Proud to be an Immigrant: Fighting Back Against Public Charge

Samantha Dang is an Associate Professor of Law at the Irvine University College of Law. As refugees from Vietnam, her family, like many others, made countless sacrifices to provide for their basic needs and establish a foundation for their  future in America. They worked in many jobs AND used public assistance to survive and thrive in America.

Read more about Professor Dang’s family story, and why she’s fighting to protect thousands of families, like hers, that would otherwise fall victim to the proposed public charge.

How does your personal story tie to those who will be impacted by this public charge proposed rule?

When my mother and I arrived in Philadelphia in the winter of 1979 from Vietnam as refugees, I was 5 years old and my mother was 27.  We did not speak English and we did not have a penny to our name. We were completely lost in this new land and completely dependent upon the kindness of strangers and government assistance. I remember my mother carrying me through miles of snow to apply for welfare, food stamps, and standing in line for medical treatment, rations, and donated clothing.  I had cavities and was able to receive dental care. My mother learned English, but it was slow. She attended college, but it took years for her to obtain a degree because she had to work 2-3 menial jobs. Despite my mother’s best efforts, I know we had to depend on government assistance for many many years, as my mother struggled to educate herself and obtain better employment.  I picked strawberries in the summer months from when I was 6 years old until I was a teenager and worked in a cannery and fast food to help my mother make ends meet.

We worked hard AND we needed help from the government. This Administration presumes one or the other condition. That is absolutely not the truth about the millions of hard working immigrants across the world.

This proposed rule would have excluded people like my mother and me from ever entering the United States since we were escaping a war torn country and did not have any money. We did not speak the language.  We did not know anyone in the United States. We nearly lost our lives at sea.  If the Public Charge Rule was in affect at the time, people like us would not have made it into the United States, we would not have survived, and would have died.

Why do you think it’s important to fight back against public charge?

The Public Charge rule, if enacted, would exclude millions like my mother and me from entering the United States since we were penniless.  In addition, the rule would prevent countless from adjustment of status (getting a green card) unless, in essence, they can guarantee that they will not likely at any time to become a public charge.  There would be no way for my mother and me to demonstrate that we would not need government assistance. This rule is a blatant attempt to close our borders and exclude aliens who need to enter this country the most. Factors like a person’s health, age, education, number of children, and ability to speak English are also used to determine if you get a green card.  The rule in essence acts as a bar to deny millions entry into the United States, including those who are like my mother and me.

Professor Dang’s story is just one of thousands shared by immigrant families that have faced hardship in coming to America. Immigrant families should not be forced to choose between staying in this country or providing for their basic needs.