San Jose Denounces ‘Public Charge’ Rule for Immigrants

City officials plan to formally oppose a pending change in immigration policy that could potentially hurt thousands of San Jose’s foreign-born residents and their families.

Under existing rules, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) can deny a non-citizen’s application for a visa or permanent residency based on whether the person would potentially become a “public charge,” that is, primarily dependent on government services to subsist. On Oct. 10, the Department of Homeland Security began considering a change to the policy that would broaden the level of government help that would affect residency and visa applications.

“The proposed rule expands the definition of what it means to be a public charge, which could force immigrants to stop using essential public programs or risk jeopardizing getting their ‘green cards’ in the future; thus, forcing middle and working class residents to choose between their family’s long-term future as permanent residents and securing food, health care, or shelter,” Lee Wilcox, the city manager’s chief of staff, explained in a memo going before the City Council on Tuesday.

Councilors Raul Peralez, Sylvia Arenas and Johnny Khamis joined Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco in condemning the proposed revision.

“We are alarmed by the trend of this administration to enact such punitive immigration policies,” they wrote in a shared memo. “It is a declaration to our immigrant communities that they must ‘pay to stay’ and puts at risk the well-being of hundreds of thousands of families; forcing them to choose between stability and unity. The [Trump] administration is, once again, separating families by preventing their reunification or their ability to stay together.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Chappie Jones, Sergio Jimenez and Dev Davis called the rule an attempt at “ethnic cleansing.”

“San Jose is a city of immigrants,” they wrote. “Nearly 20 percent of our residents do not have U.S. citizenship. Since our city’s founding 241 years ago, San Jose has provided opportunities, protections and economic mobility to its immigrant community. A recent Harvard study shows that low-income residents in San Jose have had greater opportunities to participate in the prosperity of our nation than any other metro area in the nation. Penalizing immigrants who have received public benefits for their health, education, or housing is inconsistent with our values and conflicts with our goal of being a welcoming community for all.”

Through the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Liccardo signed his name to a statement with 100 other mayors urging Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to reconsider.

“While we understand the intent of the ‘public charge’ test that has been in place for decades, the new proposed rule takes this principle to an extreme and, if adopted, would ultimately punish immigrants for accessing non-cash benefits designed to help families succeed and thrive in the United States and become contributing members of our communities,” the letter reads. “Many great Americans came to this country as immigrants, arriving with nothing and starting their journey from the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Our history has shown us that access to critical benefits are often necessary for a short time in order to help immigrants become assimilated and ultimately prosper in their new country.”

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > thus, forcing middle and working class residents to choose between their family’s long-term future as permanent residents and securing food, health care, or shelter,”

    False choice argument.

    “Middle and working class residents” won’t be “forced” to make these choices if they are:
    A. middle class, or
    B. working.

    If a “non-citizen” is “forced” to make these choices, we want them to CHOOSE to be permanent residents somewhere else.

  2. I would much rather immigrants pay their own way to stay in the US than have the government take money out of my pocket to allow them to stay here at my expense. The “public charge” rule has been codified in federal law for almost 100 years. It was passed to keep the US from being inundated by people with neither the language skills nor the job skills to support themselves, who then suck up taxpayer funds while producing little or no benefit to this country. We have 7,500 such people trudging up here right now from Honduras. A few may be criminals, but virtually all of them will have no marketable skills anywhere in this country, and fewer still will ever learn English. Liccardo and the other snowflakes keep saying we are “a nation of immigrants”, leaving out the fact that in the past those immigrants had skills, learned English, and became Americans; not hyphenated Americans. I am unwilling to support financially every unskilled person who can make it across our borders, demanding rights but accepting no responsibilities.

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