Public Charge


Short Explainer and detailed Infosheet

“Public Charge”

On Oct. 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security published a “public charge” rule.  The proposed rule will be devastating to people with disabilities and their families who are seeking to enter the U.S. or applying for a green card. The rule expressly discriminates against people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. This rule would also 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 permanent residents, but would discourage eligible families from using critical public services for fear of harming their immigration status.  The public comment period for the proposed rule closed on Dec. 10th, 2018.  Read more about How the Proposed Rule Will Hurt People with Disabilities. 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 homes). 

The rule was published in the federal register and was officially open for public comment (a required step toward making this a binding federal regulation) through December 10, 2018.  

The proposed public charge rule would be devastating to people with disabilities.  It  greatly expands the benefits that count in the “public charge” test.  It would include many programs that help people meet basic needs, such as Medicaid, Medicare Part D subsidies, food assistance, housing assistance and comparable state and local programs.  Many people with disabilities and their families rely on these programs, especially Medicaid.  The rule also greatly expands how health — including disability — is considered.  Having a disability or chronic health condition is counted as a negative factor.  If a person does not have private insurance that would cover all the medical costs of a disability or chronic condition, that counts as a “heavily weighted” negative factor.  Because many important community services are only available through Medicaid and not covered by private insurance, this factor will also count against most people with disabilities.  

General Info on the Comment Process
Be sure to describe the ways the rule would impact you, your family or your community.  Comments are most effective if they are unique, so please use your own words to explain why you oppose this rule.

General Information on the Comment Process, Protecting Immigrant Families

Comment Guidance for Community Members, MA Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition

Data Resources for Comments

What’s Happening

The “public charge” rule was published in the federal register in Oct. 2018 and the public comment period closed on Dec. 10, 2018.  Thank you for submitting comments!  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received over 200,000 comments.  The vast majority of them opposed this harmful and discriminatory proposed rule. The rule has not been finalized. DHS must now review and respond to the comments received. Stay tuned for updates.

Public Charge Websites & Webpages 

Stop Trump’s Cruel Attack on Immigrant Families – Protecting Immigrant Families

Public Charge and Immigrant Seniors – Justice in Aging

Comments Submitted

CPR Comments on the Proposed Public Charge Rule

NHeLP Comments on the Public Charge Rule

National Disability Rights Network Comments on the Public Charge Rule

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Comments on the Public Charge Rule

Access Living Comments on Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule

Justice In Aging Comments

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) Comments

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) Comments

National Council on Aging Comments

Kaiser Permanente Comments

Community Catalyst Comments

Center for American Progress Comments


Template Comments Regarding Public Charge and Disability for State and Local Grassroots Organizations

How the Proposed Public Charge Rule Will Hurt People with Disabilities, CPR, The Arc, Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Explainer: Impact of the Public Charge Rule Change on People with Disabilities, The Arc, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, CPR

Proposed Changes to “Public Charge” Policies for Immigrants: Implications for Health Coverage, Kaiser Family Foundation

America’s Leading Health Plans Oppose Public Charge, Protecting Immigrant Families

Template Comments for Organizations Focused on Health Issues, National Health Law Program (NHeLP)

Trump’s Public Charge: Poor, Disabled Immigrants Need Not Apply, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

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

Resources List from Protecting Immigrant Families

Public Comment Mini Toolkit, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

The Health Impact of the Proposed Public Charge Rules, Health Affairs (9/29/18)

DHS’ Proposed Rule: What May Change With Public Charge?, NHeLP (9/27/18)

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

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

Public Charge Fact Sheet, CLASP (9/22/16)

Public Charge Policy Update, AUCD

The Hunger Impact of the Proposed Public Charge Rule, Food Research & Action Center

Estimated Impacts of the Proposed Public Charge Rule on Immigrants and Medicaid, Kaiser Family Foundation (10/11/18)

Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” Rule is an Assault on the American Dream and Our Nation’s Values, Families USA 

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

Opposition Statements

Center for Public Representation

National Council on Independent Living

The Arc

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Center for American Progress

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

U.S. Conference of Mayors

Coalition on Human Needs

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