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Public Charge

Public Charge


What is ‘public charge’ today?

The current definition of “public charge” is a person who has become or is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Under the current policy, which USCIS has not changed and will not change for some time, the only benefits considered in the public charge test are:

  • Cash assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and comparable state or local programs.
  • Government-funded long-term institutional care.

How might the ‘public charge’ policy change? 

On October 10, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted a proposed public charge regulation (a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) in the federal register, asking the public to submit comments by December 10, 2018, before it becomes final.

If the regulation is finalized in its proposed form, it would mark a significant and harmful departure from the current policy. For over a hundred years, the government has recognized that work supports like health care, nutrition and housing assistance help families thrive and remain productive.  And decades ago, the government clarified that immigrant families can seek health care, nutrition and housing assistance without fear that doing so will harm their immigration cases. If this rule is finalized, we can no longer offer that assurance.

What factors might count against me under the new policy?

The proposal weighs a range of factors in deciding whether a person is likely to use certain public benefits in the future, and would make it much more difficult for low and moderate-income immigrants to get a green card, extend or change their temporary status in the US. The proposed test would weigh each of the following negatively in public charge decisions: earning less than 125% of the federal poverty level (FPL), being a child or a senior, having certain health conditions, limited English ability, less than a high school education, a poor credit history, and other factors.

The proposal expands the types of benefits that could be considered in a “public charge” determination to include key programs that provide no income support but merely help participants address their basic needs. These programs include:

What's Happening Now?

On October 10th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially published the proposed rule in the Federal Register, beginning the clock on the 60 day public comment period.

We have until December 10, 2018 to tell the government why this rule is a bad idea by submitting comments through an official “notice and comment” period. Our opposition needs to be strong because the stakes are high – we must tell President Trump that we will not stand by while he attempts to punish families for putting food on the table.

How Do I Take Action?

CPEHN is part of the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign. We urge all of our partners to join us in speaking out against this dangerous proposal, by submitting comments opposing it.

  1. The best way to comment is to go online to the federal public charge comment portal at regulations.govClick on “comment now” and either enter your comment in the text box (must be fewer than 5000 characters) or upload your comments as PDF. 
  2. You can also comment at and customize a template comment which will be sent directly to We strongly encourage you to include at least a few sentences which are unique to you and your perspective so that the comment will count as a unique comment.  
  3. Finally, you can send your comment letter by mail to:
    Samantha Deshommes, Office of Policy and Strategy
    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Department of Homeland Security
    20 Massachusetts Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20529-2140
    To ensure proper handling, please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 in your correspondence. Mail must be postmarked by the comment submission deadline.


Why Do Comments Matter?

Anyone from the general public has an opportunity to weigh in on proposed regulations before they are final. Federal law requires a government agency to read and consider every unique comment before finalizing a rule. The comment process is important because it:

  • Proves that this is an issue that is important to hundreds of thousands of people across the country;
  • Forces the Administration to justify its actions; and
  • Gives people who are affected by the rule a chance to raise their voice and tell their story to policymakers! 


Who Should Submit a Comment?

Anyone can submit comments—affected families, concerned community members, organizations, and even elected officials can submit comments! You do not have to be a U.S. citizen. You do not have to be over age 18. You do not have to be eligible to vote. We encourage you to not only submit comments yourself, but to ask your friend, family members, and co-workers to do the same.

How do I make my comments effective?

  • Comments should be relevant to the rule. Learn what the agency is proposing at and explain in your comments how losing the ability to use public services will harm you, your family, or your community.
  • Attach research and supporting documents if available. If you have credibility in an issue feel free to explain your educational or professional background or attach a copy of your CV to your comments.
  • Write comments in your own words, whether from your perspective as a policy expert, direct service provider, immigrant family, or concerned individual.
  • Don’t delay! Make sure your comments are submitted before December 10, 2018.

Where can I get additional information?

 Join the Protecting Immigrant Families National Campaign – Go to: to learn about opportunities to take action and the latest updates on policy.

 You are also welcome to reach out to us directly -- contact Keerti Kanchinadam at or 510-832-1160. 



Click here to download this video by The Children's Partnership.

Fact Sheets

Public Charge: A New Threat to Immigrant Families (English) | (Spanish) | CLASP

Potential Effects of Public Charge Changes on Health Coverage for Citizen Children | Kaiser Family Foundation

Immigrants' Health Fact Sheet (English) | Health Consumer Alliance

Public Charge: What You Should Know (English) | Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles


Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families' Public Benefits Use | Migration Policy Institute












Social Media: Sample Tweets

Sample Tweets from The Children's Partnership:

  • The Trump Admin is rumored to propose changes to fed immigration laws about “public charge”. The health of millions of CA children is at risk w/ potential changes that would punish immigrant families 4 taking care of their children. Learn more
  • The fed gov’t is trying to change the rules, in doing so, punishing families 4 taking care of their children. Public Charge refers to people who primarily rely on the gov’t to support the cost of day-to-day living. Find out more in our new video
  • So far NOTHING has changed for immigrants in the U.S. but there are proposed changes that would add services to the list that could be considered when deeming someone a #PublicCharge. Find out what services this could include in @KidsPartnership’s video
  • Using benefits is never the only factor when deciding who might be a #publiccharge. It also does not apply to certain groups of immigrants. Find out who could be affected in @KidsPartnership new video
  • If the changes to #PublicCharge go through, health programs like #Medicaid, #CHIP, or Tax credits that help people get insurance through marketplaces like #CoveredCalifornia could be affected. Learn more @KidsPartnership new video
  • Although there may be changes in the future your #health your wellbeing and that of your children is important. For now, you should continue in programs you need to take care of your family. Learn more in @KidsPartnership video
  • Some of the country’s biggest advocacy organizations are taking action to oppose this proposal. Speak Up this is wrong for families and this is wrong for America! Share your story! Learn more in @KidsPartnership new #PublicCharge video
  • Let’s not punish Immigrant families for taking care of their children. Visit and make your voice heard. Let’s #RaiseUpAsOne for our family, for your family, for all families. Learn more in @KidsPartnership new #PublicCharge video

More From Our Partners Fighting Public Charge


The publications linked to above are based on federal guidance issued in 1999. The 1999 guidance remains in effect and applies to decisions made by immigration officials within the U.S. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is developing new proposed regulations that would change the public charge rules. USCIS is required to give the public an opportunity to comment on its proposed regulations and must respond to those comments before finalizing the rules. The proposed regulations will be published in the Federal RegisterSign up here to receive updates about public charge from the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign.

For information on public charge decisions made by U.S. consular officials outside the U.S., see Changes to “Public Charge” Instructions in the U.S. State Department’s Manual.