Background. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule on October 10, 2018, in the Federal Register altering the rule on public charge, a term that describes when an immigrant is considered likely to become dependent on public benefits and becomes inadmissible to the United States or ineligible to adjust to lawful permanent residency. The rule expands the list of benefits, previously limited to cash assistance and long-term health-care, to include Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing–all essential services.
2.25 million undocumented immigrants and 212,000 nonimmigrants would be directly impacted by the rule because they live with a US citizen or lawful permanent resident family member who can petition for them. Comments on the rule are due by December 10, 2018, and can be submitted at www.regulations.gov.
Issue. Besides cruelly impacting poor families seeking to survive, the proposed rule overreaches by impacting the working poor—families who are working for self-sufficiency and are not dependent upon federal benefits or likely to be so.
According to the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), a large percentage of the 2.25 million undocumented immigrants would be found inadmissible under this rule, although this population overwhelmingly consists of working-class persons. As a result, the proposed rule should be viewed as a significant barrier to legal immigration and the integration of low-income immigrants and their US families.
Under the proposed rule, certain characteristics of the impacted population would be considered in a totality of the circumstances determination. Factors weighing in favor of admissibility under the rule include earning at least 250 percent of the poverty threshold, advanced education, a strong employment record, and private health insurance.
However, many of the 2.25 million residents who would otherwise be eligible for family-based immigration have characteristics that would be counted against them under the proposed rule, even though they have steady jobs and strong connections to the United States.
Sample comments. Below are sample comments which can be used to submit to the Federal Register at www.regulations.gov by December 10, 2018.
I write in opposition to the proposed rule governing the issue of the inadmissibility of aliens under the public charge grounds of inadmissibility. As written, the proposed rule is overly broad, as it applies to immigrants who are working, earning income, and integrating into our society. It also adds the use non-cash benefits to the criteria that support a public charge determination — benefits such as health-care, food stamps, and public housing that working families need to bridge the gap between self-sufficiency and full integration in our nation’s life.
A large percentage of the 2.25 million undocumented persons impacted by the rule could be inadmissible for entry or permanent residence, although this population overwhelmingly consists of working-class persons. As a result, the proposed rule should be viewed as a significant barrier to legal immigration and to the integration of low-income immigrants and their US families.
As such, the proposed rule should be withdrawn. If this does not occur, the rule should be amended so that it:
- Does not include the use of non-cash benefits as a negative factor in public charge determinations.
- Counts individual and family income of at 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines as heavily weighted positive factors in favor of admission and adjustment.
- Counts self-employment, the ability to speak English well or very well, education at a high-school level or above, and private health insurance as heavily weighted positive factors in favor of admission and adjustment.
- Counts a close family relationship to a US citizen or an LPR as a heavily weighted positive factor in favor of admission and adjustment.
These factors, among others found in the CMS report (http://cmsny.org/publications/2018-proposed-public-charge-rule/), should mitigate against a public charge finding.
However, because of the broad nature of the rule and its expansion to include non-cash benefits in the public charge determination, I strongly oppose the rule as written and ask that you withdraw it.