Strong Families LA

Preparing for Public Charge

updated: February 24, 2020

visita esta página en Español

What is “Public Charge”?

The “Public Charge” test is used by federal immigration officials to determine if a person can enter the U.S. with a visa or get a Green Card (Lawful Permanent Residency). Under the new rule, anyone applying for Lawful Permanent Residency or a visa — whether trying to enter the U.S. or those already living here — could be rejected if an immigration officer decides they are likely to use certain public benefits. The rule was to be implemented on October 15, 2019, however, federal courts stopped implementation of the rule for some time. As of February 21, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the rule to go into effect everywhere. USCIS announced that the rule will be effective on February 24, 2020.


Once the updated Public Charge rule is implemented, immigration officials will look more closely at factors like health, age, income, and English language skills when reviewing applications.

 

They will also look at whether you have used essential services such as:

• CalFresh (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program “SNAP”, “EBT” or “Food Stamps”)

• Federal Public Housing and Section 8 assistance

• Medicaid (except for emergency services, children under 21 years, pregnant women,

and new mothers)

• Cash assistance programs (like SSI, TANF, General Assistance)

The threat of this looming rule change has understandably spread fear among the immigrant community, leading many individuals to forego necessary public services to survive. However, it is important to know the facts about this rule:

  • An individual’s access to state-funded programs, other than cash assistance, are not considered.

  • LA County programs My Health LA and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are not considered

  • Only benefits used by the person applying for a visa or a Green Card can be considered — not benefits used by family members.

Who is and who is not impacted by the Public Charge rule?

Individuals applying for a Visa or Lawful Permanent Residency (Green card or LPR status) from either inside or outside the U.S. will be impacted by the rule unless they are exempt. Individuals who already have a Green card or who may be applying for a renewal would not be impacted. Benefits used by children will not be used against their parents. 

The Public Charge test will not impact individuals who have — or are applying for — U.S. citizenship. Many immigrants are exempt including people applying for or renewing TPS, people applying for or holding a U or T Visa, individuals with Asylum or Refugee status, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Many survivors of domestic violence are also exempt, including self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

When does the Public Charge rule go into effect?

The rule was expected to be implemented on October 15, 2019, however, federal courts stopped implementation of the rule for some time. As of February 21, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the rule to go into effect everywhere. USCIS announced that the rule will be effective on February 24, 2020. Once it is implemented, these new changes will be applied by immigration officials. These changes  apply only to applications that are postmarked or submitted electronically on or after February 24, 2020, the date the rule goes into effect.  

How will the Public Charge rule affect local families?

L.A. families, communities, and our economy may be hit hardest of all. As a result of the rule, immigrant children and parents may be afraid to see doctors, while others will struggle to keep a roof over their heads or secure the meals they need. These shocks will have an impact on all of us:

  • In L.A. County, just over 200,000 immigrant Angelenos currently receive TANF, SNAP, and Section 8 benefits;

  • The estimated annual cost to our local economy if 25% of immigrant households in LA County forgo benefits would be $54,020,736 for SNAP (CalFresh) and $8,458,560 for TANF (CalWORKs);

  • 8,050 immigrants receive Section 8 benefits in the City of Los Angeles;

  • According to the Center for American Progress, if every single American were to examine their financial eligibility according to this new rule, 100 million Americans — one third of the population — would fail.

What if I have questions about my family’s situation?

If you have questions about how this rule could impact you or your family, you can reach out to a non-profit for legal advice.

Visit this link to find an organization near you.

Read Mayor Garcetti’s letter

Mayor Garcetti sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security during the 60 day comment period in 2018. In the letter, he explained how this change would upend the lives of 1.5 million immigrants in our city, hit L.A.’s economy, force families to go without basic necessities, and punish American-born children and penalize immigrants who are here legally and simply want a safe place to find a job, make a living, and raise a family.

Read the letter.

Additional resources

The Protecting Immigrant Families campaign has a number of online resources available for individuals hoping to learn more about the Public Charge rule.

You can visit their website by following this link.