Know your rights about public charge

KC Healthy Kids, the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition and many of our partners opposed a public charge rule change that would make it challenging for some immigrants to access nutrition, health care and housing assistance. Despite an outpouring of opposition from the public and several legal challenges, the rule change went into effect today. We believe the rule change will seriously harm the health and well being of immigrants and their communities. Keep reading to learn more about public charge, who is affected and how you can take action.

Know Your Rights! Public Charge Messages for Community Members.

What is public charge?

The public charge test is used to determine if someone applying for a visa or lawful permanent residence in the U.S. is likely to rely on the government as their main source of support. A person’s income, education, age, health and previous participation in certain public programs are considered when making this determination. Under federal immigration law, a person can be denied admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent residence if they are determined to be a public charge.

The public charge test has been used for over a hundred years, but the rule change proposed by the Department of Homeland Security in 2018 and adopted in 2019 expands the forms of public assistance considered in the public charge determination, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid (with some exceptions).

The rule change immediately faced several legal challenges, and three separate injunctions were granted. These injunctions prevented the rule change from going into effect until the legal proceedings ended. Last week the Supreme Court ended the last of the injunctions and the rule change may go into effect. DHS has announced that the new rule will be applied to immigration applications starting on February 24.

Who is affected?

Some immigrants—such as refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence and other protected groups—are not subject to the public charge test and will not be affected by the new rule. Public charge is also not considered when lawful permanent residents renew their green cards or apply to become U.S. citizens. It also excludes benefits received by active duty service members, their spouses and children.

How can I take action?

It’s important that immigrants and those who work with immigrants have the information they need to make good decisions. Protecting Immigrant Families, a trustworthy alliance of organizations which opposed the rule change, has a resource page with materials in a variety of languages that help people understand how the new rule may impact them.

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