Nutrition First strongly encourages you to submit comments on the proposed immigration rules. Please read the following information from our partner, the Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition, regarding how to make a strong comment. In addition to the many valuable resources listed here, the National WIC Association has also posted many resources that can be accessed here.
Although WIC is not specifically listed in the proposed rule, many other critical programs including Medicaid, SNAP, and housing assistance programs are included. Many Washington State WIC clients need Medicaid, SNAP and housing assistance to stabilize their family and support positive health outcomes. The updated policy hurts the people we serve, and undermines the positive work that WIC does. Please note that regulatory commenting it not a lobbying activity.
From the Washington State Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition:
Why, Where & How Anti-Hunger Advocates Should Submit Comments on Public Charge:
More than 1,500 national and local organizations oppose the new proposed immigration rule from the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) because it would make our communities and our country hungrier, sicker, and more poor. Together we are trying to stop these changes in how people get access health care, food assistance and housing when they’re in need – regardless of where they come from.
To learn more about how the proposed “public charge” rule would undermine strategies to fight hunger for legal immigrants, FRAC’s brief is helpful. Also check out CLASP’s short brief on public charge more generally, and the national Protecting Immigrant Families campaign.
For tons more background, messaging, and more, check out AHNC’s alert from a few weeks ago.
This proposed rule dramatically redefines what “public charge” means for legal immigrants applying for permanent status in the U.S. Currently, the government focuses on whether an immigrant is likely to become primarily dependent on benefits for subsistence (become a ‘public charge’).
The new rule would extend to immigrant who receives basic assistance – including SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, Medicare Part D, or housing assistance. If deemed a ‘public charge’, longtime immigrant members of our community could be deported Additional new negative factors for immigrants applying for permanent status include: having children, not speaking English, being diagnosed with a medical condition, or earning low wages. The only positive factor considered to grant permanent status would be high income (over $62,000/year for a family of 4) – an income standard that even tens of millions of Americans could not meet in our economy.
When 1 in 4 children in the U.S. has an immigrant parent, this rule change would have sweeping, devastating personal and economic effects for all of us.
But we have a way to stop this! The federal government must allow a public comment period (now – December 10) and the public’s comments can STOP this rule. This is why the government needs to hear loud and clearly from everyone!
Where to Submit a Comment:
Our partners at Children’s Alliance and OneAmerica have created a Washington public comment website to make it easy to submit comments. We strongly encourage Washingtonians to use our state-based site so it’s easier for us to communicate about what’s happening in our state and organize for maximum impact. (The short link is: https://p2a.co/5a0VOh4)
The rule was published on October 10, so comments must be submitted NO LATER than Monday, December 10 (a 60-day comment period).
How to Submit a Comment THAT COUNTS:
After December 10, all non-identical comments must be analyzed and taken into consideration by the federal government to make a final rule. If there is overwhelming public response that describes the damaging impact of this proposed rule, President Trump and the Dept. of Homeland Security could stop the rule, or change the rule to address the public’s concerns.
This has been successful before: when the Administration proposed increasing fees to the national parks by nearly 400% last year, the enormous outcry changed the final rule: only a very modest fee increase happened.
If the federal government doesn’t adequately address the concerns raised during the public comment period in the final rule, there could be a legal challenge: so the courts rely on the comments submitted to decide whether the federal government adequately responded to the public’s concerns.
THIS is why making thoughtful, detailed, UNIQUE comments — not copying & pasting— is so essential: we, the people, must make the case to stop this rule. So here are some tips and tools to help you and your partners, neighbors, local government officials, friends on Facebook, and anyone else you know to submit effective, compelling public comments.
Tips for Submitting a Comment
Our goal is to submit 4,000 unique comments from Washington State (our national goal is to collect 100,000 comments!). To achieve this, we need EVERYONE’S help –
Before you do anything else, PLEASE START by reading this
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about how to make a public comment – it’s more complicated than writing a message to your lawmakers. This FAQ points out ways you and others can submit comments in a way that will make a difference – by being clear and not making mistakes, and helping others to also comment.
• Make the comments your own
• Make sure your comment is at least 30% unique, or personalized by you
• Submit relevant documents (research articles, policy briefs, fact sheets, etc.) as attachments – the federal government will have to analyze all of these!
• If you are an expert, highlight your qualifications – you can even submit your resume (see ‘relevant documents’ above)
• If you are a concerned individual, highlight why you care
• If you’ve benefitted from SNAP, Medicaid or Section 8, share how the program helped you
• Include a relevant personal story – your own or someone else’s (if you use their name, get permission) about how the rule will increase hunger and about how these programs help people succeed
• Highlight relevant data and research; and
• Provide a translation of non-English comments (any non-English comments can’t be analyzed, but they can be submitted alongside an English translation)
• Submit comments on behalf of someone else if they aren’t comfortable submitting their own (see below for more info about this)
• Copy someone else’s comments verbatim
• Sign on to comments from someone else (a sign-on letter with 10 signatures would only be counted by DHS as one comment. If those 10 people were to each send in their own comment that counts as 10 comments)
• Suggest ‘fixes’ or ways to improve the proposed rule (respond only to what is proposed)
• Discuss any programs not identified in the proposed rule
• Wait until Dec. 8 to get started or spread the word (get started now!)
Sample Comment Language by Stakeholder Group
Below is information you may want to reference when drafting your comment. Please feel free to use information from the stakeholder group(s) that best fits your experience.
Sample Comment Messages for Hunger/Nutrition/Food System Stakeholders
See FRAC toolkit for more information and research sources to strengthen your comments.
Anti-Hunger Advocates/ Organizations:
Emphasize how the rule would greatly undercut efforts to address food insecurity and poverty by making it harder for immigrant families to access a range of nutrition, health, and human services programs that are essential to our nation’s health and well-being.
Focus on how immigrant families would be forced to make impossible choices between accessing vital programs that safeguard their health, nutrition, housing, and economic security and keeping their family together in the United States; and how the rule itself states on page 51,270, “There are a number of consequences that could occur … Worse health outcomes, including increased prevalence of obesity and malnutrition, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants, or children, and reduced prescription adherence … and increased rates of poverty.”
Discuss how any and all of the following will:
Spur immigrants who are currently allowed to participate in these critical programs to forgo assistance or disenroll, jeopardizing their food security, health, well-being, and economic security: The rule will have a chilling impact on SNAP participation; families will fear that participation in – even participation by U.S. citizen family members – will affect a loved one’s ability to stay or enter the country and will therefore disenroll or forgo enrolling in SNAP. The loss of access to SNAP would further exacerbate food insecurity. SNAP is a critical source of support for struggling households; research shows how SNAP lifts people out of poverty, reduces hunger and obesity, and improves school attendance, behavior, and achievement.
Shift costs associated with the harms to health, food security, economic security, education and well-being of families to state and local governments: The people impacted by this proposed rule will not just be the immigrant families involved, and local communities will be harmed by the rule. Families who are stripped of federal assistance will still need assistance with food and other basic needs. States would incur increased costs to meet this need and/or costs associated with poorer health, education, and worker productivity outcomes related to loss of federal assistance. In the wake of eliminating SNAP eligibility for many legal immigrants after the 1996 welfare law change, several states invested state dollars to meet part of the resulting need for food assistance. Those stop-gap measures proved to be neither comprehensive nor sustainable in the long run. States and localities should not have to bear the costs of federal withdrawal of assistance to people who depend on safety net and public benefit programs to live.
Create an unmanageable demand at nonprofits(such as faith-based groups and emergency food providers): Community-based organizations don’t have the capacity to absorb the increased need. Families who are stripped of government assistance will still need assistance with food and other basic needs; the charitable network will not be able to replace the vital assistance SNAP and other health and housing programs provide.
Harm health:The proposed rule will increase food insecurity. Food insecurity is associated with some of the most common and costly health problems in the U.S., including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and depression. The consequences of food insecurity are especially detrimental to the health, development, and well-being of children.
Harm one’s ability to get healthy: Families experiencing food insecurity may need to use coping strategies to stretch insufficient budgets (e.g., underusing medicine, forgoing foods for a special medical diet, or diluting or rationing infant formula due to cost considerations). These coping strategies exacerbate existing disease and compromise health.
Harm academic outcomes for children:Research shows a link between food insecurity and poor educational performance and academic outcomes for children – all of which have developmental, health, and economic consequences in both the short and long terms.
Increase rates of poverty: Inclusion of SNAP and other safety net programs (including Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and housing assistance) will drive families away from vital safety net programs; loss of access to these programs would further exacerbate poverty and food insecurity. Based on the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2017, SNAP moved 3.4 million people out of poverty, and housing assistance moved 2.9 million people out of poverty.
Change how Congress has already deemed certain immigrants eligible for nutrition programs: By creating negative consequences for some immigrants and instilling fear and uncertainty for others, this rule strips immigrant families of access to programs for which they are eligible that provide vital support to help them move out of poverty; Congress has already laid out specific standards and requirements within federal public benefits programs to decide which non-citizens or citizens living with non-citizens can access a range of public benefit programs, including SNAP; these policies would be undercut if the public charge doctrine were expanded to SNAP and other federal programs in ways that deter people from accessing benefits that they are authorized by Congress to receive.
Generate confusion for federal, state, and local agencies and service providers: The rule would reverse longstanding existing law, policy, and practice in interpreting the public charge law. The receipt of SNAP and other non-cash benefits has never been a determining factor in deciding whether an individual is likely to become a public charge. Staff would have to field a range of questions – from those potentially affected by the policy and those confused by the policy or fearful that they are covered – that they would not have the immigration law background to handle; families who are legally eligible for programs will disenroll or forgo assistance, creating costs associated with disenrolling people, providing notice to current participants, and responding to multiple inquiries.
Public Health / Health Care Stakeholders:
Emphasize how important SNAP, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D are to health and how this rule will spur rates of hunger, poverty, and poor health among immigrant families. For instance, how SNAP improves dietary quality, protects against obesity, and improves health, especially among children, and with lasting effects.
Discuss how the rule will:
Undercut the health of families: Food insecurity is associated with some of the most common and costly health problems in the U.S., including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and depression. Restricting access to SNAP would eliminate the health benefits participants get from the program.
Increase health care costs: Food insecurity and related health problems are immensely costly; the U.S. had $178 billion in avoidable healthcare, educational, and lost work productivity costs attributable to hunger and food insecurity in 2014. Restricting access to SNAP would increase avoidable costs attributable to hunger and food insecurity.
Early Childhood / CACFP / Child Care Stakeholders:
Emphasize how important SNAP is to young children and their families and how this rule will increase rates of hunger, poverty, and poor health among immigrant families. For instance, SNAP has dramatic and positive impacts on children’s nutrition and health; SNAP sets the stage for healthy child development that can extend into adulthood.
Discuss how the rule will:
Hurt infants and young children: SNAP is a critical source of support for millions of preschool-age children and their families. The rule will prevent parents from accessing the nutrition needed for their own health and the health and development of their children. Decades of research have shown how proper nutrition in the early years is critical to healthy development and lifelong outcomes. Research also shows the inextricable link between the health of a parent and the health of their child.
Harm your provision of child care and your community:When children do not benefit from SNAP, the result is clear: more children will arrive at your center or family child care home hungry. The rule will result in staff receiving questions about complicated immigration issues on which they are not trained to respond. The rule also will reduce the amount of federal dollars drawn into your local economy.
Out of School Program Stakeholders:
Emphasize how important SNAP is to education, learning, and health and how this rule will spur rates of hunger, poverty, and poor health among immigrant families. For instance, how SNAP has dramatic positive impacts for children’s nutrition, health, and academic achievement; how SNAP nourishes children so they can fully participate in enrichment programs.
Discuss how the rule will:
Hurt the children and families in your program: Fewer children and families will use SNAP, Medicaid, and housing programs or even your out-of- school time program due to fear and uncertainty; children who no longer have access to SNAP and other vital programs will come to your programs hungry and in ill health, less able to learn and more likely to be absent due to illness.
Harm your program and community: The rule will increase fear among immigrant families and potentially reduce the number of children and teens who feel safe attending your programs. It also will reduce the ability to achieve economies of scale, hurting your program’s bottom line. Staff will receive questions about complicated immigration issues on which they are not trained to respond; the rule would greatly undercut efforts to address food insecurity and poverty by making it harder for immigrant families to access SNAP, Medicaid (non-emergency), Medicare Part D, housing, and income support programs that are essential to our nation’s health and well-being.
Emphasize how important SNAP is to education, learning, and health and how this rule will spur rates of hunger, poverty, and poor health among immigrant families. SNAP is a critical source of support for struggling households; research shows how SNAP lifts people out of poverty, reduces hunger and obesity, and improves attendance, behavior, and achievement in school; proper nutrition is critical to individual children and to the wider school environment.
Discuss how the rule will:
Hurt children and families in your school: For instance, how driven by fear and uncertainty, fewer children and families will use SNAP; you will see more children coming to school hungry and sick; hungry children are less able to learn and are more likely to miss school due to illness, repeat a grade, receive special education services, or receive mental health services.
Harm your school and community:For instance, how the rule will divert school resources to addressing the harms to student health, academic achievement, learning, etc.; generate stress and confusion among staff, children, and families due to uncertainty about whether a family may be impacted by this complicated federal rule.
Emphasize how important SNAP, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D are to the health, nutrition, and well-being of seniors and how this rule will increase rates of hunger, poverty, and poor health among immigrant families with seniors. For instance, how SNAP reduces hunger and improves health; older adults participating in SNAP are less likely to delay refilling a prescription, skip medication doses, or take less medication to save money.
Discuss how the rule will:
Harm senior health and independence:Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of food insecurity which are associated with some of the most common and costly health problems in the U.S., including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and depression. Restricting access to SNAP and critical programs would eliminate the health benefits participants get from these programs and put seniors at risk.
Harm senior social service networks:When seniors do not benefit from SNAP, the result is clear: more seniors will arrive at your center hungry. The rule will result in staff receiving questions about complicated immigration issues for which they are not trained on how to respond.
Farmers Markets, Farming, Sustainable Agriculture Stakeholders:
Emphasize how important SNAP is to farmers. For instance, how in 2017, more than $22.4 million in SNAP benefits were spent at farmers markets; how more than 90 Washington farmers markets now accept SNAP; many small farmers, farm workers, and their families are beneficiaries of SNAP, meaning they would be hit doubly hard.
Discuss how the rule will:
Hurt farmers’ ability to make enough to stay afloat: Many farmers operate on incredibly slim margins; for many farmers, federal dollars from programs like SNAP and the resulting matching programs (which provide additional public or private funds for SNAP participants to spend at farmers markets) are critical. The loss of revenue from customers who use federal nutrition program dollars and thus also publicly and privately funded matching programs would strip farmers of income under this rule.
Diminish Washington and other ag states’ ability to harvest food: Immigrants are a pivotal part of the nation’s agricultural labor force; increased fear and loss of access to critical safety net programs would mean a smaller, less healthy, and less productive work force.
Emphasize how important SNAP is to education, learning, and health and how this rule will increase rates of hunger, poverty, and poor health among immigrant students and their families. Focus on the importance of SNAP in addressing hunger and food insecurity among college students. For instance, how SNAP is a critical source of support for struggling students; proper nutrition is critical to individual students and to the wider educational environment.
Discuss how the rule will:
Hurt college students: SNAP is a critical resource for the many college students who struggle with food insecurity. Eligible students will forgo SNAP out of fear and confusion over the rule. Research shows how SNAP lifts people out of poverty, reduces hunger and obesity, and improves attendance, behavior, and achievement. Proper nutrition is critical to individual college students and to the broader campus environment.
Harm your college and community: School resources will be diverted to address the harms to student health and academic achievement resulting from the rule. The complicated federal rule also will generate stress and confusion among college administrators, professors, and staff due to uncertainty about whether a student’s family may be impacted.
Emphasize how SNAP dollars stimulate the economy and generate business for farmers, retailers, and food businesses of all types. Every $1 spent in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 throughout the economy, helping to create markets for farmers and food retail positions. Because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed by families, they are spent quickly – 97 percent of benefits are redeemed by the end of the month of issuance – thereby bolstering local economies.
Discuss how the rule will:
Harm your business: Provide examples of the importance of SNAP to the families that shop at your business. Explain how important SNAP is to your business model.
Harm the economy: SNAP supports the economy – every $1 spent in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 throughout the economy and increases worker productivity. Lower participation in SNAP means less federal funding to support local economies and lowers worker productivity.
Emphasize how the rule will create upstream and downstream harms to states by shifting costs to states to fill in gaps when residents are sicker and hungrier.
Discuss how the rule will:
Harm our state’s economy: SNAP supports the economy; every $1 spent in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 throughout the economy. Lower participation in SNAP means less federal funding to support local economies and lower worker productivity. Families who are stripped of federal assistance will still need assistance with food and other basic needs, meaning additional costs for states. In the wake of eliminating SNAP eligibility for many legal immigrants after the 1996 welfare law change, Washington was the first – and many states followed – to invest state dollars to meet part of the resulting need for food assistance; those stop-gap measures proved to be neither comprehensive nor sustainable in the long run.
States and localities should not have to bear the costs of federal withdrawal of assistance to people who depend on safety net and public benefit programs to live.
Harm job creation: When individuals forgo SNAP assistance, states are stripped of millions of dollars in federal funding that not only could pay for food to nourish infants, students, seniors, veterans, and working families, but also could create jobs in food retail, transportation, and agricultural sectors.
SHARE & SPEAK UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media can spread the word about the threat posed by the public charge rule. More importantly, active engagement on social media shows policymakers that people are fighting back against attacks on immigrant communities.
On Facebook and Twitter, use the hashtags:
READING, RESOURCES, FAQS and MORE:
Protect Immigrant Families: Public Charge FAQ
CLASP: Public Comment Period FAQ