Take 5 Minutes Today to Speak Up on Public Charge

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

December 10, 2018

Deadline for comments on proposed regulation is today:
Monday, December 10, 2018 at 11:59pm EST

Educators understand that when a student’s basic needs aren’t being met, that student experiences additional barriers to learning in the classroom. Educators know how food-insecurity, lack of stable housing, and lack of healthcare (including dental and vision care) impede a child’s ability to learn at school. SNAP, housing assistance, Medicaid, CHIP, and other supports help low-income parents meet their children’s basic needs. A new rule being proposed by the Trump Administration would threaten those vital services for children with immigrant parents.

When a person is seeking to enter the U.S. and applies for a U.S. visa, or when a person already in the country applies to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), one of the many considerations made by the U.S. Government is to determine whether that person would ever become a “public charge.” On October 10, 2018, the Trump Administration announced a proposed regulatory rule change that would dramatically broaden the definition of “public charge” from a person “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” to a person “who receives one of more public benefits.

This rule change would reserve legal entry into the U.S. to a now highly-select group. Being too old (over 61 years old) or too young (under 18) would be negatively weighted in the “totality of circumstances test” under the proposed rule. Having a physical or mental health condition that could affect a person’s ability to work, attend school, or care for themselves would be weighed heavily against an applicant. Having limited English proficiency would be another negative for an applicant under the proposed rule. The new income test requires a person to earn over 125% of the federal poverty level and the only heavily weighed positive factor that can overcome a heavily negative one is having a household income of 250% ($63,000 for a family of four) of the federal poverty level. This is higher than the median income in the U.S.

As someone who immigrated to the U.S. as a child, I know the extreme circumstances that drive a family to uproot themselves and seek refuge in a new country. A system that penalizes people for not being able to meet their basic needs and rewards people for having financial resources above all else, is counter to what we as Americans hold to be just and fair.

This proposed change seems to be a tool to bar entry into the country for people who historically would be admitted. It disproportionately impacts Latinos – many of whom are trying to escape violence in their home countries – and people of color.

Number & Percentage of Those Who Would Be Barred Entry Into U.S. By Race & Ethnicity:

  • 3 million Latinos (>33.4% of Latinos)
  • 2 million Asian/API (>17.4%)
  • 8 million Black and African (>4%)
  • 5 million Whites (>1%)

Source: Protecting Immigrant Families


The proposed changes would also impact millions of people already living in the U.S. who are on their pathway to becoming LPRs. These are people who have jobs or who are attending institutions of higher education, who are paying taxes, and many have children who are U.S. citizens attending public schools.

According to an Urban Institute report issued last week, in nine states citizen-children living with non-citizen parents account for 1 in 5 of all Medicaid and CHIP enrollees. Those children may not get the health care they need and, in some instances, may face health emergencies if their parents fear bringing them in for routine medical care. These children may also fail to progress in school due to lack of nutrition assistance. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “research suggests that SNAP participation can lead to gains in reading and math skills among elementary school children, especially young girls, and increase their chances of graduating from high school.”

When parents are afraid to access critical services to meet their basic needs, our most vulnerable students will be the most adversely impacted. Join the growing wave of education advocates pushing back on this seemingly obscure proposed regulation. Your voice matters more in these final days so please take five minutes today and submit a comment on the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services proposed rule at regulations.gov.

Here is a sample comment from Protecting Immigrant Families:

I am writing you to express my strong opposition to President Trump’s proposed “public charge” regulation. This policy is an extension of a larger effort to tear families apart, and as an American, I find this policy absolutely shameful. New immigrants bring new ideas and energy to our nation.

Here’s an important fact I urge the Department of Homeland Security to consider: one-third of U.S.-born citizens would struggle to pass this proposed public charge wealth test. This unjust rule would essentially put a price tag on green cards, turning our immigration system into one that heavily favors prospective immigrants with wealth, over those who seek upward mobility. The rule would warp a system that for centuries has brought millions of immigrants to our shores and has enriched our country and economy overall.

If this rule moves forward, no longer would we serve as a beacon for the world’s dreamers and strivers. Instead, America’s doors will be open only to the highest bidder.

For more resources, visit https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/

Dana Laurens is the Senior Associate for Policy & Advocacy at ERN.