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Media Center

December 6, 2018 12:22pm

Proposed “Public Charge” rule will harm our regional workforce

Immigrants have long stood as a central pillar of Greater Louisville’s economy. The region’s foreign-born population has been key to population growth, workforce participation, the development of a high-skill labor pool, and our regional startup and entrepreneurial scene. Ensuring that immigrants are able to continue contributing to economic growth in Greater Louisville is a top priority for GLI—which is why we recently submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in opposition to proposed changes to the “public charge” rule.

In case you’re not familiar, “public charge” is a term used by U.S. immigration authorities to describe a foreign-born person who is deemed to be primarily dependent on the government for basic subsistence. If immigration authorities determine an individual to be a public charge, they can use that as justification to deny them admission into the U.S. or a request for legal status – such as, for example, a green card or a work visa. Though the definition of public charge has changed over time, immigration authorities have historically relied on two criteria: the receipt of cash assistance and/or institutionalization in a long-term care facility at government expense. DHS’s proposed changes would dramatically expand the criteria under which the federal government could determine a foreign-born individual to be a “public charge” and thereby deny their request to live and/or work legally in the United States.    

DHS’s new rule proposal would include participation—either in the past, present, or future—in a wide range of public assistance programs alongside numerous other factors as criteria for defining and determining public charge. Analyses of the rule have shown that these expanded criteria would likely lead to a significant decrease in the approval of applications for green cards and temporary work visas, which, in turn, would reduce the size and quality of our regional workforce.

Data from New American Economy, a bipartisan public policy organization, illustrate the possible impacts of the proposed rule on Greater Louisville’s bi-state regional economy.

Impact on Kentucky

  • More than 2,866 people likely to be affected by the public charge rule have at least some college education.
  • The total annual income of workers who would be affected by the public charge rule is $500 million. Should they leave the United States, Kentucky’s economy would suffer negative indirect economic effects of $300 million. The total cost to the Kentucky economy could therefore amount to $800 million.
  • By encouraging or forcing workers to leave or go underground, the public charge rule change will have a destabilizing effect for several major Kentucky industries in particular, including:
    • Education and health services, where about 0.4 percent of all workers (roughly 2,244 people) would be affected.
    • Construction, where 4.0 percent of all workers (about 6,675 people) are likely to be affected.
    • Trade, transportation, and utilities, where 1.1 percent of all workers (about 4,412 people) would be affected.
  • In 2017, there were approximately 36,257 non-citizens who reported receiving monetary or non-monetary aid, for either themselves or for their non-citizen children.

Impact on Indiana

  • More than 18,120 people likely to be affected by the public charge rule have at least some college education.
  • The total annual income of workers who would be affected by the public charge rule is $500 million. Should they leave the United States, Indiana’s economy would suffer negative indirect economic effects of $400 million. The total cost to the Indiana economy could therefore amount to $900 million.
  • By encouraging or forcing workers to leave or go underground, the public charge rule change will have a destabilizing effect for several major Indiana industries in particular, including:
    • Construction, where 0.7 percent of all workers (about 1,600 people) are likely to be affected.
    • Manufacturing, where 2.3 percent of all workers (about 12,536 people) would be affected.
    • Professional and business services, where 0.8 percent of all workers (about 2,086 people) would be affected.
    • Accommodation and food, where 0.9 percent of all workers (about 2,086 people) would be affected.
  • In 2017, there were approximately 45,669 non-citizens who reported receiving monetary or non-monetary aid, for either themselves or for their non-citizen children.

In today’s tight labor market, employers need as much access as possible to a vibrant and skilled workforce. DHS’ proposed rule change would effectively cut off access to a talented labor pool for employers and exacerbate growing workforce shortages. The Greater Louisville business community opposes the rule change and encourages DHS to withdraw it.

To learn more about the rule proposal or to submit your own public comments, click here. The comment period ends on December 10, 2018.