Trump Administration Announces “Public Charge” Rule Change Attacking Low-Income Immigrants 

August 12th, 2019

Elected Officials, Immigrant Advocates and Social Service Agencies Denounce Trump Administration’s Cruel Rule Impacting New York Families

NEW YORK, NY—Trump administration officials announced today that immigrants who use certain public healthcare, food and housing benefits could be considered a “public charge” and see their applications for green cards or visas denied. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will officially publish the changes to the public charge rule in the Federal Register on Wednesday, August 14. New Yorkers who have questions about the new rule should contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information.

The rule changes are part of the administration's continued attack on poor immigrant families. News of the potential public charge rule change has already contributed to pervasive fear and confusion in immigrant communities, and the publication of the rule will be even more destructive. Families will be forced to choose between receiving vital social services and pursuing a green card or visa. As a result, millions of immigrants are expected to disenroll or forgo enrolling in public benefit programs.

“This administration is weaponizing basic needs to send immigrant families one message: if you’re not white and you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome here. Forcing families to choose between between accessing programs that will ensure the health and well-being of their families and a pathway to a visa or green card is cruel, immoral and bad for all New Yorkers, period. We will continue to fight against this racist, abusive policy,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Representative Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) said, “Today’s public charge rule announcement has yet again come on the wrong side of history, treating immigrants as less than human. Where our “leader’s” heart is supposed to be, is instead filled with hatred, bigotry and xenophobia. Trump's lackeys have followed his savage direction with such a cold disregard for Brown and Black people. But we will stand united in embracing our immigrant populations and do whatever it takes to right this wrong.”

“By attempting to keep immigrants from accessing programs vital to supporting their families, Donald Trump’s public charge rule fails to uphold the values of our nation and will force individuals to choose between putting food on the table for their children and being granted legal status,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “This rule is unacceptable, heartless and continues the Trump administration’s sweeping government-wide assault on immigrant families. Donald Trump is weaponizing basic needs to send immigrant families one message, loud and clear: if you’re not white and you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome here. We have witnessed his attacks since day one of his administration and we must take a stand and fight back against these racist, abusive, anti-immigration and anti-American policies.”

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said, "The Statue of Liberty invites the world to 'bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.' Denying the ability of immigrants to adjust their status based on their economic situation is a gross betrayal of our history and is wrong for the future. This proposed public charge rule change will force families to forgo survival services to be able hold on to and maintain their status. This is an attack on all of our communities and the public good as the Federal administration continues it cruel campaign against immigrants and public services."

New York Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "The newly released changes to the public charge rule will force poor immigrant families, who have to rely on essential life-saving programs, to make the agonizing decision between ensuring their wellbeing and safety, or obtaining a legal immigration status," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "This action further proves this administration's cruelty. They continue to wage war against undocumented people, while setting additional barriers for immigrants to adjust their status and obtain visas. It is evident that this administration is not interested in fixing our dysfunctional immigration system, it simply wants to harass and persecute poor people of color."

“These changes to Public Charge the President is implementing are another way for a racist administration to impose their xenophobic and discriminatory beliefs on our countries’ policies,” said Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo. “Instead of welcoming immigrants with open arms, they choose to find more ways to ensure that immigrants not only feel unwelcome, but are actively forced out of our country alongside being prevented from entry and reentry.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “The President is launching a direct assault on our immigrant brothers and sisters. The America we know was built by hardworking dreamers from all over the world. That’s the America we’re fighting to protect. To our immigrant New Yorkers: we stand with you now and always. To our president: we’ll see you in court.”

“The new public charge rule approved by the Trump Administration is yet another hateful and destructive policy proposal to attack immigrants, and it clearly goes against our City’s policies with regard to healthcare, housing, and nutrition. It will disproportionately impact low-income communities, particularly communities of color, forcing families to make the difficult decision to leave medical, food, or housing supports for fear of exacerbating immigration consequences. This is inhumane. In fact, since the rule was first leaked, we have already seen a drop in public benefits enrollment programs due to fear. This rule will be exceedingly detrimental to the City’s public health, decreasing access to healthcare, while simultaneously increasing poverty, homelessness, and hunger. It will also harm our local, state, and national economies. While there was overwhelming public outcry against this cruel proposal, the Trump Administration is moving forward with it, regardless of the severe consequences. The City remains committed to standing with our immigrant communities and fighting back against the effects of this rule,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“The newly finalized public charge rule makes plain once again the Trump Administration’s barely hidden disdain not just for immigrants but for the majority of Americans. As the Administration itself admitted, the vast majority of commenters opposed the rule last year. We are still determining the full impact this rule will have, but make no mistake: we will not let it fundamentally change the City’s charge to be a sanctuary for all,” said NYC Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

“It is very disappointing that this administration is denying immigrants the right to apply for a green card if they access much needed social programs. The government is punishing immigrants who are legally in the country by using social programs as a way to deter them from becoming a U.S resident,” said NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Many of our immigrants come with little to no financial support. These people use these valuable social programs so that they have a viable chance to get back on their feet. They need the support in order to stabilize themselves and be able to contribute back into our economy. It is inhumane to deny them these necessary rights.”

“It is unequivocally wrong that the current Administration may potentially deny green cards, visas, and entry to the U.S. to working class immigrants who access public benefits. The new public charge rule will create a detrimental effect on our economy, and could cause hard-working people to go hungry. Everyone who is entitled to public benefits should be able to access them without fear. New York City will continue to fight against the adoption of the public charge rule and remain committed to helping our immigrant population thrive even if the federal government remains negligent,” said NYC Council Member Mark Treyger (Coney Island/Bensonhurst/Gravesend).

"We here at the South Asian Council for Social Services are already seeing the impact of families dis-enrolling from benefits due to fear. Parents are taking their children out of health insurance programs denying them the medical care they need to survive,” said Sudha Archarya, Executive Director of South Asian Council for Social Services.

"Physicians for a National Health Program - New York Metro Chapter strongly opposes any and all changes to the public charge rule issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that could threaten immigrant families' access to healthcare, or otherwise jeopardize their ability to access the resources they need to live healthy, whole lives. As doctors, public health advocates, and other health professionals, it is our aim to protect and expand everyone's access to and rights to healthcare. We stand behind our immigrant allies in the fight to protect and keep families together and will do our part to educate our patients and communities on their rights to health care and access," said Dr. Oliver Fein, MD, Board Chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, New York Metro Chapter.

"This decision by the Trump Administration denies our community members the fundamental  right to healthcare and places them in the inhumane position of having to choose between seeking necessary care and giving up their legal rights as immigrants. This new public charge rule will make all of us sicker, hungrier, and less safe, and we will fight to reverse it," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together.

"As we try to understand the ruling that came out this morning, one thing we know for sure is that this will continue to instill fear and misunderstanding within our communities. We must work to ensure that there are no barriers to requesting public assistance benefits, especially for fear that this will negatively impact someone's immigration status. This administration cannot use public charge as a way to strong-arm an alternative agenda. We will continue to fight alongside our fellow leaders to both protect our communities and also fight for their rights," said Linda Lee, President & CEO of Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (KCS)

“This cruel and callous revision is yet another example of this administration’s mission  to separate families while rendering moot the very message of our lady in the harbor,” said African Services Committee’s Director of Advocacy, Amanda Lugg.

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affair’s Commissioner Bitta Mostofi said, “The ‘public charge’ rule is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to instill fear and concern among working immigrant families, but rest assured New Yorkers are fighters and the City will do everything in our power to ensure people have the resources they need to at this critical time. If you are worried or have questions about how ‘public charge’ could impact you or your loved ones, you can call ActionNYC at 311 or 1-800-354-0365 and say ‘public charge’ to access city-funded, trusted legal advice. The City is here to help you make the right decision for you and your family.”

"With the impending new Public Charge ruling, it is clear the Trump administration is attacking immigrants regardless of how they enter the country. In addition to the hateful racist and xenophobic rhetoric from Donald Trump leading to horrific levels of violence, his administration is piling on to the cruelty by forcing families to choose between their livelihoods in the US and feeding and housing their children, where one in five low-income immigrants are foregoing needed support for their families out of fear of governmental retribution. The new Public Charge is a xenophobic attack based on a belief that immigrants who arrive with little resources do not have potential, which is not only counter to historical precedence, but offensively dismissive to the vast contributions of immigrant communities," said John Park, Executive Director at MinKwon Center for Community Action.

"The finalized Department of Homeland Security Public Charge rule announced today will further threaten the health and well-being of these families, subjecting them to increased risk of poverty, hunger and a lack basic health care. This is but one of the many morally repugnant policies advanced to inflict harm and instill a sense of fear in immigrant communities. Our immigrant families and their children have suffered enough and we vow to continue to oppose these egregious policies and tactics that are designed to instill fear, disrupt families and deprive those in need of basic necessities, while creating barriers to any reasonable path to citizenship," said Naomi Post, Executive Director of Children's Defense Fund of NY.

Janet Sabel, CEO and Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, said, “As the country’s largest legal provider for indigent individuals, we know that many New Yorkers – immigrant and non-immigrant – are eligible for and use government benefits like SNAP and Medicaid to supplement low-wage work as they move up the ladder of economic success. The administration's attempt to demonize our low-income, immigrant clients –predominantly immigrants of color – for accessing these benefits is just another racist dog-whistle aimed at punishing immigrants for political gain. We will continue to defend our clients and all immigrant New Yorkers – through all means available to us, including litigation – to help ensure that anyone eligible for government benefits can access them without jeopardizing their future in the U.S.”

Heidi Siegfried, Esq., Health Policy Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY, said, "The rule directly challenges our core mission which is to ensure that all people with disabilities have the tools to live independently and enjoy equal opportunity, and are recognized and treated as productive, respected, members of our community. The proposed rule would cause major harm to people with disabilities and their families and communities and is unfair, discriminatory, and bad policy.

“This cruel and misguided proposal would have disastrous consequences in immigrant communities nationwide,” said Jennifer Sun and Thomas Yu, co-executive directors of Asian Americans for Equality. “This and other heartless schemes from the Trump administration have had a chilling effect in the neighborhoods we serve, causing many low-income residents to forego vital services. Let’s be clear. This change is about depriving low-income families--legal residents--of food, emergency medical care and other critical safety net programs.”

“The public charge rule released this morning is one of the widest-reaching attacks in a series of Federal anti-immigrant laws and policies. Immigrants who have spent years building a life here are entitled to the benefits they have contributed tax dollars toward. No family should be forced to choose between following a cruel, xenophobic rule and meeting their most basic human needs,” said Amy Torres, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Chinese-American Planning Council. “CPC urges New Yorkers to remember that 'public charge tests' have not always been part of US immigration policy. The origin of 'public charge' was a precursor to the Chinese Exclusion Act, a hate-fueled policy whose destructive impacts on generations of Chinese-Americans are still felt today. CPC stands proudly with the New York Immigration Coalition to ensure every immigrant family has accurate information to stay safe and the tools needed to fight back.”

“The Trump administration is once again waging war on the most vulnerable among us. The expanded public charge rule will disproportionately affect Asian American families in NYC, 70 percent of whom are immigrants. It will force Asian families – of whom one in four lives in poverty – to go hungry, forsake medical help, or be separated from their families. This expanded rule will have a hugely detrimental effect on the health and future of our children, many of whom are U.S. citizens. The Asian American Federation will continue to fight against these attacks on our communities,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation.


Prior to the public charge rule changes, cash benefits and long-term medical care were the only public benefits considered as part of the “public charge” determination. The new rule will now penalize certain immigrant groups for using federally-funded Medicaid, SNAP and subsidized housing assistance. State-funded public benefit programs are not included in the rule.

Many immigrants will continue to be exempt from the public charge determination, including asylees, refugees and survivors of trafficking and domestic violence. Legal permanent residents applying for citizenship are also not subject to the rule. For those who do not have a pathway to a green card, there is likely no benefit to disenrolling from public benefit programs.

After October 15, 2019, certain immigrants could be considered a “public charge” if they use federally-funded benefit programs such as Medicaid, SNAP and subsidized housing assistance.

Public charge determinations are based on a “totality of circumstances,” which considers whether a person’s income, resources, age, family situation and health would lead to dependence on government assistance in the future. Disenrolling from public benefits would not necessarily preclude someone from a public charge determination. Immigrants affected by the rule could still receive the public charge determination, regardless of whether they are enrolled in federally-funded benefits.

New Yorkers who have questions about the new rule can contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information and be connected to resources.