By: Paula Drew, WECA Research and Policy Analyst

The Wisconsin Early Childhood Association opposes  the Public Charge rule changes. The proposed changes to immigration rules punish vulnerable individuals and families who are experiencing economic hardship and who may become a “public charge” by using some forms of public assistance. Furthermore, we believe that these rule changes will have unintended consequences that impact citizens of our country as well.  To this end, we want to make sure you understand the facts of these proposed changes and know how to advocate for safe and healthy children and families.

What does “public charge” mean?

Child being held by fatherImmigration law has ebbed and flowed in the United States for well over a century, targeting during this time groups of people in unjust ways. A “public charge” has been defined as an immigrant who will primarily rely on public assistance for their health or wellbeing long-term while residing in the United States.  These laws and the new changes to broaden the definition of who should be considered a public charge (those using one or more forms of public assistance upon entering the country like food, housing, child or health assistance) are most restricting to certain types of immigration and will be particularly harmful to families.

Who will the public charge impact and how?

  1. The rule applies to “applicants for admission, aliens seeking to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents from within the United States, and aliens within the United States who hold a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend their stay in the same nonimmigrant classification or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant classification.” (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) 
  2. Benefits counted towards a public charge:
    1. Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
    2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    3. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    4. Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names)
    5. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”)
    6. Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
    7. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
    8. Public Housing under section 9 the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.
    9. Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions)

Who will not be impacted by this rule change?

  1. US citizens and green card holders
  2. Refugees, asylees, Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas, and certain nonimmigrant trafficking and crime victims, individuals applying under the Violence Against Women Act, special immigrant juveniles, or to those who DHS has granted a waiver of public charge inadmissibility
  3. Important: benefits for children, including child care subsidies only count the citizenship of the child, not the parent

What public benefits are not counted against individuals in the rule change?

  1. Medicaid benefits received: (1) for the treatment of an “emergency medical condition,” (2) as services or benefits provided in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (3) as school-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under State or local law, (4) by aliens under the age of 21, and (5) by pregnant women and by women within the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy are not considered a public charge.
  2. Higher education financial support (Pell grants, TEACH Scholarships, etc.)
  3. Early Head Start, Head Start, free and reduced lunch programs
  4. Disaster relief, employment education and job training

When will these changes take place?

The final rule goes into effect on Oct. 15, 2019 and will only be applied to applications and petitions postmarked (or, if applicable, submitted electronically) on or after Oct. 15, 2019. Applications and petitions postmarked (or, if applicable, submitted electronically) before Oct.15, 2019. (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) 

This rule has the potential to separate families and discourage the use of essential health and wellbeing supports for immigrant families in our country. WECA encourages everyone to advocate for our immigrant families across the state and nation. Our immigrant friends and neighbors are parents, early educators, professors, doctors, chefs, lawyers, scientists, and so much more. They contribute to the wellbeing of our communities in a multitude of ways and we MUST stand with them as they continue to fight discrimination in the United States. What’s more, our fellow citizens agree. The vast majority of public comments on the Public Charge rule changes are in opposition of it.

What can you do?
Get informed so that you know the rules and can help others
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