Campus Messages

An archive of email messages sent to the entire UCSF community by the Chancellor and members of the Chancellor's Cabinet.

UCSF Supports the Health of Immigrant Families

Dear Members of the UCSF Community:

As leaders of an organization that is deeply committed to improving the health of our communities and advancing health worldwide, we deplore a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would change “public charge” policies and greatly expand the conditions under which an immigrant applying for legal permanent residency (a green card) or seeking to immigrate into the U.S. can be denied.

I am bringing this to the attention of the UCSF community because it attacks our deeply held values of health equality and dignity for all peoples. U.S. immigration law has always barred immigrants at risk of becoming a dependent on certain public assistance from immigrating to the United States. However, acceptance of public health and nutritional benefits has been permitted since the 1990s. This proposal would bring sweeping change.

Under the proposed rule, the federal government would newly consider the use of certain public benefits – including non-emergency Medicaid, Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and various housing support programs – in determining an individual’s entry into the U.S. or adjustment to legal permanent resident status. In addition, medical conditions that are likely to require extensive hospitalization or institutionalization (cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, dementia, and many others) will weigh heavily against uninsured immigrant applicants.

We are against this proposed regulation for several reasons, including:

  1. It punishes people for using health and other programs to which they are legally entitled. Social safety net programs exist to provide support to those in the U.S. who the economy has left behind.
  2. It forces those who need help or health care to make a cruel choice. The primary effect of this proposal will be to force immigrants to choose between seeking health, home, and sustenance, and securing their future in the U.S. Based on the work of our own UCSF faculty, we know that secure housing and access to healthy food are foundational to good health, as is access to health care.
  3. It sows fear in the broader immigrant community, beyond those for whom the regulation is intended. While refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrant families living in extreme poverty would be exempt from this regulation, clinics that serve these individuals already report seeing a decrease in the number of families served and an increase in concerns about deportation as a result of accessing services to which they are legally entitled.
  4. It has the potential to disrupt immigrant families. There are many immigrant families living in the Bay Area and beyond in which the parents are legal immigrants and the children are citizens. If the parents need to use any of the identified services, they risk having their petition for legal permanent residency denied. This could then require them to leave the country, forcing another heartbreaking choice: whether to keep their family together or allow their citizen children to stay in the U.S.

There will be an opportunity to voice our opinion on this proposed rule change. According to the DHS website, the proposal will be officially published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks and, once posted, a 60-day public comment period will commence. More information on the DHS proposed rule change can be found on the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

I encourage you to sign up to be a UCSF Advocate. Our advocacy team will notify you when the proposed change has been published and inform you how to comment. UCSF Advocates is a community of UCSF students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters who promote values and policies that are fundamental to UCSF’s core mission of patient care, research, and education. Join us in shaping policy that affects the health and wellbeing of our families, friends, neighbors, and patients.


Sam Hawgood, MBBS
Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor