Public Charge Rule Restores Certainty for Immigrants

This statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy  

Washington, D.C., September 8, 2022—The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s final “public charge” rule released today returns some sense of certainty to immigrant families, children, and individuals. Under this finalized rule, immigrants can safely access the food, health, and housing programs that provide a foundation for them and their families to thrive. This is a relief to millions who endured years of fear and confusion caused by the Trump Administration’s public charge rule. We thank the Biden Administration for its work on this rule and the many immigrants, service providers, and advocates who have fought against the previous administration’s weaponization of public charge. 

Today’s final regulation will be effective on December 23, 2022.  It closely tracks the guidance that was in place from 1999 to February 2020, when the former administration upended the existing public charge policy. This same policy has been in effect since the Biden Administration withdrew the Trump rule in March 2021. While CLASP had commented encouraging the Biden Administration to go further in limiting the programs that could be considered in a public charge determination, this rule is a valuable step forward. 

One key improvement over the previous policy is the rule’s clear explanation that receipt of any benefits by a family member will never be held against immigrants who are not themselves named recipients. This means immigrants should know it is always safe for their citizen children to receive benefits, including cash assistance. 

The Trump rule did most of its damage by making people afraid to access benefits—and this chilling effect hasn’t gone away. A study by the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign last winter found that many immigrant families did not know that the rules about public charge had changed, even though the Trump rule was withdrawn. That’s why it’s important for the federal government, states, local governments, and nonprofits to use this latest development on public charge as a moment to conduct outreach and application assistance campaigns. DHS has committed to community outreach meetings in the coming months, and the PIF campaign has many educational resources about public charge at this link.