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A patient visits a clinic in Solana Beach, Calif., that serves a large immigrant population. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

The Trump administration's recently finalized “public charge” rule — which would make use of certain public assistance programs by immigrants grounds for denying lawful permanent residence — extends a series of policy changes that could negatively affect the health of both legal and undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Why it matters: Health insurance, nutrition benefits and housing assistance are all linked to health outcomes, particularly in children. Although the 46 million immigrants in the U.S. are generally healthier and use fewer health resources than native-born residents, additional barriers to care could increase rates of obesity, malnutrition and transmission of communicable diseases.

What’s happening: The administration's policy shifts would impact a range of programs.

  • Revised White House guidance requires sponsors of legal immigrants to reimburse the government for benefits such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, likely decreasing participation.
  • The Department of Justice is reportedly considering allowing deportation based on “public charge” status, which also applies to enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development released a proposed rule that would evict undocumented immigrants and their families from public housing, even if households include a citizen spouse or child. Stable housing contributes to better physical and mental health, and homelessness is associated with lower life expectancy.

Where it stands: Although many of these policies are not yet promulgated, their effects are already being felt.

What to watch: The Homeland Security Department's “public charge” rule is likely to be challenged in court before it goes into effect on October 15.

Dave A. Chokshi is the chief population health officer at New York City Health + Hospitals and a primary care physician at Bellevue Hospital.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

4 hours ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."