a negative factor, over 250% of the federal poverty level as a positive factor), age (being under the age of 18 or over the age of 61 will be counted negatively), education, and health status, with medical conditions deemed likely to require extensive treatment or institutional care, or to interfere with the immigrant’s ability to earn an income counting against the applicant. The public charge test does not apply to all immigrants – humanitarian immigrants, like refugees or human trafficking survivors will not be subjected to the test, nor will Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, people renewing their green card status, and some other categories of immigrants.
The rule change is currently scheduled to go into effect on October 15. In an interview with NPR, acting head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli offered his own revisions to the Emma Lazarus poem that is etched into the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet. And who will not become a public charge.” Researchers estimate that 26 million people would be directly affected by changes to public charge, including approximately three-quarters of immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America, and that the “chilling effect” of this policy change will be much broader. Already, many social service agencies have seen drops in enrollment among immigrant populations.
In an interview with Vox, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, described changes to public charge as part of an overall governance strategy that says “that if you are brown and you are an immigrant, you are not welcome here, and this now codifies that. This basically says we only want white, wealthy people to come to this country, or even to remain in this country… The other impact of course is actually on families’ overall well-being and health. We have already seen families who are forgoing necessary treatment like chemotherapy, preventive care, reproductive care — any kind of care — nutritional assistance for newborns. Many families who are deciding to dis-enroll in a whole range of programs because they are afraid they are being made to choose between taking care of themselves and their families or eventually being permanently separated from their families if, at the time they apply for their green card, they are denied because they are deemed to be a “public charge.””
The Trace reports on community-based efforts to prevent gun violence, as an increasing number of cities and states are investing in these kinds of initiatives. “The shift is particularly evident in California, where in June, Governor Gavin Newsom approved $30 million for California Violence Intervention and Prevention, or CalVIP, a statewide grant program. CalVIP supports local organizations that seek to reduce violence through interventions like mentoring, educational activities, job training, and therapy for black youth who’ve experienced violence. The funding infusion, up from $9 million, marks the largest in the program’s history. Activists of color say the change is long overdue. “Victims of violence in communities have largely been seen as a problem for black folks, brown folks, poor folks to solve on our own,” said Michael McBride, a Bay Area pastor and director of LIVE FREE, a campaign that aims to stem urban violence and mass incarceration. “We have been for decades trying to raise the kind of strategies that we know, with proper support and funding, could save a lot of lives.” … While they welcome the increased focus on urban shootings, advocates of color note the racial disparity that persists in who is leading, managing, and defining the discussion. “We as national black and brown-led organizations are left out of the national dialogue on the regular,” said Anthony Smith, executive director for Cities United, which helps mayors and cities create safer and healthier environments for young black men and boys. “You hear about Everytown, Giffords, and March for Our Lives. You don’t get to hear about Cities United, Good Kids Mad City, and LIVE FREE.””
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement on how racism affects children’s health and development. Dr. Maria Trent, one of the co-authors, says, “Racism is a significant social determinant of health clearly prevalent in our society now… we call it a socially transmitted disease: It’s taught, it’s passed down, but the impacts on children and families are significant from a health perspective.”
LAist reports on the progress made so far by Sacramento County's Black Child Legacy Campaign, launched in 2015 to reduce preventable deaths among African-American children, and details the campaign’s approach to data, analysis, community ownership of the initiative, addressing structural factors, and developing targeted universalist approaches. To begin with, “the committee identified four main causes of the deaths: sleep-related deaths or sudden unexplained deaths; child abuse and neglect by parents or caregivers; issues in pregnancy, like premature birth; and third-party homicide, like gun or gang violence. They found seven Sacramento neighborhoods where these issues were the most pronounced. Danielle Lawrence, who runs a nonprofit in one of those neighborhoods, Arden Arcade, said the report was a turning point. "You understand that there are disparities everywhere when you do this work, and yet and still, it wasn't until this report laid it out in black and white that we were like, 'Oh, this is deeper than we even thought,'" Lawrence said.”
PI’s Elva Yañez wrote a blog on overcoming guns, hatred, and racism, tracing the long history of white supremacist violence that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have faced in the US: “This act of domestic terrorism points our attention to our collective past, making clear that the recent changes in immigration policies and practices, as well as the normalization of virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric, are simply the latest chapter of an abhorrent history that has led to genocide, the institution of slavery, mass incarceration, deportation, and internment—all leaving illness, injury, and death in their wake.”
The Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk reports on how African-American farming families have lost millions of acres of land across the South over past century, which Newkirk describes as “the great land robbery”: “Owners of small farms everywhere, black and white alike, have long been buffeted by larger economic forces. But what happened to black landowners in the South, and particularly in the Delta, is distinct, and was propelled not only by economic change but also by white racism and local white power. A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America. They have lost 12 million acres over the past century. But even that statement falsely consigns the losses to long-ago history. In fact, the losses mostly occurred within living memory, from the 1950s onward. Today, except for a handful of farmers... who have been able to keep or get back some land, black people in this most productive corner of the Deep South own almost nothing of the bounty under their feet.”
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change focuses on land-use approaches to mitigate the effects of climate change, ranging from limiting urban sprawl, restoring damaged ecosystems like wetlands and prairies, diversifying crops and improving productivity of land already in cultivation, and other strategies.
The New York Times reports that a quarter of humanity faces looming water shortages and tracks water stress levels across major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, which already faces extremely high water stress levels. “The stakes are high for water-stressed places. When a city or a country is using nearly all the water available, a bad drought can be catastrophic… A lot can be done to improve water management, though. First, city officials can plug leaks in the water distribution system. Wastewater can be recycled. Rain can be harvested and saved for lean times: lakes and wetlands can be cleaned up and old wells can be restored. And, farmers can switch from water-intensive crops, like rice, and instead grow less-thirsty crops like millet.”