What is Public Charge and How Does it Affect Immigrant Families?
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 and a 60 day public comment period ended on December 10, 2018. Now 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.
What can my agency and I do now?
Your agency can issue a public statement on the proposed rule and impacts on children and families.
New Resource: Public Charge Information for Families
This new handout for families in Spanish and English was developed with the Promotores Collaborative of SLO County to help parents better understand the public charge proposal. It explains the facts about proposed changes to the public charge immigration policy and offers resources to help families.
This resource is intended for clients who have concerns about accessing public or non-profit programs, to clarify exactly what is being proposed. We included resources on the second page so staff can help clients to find ways they can take action besides taking the action of withdrawing from services. The handout works best in color and double-sided; contact us for copies if you can't print in color. Whenever possible, explain the handout rather than just giving it out or leaving it in a waiting room, to avoid misundermisunderstandings. Click here to download Public Charge handout for families.
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 changed in California 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.
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.