Public Charge: What is it and what can we do?


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Public Charge: What is it and what can we do?

What is Public Charge?

“Public charge” is a longstanding test under federal immigration law designed to identify people who may depend on the government as their main source of support. If the government determines that a person is likely to become a “public charge,” it can deny a person entry to the U.S. or permanent residence, like a green card.

What is the Trump Administration doing?

On October 10, 2018 , the Trump Administration proposed a change that would broadly expand what forms of public assistance make someone a “public charge”. In short, it would force immigrant women and children to make an impossible decision between meeting basic needs, including health care, and keeping their families together in this country. The impact would be particularly harsh on pregnant and postpartum women and children who may decline to enroll in Medicaid and other services, resulting in poorer maternal and child health, education, and financial outcomes.

How Public Charge could change

If the rule is ­finalized in its proposed form, this would mark a significant and harmful departure from the current policy. For over a hundred years, the government has recognized that work supports like health care and nutrition help families thrive and remain productive. And decades ago, the government clarified that immigrant families can seek health and nutrition benefits without fearing that doing so will harm their immigration case.

Rejecting this long-standing approach to public charge, the proposed rule targets the following key programs essential to immigrant women and children’s well-being:

  • Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for certain disability services related to education)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy
  • Housing assistance, such as public housing or Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance

What can you do?

Tell the Trump administration that we will not stand by, while it attempts to punish parents and their children for feeding themselves or going to the doctor. Submit an official comment with the government telling them you object to the rule change and stand with immigrant families.

Support our work

The Center for Reproductive Rights has defended the reproductive rights of immigrant women and families by engaging with policymakers and the courts on issues that threaten the immigrant community. The Center also proudly co-led a human rights campaign, which documented and addressed the impact of budget cuts on reproductive health care access for immigrant women in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.