Guest columnist Joanne Marqusee: ‘I urge all to make sure their voices are heard’ on ‘public charge’ proposal

  • Stefanie Herweck stands with other protesters in front of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector's Centralized Processing Center on Sunday, June 17, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. THE MONITOR VIA AP/Joel Martinez

Published: 12/6/2018 8:33:19 AM

We are a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, immigrants have risked what they had to search for a better life in America. Most struggled upon arrival, but over time they and their children and grandchildren reshaped their own lives as they reshaped the nation. Most of us can trace our roots to our elders who had the courage to start a new life in a new land. And it cannot and should not be forgotten that Africans were enslaved and brought here against their will and against morality.

Now, we find ourselves polarized over immigration policy. We no longer say to the world “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Instead, our nation’s leaders talk about building walls to keep people out and condone the use of tear gas on the huddled masses at the border. The lamp has been dimmed.

While our attention is focused on the “caravan” and the concerning actions being taken by our government at the border, other actions by the federal government also pose real threats to the health of our local communities. Specifically, there is a proposal that would change the definition of a “public charge” to include those who use benefits such as the earned income tax credit, or Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

That means that people who are or may be seeking to be on such support could by definition then be at risk of deportation. I urge all to make sure their voices are heard on this extremely concerning proposal. It is all too likely that the result of such a new policy will be that those most in need will fear seeking help and support, knowing that doing so could lead to their being targeted by ICE. Comments on the propo​​​​​​sed rule may be made by Monday, Dec. 10. For more information, please visit the Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition’s website:

Our values and our concern for undocumented residents in our communities led us, nearly two years ago, to issue a public statement (still on our website) that we urge anyone in our community who needs medical attention to seek it in a timely way. Cooley Dickinson Hospital welcomes and treats all patients without regard to immigration status:  

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to provide medical care for an undocumented immigrant living in sanctuary. While the outcome for this individual was a positive one, it was poignant to consider the risks someone is taking just to seek much-needed medical care. I fear that the next time, a person in need will not take that risk and could die.  

The proposed rule only means those fears will extend to even more of our neighbors. Please join us in opposing this and other proposals that are so contrary to our values and the needs of our communities. The United States is long overdue for a comprehensive, well-designed immigration policy — a policy grounded in values that affirm life, health, dignity, fairness and opportunity.

Cooley Dickinson exists to promote a healthy community. Immigration policies that reflect the best of our values are a pre-requisite to that healthy community.

Joanne Marqusee is president and chief executive officer of Cooley Dickinson Health Care.

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