MAZON Outraged by Public Charge Rule Change

September 26, 2018

Over the weekend, the Trump Administration announced a proposed change to the federal rules related to who is deemed a ‘public charge’ in the U.S. As a Jewish organization, MAZON finds the timing particularly odious as this news arrived as our community prepared for Sukkot — a time when we welcome strangers to come and eat with us in our sukkahs, sharing our abundance with those who may have little or none.

The proposed new rule radically expands the criteria for determining who would be considered a ‘public charge,’ now requiring the government to consider non-cash benefits — a heretofore unheard of requirement in America — including food assistance a family has received. This information will be “heavily weighted” in determining whether someone applying for lawful immigration status will become a ‘public charge.’

This policy change applies to immigrant applicants or any of their dependent family members — including U.S. citizen children — and includes vital food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other public safety net programs including Medicaid and housing assistance.

In response to the announcement, Abby J. Leibman, MAZON’s President & CEO, today issued the following statement:

“Even after months of rumors and leaks, we are stunned at this latest evidence of the callous and cynical perspective this Administration demonstrates with regard to immigrants to this country and the vital safety programs that have been a hallmark of America’s identity and core beliefs.

“As a Jewish organization, we are mindful of the immigrant history of our people, including the implementation of public charge laws in previous generations to prevent Jews and other groups from entering this country. This cruel policy goes against our most basic values of nondiscrimination, respect, caring for those in need, and welcoming immigrants. As an anti-hunger organization, this goes against our deeply-held belief that everyone deserves access to the resources they need to feed themselves and their families. And as Americans, we are mortified by what this suggests about a change in the values that we long believed to be essential to all Americans — particularly those in leadership.

“By dramatically expanding the definition of what it means to be a ‘public charge,’ the Trump Administration is trying to make it more difficult for immigrants to apply for legal immigration status in the U.S. We find this completely unacceptable—nobody should be forced to choose between accepting government assistance and living in safety with the people they love.

“The proposed change to the public charge laws will only make our country poorer, sicker, and less compassionate.”