CLASP Responds to Proposed Rulemaking, Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility, DHS Docket No. USCIS-2021-0013

Our immigration policies should not discourage immigrants and their family members from seeking physical or mental health care, nutrition, or housing benefits for which they are eligible. Extensive evidence demonstrates that the 2019 public charge rule generated widespread fear and confusion that caused immigrant families to avoid interacting with the government and forgo needed public benefits for which they are eligible – even for family members who are citizens or who are not subject to a public charge test for naturalization. This “chilling effect” would have been damaging under any circumstances but was particularly devastating when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the United States. Many immigrants were afraid to seek health care, testing, vaccinations, or other supports for themselves or their family members, with sometimes tragic consequences. The ability to overcome a public health crisis like the COVID pandemic – and prevent the next one – depends on every individual being able to access testing, treatment, vaccinations, and other supports without fear or other restrictions. Therefore, to minimize the chilling effect, DHS must craft a public charge policy that sets clear parameters so that immigrants, their families, service providers, and adjudicators can understand and communicate how a public charge assessment will be determined.