H.R.3222: No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019
H.R. 3222 would prohibit the use of federal funds to implement, administer, enforce, or carry out the proposed rule of the Department of Homeland Security entitled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” The rule makes those applying to a change in status who are deemed likely at any time to become a public charge and receive public benefits, inadmissible.
The proposed rule would change the threshold for becoming what the government defines as a “public charge” – a person who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” Currently, a non-citizen determined likely to use cash assistance or government-funded long-term institutional care above a designated amount is ineligible for change of status or extension of stay in the United States. Traditionally, Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has rarely turned people away on public charge grounds because one, most immigrants are already barred from using many forms of public assistance, and two, most green card applications require a financial sponsor with an income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line. The proposed regulation adopts a new bright-line threshold for households that hope to overcome a public charge designation. The proposed rule would require that the immigrant household (not just the sponsor) earn at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level and would weigh as “heavily positive” a household income of at least 250 percent of the federal poverty level. This means, to avoid scrutiny under the public charge designation, a family of four would need to earn nearly $63,000 annually.
The proposed policy would expand the list of benefits considered in a public charge determination so that immigrant visa, or visa adjustment applicants deemed likely to use certain healthcare, nutrition, and housing programs could become inadmissible. Some added programs include: |
• Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for Medicaid benefits for treating an “emergency medical condition,” certain disability services related to education, among others)
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
• Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy
• Housing assistance, such as public housing or Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance.
• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Notably, this list does not include the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), but the proposed rule, which received over 250,000 public comments and is still awaiting finalization, specifically inquired about adding CHIP to the list of benefits.
- The regulation would have devastating effects for immigrants with disabilities and their families. The rule specifically states that “any medical condition” of an applicant needing subsidized health insurance would count as a negative in their public charge determination. This would force those with disabilities to either risk failing their public charge test, or to refrain from reporting their condition and forgo health insurance or medical care. Additionally, the rule would negatively consider applicants with limited English proficiency, as well as applicants with physical or mental health conditions that could affect their ability to work, attend school, or care for themselves.
- This rule would disproportionately affect citizen children with non-citizen parents. Currently, one in every four children has at least one parent who was born outside the U.S. If the rule were implemented as is, it would force 10.4 million non-citizen parents to choose between staying in the U.S. with their families and receiving public benefits that support their families’ health, nutrition, and economic stability.
- Additionally, reduced participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could negatively impact communities as a whole. In 2017, hunger advocates around the country saw a decline in the number of eligible legal immigrants applying to SNAP, as well as an increase in the number of immigrants looking to withdraw from the program. These advocates credit this decline to widespread fear of using public benefits due to anti-immigrant rhetoric across the country. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a meal service option that “allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications,” chooses eligible districts based on number of enrollments in SNAP and other programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). A decline in SNAP and TANF enrollments due to public charge determinations could lead to entire school districts losing eligibility for CEP.
- All children, regardless of where they or their parents were born, deserve equal access to public benefits that allow them to thrive. Decreased access to health, nutrition, and housing programs that enhance well-being could prove harmful to a child’s development and have negative implications into adulthood. Experiencing the stress and instability that often comes with lack of housing, healthcare, and food security, often called toxic-stress, is proven to cause mental health issues, inhibited brain development, and other social or emotional challenges.
- The National Assembly supports the prohibition of federal funds to implement the administration’s harmful public charge regulation.
Date IntroducedJune 12, 2019
CommitteeHouse Judiciary Committee
Bill StatusIntroduced or Prefiled
SponsorRep. Judy Chu
Assigned ContactSonya Schwartz
Washington DC , 20043