The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s “public charge” rule is officially final.
The new measures are scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 15 and could result in legal immigrants in the United States being denied immigration benefits if they are deemed unable to look after themselves financially or are a “public charge” because they have accepted public assistance.
Currently, the definition of a public charge for purposes of evaluating visa and green card applicants is narrow: someone who receives cash assistance from a limited number of government programs or is institutionalized long-term with the government paying for it.
The new rule would drastically expand the public benefits considered to include non-cash assistance, like Medicaid and food stamps, and it would introduce new criteria, such as an English proficiency test and an income requirement.
According to Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis of U.S Census Bureau data, the population that could feel the rule’s “chilling effects” and disenroll includes 10 million noncitizens—47 percent of the noncitizen population in the United States.
And it will fall particularly hard on the two largest racial/ethnic immigrant groups: Latinos and Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Approximately 16.4 million people live in benefit-receiving families with at least one Latino noncitizen and 3 million live in such families with at least one AAPI noncitizen.
Philip E. Wolgin, managing director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement, “This rule prioritizes money over family and tells immigrants that if they want to achieve the American Dream, they’d better do it before they get here. Just like the administration’s policy of separating families and putting children in cages at the border, the public charge proposal is unquestionably cruel and goes against our fundamental values as a nation.”
MPI also found that 56 percent of all family-based green card applicants could be denied under the public charge rule’s unprecedented income requirement—and this new hurdle would have disproportionate effects based on national origin and ethnicity, blocking 71 percent of applicants from Mexico and Central America, 69 percent from Africa, and 52 percent from Asia—but only 36 percent from Europe, Canada, and Oceania.
Jonathan Jayes-Green, co-founder and national director of the UndocuBlack Network, a group that advocates on behalf of people of color seeking to become citizens, said he and other advocates think the public charge rule was designed to “whiten America.”
San Francisco and the county of Santa Clara, Calif., have filed a joint lawsuit against the Trump administration, and more legal challenges are likely.
The proposed rule is unfair and makes no sense because it will make people less self-sufficient, families less stable, and hurt our economy.
If you have questions about your particular status or use of benefits, speak with an immigration attorney or a representative accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice.