Immigration fuels the Bay Area, from neighborhood stores and global tech companies to K-12 classrooms and research labs. Unfortunately, the president‚Äôs new ‚Äúpublic charge‚ÄĚ rule unfairly targets immigrants and is destructive for business, public health, and our community.
Foreign-born residents represent 39% of Santa Clara County, and half of California children have at least one immigrant parent. More than 40% of the region’s high-tech start-ups from 2006 to 2012 were founded by immigrants, and nearly half of the state‚Äôs Fortune 500 companies have founders who are immigrants or children of immigrants.
Currently, an individual seeking admission to the United States or seeking legal permanent residence (i.e., a green card) may be inadmissible if the individual is deemed likely to become primarily-dependent on the government for subsistence.
The new rule, slated to go into effect on Oct. 15, expands what immigration officials may consider when determining an individual‚Äôs immigration status.¬† The likelihood of using benefits such as food stamps, housing assistance, and Medi-Cal will soon become factors that can impact whether an individual receives a green card.
The American Dream is something many of us share and includes achieving economic self-sufficiency.¬† On their path toward financial independence, many Silicon Valley immigrants have used public assistance for a short duration to stabilize their living situations, get on their feet, and contribute to the economy.
Unfortunately, the new rule could have a devastating impact, denying green cards to hard-working and talented immigrants.¬† The rule could even deprive American-born children of needed medical care and food, because parents seeking legal residence are afraid to enroll in and use government services.
The rule plays into misinformation that undocumented immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy.¬† In fact, the Social Security Administration‚Äôs actuary has found that undocumented immigrants contribute $12 billion more in tax revenues than they receive in benefits.
Locally, we‚Äôre already seeing chilling impacts of the administration‚Äôs immigration policies.¬† In partnership with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley and the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, The Health Trust offers free healthy produce monthly in east San Jos√©.¬† The administration‚Äôs immigration pronouncements are chasing hungry residents into the shadows, and neighbors aren‚Äôt seeking out the healthy food they need. When children and adults go hungry, our community suffers; students are unable to focus in class and parents miss work due to poor health.
Nonprofit partners are also reporting fear among clients and staff, as well as alarmingly lower turnouts for services from both citizens and non-citizens.
As a community that prides itself on the contributions of immigrants, we applaud the Santa Clara County¬† for suing to block this immigration rule before it takes effect.
We also support community partners who continue to serve immigrants in need, such as our community health centers who serve patients regardless of ability to pay or immigration status.¬† Community health centers who treat all patients are instrumental in preventing the spread of highly-communicable diseases like measles and whooping cough.
We are working to inform local residents about California‚Äôs expansion of Medi-Cal for young adults, while also educating residents that using public benefits will not automatically make someone a public charge.¬† When residents have greater access to primary care health services through Medi-Cal coverage, they avoid expensive emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Healthy residents are better able to add to the local economy.
To combat fear in our immigrant communities, we invite local partners to help spread the word about Medi-Cal expansion and empower immigrant families to know their rights.¬† The Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations and the City of San Jos√©‚Äôs Office of Immigrant Affairs are two resources for information on how to sustain a community that is welcoming of immigrants.¬† Nonprofits such as the Asian Law Alliance, Sacred Heart Community Service, and Somos Mayfair in San Jos√© are also helpful, trusted resources.
Our economy is healthier and stronger when everyone has the basics they need to survive.¬† In the Bay Area, turning our backs on immigrants hurts us all.
Michele Lew is CEO of The Health Trust, a nonprofit operating foundation building health equity in Silicon Valley.¬† Peter Leroe-Mu√Īoz is general counsel and vice president of technology & innovation at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Opinion: How turning our backs on immigrants hurts Bay Area