National Federation of the Blind Condemns New Public Charge Rule
The National Federation of the Blind commented today on the new “public charge rule” issued on August 12. Our statement follows:
Pursuant to our diversity statement contained in our Code of Conduct, the National Federation of the Blind does not discriminate or tolerate discrimination based on citizenship, among other characteristics or intersectionality of characteristics. From this flows an obligation to fight for the rights of blind people when they experience discrimination. To that end, in December of 2018 we submitted public comments to the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, regarding proposed changes to what is known as the “public charge rule.” The public charge rule is intended to ensure that people seeking admission to the United States for permanent lawful resident status are “self-sufficient” and “do not depend on public resources to meet their needs.” We expressed our concern that the then-proposed changes to the definition of “public charge” did not adequately consider the circumstances and unique needs of blind people and other individuals with disabilities or their families. We were particularly concerned that parents of blind children would not seek services to which their children are entitled, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid (which have not previously been included in the public charge consideration), and that blind adults would be adversely affected if they used rehabilitation services or disability, housing, and food assistance benefits. We urged the withdrawal of the new proposed rule in its entirety, or revisions to reflect the unique barriers faced by blind people in obtaining and retaining employment, as well as other factors.
The new public charge rule has now been issued and is set to take effect on October 15, 2019. The Rule as published does not reflect any of the concerns we expressed. We are profoundly disappointed in this development and remain deeply concerned that the new rule will have a chilling effect on blind people and their families, who will be forced to choose between keeping their families together, and going without critical services to which they and/or their children are eligible. Blind people should not be penalized for accessing benefits and programs to which they are legally entitled, especially those which are specifically designed to help them to overcome the barriers created by the low expectations of society and to become independent and self-sufficient. Blind individuals are contributing significantly in all sectors of the American economy today, but the current rule sends the message that the participation of the blind in the workforce is not valued. The National Federation of the Blind will continue to seek lawful ways to help blind people who are affected by this discriminatory rule change.
Note: This statement has been updated since the time of its publication.