What is Public Charge and How Does it Affect Immigrant Families?
What can my agency and I do? There has been a lot of confusion around the proposed changes to the "public charge" rules that will affect immigrants who apply for legal permanent residence. The purpose of this article is to:
Let you know the facts,
Give you ideas about how to talk to immigrant families, and
Encourage you and your agencies to submit comments on the proposed rules.
What is public charge? The Trump Administration is seeking to change immigration policy through proposed new rules for immigrants who apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR, or "green card"). The proposed new rules would replace family immigration policies in favor of policies that favor richer and better educated immigrants. The rules would also greatly expand the programs whose use could lead to a public charge determination. This could lead to the denial of legal permanent residence for many immigrants. It will likely also have the effect of discouraging many immigrants from using any government services, regardless of their status.
"Public charge" is a ground of inadmissibility that could bar a person's admission to the U.S. on a visa or deny their adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident. During the LPR application process, the government looks at the "totality of circumstances," including whether the applicant has used cash aid (TANF, SSI, General Assistance) or government-funded long term care and other factors. If a person is determined to be likely to become a public charge - someone who will be dependent on the government for basic needs - then they are denied. What are the proposed changes? The proposed new federal regulations will expand the programs whose use can lead to a public charge determination to include programs such as Medi-Cal (except emergency, pregnancy-only, and state-only services), CalFresh (Food Stamps), Section 8 housing vouchers, and Medicare Part D subsidies. Currently only the receipt of cash benefits such as CalWorks, and long term care are included.
Proposed Rule: Benefits Included and Not Included The rules would also detail new factors for the "totality of circumstances" balancing test that would make it harder for low and moderate income people to pass.
What is the process moving forward? The proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register on October 10, 2018. There is now a 60 day public comment period that expires December 10, 2018. After this, the government must review all comments and the final rule must address all of the submitted comments. Once the final rule is published, implementation would begin 60 days later.
What do we tell families? Parents are reported to be avoiding health care, vaccines, education and social services for themselves and their children to preserve their rights to become legal permanent residents and citizens. Here's what they need to know:
This is only a proposal at this point. There is still time to fight back - submit comments online to the federal government (see below).
Eligible family members who are LPRs and citizens should continue to use health, social and educational services.
Using benefits now can help all family members become healthier, stronger, and more employable in the future.
Only certain benefits are included in the proposed rules. WIC, Food Bank, educational benefits, and most other programs are not included.
Families need to make decisions based on their unique circumstances and needs. People should get help deciding what's best for their family and, if possible, consult with an immigration attorney or BIA-accredited representative, like Catholic Charities, about their individual situation.
If the regulations go into effect as proposed, the government will only look at use of listed public services after the implementation date - it is NOT a retroactive rule. And only benefits used during the three years before applying for a green card will be considered.
Services used by family members such as spouses, children, and parents will NOT be taken into account. Only the public services used by the person being considered will be counted.
The public charge test looks at all the person's circumstances, weighing positive factors against any negative ones. It does not use just one criteria.
This rule ONLY affects applications for adjustment of status,legal permanent residence and entry visas, and those who have LPR status and leave the country for at least 180 days. It does not affect LPR renewals or citizenship applications, or people who are not intending to apply for LPR status. It also does not affect: refugees; asylees; survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders); VAWA self-petitioners; and certain other groups.
Encourage others to submit comments, including your clients who may be affected. Note that comments must be in English to be counted.
Your agency can issue a public statement on the proposed rule and impacts on children and families.
Learn more: Watch for a First 5 Health Access training on public charge for all child-serving professionals in January. Meanwhile, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or would like to see sample comments or public statements. And if you have ten or more staff members, contact us for a training on public charge at your site for your staff.
Talk about individual cases of eligible families dropping off programs because of fear of jeopardizing their immigration status - the "chilling effect."
Talk about the health and education impact on children who do not receive immunizations, medical care, counseling, and food.
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that between 129,000 and 301,000 Californians would remove themselves from the CalFresh program if the public charge rules take effect, mainly out of fear. On the Central Coast an estimated 6,000 - 15,000 could disenroll.
For Medi-Cal, which provides health insurance to a third of Californians, the public charge rules could push between 317,000 and 741,000 people to un-enroll. On the Central Coast an estimated 20,000 to 47,000 could disenroll from Medi-Cal.
The administration's proposed changes to the "public charge" rule would send the message that people who are older, people with disabilities, and people with pre-existing conditions are not welcome in America.
Increasing access to health care for children ages 0-5 and their families
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Help for Immigrant Families Immigrant families continue to be concerned about their families' abilities to peacefully live, work and be educated in our country. With the recent announcement by the Trump administration phasing out the DACA program, families have been asking even more questions. Please visit the Immigration and Health Reform section of our website for more information.
For more information regarding recent immigration information please contact us.
Download our Directory of Family Resource Centers
Our updated SLO County Directory of Family Resource Centers is now available for download!
This quick and easy reference guide contains contact information along with a brief description of numerous resource centers available for families in San Luis Obispo County. The list of supporting organizations include pregnancy support, homeless resources, mental health and much more. We invite you to download our 2018 Directory of Family Resource Centers and share it with your colleagues and clients.
New Workplace Resources for Family Leave and Lactation Employee Rights, Family Leave and Disability Information
Family Leave and lactation workplace rights have recently changed to include small businesses and there are increases to the disability insurance benefits.
As of January 1, 2018 employees in small businesses with a minimum of 20 workers now have access to 12 weeks unpaid family leave. Employees requesting leave must have 1,250 hours on the job prior to requesting leave. Family Leave does not have to be taken in 12 consecutive weeks.
California recently increased the wage benefits under disability and eliminated the one week waiting period for all family leave claims. Employees can use the online Disability Insurance and Family Leave Calculator to determine their benefits. Disability benefits are provided for up to six weeks.
Exciting Features on the First 5 SLO County Website
As a community leader, First 5 SLO County is working hard to fulfill its mission of funding and advocating for quality programs and services for children age 0-5. First 5 San Luis Obispo County's new website, at www.first5slo.org, is up and running with great new informational features. First 5 SLO County's website now includes these informative features: a regularly updated blog, upcoming community happenings, and links to important local resources. The site is available in both English and Spanish.First 5 SLO Executive Director Wendy Wendt is excited about the wide array of resources on the site, including numerous funding opportunities available to local organizations and a list of First 5 SLO County's partners.
Be sure to check the Hands on Heroes page every month to learn about SLO County residents making a positive difference in the lives of children. If you have an upcoming community happening you would like featured on the First 5 SLO County webpage, please send your information to email@example.com.
The Health Access Training Project is a project of First 5 of San Luis Obispo County which advocates for quality programs and services to support children from prenatal to age five, ensuring that every child is healthy and ready to learn in school.