February 2, 2020

What is the New ‘Public Charge’ Rule, and Who Will Be Affected?

The Supreme Court has decided to allow the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) new “public charge” rule to take effect while litigation is ongoing.  In a public charge determination, if DHS determines that an immigrant is “likely at any time to become a public charge” in the future, the department can deny them admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent residence (or “green card” status).  DHS’s new rule adds additional programs to the list of public benefits that can be considered in making a public charge determination.

Under the new rule, public benefits on this list now include:

  • Cash assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and general assistance programs;
  • Medicaid (with exceptions including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, and pregnant women including 60 days of post-partum services);
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”); and
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance.

Many assistance programs are not included on DHS’s list, such as disaster relief; school breakfast and lunch; Women, Infants and Children (WIC); emergency medical assistance; AIDS Drug Assistance Program; and Energy Assistance (LIHEAP).

Additionally, in regard to the new rule:

  • Receiving public benefits will not automatically make a family a public charge.
  • The use of public benefits is only one factor that can be considered in determining whether an immigrant is likely to be a “public charge.”
  • Most immigrants in Florida who are subject to the public charge rule are not eligible for the programs listed in the rule.

The biggest threat from this new rule, however, is that unaffected families will be afraid to apply for free assistance they desperately need for themselves and their children.

There are low-cost and free immigration attorneys available in Florida to assist people who are in need of legal help to determine if they will be affected by this new rule.

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