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“Public Charge:” A New Threat to Immigrant Families – Proposed Rule Leaked

By June 4, 2018July 24th, 2018No Comments

The Trump Administration may soon attempt to redefine the existing “public charge” test in federal immigration law. The test is used by the government to determine if someone is likely to become a “public charge,” so that it can deny admission to the U.S. or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency. The changes would impact immigrants seeking to become lawful permanent residents and all others subject to public charge.

The current test is limited to cash assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or government-funded long-term care. If the proposed rule is finalized, immigration officials could consider whether individuals or any of their dependent family members—including children who are U.S. citizens—have received or simply sought access to government programs.

Bene­fits that could be considered in a “public charge” determination would include virtually any program targeted to low-income people or that helps participants meet basic needs, such as: EITC, Non-emergency Medicaid, CHIP, subsidies provided through the ACA, SNAP, WIC, Section 8 housing vouchers, LIHEAP, and comparable state and local programs.

Food Lifeline has joined Protecting Immigrant Families Washington, a campaign co-chaired by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Immigration Law Center and led by the Children’s Alliance. Campaign supporters include: OneAmerica, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Northwest Health Law Advocates, Northwest Harvest, the Washington State Hospital Association, and representatives from King County, the City of Seattle, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, along with many others.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The rules governing public charge determinations in the U.S. have not yet changed.* “There may be no advantage to dis-enrolling from programs now. The leaked drafts of the rule make it clear that any changes will apply only to benefits received after the rule is final. Even if the rules change, immigrants applying for admission or permanent residency will still be able to show that they are not likely to become a “public charge” in the future.” Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have an opportunity to submit comments before it is finalized.
  2. Some immigrant groups are not subject to “public charge.”* “Some groups of immigrants—such as refugees, asylees, people fleeing from domestic violence, and some other domestic groups—are not subject to “public charge” determinations and would not be affected by this proposed rule. Public charge is also not a consideration when lawful permanent residents (green card holders) apply to become U.S. citizens.”

*Source: Protecting Immigrant Families

For more info, to get involved, and to sign the Public Charge petition, visit