Public Charge


“Public Charge”

On Sept. 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security released a new “public charge” rule that would be devastating to people with disabilities and their families who are seeking to enter the U.S. or become U.S. citizens.  This new rule would mean that an individual could be denied admission or have their application for lawful permanent residency denied because they used (or even applied for) a wide range of government programs, including Medicaid, housing assistance, or food assistance. Because Medicaid provides critical services that help people with disabilities live in the community and that are not generally available through private insurance, this rule would especially harm people with disabilities and their families. It not only could prevent them from entering the US or becoming US citizens but would also discourage them from using critical public services for fear of harming their  immigration status.  When the rule is officially released for public comment (which we expect any day), we need you to submit comments on how this rule will hurt the disability community. You can also visit Protecting Immigrant Families, Advancing Our Future for more information.


The “public charge” test is not new in federal immigration law. It is designed to identify people who may depend on government benefits as their main source of support. If the government determines someone is likely to become a “public charge,” the government can deny admission to the U.S. or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency.  However, under current law only a very narrow set of programs are considered in determining a “public charge” – cash assistance (such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)) and government funded institutional care (like Medicaid-funded nursing home). 

The official rule has yet been published in the federal register (a required step toward making this a binding federal regulation).  When it is, want to be ready! 

The forthcoming rule would greatly expand the benefits that count in the “public charge” test.  It would include virtually any program that helps people meet basic needs, such as Medicaid, healthcare subsidies, food assistance, housing assistance and comparable state and local programs.  Many people with disabilities and their families rely on these programs, especially Medicaid.  

As CLASP described the harms of the proposed rule:

  • It would rewrite our national immigration story and undermine American values of hard work and opportunity
  • It is unnecessary because current laws ALREADY bar immigrant access to benefits
  • It would be bad for public health and our economy
  • It would force parents to decide between obtaining a permanent immigration status or providing for children
  • It would harm CHILDREN and future generations

What’s Already Happened

There have already been harmful changes reflecting this new policy made to the Foreign Affairs Manual. 

Changes to “Public Charge” Instructions in the U.S. State Department’s Manual, National Immigration Law Center (2/8/18)

 What’s Coming

The new “public charge” rule was just released by the Department of Homeland Security.  The next step is that the rule will publicized in the Federal Register for public comment.  We expect this will happen very soon.  As soon as the rule is published, it will be critical for you to comment opposing this policy!  The government needs to hear from people with disabilities and their families about how they will be hurt.

What You Can Do Now

  • Learn about the public charge rule now. Think about how it could impact you, your family or someone you know.  Be ready to comment!
  • Share information about the forthcoming rule with others in your community who might be impacted.
  • Check the protectourmedicaid website for updates
  • Join CLASP’s Protecting Immigrant Family Campaign


Proposed Changes to Public Charge: Quick Analysis, Fact Sheet from Protecting Immigrant Families

Resources List from Protecting Immigrant Families

Trump Targets Health of Immigrant Families In Seeking Change of Longstanding Immigration Law, NHeLP (9/24/18)

Statement from The Arc on the Proposed Rule (9/23/18)

Public Charge: A Threat to the Health & Well-being of Older Adults in Immigrant Families Justice in Aging Fact Sheet (9/14/18)

The Trump Administration’s New Plan to Punish Legal Immigrants, Washington Post (5/6/18)

Trump Administration Seeks To Bar Immigrants with Disabilities, Disability Scoop (4/30/18)

The Trump Administration’s Next Attack on Immigrant Families, Clearinghouse Community (5/18)

Public Charge: A New Threat to Immigrant Families, Fact Sheet from CLASP (4/25/18)

Public Charge Fact Sheet, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) (4/12/18)

Access to Health Care, Food, and Other Public Programs for Immigrant Families under the Trump Administration, NILC (4/2/18)

CLASP’s Protecting Immigrant Family Campaign

A New Threat to Immigrants’ Health – The Public Charge Rule, New England Journal of Medicine (8/1/18)

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