The Public Charge Issue: Information and Resources


The Trump Administration's proposed expanded "public charge" rule would undermine access to health care, nutrition, housing, and economic security for low-income immigrant families. It would put "wealth" in front of fair access to family reunification.

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What is the Public Charge Issue?

[From Protecting Immigrant Families]

Part of federal immigration law for over a hundred years, the “public charge” test is 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 admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent residence (or “green card” status).

On October 10, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed to change this long-standing policy by excluding anyone who is likely to use certain health care, nutrition or housing programs in the future. The proposed test adds specific standards for income, health, age and even English proficiency, and expands the forms of public assistance that are counted in a “public charge” determination. 

The Public Charge rule would harm health, wellbeing of millions

If finalized, the proposal would fundamentally change who we are as a nation—transforming us from a country that welcomes people who plan to work hard and achieve a better life, to one rigged in favor of the wealthy. It would also put the health and wellbeing of millions of people at great risk and violate our core American values. How you live your life and contribute to your community should define you in this country, not how you look or how much money you have.

The proposal would make—and has already made—immigrant families afraid to seek programs that help them stay strong and productive and raise children who thrive. With about one in four children having at least one immigrant parent, this issue touches millions and is critical now and for our nation’s future.

How the Public Charge rule is applied today

Under the current policy, the only benefits considered in determining who is likely to become a “public charge” are:

  • Cash assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and comparable state or local programs.
  • Government-funded long-term institutional care.

How Public Charge could change

If the rule is finalized in its proposed form, this would mark a signicant and harmful departure from the current policy. For over a hundred years, the government has recognized that work supports like health care and nutrition programs help families to thrive and remain productive. And decades ago the government clarified that immigrant families can participate in essential health and nutrition programs without fear that doing so would harm their immigration case. If this rule is finalized, we can no longer offer that assurance.

The new 'public charge' proposal targets key programs that help participants meet basic needs, such as:

  • Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for certain disability services related to education)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Low Income Subsidy for prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D.
  • Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, and Project-Based Section 8.



Click here to download the Protecting Immigrant Families Fact Sheet with the information above and more.

#OneNation -- the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) initiative on the public charge rule has updates and resources specifically to raise awareness and activate AAPI communities

How could this Public Charge rule affect states? Click here for updated fact sheets.

Protecting Immigrant Families - to learn more about the campaign, click here.

Visit the Protecting Immigrant Families website for more information and updates.