Statement: Trump Policy Takes Aim at Immigrant Communities Yet Again

SEARAC Condemns Cruel ‘Public Charge’ Rule

Washington, DC—On Saturday, the White House announced proposed regulation that would force immigrants to choose between accessing critical health, nutrition, and housing benefits and protecting their immigration status. Under the proposed redefinition of “public charge,” immigrants may lose their right to obtain permanent residence or acquire a green card if found to be using certain government benefits, including non-emergency Medicaid, supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP or food stamps), Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, and housing assistance (public housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, and rental assistance).  This shameful proposal will surely drive up poverty, hunger, unmet health care needs, and worsen a range of other problems facing Southeast Asian Americans (SEAAs) and other low-income communities of color across the United States.

A majority of SEAAs have resided here for decades and now call this country their home; many have become naturalized US citizens and lawful permanent residents who are able to sponsor their families to reunite with them. In 2016, 87% of immigrants from Cambodia, 96% from Laos, and 97% from Vietnam who received a green card were able to do so due to a family-based visa petition.1 While refugees are exempt from public charge determination, low-income SEAAs arriving here through family visas will likely be the most vulnerable to this proposed rule. It is critical to protect the ability of these families to access government programs without fear of having their right to obtain permanent residence or acquire a green card be taken away. These temporary programs are crucial in keeping children and elders in low-income families healthy and in helping lift families out of poverty.

To date, SEAA communities experience poverty at higher rates than the general public, with 11% of Lao families, 13% of Vietnamese families, 14.9% of Cambodian families, and 16.3% of Hmong families still living below the poverty line.2 As such, SEAAs rely heavily on programs like SNAP and Medicaid. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, 11% of Vietnamese, 14.3% of Lao, 17.7% of Cambodian, and 24% of Hmong community members rely on SNAP, while 31.3% of Lao, 31.6% of Vietnamese, 36.2% of Cambodian, and 41.3% of Hmong individuals depend on Medicaid to survive.2

“This inhumane proposal is another attempt by the Trump Administration to attack America’s historical legacy and commitment to welcoming immigrants of all backgrounds,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC. “This is not the America that welcomed my parents as refugees decades ago and showed compassion to many other low-income SEAA immigrants that I grew up with in my community. Immigrant communities should not have to choose between living and thriving in this country. We remain dedicated to fight back against this Administration’s despicable efforts to hurt immigrant families across the country.”

SEARAC is a part of a nationwide “Protecting Immigrant Families” coalition. We are currently waiting for the proposed regulation to be officially published in the Federal Register. Once it is available for public feedback, SEARAC will be rolling out a campaign to collect 1,000 comments. For more information and analysis on the proposed rule, click here. If you have specific questions on the proposed rule, click here to submit to the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition, which is compiling a list of FAQs.


1. Department of Homeland Security, “Table 10: Persons Obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status by Broad Class of Admission and Region and Country of Birth: Fiscal year 2016”:

2. American Community Survey (ACS) – U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 1-year estimates