The Department of Homeland Security’s new Public Charge rule increasing requirements to receive a green card or certain types of visas, and denying services for hardworking families that enrich our communities and help drive our economy went into effect on Feb. 24. 

Advocates, health and social service providers, state and local leaders and community members are left with the daunting challenge of halting the spread of misinformation and fear that the rule has caused within immigrant communities. 

The impacts already are being felt across the state, and the harm it is causing to the health and well-being of both immigrants and U.S. citizens is very real.

Maggie Gómez, deputy director of Center for Health Progress.

Under the new rule, an individual’s use of certain cash, food, housing and health care assistance programs can be used to deny an application for a green card. 

This rule has existed for decades under immigration law, however, the new test includes benefits that impact many families who live in mixed-status households. 

This means that children who are U.S. citizens and might be eligible for Section 8 housing or other safety net assistance may not get the services they qualify for because parents are concerned about how it will impact their green card application. 

This will cause significant harm to individuals and families forgoing the resources and services they need to be healthy, fed and housed.

These escalating political attacks on immigrants are causing long-term damage. 

They have created a new layer of psychological trauma for families about how agencies that administer public programs may use household information for immigration enforcement. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

The rule further stigmatizes the use of critical safety net services, making people feel like they are a burden – which isn’t true. Programs such as Medicaid, SNAP and TANF exist to protect our whole society by providing resources and financial security to those who need it most – including immigrant families.

Health care and social service providers across the nation have reported alarming disenrollment trends. The Colorado Health Institute has projected up to 75,000 Coloradans may disenroll from Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) for fear that their families may be subject to Public Charge rules. 

This would radically increase Colorado’s uninsured rate. It has discouraged millions of eligible individuals across the country from receiving medical attention, while exacerbating financial insecurity, hunger and homelessness. Thousands of Coloradans already have been directly affected, and as a result our state is losing millions in economic activity.

While at this point the rule cannot be stopped or changed, we must minimize its damage by fighting misinformation and calming fears. 

It’s up to us as a community to encourage everyone who is eligible to stay enrolled in public programs. We must share accurate information and resources so families understand the rules and make informed decisions for themselves and their families. 

Maggie Gómez is the deputy director of Center for Health Progress, an organization dedicated to the belief that health care is a right.

Special to The Colorado Sun