The Trump Administration’s “public charge” rule has been the subject of much controversy since it was first announced in August 2018. Originally scheduled to go into effect October 15, 2019, a federal judge in Manhattan temporarily blocked Public Charge from going into effect on its scheduled date. The federal Department of Justice will most likely appeal this ruling.
This past August, the Trump administration published a final draft of the Public Charge rule, which outlines how one may be deemed a public charge.
What has changed with the “final” rule?
The final rule will now apply to a specific set of individuals who receive certain government benefits and along with the totality of their circumstances, such as age, income, and education, are determined to be a public charge. They will be examined based on the public benefits they receive, such as Medicaid, SNAP, and public housing, in order to decide whether or not they should be denied entry or receive a green card.
What is difficult about this rule change is that becoming a public charge is not automatically predicated on receiving any of these public benefits. An individual might be considered a public charge if they receive certain benefits that are identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and are also submitting an application for green card, nonimmigrant visa, or extending an existing visa. The rule change does not apply to those who are considering applying in the future nor to those who have applied prior to October 15, 2019.
Who does the new public charge not apply to and which benefits are exempt?
The new rule does NOT apply to the following individuals:
U.S. citizens, even if the U.S. citizen is related to a noncitizen who is subjected to the public charge ruling
Existing green card holders
Refugees and asylees
Special immigrant visas given to immigrants of specific origin
Non-immigrant trafficking and crime victims (T and U visas)
Applicants and recipients of the Violence Against Women Act, special immigrant juveniles, or to those who DHS has granted a waiver of public charge inadmissibility
The DHS will NOT consider the following public benefits for public charge:
Health, nutrition and housing benefits listed above that were used before October 15th, 2019 are NOT considered
The receipt of Medicaid for the treatment of an emergency medical condition;
Services or benefits funded by Medicaid through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
School-based services or benefits provided to children who are age eligible for secondary education as determined by state or local law;
Medicaid benefits received by the following persons:
Foreigners under 21 years of age
Women during pregnancy and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.
Who else might be considered a public charge?
Despite the fact that green card holders are generally exempt from the public charge rule, if they travel abroad and return to the U.S. after their trip, they may also be subjected to the public charge test. This is due to pre-existing conditions that green card holders must meet in order to hold onto their permanent residency status and eligibility for naturalization. However, the DHS has not explicitly dictated what kind of circumstances would make a green card holder an applicant for admission.
The DHS also released an explicit list of what public benefits will be considered for public charge, which are as follows:
Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
Welfare benefits such as:
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Medicaid received after October 15, 2019
Public Housing Recipients under the following:
Section 8 Housing Assistance and Project-Based Rental Assistance
Section 9 Public Housing
How can you help immigrants prepare for the new public charge?
In order to better aid immigrants in preparing for the public charge ruling, many immigrant advocacy organizations encourage immigrants and their allies to better understand their rights. Spreading accurate information and knowledge is key in protecting oneself another against anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
We’ve put together a few resources below for further information:
How CIANA can help
Here at CIANA we provide legal consultations and casework services for free. If you have a question about your immigration status or whether you would be classified as a public charge, you can call us at (718) 545-4040 to speak with our legal team and schedule an appointment for a free consultation.
We will also be hosting a public charge workshop on Monday, October 14 and Tuesday, October 15 from 10:30-11:30 am at our office. Call us to attend.
This article has been updated to reflect the October 11 federal court ruling that prevented Public Charge from going into effect on Tuesday, October 15.