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Gov. Brown, OHA welcome order blocking 'public charge rule'

SALEM, Ore. - Gov. Kate Brown on Friday thanked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for issuing an immediate injunction to temporarily prevent the federal "Public Charge Rule" from taking effect next Tuesday.

The rule would allow the federal government to block immigrants who live in the United States legally from receiving a green card or visa if they apply for health care benefits like the Oregon Health Plan, public food benefits or housing benefits. The rule would apply even for immigrant parents applying for services with American children, born in the United States.

"Today's injunction from the court validates what we believe as Oregonians: This rule is wrong, and we will not stand for intolerance in America," Brown said. 

"As a state, and as a nation, we would not be who we are today without the contributions of immigrants to our communities, our economy, and our way of life. This new rule was designed by the Trump administration to intimidate working immigrants who live here lawfully, simply for trying to provide for their children. 

"Effectively, this rule would force parents to choose between receiving a green card and making sure their children are healthy, fed, or sheltered. It is malicious bureaucracy from the Trump administration, meant to spread fear and confusion in our immigrant communities," Brown said.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said, "The court has agreed with us that the federal government's cruel attempt to keep immigrants from accessing even modest public assistance is inconsistent with U.S. law. Families and parents should not have to live in fear that their immigration status will be jeopardized because they need a little help with food and shelter."

While some state of Oregon-administered benefits are already affected by current rules, this new rule would impact additional benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), that serves more than 600,000 Oregonians, as well as some Medicaid programs. More than 250,000 immigrants work in Oregon, and 132,000 children are covered by the Oregon Health Plan have at least one immigrant parent.

Without an injunction from the court, the new rule would have taken effect on Oct. 15. In August, Oregon joined a lawsuit with California, Maine, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia to challenge the new rule. A coalition of 13 states also filed a separate lawsuit to challenge it. The federal judge in that case also issued a nationwide injunction Friday.

While the new rule has not yet taken effect, local health departments workers have already reported that some immigrant families are reluctant to apply for SNAP or the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) for their children, worried that doing so would soon jeopardize their visa or green card.

"Today's federal court injunction is a positive step for the health of Oregon communities," said Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen. "Health care providers and community non-profits have told us that the proposed public charge rule has contributed to a climate of fear in immigrant communities that has deterred parents from seeking health care for their children, kept struggling families from accessing nutrition assistance and discouraged other sick and vulnerable people from using needed health care services.

"Health care should not be stigmatized as a public assistance benefit or used against anyone in an immigration proceeding. We all benefit when more people in Oregon––regardless of immigration status––have health coverage that ensures they can receive high quality, affordable health care," Allen added.

 

More information on the public charge rule is available from the following resources:

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News release from the Oregon Health Authority:

Lawsuits temporarily block the Trump Administration's public charge rule

California, Washington and New York federal judges today issued injunctions temporarily blocking the Department of Homeland Security's new public charge rule that would make it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards. The new rule was scheduled to take effect on Oct. 15 and, among other changes, expands the list of benefits that the federal government could consider in deciding whether a person can enter the United States or obtain lawful permanent residency. Non-emergency Oregon Health Plan coverage (i.e., Medicaid) for non-pregnant adults 21 and older could be one of the newly impacted programs.

The Oregon Health Authority is the state agency responsible for protecting the health of all 4 million people living in Oregon.

In a previous statement, issued after the original federal rule was announced, the Oregon Health Authority said, "We know that health coverage contributes to healthier pregnancies, births, and childhood outcomes. When people have health coverage, they are better able to work, go to school and contribute in other ways to their local economy. Employers benefit from a healthier workforce, insurance costs are lower, and there is less absenteeism. As a result, this rule is in direct conflict with our agency's mission, which is to help people and communities achieve optimum physical, mental and social well-being and improve access to quality, affordable health care."

OHA wants to inform Oregon residents that under the current rule, the only public benefit programs in Oregon that are subject to public charge consideration are cash assistance programs (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Social Security Income) and long-term care.

Friday's injunctions prevent the public charge definition from being extended to certain additional federally funded programs, like non-emergency Medicaid for non-pregnant adults 21 and older.

OHA encourages anyone who has questions or concerns about how public charge may affect them or members of their family to seek counsel from a qualified immigration attorney.

More information on the public charge rule is available here, including frequently asked questions in eight languages.


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