Sanctuary Rejects the Trump Administration’s New Public Charge Rule

Sonia Mansoor is Senior Manager of Public Benefits Legal Advocacy and Nabah Ikram is the Immigration Specialist at Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project. They are co-chairs of Sanctuary’s Public Charge Advocacy Subcommittee. 

The “Public Charge” immigration test became the law in 1882. The public charge test is a means to deny immigrants admission or a green card to the United States if they are reliant on the government for their subsistence.

The Trump Administration proposed a more draconian version and the Department of Homeland Security published the new “Public Charge” rule on August 12, 2019. The rule would have become effective on October 15, 2019.  However, Judge George Daniels of the US District Court in NYC issued a preliminary nation-wide injunction prohibiting the administration from enforcing the new public charge rule. On January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump Administration’s new Public Charge rule to take effect after the immigration policy had been blocked by lower courts.  The nation-wide injunction on the new public charge rule has been lifted, pending further litigation. DHS and USCIS have not come out with an implementation date as of yet.

Sanctuary for Families strongly condemns the racist, classist and xenophobic new Public Charge rule. This is an attack on the well-being and health of vulnerable immigrant communities including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The new Public Charge rule would broaden the definition of Public Charge to “someone who receives one or more public benefits.” Under the new Public Charge rule, USCIS will also consider participation in the following programs in a public charge determination:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Low-income subsidies under Medicare Part D
  • Housing choice vouchers, project-based subsidies, and public housing ­­­­

The new rule also adds criteria to the “totality of circumstances” evaluated in each determination and changes the weights attributed to certain “positive” and “negative” factors. Among the heavily-weighted negative factors are current or recent unemployment, current receipt of public benefits, and a lack of unsubsidized health insurance.

Key Factors To Keep In Mind:

  • As noted above, the new Public Charge rule does not affect all immigrants.
  • There is no public charge test that applies to green card holders (lawful permanent residents).
  • The new public charge rule does not change eligibility for public benefits, please do not dis-enroll before speaking to a public benefits specialist and an immigration attorney.
  • Certain categories of immigrants are exempt on a humanitarian basis including refugees, asylees, survivors of domestic violence, trafficking and other serious crimes (U-visas, VAWA Self-Petitioners), Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and some other immigrants.

Immigration Resources:

  1. Action NYC: Call 1-800-354-0365 and say “Public Charge
  2. NYC.gov/PublicCharge
  3. Office of New Americans: 1-800-566-7636
  4. Legal Aid Society: 1-844-955-3425
  5. New York Immigration Coalition: nyic.org
  6. Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign: protectingimmigrantfamilies.org
  7. Information Sessions on New Public Charge hosted by Sanctuary for Families: http://sanctuaryforfamilies.org/our-approach/advocacy/public-charge/