In Fact Sheets

UPDATE: On September 22, The Department of Homeland Security released information on its plans to change the public charge rule. This fact sheet is based on the latest information available.

Public charge is a test used by the federal government to determine whether immigrants on the road to citizenship will use government benefits as their main source of support. Traditionally, “public charge” has only been applied to immigrants who depend on cash assistance or institutional long-term care. If immigrants are deemed a public charge, the government can deny entry to the U.S. or approval for applications of lawful permanent residency.

In an unprecedented move, the Department of Homeland Security has proposed expanding the definition of the public charge rule to include the use of other programs that improve maternal and child well-being.1 The change would likely lead to a large number of families declining necessary services they are eligible for out of fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. In turn, many immigrant families could face negative health, educational and life outcomes. A person’s immigration status could be at risk if they seek access to any of the benefits programs.

In Michigan, 13% of children live in immigrant families where either one or both parents are foreign-born.2 As noted in the 2017 Race for Results report, immigrant experiences vary significantly by race. Only about one-third of Latinx children in immigrant families in Michigan live above 200% of the federal poverty level, making access to programs that support their healthy development critical.

Under the proposed rule change, as the largest share of participation in four of the major public programs6, children ages 0-17 would be at the highest risk of not enrolling or disenrollment from programs aimed to improve well-being and development. Though use of public benefits by U.S. citizen children will not factor into an immigrant parent’s public charge determination, the rule will likely have a chill factor that could impact children’s enrollment in vital services. In Michigan, almost 46% of U.S.- born children, almost 48% of noncitizen immigrant children and over 40% of naturalized citizen children participate in at least one or more of the following public programs: TANF, SSI, SNAP and Medicaid/CHIP.7 As of  the latest announcement on September 22, participation in CHIP would not be considered. The proposed rule change could jeopardize access to healthcare, adequate food and nutrition and safe, affordable housing for thousands of Michigan children, which will negatively impact their educational, health and economic outcomes.

 

The proposed change to the public charge rule could also prevent unification of families because of how it affects the ability to obtain a visa into the country as well as Lawful Permanent Resident Status through family-based petitions.19 The proposed rule changes will have a disproportionate impact on mothers and their children, who will lose access to public programs as they choose between getting the help they need and reuniting with those they love or keeping their families together.

Endnotes

  1. Robert Greenstein, Trump Rule Would Threaten Low-Wage Legal Immigrants in the U.S. if Their Families Receive Any of Wide Array of Benefits, Including the Earned Income Tax Credit, https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/trump-rule-would-threaten-low-wage-legal-immigrants-in-the-us-if (May 1, 2018).
  2. KIDS COUNT Data Center, Children in Immigrant Families, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/115-children-in-immigrant-families?loc=24&loct=2#detailed/2/24/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/any/445,446 (January 2018).
  3. Jeanne Batalova, Michael Fix, Mark Greenberg, Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/chilling-effects-expected-public-charge-rule-impact-legal-immigrant-families. (June, 2018).
  4. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Public Charge Fact Sheet, https://www.uscis.gov/news/fact-sheets/public-charge-fact-sheet (April 29, 2011).
  5. Robert Greenstein, Trump Rule Would Threaten Low-Wage Legal Immigrants in the U.S. If Their Families Receive Any of Wide Array of Benefits, Including the Earned Income Tax Credit, https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/trump-rule-would-threaten-low-wage-legal-immigrants-in-the-us-if (May 1, 2018).
  6. TANF, SSI, SNAP and Medicaid or CHIP.
  7. Batalova, Jeanne, Michael Fix and Mark Greenberg, Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use, Migration Policy Institute, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/chilling-effects-expected-public-charge-rule-impact-legal-immigrant-families (June 2018).
  8. KIDS COUNT Data Center, Children Living Below the Poverty Threshold by Family Nativity, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/117-children-living-below-the-poverty-threshold-by-family-nativity?loc=24&loct=2#detailed/2/24/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/78,79/449,450. Accessed August 20, 2018.
  9. KIDS COUNT Data Center, Children Living in Low-Income Families (Below 200 Percent of the Poverty Threshold) by Family Nativity, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/118-children-living-in-low-income-families-below-200-percent-of-the-poverty-threshold-by-family-nativity?loc=24&loct=2#detailed/2/24/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/78,79/451,452 Accessed August 20, 2018.
  10. KIDS COUNT Data Center, Children Living in Households with a High Housing Cost Burden by Family Nativity, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/124-children-living-in-households-with-a-high-housing-cost-burden-by-family-nativity?loc=24&loct=2#detailed/2/24/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/78,79/462,463 Accessed August 20, 2018.
  11. KIDS COUNT Data Center, Children Living in Crowded Households by Family Nativity, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/125-children-living-in-crowded-households-by-family-nativity?loc=24&loct=2#detailed/2/24/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/78,79/464,465 Accessed August 20, 2018.
  12. Madison Hardee. A Threat to the Health and Wellbeing of Children in Immigrant Families, https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/06/2018_pifchildfactsheet_web.pdf
  13. Batalova, Jeanne, Michael Fix and Mark Greenberg, Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use, Migration Policy Institute, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/chilling-effects-expected-public-charge-rule-impact-legal-immigrant-families (June 2018).
  14. Steven Carlson, SNAP Works for America’s Children, https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/snap-works-for-americas-children (September 29, 2016).
  15. No Kid Hungry, SNAP: The Most Effective Tool for Ending Childhood Hunger, Top Facts and Statistics About SNAP and Its Essential Impact, https://www.nokidhungry.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/SNAP_Facts.pdf (August 16, 2018).
  16. Madison Hardee. A Threat to the Health and Wellbeing of Children in Immigrant Families, https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/06/2018_pifchildfactsheet_web.pdf
  17. Batalova, Jeanne, Michael Fix and Mark Greenberg, Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use, Migration Policy Institute, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/chilling-effects-expected-public-charge-rule-impact-legal-immigrant-families (June 2018).
  18. Parrott, Sharon, Shelby Gonzales and Liz Schott, Trump “Public Charge” Rule Would Prove Particularly Harsh for Pregnant Women and Children, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/trump-public-charge-rule-would-prove-particularly-harsh-for-pregnant#_ftn7 (May 1, 2018).
  19. Kaiser Family Foundation, Proposed Changes to “Public Charge” Policies for Immigrants: Implications for Health Coverage, https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/fact-sheet/proposed-changes-to-public-charge-policies-for-immigrants-implications-for-health-coverage/ (February 13, 2018).

 

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