CDF-TX’s New Report on Public Charge and the Chilling Effect in Texas

November 6, 2020 | Texas

By Sara Albanna, Emma Kypuros, Ana Ruiz, & Cheasty Anderson

The Children’s Defense Fund – Texas is proud to announce the publication of our new report, Public Charge and Private Dilemmas: Key Challenges and Best Practices for Fighting the Chilling Effect in Texas, 2017-2019. This report is an analysis of the impact of the Trump Administration’s public charge rule in Texas. Here is a brief overview:

Between the years of 2016-2019, Texas experienced a rapid drop in enrollment in public benefits programs such as SNAP, CHIP, and children’s Medicaid. More than three dozen individuals from state-wide organizations were interviewed for this report. These interviews made it abundantly clear: the decline in public benefit usage was directly related to the climate of fear in immigrant communities created by the current administration’s anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, specifically, changes to the “public charge” rule. This rule initially suggested that any use of a wide array of public programs would disqualify those seeking to become legal permanent residents, which caused hundreds of thousands of families to refuse to access critical health and nutrition benefits – even for their fully eligible citizen children. While the published final rule actually included a much narrower set of benefits that would negatively affect a green card applicant, the “chilling effect” caused by the first suppositions of consequences, nonetheless rippled throughout immigrant communities.

This report provides an understanding of the problems that have exacerbated the chilling effect, and explains there are multilevel solutions to the impossible choices Texas’ immigrant and mixed-status families are facing. To educate and encourage Texans in immigrant families to enroll in the programs that will not affect their status and for which they are eligible, this report offers specific policy and practice recommendations to the Texas Health and Human Services and the Texas state government. This report gives suggestions of best practices that can help outreach workers, enrollment assisters, and health insurance navigators as they exert themselves to re-enroll the eligible Texans who have withdrawn from public benefits.

It is incumbent upon us to do all we can to re-enroll the hundreds of thousands of Texas families who have dropped health and nutritional benefits they have a right to receive. If the current environment of fear and confusion continues, the whole country, not just immigrant families, will face disastrous consequences in public health, education, and the economy. 

Our Texas government and community organizations must take action now.

Read the full report here.