Op-ed: Trump’s ‘public charge’ rule is bad policy during pandemic

A Trump administration rule enacted in January could lead to an increase in the spread of COVID-19 in immigrant communities, which have already been hit hard by the pandemic, according to an op-ed co-authored by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In January, the Trump administration implemented a new rule related to the “public charge” immigration policy. Under the rule, an immigrant’s use of public programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and subsidized housing can be used as a reason to deny them permanent residency status (known as green cards). According to the August 21, 2020 op-ed in STAT, the rule could cause people to avoid seeking medical care or to continue working while sick, thus undermining public health efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“Forcing immigrants to choose between their health and having food on their table, shelter over their heads, or safety from punitive immigration regulations will continue to perpetuate the cycle of infections and deaths from Covid-19,” wrote the authors, including Jose Figueroa, assistant professor of health policy and management, and Benjamin Sommers, Huntley Quelch Professor of Health Care Economics. They urged the administration to permanently reverse the rule.

Read the STAT op-ed: The Trump administration’s ‘public charge’ rule and Covid-19: bad policy at the worst time