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Public Charge: Immigrant Health Under Trump’s New Rule

The Trump administration recently finalized a new immigration rule that aims to make it far harder for U.S. immigrants to obtain green cards if a government test deems them likely to use public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance. The effects of this “public charge” rule could reach far beyond the nearly 400,000 people seeking green cards within the U.S. every year. Rampant fear and confusion about the new rule, announced last year, have led a growing number of immigrant families in the United States to forgo public benefits and health care. The rule’s “chilling effect” could impact more than 2 million people in California alone, by one estimate. Dropping or losing such benefits and services can in turn pose a host of health risks for children and families — from skipping treatments for chronic health conditions like diabetes to less food on the table for children. This webinar will help reporters understand how the public charge rule is shaping the health of immigrant families, and provide key data points, resources and story ideas.

WHEN: Sept. 11, from 10 to 11 a.m. PT / 1-2 p.m. ET

REGISTER: [Now closed]


Elizabeth Aguilera is a multimedia journalist who covers health care and immigration for CalMatters. She is also the co-founder of Migratory Notes, a weekly newsletter that synthesizes exceptional immigration journalism and highlights resources. Previously, she reported for Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3, where she produced stories about community health. Her reporting there revealed lead-tainted soil on school campuses near a former lead battery recycling plant that spurred district action. Previously Aguilera was a staff writer at the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she covered immigration and demographics. At the U-T, she won a “Best of the West” award for her coverage of sex trafficking between Mexico and the United States. At the Denver Post, where Aguilera wrote about urban affairs and business, she was named a Livingston Award finalist for her reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Aguilera has also worked at the Orange County Register. She is a Marshall Memorial Fellow and an International Center for Journalists alum. Aguilera, a graduate of Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California, lives in Los Angeles.

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is the founding director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center and an associate professor of political science at the University of California San Diego. He previously served as an advisor to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under the Obama administration. His research focuses on the politics of immigration, citizenship, race and ethnicity, and the politics of identity. His first book, “Rights, Deportation, and Detention in the Age of Immigration Control,” (2015) analyzes the immigration control policies of 25 Western democracies. His second book, “The Politics of Immigration: Partisanship, Demographic Change, and American National Identity,” (2017) analyzes over 30,000 roll call votes on immigration-related legislation in Congress since 2005, the most comprehensive analysis to date on the contemporary politics of immigration in the United States. Wong and his work has been covered by ABC News/Univision, NPR, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, and by Univision in Mexico. He is also on the leadership committee of the California Immigrant Policy Center and the board of the New American Leaders Project.

Altaf Saadi, M.D., is a neurologist and physician-researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Previously, she was a fellow at UCLA’s National Clinician Scholars Program. Dr. Saadi completed her neurology training at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals in Boston, where she also served as chief resident. During residency, she worked in Tanzania, Zambia and the Navajo Nation, with Boston Healthcare for the Homeless and the Doctors Without Borders telemedicine program. She has also served as an asylum evaluator for the PHR Asylum Network, and has assessed the medical conditions of confinement in immigration detention at facilities in Texas and California. Her research focuses on health inequities and disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and refugees, and enhancing diversity within the medical workforce. Her research has been published in JAMA and the British Medical Journal, and she has written for STAT News, the Huffington Post, and Boston NPR’s CommonHealth Blog. Dr. Saadi is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Medical School, where she received the Dean’s Community Service Award. She has also received a master’s degree in health policy and management from UCLA.

Webinars are free and made possible by The Commonwealth Fund and the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.  

Presenters' slides:

1) For Prof. Tom Wong's slides, click here.

2) For Dr. Altaf Saadi's slides, click here.

3) For Elizabeth Aguilera's slides, click here.

 Suggested reading


The Administration Rushed on a Sweeping Immigration Policy. We Found Substantive, Sloppy Mistakes.” By Dara Lind and Yeganeh Torbati, ProPublica

Exclusive: Visa denials to poor Mexicans skyrocket under Trump’s State Department,” by Ted Hesson, Politico

A Tortured Choice for Immigrants: Your Health or Your Green Card?” by Dr. Douglas Jacobs, The New York Times

Immigrant Families Are Dropping Public Benefits, And A Proposed Trump Rule Could Be Why,” by Leslie Berestein Rojas, Southern California Public Radio

Trump administration’s ‘public charge’ rule has chilling effect on benefits for immigrants’ children,” by Leila Miller, Los Angeles Times

Immigrants already dropping benefits ahead of new Trump rule, California counties say,” by Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News


The Impact of Changes to the Public Charge Rule on Undocumented Immigrants Living in the U.S.,” by Tom K. Wong, PhD, Jeremiah Cha and Erika Villarreal-Garcia, U.S. Immigration Policy Center, University of California San Diego

Changes to ‘Public Charge’ Inadmissibility Rule: Implications for Health and Health Coverage,” by Kaiser Family Foundation, Aug. 12, 2019

Safety Net Access in the Context of the Public Charge Rule: Voices of Immigrant Families,” by Hamutal Bernstein, Sara McTarnaghan, Dulce Gonzalez, Urban Institute

Proposed Changes to Immigration Rules Could Cost California Jobs, Harm Public Health,” by Ninez A. Ponce, Laurel Lucia and Tia Shimada, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Gauging the Impact of DHS’ Proposed Public-Charge Rule on U.S. Immigration,” by Randy Capps, Mark Greenberg, Michael Fix, and Jie Zong, Migration Policy Institute

How the New Public Charge Rule Impacts Children in Immigrant Communities,” by Kelly Whitener, Georgetown Center for Children and Families

Making a Case for Sanctuary Hospitals,” by Altaf Saadi, MD, Sameer Ahmed, JD and Mitchell H. Katz, MD, JAMA



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