New Public Charge Rule Prioritizes Wealth over Hard Work and Family

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) strongly opposes a rule that would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards if they have used social services.

Nobody should have to choose between citizenship and providing for their children. Nobody in need of food, housing, child care, or education should be afraid of asking for those benefits, said Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Those who seek to deny immigrants these benefits lack compassion and, more importantly, common sense.

Proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, the new rule dramatically expands the definition of what it means to be a public charge, or someone the government deems a potential financial burden on society. It prioritizes affluence over hard work. It serves as a challenge for immigrant families to stay together. Lastly, it puts many at increased risk of homelessness, illness, and malnutrition.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that roughly 382,000 green card applicants per year would be subject to the new public charge test. In addition, some 517,500 applicants for other visa types could be subject at the Citizenship and Immigration Services discretion.

Families with children are particularly vulnerable to the expanded definition. They would be labeled as a public charge if they legally use programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, housing assistance, and Medicare Part D. Immigrants applying would have to earn at least 125 percent of the current federal poverty level.


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It goes against every faith teaching that ensures those who are strangers are welcomed, those who are homeless are sheltered, and those who are hungry are fed, added Randall. We reject this sweeping definition of a public charge. All members of our community “ regardless of their immigration status “ should have access to the support they need to survive.

Previously, the government restricted immigration applications on public charge grounds if it determined an immigrant would likely depend on public cash assistance or need long-term medical care at the governments expense.

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Founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), FCNL lobbies Congress and the administration for U.S. policies that advance peace, justice, and good government.