Public Benefits for Immigrants
are being used as a tool by the administration to keep certain immigrants from entering the United States or changing their immigration status
Why It Matters
About 27 million immigrants and their children are part of families with at least one member who receives public benefits.
But the Trump-Pence administration changed the country’s “public charge” rule to 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.
The new immigration rule is set to function like a wealth test, making it more difficult for immigrants with low incomes to enter or remain in the United States.
How We Got Here & Where We're Headed
- What to expect next
The administration could propose another public charge rule any time — so immigrants could be deported just for using public benefits
Public charge rule goes into effect nationwide
Supreme Court rules that the administration can use its new “public charge” standard while lawsuits against it go forward
Supreme Court temporarily permits third-country rule, which denies most asylum claims at the Southern border
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
Trump administration issues final public charge rule designed to stop immigrants from accessing public benefits to which they are legally entitled
Rule issued that makes immigrants ineligible for U.S. asylum if they passed through Mexico — denying asylum to nearly all South American immigrants
Data show the public charge rule was related to a surge of visa denials in 2018
Trump announces a policy to severely restrict asylum for immigrants
Rule proposed to keep immigrants with low incomes from entering or staying in the U.SView more +
Proposed family detention rule to let U.S. jail immigrant children with their families indefinitely
Jeff Sessions says immigrants fleeing domestic violence don’t qualify for asylum
U.S. sharply increases separation of immigrant families at the border
Administration says it plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census
Refugee office head says he interfered with undocumented women’s abortion access
Administration starts detaining pregnant immigrants during legal proceedings
ACLU sues ORR for blocking a detained undocumented woman’s access to abortion
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 is forcing families to choose between accessing critical resources like health care, housing and keeping their families together. To be clear, U.S. immigration law still entitles access to some public benefits regardless of citizenship status. But exercising this right — and taking benefits they have a right to take — may be held against immigrants. So, fears of not being allowed to enter the United States or change their immigration status are keeping immigrant families from seeking lifesaving care and resources.
That, in turn, can 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.
Just one consequence we’ve seen already: The public charge rule has coincided with a drop in immigrants enrolling their U.S.-citizen children in CHIP.
Background on the Public Charge Rule and Government Benefits for Immigrants
The new public charge rule is set to radically reshape the U.S. immigration system. It prioritizes wealthy immigrant families over families with low incomes who have waited years to be reunited.CNN
Experts worry the new public charge rule is having a “chilling effect” on the country by putting immigrants' health and safety at risk and forcing immigrants into the shadows.Rewire News
First-hand accounts from immigrants who have used federal assistance, such as grants to cover college tuition, reflect the fear that Trump is rewriting immigration law to come after hard-working immigrant families.TalkPoverty.org
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 people accessing prenatal care. As mentioned above, the public charge rule has coincided with a drop in immigrants enrolling their U.S.-citizen children in CHIP.Citylab
The new public charge rule directly affects 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’ll be forced to pass the “public charge test” have family members who are U.S. citizens, so the rule adds yet another obstacle to keeping families together.Planned Parenthood Blog
On Jan. 27 — after nationwide preliminary injunctions had delayed the public charge rule from going into effect — the Supreme Court lifted the remaining nationwide injunctions. While courts continued to manage lawsuits against the public charge rule, the rule was allowed to go into effect everywhere except in Illinois (which had its own state-based injunction blocking the rule).