Last week, Child Mind Institute executive director Elizabeth Planet submitted a public comment on proposed federal immigration rules that could have disastrous effects on access to mental health care. You can read about the proposed changes here, and read Elizabeth’s comment below.

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing on behalf of the Child Mind Institute in response to the Department of Homeland Security Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which was published in the Federal Register on October 10, 2018.

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders through research, education and clinical care. We oppose the proposed changes to the public charge rule, which we fear would have a negative impact by forcing immigrant families to choose between protecting their immigration status and accessing the health care their US citizen children need.

Currently, use of publicly-funded health care programs is not considered a negative factor for the purposes of the public charge analysis.  This approach recognizes that these programs are vital to keeping our children healthy and safe.  The proposed rule changes would widen the scope of eligible public assistance programs to include Medicaid, thereby undermining public health.

If a parent refuses to access health care for his or her child out of fear that doing so would harm a family member’s immigration prospects, the child is put at greater risk for health problems including psychiatric and learning disorders. Research has shown that without treatment these disorders elevate risk of poor outcomes including school failure, substance misuse, incarceration and suicide.

We are concerned that immigrants with legal resident status will stop using public benefits in attempt to protect their status.  Children in the US legally may be negatively affected, as immigrant parents may remove their children from public benefit programs due to the proposed regulations.

As an organization that works to help children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders, regardless of socioeconomic background or immigration status, we encourage DHS to withdraw this harmful proposal.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Planet