Public Charge: Proposed rule could hurt immigrant families

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Public Charge: Proposed rule could hurt immigrant families


The administration has proposed a new regulation that would block immigrant families from having a permanent, secure future in the U.S. Under the new rule, immigrants who legally access health, nutrition or housing assistance could be denied admission to the country or refused a green card. The proposed rule also makes clear that earning low wages, having children or dealing with a medical condition could be held against immigrants seeking a permanent future in our country.

The rule is known as “public charge.” That is a term used by immigration officials to refer to a person who is considered likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

Here’s how our friend Kelly Whitener at Georgetown CCF described “public charge” in a recent blog post:

“Under immigration law today, a person could be considered a public charge—and therefore inadmissible to the U.S. or unable to become a [legal permanent resident]—if, under the totality of the circumstances, the person is likely to be primarily dependent on the government for cash assistance (like SSI or TANF) or institutional long-term care (like through Medicaid) in the future. The ‘totality of the circumstances’ test means that no single factor is dispositive but rather all factors must be considered together.

“The unofficial regulation proposes to radically expand the public charge test by adding to the list of public benefits considered and by adding an income test. Moreover, rather than considering whether the applicant is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for cash assistance or institutional long-term care in the future, the new proposed definition of public charge would now consider whether the applicant is likely to receive any one or more of the listed public benefits whose value amounts to more than a specified dollar threshold or for longer than a specified time period, or both.”

Those public benefits include Medicaid, SNAP and housing assistance. Because of the rule’s complexity, it will be incredibly difficult for families to predict whether or not they would be subject to it. As a result, many are likely to bypass those benefits altogether—even if they would ultimately not be penalized by using them—so as to not jeopardize their immigration prospects.

This short-sighted approach will result in eligible kids going without the health and nutrition support they need to grow up healthy. It threatens the health of Iowa kids and our economy and goes against who we are as a country.

This rule not final yet—but the clock is ticking. Please take a few minutes now to post a public comment here. Under federal law, the government is required to read and respond to every unique comment before issuing a final rule. It’s an important opportunity to explain how the proposal rule would harm you or your community. A flood of comments can slow down the process, shape the administration’s decisions and show how many people care.

Read more about public charge at

10/12/2018 10:25 AM |Add a comment
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