On August 14, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published in the Federal Register its final “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” rule, which will go in to effect October 15. Public Charge is a term used by immigration officials to identify an individual who is considered primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. The new regulation allows DHS to deny green cards and visas to low-income immigrants who use – or are likely to use in the future – certain government benefits.
The government’s previous interpretation of public charge requirements focused on cash benefits, while the final rule greatly expands the definition to include non-cash public benefits as well, including Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Public Housing programs, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). DHS will “weigh heavily” the use of these benefits when considering immigration status, disproportionally impacting low-income applicants.
Last year, Enterprise submitted comments to DHS opposing these proposed amendments, which could lead to higher application denial rates for noncitizens seeking admission to the U.S., noncitizens applying for lawful permanent resident status, and those seeking an extension of or changes to their non-immigrant status. Our comment letter notes that the unintended consequences of this rule change will be deeply destabilizing to these low-income, immigrant communities, prompting some to forgo their legal right to benefits out of fear of hindering the entry and change of status applications of their family members. According to DHS, the rule will apply to an estimated 400,000 applicants. So far, thirteen states have filed a lawsuit against DHS challenging the rule.