Press Release

Big City Health Officials Warn that Plans to Restrict Safety Net Benefits Would Endanger Public’s Health

December 2018


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2018                

Coalition Calls Public Charge Rule Dangerous to Families, Especially the 1 in 4 U.S. Children with Immigrant Parents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) sent a comment letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to voice opposition to proposed changes to the “Public Charge Rule,” which would severely restrict access to safety net benefits designed for poor families, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The coalition’s letter urged DHS to halt the agency’s plans to add new burdens to those seeking benefits. The coalition presented evidence that even the threat of imposing these restrictions has already created a “chilling effect,” meaning families have started to avoid public services for their children out of fear of consequences.

“We live in a country where one child in four has an immigrant parent. The proposed policy changes would put millions of children at risk of going without essential nutrition and health benefits,” said Chrissie Juliano, Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “It’s a clear threat to the nation’s health and a violation of our core values as Americans—democracy, dignity, fairness, justice, community, and inclusiveness. As such, we stand with our partners across the health and human services landscape in firm opposition to these proposed changes.”

BCHC is comprised of health officials leading 30 of the nation’s largest metropolitan public health departments, who together serve more than 55 million, or one-in-six, Americans. The member health departments work each day to keep their communities healthy and safe – and, importantly, they serve an incredibly diverse, and often vulnerable, population, including largeimmigrant communities.

In October, the Trump administration proposed a new rule that would not only change but also greatly expand the type and number of public programs taken into account when considering whether or not someone could be deemed a “public charge,” which can affect whether one is granted a visa, green card, or eventual citizenship. Previously, many of the most basic human needs – access to primary health care for children or nutrition programs that ensure children are well nourished – were not included in the calculus. The coalition provided comments on the Proposal to Revise section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated one in four children in the United States have at least one immigrant parent. Health officials have already observed a chilling effect in their communities, among those seeking access to various benefits or even showing up for routine health appointments, where one might get a vaccine, for example. This proposal  has already made—and if implemented will further exacerbate—immigrant families’ fears to seek help from programs for which they are eligible and that support their basic needs. Evidence shows these programs help families stay strong, productive, and raise children who thrive.

CONTACT: Max Mays or 913-233-6830 


About the Big Cities Health Coalition

The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans. For more information, visit