Statement of Stacey D. Stewart, President, March of Dimes on “Public Charge” Rule Endangering Pregnant Women & Children

September 23, 2018

March of Dimes released the following statement from President Stacey D. Stewart on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Administration yesterday expanding the circumstances under which immigrants could be considered a “public charge,” thereby endangering their immigration status:

“This new rulemaking places at risk the health of pregnant women, children and families by forcing them to choose between obtaining needed services – including food and medical care -- and preserving their immigration standing. Families will feel compelled to go hungry and remain sick to protect themselves from the specter of deportation.

“An abundant body of evidence shows that pregnant women and their families need regular, quality health care to ensure healthy pregnancies, babies and children. Pregnant women and children need good nutrition to grow and develop properly. Malnutrition and lack of health care can cause a host of short- and long-term health and other consequences.

“It is important to note that this policy does not actually change immigrants’ eligibility for these programs. Rather, it punishes them for taking advantage of the services they need and for which they are eligible. 

“Moreover, this policy is likely to place significant strain on many communities’ systems and resources. Hospitals and free clinics will see the demand for uncompensated care rise because legal immigrants will be reluctant to enroll in coverage. Food banks can expect greater demand as immigrants avoid services like nutrition assistance. Schools may find children are sick or unable to pay attention in class because their bellies are empty.

“This policy does not reflect our nation’s values. March of Dimes urges the Administration to withdraw this policy and focus instead on building strong, healthy communities.”