A new federal rule effective Oct. 15, known as public charge, will reduce chances of citizenship for immigrants who are legally working toward the American Dream.

Public charge increases barriers to green cards based on an immigrant's use — or those deemed to use — of government benefits such as cash assistance, SNAP (food stamps), public or Section 8 housing and portions of Medicaid.

Among the barriers are misconceptions about whom the rule applies to, families or individuals not wanting assistance to be counted against them, and the reasonable fear of one’s self or family members being denied green card status or being deported.

These barriers have already created a chilling effect, prompting measurable disengagement. Adults are currently withdrawing themselves and their children from programs they desperately need, including assistance with such basic necessities as food.

Notably, public charge does not impact illegal immigration. It impacts people who have followed our laws sometimes for 20 years or more, people working full time, often with more than one job, who struggle, as many of us do, to make ends meet.

We should all be outraged, and certainly those of us who call ourselves Christians should be outraged, as care for the weakest among us is a basic tenet of our faith.

New immigration rules are already hurting families, and changes to public charge will only increase that damage.

Editor's Note: The Rev. Chris Moore is the senior minister at the Fellowship Congregational UCC.

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