Coalition Condemns Proposed Consequences for Using Social Safety Net Supports

February 12th, 2018

Potential Federal Rules Changes Would Needlessly Hurt Immigrant Families and U.S.-Born Children

NEW YORK, NY – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering new rules that, if enacted, could force many immigrant families to choose between critical health, food, and education programs and the opportunity to apply for a green card. A leaked draft of DHS’s plans shows that the Trump Administration wants to penalize certain immigrants for using programs that they are entitled to under the law– including nutrition programs for mothers, infants and families, tax credits to help purchase health insurance, Head Start programs, heating assistance, and housing supports. The rules have not been finalized, but if enacted, will put immigrants at risk of being unable to become permanent residents.

Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, issued the following statement:

“DHS’s cruel and short-sighted proposal targets the health, stability, and security of immigrant families that make our country great. Under these rules, infants would go hungry, children would start school without the tools they need to succeed, and immigrant families would struggle to raise their children to grow up healthy and strong. We will continue to monitor this developing situation and fight these heartless attacks on our communities. Our state and our country were built by immigrants that benefited from our nation’s social, health, and educational programs. Today’s immigrant communities deserve and have earned those same opportunities.”


The proposed rules would replace existing guidance describing which benefits trigger “public charge” scrutiny. Public charge means someone who is dependent on public benefits. Before being enacted, the draft rules must be finalized and published in the Federal Register and are subject to public comment. Even with these proposed changes, under federal law, certain immigrant populations are exempt from public charge consideration, including refugees, asylees, survivors of trafficking, victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/ holders), VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles, certain parolees. Legal permanent residents are not subject to a public charge test when they apply for citizenship.

If the proposed rules are enacted, immigration officials must still consider the “totality of circumstances” of an applicant, including income, resources, age, family situation, and health, in determining if the applicant is likely to become dependent on the government in the future.

Many immigrant groups are already barred from using almost all federal benefit programs, including undocumented immigrants.