The rule change by the Trump Administration threatens the health and safety of immigrants, their families and their communities. “Public charge” is a rule used in a variety of immigration cases to determine who can be denied status based on their use of certain public benefits as their main source of support. Under the new rule, if an applicant is deemed more likely to utilize public benefits, including non-cash benefits like Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the future, this can render them inadmissible. For individuals already in the U.S., this “more likely than not” assessment will render them ineligible to obtain legal permanent resident status.

Historically, the receipt of non-cash benefits, like SNAP, Section 8 housing vouchers and Medicaid, would not be considered a reason for denying a green card under the “public charge” rule.

Medical, nutrition, housing and educational  programs are created with the idea of providing safety and security for children and families. If individuals and families forego, for example, seeking medical attention or getting immunizations or screenings for fear of being branded as a “public charge,” that creates a potential health crisis.

At our hospitals, we have already seen how heavy-handed ICE enforcement has adversely impacted the immigrant community as individuals refrain from seeking health care for fear of being arrested and deported. The public charge rule is another means of striking fear in immigrant communities and causing them to refrain from utilizing basic social services. When medical and social programs initiated to keep children and families safe and healthy are not used, the entire community suffers. CIR denounces this rule and recognizes all barriers to accessing essential human services as an attack on human rights.