“Public charge” assessment has long been a part of U.S. federal immigration law. Officials use it in deciding who will be granted an entry visa or green card by identifying individuals they consider likely to become primarily dependent on government assistance to meet basic needs. Receiving public benefits is one factor considered in this determination (others include age, health, assets and financial status). Under current policy, there are just two kinds of benefits considered: cash assistance and government funded long-term care.
A proposed rule change would expand the benefits considered in public charge determination to include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid (with limited exceptions), Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy, and housing assistance. It would also change how a household’s income is considered in this determination. This rule has not gone into effect, and there is still time to oppose it.
Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) stands with immigrant families and in opposition to this proposed rule change. This rule is at odds with the fundamental values that WCFB stands for, and with our mission of building a hunger-free and healthy community. It would discourage immigrant parents on the path to citizenship, who are working for better life circumstances, from using services they and their children legally qualify for, and which millions of people in the United States use to support their basic needs and move out of hardship.
This rule would roll back progress against hunger and poverty in this country. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) calculates that based on low estimates, around 130,000 immigrants, many of them children, would be likely to forego SNAP benefits they qualify for if this public charge rule change were implemented. This rule would likely affect people we know in our communities: neighbors, friends, family.
The public has 60 days to provide comments opposing this rule change. We urge our Partner Agencies, community organizations, and others to join us in writing and submitting a personalized message objecting to this proposal.
If you or someone you know is likely to be impacted, here are some important things to keep in mind:
• It is best for people to seek expert advice if they have any questions. Community Legal Aid is a great resource.
• This is a proposed rule. Nothing has changed yet and there is still time to oppose it.
• Encourage anyone who is worried they will be impacted to stay on their benefits or seek legal counsel before making changes.
• This is a forward-looking rule. Past use of benefits does not mean you will be considered a public charge.
• This rule does not impact all immigrants. Current green card holders, refugees, asylees, certain victims/survivors of violence, and certain other protected categories of immigrants are not subject to public charge determination. Find a comprehensive list here.
• Public charge does not impact the ability of legal permanent residents (green card holders) to naturalize to US citizenship.
• Even if the rule changes, immigration officers must consider various factors in an individual’s life when making a public charge determination. Receiving public benefits does not automatically make a person ineligible for a visa or green card.