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Public Charge Rule put into Effect

Post Date:January 31, 2020

     Public Charge rule put into effect

What happened, what the rule is, what this means, and what you can do

What Happened: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to let the Trump administration enforce the "public charge" rule, a regulation that is meant to reduce the number of immigrants who use social benefit programs. In recent months, several courts across the country had issued (nationwide) stays, which all had the effect of pausing this rule. But later rulings by appeals courts end those pauses one by one. This most recent ruling focused on the last stay in effect, from New York.

What Is The Public Charge Rule?: The public charge rule creates a test to be used on people trying to immigrate or get a green card. Immigration officials will need to look at all of the relevant details about a person (the "totality of circumstances") to decide if they are likely to need to use benefit programs. Those relevant details include income, employment, health (including disability status), education or skills, family situation and whether a sponsor signed a contract (“affidavit of support”) promising to support the person.

The benefit programs this covers include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (EBTor Food Stamps), Federal Public Housing and Section 8 assistance, cash assistance (like SSI, TANF, and General Assistance), and Medicaid. However, Medicaid use is not being looked at if it is for:

  • Emergency services;
  • Children under 21 years;
  • Pregnant women; and
  • New mothers.

What This Means: The most important point for people to know? This only applies to the person trying to change their immigration status. Services other family members use don't count against them. Yes, that includes regional center services! This two-page infographic shows how this works.

It is important that anyone who is immigrating or applying for a green card gets legal help. There is a directory of assistance available from the state Department of Social Services, provided through the "One California" program.

What You Can Do: This test does not look at family members or the services they use - no matter their immigration status. It only covers programs used by the person applying to immigrate.

The most important action people can take is to share that message with their community. Many communities are already being impacted by misinformation and fear, causing people who are totally eligible for programs to drop out. Working with local leaders and ensuring your community knows what this does - and does not - do will be critical to ensuring people continue to receive the services they are legally entitled to!

Other Background Information: The California Primary Care Association has alarge resource library, including training modules, that will be particularly helpful for community leaders. 

Additionally, the advocacy group Protecting Immigrant Families has a "Know Your Rights" database with easy-to-use information and factsheets.