Window to Comment on Public Charge Rule is Shrinking!
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has requested public comments on its proposed rule expanding the public charge test. The comment period to respond to DHS will close in just 21 days, on December 10, 2018. Your comments can be directly submitted to DHS here. Already over 68,000 individuals have commented on this proposed change!
The proposed rule would penalize immigrants if they access Medicaid, SNAP, or housing-assistance programs. The heightened risk to an individual’s immigration status would continue to disincentivize eligible families from accessing any public benefit program, including WIC.
Although WIC is not explicitly mentioned in the proposed rule, DHS has asked for the public’s input on whether any additional use of benefits by immigrants should be considered in public charge review. There remains a risk that WIC participation could be included in the final rule, and we urge the WIC community to speak out now! You are the best voice to elevate WIC’s public health success, demonstrating the immense value that WIC contributes to mothers, children, families, and communities. DHS must learn through your public comments why WIC participation should not be considered in immigration determinations or the public charge test. Remember: Regulatory commenting is not lobbying. The federal government is actively soliciting your input to inform its decision-making.
To assist you in forming a comment, NWA has created template comments. In addition, NWA has drafted guidelines for concerned participants (available in other languages - see below) who may wish to comment in an individual capacity. The participant templates are available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, Russian, French, and Amharic. Please note that DHS will accept comments only in English or with an accompanying English translation. These templates, along with other public charge resources such as talking points and the FAQ document, are also posted on NWA’s Immigration Resources webpage. Please direct any questions about the comment process to Brian Dittmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above resources to help you with submitting a public comment in general, there are some specific resources to help you this week, the week of November 19/Thanksgiving week. These resources come from the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign, of which NWA is a part. This week the campaign is focusing on how the proposed rule change would have an impact on poverty, hunger, and housing.
Here is some suggested text and graphics to use in social media posts.
Post 1: Thanksgiving is about coming together to share a meal as a family. The #PublicCharge rule could make families choose between their meals and their families. Submit a comment to #ProtectFamilies: bit.ly/submitcomment
Twitter-sized graphic 1 with similar wording
Twitter-sized graphic 2 with similar wording
Post 2: This Thanksgiving is especially tough on immigrant families who live paycheck to paycheck. You can help defend our collective future and #ProtectFamilies by submitting a comment opposing the “public charge” changes bit.ly/submitcomment
Post 1: Thanksgiving is about coming together to share a meal as a family. The “#PublicCharge” rule could force families to choose between their meals and their families. Submit a comment to #ProtectFamilies: bit.ly/submitcomment
Facebook-sized graphic with similar wording
Post 2: This Thanksgiving, take action to protect immigrant families hoping for a future in America: Submit a comment to let the government know it's wrong to punish immigrants for putting food on their tables and roofs over their heads. #ProtectFamilies bit.ly/submitcomment
Appropriations Clock is Ticking
Congress was back in session last week after the midterm elections but is on recess this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. When they return next week, there will be only a handful of legislative days remaining until the end of the 115th Congress, which is expected to conclude by December 7. Congress has until that date to pass a spending measure that will avoid a partial government shutdown. This measure will cover the appropriations bills that were not completed by the start of the fiscal year. These remaining bills are Agriculture-FDA, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Transportation-HUD, and Commerce-Justice-Science. The Agriculture-FDA bill includes WIC funding. If an agreement is not made on spending levels for any or all of these bills, there will need to be a continuing resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown. One of the biggest unknown factors in the negotiation is the president's insistence on funding for the southern border wall to be included in the Homeland Security appropriations bill.
Farm Bill Compromise Anticipated
Another remaining item of business for Congress before the end of the term is the farm bill, which authorizes both SNAP and a wide array of agriculture programs. WIC is not included in the farm bill. Agriculture Committee leaders in the House and Senate have indicated that negotiations have sped up following the midterms, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has stated publicly that he no longer has leverage in the discussions. The committee leaders are expected to unveil a bipartisan compromise bill in the coming weeks. NWA will continue to support legislation that protects the SNAP program and nutrition-education programs, including SNAP-Ed and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
Congressional Leadership Elections Confirm Status Quo; All Eyes on Postponed Vote for House Democrats
Last week, congressional leaders were elected in every caucus except for House Democrats, who postponed their vote until the week after Thanksgiving to accommodate the large incoming class of representatives. Current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) remains confident that she will be elected Speaker when Democrats assume control in the next Congress, even as a small group is actively seeking a challenger. No one has yet formally challenged Pelosi for the Speaker position.
On the Republican side, there was a contested race for Minority Leader as outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is retiring from Congress. Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) beat back a challenge from Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) by a vote of 159-43 to secure the position of Minority Leader. Congressman Jordan is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, which had undermined McCarthy's prior bid for Speaker in 2015.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were both re-elected without opposition. McConnell's deputy, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), stepped aside due to caucus term limits, paving the way for Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to ascend to the second-highest position in the Senate.