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The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) condemns the Trump administration’s newest hurdle to immigrants seeking to obtain lawful status and maintain secure lives in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to “public charge,” published today in the Federal Register, seek to deny access to visas and lawful permanent resident status for immigrants who use public programs.

“This administration is strong-arming families to choose between having a secure future in this country as U.S. citizens and accessing critical basic services they need to survive right now,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “This new public charge rule will close the door to a pathway to lawful status for immigrants and expand income inequality in American communities. It will force American families to make decisions no person should have to make.”

For decades, the U.S. government has used a “public charge” test to determine if a person is likely to become dependent on the government. Until now, only individuals dependent on a limited number of publicly funded programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income were deemed public charges. The new test will punish immigrants for using a much broader range of programs including non-emergency Medicaid coverage,  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and public housing. Additionally, this new rule harshly punishes families who earn less than 250 percent above the poverty line.

The proposed changes now are subject to a 60-day public comment process and will not take effect until at least 60 days after the government reviews all comments. NIJC encourages immigrants who currently rely on any of these services to remain enrolled in the programs for the time being, but to seek advice from qualified immigration attorneys regarding their future options should proposed changes become law.
 
Take Action: NIJC is a member of a network of advocates in Illinois and across the country who have come together as the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign to oppose the new public charge rule. Join us by submitting a comment to the federal government by December 10, 2018, explaining why punishing families of immigrants for accessing basic services hurts all Americans.