Last week, the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign released the report, Navigating Public Charge: Best Practices in Community Based Organizations to Mitigate the Harm for the Immigrant Community, a compilation of the best practices for community based organizations (CBOs) to reduce the risk posed by the current environment to immigrant communities. The results were gathered in collaboration with immigrant-serving organizations from across the country, who contributed their experiences and expertise to provide insight for the report. Health Care For All was one of the twenty-seven advocacy and immigrant-serving agencies who were acknowledged in the document.

The report serves as a roadmap for CBOs, narrowing down the most effective approaches to support immigrant communities. Some of these practices include: building coalitions to oppose changes to the “public charge” rule and develop education and outreach strategies, offering trainings that are culturally sensitive, and incorporating feedback and leadership to and from the community. The report also emphasizes the importance of coordination with legal support and points out that education funds can be utilized to inform immigrant communities and their leaders about public charge.

HCFA shared some of the key strategies implemented in Massachusetts to address the fear and uncertainty impacting immigrant communities. One of the immigration policies coming from the federal administration that is causing great concern is the new “public charge” rule. This is an attempt to broaden the factors taken into account to determine if an immigrant applying for a green card is a public charge. Being deemed a public charge may prevent them from adjusting their immigration status. That’s why many organizations such as HCFA have focused their efforts on educating the community on the rule and what it means for them.

Maria R. González Albuixech, Director of Communications and Immigrant Health at HCFA, is quoted in the report discussing several tactics implemented in the Commonwealth. One of the strategies highlighted is the combination of Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment efforts with education about public charge, immigration, and use of benefits in general: “We brought 4-5 pro bono immigration lawyers and enrollment assisters to the same event. We could advise on public charge at the same time.” At such events, HCFA and partners do not only help people apply for health insurance, but also provide answers to their immigration questions and dispel concerns regarding the use of benefits they are entitled to. “Health Care For All Massachusetts monitored ACA health insurance enrollment numbers after a significant outreach campaign targeting the immigrant community and including public charge education. Their intention to reduce the impact of public charge fears on ACA enrollment is measured by the overall enrollment rates in the immigrant community.”

One of the biggest challenges to address the “chilling effect” that’s preventing immigrant communities from living productive and healthy lives under current circumstances is the lack of financial support for this specific line of work. A strategy suggested in the report is reframing ongoing work to bridge that gap: “Groups involved in ACA enrollment such as Health Care For All Massachusetts were able to secure funding from their state’s health insurance exchange to share public charge information as part of enrollment education.”

Through a collection and evaluation of the strategies implemented by organizations throughout the country to support immigrant communities, this report identifies the best path forward for CBOs so that they can provide effective assistance to immigrants who need to navigate public charge to develop long-term success.

If you would like to read more, you may access the links for the full report and executive summary.

Jill Makin,
Communications and Policy co-op at Health Care For All
Health Care For All advocates for health justice in Massachusetts by working to promote health equity and ensure coverage and access for all.