Venice Family Clinic statement on survey found 1 in 6 California immigrants gave up benefits because of public charge rule

Laura Mecoy
(310) 546-5860


Fear of Consequences from Federal Rule Preventing Immigrants  

Seeking Critical Services during COVID-19 Pandemic

LOS ANGELES – (May 21, 2020) – Following is a statement from Karen Lauterbach, director of community programs and advocacy at Venice Family Clinic, a nonprofit community health center that provides comprehensive care to people in need, regarding a new study by the Urban Institute. The study found one in six adult California immigrants reported that they or a family member did not participate in a government benefit program in 2019 because they were afraid they would lose out on future green card status as a result of the federal government’s expanded public charge rule.

The administration’s public charge rule significantly expanded the criteria for determining whether applicants for permanent residency, or green cards, may be denied based on past or potential use of government benefit programs. The Urban Institute surveyed more than 500 California adult immigrants about their use of noncash government programs, such as Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and housing programs.

“This survey clearly demonstrates the chilling effect the expanded public charge rule has on low-income immigrants, who are in this country legally, getting the food, housing, health care and other services they need to stay healthy. These critical services are even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially for our immigrant community, who are among the most at risk. They are more likely to live in low-income communities, where people are dying at a far higher rate than those who live in higher-income communities, and they’re more likely to be employees working in ‘essential’ jobs that put them at greater risk of exposure to the virus.

“At Venice Family Clinic, we have heard from several patients, including a pregnant mother, who chose to give up their Medi-Cal coverage because of their fears that having it might jeopardize their legal immigration or that a member of their family, who may be undocumented, could lose out on a future green card eligibility. Now more than ever, we need to eliminate this obstacle to community health. We call on the federal government to roll back the public charge rule to eliminate these fears to protect those most at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and suffering severe health consequences, including death.”

About Venice Family Clinic
Venice Family Clinic is a leader in providing comprehensive, high-quality primary health care to people in need. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Clinic has grown from a small storefront operation into one of Los Angeles’ leading community health centers, providing care to nearly 28,000 men, women and children annually through sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood and Culver City. The Clinic leads the way in providing comprehensive and integrated care by creating a one-stop health system that offers multiple services, often at the same locations and same time as primary care appointments. These services include dental care, substance use treatment, mental health services, vision screenings, child development services, health education, prescription medications, domestic violence counseling, HIV services, street medicine for people experiencing homelessness and health insurance enrollment. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.