On October 10th, 2018 the comment period for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s proposed “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule came to a close. During the nearly 60-day comment period that started on October 10th over 200,000 letters were submitted either online or by mail. Community Health Councils (CHC) submitted comments in opposition to the proposed changes found here. 

The proposed rule seeks to expand what is considered a public charge to include: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Medicare Part D financial assistance, Section 8 Housing Vouchers, and public housing.  If enacted the proposed rule would jeopardize basic human necessities of food, shelter, and healthcare that would undermine the ability of immigrants and citizens to access public benefit programs for which they are lawfully eligible for. The proposed rule cuts deep into the family dynamic as it would undo the progress made in ensuring that children and their families have access to life-saving health coverage.

In addition to the expansion of the safety net programs listed above the proposed rule will look into other complex factors in its public charge test to include: age, health, family status, income level, education, and English proficiency. The new changes are a blatant attack that impacts the vulnerable and targets people of color as the new rule would cater to the wealthiest and healthiest immigrants and discriminate against those that are too young, too poor, too old, and too sick. Overall, the proposed regulation changes would negate advancements in supporting disadvantaged individuals and families and the victims of social injustices, preventing a healthy and holistic life.

Regarding the next steps, it is now essential that accurate messaging about public charge get out to the public. Although not yet finalized, this rule has created what is known as the chilling effect, where individuals are disenrolling from public programs, such as Medi-Cal due to fear and confusion about the regulation. It is vital for individuals to know that nothing has changed and that individuals should not disenroll from services in which they are eligible for. The proposed rule is not retroactive meaning that public benefits other than cash assistance and long-term care received before the proposed rule is finalized will not apply. If anything does change, it is essential to know that individuals will have 60 days after the rule is finalized to disenroll from any program that would impact their immigration status.

There is still a long road ahead as, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is legally required by the Administrative Procedures Act to respond to every unique, fact-based comment. The agency must then base its reasoning and conclusions that are consistent with the comments received during the proposed rule stages. Then to even move forward with a final rule, the agency must conclude that its proposed solution will help accomplish the goals or solve the problems identified. Finally, if the rulemaking record contains persuasive new data or policy arguments the agency can decide to terminate the rulemaking or may decide to continue the rulemaking but change aspects of the rule to reflect the new issues.

CHC will continue to provide updates to public charge. Please check out our list of resources which can be found here.