• Mark | The Nexus of Healthcare and Education

    South Florida

     

    “I have been an educator for over 13 years, and I know the important role that education has in the lives of immigrant families and their children. When they are healthy, children can be in the classroom, and that is where great things can happen!”

    “I have been an educator for over 13 years, and I know the important role that education has in the lives of immigrant families and their children. When they are healthy, children can be in the classroom, and that is where great things can happen!” says Mike. However, he has also seen the fear that parents endure when struggling to decide whether to seek out public services like health care when their children are sick. They fear that doing so could ultimately prevent family members from becoming naturalized citizens or worse, lead to a family separation.

     

    This calculus is a complicated one, because new changes to an immigration rule known as “the public charge rule” have made it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a green card if they use certain public benefits. While children’s health insurance (CHIP/FL Kids Care) and Medicaid for children up to age 21 do not count against parents who are applying to adjust their status, many parents do not know the fine points of the rule, and even when they do, they don’t trust that they won’t somehow face negative consequences for enrolling their children in public health insurance. “Living in Homestead, so close to a federal detention center for immigrant children, makes that fear all too real for these families,” Mike laments.

     

    The father of two children, Mike teaches at a high school during the day and works at a Title I After School Program in South Florida during the evenings. He is empathetic to the daunting challenge immigrant parents face as they seek to keep their children healthy and minimize their school absences. Mike is keenly aware that immigrant parents must make excruciating choices that can have a lasting impact on their children’s overall ability to learn and grow.

    “With all the complexities and policy changes in the past few years regarding citizenship requirements and public charge, I, like so many others, am confused about the current policy,” explains Mike. He is frustrated that he is unable to advise families on how to navigate that process. Instead, Mike focuses his energies on the one area of their lives he can make the greatest difference – their children’s education; “For the children, the routine of being in the classroom during the school week and in aftercare helps provide a sense of normalcy,” he says.

     

    The current administration's change to the public charge rule in immigration proceedings victimizes those who are most vulnerable. The children of immigrant families, whose success in school depends in no small part on their own good health, are among the many casualties of the rule. For without the ability to stay healthy, how will these young citizens have a fair shot at the American dream?