Proposed Changes to Immigration Laws Would Cost California Jobs, Harm Public Health

Possible changes in federal immigration policy could cost California billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

U.S. immigration officials use the term “public charge” to describe people applying for a green card who are deemed likely to become primarily dependent on the government to meet their basic needs. Under proposed changes to Department of Homeland Security immigration rules that could be implemented as soon as spring 2019, people could be denied status as lawful permanent residents if they’ve received certain health care, housing or nutrition assistance benefits.

If those changes are implemented, California could lose up to $1.67 billion in federal benefits, according to an analysis by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the UC Berkeley Labor Center and California Food Policy Advocates, a nonprofit organization. And that loss would also have a ripple effect across multiple industries through direct and indirect spending by the affected families and the jobs that spending supports. As a result, the state economy could ultimately lose $2.8 billion and as many as 17,700 jobs, the analysis found.

An estimated 47 percent of the job losses would come from California’s health care sector; another 10 percent would come from the state’s food-related industries.

“California is home to nearly 40 million people, and more than a quarter of our population was not born in the United States,” said Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA center. “Immigrants make crucial contributions to California’s workforce, economy and tax base. The proposed changes to the ‘public charge’ test would significantly reduce the use of much-needed public programs among those who are eligible, and the economic ripple effect would hurt communities statewide.”

Ponce said the proposed changes could prompt an estimated 765,000 immigrants in California to disenroll from nutrition assistance and health care programs, and that nearly 70 percent of those losing benefits would be children.

By Jennifer Cabe for UCLA
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