Newly Amended “Public Charge” Rule Is Expected to Adversely Affect Millions of Immigrant Households
On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended a federal rule that is expected to have a significant detrimental impact on millions of immigrants seeking legal status in the United States, including many of the clients served by Hmong American Partnership (HAP).
The new version of the ‘public charge’ rule, as it is commonly known, replaces guidelines that have been in place since 1999 and is scheduled to take effect on October 15, 2019. The rule grants DHS increased authority to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use, or are expected to use, local, state, and federal non-cash benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. Non-cash benefits include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and housing vouchers and subsidies. Previously, the rule applied only to immigrants who received public cash benefits for income maintenance through programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
According to the Federal Register, the rule does not apply to refugees, asylum seekers, military members, and children and pregnant women. Additionally, the rule does not ban immigrants with pending legal status from applying for, or receiving, public assistance. However, those who do so could be deemed ‘inadmissible’ for legal status in the United States.
The forthcoming change, which was first announced by the Trump administration in October 2018, has already begun discouraging immigrants from applying for public assistance. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) found that the rule could cause as many as 23 million noncitizens and citizens in immigrant families to not enroll or disenroll in public benefits programs, with the largest impact on Latino and Asian American/Pacific Islander households. MPI further noted that the chilling effects “are likely to be felt most broadly in states with large immigrant populations and those with relatively inclusive public benefit policies,” such as Minnesota. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told MPR News that the change won’t just hurt immigrants; “it will be a burden on and hurt every one of us in the long run.”
The new rule will also have a negative impact on HAP and many of its noncitizen immigrant clients who receive assistance through SNAP, Medicaid, and housing subsidies. While HAP does not have an exact count of the number of noncitizen immigrants it serves, the nonprofit estimates that a sizeable percentage of its nearly 30,000 clients utilize some form of public assistance and do not have legal status.
HAP President and CEO Bao Vang said that the organization is committed to helping immigrant clients enroll and maintain the vital benefits they need to live safe, stable lives. “Discouraging immigrants from enrolling in benefits which they are legally entitled to for fear of being denied legal citizenship will undermine our communities’ and our nation’s progress. We are staunchly opposed to the amended public charge rule due to the detrimental impact it will have on families and the economy.”
Individuals who are in the process of applying, or planning to apply, for green cards are strongly encouraged to connect with immigrant legal services, such as the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (651-641-1011) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (1-800-292-4150) for assistance.