NYLPI Calls on Biden Administration to Support Immigrants

November 3, 2021

Health Justice, Immigrant Justice, Legislative, News

Several people face the front of a room while holding up American flags.

Informed by our clients’ experiences, NYLPI’s Health Justice team submitted two comments to the federal government to support the rights of asylum seekers and to propose changes to the Public Charge Rule to advance immigrant justice.

NYLPI provides direct legal representation and healthcare advocacy to connect seriously ill immigrant New Yorkers to healthcare. Our TGNCI+ project provides services to transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex (TGNCI) immigrant New Yorkers as well as New Yorkers living with HIV by filing for relief (including asylum). The comments submitted include statutory arguments as well as personal stories from NYLPI’s work with asylum seekers and undocumented New Yorkers with serious health needs.

On August 20, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, soliciting feedback for changes to the asylum process. While NYLPI welcomes the administration’s willingness to re-envision certain aspects of the asylum system, parts of the proposed rule could have devasting impacts on the communities NYLPI works with. The people NYLPI represents have survived various forms of trauma.

The proposed “streamlined” asylum process would deny folks the opportunity to work with advocates and mental health experts that provide them with the necessary support to navigate the re-traumatizing asylum process. The proposed rule focuses on “streamlining” in the name of simplicity; however, such streamlining would deny asylum seekers their day in court and force folks who are fleeing to find safety in the United States to prove their circumstances at one of the very first moments that they interact with the U.S. immigration system.  NYLPI commends part of the proposed rule that would expand considerations for asylum seekers to be released from detention. For folks that NYLPI works with, release from detention has led to connections to LGBTQ support groups and community, gender-affirming care, mental health services, our immigration legal services, and more. NYLPI’s comment makes clear that the rule’s overwhelming focus on “streamlining” would have dire consequences for immigrants seeking safety in the U.S.

On August 23, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security also solicited broad feedback – as well as answers to specific questions posed – regarding the use of public charge determinations, which are a way for the U.S. government to deny a person’s entry to the United States or to deny people certain types of immigration status if the government thinks they would be reliant on government assistance.

NYLPI’s Health Justice and Disability Justice teams worked together to give a broad perspective on public charge and the ways in which it can harm our clients. NYLPI believes that rule should not exist in the first place; not only is it unjust for the government to distinguish between immigrants it believes to be “deserving” or “undeserving” based on financial status or use of public benefits, but it is also a concern that determinations of inadmissibility can reflect institutional bias against individuals with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities and deter people from seeking healthcare. However, if the government continues to implement the public charge rule in some form, it must first be reformed.

The “chilling effect” of the public charge rule can cause individuals who are in fact eligible for benefits to not seek them because of a fear of what consequences there may be. NYLPI proposed greater clarity in the public charge regulations to help alleviate this issue. In order to address the problem of institutional bias and discrimination, NYLPI suggested that the public charge rule integrate an understanding of each individual’s personal circumstances instead of evaluating them under unhelpful, decontextualized, broad categories that privilege healthy, able-bodied, and neurotypical persons.

Through these new regulations, the Biden administration has the potential to drastically change the ways that immigrant communities NYLPI serves can access lifesaving care and seek safety. Accordingly, NYLPI is calling on the administration to withdraw or substantially revise the proposed rules regarding asylum and incorporate our proposals into the rule they draft regarding the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

Read our comments on Public Charge and Asylum on our website.

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