May 24, 2018

Anticipated Immigration Rule to Expand the Definition of “Public Charge”

Under current immigration regulations, people who are or may become a "public charge" - i.e., dependent on certain government programs - may be denied a visa, permanent residency or citizenship. Although no official proposal has been released yet, a leaked version of the proposed regulation indicates that it would let immigration officials deem a person to be a public charge under many more circumstances.

Currently, an applicant for a visa or a change in immigration status may be deemed a public charge only if they receive (1) long-term care, or (2) cash benefits --Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under the leaked version of the proposed rule, a public-charge determination could be based on the immigrant's participation or expected participation in many more public programs AND immigration officials could consider whether any of an applicant's dependent family members-including U.S. citizen children-have received or simply sought access to government programs. As explained in this fact sheet prepared by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), benefits that could be considered in a "public charge" determination would include, among others: non-emergency Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Affordable Care Act subsidies, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and comparable state and local programs.

Advocates are concerned that families that include an immigrant will be afraid to seek Medicaid, CHIP, and other benefits for their US citizen children if this regulation is finalized. In fact, advocates report that some families are already shying away from seeking such benefits.

An issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzes the potential impact of the expected rule on the 10.4 million children in the U.S. with at least one non-citizen parent.