NLIHC Joins More Than 1,000 Organizations in Signing on to Public Charge Comment Letter

NLIHC signed on to a comment letter urging the Biden administration to act quickly to reform the “public charge rule” to ensure immigrant families can access critical safety net services without fear. The letter, signed by more than 1,000 state and local organizations nationwide, urges the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to finalize reforms to the rule, which has been part of federal immigration law for more than one hundred years. Advocates and local governments must submit any comments concerning the rule to the Federal Register by April 25.

In 2019, the Trump administration amended the public charge rule to include public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) in the determination of whether a lawfully present immigrant was or might become a public charge to the government. The Biden administration dismissed the harmful 2019 rule amendment in March 2021, removing housing programs from the public charge determination. The administration’s newly proposed rule clarifies that programs such as Section 8 vouchers, disaster assistance, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), employment assistance, childcare, and programs for trafficking victims do not count as benefits considered under the public charge determination. Finalizing the newly proposed rule is an important step toward mitigating the damage of the 2019 rule amendment and would make permanent needed improvements to the public charge rule.

The Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign organized a sign-on comment letter to unite nonprofits around a public charge reform agenda without slowing down the regulatory process. (Further information about the effort can be found on the website of Keep Families Together, a shared initiative of the National Housing Law Project.) The sign-on letter recognizes that the public charge test is “an antiquated policy reflecting centuries of racial and class bias” and urges 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. The letter urges DHS to make specific improvements as well, including (1) ensuring that state and local programs such as universal basic income programs are not considered in public charge determinations; (2) clarifying that Medicaid is never considered in public charge determinations; and (3) exempting orphans, domestic violence survivors, victims of other crimes, and other vulnerable immigrants from public charge determinations.

View a copy of the public charge comment letter here:

Find out which organizations in your state have signed on to the public charge comment letter here: