Proposed Public Charge Rule Would Significantly Reduce Legal Admissions and Adjustment to Lawful Permanent Resident Status of Working Class Persons

On October 10, 2018, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its long-anticipated proposed rule on inadmissibility on public charge grounds.[1] The rule seeks to “better ensure” that applicants for admission to the United States as immigrants (permanent residents) and nonimmigrants (temporary residents),[2] as well as applicants for adjustment to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status within the United States, will be “self-sufficient” and “not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their family, sponsor, and private organizations.”[3] Under the proposed rule, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers would consider receipt of cash benefits and, in a break from the past, non-cash medical, housing, and food benefits in making public charge determinations. The proposed DHS rule details the factors — positive and negative — to be weighed in these decisions.

Many commentators have sharply criticized the proposed rule, arguing that it would:

  • Deny admission and adjustment to large numbers of low-income persons who contribute substantially to the US economy, have US citizen and LPR family members, and present a very low risk of becoming financially dependent on the government.
  • Create a disincentive to the use of public benefits to meet the essential food, housing, and medical needs of US citizen, LPR, and other family members of persons who are directly affected by the rule.
  • Impede the legal immigration and integration of low-income, working-class immigrants and their families to the detriment of US communities and society.

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