Public Charge and families Have you heard the term “Public Charge”? It’s an important part of US immigration law.
Why does Public Charge matter? For many years this law has allowed federal immigration officials to decide that certain immigrants can’t be given legal status if they seem to be too dependent on the government. If they are “public charges.” Their question is whether these immigrants are able to support themselves with little or no help from the government.
In the past In the past, federal immigration officials made decisions about an immigrant’s request for a new legal status if the person used these public benefits:
• cash assistance (SSI or TANF)
• long-term care through Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California)
Changes to the immigration law Now immigration officials will also consider whether a person uses these public benefits:
• SNAP (CalFresh in California), also called Food Stamps
• Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California)
• Housing assistance, such as Section 8 housing
October 15, 2019 The final rule will go into effect October 15, 2019.
Before October 15? When Federal immigration officials are considering whether a person is a “public charge,” they will not consider whether that person received Medicaid, SNAP (CalFresh) or housing assistance before October 15.
Trying to change legal status? These rules apply only to people who are trying to change their legal status. Are you, a friend or a relative asking for:
• a visa to enter the US?
• a green card?
• legal permanent residency?
No problem participating in WIC The government has decided that it’s fine for an immigrant to use WIC. Government officials will not ask if a person is on WIC.
Are you a “public charge”? Maybe, or maybe not. When an immigrant is asking for a visa to enter the US or to be given legal status, immigration officials consider a combination of these:
• family status (married?)
• and his or her use of certain public benefits
Trying for citizenship status? When a person is trying to become a “naturalized citizen,” public charge isn’t considered. But—-gaining legal status is very important to becoming a citizen.
All immigrants? No, the rule does not apply to:
• asylees (people who are seeking or have been granted political asylum)
• people who have petitioned the government on the basis of the Violence Against Women Act
Exceptions for pregnant women or children? The government does not consider Medicaid (Medi-Cal) benefits when the immigrant is:
• is under the age of 21
• is pregnant
• recently gave birth, up to 60 days after the birth
Public benefits used by US citizen family members? No, the government will not consider public benefits used by members of the family who are US citizens, including children.
Affidavit of support? In the past, when an immigrant received an “affidavit of support” showing that a friend or family members would support that person, it was considered seriously. It indicated that the immigrant would not become a public charge. But after the rule goes into effect, affidavits of support will become less important.
Public Charge and deportation? It is very unlikely that a person who has been determined to be a public charge will be deported.
Continue on WIC! If you are an immigrant on WIC, you can continue to participate. Immigration officials do not consider WIC participation when they decide whether a person is a public charge.
WIC and personal information All personal information, including your address and contact information, are private. WIC does not share any of this information with the government.
Does WIC collect immigration status information? No, WIC does not ask about a person’s immigration or citizenship status.
Does WIC share your information? No! WIC does not share information with immigration officials.
Do you need to answer this question? No! When WIC asks whether you are registered to vote, you do not need to answer the question if you don’t want to.
WIC and your family members Your participation in WIC does not affect any family members who are trying to change their immigration status.
Your lawyer and WIC staff Is your lawyer telling you to stop participating in WIC? If so, your lawyer is being very careful. But the law says that participating in WIC is not a problem. Talk to WIC staff for more information.
Documentation of your WIC participation? If you are asked whether you participate in WIC, answer honestly. If you are asked for documentation of your being a WIC parent, ask your immigration attorney why it’s necessary to provide documentation of your WIC participation. And ask how information about your WIC participation will be used.
If you decide to stop participating in WIC If you stop participating in WIC, it will not be necessary to return unused food checks, breast pumps or other WIC benefits. If you have questions about this, phone WIC at (310) 661-3080.
Records of your use of WIC WIC will continue to keep records of your past participation in WIC. But WIC must maintain your privacy.
WIC will not share any of your information with ICE, USCIS or other immigration officials.
ICE stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. USCIS stands for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
For more information Visit the National Immigration Law Center website, https://www.nilc.org/, or phone (213) 639-3900 for more information.