60-Day Comment Period Begins: New Yorkers, Say No to Public Charge Rule

October 10th, 2018

Advocates call on public to oppose rule that would force immigrant families to choose between public programs v. legal status

NEW YORK, NY – Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted its proposed “public charge” rule in the Federal Register, advancing the Trump Administration’s attempt to force immigrant families to choose between using health care, food, and housing programs, and obtaining a visa or legal residency in the U.S.

This marks the beginning of the 60-day public comment period. Anyone can submit public comment to express their concerns about the proposed rule here or at regulations.gov. The NYIC strongly encourages all individuals and organizations to post a public comment opposing the “public charge” rule.

"During the comment period, the New York Immigration Coalition, our partners, and community leaders will publicly denounce this heinous “public charge” rule because of the havoc it will wreak on our families. All New Yorkers must fight back and preserve our state’s commitments to healthy and stable communities. Along with the national Protecting Immigrant Families campaign, we’re calling on 100,000 people nationwide to publicly object to this injustice in the next 60 days – New Yorkers, we’re counting on you,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

If the rule is finalized, legal immigrants will be at serious risk of being unable to renew their visas or become permanent residents if they apply for certain federal assistance programs or are low-income. The rule affects programs for children, many of whom are U.S. citizens in mixed status families. The proposed rule would penalize many immigrants for using federal assistance programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), public housing assistance, and the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy.

According to a new report released by the Fiscal Policy Institute, 2.1 million people in New York state alone could be directly impacted, including 680,000 children. They also estimated that even at the lowest rate of disenrollment, New Yorkers could stand to lose $1.1 billion in federal funds.

Background

DHS’s rule would replace existing guidelines that define a “public charge.” Currently, someone designated as a “public charge” is primarily dependent on a limited set of public benefits. This proposed rule expands the definition of “public charge” to include an array of programs upon which working families depend.

Once the 60-day public comment period ends, DHS must review all submitted comments before issuing a final rule. The proposed rule states that changes will only go into effect 60 days after the final rule is issued, meaning there are at least 120 days before the rule will be effective. The NYIC encourages anyone who fears possible consequences of these public charge changes to note that the proposed rule will not be retroactive and individuals will not be penalized for use of benefits that were not part of the public charge rule at the time of use, including between today and the date that the rule goes into effect. For more information, visit www.nyic.org/publiccharge.

If enacted, immigration officials must consider the “totality of circumstances” to determine if a visa applicant is likely to depend on government assistance in the future. Circumstances include:

  • income

  • resources

  • age

  • family situation

  • health

Under federal law, certain immigrant populations are exempt from public charge consideration and would continue to be exempt even if today’s proposed rule goes into effect, including:

  • refugees

  • asylum seekers

  • 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 public charge scrutiny when they apply for citizenship. Undocumented immigrants and many other immigrant groups are already barred from using most federal benefit programs.

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Need legal assistance?

Call the NYS Immigration Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 or view our directory of service providers here