The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule on the “public charge” regulation on September 8, adding critical protections to immigrant families’ access to social safety net programs, including housing. The final rule clarifies that several health and social services are not considered in a public charge determination, a decades-old test to deny temporary admission into the U.S. or deny requests to change one’s status to lawful permanent resident (i.e., green card holder). The final rule takes effect on December 23, 2022, and restores the historical understanding of public charge, according to which receipt of certain non-cash benefits – such as housing and Medicaid benefits – are not considered under public charge determinations. Advocates hailed the final rule as a major win for immigrant families but are continuing to call on Congress and the administration to fully repeal the public charge provision.
Prior to 2019, almost all non-cash government benefits, such as Medicaid and housing benefits, were excluded from the public charge consideration. A harmful rule issued under the Trump administration in 2019 (and that is no longer in effect) caused a significant drop in enrollment in programs such as government health care and pandemic aid, undermining the response to the pandemic and widening economic and health disparities. NLIHC joined more than 1,000 organizations in signing on to a public charge comment letter led by the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign (see Memo 4/25). The sign-on letter recognized that the public charge test is “an antiquated policy reflecting centuries of racial and class bias” and urged the Biden administration to quickly finalize public charge rule reform to assure eligible immigrant families that they can use safety net programs without immigration concerns. Members of Congress also sent letters to DHS in support of needed reforms in May (see Memo 5/02).
After numerous advocacy efforts, NLIHC celebrates the release of a final rule that does not consider housing assistance – such as assistance through public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) – in the public charge test. An individual participating in other “non-cash” programs (such as SNAP, WIC, and the Child Tax Credit) in addition to receiving housing assistance will not be penalized if they seek to change their immigrant status or apply for permanent residency. The final rule will take effect on December 23, 2022.
DHS has also announced plans to conduct public outreach and engagement to minimize the chilling effects of the 2019 rule among immigrant communities. Stay up to date on NLIHC’s efforts by visiting Keep Families Together, a shared initiative of the National Housing Law Project.
Read a press statement from the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition at: https://bit.ly/3d0yCBy
Read DHS’s statement announcing the final public charge rule at: https://bit.ly/3TTc7z3
Read the text of the final public charge rule at: https://bit.ly/3L3KWxE