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The fear of public charge leads families to forgo benefits and aid. What is the real impact of the standard?


Under Donald Trump, the share of federal assistance fell, even for citizen children. The Republican rule was repealed and a more limited previous one governs, but the fear persists.

The public charge rule has been in federal immigration law for more than a hundred years, but it wasn't until Donald Trump brought it into his rhetoric that it became a veritable torment for migrant families.

The former president expanded his scope to deny visas or residency to those receiving federal aid.

A very small group was affected, but Trump achieved a victory that still remains: paralyzing fear. 

About a fifth of adults from low-income migrant families said in surveys in 2018 and 2019 that they denied themselves benefits for fear of the rule.

During the Trump administration,

the participation in Medicaid and CHIP of citizen children

living with undocumented persons

also fell by 18%

, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, the number of people who were at risk of not qualifying for a green card by receiving federal assistance under this rule

was negligible

: less than 1% of the more than 22 million foreigners living in the country, according to a estimate made by the institute.

[There are millions of Latino parents without health insurance.

"It is living with stress, with fear," says the mother of a child with cancer]

Rosa's family, second from the right, used to receive about $ 190 a month in food stamps in 2017, but gave up the benefit for fear of deportation.

Bebeto Matthews / AP

The Trump rule was overturned in March by the Joe Biden administration

, which reinstated a previous, more limited one.

However, many fear that she will be rehabilitated either by the lawsuit pending before the Supreme Court of Republican states or by a future administration. 

Consequently, many families continue to give up food stamps that allow them to have bread, fruit and meat on their table, while others do not request low-cost health coverage, essential for their children, and some are even afraid to send to small activities like soccer classes after school. 

The fear is real, even for those who would not apply the rule,

” Allan Wernick, director of CUNY Citizenship Now !, a free immigration legal services program, told Noticias Telemundo.

With the advice of specialists, and based on an analysis of current standards, we answer six key questions to understand the standard and its scope.

1. When does the public charge rule apply and to whom?

The public charge inadmissibility test was created to identify those who depend or may depend on the Government as their main source of livelihood.

Several factors are taken into account, including the federal aid received.


It applies to some applicants for visas, admission to the country and adjustment of status and mainly to those who request permanent residence or

green cards


Refugees, asylees, many survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence or other serious crimes, and many other “humanitarian” immigrants are excluded from this rule.

Permanent residents only face a public charge test if they leave the country for more than 180 days and try to re-enter.

[This is the immigration reform approved in the House of Representatives.

And now that?]

If an official determines that someone is likely to become a “public charge,” they can deny an application for admission or immigration adjustment. 

2. What benefits are taken into account?

The Biden administration struck down the 2019 Trump public charge rule and reinstated an earlier rule and guide, two decades ago, with very limited parameters.   





for income maintenance such as SSI and TANF, and general assistance (state and local cash subsidies) are considered, as well as

long-term institutional care

paid for by the government, for example, in a nursing home or a nursing home. mental health Center.


Cash payments for

specific purposes such

as help with the household electric bill or childcare

are excluded


Disaster relief, community service, and retirement and veteran benefits are also not considered. 

About 3,000 low-income Californians benefited by a financial assistance program

Oct. 30, 202101: 15

Non-monetary benefits

that Trump had added

are also not taken into account


This includes government health care programs such as Medicaid or CHIP, public housing and nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, school meals, and Section 8, as well as COVID-19 assistance such as Pandemic-EBT, child tax credits, and checks. stimulus;

among many others. 

But what happens if the applicant has a relative, for example a child, who receives a benefit?

As a general rule, it is not taken into account, unless that help is the only financial support of the family. 

3. Why are very few affected by this rule?

The benefits that are taken into account are scarce and

an immigrant does not automatically become a “public charge”

for having received or receiving one of them.

Federal aid is

just one factor to weigh

among others such as age, health, family status, finances and education.

It also takes into account if there is a financial sponsorship form, which is required for most family-based and some employment-based immigrants to show they have financial support and will not be a public charge.

US consulates will apply a more flexible public charge rule than that imposed by Trump

April 1, 202102: 49

Experts also note that

the majority of the undocumented are not eligible

for federal aid in the first place, and even if they are, there are exceptions, such as having a humanitarian visa, and ways to circumvent this admissibility test.

“If you have the right legal advice, you can almost always beat the public charge,” explains Wernick.

["They will benefit me in my food expenses": Families in Los Angeles yearn for financial aid]

A non-citizen can be deported

if he becomes a public charge within five years of arrival in the country, but this rarely happens as the test is rarely applied and has several limitations. 

4. What was the change that Trump brought and his impact?

Trump dramatically changed the meaning and application of public charge, adding qualifiers, such as non-cash benefits: Medicaid, SNAP, and housing assistance.

But even with these changes, the public charge applied to very limited cases, as explained in the previous point.

The real problem, Wernick explains, was that the process became more cumbersome and required the help of a lawyer.

"A process that took a few hours became one of multiple hours," he says.

Shawn Rahman, who works as a managing attorney at Citizenship Now !, says that even the most wealthy and educated "had a hard time navigating the process."  

Trump's rule was announced early in his presidency and enacted in 2019, but after multiple legal battles, it was only in effect from February 2020 until March 9, 2021, when it was overturned by Biden. 

Former President Donald Trump first spoke about public charge in 2017, shortly after taking office.

The rule, however, was not issued until 2019. Pool / Getty Images

In pending applications, the Government no longer takes into account the requirements or forms demanded by Trump.

And in some cases, immigrants who had their case denied under the 2019 rule can reapply.

5. What is the advice in the face of fear of profit?

"Families can be sure that they can safely enroll themselves or their children in a large number of programs," Cindy Ji, Associate for Health Policies at the Children's Defense Fund (CDF, ​​for its acronym) told Noticias Telemundo. in English).

This includes multiple government health, food and housing programs, as well as pandemic assistance. 

Experts recommend talking to a trusted expert before giving up on life-saving help.

Wernick notes that unfortunately, many political groups and organizations, either out of ignorance or convenience, fostered "mass hysteria" around public charge. 


It is very important that you consult a qualified source and an immigration attorney,

" adds Rahman, and advises avoiding advice, for example, from people who are in other areas, such as stores that offer tax advice. 

Her organization, CUNY Citizenship Now !, offers free immigration counseling, but you can also search for a specialist by zip code through the Immigration Advocates Network directory.

Additionally, there are guides available online on what to consider when enrolling children in public benefits or how to determine whether public charge applies to you. 

It is also remembered that

the personal data of those who receive benefits are protected

, and that public programs should not ask for information about the immigration status of applicants.

6. But what if it becomes Trump's rule?

Political changes always have a basic law that they must follow, Wernick says, and you can count on organizations and groups that will fight a legal battle against policies that affect the rights of immigrants in the United States. 

The Supreme Court will study the validity of the public charge rule imposed in the Trump era

Oct. 30, 202100: 18

"It will not be easy for a new Administration," Rahman remarks.

In the same way that happened with Trump: there are rules of procedure that must be followed, otherwise, the measures have a limited scope in time or in affected groups.

Biden's February executive order gave federal agencies the task of reviewing public charge, and a new final rule restricting the test is expected to be established in the short term. 

Still, the advice is for those who qualify for immigration status, residency or citizenship to apply now, Wernick notes.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-11-25

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