Supreme Court allows public charge rule to be enforced, eligible families can still apply and use public benefits

Public charge makes the headlines again, now because the Supreme Court has given the Trump administration the ability to enforce it.

Families should know that they can still access public benefits for which they’re eligible and should keep eligible children enrolled in programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school lunch programs, and Head Start.

Unidos for our community

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The number of people that the DHS rule will apply to is very small, i.e. primarily immigrants who are eligible to apply for a green card for the first time from within the U.S.
  • USCIS announced it will begin applying the rule to applications submitted on and after February 24, 2020. The agency will only consider public benefits used on or after February 24, 2020 in public charge considerations.
  • We strongly encourage families to make the best decisions for themselves. Eligible children and family members can continue to get public benefits they are qualified for (SNAP, CHIP, Medicaid, etc.), notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling.
  • The use of benefits by an eligible family member will not stop another relative who is in the United States from getting a green card or becoming a U.S. citizen. Rules are slightly different for relatives applying outside the U.S. More info here.
  • The use of public benefits alone does not automatically make one a public charge.
  • The use of Medicaid for emergency services, as well as for pregnant women and new mothers, or for children under 21 will not count against immigration applicants.
  • Utilizing programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, CHIP, school meals, and Head Start are not affected by this rule, and families should stay enrolled in these important programs.

Background information and resources

Even before the Supreme Court temporarily set aside the preliminary injunction,  public charge has been creating confusion and fear in immigrant communities, spreading a so-called “chilling effect” which puts the health of millions of American children at risk by discouraging their participation in safety net programs they are legally entitled to receive. All this to fulfil the Trump administration’s desire to reduce legal immigration through the regulatory process, knowing that Congress won’t do it through legislation.

So, what does the Supreme Court decision mean? This ruling is actually procedural, meaning that the Court did not rule on the legality of public charge, only whether or not the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can implement it while litigation on the merits continues. The DHS rule technically goes into effect right away; however, DHS has not offered an official date on when the rule will take full effect.

  • You can find more information at our partner’s website, Protecting Immigrant Families, for a roundup of resourcesin multiple languages.
  • Through the help of our partner, Boundless, you can use a free online public charge estimatorto help you assess your risk under the rule.
  • UnidosUS also offers ImmiLocal, an interactive online map where you can find free/low-cost immigration service providers near you and financial lenders for immigration loans.

SERVICE PROVIDERS: If you are working with immigrant families that might be affected by this rule, Protecting Immigrant Families is documenting and tracking examples to potentially support ongoing public charge litigation. More information here.

What’s next

There is widespread condemnation of the Trump administration’s public charge rule. Over 260,000 people submitted comments on the rule during the federal public comment period. Multiple cases continue their way through the courts; UnidosUS is party to three amicus briefs in support of the fight against public charge.

At UnidosUS we will continue to fight along with our Affiliates and partners to protect the health care, nutrition,  and housing of millions of hardworking American families.

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