Public Charge

Background

On March 9, 2021, the Department of Justice notified the U.S. Supreme Court that it had agreed to withdraw its appeal defending the public charge rule introduced by the Trump administration. When the Supreme Court dismissed the case, the lower courts’ injunctions preventing the rule from being applied went back into effect. The Department of Justice also withdrew its appeal in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which meant that the Northern District of Illinois’ ruling that the October 2019 public charge rule was invalid became final and effective. To implement that court order, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially withdrew the October 2019 public charge rule.

In place of the rule, USCIS has reinstated the 1999 Field Guidance for determining whether an applicant is inadmissible on public charge grounds. This guidance defines a public charge as a person who is, has become, or is likely to become ‘‘primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.’’ This means that immigrants and refugees can now apply for and receive any other public benefit for which they are eligible without it being held against them when applying for admission to the U.S. or adjustment of immigration status.

For patients, this means that you can receive Medicaid benefits (known as “Apple Health” coverage in Washington), as well as emergency care and COVID-19 treatment, without affecting your immigration status. However, those receiving long-term, institutionalized care, such as that of a hospice or nursing facility, may be considered a public charge under the 1999 Field Guidance. If this applies to you or anyone you know, or you have questions about your specific situation, you may want to contact an immigration attorney to discuss the implications of that care on Lawful Permanent Resident status. If this applies to you or anyone you know, you may want to contact an immigration attorney to discuss the implications of that care on Lawful Permanent Resident status. Our Legal and Immigration Resources page includes links to help you find an attorney if needed.

➔ Learn more about the 1999 Field Guidance in our FAQ

 

Resources and Trainings

While the Trump administration’s public charge rule was withdrawn and is no longer in effect, it created a “chilling effect,” and there continues to be confusion and concern related to the use of public benefit programs. See below for multilingual educational tools on this topic available from Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF):

 

What is the latest happening around Public Charge?

February 2022 – New proposed public charge rule; comment period closes April 25, 2022

On Thursday, February 24, the US Department of Homeland Security issued their new proposed public charge rule. This rule determines the admissibility of a noncitizen into the US based on whether they are likely to become a “public charge,” or primarily dependent on the government.

We are still reviewing the new rule, but it affirms that the 2019 rule enacted during the Trump administration is no longer in effect.

The rule is subject to a 60-day comment period, and all comments must be submitted no later than April 25, 2022.

 

January 2022 – Emphasizing that the 2019 public charge rule is no longer in effect.

In November 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a letter emphasizing that the 2019 public charge rule is no longer in effect. It also lists examples of noncash benefits that cannot be used in a public charge determination, including Medicaid and food stamps. Read the full letter on the USCIS website.

 

October 2021 – New Public Charge rulemaking underway

Under the previous administration, strict public charge regulations and anti-immigration policies negatively impacted the health and wellness of our immigrant communities in Washington state. Even though many of the harmful policies have been reversed, they continue to create fear and discourage people from accessing critical benefits. Now we have an opportunity to participate in the process to create new regulations. By working together, we can help ensure future regulations protect access to healthcare and public programs for immigrants in Washington and across the United States.

On August 23, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), inviting public comment on questions and topics DHS is thinking about for new public charge regulations it is drafting. Under the Biden administration, DHS wants to ensure that new regulations do not place undue burdens on immigrants. In the ANPRM, DHS stated its intent to draft a rule that does not “cause undue fear among immigrant communities or present other obstacles to immigrants and their families accessing public services available to them, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting long-term public health and economic impacts in the United States.”

Community Health Network of Washington, Community Health Plan of Washington, Washington Association for Community Health and 26 of Washington’s community health centers submitted a comment letter responding to the ANPRM on October 21, 2021.

The ANPRM was just the first step in this process. DHS will review the responses it received and then it will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. When that happens, there will be a chance to comment on the proposed rule.

Please stay tuned for next steps in this recent public charge rulemaking process. We will share information here as it is made available. For additional questions or information related to public charge please feel free to contact Jessica Hauffe at CHNW, [email protected].

Reviewed on 02/28/2022