The Department of Homeland Security announced a widely criticized plan in this fall that would further threaten immigrants by expanding the definition of a “public charge.” For over a century, the “public charge test” has been used to “identify people who may depend on the government as their main source of support.” Per the new plan, immigrants and their family members who fall into this category could be denied green card status.
The proposed expansion of the practice would exclude “anyone who is likely to use certain health care, nutrition or housing programs in the future,” including Medicaid, the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy, Section 8 housing vouchers and the Supplemental and Nutritional Assistance Program. The news has frightened many immigrant families into avoiding public programs that are there to help them stay “strong and productive” for fear of jeopardizing their status.
Meanwhile, Slate reported yesterday (December 11) that there is another piece of the DHS proposal that hasn’t garnered a lot of attention, but also poses a threat to immigrants. The government plans to use credit reports and scores as part of the assessment to determine immigrants’ eligibility for green card status.
This proposed practice, Slate argues, is not only pointless, but racist: “While credit reports contain no information about a consumer’s race or ethnicity, and never formally take these factors into account, any look at an individual’s need to borrow or ability to pay back debt necessarily reflects the nation’s long history of racial inequality.”
Additionally, Slate argues that following “decades of discrimination in lending, employment, education and housing, it’s little wonder that Black and Latino families remain particularly vulnerable to predatory lenders, and that their credit scores are still disproportionately likely to bear the scars.” In many cases, immigrants who are in the United States haven’t been in the country long enough to establish credit. There is also the strong possibility that many declined to take on debt while in the U.S., and would therefore be penalized.
The practice of assessing the credit scores of immigrants ultimately aligns with what the current administration has been promoting all along, Slate points out. This is a system that continues to reinforce and celebrate White privilege at the risk of everyone else’s well being.