H.R.3222: No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019

Overview

The No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019 would prohibit the use of federal funds to implement, administer, enforce, or carry out the final 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 previous legal definition for who constitutes as a public charge was someone who is, or is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” The rule changes this definition to “whether a person is more likely than not to use one or more of the listed public benefits at any time in the future – for more than 12 months in a 36-month period.”

The regulation also expanded the list of benefits included in a public charge determination to now consider:
• Monthly cash assistance, including: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), General Assistance Programs, and state-funded long-term care;
• The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
• Public Housing;
• Section 8 Housing and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA);
• Non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for Medicaid benefits for treating an “emergency medical condition,” certain disability services related to education, among others).

Notably, the final rule does not include the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). During the comment period, DHS specifically asked for comments regarding the addition of this program.

The regulation also adopts weighted requirements for the Totality of Circumstances Test that examines an applicant’s age, health, assets, education, and English-proficiency, among other things, to determine whether an immigrant is likely to become a public charge in the future. The new test weighs the following factors as negative: being under the age of 18 or above the age of 61, limited English-proficiency, low income, and medical conditions that are likely to require extensive treatment, institutionalization, or that may interfere with one’s ability to care for themselves. They positively weigh an income that is above 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and enrollment in a private insurance plan that is not subsidized under the Affordable Care Act. The new weighted factors penalize low and moderate income individuals, people with disabilities, and older adults.

The Senate companion bill, which was introduced following the release of the final rule, is S. 2482.

Source

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Talking Points

  • 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.

Our Stance

Support

Priority

High

Bill Number

H.R.3222

Date Introduced

June 12, 2019

Committee

House Judiciary Committee

Bill Status

Introduced or Prefiled

Sponsor

Rep. Judy Chu

Assigned Contact

Sonya Schwartz
Senior Policy Attorney
National Immigration Law Center

Washington DC , 20043
202-216-0261