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Clients participate in programs inside the IRC office in Boise.
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Stop public charge changes that harm immigrant families

We have until December 10 to act.

Photo: Jonathan McBride/IRC


Unless we act now, it could soon become much more difficult for immigrants building new lives in the United States to access health care, find housing or feed their families. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Under current law, an individual can be denied entry or a change of immigration status—such as obtaining permanent residency—if they are considered a “public charge.”
  • A new proposal from the Administration would drastically expand the definition of a “public charge” to include critical safety net programs that immigrant families need to survive.
  • These changes directly attack the thousands of immigrant families the International Rescue Committee serves. And they hurt American communities, which have always been strengthened by the contributions of newcomers.
  • We have until December 10 to submit a comment to the Federal Register to demand that the executive branch rejects this inhumane proposal. The Administration is legally required to read every comment submitted by the deadline.


Frequently Asked Questions

What will be the consequences of expanding the public charge definition?

The proposed expansions to the definition of a public charge would put the health and wellbeing of millions of immigrant families at risk and ultimately harm entire communities. Simply accessing the necessary benefits immigrants qualify for could put their ability to obtain legal permanent resident status (green card) or extend or change their status to stay in the United States in jeopardy. Parents will be faced with an impossible choice between depriving their children of programs that ensure they have adequate nutrition or access to medical care, and putting their own immigration status at risk. This is a cruel decision to force upon them: Both outcomes have devastating consequences for the wellbeing of children and families in America.

Does this change affect refugees?

History tells us that such changes make immigrant families, even those—like refugees—who are exempt from the public charge test, too afraid to access healthy food and health care. The last time the definition of public charge was expanded, refugee use of benefits fell drastically—food stamp use fell by 60%, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by 78% and Medicaid by 39%.

The proposed changes will also undermine the ability of immigrant families to reunify with their loved ones and make it harder for them to receive critical support they need to succeed.

What benefits will now be considered when determining whether or not someone is a “public charge?”

Use of public benefits such as non-emergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), public housing or Section 8 housing assistance will now be considered under the public charge changes. These programs are necessary for those who qualify but under the proposed changes would become negative factors in considering who will be given a green card or visa.

How can we oppose these changes?

The Federal Register, the official journal of the U.S. government, is accepting comments about the proposed public charge changes until December 10. The Administration is legally required to read every comment submitted by the deadline. Join us in submitting comments opposing these changes.

While only UNIQUE comments will be considered, you can feel free to borrow from the sample language below. Be sure to mention if the proposed changes could affect you or your family, or why you personally feel it’s necessary to protect immigrant families:  

I, [name], am strongly opposed to the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule change on the “public charge.” The proposed policy would devastate our communities by making immigrant families afraid to access essential health, nutrition and shelter programs. Immigrant communities would live in fear of seeking support they need to thrive, regardless of whether or not they are actually subject to the “public charge” test. This proposed rule would hurt families and communities. I respectfully urge the Administration to withdraw this proposed rule on the public charge.

Does this impact me?

If you would like to learn more about Public Charge, please contact one of our offices in a location near you and ask to speak with a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) representative.