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Advocacy toolkit: opposing proposed changes to “Public Charge”

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1. Background information

What’s happening?

  • On October 10, 2018 the Trump Administration proposed drastically expanding the definition of who constitutes a “public charge” through a proposed rule in the Federal Register.

  • Under current immigration law, an individual can be denied entry or denied a change of immigration status if they are considered a “public charge.”

  • The proposed rule is not yet final and there is an opportunity to submit public comments.

Who the proposed rule affects and why we are concerned:

  • This rule affects families who are applying to become lawful permanent residents (LPR or green card holders), to extend or change the category of a nonimmigrant visa, or to bring family members to the U.S.

  • While resettled refugees and asylees have been and will continue to be exempt with respect to their own adjustment of status applications, the rule will impact refugee and asylee communities in two ways.

o First, many refugees have families with complex immigration statuses and fear surrounding this change will likely result in refugees un-enrolling in critical benefits which help them successfully integrate. The last time the definition of public charge was expanded, for example, refugee use of benefits fell drastically even though they were still eligible: food stamps fell by 60%, TANF by 78% and Medicaid by 39%.

o Second, when refugees become green card holders and want to petition for their family members, it will apply and they could face challenges under the proposed rule. The proposed rule re-defines public charge to include many legally present and gainfully employed immigrants who utilize critical programs like the SNAP or Head Start programs, in order to make ends meet for their families. The proposed rule will result in families choosing between forgoing critical nutritional, medical, or educational assistance for their families, for fear of jeopardizing their own immigration status.

  • The rule will also directly impact U.S. citizens, as immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children may choose to forgo critical public health and safety programs for their families for fear of jeopardizing their own immigration status.

What we’re asking you to do:

  • Submit a unique public comment on the proposed rule before December 10, 2018; and,

  • Reach out to your networks to encourage them to do the same.

Why are we asking you to submit public comments and what happens next?

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must consider all public comments filed on time.

  • Additionally, if it appears the agency did not consider substantive public comments, it may open the agency to litigation under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

  • After DHS carefully considers public comments received on the proposed rule, DHS plans to issue a final public charge rule that will include an effective date at least 60 days after the date the final rule is published.

In the meantime, and until a final rule is in effect, USCIS will continue to apply the current public charge policy (i.e., the 1999 INS Interim Field Guidance).