By now many immigrants, like me, have heard of the public charge rule—a wealth test on immigrant families who are seeking a healthy, productive and stable future in the U.S.  

As a quick recap, the public charge rule was established since 1999, but the Trump administration recently altered it by imposing more restrictions to make it harder for working-class immigrants to gain permanent immigration status (or green cards). The old rule only affected very few immigrants who were reliant on the government for cash assistance and institutional long-term care. Under the Trump administration’s public charge rule, immigration officials are allowed to deny green cards to low-income immigrants who have a history of using public services and assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. The new public charge rule goes into effect today, February 24, 2020. 

Make no mistake, the Trump public charge rule is cruel and inhumane. It fits into the U.S.’s long history of restricting immigration based on race and ethnicity. Through these changes, the Trump administration is sending a clear message that their version of the American dream is not for everyone—only people with substantial wealth and income are welcome to reside in the U.S. The public charge rule under this administration assumes that immigrants from developing countries (i.e. immigrants of color) are without financial resources, thus are more likely to use government programs. Due to fear and confusion, even before the rule took effect, many immigrant families have disenrolled from programs, forgone benefits for which they are eligible, or skipped medical appointments. Across the country, the chilling effect is real; it is widespread and spilling over to families not directly affected by the rule. According to Manatt Health, as many as 26 million people and their families could be dissuaded from using public benefits under the new public charge rule. 

While we continue our fight against the many attacks on immigrants and our families, we must empower ourselves with the facts: 

  • Take a moment to learn about the new public charge rule. This guide developed by Protecting Immigrants Families provides good information and can help people determine if the rule now applies to them. 

  • Help people know their rights  before making any decisions—whether to disenroll from a public benefit program. The facts are: most immigrants are not affected by the new public charge rule; and many public benefit programs are not considered in the public charge test. 

  • Share this Public Charge Risk Estimator to help people assess if their green card application is at risk of denial under the Trump public charge rule. 

  • Connect people with experts in your communities at local non-profit organizations and immigration advocates for legal advice. You can find a compilation of state and local resources on public charge here. 

While these attacks are real and harmful, we have the power to fight back. Our first step is to understand the facts and continue to advocate for families’ access to needed services. We must work with allies to keep people out of the shadows—take the time today to understand the public charge rule and how it affects you and your community. Protecting Immigrant Families has a great toolkit for us to use.  

Share the facts and share your story so we continue to build power for a better future free from fear.