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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

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Photo: Jonathan McBride/IRC

On October 10, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a policy change that would make it much more difficult for immigrants building new lives in the United States to access health care, find housing, or feed their families.

Under current immigration 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.” The Trump Administration’s proposal will drastically expand this definition 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.

However, our community not taking this attack lying down: 210,889 comments were submitted to the Federal Register after the new rule was proposed. The Administration will now have to examine these comments as they consider whether or not to proceed with this devastating new policy. We must continue to stand with thousands of immigrant families who would be affected by this disastrous proposal. Find out more below.

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, accepted comments about the proposed public charge changes until December 10, 2018. The Administration is legally required to read all unique comments that were submitted by the deadline. During this review period, the current law will remain intact.

Read the International Rescue Committee's response to the proposed changes.

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.