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Public Benefits for Immigrants

are being used as a tool by the administration to try and keep certain immigrants from entering the United States or changing their immigration status

Speak out for immigrant families!

Why It Matters

  • About 27 million immigrants and their children are part of families with at least one member who receives public benefits.

  • U.S. immigration law before 2018 allowed access to some public benefits regardless of citizenship status. But the Trump-Pence administration has proposed changes to the country’s “public charge” rule that would deny visas, green cards, and entry into the United States to immigrants who have received or are considered likely to receive certain public benefits — like government-funded health insurance, nutrition assistance, and public housing — with very limited exceptions.

  • If it takes effect, the new immigration rule would function like a wealth test, making it more difficult for immigrants with low incomes to enter or remain in the United States.

Key Players

Donald Trump

President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Mike Pence

Vice President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
William Barr

U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Nominated by Trump: 1-3-2019

How We Got Here & Where We're Headed

  • What to expect next
    If the rule isn't blocked in court, it will take effect Oct. 15. The administration also could propose another public charge rule any time—so immigrants could be deported just for using public benefits
  • 9-1-2019
    Supreme Court temporarily permits third-country rule, which denies most asylum claims at the Southern border
  • 8-21-2019
    Trump administration announced a final "family detention" rule that would allow the administration to detain children indefinitely; the rule is currently scheduled to take effect Oct. 20
  • 8-12-2019
    Trump administration issues final public charge rule designed to stop immigrants from accessing public benefits to which they are legally entitled
  • 7-16-2019
    Rule issued that makes immigrants ineligible for U.S. asylum if they passed through Mexico — denying asylum to nearly all South American immigrants
  • 3-1-2019
    Data show the public charge rule was related to a surge of visa denials in 2018
  • 11-9-2018 
    Trump announces a policy to severely restrict asylum for immigrants
  • 10-10-2018 
    Rule proposed to keep immigrants with low incomes from entering or staying in the U.S
    View more +
    • 9-7-2018
      Proposed family detention rule to let U.S. jail immigrant children with their families indefinitely
    • 6-11-2018
      Jeff Sessions says immigrants fleeing domestic violence don’t qualify for asylum
    • 4-6-2018
      U.S. sharply increases separation of immigrant families at the border
    • 3-27-2018
      Administration says it plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census
    • 12-18-2017
      Refugee office head says he interfered with undocumented women’s abortion access
    • 12-14-2017
      Administration starts detaining pregnant immigrants during legal proceedings
    • 10-10-2017
      ACLU sues ORR for blocking a detained undocumented woman’s access to abortion
    • 9-5-2017
      The administration announces it’s ending DACA

“This policy will make people choose between feeding their families now or the possibility of being able to get legal status later.”

Keeping Immigrant Families From Seeking Lifesaving Care

The new public charge rule would would force families to choose between health and family: either accessing critical resources like health care, or keeping their families together. In other words, fear of not being allowed to stay or enter the United States together could keep immigrant families from seeking lifesaving care and resources.

That, in turn, would lead to more poverty, hunger, unmet health needs, and racial disparities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security noted that the rule could result in “worse health outcomes,” “increased use of emergency rooms,” “increased prevalence of communicable diseases,” and “increased rates of poverty,” among other concerns.

Background on the Public Charge Rule and Government Benefits for Immigrants

Welcoming Wealthy Immigrants, Rejecting Others

The new public charge rule would radically reshape the U.S. immigration system. It would prioritize wealthy immigrant families over families with low incomes who have waited years to be reunited.

Forcing Immigrants into the Shadows

Experts worry the new public charge rule will have a “chilling effect” on the country by putting immigrants' health and safety at risk and forcing immigrants into the shadows.

Rewire News
Immigrants Already Avoiding Public Benefits

Already, immigrant families have been forced to avoid basic care and benefits out of fear of retaliation from the Trump-Pence administration. For example, health care providers have seen a drop in immigrant parents taking their children to the doctor and a drop in pregnant women accessing prenatal care.

Keeping Families Apart

The new public charge rule would directly affect nearly 1 million immigrants in the United States — in addition to millions more people living overseas who are trying to gain legal status in the country. Most of the immigrants who’d be forced to pass the “public charge test” have family members who are U.S. citizens, so the rule would add yet another obstacle to keeping families together.

Planned Parenthood Blog

Related Issues

Separating Immigrant Families

Immigrant Access to Abortion

Detention of Pregnant Immigrants

Public Benefits for Immigrants

2020 Census

Legal Status for Dreamers